SoWeBo 2013 Recap
Redux Stage celebrates music long gone but far from forgotten
It was the best of times, it was the Worz of times (yes, perpetually frenetic scenester Keith Worz was there!) at the 30th annual SoWeBohemian Arts & Music Festival held this past Memorial Weekend Sunday in Baltimore's failed experiment in neighborhood gentrification, SoWeBo (which I guess stands for SouthWest Baltimore, but was originally coined by the early bohemian settlers to show their solidarity with South Africa's Soweto townships).
|Musicians chill in The Redux Stage's open-air VIP Lounge|
Though there's a lot to see and do down at SoWeBo - like all the art and crafts on display (though most people seem to just eat, drink, get sunburn, and listen to the free music) - Amy "I have enough t-shirts & jewelry" Linthicum and I set out to hang at the Marble Bar Time Capsule Stage (officially known as The Redux Stage, on the corner of Arlington and Lombard) as our prime objective, because this was Festival Ground Zero for seeing all the old people (Marble Bar Baby Boomers like us) and hearing all the old music (late '70s & 1980s Punk-New Wave-Postpunk) that we like.
|Marble Bar Boomers trux on down to Redux|
The stage was managed by Fred Collins (Motor Morons, Pleasant Livers), with DJ "Lightning" Rod Misey (former WCVT-Towson State University and current WVUD-University of Delaware jock who interviewed and played countless Punk-New Wave bands - like Da Moronics, Ivan & The Executioners, Thee Katatonix, etc. - during his late '70s/early '80s radio reign) emceeing the proceedings and Joe Berky of Sound Productions handling, um, sound and production.
|DJ MC Rod Misey|
Once again the usual musical suspects - The Motor Morons (unofficial "house band" of SoWeBo), Thee Katatonix, The Beatoes, Mongoloidian Glow - were on stage to perform, but this year's highlight was easily the much-anticipated performance of The Mark Harp All-Stars - plus a surprise mini-set (courtesy of the Kats' Adolf Kowalski) by Washington D.C.'s '80s pop-punk wonders, Tru Fax & The Insaniacs.
|Behind the Music: Robyn Webb|
The Mark Harp All-Stars idea was the brainchild of long-time Harp collaborator Robyn Webb (following a suggestion by Fred Collins), who posted on her Facebook page the following thank-you to all who participated in the day's festivities:
Still in recovery, but want to offer major thanks to everyone, Chris Dennstaedt, Chris Ciattei, Cecilia Strakna, Robert J. Friedman, David Zidek, David Wilcox, Bill Dawson, Cindy Borchardt, Craig Considine and Ben Watson for making Mark Harp's All-Stars a reality one more time....Despite scheduling snafus, equipment failures and general chaos, they said it couldn't be done, but we pulled it off...Thanks also to Fred Collins, the SoWeBo Festival committee, Joe Berky, Thee Katatonix, Motor Morons, Mongoloidian Glow, Trufax & The Insaniacs, David Wright, Tom Warner and to all of you that stuck around until the bitter end to share Mark Harp's music with us. Great to see so many old friends together in one place. - Robyn WebbWell said, Robyn. My only regret was that the star-studded set started so late, at Twilight's last gleaming after a long day's journey into (SoWeBo) blight. But as Larry Vega would say, "What the hell ya gonna do?"
Apparently, there was a little "drama" behind the scenes of the All-Stars event, but I try to avoid conflicts and confrontations as much as I can (I get enough of that on a daily basis at my job!); interested parties can read Robyn's soap opera recap at Mark Harp's All-Stars.) (I did, however, love Robyn's snarky riposte to all the post-event carping: "Lessons learned: Get a lead guitar player who owns a guitar. Never follow the Motor Morons or an animal act.")
Robert J. Friedman (aka "Beefalo Bob") put it all into perspective with his tempered observation that "...organizing the un-organizable Mark Harp All-Stars...(was) a task that made herding cats look easy. Sure it could have been better, and it should have been earlier, however I thought we served the Big Man's memory well and made him the star of yet another SoWeBo Festival!"
