A WEEK WITH OLD FEZZIWIG: Live 3/30/18 (at Connie’s Ric Rac) & 4/7/18 (at Century w/Narcos Family Band) by Vincent Daemon
CONNIE’S RIC RAC 3/30/18
1132 S. 9th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Somehow I’ve been pulled into this menagerie of bizarre happenings and shamanic rock-n-roll degeneracy headlong. In no way is that a complaint, but rather an admonishing testimony to the sheer power of OLD FEZZIWIG, their sonic Search & Destroy attack, and the overwhelming charisma of strange that projects from their mere being.
It was something I’d been looking forward to since my return to this particular area *(this mutherfukking slum, goddamnit, I hate it and most of the slothing stupid slobs that inhabit it), being able to catch OLD FEZZIWIG live. The last time I’d seen a performance was when my band AGE OF DESIRE opened for OLD FEZZIWG at their “final” show in 1993, at Sabatino’s in Downingtown, PA. I not only wanted to see this incarnation, I needed to experience it. There’s something about the whole FEZZ experience that has always made the lines between rock, reality, and the other side a cacophonous blur, as though it were all but a dream, and we exist on the eyelash of a god about to awake, that god being Blackie Lawless.
Anyway, I rode with FEZZ to South Philly, the infamous “Italian Market,” in fact, where the red double doors of Connie’s Ric Rac reside. On the trip we discussed poetry and film, writing and literature, time and space and gods and women and, of course, rock-n-roll. It’s an amazing thing, hanging out with FEZZ. Few people are on my level of being stuck between worlds such as we are.
We entered the club, the first there. I lugged equipment passed the beautiful bartender, and FEZZ and I fell back into discussions of writing and madness, as he pushed alcohol on me. FEZZ himself is clean, high on the darkest energies of the cosmos *(it could be Satan, but it’s more likely Blackie Lawless). As always he says to the bartender that he’s “recovering” *(a sick but brilliantly insidious societal shove to mankind – – – welcome to the FEZZIWIG kingdom) as he hands me the beer. It is his rule that all participants *(both at practice and during performance) be some kind of inebriated, to which I gladly obliged.
TOMMY and SEAN staggered in, more equipment to be lugged. We were directed to a green room behind the stage, and began to litter the joint in OLD FEZZIWIG stickers as alcohol flowed and pills were swallowed. A good portion of the FEZZ fanbase made it out to this gig, including a friendly fellow named Junkyard Jerry. Hell, even Pat Society and his wife Rachel *(of the DROOGETTES, covered here a couple of times) came out to see the spectacle.
The night now began to take a strange turn. We went outside for cigarettes and greens, and to nab a coupla pictures. The sky was a clear steely blue as twilight became darkness, and I saw the moon was full and resting in that sky right over FEZZ’s head. The street was abnormally clear, the Italian Market usually being a crowded hubbub of an affair. That’s when the procession came *(this is just two days before Easter, after all). Down the empty street, between us and a rotten backdrop of fouled empty city land and it’s burned out dystopian scape, came the Easter Mourners Of Christ. I know not the denomination *(though I suspect Catholic), but they processed passed us, carrying a porcelain figure of the dead Christ. He gleamed subtly beneath the full moon as the vestial robes and counted rosaries swayed with the movements of grim desperation for connection with their god, amidst a lowly sang hymn of grief laden prayer. There were tears from the mourners.
The venom of the big black spider was flowing strong.
The night had finally crossed the line into compete surrealism as FEZZ, with his back to the procession and his head below the moon, began to draw power from the pain of the procession, his body seizing with his own personal rapture. Some of the mourners were glaring confusedly as FEZZ shook and shapeshifted in this randomly mystical fit of rock-n-roll soul usurpation. The funeral parade finally passed and FEZZ was back. He then proclaimed there will be blood. Full inebriations were setting in for all parties.
The first two performers were solo acoustic guys, and I was outside most of the duration of their respective sets *(I know, incredibly rude). Time seemed to disappear, however, and OLD FEZZIWIG were up, about to perform. I couldn’t wait, and took on the job of band videographer for this gig. These bastards looked ready to kill as they took the stage, each of the three members stumbling a bit from their enforced inebriations, FEZZ himself becoming intense and driven, ready to project the power of the Christ-pain his soul ate a mere hour ago.
They performed to the hilt a full set of rock-n-roll fury, opening with the sludgy groove punishment of “Heatstroke,” then going into the *(ancient) classic and speed-driven darkness of “Flesh Eater” *(a favorite of mine for damn near thirty years). These motherfukkers weren’t missing a beat, FEZZ being the sole original member of this namesake monster, TOMMY and SEAN fit right in as though they’ve always been there. It was thrilling to see the continuation of a legacy that had been self-halted so long ago *(something we also discussed earlier, but will be for another piece). Next was the title track of the current album *(if you do not have it, contact them and get it!), “Devil Drinks Mint Tea,” followed by the grandiosity of a track that, once you hear it, will never leave the pinging inner foundations of your skull, “Love & Discount Food,” a classic Detroit-style rocker proclaiming a true joy for the life of Blackie Lawless *(I think with three mentions of Mr. Lawless he comes out some dark gnome door – – – great, I’ve got enough strange things currently coming at me).
