June 25th, 2002


Scutterfest and the SoCal Road Trip

I like LA a little more every time I visit. I still couldn’t picture actually living in LA, but it’s got lots of good things about it and I see more every time I’m there. It’s a real city in ways which SF is not (size, racial diversity etc) and I think I want to visit more often.

Understand what a struggle it is for an (almost) native Northern Californian to say this. Whenever I used to think of LA it was all negative. Nothing but water stealers and plastic people! It’s still too hot for me. (The East Bay is too hot for me) and I would hate having to drive everywhere. But LA has the possibility angle still intact. You can still find a cheapish place to live. You could actually own a house. You could actually rent a big, abandoned storefront. . .

Of course, it seems like my friends there have a hard time finding work.

Anyways, Feelings on a Grid and I left SF on Saturday at the crack of Noon. The Feelings boys don’t move quickly except on stage. We tried to make it to the Scutterfest (http://scutter.hypermart.net/) punk show that night but 7 hours later, and stopped dead in traffic near downtown LA, we abandoned plans and headed for Yucaipa to stay with Le Grid’s family. Yucaipa’s a hot, dusty, working class town not far from Palm Springs. The family Grid was wonderful, putting us up on their couches and floor, and sharing stories of conception music and industrial accidents at the Wonder Bread factory. They even had two huge pigs in the back yard. Though sold to them as those cute little pot-bellied pigs that stay tiny and pet-like, these never stopped growing and are now 7-800 pound PIGS. Are there any animals cuter than pigs? No way.

We drove back to LA for the show and were the first band to arrive. Since we couldn’t set up until right before the performance we sat around and read zines. The owner/manager came through and checked everyone’s IDs except mine and DM Feelings. "You guys are as old as me," he said as he stamped our hands. Heh heh. I love being a grown up.

The crowd itself was one of the most diverse I’d seen in years at a punkish show.. Partially because it’s LA, partially because it was the electronic/new wave night of Scutterfest, I guess. Scutterfest is one of those events you love to go to because everyone’s happy to be there and super-friendly.

It’s always weird to be at a punk show in another city. It’s like when you haven’t seen your soap opera in a year and all the actors have been changed. "Today on ‘Punkshow, Anytown, USA’, the part of Drunk Mohawk Punk will be played by. . ." I wander around thinking I recognize people but then realize they’re someone else entirely.

Soon enough misscallis, mazette, and Dk arrived and it was time for Feelings to go on. They had to follow a tragic lone, love-gone-wrong, guitarist balladeer which could have been terrible, but luckily enough people were arriving so the crowd was inching closer to the stage.

I realize I think of some of these things as structural issues. What makes a good party/show? You need a critical mass of excited people. In this case, someone needs to break the ice because the crowd was pushing itself against the back walls of the club to be as far away as possible from the tragic crooner. Scarred by the previous performer, they left the center of the club empty except for the occasional tumbleweed.. A band can play its best ever, but if no one approaches the stage it will be a sucky show. At this point, the crowd needed not only to be won over, but they also needed to feel unembarrassed to come close to the stage. This can be a hard thing for a band to do, especially in a city where no one’s ever seen them before.

But Feelings were up to it. I got my friends to be the designated front-row-center people and Feelings did the rest, playing one of their best shows ever. Partially that was because the sound system at Fais Do Do was great, but it was inspiring to see them turn an uncommitted crowd into a happy dancing one. One lucky crowd member, who had been running/dancing around the audience to show his love for the Feelings boys, got to give DM Feelings a little horsey ride when he got too close to the stage and DM sat on him. They also had a lovely unicorn painting for the "You see art. I see clay" section of "Sonoma". And a lovely trannyquin head that supposedly looked like Le Grid’s father with a beard.

After the show I gave out "I’m on a date with my Feelings"(thanks again tarynhipp) buttons to excited zine girls and someone did the weird LA thing of asking for the band’s business card. ("No. But I can rip off a piece of paper and scrawl their e-mail address if you want," was my reply). Some CDs were bought. We hung out to watch a couple of bands including the wonderful "Hot and Heavy" who were kinda like Le Tigre meets the Human League. Rudy, the person who organized Scutterfest was in that band and though fairly unpracticed, they were totally fun.

I do want to mention one thing about Scutterfest that made me pause. But because negative things always seem to outweigh positive statements 10:1, I want to make it clear that this was a great event. Almost unbelievably well-organized, a great mix of performers, a good cause and an atmosphere of support and unity. None of this is easy to do and Rudy should be proud of this event. And this criticism comes from me an observer, not the Feelings boys. They knew the show was a benefit and knew they were going to lose money to support the event and were happy to play it and even happier after they saw what a terrific event it was.

But while it’s great that it provides a couple of $1000 scholarships for queer youth in the arts, it made the bad economics of being a performer even more obvious. Feelings had to rent a van, buy gas and miss a day of work each to play their show and they got paid not even a tenth of their expenses. Supporting queer youth is great, but what about working class, queer adults? Figuring out a way to support them might be even harder. Don’t misinterpret me. No one is getting rich on this fest. Not being an artist, I just saw the economics of performing in a starker way then I ever had before. It’s a hard world out there.

After we left Scutterfest we tried to make nomy lamm’s performance across town but missed it by 10 minutes. Though I’ve known her for about10 years and read all her zines I’ve still never seen her spoken word performance. Sigh. Kelli, Mazzy and Dk then took us to a very LA Thai place for food that wasn’t nearly as bad as they warned us it would be. But then again we were very hungry

Our ride home was fairly uneventful. DM broke the tape player for awhile but the radio wasn’t bad near Fresno. We read out loud from "Brother", an early ‘70s pro-feminist Men’s zine which looked at the roles of men in society with a critical Gay Liberationist, anti-racist and socialist perspective. Since the tape player still didn’t work, we convened a little men’s group meeting and talked about our relation to women, porn and our feelings about our own roles and goals.

And that’s why I love Feelings on a Grid.