Subject: Belated Sacto Devival Report -- Pop Truwe SPEAKS
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 06:44:56 -0700
Organization: René and Georgette Magritte (with their Dog) after the War
Newsgroups: alt.slack.devo, alt.slack
My daughter Anna has been exhorting me to write up my assessment of the
recent Sacramento Devival festivities for the newsgroup.
First off, let me point out that I was only there as observer and
parent; though I find myself some sort of member of the Church of
SubGenius through Anna's largesse last Christmas, I don't know much
about the pipe guy and what you people do or don't believe.
It's my vague understanding that fifteen or so years ago someone slapped
together some delusions, pasted up some clip art and ran a few ads--and
the thing took. I'm told that this coming Fourth of July flying saucers
will be arriving and will either take away or not take away (I'm a
little hazy on this point as well) those of us who do or don't believe
whatever it is we're supposed to or supposed to not believe. Whatever
the outcome I'm apparently safe, though, because Anna was fond enough of
me to ransom my soul for Christmas.
So, at any rate, indulgent parent that I am, we loaded up the nuclear
family in the Family Truckster and set off for the Sacramento Devival to
see what it's all about.
And now, with the experience behind me, I'm afraid I'm still as in the
dark as before. I wish I could say the event was an unqualified
success, but it was probably my ranting about it that led to Anna's
encouraging me to write. And I was indeed initially quite willing to
review the event and critically tear it to shreds--until I read the Rev.
Jetrock's official report. It's taken me until now to decide to write
my version because I was just so utterly charmed by the good reverend's
eager, sweet attempt to put the best face on it that I just didn't have
the heart to write what really happened.
So maybe I did learn something about the church of the pipe guy: You're
all just a bunch of nice kids trying your darnedest to be
outrageous--shouting that you're angry monkeys and perturbed wombats in
capital letters, when all you really want is attention and acceptance.
At any rate, here's what actually transpired at the Sacramento Devival.
First, though, I suppose I should point out that I've presided over and
participated in more than my share of entertainment disasters. I've
done some producing, I've done some solo performing; I've stood both on
and behind the stage and heard the catcalls and silence and the sound of
But I've learned. I've honed my act so the catcalls and silence fall
pretty much where I want them to, and people don't walk out on me
anymore. They run. If the Family Truckster makes it to New York this
summer, maybe you'll see what I mean.
So we arrived in Sacramento, found the dump and seated ourselves in the
front row. And I mean "dump" in the most positive sense. Sure, the
tiny, ancient theater was held together with gaffer's tape and by layers
of grime and decaying paint--but my first, admiring words to Anna were
"We need a theater."
At the extreme left of the stage was a disheveled guy in a T-shirt, with
a felt hat that was three sizes too small perched on top of his head as
he fiddled with a PC, amp and speaker. It wasn't until after he was
done fiddling that we knew for sure that he was Krystal Marimba Lounge,
and that the fiddling had been the performance. The "music" was
computer-generated, but sounded (I'm trying to be generous here) as if
it had been generated by an autistic kid with a Casio keyboard under his
right hand and a Speak 'n Spell under his left.
Then the angry monkey took the stage in a three-piece suit, and did a
very creditable job of spouting whatever it was he spouted at us.
Really. He was well-groomed and personable and coherent and
spontaneous. I do wish, though, he'd told us that this was going to be
the high point of the onstage entertainment, and that henceforth we'd
have to entertain ourselves.
God Hates Computers--three young men from Portland--then set up their
equipment in the narrow space between our knees and the stage, and
proceeded to overmodulate a pretty conventional rock 'n roll set, though
they apparently were under the impression they'd discovered something
new. I was actually impressed with their musicianship, but wished
they'd made a tiny effort to let us in on the act: It was quite a new
experience to hear someone introduce a song ("This is a song about" such
and such), and then not be able to understand or even lip-read a single
word of the song, even though I was three and a half feet from the
singer. These kids nowadays and their rocking roll....
It didn't take long for God Hates Computers to decide that they hated us
(the audience), and they made no secret of it. Apparently we weren't
responding correctly: They wanted the fifty or so people scattered in
the hall at the time to be alternately dancing (or at least standing)
and wildly cheering. Maybe when they're older they'll learn that a
performance is too fragile an organism to ever blame its miscarriage on
the audience. They were fighting a bad sound mix, a small house,
audience expectation and bad setup (they should have performed on the
stage), not a bad audience--and they didn't even know it.
After this the audience wanted to like the Humboldt County Resistance
League--we did, we really did. They set up on the stage and told us
that they wouldn't perform until the audience came forward and filled
the pit. So we obediently moved forward, our expectations high. The
League consisted of a guy on lead guitar and a guy who plugged an AM
radio into a feedback loop at top volume. The guitar guy would tune his
guitar, the feedback guy would fiddle with plugs and switches, and they
would look at each other and shrug their shoulders and shake their
heads, occasionally consulting by screaming into each others' ears. It
wasn't until the feedback guy started then screaming at individuals in
the pit to lean their heads into the amp (Dave Barry and I are not
making this up), that the audience realized that this was the
As people started to drift away from the stage, it occurred to me that a
good way to end all this would be to start applauding. We gave them an
ovation, and the Humboldt County Resistance League went away.
