So I guess OBELISK wasn't wearing a sweatervest. I couldn't remember everything. The two guys in the middle are the winners of the coloring contest. They are currently receiving their prize (the personal receipt of the rap from OBELISK's remix of Darsh's "Cash", with OBELISK rapping in first person while I simultaneously rap in third person). It's a little hard to see my tail but it's there. I wanted the one guy to sit on the other guy's lap but it was difficult to communicate.
The coloring pages Stephen found were a picture of a cat who couldn't read and an Eqyptian man with lice. Thanks to whoever took this photo. Also in this set, there's also photos of Cave, the bleeding teabagger, and Juiceboxxx in a crowd.
Cave, OBELISK & MC Cat Genius, and a girl named Miera drove to Chicago for Lumpen Magazine's Version06 Festival also happening on this same weekend: a fashion show (Columbia) a roller derby (Columbia) Three 6 Mafia (Columbia) WTF Too: Party Retarty (Kansas City), curated by Alex Schubert aka ULTAMAX, featuring a mural by Sabrina and I, Shmooze drawings by Gregg, and a new video by Tape Store
We were going to go on Thursday at 5:00 PM, as soon as Stephen (OBELISK) got done with class. But then Cooper, whose van it was and who was driving, couldn't get a guy to work for him or something. So 3:00 PM, we found out we weren't leaving until 2:00 PM the next day. Which gave me more time to pack, which I needed. But it sucked because it meant we lost a whole day in Chicago. Remember, I've never been there before! Plus I had to email the NFO XPO people and tell them I wasn't going to be able to set up during the requested setup times. But since they didn't email me back, I gathered it wasn't a big deal.
And then Friday, Cooper called at 10:00 AM to say he called in to work at we could leave at noon. So why didn't he call in to work from Chicago. Oh well. I couldn't locate OBELISK for a while but then he showed up at noon on his own volition and we headed out. Cooper's van looks like the burnt-out stepdad of a DHL van, a gigantic yellow van with the driver's side window duct-taped into place. Rex, Cooper, Trip, Miera, T. Nice, OBELISK, and I spent eight hours (I guess it was more like seven) taking turns sleeping on the Cooper-smelling sleeping bag on the floor or sitting on the actual bench seat, eating beef jerky and listening to Trip's CD collection and playing Hangman. Cooper said that at some point, he had lost a game of Hangman when the subject was his name. Cooper looks kind of like a car dealership owner dressed him like a Hippie: polyester patchwork bellbottoms, oversize tiedye shirt, yellow macrame vest, mustache and several days of five o'clock shadow, back and sides of his hair buzzed and the rest sticking in all directions. On stage he generally wears sunglasses and a long wig with bangs.
We ate at Culver's, somewhere in Illinois (?), home of the Butterburger. Which is a burger fried in butter. Didn't blow me away. The tray liners had fake vanity license plates from every state that Culver's was in, though, and those were good. Missouri's was "O RINGS", and some other ones were "I LUV PORK", "BTTR BRGR", and my favorite, "FRYZ 4 ME". I told OBELISK that we should name the next CD "EM4ZYRF".
We got to Josh Brohanpeter's around 9:00 PM, which would have been enough time to go by the exhibition center before setup time stopped at 10:00, but it was on the other side of town and why. Josh, a Jeff City native who drums for Mahjongg and Bobby Conn, lives on the edge of the Ukrainian community with his roommate in what looks like a converted 1930s auto body shop -- a long rectangle with high ceilings and brick walls, a sort of square officey space at one end that houses a kitchen, dining room, living room, and sheetrock bedroom, and the rest of the rectangle is all recording studio and equipment. AWESOME Josh jammed with the Cave brahs while his roommate recorded, and OBELISK and Miera and I watched a sci-fi horror movie, about a body that ripped off people's heads and put them on its neck stump and who was generally unpleasant, starring Rae Dawn Chong, on the Spanish channel (because it was too loud to bother watching anything in a language we spoke) and then an astonishingly terrible talk show hosted by a 150-year-old ho who interviewed what appeared to be her best friend (who had a neck tattoo) and pointed at her boobs, while two co-hosts nodded earnestly because they were not allowed to speak. There were also fly girls dancing to Mexican restaurant music. We also read some stray Lumpens, The Trouble WIth Normals, Hercrotchuleses, and a Playboy from 1979 that had a review of the Wicker Man in it.
