Psychotic Pulp: Rock 'n' Roll as Literature, Vol. 1

"Ha! I know! I wish they'd turn it down or something!" she yells in the middle of a song ending. Well, not exactly ending. The thumping tune had devolved into squelching feedback and noise crying memories of ghosts too fresh to even know they were dead.


The bar continues to fill with people lining up for beer and liquor memory tonic promising foggy notions for hours to come. Bodies pressing up against each other and conversations continue. A buffer borders the band a good five to 10 feet in every direction. In the middle of the vacuum, the group bounces off each other, climbs amps, jumps off, falls on the ground in a general hootenany and self-inflicted chaos.


On the other side of town, Johnny Winter fills a medium-sized open-aired venue and plays hits from the '60s or '70s or whenever he's from. A 45-year-old man with greying hair, pony tail and beard turns to his 18-year-old son (in baggy jeans and with flowing long blond hair) to remark, "It's so important to support local arts, son. If we don't come out to these local shows, what kind of local scene will we have? Local music is so important."


Clouds rumble overhead as Johnny looks skyward and pauses thoughtfully following a 12-minute blues jam. "Don't forget Woodstock, boys and girls. I was there. Chant off the rain, just chant it off. There's no mud here and you girls aren't as young as you were back then," he sputters into the microphone with a big inside joke grin. Cheers erupt as he leads a chant, "NO RAIN, NO RAIN, NO RAIN!" the crowd follows and stomps their feet.


All at once, the sky cracks open and pours dangerous amounts of rain onto the unsuspecting crowd. A few well-prepared concert goers still in their business leisure suits from the Friday 9-to-5 pull out their umbrellas and the rest run forward toward the stage.


In front of the crowd at the bar, I see and hear all these things at once. My wandering brain picks up random transmissions from across town and throughout the room. When I play music I black out in catatonic stupor for better or worse. I can't control my thoughts as I rip my hand to shreds strumming my guitar and hollering my lungs out absentmindedly. Or completely focused and precise. I can never tell which one for sure.

Screeching guitars over a rapid backbeat pierce 50 ears trying to hear 25 stilted conversations. A foot-long needle shoots directly through the beckoning orifices, winds around the ear canals and connects directly with the center of each half of the brain. A throbbing begins at the base of the skull as imaginary brain fluid leaks out of each ear. Each face contorts into wrinkled disgust and the faces move closer together.

"Music is my life!" screams one bearded-with-glasses 20-something into the ear of a young girl with hair framing her face, brown tank top, cut-off jean shorts and several colored tattoos spattered across each arm. Clouds of cigarette smoke linger between them and slowly rise to the tar-stained ceiling. From the other end of the bar, the shapes and cartoons on her arms aren't distinguishable, but I'm convinced they're more than just blobs of ink. "Have you ever heard the first Bad Brains album?" he continues to yell, "It's so raw, I can't get enough of it!"

The band falls into a repetitive pattern of chunky chords, fast, pounding, tribal drums and hollering vocals. A few words sneak out of the mix, "MAKE...APPOINTMENT...TIME...MIND...EXCUSE!" Fuzzed mumbling fills the spaces between the recognizable words.

"I'm so glad you like them, too! Did you go see them at State a few months ago? They were great. I was there for Propaghandi, though!" the girl hollers back.

"What!? I can't hear a fucking thing with this shit music!"

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