Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I admit it, I had not heard of Bloodshot Bill before the Norton Records Ball. How is this possible? Well, due to living in a 'depressed market', as one promoter called the southeast Michigan area, and smugly but erroneously believing that having my own radio station would keep me informed about good new music I needed to hear, I'm pretty out of touch. I realized that at the Norton thing.

If you've been as deprived as me you may not realize that Bloodshot Bill has about a million records out. He's like a modern-day Hasil Adkins, only somewhat more sophisticated, and Canadian. But don't take my word for it- see for yourself! He has a blog.

I will get back to telling you about the rest of the Norton Dance in a little while, but for now enjoy this brief interlude inspired by the amazing Bloodshot Bill, who played in Detroit Sunday night November 27 at the Magic something or other and whose new record I finally discovered and which may well not leave the turntable for two months, a record previously set in 1993 by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's second album Extra Width which, incidentally, has been reissued this year.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Saturday night. Minds were blown. At least, mine was. Not to sound like a cop-out, but for the one of you actually reading this blog on a semi-regular basis, I got the idea that you probably don't need seventeen paragraphs of philosophy. If you did you'd go to grad school. So I'll do what I can to be brief.

Here is the Norton Records 25th Anniversary theme song: JJ Jackson's "OO MA LIDDY". By the third or fourth time I heard this record in between sets, it started to stand out as an obvious DJ favorite. Were there others I didn't notice? Possibly, but this song will now always remind me of these fabulous four days in New York.

Saturday was so much fun, I got sick. Saturday. Saturnalia. The Nortones by day 3 had found their groove and achieved full sloppy appeal. Brooklyn's Daddy Long Legs were next, purveying a cruder, lower-fi Legendary Shack Shakers (who are an excellent live band) or perhaps Link Wray of the "Hidden Charms" style of Link Wray. They were joined by Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney of the Flamin' Groovies. I think I would have fainted if that had been my band.

I didn't imagine that The Hentchmen, a Detroit band I have seen many times and (I admit) take for granted a little would be one of the highlights of the ball. I heard they were a little nervous before they went on. Nervous! I can't say they stole the show that night entirely, because Luis & the Wildfires were also great, but they were great. Did going on early enough not to be drunk yet have anything to do with it?

The South Bay Surfers are said to be the West Coast's answer to King Uszniewicz & the U-tones. Someone please tell me if these bands suck out loud (in a good way) on purpose. I'm definitely not in on the joke...or maybe I am! Russell Quan played drums and at one point during their set, the singer/sax player turned around and told him he had to follow along with the rest of the totally dysfunctional band.

WCBN's rockabilly DJ shared Luis & the Wildfires' new album "Heart Shaped Noose" with me a few months ago and I was on the fence. That neo-rockabilly scene occupies a grey area between sorta cool and really corny as far as I am concerned. Robbie Fulks sums it up pretty well with this song. Chances are if someone raves about how "authentic" one of these bands is, they spend more time on their costumes than on the music. Luis & the Wildfires, thankfully, turned out to be a fantastic live band. I don't think I was the only one thusly impressed: later on at the bar, as I tugged on Luis's coatsleeve to compliment him on an awesome set, several other drunk boys & girls were doing the same. He very graciously thanked us all and called all the girls nice things like "honey" and "beautiful."

Saturday night was the only night I drank more than my share of beer. By this time I was half in the bag. I'm pretty sure that Untamed Youth and Randy Fuller Four with Deke Dickerson were great, but this is the part where you might want to look at the Youtube videos. The last act was ? and the Mysterians. I was that drunk lady next to you singing along too loud with "Be My Baby" which I am certain they played twice. We didn't get home til about 5am, but that is partly because I refused to take a cab and spent an hour and a half on the subway. Bad move.

Damn. Still not brief enough.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I thought it would be cool to show up fashionably late on Friday, but I overshot and missed not only the Nortones but also the Condo Fucks with the Great Gaylord. I walked in just in time for the last song on their set. It looked good. Luckily there is video footage of the whole thing, both tolerable video and godawful video, for those of you who prefer to have your senses assaulted by shaky pixelated images and bottom-of-trashcan sound.

