Tuesday, December 3, 2013
If you're even casually acquainted with this blog, then you know that I'm not usually inclined to let a picture (or anything else... or anyone else...) do the talking. But Teresa and her iPhone have expressed pretty much everything I've been thinking and feeling about Canal Street over the past few days better than any more words of mine could.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The first time my old friend Ben Schelker ever got on stage and played music was at Canal Street Tavern. This Dayton band called THE OBVIOUS were playing, and they invited him and a bunch of others to come up and sing the chorus on their cover of "American Band" by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD. I remember Ben telling me he was so drunk that John Dubuc, the singer, had to punch him in the shoulder when the chorus came up.And thanks for reading too. I'm not sure I'll make it down to Canal Street Tavern tonight for the last show. I'm sure the place will be packed to the rafters, and to be perfectly honest, I think I'd like the last time I set foot in Canal Street Tavern to be the time we played there for Ben. Then again, maybe nostalgia will get the better of me and I will be down there. I have no doubt SHRUG will give the place the sendoff it deserves.
The first time I ever got on stage, it was not at Canal Street Tavern. It was on the back of a flatbed truck at Caesar's Creek. I was in a cover band. We played covers. I distinctly remember playing Foreigner's "Hot Blooded." I wore a fedora, in the middle of the summer, and a pair of Foster Grants. It was 1985, and I imagined that Tom Petty also wore a fedora and Foster Grants whenever he played (but now I don't think he ever did).
A year later, I had discovered punk rock music and was playing in a hardcore punk rock band. But we didn't play at Canal Street Tavern because Canal Street was for posers. Good god! THE OBVIOUS played at Canal Street. PLEASURES PALE played at Canal Street. THE HIGHWAYMEN played at Canal Street: POSER BANDS... from like... Centerville and Kettering and... Yellow Springs. COLLEGE BANDS full of college boys from the suburbs! (never mind that I was certainly college bound, AND grew up in Bethel Township)
But REAL BANDS... real hardcore punk bands... they played at the Front Street Warehouse... or The Building Lounge. For the life of me, I can't remember now exactly what the difference was between The Building Lounge (which was a bar for REAL BANDS) and Canal Street Tavern (which was also a bar... just for poser bands). But when you're young, you know everything, don't you?
A couple years later (1989 maybe?) as yet another band I was in broke up and another one began, I found myself playing in a band with this guy named Ben Schelker. And Ben booked our first show at Canal Street Tavern.
Ben had played there many times with another band he had been in called THE UNDERDOGS. So we played a Thursday night at Canal Street Tavern, and our friends and family came to watch. We played with another local band called HANG'N'PRIDE.
I remember walking in that place for the first time, and seeing the church pews and a Woodie Guthrie poster on the wall and that long bar and the elevated theater-style seats in the corner near the bathrooms and thinking... "this place is for friggin' posers..."
We stowed our gear in that room by the door near the street. That room we always referred to as "The Rock Star Room." The walls of that room were covered from top to bottom with band stickers and graffiti in thick black magic marker. Our bass player produced such a marker and (miraculously) found some empty real estate on those walls and wrote our band's name there.
When we were done playing and last call had come and gone and it was time to collect money, Ben and I entered this tiny little office -- and some big ol' hippie with a big ol' beard counted out about twenty bucks. After that we probably went to Denny's on Brown Street, ate some Moons Over My-Hammy and eventually drifted home. That was it. I'm sure that as I fell asleep that night I bestowed not one thought on Canal Street Tavern or Mick Montgomery (he was the big hippie who counted out our twenty dollars in that little office) -- except that maybe I wondered what some of my friends would think of me for playing at a poser bar.
But for some reason, here in my house at three AM, twenty-four years later, I remember every detail of that night. I could spend an hour describing the carpet on the stage, the exact height of the overhanging stage monitors, the pattern of the stained glass behind the stage, the chips in the finish on the piano that sat to one side. I could tell you how hot it was outside the front door when I came out to smoke a cigarette -- and I could tell you about the texture of the concrete on those three steps leading up to the front door. I remember everything.
