reflections from the southeast PA rural underground
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Night shades of Pennsylvania (A weekend in four parts)
Part 1 -- Lancaster
"Surf's up!" screamed the legendary aging punker Mike Watt. Standing strong, going on 50 yrs. old (or already there?!), on Lancaster's famed Chameleon stage, gray haired and flannel shirt adorned, he twisted his fingers and arms as he banged the bass guitar into submission in perfect time with his two band mates who frantically tried to keep up. They were soon pouring with sweat, the drummer pounding and the guitarist chopping frenetic, dissident, high treble chords. This is why I came tonight. This is history living in front of me.
The Missing Men played a blistering 45 min. set in front of an all too tame crowd of mostly 20 somethings who I surmised were most likely at the show to see the more famed but also aging alternative rockers of the band Dinosaur Jr. The place was packed and hot. As I drank two and then three bottles of the Champagne of Beers, the music started to hit me and the fire in my belly started to burn. My whole body craved some dancing time. Its not going to happen in this place, I thought. Oh well, this is a truly amazing scene anyways.
After a long interlude of changing amp heads Dinosaur Jr. finally took the stage. Next to me stood Art Difuria of Philly's Photon Band and a couple friends of his who I could tell had been big fans of Jay and the boys since way back. I was psyched because the second song they played was one from the late 80's. I remembered first hearing it at my friend Skip's house as we watched the G & S skate video Footage. Dinosaur was one of those many bands whose music I knew only a fraction of and even less of the song titles. The songs I knew I loved. We were all singing lyrics into the air by now and at one point I yelled to Art's friend, "C'mon man, split the middle!" He was a bigger guy with shaggy blonde hair and a friendly face underneath the short trimmed beard. His wife was standing next to us as well. "Right on," he said. The two of us plunged heads down up through the crowd of people til' we broke it up pretty well and ended up, dancing and shoving, just about in front of Jay Mascis's big round belly and silver hair. Before coming to the show I had been told by more than one person how loud they were live. Everyone was right. Thanks to James, I had ear plugs in.
Standing just outside the bathroom, waiting for Jen so we could leave the club, James came running up to me and was exclaimed, "Dude! I've been hanging out back stage with Watt the whole Dinosaur set!" How was I not surprised? If there was one fan of The Minutemen who would try as many times as it took to get back stage to meet Mike it was James. And to think he hadn't known that I had invited him specifically because The Missing Men were opening the show. He's relentless I thought. Awesome. We headed back stage passed security which was by now just one guy who really could care less if two more people got by him to meet some old rocker he never heard of. As we entered the dingy room there stood the real leader of this escapade, standing not too far from the band's cooler and smiling like he always is, with that long curly brown hair, denim jacket, and Pottsville accent that never gets old . "Jen, how are ya? Wayne, he said reaching for my hand, good to see ya." "Yeah man," I said, great to see you Billy." We found out quickly that the band was hanging out outside at their van so we shuffled out there but to no avail. They had skipped out. We said our goodbyes and headed out the front entrance and James, good old James, thought it best to run around back one more time and see if they were still there. He was like a little kid, gleefully talking rapid fire about what a night, what a night, and holding on tight to that signed t-shirt like it was a golden Wonka ticket. As we rounded the building we saw the van just pulling out of its space, Mike Watt at the wheel, the guitarist shouting goodbye at us from the passenger side. We all yelled back. There they went. Still in the van after all these years. I thought back to the last words Mike said as his set ended just hours before, holding his bass high in the air and looking up towards the kids in the balcony, "Start a band!!!!!"
All photos and video by Wayne Miller. TMRG, zopocofilms on that.