More fun in the new world (June 8, 2003)

Hey hey, it’s been quiet around here lately — which must mean y’all are either busy or bored, or what? Myself, more of the former. Lots of gardening and house-settin’ up, in the way of newlyweds. Though I like where I live, looking back, I have to say that my initial enthusiasm for Austin as the ‘live music capital of the world’ was somewhat optimistic/boosterish; I have to agree with Mrs. Pogoer that although the amount of music per capita is impressive, it’s limited to a rather narrow spectrum (alt-country, singer-songwriter) and as far as we’re concerned, the title of actual live music capital of the world should go to our old stomping grounds, New York City. Even a place like Boston has better variety.

Even so, it seems as if you can’t throw a rock around here without hitting somebody with some musical connections. Just recently, Mrs. P found herself on line at the post office  chatting with a local character when it turned out they’d both had dealings with Willie  Nelson’s longtime road manager, Poodie Locke (whom Mrs. P had met years ago when she booked Willie into, I kid you not, a mortgage bankers’ convention in Jersey). Last week she ran into Kinky Friedman at Central Market (he was pushing his new line of  salsas, which are pretty good). And just last night we went out to dinner at the downtown Threadgill’s, prior to a Brave Combo concert in the outdoor garden at said venue, and found ourselves sitting next to Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators, psychedelic legend, hello?) and his afffable brother. I shook their hands and they seemed glad to see me. They were also there to see the mighty Combo, courtesy of whom I had the damn Chicken Dance running through my head all day; they played without a break for over two hours and had the crowd polka-ing like there’d be no Sunday or Monday, including a good number of over-60s making fine spectacles of themselves (which gave the Mrs. and myself hope for the future). Brave Combo’s leader, Carl Finch, who looks like Buddy Holly had he lived and who redefines and invests crazed energy into the likes of the Hokey-Pokey (you’ve seen the T-shirt that reads, ‘What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it’s all about?’) and segues from an Armenian folk song to “Green River” and back without pausing for breath, is as much a great punk-rock spirit as were Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone. Just that his jumping-off point of choice is polka, even now still the least respected of all world musics this side of square dancing, and last night it occurred to me that polka played like that is like punk rock for happily married couples; it seems to add to one’s longevity, if last night’s crowd was anything to go by (it keeps the blood pumpin’, y’know). Sorta like nihilism WITH a future, if ya know what I mean. No accident that polka-ing and pogoing sound so much alike, I think.

A recent theme in both my life and Mrs. P’s has been ‘what was lost, shall be found’; yesterday the Mrs. spent two frustrating hours looking for her wedding ring, which she’s fond of, before finding it in a rather obvious place, and last night our crazy co-dependent cat came home after having been missing over 24 hours. Would that it would be so easy to replace dearly departed artists like Strummer, Joey and Dee Dee, Kirsty…thus, it was doubly good to see live and kickin’ bands from the old daze still juicing and vital, like the Combo (together since ’79!) and, of course, the original X, which I was lucky enough to catch last week at Emo’s, a rambling ol’ Austin punk club. I’d interviewed Exene over the phone back in ’85 for a Boston rock mag, but hadn’t seen the band live in who knows how long (they hadn’t been a viable organism for many years, of course). As they powered through the old warhorses (and they played ALL of ’em, hits and not, except “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” which admittedly has dated badly), I found it hard to believe it was actually THEM up there, and it was soooo good to see these people again, playing those songs. I love Exene (she just can’t help herself), John Doe was her ever-appropriate sardonic anti-soulmate, Billy Zoom is still among the coolest men alive, and if you haven’t heard “More Fun in the New World” lately, it’s more relevant than ever (Exene even stuck in a reference to, ahem, weapons of mass destruction).

As for the truly all-ages crowd, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many tattoos
and piercings (both in toto and per capita) together in one place, and it was a
freak show even for Austin — many sad loners, a few lunatics — but so many of their original fans are home raising teenagers, or elsewhere getting on with their lives, and it was a Tuesday night after all, and even Generation X is aging these days…still, it was a packed house and they stayed late and all were happy to see Exene, Billy, John and D.J., another fab four doing what they’d been born to do, just doing it, damn it, doing it.

So if you have the opportunity, go out and see X or whatever hits your spot while they’re still rocking the world or at least little bits of it. We’ve already lost so many good people, it’s more urgent than ever that you go out and reconnect with the bands/people you used to know and love while they’re out there doing what they do and as vital as they ever were and not a subject for yet another dreary obit. Celebrate the living, show your love.

And off the soapbox I go. Best to all.

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