When something you love is going away, the first place your mind goes is to the times when that thing seemed ageless and invincible -- when you gave no thought to its ever NOT being there. You remember the times you had, the people you knew.
Over the past couple of months, after I first learned that Canal Street was indeed going away, I've thought a lot about those things. I've thought about the many shows I played in the many bands I had over the years. I've thought about playing on that old stage -- opening for ROYAL CRESCENT MOB or HAMMEL ON TRIAL. I've thought about the many more shows I saw just as a member of the audience: THE KILLJOYS, WALLAROO SOUTH, LOVE LIES BLEEDING, THIRTEEN NIGHTMARES, SPECIAL PATROL, LIQUID DRAINO, THE PURE PLASTIC TREE, THE TAILGATORS. I've thought about the shows my old band THE OXYMORONS used to play with THE OBVIOUS, and the one in particular where Greg Johnson got so drunk he fell into the Christmas tree.
I've thought about the show where, for some reason, I tried to spit a mouthful of beer at this girl I was going out with at the time -- and ended up spitting beer all over the stage monitors, and Mick Montgomery almost banned us from the place forever. I've thought of the many nights I played Musician's Co-Op -- the open stage night -- and one in particular where I played a Pixies song acoustically that had tons of screaming in it -- and half the people in the place decided it was time to step outside for some fresh air.
I've also thought of the last time I saw Ben Schelker in person. It was at Canal Street Tavern. I don't remember why we were there, but I do remember we were in the bathroom. I had just finished up at the urinal. He came in as I was washing my hands. I told him I was about ready to go home, but he said he was going to stay for a while. I left. He moved to New York a little while after that and then died in a freak accident about three years later. So the last time I saw him was at Canal Street Tavern.
And the last time I played at Canal Street Tavern (the last time I was even in Canal Street Tavern) was for a tribute show to Ben. It was about this time last year.
Anyway, remembering all those things.... well that's the FIRST thing you do. But at some point, you also start thinking about the future. When something you love has gone away, you HAVE to think about the future, you have to think about how things change. Tomorrow night, after SHRUG plays the final show at Mick Montgomery's Canal Street Tavern, things will change. It will not be Canal Street Tavern. It will be something different. And I wish the new proprietors the best in whatever plans they have for the place.
And this will not be the first change that the place we called Canal Street Tavern has had.
In 1981, a great guy (and big old hippie) named Mick Montgomery started a business where he booked live music in Dayton, Ohio, and he called that business Canal Street Tavern.
I honestly don't know what that building was called before that -- if it was called anything. A friend tells me the second floor was a gym once, where her father used to go and work out. I like that, and I wish I knew more. I like to think that place has a history of its own that has a head, a body, and a tail that none of us will ever see completely.
I like to think all sorts of characters wandered in and out of that place, all with their own peculiar stories. I like to think that people came together there... that they got drinks from the bar... sat and talked together... had adventures... and all of it happening ten or twenty or thirty years before I ever even knew it existed. I like to think that twenty or thirty years from now, from THIS night... that a lot of people will be talking about this great place at the corner of First and Patterson, where all sorts of interesting stuff used to happen, and still does happen, one way or another.
Every place has stories to tell. We knew this place as Canal Street Tavern. We knew its stories. But we don't know the whole story because the whole story hasn't happened yet. And maybe some of us will continue that story, and maybe others we've never even heard of will continue it too.
By the way... Y'know that girl that I tried to spit the beer on but ended up ruining Mick's monitors instead? Her name was Kristin Brucker, and she used to refer to Canal Street as "home." -- "Home" -- because somebody would say, "Think I'll be at Canal Street later," and she would say, "You mean 'home?'" And Kristin would say it with that pretty, knowing smile on her face that was so immediate and disarming.
She said "home" because "home" is where you go when you've got no place else to be. NOT no place else to GO -- no place else to BE. And for so many of us... for people who played there, hung out there, drank there, smoked there, talked there, kissed there, smiled and laughed there and got to know each other there -- that's exactly what it was: HOME... for a little while at least.
And that's what it was because that's what Mick made it. Way back in 1981, Mick may have started as a business owner, but he became a homemaker.