One-man band Mark Sultan was next. It was hard to tell if he was seriously berating the audience for its generally tepid response to him (plausible) or if he was being punk rock. He plowed through a set that couldn't have lasted longer than 15 minutes, breaking his drum pedal at some point and appearing to use that as an excuse to finish and leave even though Billy Miller brought him a different one. I like Mark's records but I have to say the one-man-band routine live is the sort of thing that belongs on subway platforms. What I mean by that is it's not the most spectacularly interesting thing to watch unless you are one of those "how does he DO that?!" geeks. Which you probably are.

I picked up a new copy of the formerly readable, now useless newsrag The Village Voice either Friday or Saturday and it had a teeny little teaser someone had written for the Norton Fest. It said basically that each night had a band or two worth seeing, but the best night would probably be Friday. It was all moot of course since the whole shindig was sold out for weeks prior to the printing of last week's Voice, but that didn't stop them from recommending Friday night and listing the price of tickets. At least it's free- you can use it to line your catbox every week, or light your barbecue. And for your information, Village Voice, Saturday was the best night, but we'll get there soon.

Oh anyway. Jackie and the Cedrics! From Tokyo! I believe they said this was their first time in NY in about 5 years. They wore matching loungecoats like the Phantom Surfers, but worked a lot harder to appear competent and pulled it off. It is always a challenge to look like you are rocking out while you play most any kind of keyboard instrument; extra member Tucker Rodriguez made it happen.

The Reigning Sound is a band (and by band I mean a rotating cast of musicians supporting Greg Cartwright) I've always wanted to like so much more than I do. The current lineup is basically the Jay Vons with Greg Cartwright. They played an excellent set and were appreciated by a moderately sized but enthusiastic group of fans. Seeing them live was definitely more interesting than listening to Reigning Sound records, some of which (the new one, I'm thinking of) border on positively pop and ballad-y. You can download that new record here, by the way.

The crowning event of the evening was ostensibly the Norton Records Soul and R&B Revue. It was weird.

I know I stated previously that sloppy is about what I merrily expect from Norton...but the R&B Revue was supposed to be better executed. At least I imagined it would be, which was why I was surprised to see essentially a garage band with a bunch of old gentlemen singing a few songs. The Mighty Hannibal was led out by King Khan and did fine as long as he held onto the mic stand. You see, he's had a stroke and a heart attack, can't see a thing, and looked pretty feeble up there. His mind is obviously still sharp because he said a couple funny things including telling us that he had had a stroke and a heart attack, but tonight he was gonna give us all strokes and heart attacks.

Andre Williams came up next and did a couple tunes, including one of the newer ones, "Agile, Mobile, Hostile." Someone missed a cue and the result was the band repeating the same refrain over for a couple minutes, looking confused and embarrassed, while Andre Williams snapped his fingers, tapped his feet and opened and closed his mouth a whole bunch while he apparently waited for the band to do something. I started wondering if he was OK. Then finally they moved on to another song.

I know they still want to perform, and they are finally receiving their due after many years of relative obscurity, and I want them to receive the credit (and pay) they deserve, but trotting out elderly musicians in questionable health has a certain level of exploitation involved. It reminds me of the horrible spectacle of Chuck Berry fainting on stage in Chicago in January of this year. I won't post a link to that video- google it yourself if you really need to see it. You're a terrible voyeur, though.

To sum up, Friday night was not the best night of the four-day ball, in fact, it was the least best. I ended up being a little depressed and weirded out by the last hour. The most exciting thing about Friday night might well have been walking back to the train station and seeing some drunk driver totally plow over the median on 4th Av without even slowing down.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


You didn't ask for it, but you got it anyway: the obligatory post-bonanza writeup of the bands events party etc that were the Norton Records 25th Anniversary Ball. They didn't call it ball but it was a ball. It was such a ball that I came home ill and had to stay home from work hawking phlegm balls. Oooh I said ball/s again. Ball.