Rev. CrazyCurt must have been the aging hippie with the Army helmet and
the rant about Mr. Bob. He wasn't as smooth as the angry monkey, but I
enjoyed his performance. Now that's entertainment: Whether it turns out
well or not, it takes admirable balls to stand solo in front of audience
and force them to take some interest in watching you rub your two brain
cells together. I'd been tiring of people hiding onstage behind their
hyperthyroid Walkmans and then screaming at us for not appreciating
them. I couldn't have known then that I was going to get tireder.
I think Captured by Robots set up next, and I was again encouraged. A
guy began to set up enigmatic devices onstage--one made of an automatic
zither with a head, arms and legs, another a robotized drum set. This
could be interesting. But then he plopped an enormous stuffed K-mart
monkey on top of a box and plugged it in as well. Uh-oh. Turned out
that the guy setting up was also the guy who'd been captured by the
robots, as became clear when he strapped a keyboard device to his chest
and an Army surplus gas mask to his face: It was a one-man-band act.
Which could have been fine. I'm game. I have nothing against one-man
bands; I've heard some pretty good ones. BUT--his music was pedestrian
(literally) at best. Consider this: He performed standing, and the
drums were operated by switches under his heels, instead of his toes, so
he could play at a tempo no faster than he could do toe lifts and at a
level of complexity limited by his chubby body. Left foot CRASH, right
foot THUD. CRASH CRASH THUD. CRASH CRASH THUD. Ho ho hum.
So the guy howled through his gas mask as he hopped slowly on his drum
switches while playing chords on his keyboard and noodling (when he
remembered) on the zither by touching terminals on his chest device.
Which could have been fine; I can tolerate and even find something to
appreciate in uninspired music. But between numbers he had to go and
make the robots speak--the flaw in this plan being that it was the same
uninspired guy who was putting the words in their mouths. After every
number he would say something unintelligible to a robot, and the robots'
response (without exaggeration) would invariably be "SHUT UP! Gibberish,
gibberish, gibberish." Then one of the other robots would take offense
at the first robot's witty gibe, and say, "SHUT UP! Gibberish,
Which again could have been fine. I could have sat there and laughed at
the guy and let him think that I was laughing with his act. But the
audience! The audience was eating this up as if it were the Second
Coming. They were actually laughing at the robots' responses: What
cleverness! Who could have imagined it! Talking robots!
And the kids who had turned up their noses at God Hates Computers were
eating up his "music"--crowding adoringly at the stage, waving their
cute little audacious Satanist hand signs at the performer and slam
dancing in the pit. Pardon me, but I couldn't watch. I had to leave. I
retired to the Family Truckster in the parking lot and made myself some
cocoa. Which could have been when I missed Noisegate. (At this point
we're about six hours into the Devival, and my recollections are
starting to run into each other.)
The "mighty SubGenius" who between acts gingerly took the mike and
"whipped the crowd into a frenzy" was actually the most sweetly
endearing moment of the entire day's festivities. He was a fortyish
red-haired shy guy who made a valiant attempt to speak but was hampered
by the fact that, through some oversight perhaps, Mr. Lounge had been
left in control of the P.A. system. Filtered through Krystal's PC,
anything said through the mike was repeated back at the performer a
half-second later, augmented with random bleeps and bloops and Speak 'n
Spell noises. Arty, I guess, but enough to scramble the brain of anyone
not adept at tuning such distractions out. So the mighty SubGenius would
build up a head of steam, rant for exactly a sentence and a half--and
then he'd hear his own voice coming back at him and he'd freeze like a
deer in the headlights for two to five minutes. This went on, over and
over again, for at least fifteen minutes. I am not exaggerating. It
could have been twenty or thirty, my sense of the passage of time at
this stage of the Devival being hopelessly compromised, but I'm still
trying to be generous here.
I was trying to encourage him (he was standing right in front of us)
with encouraging shouts of "Testify, brother!" and "Then what happened?"
and such, but I couldn't penetrate the distractions, which were soon
increased as he started to bore the Bob Weirdos. They began to play with
their foam- and duct tape-covered stick weapons directly in front of the
poor guy, who eventually went away.
I think next was Mistress Chantah's "fetish performance." Mrs. Chantah
was a meaty lady poured into an abbreviated leather outfit. The outfit's
overstressed seams lent the only element of suspense to the act, which
consisted of her loosely tying a 35-year-old nearly naked accountant to
an "X" of two-by-fours and in slow motion clipping wooden clothespins on
his flesh. I'm still not making this up. Oh, I forgot: Before the "act"
she "purified" the sacrificial altar by lighting candles and burning
sage. At any rate, as the audience began to buzz with the realization
that the accountant was having a better time than we were--that this was
not a performance but an exercise in voyeurism--it's my self-serving
recollection that I precipitated the firestorm of heckling and catcalls
with the innocent question I asked of Mrs. Chantah: "Um, Miss, will
there be a question-and-answer period after you're done?"