Thanks for listening.
In any case, I will definitely be down at the corner of First and Patterson on Monday at 9 a.m. to be present when they take the sign down. If you can possibly make it, I hope to see you there too.
ps. I would like to thank Melissa Fowler for providing me with the fun fact about the second floor of Canal Street Tavern once being a gymnasium that her father used to work out in.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Will asked many of us, including Jonathan, Hans, and I, to come down to the restaurant a couple hours early to eat some free pizza and watch EVIL DEAD 2 (one of the greatest gore films of all time, and one of the very few sequels that is even better than the original). It was his way of getting the old group that used to watch shitty horror movies in his shitty apartment back when he was sober to get together one more time. And it was great. We sat there and watched the movie and made stupid comments. Will didn't have one drink, and we all had a good time, just like we used to.
I played fairly early, and as the other bands went on, I found myself mostly standing just outside the front door smoking. Jonathan and Hans were scheduled to go on last, so I spent a lot of time talking to them. After an hour or so, I caught Jonathan sort of keeping an eye on Will as Will went in and out, making sure the bands could get their gear in and out, and announcing each act.
Jonathan seemed to be giving Will a lot of extra scrutiny, and whenever Will passed by, Jonathan would make a face. So I asked him about it. And he just sort of shrugged and told me he'd noticed Will had disappeared for a while with a person that we all knew to be a notorious drug dealer. We didn't know exactly what Will took, but as the night wore on, it became more and more obvious that it was a little more powerful than a bag of Acapulco Gold.
Over the next hour, things just went to hell. Will had a lot of trouble walking, his speech became increasingly nonsensical, the band introductions just got bizarre. Finally, at about midnight Will took the stage to play a brief set before Jonathan and Hans were supposed to play. I had been looking forward to that all night. I hadn't heard Will play solo since 1990, and I had nothing but hope that it would be just like the old days.
It was a fucking train wreck. I'd seen lots of bands play drunk before, but I had never seen anyone make a bigger ass of himself as much as he did that night. He couldn't finish songs he'd been playing for ten years. He was wheeling about randomly, getting tangled up in cables. People would try to help him, and his responses ranged from profusely apologetic to total belligerence, sometimes to the same person in the space of a few seconds.
Jonathan and Hans and I had stood there all night watching this happen. And as Will stumbled around in there, Jonathan just sort of shook his head. Without a word, he and his brother quietly went into the place and gathered up their equipment. I watched them pack it in the car. I don't remember exactly what Jonathan said to me as he shook my hand, but it was something to the effect that he couldn't watch this anymore.
Jonathan had the bad luck to meet Will when Will was sober. So did I, and so did a lot of other people. We caught our first impressions of him in that five-year period between his last drink and his next one. In that time he could be annoying and bitter and sometimes dishonest and always obsessive. But he was also focused and genuinely humble and often reliable and always sober. We made fun of those long rants he would deliver during PLANET ED shows, but I think he knew we also admired the guts he had to stand up there and do it. Nobody else was really doing that at the time, and whatever anyone thought of it when the show was over, when Will was talking, people were listening. They were paying attention. That's all any artist wants.
A few weeks after PLANET ED broke up, Will started drinking again. I remember going over to his apartment one day to work on some 4-track stuff with him, and he had an open forty of Milwaukee's Best sitting on the table. We talked about it a little bit, and then we did some recording. That was 1992.
As Jonathan and Hans drove away, I thought I might go back into the restaurant to see how this all might play out. But instead I just passed the door and went to my car. I remember looking through the window and seeing that Will was on the floor.
That was the last time I saw Will but not the last time I talked to him. Over the next decade, he would call me three or four times a year, and we e-mailed back and forth often. He drifted from Dayton to Portland to San Francisco to (I think) Washington, DC and maybe to New York for a while. Every so often he would go to rehab. But it never worked.
At the beginning of this post, I said that we lost Jonathan back in February and Will died last week. I choose my words carefully, and those two different verbs are exactly what I meant. We lost Jonathan this year. But Will? We lost him twenty years ago, and we've all just been watching him die since then. Last week he did it -- finally.
