tom smith | make green bay weird | jan. 2018
2018 has arrived and I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Just surviving the holidays is a major accomplishment these days. Maybe it's just me because I've been working in retail since 1984 (Yes, that was me in those awful '80s eyeglasses who sold you a copy of Linda Ronstadt's “Lush Life" on vinyl at the Galaxy of Sound in the Port Plaza Mall) but the holiday season skyrockets the stress level of everything. I've checked this list twice, it includes work, monthly bills, Christmas shopping, family relationships, romantic relationships, the economy, politics, the mine shaft gap, cable channels that have fake HD, and dealing with the acute depression brought upon by not making the playoffs in any of three fantasy football leagues, especially when in one of the leagues you could have won serious cash-o-la but you didn't make the playoffs because of a tiebreaker.
I myself barely survived this holiday season. There were a number of factors that made this a particularly rough one. I'm not even going to go into the worst 150 minutes I've ever spent at Chuck E. Cheese's. This instance had me on the ropes and I seriously considered therapy to help me recover from this traumatic experience. I was flashed back to my childhood, which was my Vietnam. I never went to a Chuck E. Cheese's when I was a child. On the bright side, their pizza has improved slightly and I'm now armed with the knowledge it only takes 90 minutes to walk from Chuck E. Cheese's to my house.
The most challenging part of this holiday season for me was not leftover turkey sandwiches but three deaths sandwiched around Thanksgiving. The adage that people die in threes is truly more of a bummer when two of the three are friends who made a big impact in Green Bay. I was at work on Thanksgiving night after family dinner getting the store ready for our 7 a.m. Black Friday opening. That is when I saw Mark Albers post on Facebook that power pop legend Tommy Keene had passed away. I had the honor and privilege to book Tommy Keene at the Lyric Room in 2016. That was the same show as the fabulous performance by a reunited Vacuum Scam. This was the one and only time I met Tommy and I came away with the impression of a person who was a solid human being filled with intelligence and limitless passion for music, a person who was friendly, kind, and that would also elegantly not put up with bullshit or suffer fools. I enjoyed observing him interact with some of Green Bay's more noteworthy musicians and music fans. I have two friends, who are very tight with Tommy, whose grief made this even harder for me. I'm given only 21 hours to process this, 12 of them while at work dealing with Black Friday record store craziness such as the many disgruntled Blue Oyster Cult fans who could not get a copy of the BOC limited vinyl release that came out that morning (I'm familiar with the works of BOC) when I got a message regarding the passing of a very good friend of mine Jerry Lesperance.
As you know this column is called Make Green Bay Weird and making Green Bay weird is definitely not a one-man job. I need much help to achieve this task. Tragically, GB lost one of the prime movers in the war to make GB weird with the loss of Jerry. The passing of Jerry was a total shock that is very hard for me and many others to cope with. Jerry and I had much common ground that we both were passionate about. Music, professional wrestling and “The Walking Dead" are three that instantly come to mind. When it comes to weird, Jerry was a motherfraking renaissance man. Jerry was also one of the kindest souls I have ever encountered and a man who would do anything for his friends. Jerry spent many hours mentoring the youth of Green Bay in the art of haunted houses at Green Bay's 'Fear.'
When new releases came out by artists that Jerry loved, I would always shoot him a message about their arrival. I'm pretty sure the next Soundgarden release will have me in tears thinking about him. Jerry was a huge White Zombie fan to such a degree that I gave him my personal copy of the “God Of Thunder" 12-inch. Seeing his appreciation for it made my Christmas that year. Days that Jerry stopped by the store were always better than the days he didn't stop by. Can't believe I won't be chatting about wrestling with him again. I saw him a couple of days before he passed (he of course was picking up the new Pearl Jam DVD “Let's Play Two") and we had a great conversation as always. Jerry will never be forgotten by so many of us. I think eventually we should set up a show in his name to benefit a charity he supported. My condolences to all of his family and friends. This is a really tough one.
Two days go by when I see the news that Anthony Van Deuren passed away as well. Anthony was a total rocker and a true treasure of Green Bay. He made an impact as a musician, most notably as the singer of The Horshacks and Rotting in the Sun, as a writer of a fanzine and as a movie producer (his “Citizen Kane" was a movie called “Chops"). I remember when Anthony was shooting scenes for “Chops" across the street from the Exclusive Company in the long-gone Gen's Cafe (which we always referred to as Gein's Café because the band Moral Crux pronounced it that way and we thought that was really funny because of, you know, the whole Ed Gein thing). I'll never forget the Sunday afternoon when I looked out the window at work and saw a bunch of people walking out of Gen's covered in fake blood. Anthony, for a number of years, had become the Green Bay punk scene's Greta Garbo and I hadn't seen him for a very long time until he surprised us by showing up when The Crosses played an all-ages show at the Eagles Club in late 2016. Everyone was so happy to see him out in public and I made sure to tell him how great it was to see him and how much we missed him.
More recently, the Rev. Norb and I saw him when we stopped in to see part of the epic Thor performance at Phat Headz. The last time I saw Anthony was when I ran into him at Target late one Sunday afternoon just a few weeks before he passed. This also was a great surprise and we talked for a little bit. Anthony commented on my grandson Logan's Ramones t-shirt and talked about how cool stuff like that was not available to us when we were that age. I also believe that no resident of GB ever did more to make Green Bay weird than Anthony. Love you man and I will cherish many great memories of you forever. Thanks for being a friend and a kindred spirit.
Tailgate Party 2: 20th Anniversary Edition
Hong Kong Phoodie Records
Timebomb Rating: 13 of 13, just like the number of World Championships the Green Bay Packers possess
Curtis Christensen, local record label mogul, gave Green Bay a huge Christmas gift by deciding to reissue this compilation of local bands that rocked Green Bay 20 years ago. All the bands on this compilation I set up countless times at the Concert Café. This, I assume, is one of reasons I'm one of the four people pictured in the cover art done exquisitely by Jake Barnes, as well the Rev. Norb, whose band at the time, Boris The Sprinkler, contributes the song “My Prom Date Is Parkin' with Grand Moff Tarkin." Also pictured is Packers super fan Gang Green. Gang Green was a guy who would dress up as a cheesy, low-rent looking Incredible Hulk (on par with shoddiness with which Butch is dressed as Solomon Grundy on “Gotham") who would roam up and down the stairs at Packer games attempting to lead the enthusiasm charge in those bleak days of Packer history. If my memory is correct, the Packers put a clamp down on his roving ways and Gang Green said, “That's it, I'm out." Rest assured there will be an ESPN 30 for 30 on Gang Green someday. The fourth image is the late Tim Picard, a.k.a. Slim Daddy. Tim was punk as frak and lived his life with a Sid Vicious flair (I'm referring to Sid Vicious the Sex Pistol, not Sid Vicious the Skyscraper). Tim is also one of the co-creators of the long-lost, legendary Green Bay punk rock song, “All I Wanted Was Her Purse." The album starts off with Lady Speedstick's “Saturday Night's Alright for Bondage," a total rocker of a tune. Other songs that jump out at me like a time traveler from 20 years ago are Foxy's “Teacher's Pet," the Abandoned's “Punk Rock Show," the Tantrums' “Where the Action Aint," Anthony Van Deuren's band the Horshacks' “Metal Bowling Ball," and my favorite song on this album and one of my favorite songs actually ever, local or non-local band, “Top 40 Hit" by the Vanilla Jacksons. I've said this before and I'll say it again, if there was any justice in this world “Top 40 Hit" would have been a Top 40 hit. This album is available at The Exclusive Company Green Bay and Rock N' Roll Land.
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.