We ate at Feed, a tiny soul-food restaurant in the ghetto-ish area. It was full of hipsters, and it was nice to see hipsters in the ghetto. There was a large amount of chicken-related memorabilia on the walls, and a clucking-chicken egg-prize dispenser where you could win gift certificates. I got a delicious pork brisket sandwich and some corn pudding. Everything came with coleslaw, which I normally hate but not this time.
Rotten Milk and Gabe showed up and jammed and left, and then we settled down for the evening. And then I couldn't find my bag with all my living accessories (clothes, sleeping bag, electric razor and toiletries, 70 copies of Pancaked and 7 copies of OBELIXTape). And then Miera couldn't find her bag. I freaked out a little bit. Where could I have put a my bag? How stupid am I? Josh let me borrow his sleeping bag, and I had happy/tragic dreams all night of finding my bag in some unexplored corner of the apartment, which I then woke out of. In the morning we realized that the clear TV that I had brought from Maude was also missing from the van, and we realized pretty conclusively that a door must have been unlocked at some point and someone did a walk-by-and-grab. I was able to relax then, and stop looking for my bag in the fridge. So I was stuck wearing one outfit for the entire weekend -- gone were my couture Chinese low-crotch pinstripe tightleg jeans, my one good white oxford, my fake bulletproof vest, my orange aging-raver fleece pullover. Here to stay were my most boring jeans and my oversized "oh no! it's TOKYO FUN PARTY" tshirt and my gray blazer (and one pair of socks and underwear). No offense to Takashi, who runs TFP and gave me the tshirt, but this outfit is like Iron Chef Sakai showing up at a potluck with mac 'n cheese; even if it has ham chunks in it, people who don't know him will think he's senile. At least my hair looked cool, because Sabrina had just cut and highlighted it to look like Jay Chou's. And at least my blazer has a million pockets, which were all totally full at all times of all my possessions. It thus made a very uncomfortable pillow, even when wrapped in my Starfox Weekend satin bomber jacket.
It was also nice to think of that City of Columbia recycle bag full of 60 copies of Pancaked (30+ remixes from around the world of one song by Digiki/MC Cat Genius/Sarbochron, original run of 100, two black-bottomed black-topped silkscreened CDs in a spatula-fried clamshell case inside a ziploc bag with a floppy disc, condiment packet, and activity placemat), liberated into the world after sitting in my closet for nearly a year. I had brought them to Chicago with the express intent of getting rid of them at last (though not through van theft). Pancaked remains the flagship Cat Jams release, with all that that title entails, and it is my greatest hope that it will become a big hit with Chicago's homeless.
Cooper and Miera slept in the van and reported that a guy with a shopping cart had tried the doors at some point, but hightailed it out of there at the sight of a mostly-asleep, knife-wielding Cooper. We showed up at Iron Studios, home of Version06, at around 12:30 PM on Saturday. Iron Studios (on Iron Street) is a five-story giant warehouse that houses small-timey offices for small-timey, mostly socially conscious businesses. So the fact that exists at all is great. Don't ask me what part of the city it's in. I have no clue, I was on the floor of the van and even if I could have seen it wouldn't help. It was drizzling, and would continue to do so until we left. We saw Edmar and Rotten Milk, two of the organizers; Edmar is a tallish East Asian guy with Buddy Holly glasses and a DIY camo jacket, and Rotten Milk is a large sphere of red hair with eyes and a nose who is generally wearing the entire women's section of a Salvation Army simultaneously. Together they are the nicest guys in the world.
Existed on the fourth and first floors, with a staircase and a freight elevator connecting the two. The fourth floor, with normal-height ceilings, was populated by the NFO XPO (which is where the Cat Jams Label table was) and a very large photography/street art/sculpture/etc exhibition. The bathrooms were on the third floor, among all the quietly marked office doors, and were always short on TP. I didn't make it down to the first floor for a while because the fourth floor had so much STUFF to look at.
