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      Diary Of A Rock Critter
      1989 New Music Seminar
      by Jim Testa - Jersey Beat Fanzine 
      The  first  thing  you have to understand about  the  New  Music 
      Seminar  is  that  it doesn't really have anything  to  do  with 
      music;  its  purpose is to provide a forum for the discussion of 
      the business of music,  and that's a whole 'nother thing.  So if 
      there's  a  panel on songwriting,  it's about "how  to  write  a 
      Number 1 song."  The "fanzine panel" wasn't called that;  it was 
      called  "The Selling Of The Underground - An Overrated  Market?"  
      I  had never realized before  that's what I've been doing for  7 
      years. Live & learn. Yeah, I certainly got my money's worth from 
      NMS.
          This  obsession with turning punk rock into dollars  creates 
      some  weird scenarios - this year best exemplified by Old Skull. 
      I'm sure you've heard of Old Skull by now,  the 8 and 9 year old 
      hardcore band from Wisconsin.  Old Skull were feted and praised, 
      interviewed  way past their bedtimes.  They played the Ritz  and 
      the  Rapp Arts Center,  they got on MTV.  They are a  hype,  and 
      anyone  even remotely associated with them should be ashamed  of 
      themselves.
           Okay,  let's look at it this way.  Let's say you're not Old 
      Skull but one of the other acts on the Restless Records roster - 
      Electric Love Muffin or 7 Seconds.  Here you've been sleeping on 
      floors,  eating  bread sandwiches,  and generally devoting  your 
      every waking hour for 6 or 7 or 9 years to your band - and along 
      comes  a  bunch  of  9  year olds  who  can't  even  play  their 
      instruments,  and  your  label goes ga-ga getting them  all  the 
      publicity,  tour support, and promotion that you've been begging 
      for. Nobody said life was fair.
         I  am not going to mention anything else  about  NMS,  except 
      maybe  for  my visit to the Giant Records booth,  where the  new 
      label manager told me,  "It's a whole new label,  we got rid  of 
      all  that  hardcore stuff."  Debbie,  I liked all that  hardcore 
      stuff.  Well, they did sign the Slickee Boys and Peter (Squirrel 
      Bait) Searcy's new band, so maybe...
           Herewith,  the  diary of a Rock Critter during  5  frenzied 
      nights  on  the  town,  the only really worthwhile part  of  NMS 
      anyway...
      Friday,  July 14:   Big show at the Ritz.  Old Skull  (sheesh!), 
      Laughing  Hyenas,  Mudhoney,  and Sonic Youth (celebrating their 
      signing to Goofen,  excuse me,  Geffen Records).   We walk in as 
      Old  Skull  is  winding  up  their  set,   the  singer/guitarist 
      destroying his ax Pete Townsend-like (sure bet he didnt' have to 
      pay  for it) while the "bassist" sits on the floor banging on  a 
      metal plaque with a hammer.  Punk rock, man. Don't trust anybody 
      over 10,  ok?   Laughing Hyenas are loud but one-dimensional,  a 
      non-stop drone that sounds like one long interminable song  thru 
      the  first  3/4 of their set until they finally  change  tempos.  
      Mudhoney  pretty  much get the crowd riled up,  goofy  and  fun, 
      "Touch  Me I'm Sick" sounds pretty cool even in a mausoleum like 
      the New Ritz.  Next come Sonic Youth, tongue in cheek as always, 
      playing a ton of old shit and goofing on Geffen (playing Madonna 
                                      1
      and  Guns  'N Roses samples  'tween  songs,  fr'instance).  Will 
      success spoil Sonic Youth?
        Naah.
      Saturday, July 15th
         Check in at the Marriott Marquis.  Going up the escalator  to 
      pick up my badge and bagful of goodies and within 5 minutes meet 
      Jad  Fair,  Mike Gitter,  half of Alice Donut,  Agnostic Front's 
      Steve  Martin,  and  Old Skull (who are skateboarding  thru  the 
      hotel giving out flyers for their next show).   Show business is 
      my life.
      4 p.m.   CBGB Hardcore Matinee. Jerry's Kids are a no-show but I 
      stay  for  Head's  Up,  John Bello's newest  signing  to  Hawker 
      Records.  Funny,  funky  Chili Pepperish punk rock,  don't  tell 
      anybody but I was actually dancing to this.  Gitter sidled  over 
      and says they sucked, a sure sign Bello has a winner.
      9 p.m.  For no good reason,  go to Bitter End to check out Those 
      Melvins from Connecticut.  Actually,  I had a reason - their cut 
      on  the  "No Milk" compilation pushed all my power-pop  buttons. 
      Turns out the Melvins are a frat band,  30ish dudes with  beards 
      and  Bermuda shorts who look like they'd be comfortable doing  a 
      whole set of Poco covers.  With the exception of one or two cuts 
      (they've  got one grabber that sounds like a lost dB's classic), 
      their nerdy organic poptoons don't impress.  Lead singer has the 
      set  list scribbled on successive layers of t-shirts,  which  he 
      keeps peeling off to reveal the next song. Cute.
        
