tom smith | make green bay weird | dec. 2019
When I last left you preaching the gospel of the Muffs I had just seen them for the first time ever in Milwaukee blowing the Goo Goo Dolls off the stage. The next time I saw them was also their debut in Green Bay at the Orpheum Theatre (also known as the City Center Theatre and to me the Vic Theatre — the location of me seeing Star Wars in 1977). This bill was a collection of musical gods and quite obviously one of the greatest shows in the history of Green Bay. Yes, I never saw Elvis at the Brown County Arena, but I'm losing no sleep because my great-grandchildren will be much more impressed I saw the Didjits, the Muffs and Vesicular Basalt (an area band that should have been as loved worldwide as they were in this neck of the woods) instead. I myself even made a big personal sacrifice to attend.
The same day as this show was happening in Green Bay, I somehow was able to book Green Bay's Boris the Sprinkler their first show ever in Chicago at Lounge Ax (thank you once again to Lisa Miller the booker at Lounge Ax who was kind enough to listen to my impassioned plea over the phone to secure Boris the Sprinkler's spot on that bill). This show was headlined by another set of musical gods, the Fastbacks (The Waste Kings were also this event). I had yet to see the Fastbacks at this time and unfortunately, they are on the top of my Holy Grail list of bands I have yet to see. This pained me not to attend but I always believe you have to support local shows over out-of-town shows and how in the world could I miss a lineup like that in my own town? Missing the Didjits and the Muffs together would be like passing on The Rolling Stones and The Who playing together in their prime.
This show was of course as great as we all anticipated; in fact, this show has become that of legend in Titletown. All three bands went on search and destroy missions that evening. If my memory serves me correctly, the Muffs opened with “Brand New Chevy" by the Devil Dogs. This was my second time seeing the Muffs and the second drummer I saw with them, this time no Criss Crass but Jim Laspesa (who previously was in Green Jelly and a very nice guy). Search YouTube because videos of the show by all three bands have been posted. Hands down the best show ever at this venue and the genesis of a still loyal generation of Muffs fans in Green Bay.
My next time seeing the Muffs was shortly after this at the infamous Shank Hall located in my birthplace, Milwaukee. Yes, I'm no fan of this venue currently but I'm not using this article to promote my hate of the venue (if you are in need of that, pick up my someday-to-be released book “Why Shank Hall Sucks"). This bill was also awesome and undoubtedly the greatest show at Shank Hall. The bill was the Didjits, the Muffs and Boris the Sprinkler. I think I was responsible for getting Boris the Sprinkler on this show.
Wesley Willis was also in attendance at this show and he rode down with Boris the Sprinkler. So that was a wacky van ride. Once again all three bands played super-great sets. During the Didjits set some drunk skinheads started some trouble which myself and some other usual suspects from Green Bay took care of. It was touching to see Rick Sims and Doug Evans of the Didjits whipping off their guitars to use as weapons in case we needed some help. We didn't. I was told I clotheslined two dudes at once but I digress. The dude working the door told me later that he knew those dudes were going to start trouble right when they showed up. I asked him why did you let them in? His answer was that he was scared of the repercussions of not letting them in. Even though we didn't start the trouble (just ended it) I apologized for the disturbance to the manager in charge at the end of the night. That was a mistake because the guy was then a total jerk to me. Which was ridiculous because he should have been saying sorry to us and thanking us for taking out their trash.
Wesley Willis that night showed me in his notebook a song he just wrote that talked about the Didjits and the Muffs (Wesley referred to them as the Mupps) playing and myself (mentioned by name) fighting the skinheads. Not sure if Wesley Willis ever recorded this song but if he had, I sure would love to hear it. Hanging backstage at Shank Hall was actually very fun that night (pains me to type that). The Didjits and the Muffs are both filled with great, fun-to-be-around human beings. Kim Shattuck of the Muffs with the help of Ronnie Barnett (bass player extraordinaire of the Muffs) played a visual sight gag on myself and the Rev. Norb that I will never forget, not only for its comedic gold but the look on both our faces. If you are wondering what this gag was, feel free to ask me in person some time. This show cemented to me the wit and charm that Kim, Ronnie and Melanie had in copious amounts. There is nothing like worshiping a band musically and then realizing the folks in the band are wonderfully marvelous human beings and total rock geeks also. Kindred spirits in loving great rock 'n' roll.
The next time I saw the Muffs was about four years later at the Concert Café here in Green Bay and this was yet another legendary bill. This tour not only had Chixdiggit but also the Groovie Ghoulies (with B-Face of the Queers on bass). Three of the most beloved bands that ever played the late great Concert Café. This show also has to be considered one of the greatest packages to every play the Concert Café. The show was, I believe, on a Monday night but that didn't stop the kids from rocking in great numbers. This was also the first time I saw the Muffs with Roy McDonald, who is, without a doubt, one of the greatest drummers to ever walk the planet Earth. Roy is a monster drummer and I even prefer him over Keith Moon and Clem Burke (I always considered Roy's style a combo of those two drummers). As I said last month, Roy joining the Muffs elevated the band to a new level. That also was the first time meeting Roy and I had to bow down to him in front of the Concert Café because Roy was the drummer of Redd Kross when they put out the 1987 album “Neurotica" which to me might be the greatest album of the '80s. That show, of course, furthered Green Bay's love affair with the Muffs. The next time the Muffs would play Green Bay would be 19 years later in August of 2016 at the Lyric Room. Not sure how we ever allowed that many years to go by between appearances by the Muffs in Green Bay but I'm going to take full responsibility for that and give you my heartfelt apology for allowing that to happen. The summer of 2016 also saw Kim Shattuck returning to Green Bay with her band previous to the Muffs, The Pandoras. They had never played Green Bay so this was a big treat. When Kim originally played with The Pandoras she was the bass player, but due to the death of Paula Pierce, Kim moved to guitar and lead vocals when they got back together. I remember when Kim walked into the Lyric Room and I was instantly once again in awe of her. I hadn't talked to her in 19 years and I found her to be even more nice sweet, and charming than the last time I talked to her. I remember gabbing with her about the show with the Goo Goo Dolls (she did not remember the douchebag with the top hat but she had a big laugh at the ending of the story). Kim was grateful to be in Green Bay and had none of the trappings of a rock star as esteemed as the lofty status she had achieved.
Well, it seems like I'm out of space again so tune in next month for Part III of the never-ending record review. Live long and have a great holiday season. See you next year.