This is for Mr. T's Bowl. No, not THAT Mr. T, this one:
I was talking to Johnny from Seasons last night before their Spaceland show (playing with Featherbeard, who was fantastic, resplendent in turban and a new beard made from white ostrich feathers; and, on the last night of their residency, Castledoor, who threw down what might have been the greatest show I've ever seen them play). He gave me some bad news about T's.
As you might have heard: the T-Bowl, as we seem to call it most of the time, is in sharp decline and has been for more than a year now. The crappy, ratty, glorious bowling-alley-turned-dive-bar that we played every month for two years straight and was our home away from home is, for all intents and purposes, gone. I think the last nail might have been pounded into the coffin: Johnny told me that Gus, who handled booking for years, was fired last week and replaced with one of the bartenders (Pauline, I think her name is), who, presumably, will book the kind of acts that will bring in money, IE, none of the bands that anyone who goes regularly to Mr. T's wants to see. As far as I know Arlo still works the board at T's, but I don't know how much longer he'll last. Presumably you're not going to see anything like this there again:
Bodies Of Water at Mr. T's Bowl
Let me be clear about something: whenever anyone asked us what kind of band we are, a Silverlake Band, a Downtown band, etc., we always, always said we were a Mr. T's band. I frankly don’t know quite enough about the place to write a real history, but: if you've never been there, T's was indeed once a bowling alley, and still has the old lanes set up behind a big saggy curtain, although bowling itself is long gone (more on that later). It is a dive bar in a sketchy part of Highland Park. The genius of T’s was that it was (usually) free to get in, the drinks were cheap, there was none of the desperate careerism of Silverlake/Sunset Strip or the too-cool-for-school snottiness/cliquedom of the downtown scene, and you could see a far wider range of music than you could almost anywhere else. I have seen ratty punk bands on the same bill as new music art ensembles, country and western bands, and jazz trios featuring bass parts played on electric balloons. T’s was one of those places where all of the bands knew each other and went to each other’s shows—sometimes the audience consisted of nothing more than the other bands playing that night, maybe a couple of drunks from the bar, and Arlo, a total gentleman, the kindest, greatest soundman of all time. It was the best club in LA.
Unpoppable [with balloon bass] at Mr. T's
When we first started playing there the stage was in the middle of the room, right in front of the curtain, instead of off in the corner. Behind the curtain was a mountain of crap, basically all of Mr. T’s possessions in a giant pile. There were always shuffling locals at the bar every evening, hanging out and playing the jukebox, and gradually wandering out as the bands started up— I saw 8-Bit there for the first time, long before I even knew who Andy was, let alone before I had any idea he'd play in our band for a year (at that particular show he singled me out from the crowd as "the world's whitest man." His brother Tony smashed a crappy old bass guitar--I still have some of the pieces). I saw the Movies for the first time there. I saw the Mormons, oh, basically every other night.
8-Bit at Mr. T's [WARNING: Very NSFW]
Two things changed: fallout from The Great White incident closed T’s for over a year, and when it was about to open again, the original Mr. T died. His son, John T (whom I have never met), inherited the place and when it reopened it seemed (to us) pretty much like it always was, minus The Gutter (a restaurant run from the kitchen by a pair of twins, and widely considered one of the best places to eat on the East Side), which was a big disappointment. We inherited a first-Friday-of-the-month residency from 8-Bit in 2006 and played it for 2 years straight; when we finally passed it on to the Seasons in June of 2008 we were ready to move on but were also really, really sad, and it never occurred to us we’d only play T’s one more time.
Our last First Friday show at Mr. T's, June 2008, with food fight
At first John T seemed to take a hands-off management approach to T’s, which suited us fine, but sometime around 2007-2008 things started to change. Drink prices started going up, and the bartenders began charging people who looked like hipsters more than people who looked like regulars. We’d never had problems with the security guards (does Duley still work there? Best security guard ever) but new guards came in on certain nights who harassed everyone: the patrons, the musicians, people hanging out in the parking lot. They were corrupt, too: I recall a certain show Cobra Lilies took part in last year, basically a night of peace-and-love flower-children bands. The promoter did charge a cover that night, I think it was $5, and the lineup featured a few underage performers (which had never been a problem before). Security on that night initially refused to let the underage musicians in, and then told the promoter that he’d bend the rules if they could “come to an understanding”—which consisted of the guard taking 90% of the money collected at the door.
