tom smith | make green bay weird | nov. 2018
Green Bay is currently grieving a huge loss to our music community. On October 24th, Mike Fleury, also known as Fish, moved on to Rock and Roll Heaven. Fish wore many hats but was best known as the soundman extraordinaire of Green Bay and many other regions in the United States of America, and was equally regarded as one hell of a stage manager. Fish also at an early age attained legendary status as a storyteller. These stories became affectionately known as Fish Stories. Was there ever conjecture that these Fish Stories were embellished? The answer is yes, but like a great story by Hunter S. Thompson, you had at times difficulty pinning down which aspects were heightened. Fish was also known for his sense of humor, which some have claimed is so funny it should be made illegal. Some prudes might have thought that his sense of humor should be made illegal. I consider myself very fortunate to have known him for 31 years. Fish was true Green Bay rock royalty. I'm sure RNR Heaven has no clue what they are in for. My advice is to stock more booze immediately. It was very easy for me to bond with Fish as we both loved Motörhead and professional wrestling. The first time I met him (a Vietnam Veteran benefit at the Riverside Ballroom that Depo-Provera and Fun W/Atoms played at) we ended up talking about Jane's Addiction and I fondly remember us discussing the J. Geils Band at the Fugazi show at the Howard Haus. Fish used to live near the store and would stop in and I soon learned he also loved Frank Zappa. How could the City Center era in GB be the same without Fish at the mixing board? Whenever I would set up a show at a club where Fish was running sound I knew there would be no problems with the sound production. We had some great times at the Mainstage, Studio East, Phat Headz, and many other venues. I would like to say thank you to Fish for putting up with some of the punk rock shenanigans myself and others might have committed that caused him irritation. Fish would always have a colorful and kind way of informing me if I messed up. One time at the City Center a metal band (I believe it was Morta Skuld) invited the audience to dance on stage (and by dance I mean slam dance or mosh, if you must) so I took them up on that. Fish informed me that I knocked another dancer flying into the band's drum kit. Oops. One time in the late 80s/early 90s the Rev. Norb and I went to a WWF TV taping. These TV tapings were long affairs where they recorded a number of weeks of material for their syndicated wrestling programs. At one point in the program, WWF officials came out and planted a Rockers poster in the crowd right next to us. I was not a big Rockers fan, in fact, I hated the Rockers, but both Norb and I realized our chances of getting on TV were pretty darned good if we just stood by the Rockers poster being held by the people next to us. Weeks went by and I had forgotten about the incident because I was working Saturday mornings when the WWF syndicated shows would run in our area. I was at a show at the City Center Theater and out of nowhere I hear Fish's unmistakable voice, “So Timebomb, I see you're a big Rockers fan. I saw you on TV with that poster." I was mortified and quickly reiterated my hate for the Rockers and tried to explain I was an innocent bystander. Fish's laughter told me he wasn't buying it. That might be my favorite Fish moment ever. Green Bay will not be the same without Fish and he will be loved and remembered by countless rockers worldwide. RIP Fish.
Just recently I experienced the most unexpected, incredibly-excellent, way-beyond-my-expectations live entertainment event that I have gone to in a very long time right here in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The event I'm talking about is Steve Martin and Martin Short, or Martin Short and Steve Martin, or Steve Martin and Martin Short with Jeff Babko, or Martin Short and Steve Martin with Jeff Babko, whatever you want to call it, it was the touring presentation of their Netflix special “Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life." A few months earlier, a friend of mine, Chris, while hanging in the beer garden at Keggers, asked me if I wanted to see this show and I immediately said yes. He didn't really remember the date of it at the time, so I was surprised when I got a call the week of the show saying, “Are we still on for Friday?" I hadn't watched the Netflix special yet and had little knowledge of what the show entailed. I did know that Steve Martin would be playing some bluegrass, which I was down with because I knew he'd been a banjo player for a long time and we had sold plenty of copies of his bluegrass albums with the Steep Canyon Rangers over the years at the Exclusive Company. In regards to Martin Short, I'd assumed he'd be wowing us with song, dance and stand-up comedy. I was hoping he'd be reaching back to his SCTV days, most particularly some Jackie Rogers, Jr., a character of Mr. Short's that is much beloved by me. The show was on Friday, which meant I got out of work early, but before I left work I had the most memorable customer encounter. Coincidently, the day of the show was also the release date of the vinyl of the Netflix special. A few hours before my shift ended, a customer came up to make a purchase, and one of the records he was purchasing was “An Evening You'll Forget for the Rest of Your Life." As soon as I noticed I asked, “Are you going to the show tonight?" His response was, in a tone that lacked arrogance but full of energy, friendliness and confidence, “Actually, I'll be on stage as part of the show tonight." Introductions were made and I'm made aware this customer is Jeff Babko, long-time musical director for Martin Short. Jeff was previously in Green Bay with Martin Short about eight years ago. I, of course, proudly informed Jeff I would be in attendance and was excited for the show, and Jeff said he hoped I would enjoy the show. I responded how could I not as long I see some Jackie Rogers Jr., Jeff immediately goes sorry to disappoint but there will be no Jackie Rogers Jr. Well, let me tell you, the lack of Jackie Rogers Jr. did not reduce the fun I had that night one iota because I was blown away by the show. There should have been warnings posted about the dangers of your face hurting from too much sustained laughter. The show to me was the closest I have come to seeing a Vaudeville show. Jeff turns out to be the glue that holds it together and a bridge between Steve and Martin. The Steep Canyon Rangers acapella without microphone number gave me goosebumps. A great time was had by all in attendance. When I went home I watched the Netflix special and noticed that their roadwork with the show had sharpened and improved the show. Jeff even stopped back into the Exclusive Co. on the way to the airport the next morning to see what I thought of the performance. Jeff also made my day by telling me he had made Martin Short aware of my disappointment that there was no Jackie Rogers Jr. That afternoon I discovered that Jeff is the musical arranger and keyboardist for Jimmy Kimmel show, knows and plays with former Exclusive Co. worker Woody Mankowski, and is an unapologetic trombone player. I'm super bummed I didn't know he was a trombone player because, as we all know, I ask ever trombone player I meet if he or she is into WWE superstars and five-time Tag Team Champions The New Day.
As mentioned last month, I was going to Portland to see The Scientists, Mudhoney, The Jesus Lizard and Shonen Knife and also see what I can bring back idea wise from one of the cities that are trying to keep it weird to Green Bay, a city which we are trying to make weird. I did purchase a Keep Portland Weird sticker and I'm happy to inform you that Frankly Green Bay will soon be coming out with a Make Green Bay Weird Sticker. Second time I have been to Portland and I love that city, wish I could afford to live there. The Scientists from Australia, the reason I flew out, submitted for my approval one of the greatest sets of pure rock 'n' roll I have ever seen. Drenched in reverb they masterfully applied their craft. I have been waiting to see them for over 30 years and they went beyond my very lofty expectations. I was buying a t-shirt of theirs before the show and was asking for an x-large (which they did not have). I informed the person selling the shirt I'm from a fatter area of the U.S., he looked at me and said where are you from Wisconsin? I laughed and said Green Bay, Wis. I flew here this morning. He then goes you know we have a show in Chicago? I reply I have legal difficulties in that state. Another reason that made this particular show attractive is that Mudhoney was headlining. That day was also the release date for the new Mudhoney album “Digital Garbage," which has become one of my favorite albums by them and front-runner for album of the year. More on Portland and Mudhoney next month. Live long and watch out for 21st Century Pharisees.
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.