Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mike Bullshit's Turn And A Response From Jim Testa

Here's a pic of Mike B.S. and Brendan at a Go! show, probably 1990.

Mike Bullshit was the lead vocalist and Force of Nature behind Go! He is also the biggest reason that this blog exists at all. Mike was the man who started booking matinees at ABC No Rio in 1989

Here's Mike's reflections on his ABC No Rio days:

The next 2,300 words are just all over the place. Some things are addressed one area, others elsewhere, and lots of it is just memories. There’s no order. (No order? Hey - that's pretty punk!) But I hope you’re able to get the feeling of my take on the times. Mike BS (PS - It's too long for 1 email, so I'll split it)

Brendan and Gavin found the place, I started the hardcore matinees there, and booked the first 6-7 months, which were absolutely amazing – Born Against, Rorschach, Citizen’s Arrest, Animal Crackers, SFA, Puzzlehead, Bug-Out Society, Bad Trip, and The Manacled would play often, and some out of town bands which hooked into the scene, like Seizure, Inflatable Children, Affirmative Action. Citizen’s Arrest were like the house band – all four of them were always there, so if a band was late or didn’t show, they would play. They played so often – just about every week it seemed!

(Note: I have a flyer listing every show, which bands played, cost at the door and how many people paid to get in. I’ll scan it and send it along. A valuable historical document… or not. And I have some other early flyers I’ll try to scan and send along.)

We didn’t really have a PA. I think I bought a $25 microphone and borrowed some speakers and we made it work somehow. One band had 2 singers and had to share the mic.

I really had no idea what I was doing, but at the beginning I often worked the door, set up the shows, sold some records through a little distro there I set up, paid the bands. I remember putting down salt and chopping the ice on the stairs heading down to the basement so people wouldn’t kill themselves getting down there. But people stepped up and got involved with what was going on pretty quick - cleaning up, helping make sure the shows went ok, working the door, selling the records, getting stuff like duct tape from the store when we needed it, etc. Everyone was great, and fuck, I was so happy. Lots of people really stepped up and got involved creatively – making flyers and zines, t-shirts, art, taking photos and videos, starting bands, and of course all the kids who just came every week, week after week. We could usually count on 30-40 people paying each week, even on a show without a major band.

I dubbed the thing the “BSM Presents” and tried to form it into a collective but it probably became more of a true “collective” after I left, since I’m such a control freak. But I was able to pull it all together and get things done, so maybe having a control freak in charge isn’t always a bad thing. I made the final decisions, and stood behind them. Still do.

So many great times. But there was no heating or air conditioning and only one bathroom which really didn’t work well. How did this all even happen?

Some of the early shows, it was so cold, especially when we were still doing them in the basement – I remember the guitarist from Rorschach playing with gloves on with the fingers cut out so he could hold down the strings. Ernie from In Your Face (formerly of Token Entry) said that it reminded him of the old A7 shows. I hadn’t been to any of those – my first shows were in late 1984 – but it was cool to hear that comparison. You had to be really careful knocking into anything or falling down cos you could cut or hurt yourself. We really didn’t do a good job of fixing the place up at all. They did later. But you would be dancing and like dust would be rising from the floor, and there’d be nails sticking out of studs. God, it was so fucking awesome, yet so ridiculous at the same time.

I PROBABLY should not have booked the show with 2 straight edge bands and The Wretched Ones (a drunk-core band) and Sticks and Stones. Jon Reed made a flyer really making fun of straight edge kids. In retrospect, it was very uncool, and I’m sure alienated tons of people. We did have chips on our shoulders. But, y’know, we really tried to form whatever community we could. I personally tried to be inclusive and get people involved. But I was no angel. I’m sure I got caught up in some of that, too.

One thing to keep in mind, though, before passing judgement on those involved in the ABC scene then, was that most of the dedicated ABC people STOPPED GOING to the CBGB’s matinees because of the violence and the many violent jock assholes there. Not everyone there. But lots of them, and if you weren’t some tough guy it could’ve been intimidating. Was there constant violence? No. Were there lots of violent jocks happy to push their weight around, looking for a fight? Fuck yeah. So ABC was an alternative to that – a different scene that we were trying to build. I won’t apologize for that. We shouldn’t have to. And I won’t apologize for screening bands due to their lyrics and attitudes. Anyone with a problem with that we probably didn’t want to play anyway. And lots of bands did play. And lots of kids did show up.