Cobra Lilies at Mr. T's Bowl
And that was pretty much it for us. 8-Bit had long stopped playing, the Mormons were driven to begin a Mr. T’s boycott—more details/testimonials from pissed-off T’s regulars are in the Mormons’ myspace blog.
Mormons at Mr. T's Bowl
Finally, in May 2009 John T. began charging an $8 cover on weekdays and $5 on weekends—all of which went to the bar, nothing for the bands. Supposedly the $8 cover got you a drink ticket, but it didn’t matter: people stopped coming. As far as I can tell, John T thinks his place is the next Spaceland or Silverlake Lounge, and he wants to bring in more money. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that T’s is a dive bar in a crappy part of town: people who go to Spaceland or the Roxy or even the Smell do not go there. Mr. T’s thrived when there was no cover and the drinks were cheap; people spent MORE at the bar when the drinks were cheap. All of John T’s efforts to improve the place only resulted in driving everyone away, the bands (who never get paid anyway), the local regulars, and the audience.
Seasons at Mr. T's Bowl
Another interesting note—apparently Mr. T’s is still zoned as a bowling alley, not a bar. That’s why there is still a lane open in the back, even though it’s not used: should a zoning inspector show up and ask to bowl, they have to accommodate him/her. Because they are zoned as a bowling alley, it is only legal for Mr. T’s to prevent minors from entering the bar area, not the music performance area: it’s the same arrangement as you’ll find at Eagle Rock Lanes, or at least it’s supposed to be. They would be wise to pay attention to this.
Fol Chen at Mr. T's Bowl
After not playing T’s for exactly 364 days (our last first Friday show was in June 2008, and Seasons asked us to play their June 2009 first Friday show), Monolators were lucky enough to play once more, the weekend before our Echoplex show. It was a wonderful return, but man—we knew it was probably going to be our last, and we got all weepy afterwards. I will always miss loading in our gear behind the big saggy curtain and hanging out with the other bands on the empty, dead lanes. And while I think Monolators are as good as we’ve ever been, we lost something when we played our last first Friday at T’s. I admit it: I kissed the walls after our show last month. I love Mr. T’s still. I always will.
Monolators, circa Andy Bollas on bass, in front of the Mr. T's mural by the Figueroa Street entrance
Cobra Lilies in front of the same mural; both photos via LA Underground
Soundmen have terrible reputations, some of which is well deserved...Arlo is an exception as is Gus. When I have played shows there, sometimes Arlo and the bartenders are my only audience....this is OK by me.
As some of you may know I work in book repair at a small college library. A travel memoir called Thirteen years in England and in the United States by Mr. Yoné Noguchi, copyright 1905, recently came across my desk for repair. I read the last two pages and decided to reproduce them here for your edification.
English girls may speak love in blank verse. I am positive that American girls are far cleverer love-makers. They are born for that.
It is a mighty treat to see American girls always tastefully dressed. I am most happy not to meet a red-faced girl with a green ribbon around her neck. Poor English girls! I am not the first to denounce their poor taste in dress. They hardly know how to raise their skirts. Yet I am sure it is not because their ankles are not charming enough to expose. You must not blame the ugly shape of their shoes--boots, if you please. They are as hard a thing to find in England as the open-hearted laughter of the American girl. What a stiff, plain smile have the English girls!
Who says, I wish to know, that the English girl is as fresh as a daisy? Look at her dampish hair! She doesn't look like anything but a pudding. What fluffy hair has the American girl! I am sure it could pull an elephant, as we say.