More on The Big Event celebrating the music of The Big Man, Mark Harp (Mark Linthicum, 1957-2004), later in this long-winded tome...but first, a litany of the day's events in chronological order as they happened...with accompanying videos recorded by yours truly...
|Tom Warner, Vidiot About Town records the action|
Thanks to a family medical emergency, Amy and I missed most of The Beatoes' noon set (why so early?; we barely had time to put on our sunblock!), catching only their last number, "Mouse in a Blender," an old Poverty & Spit vermin supremo delicacy that featured guest vocals by erstwhile Spit and current Thee Katatonix honcho Adolf Kowalski.
|Adolf K. spits it out while Chris D. strums along|
Adolf released a bunch of balloons, just like Nena in "99 Luftballons," though I don't think his act was as symbolically charged as the Krautpop fraulein's.
Watch The Beatoes play "Mouse in a Blender."
This was the first stage appearance by Chris Dennstaedt, the man Robyn Webb always intros as "Philadelphia's answer to Beck Hansen," who would return to the Redux Stage later that night to perform with the All-Stars. By all accounts, Chris did some major heavy lifting on the day (no wonder he wears a wrist brace!), being called into duty to carry much of the All-Stars guitar duties. As Robyn Webb later commented, "After all this hoopla, we still had to go to the bullpen immediately upon the first pitch...[and] Chris, as a relief pitcher was far from warmed up, but managed to deliver when he hit the mound." Copy that and color me impressed!
Afterwards, Amy and I wandered around the festival, running into mutual acquaintance friends and peeps like Billy McConnell and his girlfriend Nicole...
|Billy McConnell's "Big Man" pin reminds us to watch the Mark Harp All-Stars|
|"Mark Harp? I'll drink to that!"|
|Hollins Street Hookup: Bucky B., Robyn Webb & Amy Linthicum|
|Bucky's "Big Man" ink trumps Billy McC's "Big Man" pin|
...Amy's college roommate and longtime gal pal Liz Crain and, hey, Chris Dennstaedt the Hobo Chef sampling a local Chicken Gyro!...
|Liz Crain, Amy Linthicum & Chris Dennstaedt|
|Blade (Motor Morons) says hi to her Edgewater neighbor Liz|
...and Jo Connor (Here Today, Vigil)...
|Jo Connor (Here Today, Vigil) models his Mark Harp tee|
...Amy's pal Valerie Potrzuski (of Hampden's Valerie Gallery fame), who was a festival vendor selling her art there.
|Valerie Potrzuski & Amy Linthicum|
...and Bill Barnett, who used to work with Mark Harp when they were DJs at WJHU back in the '80s and had a music blog, Burl Veneer's Music Blog, which had a great tribute to "The King of Peru."
|Bill Barnett & Amy Linthicum|
In his 2007 "King of Peru" post, Bill/Burl wrote:
"I read today that Alberto Fujimori, former President of Peru, was just convicted of abuse of power, the first in what should be a string of convictions. But that just reminded me of my dear friend Mark Harp, who in his final years was the self-styled King of Peru. In fact, nearly every day something reminds me of Mark; just a few days ago he figured in my post on Vigil. I met Mark when I was 17, a freshman in college. The campus radio station, WJHU, had a marvelously liberal policy regarding on-air staff: you didn't have to be a student, or even affiliated with the university at all! Mark was a so-called "community member" of the radio station. I got to know him when I graduated from the 3-6 AM timeslot into 1-3 AM; he came on after me. He scared me a bit at first, because he was a big, ugly guy. But he was incredibly friendly and his enthusiasm for music was unbounded. Every week he brought a mind-blowing case of records into the studio with him, and I would often stick around for an hour or two just to hear them, and what he did with them. Mark's ecumenical taste in music opened my eyes to so much that I had ignored until then, so he is probably more responsible than anyone else for broadening my own musical world."
On a day that was paying homage to the Mark's memory, I thought this was a touching tribute. I too was a "community member" at JHU's then 5-watt radio station in the early '80s (was anyone there from Hopkins? I recall a lot of TSU-ers having shows), along with my ex Katie Glancy, City Paper writer Michael Yockel, and countless others. I think my solo show was "Make Believe Ballroom" and my show with Katie was "We Am a DJ" (named after the David Bowie song) and can recall interviewing Boy Meets Girl on air there; BMG singer-songwriter Ceil Strakna would perform later that day with the Mark Harp All-Stars.