      10:30  p.m.  Toddle  over  to Gonzalez  Y  Gonzalez,  a  Mexican 
      restaurant  pressed  into service as a club  when  Downtown  got 
      padlocked  a week before NMS.  Turns out Enigma is having a pre-
      show  party to which I wasn't invited,  but Brian from  Electric 
      Love  Muffin sneaks me in anyway for some free beer  and  nachos 
      (this is called "networking").   Next stop is Under Acme, a non-
      Seminar  show with Friction Wheel,  who just keep getting better 
      and better. Bob Mould, who produced their single, is there, also 
      not wearing an NMS badge. 
      Sunday, April 16th
      9:30  p.m.  Toxic Shock Night at the CBGB Canteen and  House  Of 
      Large  Sizes opens the evening.  I didn't much care for their lp 
      but  live  they're  a  lot  better,   more  forceful  and   less 
      archaically  "new wave." Next door at CBGB it's Homestead Night, 
      and I keep shuffling back & forth.  Happy Flowers turn out to be 
      a  lot  younger and a lot more normal than I had  pictured  them 
      (with names like Mr. Anus and Mr. Horribly Charred Infant, I was 
      expecting  two  burnt-out  30ish  ex-hippies,  sorta  Shimmydisc 
      material,  if you wanna know the truth).   Giant Sand are  every 
      bit as boring live as their record.  Death of Samantha rocks but 
      I have to leave.
      1:25  a.m.  Speed The Plough finally go on for the "11:30  p.m." 
                                      2
      showcase at the Bitter End.  It has been pouring all night and I 
      spent  most of the evening trudging up & down Bleecker St.  from 
      CBGB's  waiting  for  them to go on,  so even  tho'  they're  as 
      transcendently tuneful as ever,  I am wet, tired, and too cranky 
      to have any fun. 
      Monday, July 17th
      9:30 p.m.   I've heard a lot about Too Much Joy from California, 
      including  a  rave  mention of their 2nd lp  by  Dean  Christgau 
      (during  his  keynote speech at SXSW,  no  less).   Said  lp  is 
      nowhere to be found anywhere in Manhattan, by the way; I tried 6 
      different  stores,   incl.  Pier  Platters  in  Hoboken,  Tower, 
      Bleecker  Bobs,  Sounds,  and a few others.  Great - they travel 
      3000  miles to showcase their act and their label doesnt have  1 
      copy  of the record in the biggest market in  America.   I  kept 
      trying  to  convince myself these gomers were actually as  wacky 
      and  zany as they were trying to come across on  stage,  but  it 
      didn't wash. The songs aren't bad but I could do without all the 
      mugging,  jumping,  and  corny choreography.   Next up is Fabian 
      Blue,  a  teenager  from the South Bronx with an 8  piece  band, 
      fuck-me good looks,  and massive soul/crossover potential, kinda 
      like a younger, male Whitney Houston, or Robbie Rosa with better 
      material.   Next door at the Canteen, the Jacklords were opening 
      up  Skyclad Night.  With 2 ex-Splatcats,  they  were  expectedly 
      60'ish  garage,  plenty  of  strong hooky tunes and  some  neato 
      surf/gtr breaks.  Now I know why Yod Crewzy quit the Splats - he 
      sings and plays guitar better'n the 
      other 'cats and never got to take centerstage.
        11:30  p.m.  A  quick trip over to the Rapp  Arts  Center  - a 
      converted schoolhouse and an ideal venue to fill the vacuum left 
      by the death of Irving Plaza - for Nice Strong Arm (manic psycho 
      Gerardmetal)  and  Naked Raygun,  who ripped the place  in  two. 
      Turns  out this was also the farewell performance for Raygun gtr 
      John Haggerty.  They closed with a tribute to Government  Issue, 
      covering  "Where You Live." Bitchin'.  Word came out later  that 
      their label decided at the last minute not to pay their airfare, 
      so the Rayguns had to fly in from Chicago, rent a car, pay for a 
      hotel, and fly back all out of their own pocket.  
      Tuesday, July 18th
      9  p.m.  Started the night off at the Philadelphia Booth  party, 
      hosted  by Carol Schutzbank and featuring various Love  Muffins, 
      Orifices,  Zooboys,  and  others.  Lots  of  demo  swapping  and 
      whatnot.  Then  we  all  subwayed over to CBGB for  one  of  the 
      weirdest bills of the week:  All, Bullet LaVolta, and the Swans.  
      All did a long set full of slower, more tuneful songs - probably 
      glad  they weren't playing to a roomful of 16 year olds  - while 
      Bullet  LaVolta rocked per usual.  I didn't hang around for  the 
      Swans  but  crosstowned it to Avenue A for Ultra  Vivid  Scene's 
      show at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut.  Rumor had it that Kurt (Mr UVS) 
      was  offered  a chance to play the big opening night party  with 
      George  Clinton but opted instead for this  postage-stamp  sized 
                                      3
      venue;  it  couldn't  have  been more than 105  degrees  inside, 
      packed  shoulder to shoulder,  everybody swaying to  the  band's 
      hypnotizing   melodies   and  offbeat  instrumentation   (cello, 
      keyboards,  minimal drums,  distorto gtr).   My notes say  "Hank 
      Williams" after that but I have no idea why.  
      Wednesday, July 19th
      Went to bed at 10 p.m. and lapsed into a coma.
      It  should probably be noted (again & again) that the bands  are 
      the  most exploited aspect of NMS - they usually don't get paid, 
      often travel across the country to play these showcases, and the 
      bands  who  wind up on those NMS Unsigned Bands  cassettes  even 
      wind up paying big bucks for the privilege.  The clubs rake in a 
      fortune     from   the   bar   (NMS'ers    are,    after    all, 
      conventioneers...and  drink  like longshoremen),  even the  taxi 
      drivers make out like bandits. 
         But  then,  just think of the souvenirs that Old  Skull  will 
      have  for  show 'n tell in September.   Was it  worth  it?   You 
      betcha.
  1. —————————————————————

If you liked this, might we suggest you send $2 and check out an

      entire issue of Jersey Beat Fanzine?
      Send to: Jim Testa, 418 Gregory Ave, Weehawken NJ 07087
      This column will appear in the Sept. 1989 issue.
                                      4

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