In retrospect, I think Mrs. Chantah made one major error in preparation
that encouraged the heckling that intensified until she finally went
away. She should have had some enormous amps overmodulating something,
anything, at us: Painful levels of sound were pretty effective at
keeping the audience in a stupor during the other acts of the afternoon
During the interminable wall-of-sound acts one of the ways I kept myself
amused was by scanning the audience and running little beauty pageants
in my mind, deciding for myself which fellow auditor should correspond
with which Internet personality. I'd decided that I was going to award
the identity of Iceknife to the pastiest, roundest and shiftiest
SubGenius present, but there were just too many candidates to narrow it
If you're still reading--and shame on you if you aren't--you'll probably
guess that I hated the Bob Weirdos as well. But nothing could be further
from the truth; in fact, we're thinking of becoming the first Bob
Weirdoheads, decorating the Family Truckster, and following them when
they go on tour.
The twelve or so Weirdos then set up on stage--lead guitar, bass guitar,
drum set, and an assortment of plastic buckets, paint cans, file
cabinets and other miscellaneous debris and detritus. At this point I
found within myself reserves of optimism I didn't know I had, once again
thinking, "This could be interesting. Or at least rhythmic." I thought
they were going to drum and dance at us like the Blue Man Group or Stomp
or something. In that expectation, at least, I was going to be
Apparently the three musicians had never played together and weren't
about to start now. It could be that they'd never played before at all.
(No, that's unkind. The drummer did make a valiant effort at tying the
entire sonic mishmash together.) But each particular Weirdo was much too
intent on destroying or setting fire to his particular container or
piece of furniture to show any interest in doing so rhythmically in
concert with the other Weirdos. Happily, what their performance lacked
in rhythm it more than made up in chaos and energy and enthusiasm.
As the objects of their energies evolved into smaller and smaller bits
they turned upon each other for victims, and returned to playing in the
pit with their duct-taped battle axes and pugil sticks. Anna, still
sitting in the front row, retrieved an errant weapon and was poised on
the edge of her seat, wanting desperately to enter the fray but not sure
of which Weirdo to ask for permission. So I gave her a shove, and she
lay waste about her as the wife and I sat there literally open-mouthed
at the entire over-the-top display of adolescent destructive glee--not
something you see every day.
Mr. Jetrock returned to the stage, in mufti this time (it pays to
increase your word power), to help set up for Uberkunst. Uberkunst was a
lot like the Bob Weirdos act, if you substitute discarded computers and
household appliances for the plastic buckets and if you substitute
Skilsaws with Kutzall blades for the twelve insane testosterone- and
adrenaline-crazed kids. No one here can quite recall exactly what
musical instruments were represented onstage, but there seems to be a
general consensus that there were some.
The angry monkey and his girlfriend then set about destroying the
appliances with the electric saws, sending huge, gorgeous plumes of
sparks into the air of the darkened theater. The two seemed to be
hampered, though, by either inadequate available amperage or by
extension cords that were either too long or of too-small gauge, so they
had considerable trouble actually destroying anything. Bob Weirdos to
the rescue! As Uberkunst in frustration pushed objects off the stage
into the pit, the Weirdos would set upon them and reduce them to atoms
with whatever was at hand--by throwing them to the floor, by jumping on
them, by using computers and printers as hammers and mortars.
It was this activity that gave the evening its one note of genuine
danger and suspense: One Weirdo repeatedly employed a printer as a
wrecking ball, swinging it by its cord over his head to demolish a
microwave oven on the floor. It was morbidly fascinating, like watching
a multi-car pileup: When the cord finally gave way, which of us was
going to be hit? Would there be deaths, or merely multiple maimings? But
God bless the Japanese, who apparently foresaw such a use for one of
their printers, and designed a cord attachment robust enough for this
It wasn't until we were on the way home that the wife remarked how
disappointed she was that she hadn't seen any "severed dicks," as
promised in the Devival publicity. When I reminded her, she did remember
seeing Uberkunst's liquid-filled pipes with red LEDs on their ends that
the angry monkey and his girlfriend took turns bracing between their
legs and hacking at with their recalcitrant Skilsaws. Those were them,
I'd assumed that head launching would be the high point of the act,
involving a solemn church ceremony: a few appropriate words and a moment
of silence, followed by disembodied heads majestically sailing over the
audience, trailing sinews and veins through the air, depositing a veil
of gore on the believers below. But the sacred launching in Sacramento
was done almost as an afterthought in the midst of the other chaos, and
for my last disappointment of the evening (and, once again, let me point
out that I've constructed more than my share of devices that didn't do
what I'd intended them to), the Uberkunst Engineering Department hadn't
quite had time to correct some design flaws in the catapult, so the
machine tended to launch its heads into the floor directly in front of
It was then our turn to go away, so we did--not much sadder or wiser,
but certainly eight hours older. It was sort of like a very long, very
loud study hall, or like sitting through The Postman twice--with the
exception that, come July 4, Kevin Costner doesn't have much influence
over whether or not I do or don't get a seat or a set of shackles on
that flying saucer. Whichever one it is, that is.
|<truwe(at)mind.net> | Ben, Shelley, Matie and Annna * | 114 Earls |
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