Oh, and two fans even recognized me from my old public access television atrocity exhibition, Atomic TV (one guy confessed he couldn't get enough of the Underdog Lady episodes while Harvey Wiley other gave me card for his YouTube animated series "Punk Rock Negro" available on the spaceboycmx channel).
We then headed back down to the Redux Stage shortly before Thee Katatonix's 5 p.m. scheduled set, where some unscheduled spoken word and dance performances were taking place.
Mary Knott's Poetry Gong Show
Boy, timing is everything. Poor Mary Knott was slotted to give her poetry reading before a unreceptive, sometimes heckling, urban audience that had gathered to see the act that followed hers, the Dynamic Movement Dance Team. Alas, her words fell on def ears.
Watch Mary Knott's spoken word set.
Wow, tough crowd! One guy stood directly in front of Mary and glared at her, shaking his head dismissively and giving her the "cut it short" motion with his hand. Guess he was impatient to see the skinny-tights gals in the Dynamic Movement troupe - I suspect he's from the "It ain't the Mete(r), it's the Motion" school of thought - but rude is rude. Respect, brother, respect - spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
|Dynamic Movement Dance Team: Poetry in Motion|
Dynamic Movement Dance Team
I have to say, these kids were really good and busted some truly dynamic moves. Not my music and not my style, but talent is talent, and these terpsichoreans "brought it"!
Watch Dynamic Movement move dynamically.
I'm sure the crowd enjoyed the one girl's exposed butt crack as she gyrated, to boot(y). (Joy is where you find it, after all! Look for butt crack at the 1:48 mark!)
|Dynamic Movement Dance Team members|
Dancing with the Stars, SoWeBo Style
So much for the professionals...It was also a day of wild abandon as far as dancing and gyrating music lovers were concerned in the amateur ranks, from a Headbanging Woman in a Wheelchair clutching a Pet Pigeon to her breast (she seemed to have an epiphany during Thee Katatonix's set - see her rock out when they played "Second Chance")...
|Wheelchair lady holds pigeon - and Thee Katatonix - near and dear to her heart|
...to a high-jumping, high-kicking black dude who went airborne during the Motor Morons set (Dave Wright and I suspected he might have been amped-up on Bath Salts and cautiously covered our faces whenever near him - just in case he wanted to chew off our well-chiseled faces)...
|Manic dancer in blue comes unglued during Motor Morons set|
|"I like open-face sandwiches!": Blue man checks out our faces!|
...and his sweat-suited companion in look-at-me spotlight dancing, Pink Lady...
|Pink Lady busts a move in front of Redux Stage|
...to uber-fans Blade of the Motor Morons pulling people from the crowd to dance with her and wildman Keith Worz of Marble Bar Lore - beer always in hand - pounding his fist on the stage and imploring the musicians to rock on.
|Kalamitous Keith back in the day|
(I remember well the time Keith came to a 1979 Katatonix gig in Annapolis where his frenetic pogo dancing so impressed a local music critic that he got singled out in the review for resembling something along the lines of "Jerry Lewis exposed to repeated electro-shocks"!)
I hadn't seen Keith in years, if not decades. Googling him later, I found out that there's a short film by Zach Greenbaum called "Out To Lunch" on YouTube that stars Keith and is based on real events from his life. Filmed in Keith's basement, it's about two friends that reconnect after many years.
Watch Keith in "Out To Lunch."
Keith also starred in another Greenbaum short film, "Shades of Gray."
|Keith Worz in "Shades of Grey"|
Watch Keith in "Shades of Gray."
Thee Katatonix came on next and played a set that alternated between Mr. Urbanity (Charlie Gatewood)'s hook-happy psych-pop tunes ("Daisy Chain," "Second Chance," Ordinary Sunday") and Adolf's early, punky pre-Divine Mission LP tunes ("Highlandtown," "Basket Case,""My Son the Gynecologist," "Valentine's Day") that were highlights of my (Tommy Gunn's) Katatonix Mk 1.0 reign-of-error days (1979-1980).
|Adolf sets the tone early (nice shirt!)|
Adolf set the day's in-your-rocking-face tone with his choice of the opening salvo, the subtly named "Fuck You" (officially known as "F*** You" on their Thanks Hon, 30th Anniversary CD, and which sounds suspiciously like a re-working of the old Kats tune "Stretch Marx" with new lyrics).
|The Kats lower their axes|
Then it was on to such primal sonic blasts as "Basket Case" and "Valentine's Day," which date from the Kats first-ever vinyl recording, their 1983 EP ("Thanx to no one") on UK Spud Records.