There was the huge photo exhibit, which took up two huge rooms and included bonuses like: videos of guys blocking office doors with tree branches, the Urban Swing project, giant inflated sculptures of a rock-sign hand and a snake made from sewed-together chips bags, free doormats that was "WELCOME -- THIS IS YOURS" to be placed in front of libraries etc, urban bird feeders (two cans filled with birdseed that were to be flung around telephone lines, to attract songbirds), and giant carved-wood sculptures of a NASA control panel, a full live rock band setup with amps and mics, a machine gun, and a boating accident.
Back at the NFO XPO space, there were booths for: a free bike escort service that would come ride with you if you were scared or didn't know where you were going, a sensory-deprivation strobelight booth that triggered visual hallucinations which you were then asked to document with markers on the back of your signed seizure waiver (the guy was trying to get 1000 and display them all at once, to demonstrate recurring patterns), a few different video projects, the Chicago Tapes Project (a decentralized anonymous mixtape exchange project -- they were giving away blank tapes to get people inspired), some artists from Oakland who inhabited charmingly halfassed artspaces and outfits themed after certain animals (I traded a lock of hair to the bird girl in exchange for a feather -- needless to say, all us animal-people got on quite well), and about forty other exhibits. I was there for about 14 solid hours and I still didn't see everything. And all the booths were manned by just the coolest and friendliest socially-minded kids of all ages you'd ever care to meet. At no point during the entire festival did I hear a single ill-willed syllable spoken. Everyone knew that everyone was on the same team.
Well, the guy from the strobe booth did mention being a bit less than enthused about a heightened late-evening occurrence of yuppies who didn't want to draw anything and who didn't want to stay in the booth for the full five minutes. But I would say that that is a perfectly valid complaint on his part.
The Cat Jams booth was a small table on the edge of the major table island. On it I put all the copies of the five new releases I'd made to have at the XPO: the Cat Jams VHS Sampler, the second unreleased tracks sampler, the Tape Store VCD, the OBELISK mixtape CD, and the promo run of Darsh's Concrete. Also on the table, I put a large amount of things from my house that I didn't particularly need to keep around; tiny jars of Play-Doh, an extremely scratched-up Nashville Pussy CD, some old tapes, Left Behind: The Movie: The Board Game (thanks Mom), a bunch of pipe cleaners, etc. Then Stephen and I hung a very long/tall sign explaining what was up with Cat Jams / the table, and a few smaller signs saying "Take whatever you like, and contribute something of equal value", and a signup sheet with blanks for NAME, WHAT I TOOK, WHAT I LEFT, and NOTES. So in other words, it was a trade table. This was the setup I had decided on after a few week's debate about how to have releases available at a post-financial gathering without shortchanging myself and without being boring. Once we had it all set up, we promptly left the table, to allow scrutiny-free item examination.
The Cave brahs and Stephen and I headed to eat chicken shwarmas at Sultan's, which I was unimpressed with (kinda bland, probably better as late-night drunk food), and then we saw our friend Evan, who invited us back to his place to indulge in a keg that he and his friends had stolen. When we got to their apartment, the door was locked from the inside, so one of the roommates got some of our group to follow him around back to distract the vicious dogs so he could run to the fire escape, climb up a few stories, break their window, and unlock the door. It should be pointed out that Evan and his friends were all pretty sloshed, and appeared to have been so for several months. I leaned against a wall in the stairwell and it made a sound like a tortilla chip being stepped on. Evan's apartment looked like it housed some arty punks who had been drunk for several consecutive months, there were piles of Futurama DVDs and beer boxes everywhere, scrawled handwriting and catsup drips on the walls, and a lingering odor/texture of little-kid germs. The space itself had high ceilings, Chicago 1930s architecture, and a beautiful giant angled window that looked out on the plain brick wall of the next building, a few centimeters away. A guy put on a record by an unknown late '90s college favorite, I got a cup of beer (I figured it would help), and then asked Evan for directions to downtown so I could find a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which Evan very courteously and accurately gave. Stephen and I trekked out there in the drizzle and left the Cave brahs to whatever. I dropped out of Truman for a reason.