The first Rorschach show was supposed to be them and Outburst and Mr. Pickle, but both them cancelled so I called CA last minute and they played, and I put a sign on the door “Rorschach, Citizen’s Arrest and anyone else who wants to play.” 16 people paid to get in. The bands were thrilled. Door was $2.

I loved when Burn played – that show with Krakdown and Moondog. Lots of “non-ABC” people showed up for that one. 175 people paid, which is beyond insanity. It freaked many people out, and there were lots of concerns – we had no security and all the ABC folks were the biggest wusses. Gavin helped keep an eye on things that day (it was a show for his birthday). It was amazing. Wish I could’ve gotten Burn to play again.

Calling bands – I had this list of phone numbers of like, every, every NYHC band – and virtually NO ONE wanted to play. Just about no one who was well known, except for Supertouch (who I booked although I wasn’t really into them.) And really, I knew absolutely everyone cos of Bullshit Monthly. I was this annoying dork who people probably just put up with since I put them in my zine. Vision, a halfway “known” NJ band that would play, came by in their van on the day of their show, looked around, and drove away. But they left their guitarist! Poor guy. He was really apologetic. Must’ve felt like a complete dick. Too funny.

I spoke with Uncle Al – formerly of Murphy’s Law – about his new band Unholy Alliance playing ABC, but they didn’t fit in with the “no homophobia, no sexism” thing and we couldn’t see eye to eye. My whole thought was: You don’t like gay people, and I’m gay and booking these shows, so you must think I’m this inferior guy, so why would you want to play a show I booked? Sexism is always tougher to call. Not sure if I ever really figured out how to screen for that. I think I just told people our policy and it worked out or it didn’t. They self-screened. Or they lied. (I learned that later) I knew most of the bands, and always felt free to scan lyrics when tapes and records were sent. Once again – no apologies.

For the In Your Face show I spoke to them beforehand because they had a song called “The Faggot Stomp” and I said they wouldn’t book them. But the singer said it was an old song and they didn’t play it, and it was stupid (it was – about trying to pick up a girl who was actually a guy in drag ). They renounced it and I booked them.

While I booked lots of mid-level bands, like Yuppicide and Lethal Agression, I always tried to book smaller bands – often their first show. People would send tapes and I’d almost always schedule them in, even if I didn’t like their music. Many of them were just average, and since no one knew them and with not many “name” bands were willing to play it was another reason many HC kids didn’t come down. Plus the area was pretty drug infested and hard to find. It wasn’t just the ABC “clique.”

When you think about it, ABC was/is pretty tiny. If you have 100 people in there they’re all jammed in, and it’s a sweat box. The “last” GO! show in 1990 had about 90 people and it was tough going. I’m not sure how we even got by when MDC played.

After the bands were paid we’d keep a little bit to pay the club and maybe like $30-40 for ourselves. Every so often like 12-15 of us would go out to dinner afterwards and hang out. I remember one night at a vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown.

Swiz was amazing – that was in Feb, 1990, when ABC was under renovation and we moved to the Lismar Lounge for 3 shows. I had to cancel two weeks of shows before we found that spot, including a show with Uppercut. (Another band which wasn’t so great but had at least some kind of draw. And I knew the bassist, Patrick, which is probably how I was able to book them.)

Jon Reed did make the most incredible flyers – the one with the 2-tono weight about to fall o those people stands out. And he did that Henry Rollins parody tattoo on Charlie’s back – instead of “Seek and Destroy” it said “Run and Hide” and the sun was this goofy cartoon sun – it was hysterical. There was a lot of fun happening there.

But really, there were usually like 40-75 people there each week when I was booking, sometimes more, sometimes less, and the core ABC group was way fewer than that, so many people did know, or found out one way or another. CB’s started doing shows again at some point so for a while there HC matinees there and by us (ABC on Saturday, CB’s on Sunday).

And of course the Poison Idea show – the one and only night-time show that I put together. What a disaster. The place really wasn’t soundproofed so of course all the people in the neighborhood called the cops, who showed up and wanted to get in and y’know, don’t even ask how I was able to convince them to stay out in but they showed up like 3 times. Somehow we were able to keep the show going. It was funny – I kept asking Pig Champion to turn down the volume on his guitar and finally he said “Man, if I turn it down anymore this is going to sound like a banjo!” But they were great. They drank so fucking much. They just hung out in their van and drank. And they were so fucking huge. The night before they played the Pyramid club and the singer had shoved a microphone up his ass so of course I asked him, please, not to do that (since we only had one). He also breathed fire at the Pyramid show and I asked him not to do that either, since I’m sure the whole place would’ve burned down.

