October 8, 2004
Victorian’s Midnight Cafe
w/ The Teeth
This was a show that happened to fall on the same night as the second Bush-Kerry presidential debate. It was set up by our friend Jill from the previously mentioned November Loop, who invited us, two of our local friends that were playing their first show as Villa Straylight, and a punk rock band from Ann Arbor called The Teeth. It was at a venue that at the time was called Victorian’s Midnight Cafe (later renamed The Shrunken Head), which had a bit of a half coffee house/half bar feel to it.
Some absurd drama occurred before the show even started. Jack (not his real name) from Villa Straylight was standing with a group outside laughing and talking shit about The Teeth, about how they had insisted on headlining because they came from the furthest distance (which seems very counterintuitive in retrospect), saying things like “Who the fuck are you, anyway?” I was sitting at a nearby table with a guy who was resting with his head down on his arms. After another comment or two from Jack, they guy next to me raised his head up and said “I don’t know where you got your information from, but I’m in The Teeth, and who the fuck are YOU anyway?” Jack walked over to the guy and attempted to awkwardly stammer an apology, but the guy wasn’t having it. Jack gave up and walked inside with his tail between his legs, leaving me and the guy outside. I struck up a conversation with him, telling him that I had checked out their stuff ahead of time, and that I dug their obvious Minutemen influence. I was a little proud of myself for semi-diffusing the situation, and I was glad I was able to offer a more welcoming presence than what he had just experienced.
Villa Straylight opened and did an acoustic set that featured a cover of NIN’s “Hurt,” which seems fitting now, because Jack had just hurt himself outside. We debuted EG buttons at our previous Columbus shows, and I noticed friends of ours wearing them, which was pretty exciting. I felt legit. The guy from outside introduced me to the other members of The Teeth, who along with him were starting to get pretty liquored up. They asked me to describe EG’s music, and after a pause to think, I said “Synth-Pop Punk” which they thought was the greatest thing they’d ever heard.
For this show, Mary Alice blew up three garbage bags full of balloons that we planned to release on the crowd during the set. This idea came about when I had recently told her that when I was very young, my older sister drew something in black marker on a balloon that resembles the recreation Mary Alice drew today for the purpose of this story (pictured here), a cool face with sunglasses on one side and the words “Top 10!” on the other side. (A little context here - my sister and I were pop culturally deprived as kids, leaving us confused and warped. So basically my sister thought she was doing something cool by drawing a sunglasses guy and the words “Top 10!” on a balloon, and additionally repeating the words “TOP 10!” in a low grainy voice that I presume was supposed to sound like a rock ‘n roll guy. So now you know the rest of the story). So Mary Alice drew the “Top 10!” guy on three garbage bags worth of balloons, because we thought it would be funny for me to release them on the crowd during the set while saying “TOP 10!” in a low grainy voice. (More on this later)
Our set was a ridiculous length of 22 songs, and I have no idea why we thought this was a good idea. The sound was great and we were having a great time until this very drunk girl came to the front of the stage and started digging her fingernails into our inflatable dolphin. Mary Alice took exception to this, and they began to wrestle each other for control of the dolphin while I yelled at the girl to let go of it. The girl eventually relinquished it to her, but not before she had punctured holes in it during the struggle. Mary Alice and I looked at each other sadly as our beloved dolphin slowly deflated before our eyes. We then learned that shortly after this incident that the girl went outside, fell over and pissed herself while crying, so I made a point to ridicule her loudly from the stage. At some point, I reached over and released the balloons in a blaze of glory while yelling “TOP 10!” over and over (This began a long-running tradition of releasing balloons at our shows which more or less lasted until we left Columbus). The joint was rockin’ when suddenly the PA went out halfway through the set. The club owner got on a mic near the mixing board and said to me “It’s 9PM, we have to stop. People live above us. The music is too loud.” The bar apparently had planned to have a viewing of the debate which was now starting.
Now, I don’t think a lot of people there had wrapped their heads around what happened. The set was long enough as it was, so I think amidst all the chaos, people thought it was just the end of our set. There was still a punk rock band that had come all the way from Ann Arbor who were scheduled to play after the debate, and the owner had said WE were too loud, which we really aren’t. We watched the debate while members of The Teeth got drunker and drunker. At one point Jill said to me, “I wish I hadn’t booked The Teeth,” because I think she knew the shit was going to hit the fan. I think I had tried to explain the situation to my friend from outside, but I don’t think he understood me, he just kept yelling about how much he hated George Bush.
Our stuff was still on stage when The Teeth began to set up. The owner walked over to them and explained that they couldn’t proceed with what he saw them planning to do, which was perform with live drums and electric guitars. I think the owner was also pretty sauced by then, because he was taunting them by laughing saying they could “set up a drum circle by candlelight.” The drummer stood up and said, “We just drove 3 ½ hours to get here.” Things escalated from there with yelling and threats going back and forth. I remember the owner saying to them, “You wanna rock out?! Go to Bernie’s!! (a now shuttered punk venue in the city),” which again was said in an oddly ridiculing manner. The guy from outside got into the owner’s face. “HEY! You don’t talk to (the drummer) that way!!!” I scrambled to get our stuff off the stage, as I didn’t know if it was going to be destroyed in a melee. The guy from outside then got on the mic. “FINE THEN! Does anyone have a basement that we can play in?!”
Villa Straylight did a full set of covers. I remember clearly their doing a Bowie cover but for some reason I don’t recall at all which song it was. Also it was pronounced like how it is in Italian like “vee-yuh.” I hated that name.
Jack mentioned to me that he’d been to the rowdiest, crustiest punk shows and had never gotten into a fight until he played an acoustic set with his girlfriend.
Jack was alright. He and said girlfriend (to whose wedding we attended in Nashville in the mid-2000s) now live in Arlington. The last time I heard from him was like eight years ago. He hit me up to try and help him get a job. I helped him and then he didn’t talk to me after that. So I’m kind of mad.
Jack also described the scuffle with the inflatable dolphin between me and the pants-pisser as a “Marx-brothers-style tug-of-war,” which cracked me up very hard at the time and I still occasionally think about it out of nowhere. So funny.
I also recall you and I joking about leaving with the dolphin, the screen wiping, and we returned with a deflated dolphin. I believe I tried to patch it, but that never works. I feel like we found a second one but you can’t stop people at EG shows from manhandling inflatables. This lesson followed us all the way through mid last decade.
We kept the balloons up for a while. It became a huge burden for me. We kept thinking we needed more and more balloons at every show. That makes sense. But it got to the point where I’d not get it done before we left, we’d get to the venue, set up other stuff, and then while Pete would settle in with a drink and start socializing, I’d be pumping balloons and drawing on them with a marker like an idiot. I don’t remember when and why we stopped with that, but we did eventually. If you see a show where we throw balloons at the audience, it’s a throwback to our early days in Columbus.