When you spend two decades watching someone you care about kill himself, you have a lot of time to feel a lot of things about it. It's frustrating, it's painful, and it makes you very, very angry.
But eventually there comes a time when even frustration is no longer frustrating. The pain doesn't really hurt that much. And the anger doesn't make you very mad anymore. You still feel those things, but it gets more and more like you're just watching yourself feel them. Or maybe it's simpler than that: maybe you don't feel those things at all. You just really, really wish you did.
To put it even more simply, you lose hope. I lost hope in Will. It didn't happen that night at Picadilly Pizza. I don't know when it happened, but five minutes after I learned he was dead, I knew it had happened some time ago. And it wasn't an epiphany or a moment of clarity or something else St. Luke or Sherwood Anderson or Bill W. would write about. It was more like a... "hey... I lost hope... how 'bout that?"
Jello Biafra, one of Will's idols, tells a great story about how he ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 (to fill the office left vacant by George Moscone, who had been assassinated along with Harvey Milk the previous year). At the end of the story, he talks about how before that campaign he had often had doubts about his career as a musician -- that he wasn't a good singer, that his lyrics weren't as good as Iggy Pop's or Jim Morrison's. But after that he realized he had just done something that none of the artist's he looked up to had ever done, so he felt more confident about his career.
When I was in sixth grade, I wrote a short story for my English class that the teacher liked so much he read it out loud to the entire class, and then we all talked about it for twenty minutes. I remember being pretty embarrassed by that but also thrilled. It was the first time I remember having any positive indication that I might have some talent for telling stories, something I had wanted to do since I looked at the pictures in Spider-Man comics, years before I could even read.
Just about everybody has those moments like Jello Biafra and I had, moments when we figure out that we might not be quite so bad at something as we thought we were, when we realize we might have somehow inexplicably stumbled onto something we're good at, when the evidence shows that we can do it. Just about everybody has a few dozen moments like that over a lifetime. Those moments keep us going. They are the only reason we do anything more than throw shit at each other all the time because those are the moments that give us hope.
I don't think Will ever had one moment like that in his whole life. Don't get me wrong: he had a talent for music, he had a talent for entertaining, he had all sorts of talents that he carried around with him all the time, I'm sure right up to the moment he died. But he took no comfort, no hope from any of it.
And he didn't lack those moments because he was an addict. The one constant between drunk Will and sober Will is that he never truly believed in a better future for himself. And he was not an addict because he lacked hope. There are plenty of addicts out there who have enormous faith in themselves. Will was just a drunk, and he was hopeless.
And like Jonathan, I couldn't look at it anymore. As much as it saddens me that he's gone, I'm glad that I don't have to look at it anymore. I have about a thousand words in a notepad file that I'd like to work in here about all this, but I'm tired of thinking about it. And I won't spend any more of your or my time on him.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
A few days ago Will Dalgard died. I didn't know until a few hours ago. My ex-wife called to tell me about it, and my girlfriend brought it to my attention later, because neither one of them thought I should hear about it in somebody's Facebook status update. Y'know what? It took me all of five seconds to figure out what I want to say about him. Here it is:
I wish I'd never met Will Dalgard. I wish I'd never known him. I am a poorer person for having known him. I can't think of anyone else I've ever met that I would say that about -- and just to put that in perspective, I worked in a prison for ten years. I wish I'd never met him. I wish I had never met him.
If that angers you, I get it. It's a terrible thing to say about a person, especially when he's just died. But if you are angered by it, then you didn't know Will. You didn't know him. You didn't know what he thought of himself. If at some point in his life Will could have looked into the future and read every mean thing I'm about to say about him, he would've smiled and said, "That's the worst you can do? Because I've got some stories..."
Will always had a story. He had the story about how he and Dave Matusof ran away from the crazy redneck who wanted to kill them. He had the story about Allison Davis, the girl who broke his heart. He had stories about his landlord and Metallica concerts and bands he was in and girls he dated and shitty jobs he had and the navy he got kicked out of and times he got beat up. He had the story about how I loaned him money to pay his rent, and when he had enough to pay me back he bought a Fender Mustang instead. He always had a story. And right now I feel like he told me every last one of them, and I wish I'd never let him open his mouth. But I did. I let him talk, and I listened, and there's no changing that now.