Watch the Kats play "F*** You" and "Basket Case."
Watch the Kats play "Highlandtown" and "Valentine's Day."
Here's the full Kats setlist:
- Fuck You
- Basket Case
- Daisy Chain
- Valentine's Day
- Second Chance
- My Son the Gynecologist
- Ordinary Sunday
|Charlie Gatewood (L) channels the spirit of Johnny Ramone|
(For the record: Mark Harp was also a big Ramones fan; in fact, he was cremated in a Ramones t-shirt.)
"Tommy, you missed it - we were The Ramones at the Metro," Charlie remarked afterwards. "Instead of just playing the old Katatonix tunes, I thought, why don't we play those great early Ramones songs like "Commando" and "Carbona Not Glue" and we nailed it, man. It was fun and who better to be Joey Ramone than Adolf? We had it down!"
Thee Katatonix transformed into The Ramones at Metro Gallery on Feb. 9, 2013
And did the audience like it?
"Who cares?" Charlie replied. "We had a blast playing it and that's what's it all about. It was fun!"
Charlie then proceed to recite the words to Dee Dee Ramone's "Commando": "First Rule is: the laws of Germany, Second Rule is: be nice to Mommy, Third Rule is: don't talk to Commies, Fourth Rule is: eat kosher salamis!"
Who says The Ramones weren't thought-provoking?
And for that matter, who said those early Katatonix tunes weren't thought-provoking? "Basket Case" anticipates amputee romance, a subject critics raved about in the recent Marie Cotillard arthouse film Rust and Bone; "Highlandtown" (dedicated this day to neighborhood native Don White of Da Moronics) addressed male hustling in East Baltimore ("Highlandtown is my kind of town, where everyone pulls their pants down/To make some bread you use your head") in the same way that Dee Dee Ramone immortalized street meat in "53rd and 3rd"; and "My Son the Gynecologist" eerily anticpates the sexual needs of horndog doctors, a la the recent sex scandal (and subsequent) suicide of Johns Hopkins physician Nikita A. Levy. Who knew?
Watch Thee Katatonix play "Second Chance."
Here's another view of "Second Chance" (for you completists!) recorded by Danny Simpson that has lotsa good close-ups of Big Andy Small and Honest Ed Linton for all you Rhythm Section groupies :
(I promise to post more Katatonix videos from their set in future. Stay tuned...)
Tru Fax & The Insaniacs
Washington, D.C.'s classic pop quartet Tru Fax & The Insaniacs came on after Thee Katatonix as their surprise "Mystery Dates." They were intro'ed and outro'ed by Adolf Kowalski, who has been re-smitten with Diana Quinn's melodic foursome ever since they played together at the Metro Gallery back in February, and decided to donate the rest of the Kats' allotted set to his Capital District friends.
I have to say that few records hold up as well as Tru Fax's "Washingtron" b/w "Mystery Date" single (Wasp Records, 1980).
|"Washington/Mystery Date" single (Wasp Records 1980)|
In 1980, Washington Magazine dubbed them the District's "Worst Band," but what would you expect from those squares? (Atomic TV was once voted Charm City's "Best Worst TV," so I consider them comrades-in-arms for that alone!) No sir, that's a badge of honor. They were, and are, a great band (though I dearly miss original bass player Libby Hatch, who passed away in a motorcycle accident years ago).
|Tru Fax: The original awesome foursome|
Tru Fax performed three songs in a riveting mini-set that played like a killer EP record: "Love Love Love," "Mars Needs Women," and "King of Machines"(which sounded so Ig-quisite to my ears that I thought it was a Stooges cover!).
|Tru Fax & The Insaniacs|
By this time, acts were running over Redux time limits, so apparently the Tru Fax set was cut short, much to Adolf's dismay. Still, the Insaniacs' EP-length performance was better than nothing.
Watch the complete Tru Fax set below.