How often, observing the six o'clock sight of London streets with the jamming girls hurrying homeward, have I thought that they were like the people of a problem play! Pray, compare it with the sight on Broadway. American girls' heads are always thrashing in the sunlight. They would readily make themselves as good a millionaire's wife as anybody else. The English girls' eyes are eternally downcast.
I had quite a many experience to prove that it is impossible to bring the English girl to an understanding when she doesn't want it. She is stubborn in the extreme. Her mind is already in a cast and may not change a bit.
I mentioned before that our friends Kissing Cousins very kindly decided to include a cover of "Red Lamb" on their latest cd, Pillar Of Salt, on Velvet Blue Music. We were fortunate enough to witness the first live performance of their (frankly superior) version at Silver Factory Studios a few weekends back, but for those of you who missed it, you may witness it here courtesy of the gracious Ms. Elaine Layabout. Thanks Elaine, and thank you Kissing Cousins:
I know these are old, but I just found some pictures (via Jax) circa May 2008 of us recording backing vocals for the Don't Dance album at Red Rockets Glare studios with Heather and Ben from Summer Darling. They're really cool and I want to make sure they're not lost. Note the gentleman in the green striped shirt (Mr. Raymond Richards) and the electric sitar behind Mary's head that we finally got to use (on the album's title track). I'm not entirely sure which song this session was for but it's either going to be "Oh No, Everything Has Changed," "I Heard Her Calling From Another Room," "Don't Dance," or a combination of the above, since I think they were all done on the same day:
And then there's this little gem, from the same session:
Okay. First of all, thank you thank you thank you so much to everyone who came to the Echoplex last night. I was fully prepared to play to maybe 5 people--but when the place started filling up I got very happy and very scared. Walking out onto that stage was (vaguely) terrifying--I have never before had the experience of walking onto a stage, picking up a guitar, and just starting. Our routine is (usually) that we're setting up gear and milling about onstage for a good ten minutes beforehand, so when we start there's no surprise or anything. But this time we just kind of appeared from off in a corner, and some people actually went "wooo" (quietly) when we got up there, which was so novel that I started laughing. But! Everyone was so very nice that we had a lovely lovely time. The set went really well, and I was glad we had played three shows in a row just a few days ago, it put us in shape. So thanks again to everyone who came out, and thank you so much to Liz for asking us to play.
Now, as for the Handsome Furs--I always assume headlining bands will be aloof or just hang out in their dressing room the whole night, and if that had happened I would've understood. It still would have been a good evening--we had fun, the Cinnamon Band (touring with the Handsome Furs, and came after us) were a pleasure--Neil the drummer was super friendly and they put on a strong set, very full-sounding for a duo. And the Handsome Furs set was intense and inspiring. Both of them are great performers--I am especially in awe of Alexei's dancing/pushup-style keyboard technique on display, and the songwriting...and the beats...I was floored. MAN. Wonderful, wonderful show!
But I also have to say that both Dan and Alexei turned out to be some of the nicest, friendliest, most enthusiastic people we've had the pleasure to meet since we've been playing music. I didn't expect them to watch our set, much less be so into it, and I am very grateful--it made the whole night a tremendous pleasure. Hanging out afterwards, hearing about their tour (they're going to Russia--and the eastern bloc--and Thailand--and China--the mind boggles), talking about cufflinks, yeah! It was inspired. So thank you both, thank you for an amazing show, and I hope we will meet again soon.
Echoplex tonight; and Red Lamb via Kissing Cousins
Tonight is the night for our first Echoplex show, in support of the Handsome Furs--and we're extremely excited.
What you might not know is that our dear dear friends Kissing Cousins just released Pillar Of Salt, their first full-length cd on Velvet Blue Records, and apart from the fact that I'm very excited that one of our favorite Los Angeles bands have a new record out, I'm also very pleased to note that it contains...a Monolators cover! Really! The first to be issued official-like on a cd and a label and everything! This makes us very happy. The Cousins deliver "Red Lamb" like the Shangri-La's might if they had the world's biggest fuzzbox. The first time I heard a rough mix I cried. With joy, not pain. You might be interested to read this little interview about the record with Cousins lead singer Heather here.