Will was a storyteller. If you knew him, you knew that. Everybody knew it. How many times did we sit there and listen to him tell some long rambling story from his shitty, stupid life? Sometimes it was in a room with a few "friends" (if Will ever really had "friends" in the literal sense -- I don't think he did). Sometimes it was in a bar with him strumming an acoustic guitar. The ones that are most vivid to me are the ones he told while Dave Graeter and I kept up a monotonous beat in one of his songs with an interminable musical break so he could go on and on and on about whatever he was going on and on and on about.
I've reported one or two of his stories here on this blog. And I've posted a couple of recordings with more of those stories. And as an undeserved favor to Will, I will recount another story that springs to mind at this moment.
About twelve or thirteen years ago, Will was back in Dayton and living in a crappy one bedroom apartment above some storefronts near the corner of Wayne and Wyoming (that building has since been destroyed). I visited him there one night. He showed me a new amplifier and Les Paul that he had somehow acquired and played me a few tunes he was working on. I then noticed a copy of his General Discharge from the United States Navy hanging on the wall. Yes, he hung his "General" discharge on his wall.
He told me that he had loved his time in the navy at first, but it didn't take him long to get restless. He wanted out, so while he was stationed on some ship off the coast of Africa, he went to his commanding officer and said, "Sir! Regulations require that I report any navy personnel dealing federally controlled substances on the ship, SIR!" His CO said, "Of course! Would you like to report someone, Seaman Dalgard?" And Will replied, "Yes sir! I would like to report myself."
He was selling weed on the ship. He reported himself. They booted him. That's the story he told me, and it was all true as far as I know. Will Dalgard was a storyteller.
Will Dalgard was also an addict. He was addicted to everything you could possibly think of. He was addicted to alcohol. He was addicted to drugs. He was addicted to talking and being, and he was addicted to himself and everyone else on the face of the earth. Will Dalgard was bright and talented. He was warm, and he wanted everything to work out well for everybody. He might be the most enthusiastic person I've ever known. He was a human treasure. And he was an addict.
And addicts will always find a way to negate all that nice stuff I just said (like about Will being a "treasure" and such). Addicts will always find a way to do that. But they don't find it because they lack willpower or because they are stupid or because they are any less valuable than anyone else. They just find it. They just do. They disappoint us. That's what addicts do. In essence, it is the only thing they do.
Unfortunately, it just occurred to me that it's a quarter after four in the morning, and there's no way I'm going to finish this tonight. So I'm posting this first part. And tomorrow I'm going to post the rest.
Will was a storyteller, and so am I. And I've got one more story about him and Jonathan Drexler that should be told.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I don't imagine it would be a best seller or anything, but it wouldn't cost me anything to do. And I thought maybe some readers would like to have a tastefully designed, colorful book remembering the Dayton music scene we once knew sitting on their shelf or coffee table.
If you've got any thoughts on this, let me know. I'd be especially interested in hearing what anyone thinks about the idea of using graphics that I don't necessarily own. I don't mean the legal issues. I've looked into that aspect of it (and considering the age and obscurity of most bands featured here, I don't anticipate any major legal wrangling). I'm thinking more of just the moral implications. For example, if you were in one of the bands I've featured on this blog, would it bother you if I used graphics from your record or maybe quoted some of your lyrics or otherwise put something in the book that you might've had a hand in creating without necessarily getting your permission first?
As long as I've done this blog, only once has anyone objected to their music or lyrics or graphics appearing here. But then, this is just a blog. Maybe a physical book (even a low-selling POD book) presents more of an issue. If you have any thoughts on that, feel free to put 'em in the comments. And if you'd like your comments to remain private, just say so and I won't publish them.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
I don't have any information on this video or the LP it's about other than what you'll get by watching it. If you know anything about it, feel free to add your information in the comments. Or if you happen to have a copy of this record I could borrow, I'd be happy to make a rip and post it here some time.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013