The Manacled. Fuck. What a bizarre experience, and so fun to watch. They could ONLY have happened at ABC-No-RIo

There was some art group from Canada that came down and totally redid the floor (which was always about to collapse, it seemed. Greg and I tried to fix it, but we stopped when we realized we had absolutely no idea at all what we were doing. Their art show was up for about a month. Thankfully I think only 1 piece got vandalized. I tried to keep people out of the basement, since a lot of it was down there, but, y’know, no one wanted to be the police.

A Bad Brains roadie came down and threatened me one day, but I didn’t pay him too much attention. I was young and invulnerable – at least in my own mind. Guess I was luckier than not.

I did my ABC’s Top 10 Hunks feature in Bullshit Monthly, which, y’know, would’ve been completely not cool if a straight guy did that about women, but it was in good fun and hopefully no one was too scarred by it.

Some responses to what Brendan wrote:
- I mentioned above the reason ABC folks didn’t want the violent jocks showing up, so I won’t repeat myself.
- People suggested bands for certain days and I did my best to oblige but I did all the final booking. On flyers I told bands to send me a tape, or contact me, Sam Venus (later Sam Evac), Gavin or Tim Singer.
- No apologies for screening lyrics. Tough shit.
- I wonder if I’ll be in Brendan’s “tell-all-no-names-withheld” book. Which is worse – to be included or (gulp) not to be included.
- Dude - why do you always focus on the negative in everything? Sheesh.

Brendan and I go way back. I think he was the first person I told I was gay, on this really long talk we had walking around for hours while on acid. And he was there for my first seizure, in Nov, 1985 when we took a trip together up to Albany. I passed out in the shower – and missed an early YOT show. But we got to see COC and DRI at some VFW hall – and they were both amazing. I shared a band with him for a while, shared my life with him for a while, it seemed. Sent him Yoo-Hoo when he was in the army, and we wrote long, long letters too each other while he was in Kentucky then Egypt then Ireland. I used his picture on the cover of the first SFA 7”, got him to point his loaded gun at me, fuck – we did a whole lot together. I stayed over his house one night while he fucked this young woman like 6 feet away from me – which I totally slept through but he told me every time I mumbled in my sleep they stopped to make sure I didn’t wake up. We shared lots of good times. But Brendan is the king of “truthiness” and shall we say “embellishes” to the extent that you never really know what percentage of what he’s saying is true and what's exaggerated. That's been my take for over 20 years, and trying to convince me in 2006 that Amy Nausea was working as a stripper just reinforced that.

Finally tonight, Jim Testa, who we interviewed a few days ago, has decided to step into this fray again, in regards to the to and fro between Brendan and Mike's reflections:

I'm just gonna step in and say that I consider Mike B. and Brendan as my friends and as with almost anything in life, the truth to all this probably lies somewhere in the middle. Yeah, the ABC'ers could be cliquey and a bit elitist; but also, those CBGB HC matinees WERE extremely violent, and it just kept getting worse - chains, knives, I believe somebody brought a gun and Hilly finally pulled the plug. Kids left in ambulances almost every single week.

But let me tell you about Brendan - I was on the other side of almost every argument he and the ABC No Rio regulars got into, a lot of people thought we were "scene enemies," in fact; but for as long as he worked at CBGB (which was right up until it closed), he never let me pay at the door when he was working. Brothers in hardcore? It sounds like such a cliche, and yet, if you weren't there, you'll never know how true it was.

And you know, all this bickering and arguing and scene politics was just as much a part of the ABC No Rio scene as the great shows and the silly dancing and the hanging out in the backyard. So I'm actually really happy that people are yelling at each other (figuratively and digitally, if not physically) here; feels like old times.

I'm gonna be out of the loop for a few days, my Nanny just died today, so I will have a ton of Dave K's flyers when I come back!

Here's a Rorschach pic- photo Chris Boarts


  1. Why am I always focusing on the negative?
    Mike... when have you ever known me to not focus on the negative?

    Oh, and don't worry... everyone's an asshole in my book... including me.

  2. Damn, I'm really going to have to enter the fray on this...been thinking about it for the last two days...will start writing today...

    Dave K.

  3. Yes- this conversation is awesome! I'm so glad this is happening! Thanks for allowing me to be the purveyor in all this! I'm so grateful that we can still be around to argue about this stuff.

  4. Hey what aboutr Zack from Puzzlehead. I think he was earlier finder of BC too. A Bug Out Society show.