Once we were downtown, we met a self-proclaimed underground MC who was selling his three-song CD, made with Pro Tools and Recycle (which means he probably has the exact same setup I do) and wrapped in a piece of notebook paper. We bought one and I gave him one of Blanche's business cards that I had made for the trip. He told us that he was open for collaborations and that he had gotten his free ASCAP license, so he was OK'ed for radio play. We found Myopic Books, and they were able to immediately look up and find More Scary Stories, much to my delight. They then directed us to Earwax, a café/video rental store, where we got four lame VHSes for ten dollars (three kung-fu movies and one BMX video to play at the show -- I saw an art-student movie that I thought would be better for the show, but Stephen vetoed me). We went to the American Apparel store out of curiosity, and as soon as we walked in, a Portishead song from 1998 started playing. It was the gayest thing ever. The clerks were just wearing regular clothes, too, instead of briefs and pulled-up tube socks. Screw that. We relocated the Cave brahs and Cooper reluctantly gave us a ride back across town to Iron Studios. We listened to the first track of the underground MC's demo before Cooper quietly ejected it. It wasn't that bad. (or good) The Cave brahs dropped us off and headed back to Josh's to rehearse some more, and we got to the important business of idly drinking free beers and hanging out with ex-Columbian Tim Kaiser, who was "working the elevator" (he actually was working the elevator, it was a big freight elevator).
This is probably when we finally saw the first floor, where all the really awesome installations were. The first floor had a twenty-foot ceiling, and most of the installations made full use of the space. There was a gigantic sort of inflated Tyvek stylized elephant head with ears and a trunk; you crawled in through the ten-foot trunk, blindly pushing your way through into... the unknown. Which usually turned out to be a rotating cast of other slightly drunk dudes who had crawled in also, and who rewarded your efforts with a beer. There was also a couch and some markers to write on the dome's walls (the graffiti became progressively less art-studenty and more naked-lady-y as the night progressed). Also on the first floor were a pair of fishing shanties (made of corrugated green plastic and five-gallon paint buckets, like ice-fishing shacks); in one of them, you could write a fish story on a small form in exchange for a cookie, and in the other one, you could sing karaoke. The karaoke shanty was manned by a polite if somewhat bored guy (all the guys who were chained to their exhibits had a kind of stoic boredom to them) who would sing with you if invited. He was gradually covering the inner walls of the shanty with small karaoke request forms. Stephen and I sang "Are You That Somebody?" by Aaliyah feat Timbaland, and "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago because we were in Chicago.
There was also a large wooden wall with knives thrown into it, and a bunch of knives on the floor. "Dude, there's this wall where you can totally just fuckin' wing knives at it!" said Stephen to me. So Stephen and I threw knives at it. Mine went in! Then a guy came over and yelled at us. It turned out it was (non-interactive) art. I made a sign saying as much and posted it near it, so nobody else would have to feel dumb. But I saw other people winging knives at it all night anyway.
Around 6:00, the best Thai food I have ever eaten was catered in by a cute old Thai man. Edmar gave us free meal tickets, so it was even more delicious. Rotten Milk found us and asked how we felt about having our time slot changed from fourth in line (at 9:00) to first in line (at 7:30). We told him that that would be totally lame, which he realized, but we understood that there were fourteen-plus bands playing and we were not especially high-ranking among them and that were were already at the venue, and that we were team players. So we changed into our dumb outfits and told the friends that we had made that we were playing at 7:30. (Stephen's OBELISK outfit is a purple Soul Plane pilot hat and a sweatervest, and my MC Cat Genius outfit at this point is my foamcore Piccolo mask, women's '80s black fringe jumpsuit, sock-mitts, tail, fannypack, and white shoes with toes drawn on.) And then we managed to delay the start of our set until 8:30, allowing the sound tech guy who was playing impressively lame old-timey records at inappropriate speeds to play even longer.