Kissing Cousins has an official release show for Pillar Of Salt this Sunday at 10pm at Silver Factory Studios downtown; our sister band Cobra Lilies are playing! You should come! We'll be there!
We just found out today that the discount list for the Echoplex is considerably more limited than we previously believed. I'm really sorry; we're not going to be able to accommodate anyone else on the list right now; but you can still save a few bucks if you buy tickets before Thursday.
As you may know, we're very very excited to play the Echoplex with Handsome Furs and the Cinnamon Band this Thursday. It'll be our first time playing the Echoplex and will certainly be the biggest venue we've played to date (the Ricardo Montalban Theater show last year doesn't count, because we played to shoes, not people). A few things:
1. We have the opening slot, which is at 8:30, and I'm told the show will start promptly at 8:30. ATTENTION! WE ARE NOT PLAYING AT MIDNIGHT! WE ARE NOT PLAYING AT 9:00! WE ARE PLAYING AT 8:30!
Thus we have spoken.
2. Tickets are kind of expensive, BUT! We have an unlimited discount list! If you send us your name(s) we will make sure you get on the list and your ticket price should be about half of the list price--we don't know quite yet if the discount rate is $7.00 or $8.00, but it's right around there.
So please forward your names to us via: mail (at) themonolators (dot) com
This is going to be a very, very busy weekend for us--we've got shows every day, Friday through Sunday. It's like a little mini-tour except we get to sleep at home.
FRIDAY Tonight we are very proud to return once more to Mr. T's for the First Friday of the Month. It's been almost exactly a year (364 days, to be exact) since the very last time we hosted First Friday at Mr. T's, in June of 2008. Since then Seasons have taken over and done a stellar job, and it seems fitting that we haven't played T's until tonight. One thing I will note is that, although Mormons are listed on the bill, I talked to Vince the other night and they're probably not going to play; but Seasons, Meho Plaza, Magick Orchids, and ourselves are all set. We play our traditional midnight slot at T's, just like the old days.
SATURDAY Tomorrow's show is a BBQ/warehouse show on the West Side: Consumption 12 at Ironworks. Here's the details:
Consumption 12 at Ironworks 2412 Thurman Ave., West Los Angeles, 90016 Cost: $5
"All proceeds go to these 3 charities: Human Rights Campaign - Fighting Prop 8 and all Human Rights violations. Greenpeace - Doing there best to slow global warming and save us from this mess we created. LA Food Bank - Feeding LAs homeless. 11 Bands 3 Video Artists 3 Good Causes $5 Donation (or more if your heart desires) FREE Beer and Hot Dogs (veggie and non) before 4pm Ironworks 2412 Thurman Ave Los Angeles, CA 90016 It all starts at 1pm and doesn’t end until Midnight."
We go on at about 10:30pm. I know that both the Hectors and Shiloe play earlier in the evening, so be sure to come early.
SUNDAY And on Sunday afternoon we're playing Lummis Day 2009 at Sycamore Grove Park in Highland Park. I sat in with a cover band for last year's Lummis Festival, but this time Monolators is playing. We open the "rock stage" of the festival at 1pm. Seasons are playing too! It's free, all-ages, and kid-friendly. Plus apparently there's going to be a puppet show. You doubt me? Like so:
Sycamore Grove Park is at 4701 N. Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90042
We have just recently learned that we're opening for the Handsome Furs at the Echoplex on June 11. It's true, it says so right here.
This is the first time we've played the Echoplex and it will definitely be our 'biggest' show so far. We will go on first. We would love you forever to little teeny tiny pieces if you would come.
In other news: I broke the Rickenbacker's pickguard last night at the Spaceland show with Castledoor. Not that you care, but I am kind of sad about this. It didn't just crack, it burst, like a lightbulb, into lots of pieces. Sigh. Time to get out the superglue.