Tru Fax video (YouTube):
Afterwards, fans made a bee-line to congratulate Diana, including LesLee Anderson, Amy Linthicum, Carol Underwood and Mary Butler.
|Marble Bar Sistahs Representing: Amy Linthicum, LesLee Anderson, Diana Quinn, Carol Underwood, Mary Butler|
Word has it Diana's set to hook up with former Marble Bar co-owner LesLee Anderson on an upcoming Charm City gig...
|Mutual Admiration Society: Diana Quinn & LesLee Anderson|
|LesLee Anderson congratulates Dian Quinn|
...and will perform in the area in the immediate future with her swinging '60s "Girl Group Sound" band The Fabulettes next Saturday, June 8 (Main Stage, 6:30 p.m.) at the HonFest in Hampden. And yes, the Fabulettes (Diana, Lisa Mathews and Jane Quinn Brack) sport the requisite double-decker B-52 beehives that fit in perfectly for the Honfest.
The Motor Morons came on well past their original 6:30 p.m. start time (the spoken word and dance performances probably backed up the schedule) and played a long and enthusiastic set. It seems that sparks fly and brains fry whenever the Morons play. The crowd was really into it, especially the aforementioned Bath Salts Man and Pink Lady, who took over front stage to put on a Dancing with the Stars performance that momentarily looked like it might turn into a romantic hookup.
Watch them dance in the following "Motor Morons Dance Party" video.
The Mark Harp All-Stars
As the sun set, The Mark Harp All-Stars finally took the stage to pay their respects to the departed legend Mark Harp (Mark Linthicum, 1957-2004), whose musical legacy included countless bands, including (working backwards) Chelsea Graveyard, The Tralalas, The Diamondheads, Pornflakes, Step 3, Interrobang, Asshead, Cabal, Null Set, Not Null Set, The Mark Harp Club, The Mark Harp Experience, The Beatoes, The Casio Cats, The Casio Cowboys, P.A.B.L.U.M., Timmy, Globetrotters, The Muggers, Mold and Mildew, Maternity Ward - to name a (whew!) few!
And I'm pretty sure Keith Worz saw all those bandsl!
|Keith Worz implores the All-Stars to pull his finger|
The All-Stars ranks on this day were filled with the following: Robyn Webb (guitar, vocals), Chris Dennstaedt (guitar, vocals), Ben Watson (guitar), Robert J. Friedman (aka "Beefalo Bob," keyboards), Dave Zidek (bass), Chris "Batworth" Ciattei (drums), Ceil Strakna (lead and backing vocals), Cindy Borchardt (vocals), with special guest appearances by singers Bill Dawson, Steptoe T. Magnificent (Dave Wilcox), and trombone player Craig Considine (Rumba Club, Boister, All Mighty Senators).
I think the All-Stars they were originally scheduled to play for an hour, but I'd be surprised if their shortened 10-song set - which opened with "Null Theme" and ended with a cover of Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" - was much over 40 minutes. The complete setlist (with lead singer and original associated group in parentheses) is listed below.
Null Theme (Bill Dawson, Null Set)
Fall Flat (Bill Dawson, Null Set)
I'm Too Ugly for MTV (Chris Dennstaedt, Beatoes)
Mad Dog 20/20 (Chris Dennstaedt, Beatoes)
Bowling With You (Robyn Webb, Ceil Strakna)
Rock 'n' Roll Asshole (Steptoe T. Maginficent)
Dating the Wrestlers (Ceil Strakna)
Big Man (Ceil Strakna, w/ Craig Considine on trombone)
I've Got Five Dollars (Everyone)
All the Young Dudes (Robyn Webb, Steptoe T. Magnificent)
Long Day's Journey into Blight
Former Null Set/Cabal and Black Pete singer Bill Dawson, with wife Michelle, traveled all the way from Jacksonville, Florida to Charm City's crumbling westside to sing two nuggets from his early '80s days collaborating with Mark Harp in Null Set and Cabal and to meet up once again with old friends.
|Bill Dawson, Amy Linthicum, Robin Linton & Michelle Dawson|
|Michelle & Bill Dawson: All the way from Jacksonville, Florida|
|Dundalkians Bill & Amy bond over their shared East Baltimore heritage|
Bill was stylishly attired in all-leather (we would settle for nothing less!) and colorful ink (he's a professional tattoo artist) on this sunny day, and indicated afterwards that he and the missus were hoping to move back to Baltimore eventually.