As a prelude to all this, let me tell you that the Meat Puppets passed through Ann Arbor again on Wednesday November 9, the day before I took off for New York. They're great people and they always stop at WCBN when they come through and everyone gets on the pest list. I went to bed around 3am and had to get up to go the next morning at 7am.

Never travel anywhere with me because my bad luck will fuck you up. We were supposed to leave at 10:25am and yet, I didn't land at LaGuardia until 4pm. My plan to take a nap before the Norton Ball commenced was thwarted. I got to the Bell House in time for the Norton Records house band, the Nortones. They played covers of songs like Link Wray's "Jack the Ripper" and the Ramones' "Judy is a Punk" and the Rivieras' "California Sun." They were wearing matching white cardigans with red "N"s stuck onto the right breasts. I said breasts. Given what we've come to expect from Norton Records (you know what I mean!) I was surprised that the Nortones were pretty tight but also little stiff, as if they had rehearsed quite a bit and were nervous. I'd be nervous too if I were kicking off a four-day Norton Ball. I was expecting something sloppier, but by the third night they had relaxed and were closer to what I was expecting. I like sloppy.

Up next was Dex Romweber and his sister Sara in the Dex Romweber Duo. She is some kind of drummer! I saw them once before, on a night in Detroit where there were three great things all happening in one night so we were like "ooooooooocheckoutdexromweberooooooocheckouttheseotherbandsnotimetothinkjustgogogogo" so maybe I forgot to notice that she could really play the shit out of the drums, not just your standard perfectly passable garage drummer but like Bruce Brand or something. At this point I finally stopped thinking I should've taken a nap and skipped the first couple bands. Dex Romweber is great.

After Dex it was the Phantom Surfers. I think Russell Quan used to play drums but this night he was the singer. All good instrumental bands need a singer. He did a really good job conducting with his back to the audience, waving drumsticks and dropping papers on the stage. At a certain point he started doing jumping jacks. He also climbed up on a flimsy folding chair and then fell off it and even though that was probably deliberate, it was still hilarious.

Following up after the Phantom Surfers were the Alarm Clocks. Their single "No Reason to Complain" is obligatory proto-punk fare and appears on countless 1960s garage comps everywhere. Norton put out a record or two recently by the recently reunited revitalized band. The Alarm Clocks are on my "probably should but don't give a shit" list. I spent this 45 minutes mostly looking through the Norton records at the merch table. Sorry, Billy & Miriam, if I drooled on any of them.

The Hentchmen were booked at this shindig, for Saturday night. It was nice to see familiar faces so I talked to Johnny Hentch for a few minutes and met the closest thing I have to a counterpart at WFMU, the inimitable Terre T of the Cherry Blossom Clinic.

It occurs to me I haven't mentioned emcee Kim Fowley yet. I don't remember specifically any of the things he said but I believe his main role was to horrify and offend (and thus delight) the audience. Mission accomplished! He is a depraved old man who was funny but also offensive. He asked one woman to shout the worst word she knew into the mic. Of course she said "cunt!" Someone in the audience yelled "Kim Fowley!" Cunt's not such a bad word, though.

Finally, the's were cute and coordinated and everyone loved them and after that it was the Black Lips, a last-minute-addition to the bill to make up for the last-minute-cancellation of the Gaye Blades. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I had never seen the Black Lips- in spite of multiple opportunities, including one where they played with Quintron, I've just never made it in to Detroit to see them. So they were young and punk and sloppy and unshaven and they made out with each other, maybe to shock people or maybe to demonstrate their love for each other, I'm not sure. At this point though because of the previous late night and the all-day trip to LaGuardia I was kind of crashing so I left before they were done. I'm old so I can do that now.

This was only the first day. Let's post this now, how about that, and add in the other days one at a time. I know you are on the edges of your seatses.