By the time we reluctantly started, a crowd of literally fives of people had gathered in the first-floor loading dock-cum-concert hall (by 'gathered' I mean 'were already there' because it was pretty much all just the sound guys and Tim Kaiser -- the Cave brahs were still practicing at Josh's). The show was really good, technically; we remembered all the words; we did the coloring contest thing; I read a scary story during our cover of Eminem's 'Stan' and ended it with 'it was you! Damn.' which didn't make any sense in the context of the story; I crawled under the stage with my but hanging out during one of Obelisk's songs and ran away altogether during another. Originally we were going to let the audience choose which dumb VHS they wanted to watch during each song, but since all our dumb VHSes got stolen (including some of Stephen's home videos), the audience got to watch just the BMX video. It would have made the show even more confusing anyway. There were a couple of parts where I felt like I should have been more high-energy; I need to work on being hyped up even when the audience isn't. But all in all it was our tightest set to date. I got halfway through the Weird Al "All About The Pentiums" / Rage Against The Machine "Bulls On Parade" combo cover before someone cut the audio off. (It was Stephen. There were 13 other bands waiting to play.)
Afterwards, Stephen watched This Is My Condition, who came on after us, and talked to them about setting up a show with Umbros (his 'real' band). Then we wandered around in our dumb outfits some more. Stephen got a gold tiger silkscreened onto the hood of his white KCOU hoodie, which had been immaculate on the ride up to Chicago and was getting progressively dirtier and more decorated. Then Stephen, who had had about nine beers in the space of an hour and who was getting progressively wackier, disappeared for a while. I later found him in the VIP lounge (a curtained-off area on the first floor with couches and the letters "V" "I" and "P" rendered large in cardboard), fast asleep with his little hat still on. He seemed safe enough, so I left him there. I also saw Juiceboxxx in the VIP lounge and told him he was a dickweed for talking through our entire set at Apop in January (when he opened for us). He was all, "Dude but I was so wasted!" Whatever, dickweed. Then Juiceboxxx was very near one a glass coffee table when it broke. That's not a euphemism for anything, it was just a weird coincidence and it figures in later.
I dropped in and out of the other bands' sets; it was a lot of noise bands and DJs and one-off projects. There was a good avant-comedy duo that was two of the Version06 setup guys in white sweatsuits and gold necklaces, lamely insulting the audience through a massive delay filter -- a sort of standup RAVVEO))). And, um... actually I think that's the only act that made an impression on me. A few feet away in the exhibits was a harlequin-makeupped performance artist who silently indicated for me to let people know that she was about to perform. I told the karaoke shanty, which was pretty full and loud, and they said "oh, okay," and got quiet. Then as soon as I turned around, a midi version of "Hard Knock Life" started booming out. Awesome
The Cave brahs finally showed up, and Stephen finally woke up, because some be-jockeyed performance artists were doing a set in the VIP lounge, a central theme of which was teabagging Stephen. Stephen attempted to pee in a trash can behind the karaoke shack, then went outside and peed for about four solid minutes, then disappeared again. I looked for him everywhere with no luck -- asking various people if they had seen a drunk commercial airline pilot, and finding his Soul Plane hat on the now-closed-off fourth floor hanging on a pole, with no accompanying answers. One of the Cave guys said that they heard he had been passed out on the ladies' room floor at some point. I saw one of the teabagging performance artists outside, his elbow ripped open from rolling around in the VIP lounge floor on the broken glass. Apparently he went to the hospital and got six stitches and came back to the venue.
Eventually I just determined to watch Cave's set. This was 3:00 AM. Cave was, on this evening, Sean, Rex, Cooper, Terry, Josh, Gabe, Hunter, and Rotten Milk. They did a solid 40 minute set of mind-altering thump-based psychedelic jam. Gabe did vocals straight out of a Native American Pure Moods compilation extract. Some girl appeared on stage with no shirt and danced around for quite a while before making out with her boyfriend in a very gross way. Man, there were like four make-out-ing couples on the dancefloor. I didn't not pay to get in to see that.