Fittingly, the day's tribute began with the two-song Null Set set, which included the anthemic "Null Theme" (featuring the legendary "Null Chord") and "Fall Flat."
|Ceil Strakna and Bill Dawson belt out Null Set ditties|
Watch the Mark Harp All-Stars play "Null Theme/Fall Flat."
At one point during "Fall Flat," Bill Dawson pointed to an empty space and remarked, "This is where Mark plays a serious guitar solo. But he can't do that, because he's dead." Alas, true dat.
Dawson was awesome and his brief stint after coming from so far away down the coast meant everything to the Marble Bar oldtimers - and no doubt to Mark.
|Beatoes single "I'm Too Ugly for MTV" (UK Spud, 1986)|
Then it time for The Beatoes redux set, with Chris Dennstaedt leading the band through "I'm Too Ugly for MTV" - which included Ceil Strakna's great vocal interlude - and "Mad Dog 20/20."
Watch the All-Stars play "I'm Too Ugly for MTV/Mad Dog 20/20."
Next up, the spirit of Corky Neidermayer was invoked for the classic "Bowling With You," with Robyn Webb handling lead vocals while backup singers Ceil Strakna and Cindy Borchardt hit the girly ooo-aaahs.
|Corky Neidermayer and Mark Harp love to go bowling with you|
Watch the All-Stars play "Bowling with You."
Next up was Steptoe T. Magnificent (Dave Wilcox of Chelsea Graveyard) to sing "Rock & Roll Asshole."
|Steptoe sings his signature shout-out, "Rock 'n' Asshole"|
Watch Steptoe & Co. play "Rock & Roll Asshole."
Steptoe once remarked that, during a low point in his nearly 40-year-career in rock 'n' roll, it was Mark Harp who inspired him to keep on keeping on, and he's never looked back since.
Next, former Boy Meets Girl and Big As a House singer-songwriter Ceil Strakna stepped out front from her backing vocal duties to belt out two classic Mark Harp tunes, "Dating the Wrestlers" and the anthemic Harp homage, "Big Man." (In 1991, Mark Harp rewrote "Big Man" as "Moguls in Training," a would-be theme song for a failed TV pilot, with Leslie Miller handling the vocals backed by Mark, Mike DeJong on sax, Dave Zidek on bass, and Jack Odell on drums; you can hear the 2004 Mark Harp Band version online at Internet Archives and 24 Hours with Mark Harp.) "Big Man" also featured the inimitable trombone stylings of Craig Considine (Mo Fine's All-Blind Orchestra, Off the Wall, Rumba Club, Boister, All Mighty Senators).
Watch Ceil and the All-Stars play "Dating the Wrestlers/Big Man."
The All-Stars closed out their set with two everybody-play-along jams, Mark Harp's "I've Got Five Dollars" and a cover of Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes." Robyn Webb introed the former by noting that Mark often wrote songs inspired by a random turn of phrase, rising to the challenge of creating something out of nothing.
Watch the All-Stars play "I've Got Five Dollars."
More videos to follow! (I'm publishing this now because YouTube just upgraded to a Google interface and I'm afraid of losing everything with all the damned multiple account logins - aaaccckkk!.)
It's too bad the sun set so quickly on the All-Stars' set because I'm sure we would've like to have heard more, maybe even Harpo's "Movie Dream."
|The sun sets on the Mark Harp All-Stars|
If it's any consolation, I've included the Tralala's version from the 2004 Honfest in Hampden - one of Mark's last appearances before his untimely death on Christmas Eve 2004.
Watch The Tralalas play "Movie Dream."
It would have been a fitting end to a day that had us all dreaming back to the halcyon days of youth and musical nirvana. And, like a movie reaching its end, the lights had begun to dim, ready to fade to black...
It was a great day to hear fun music and meet up with old (literally!) friends, most of whom were card-carrying (at least in spirit) members of the Mark Harp Fan Club.
|Mark Harp Fan Club card|
SoWeBo 2013 (Flickr photo set)
Mark Harp's All-Stars (Facebook Group)
The Marble Bar (Baltimore) Facebook Group
Mark Harp/King of Peru (Official site)
24 Hours with Mark Harp (listen to Mark Harp's music)
Listen to Black Pete's "Mississippi Queen" (1989, Calvert Street Records)