tom smith | make green bay weird | oct. 2019
I got some bad news and some good news. On Sept. 21, Phat Headz, the longtime Green Bay live venue, announced it is closing on September 28. The Green Bay punk scene had a great run of shows there a few years back. I was glad to see die kreuzen, the Figgs, Lyres, the Woggles, Boris the Sprinkler, Left Lane Cruiser, James Leg, Mystery Girls, Rebel Waltz, Tenement, Liquor Store, Bob Log III, Ramma Lamma, Static Eyes, Molly Gene, Cheap Time, Richie Ramone, Jetty Boys, Parasites, Dan Vapid and the Cheats, Rev. Norb & the Onions, Holly and the Nice Lions, The Queers and Steve Mackay Trio, Purgatory Hill, Beach Patrol, Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones and of course Boy Dirt Car there (the reaction by the regulars who hung out at Phat Headz to Boy Dirt Car was priceless). I'm sure I'm forgetting a number of out of town bands. I also saw many great local bands at Phat Headz who I didn't mention.
Hopefully all the art can be saved off the walls for a museum or something. Phat Headz also to me is the location of where I last had a drink of alcohol. The occasion was the celebration of the life of legendary Green Bay stage manager and soundman Fish late last October (shortly before Fish “left the building" permanently). Phat Headz was an enjoyable place to see a live band and in a few years, I racked up many great times at 420 N. Clay St. The original owner, Buddy Brass was the man responsible for inviting and making the Green Bay punk scene comfortable in doing shows there. The venue wasn't perfect and had its rough edges but nonetheless its unique charm won over Green Bay's underground music scene in addition to the club's many fans who were into more traditional hard rock and heavy metal. When I first explored Phat Headz I soon realized Buddy Brass's vision for the venue was to be a family home, not only for those in Green Bay with a thirst for live music, but also the musicians of Green Bay who would play there on a regular basis. Phat Headz was also good at extending a sincere heartfelt welcome to touring musicians and out of town bands.
I was going to Phat Headz for a few years until I discovered I had known Buddy's late father who ran Rev's Brass Rail on Broadway a few decades back. The Rev. was a hoot and they most assuredly broke the mold after he was made. Rev's Brass Rail had great hot dogs and was a classic Green Bay Broadway dive bar. This now all made even more sense that Buddy was able to open a venue in Green Bay with its own unique slant and vibe. Rev's Brass Rail is a part of the colorful past of Green Bay's drinking establishments and now Phat Headz is joining it in oblivion. The owner of the building did not renew the current ownership's lease (Buddy had sold the bar a few years back) and the building was scheduled to be demolished.
Now the good news:
Thanks to an overwhelming show of support for Phat Headz on social media, Phat Headz will be re-born as Phat Headz II. The owner of the property saw that the citizens of Green Bay loved the building (and the art done by a local artist of many local musicians and many other famous musicians of the 20thcentury) and worked out a new lease with new ownership and new management to keep that location open for live music. Green Bay should all be thankful for this decision to put art over expansion by Pomp's Tires.
My two cents for the new ownership that will be bringing us Phat Headz II is that I think they should strongly consider naming the club the much cooler name of Phat Headz II: Electric Boogaloo.
Boris the Sprinkler
“Vespa to Venus"
Beer City Skateboards/Records
Timebomb rating: 13/13
Yes it's true I have come out of retirement in regards to writing record reviews and Boris the Sprinkler — the greatest Green Bay punk band and greatest band ever, period — have released their first new album in nearly 20 years! An album that may prove that science has gone too far (more on that later). The first time I put “Vespa to Venus" on the turntable I was greeted with 16 tracks of pure un-stomped-on Boris the Sprinkler. Had almost 20 years between albums dulled their edge? Hell no! In fact one example that science has gone too far in regard to “Vespa to Venus" is that I'm being to suspect that almost 20 years ago the line up of Boris the Sprinkle on “Vespa to Venus' (the Rev. Norb, Paul #1, Paul #2 and Ric Six) were cloned and then put into suspended animation and then unfrozen before they were wheeled into Crunch of Memory where the brilliant studio wizard Amos Pitsch recorded the best sounding Boris the Sprinkler album to date. Don't believe me? Well listen to this album very loud (just like I did at the midnight opening The Exclusive Company in downtown Green Bay had for “Vespa to Venus") if you aren't convinced, well that is your problem jack. “Vespa to Venus" also has the distinction of being the first and so far only album I purchased for my iPhone (I did this because I'm bummed Beer City has not put “Vespa to Venus" out on compact disc, and yes, I bought the vinyl of “Vespa to Venus").
I must note that I finally broke down and got a smart phone in June. I held out as long as I could but, quite frankly, I needed the ability to take photos and then force them onto the internets. I was excited for these new recording when I saw a surprise Boris the Sprinkler show at the Ephraim City Limits musical festival last March. My appetite for new Boris the Sprinkler was further teased by Boris the Sprinkler playing songs off “Vespa to Venus" at the Mudhoney show with The Hussy (I'll be reviewing their new album and the new one by the Control Freaks in the November issue of Frankly Green Bay) at the Green Bay Bay Distillery this past May. Some of my favorites on this album are “Bang Shang-A-Lang-Ri-La," “(She Got Da) Wonk Shicky-Shicky Wonk Wonk!" — How can you not love a song that mentions hasenpfeffer? — “I Tell Ya! Tonight!" Tonight!," “Gamma Ray Girl," “Spider Baby," “Bippy," “(When We Wore The) Haircuts (We Were The Ones)," “(It Should Be Noted I've Been Stayin' On The) 13THFloor," “Screamin' Sister Cyanide" and “My Cock's On Drugs!" That last song two-fold asks the question: Has science gone to far? For obvious reasons and the fact I played this song DJing at Scoob Fest 2 recently — an event I vowed to only play songs I played on WGBW in the '80s. So does that prove I'm a time traveler? Either way this album is a candidate for album of the year.
“Beyond the Door"
Timebomb score: 13/13
The new Redd Kross album “Beyond the Door" also is another candidate for album of the year. I liked this album when I first listened to it very much, but this is one of those albums where with repeated listens it becomes quite a different animal. Same thing happened with my favorite album by Redd Kross their 1987 classic “Neurotica." I must admit continuous playing of “Beyond the Door" made me obsessed with it. The magic of Redd Kross is strong and flowing everywhere throughout this record. My favorite song currently is “The Party Underground." A song so catchy and great that it is a damning indictment of the sorry, sad state of American radio that this song won't some day be a top 10 hit. Some of the many other stand-out tracks are “Jone Hoople," (co-written by Jeff MCDonald and Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, who themselves have a new album coming out October 18), “Fighting," “There's No One Like You," “When Do I Get to Sing" “The Party," “Beyond the Door," “Punk II," and of course, their cover of the Sparks' song “My Way."
“Beyond the Door" was produced by Steven McDonald and Jeff McDonald (the brothers who have been the mainstays of Redd Kross their entire career) and this is so the case that the artist knows exactly what is best for the band. “Beyond the Door" is the perfect addition to their amazing recording legacy. I just saw Redd Kross in Madison in support of this album and the songs from this album come off superb in their set. I just realized I didn't explain what Redd Kross sound like: Their sound is a combination of beautiful and catchy melodies with a guitar crunch that at times is like a hammer. Think a ballerina with brass knuckles and a switchblade. I honestly believe that when you are talking American bands that contributed greatly to rock 'n' roll, you have to put Redd Kross up there with the Ramones, the Byrds, the Velvet Underground, the Beach Boys and the Didjits.
Live, Long and Come on down to the Party Underground.
Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show in 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. He first honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.