After Cave's set, I started digging around for Stephen some more, since I figured we were leaving soon, even though there were still three bands left to play (it was now 4:00 AMish). I was getting a little desperate, and then Rex said "Hey, I found Obelisk," and led me past the knife wall, around a corner, to some mysterious undisplayed installation involving a giant brass Buddha head and two large flat planks. Stephen was sound asleep, arms on chest, on one of the planks. I had Rex take my picture next to him and we left him there, to be retrieved later. He woke up on his own pretty soon, apologized for missing Cave's (and every other band's) set, and failed to explain the large Shroud of Harlequin white facepaint smudge on one half of his face and jacket. We went home to sleep, at long last.
The next morning, Josh led us into the Ukrainian neighborhood that his apartment borders. It was full of people who looked like they'd been born old, and there were fashion boutiques with fashion-forward old-peasant-lady dresses in the windows. There was a sad little building that said "CHICAGO LIBRARY". We went to Ann's, a Polish bakery. ("What's a Polish bakery?" we asked Josh. "Ah, it's, the dough's all uncooked," he said.) The bakery contained a bunch of boring sodas with Cyrillic letters (I got a cream soda with Pinnochio on it), some danishes, some snobby Eastern European girls, and some snobby Eastern European guys with short hair and track pants and sweaters. Terry and I went in on some lunchmeat and beat and made ourselves sandwiches (there were no premade ones). While I was in line forever, an old woman brought up three different large bottles, one at a time, and asked a question about each one: some vitamin water, some Fiji rum, and finally some 7Up, which she bought. We saw Gabe, who was returning a tape to the library. He ate some paté with Josh.
We went to Iron Studios one last time before leaving town; I ran in to check on my trade table one last time. I organized what was there, and took what I wanted and left the rest, changing the posted rules to "TAKE EVERYTHING and LIVE A FULL LIFE". I took: Hunter's sunglasses, an RC Cola can, two dollars in change, a pin with a pornographic photo on it, a copy of Treasure Island, several of the other showers' DVDs and CD-Rs, some patches and silkscreens, and a military field training manual And some other stuff. Most of the CDs and VHSes were gone; I thought about taking what was left but opted not to. A guy came up to me to show me the cool thing he'd traded for at my table, and it was a DVD I'd never seen before (someone else must have traded it for something else). But this guy had traded to me his DVD of his photo essay of homeless rubber bands around Chicago, which I was pretty intrigued by.
I went back down to the van and Rotten Milk was hanging out. Or maybe it was just an old cat living in a pile of discarded clothes (psych!). Edmar happened to wander down and bid us happy trails, which we certainly appreciated. The hospitality and enthusiasm that we'd been shown by everyone involved in Version and Lumpen was unparalleled by ... I dunno, I've never really been to anything like Version before. Maybe Version-type events are always chock-full of great guys and gals. I certainly hope so.
The drive home was pretty uneventful, except that I got some teriyaki jerky chunks, which were much worse than teriyaki jerky strips, and I compared hanging out with Sean to being at Big Mama's House, which Sean didn't appreciate. Stephen drove the last leg of the way home, and afterwards, Cooper said "Obelisk did a good job driving" or something. On the way up, the Cave and the Obelisk had seemed somewhat uncertain around each other, but now Stephen, KCOU hoodie soiled irreparably, white makeup on face still, being referred to solely as Obelisk, was like a freshman frat rushee who had eaten the limp biscuit and had paid some dues.
After surviving Version06 and Chicago, my problems in Columbia and in my life seemed not-so-bad. It was the most fun weekend I can remember having in years, and I owe a debt to all the friends and professionals, new and old, who made it happen.
So that's what happened to me.
Hopefully before too long, I'll get the new releases put up on the archive.org pages. Cat Jams is looking at a possible show in early June to release a few more projects; more details as details are.
In the ten days it took me to type this, Toog made a video to introduce an upcoming Tape Store show. Here it is: (you need a Myspace membership to watch it; I'll try to get him to put it up somewhere else) >http://toog.blogspot.com/2006/05/i-am-sure-that-you-would-prefer-to-see.html
I got some pictures of the final Illusion Christmas event, taken by the inimitable Erica Thum. Hiro, I'll send them to you soon! Also, Chase Cogneato finally edited together the video from that same show. Synchronicity yo Also I have some pictures from Version, but who knows if they are all of my thumb or not.