A brief respite with the strange “Dobson” paved the way for an adrenaline rush of set finality, gracefully charging into three classics, the first being “LSD (Mind Control),” my personal favorite of the OF resume. The structural chaos of that song, and the mean hook that drives it slid perfectly into a massive rendition of the Iggy and the Stooges classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” A full possession of cosmosonic delirium taking over as “Rollerball King” exploded from the speakers like the blood from FEZZ’s hand. FEZZ never lies. If he says there will be blood, then there will be motherfukking blood. And there was. It poured from his hand and splashed beautiful crimson stains on his guitar and drizzled to the floor of the stage as the intensity reached its peak and the final chorus rang out into grim feedback and then – – – silence. It was like witnessing a glorious sonic exorcism, or perhaps a crucifixion of sound.
We packed up the gear and loaded the cars, FEZZ, SEAN and myself leaving as TOMMY stayed behind to cause chaos with Junkyard Jerry. The night had come and gone in an instant, Time being the deceptive bitch it can be *(and my night kind of ends here, as my own overindulgences peaked to a kind of blank spot, though FEZZ was pushing me to book my own band to gig with his).
CENTURY BAR 4/7/18
1350 S. 28th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146
Another strange day came upon me a week later as FEZZ had another gig. *(I felt like there was something happening, some completion of sorts being about to occur.) FEZZ was donned in his purple velvet writer’s jacket, a much different mood hung about this performance. It was in the far end of the city, a bit of a drive, upon which FEZZ and I broke into our usual conversive inquiries about life, death, writing, and the placid dullard boredoms that largely rule the minds and lives of general mankind. He then mentioned something about recording the second album, and this gig being the completion of a period of sorts. *(My gut is usually right.)
This was a bit of a different show entirely, the place being an actual punk bar called CENTURY. It was small with no stage *(which I love), decent music pumping through the stereo and an incredibly friendly and helpful staff of punks and rathskallions. I lugged equipment and the inebriations began *(I ended up with two of my own drink tickets, two from TOMMY, and two from FEZZ, on top of a variety of other adulterants already coursing through my being). I’d already been up close to thirty-six hours, and the surrealism was kicking in.
The first band were a group of guys from Virginia, and have been performing since 1977. They were ok, it was classic-style punk rock, straight and to the point. I was kind of in and out of the joint, smoking and having a bit of fun situational chaos outside with TOMMY and SEAN. It was early, three pm maybe, as this was a day show *(with a night show apparently to follow). OLD FEZZIWIG were due to hit the stage at four.
I helped with setup, and this performance I wanted to actually watch and properly take in the performance. I nabbed a few pics, drank and took in every damn second of it.
An otherworldly feel took over as the club became 4am inside, strange blue and red lights, dark, casting odd shadows on OF as they plowed through the same setlist as above. This performance had no blood, nor was it necessary. A spectral atmosphere abounded. It had true soul. HOT MEAT, vocalist from the headliner NARCOS FAMILY BAND, took the mic for the Stooges cover, a slight bit of inebriated chaos ensuing as OF then plowed into “Rollerball King,” face to face with the leering crowd of black clad punks that seemed to love every minute of it. In his purple velvet jacket, silhouetted by lights and clouds of cigarette smoke, FEZZ looked like a demon preacher giving the gift of a sermon of sound and rock-n-roll exaltation. *(I’d like to admit that, at this point, I’m already fairly close to my personal inebriation limit – – – it was beautiful.) It was a glorious set indeed, and we broke down and packed up quick. FEZZ then explained the completion, and how beginning next practice, material for the next album will be the focus.
Next up was the NARCOS FAMILY BAND *(a review of their cassette PINK BLUES is forthcoming). These guys were a blast to watch, bringing their own unique brand of chaos to the proceedings, preaching their own gospel of sleazy punk degeneracy, their singer HOT MEAT being a hell of a frontman. I wish I could say more, but at this point I was hammered, and went to go sit at the bar. Then something strange happened *(and I’m a magnet for strange, but when with FEZZ it apparently amps up a bit). I was approached by someone who knew my name, and mentioned this very column, being a longtime reader. Lex, sir, it was pleasure to meet you, and get hang a bit as short lived as it was, and I look forward to hanging again soon *(hopefully to play some rock-n-roll).
Then, like that, it was time to go. FEZZ-time had twisted the day all up, par for the course and never a complaint. It’s the power of true charisma and sound when transmuted together to be projected as what is heard, witnessed, and experienced. If it weren’t for FEZZ, I’d most likely not have reformed AGE OF DESIRE *(and together we will play, oh yes). It’s been about 27 years since I’ve had the chance to catch these guys live, and now I’ve been mutated into a part of this collective, which is a beautiful thing. And I will say this: over the years not a beat has been lost, nor a step missed. This is a gargantuan beast, something harkening back to bygone days yet entirely refreshed and beyond sure of its ability to slice through the bullshit and cut to the heart, something few bands can manage. If you live in the area *(or can fly or bus in), go see OLD FEZZIWIG when they play. And the NARCOS FAMILY BAND as well. These artists are worth your time and attention, particularly in this creatively droughted landscape of hive minded bland and dull repetition. It’s bad out there. Doing sound the other night, I was going to review that, but it was beyond awful. Right here, what I’ve written about above, is where it’s at. Support the fukking underground, goddamnit.
And that was my week with OLD FEZZIWIG. What a week it was, at that. I can only imagine what’s to come. Check all these bands out, really. It’s worth it. Thanks for reading.
About Vincent Daemon: Writer of the weird and macabre, fiction and poetry; columnist for The Intestinal Fortitude; host of the podcast THE COMPLETE MORON’S GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD REMAKES; musician with AGE OF DESIRE; student of the occult and all things strange.