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1800 X 3
by Rick Brown

For some reason Dan and I couldn’t wait until Kentucky Derby weekend for our annual pilgrimage to the Florida Keys this year. Actually I could probably bore you with a list of say…100 reasons to go earlier. Expense is not one of them Going to Florida in March is a much more pricey endeavor. And we opted for ocean view rooms in Key Largo, which added some expense. But since most nights we end up on our balcony by 10 pm drinking margaritas and staring into space anyway we took the plunge. Since we’ve been friends for almost 30 years we figured we were worth it.

The drive down was a little adventurous. Unusually high winds blew rain in, every hour or so. Consequently there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth …. Old Testament jargon for “stopping the car”. Putting down the convertible top. Stopping the car…putting UP the convertible top. This may have added up to another hour to the drive to Key West but hey … we didn’t fly all the way to Florida to sit in an enclosed vehicle. And of course we stopped at Lorelei’s on Islamorada for our first sampling of conch fritters, fish dip and cold beer.

Initially I had planned a vacation long survey of which eating establishments had the best conch fritters. I abandoned this idea quickly as you’ll read later on. Lorelei’s would have won easily anyway. But only 5 hours into the trip it was impossible to know.

We arrived in Key West late in the afternoon…shortly after another brief pit stop at Pappa John’s on the opposite end of Islamorada Key…a second story Tiki Bar where the wind blew so vehemently that it toppled my full bottle of Red Stripe. Adding insult to injury, the place was out of conch fritters! (Life can be difficult indeed.) But we were soon cruising the streets of Key West and made our way to Captain Tony’s…the original Ernest Hemmingway hang out once known as Sloppy Joe’s (There is a Sloppy Joe’s today but Hemmingway never set foot in it.).


Veni, Vidi, Vici
Prince and the New Power Generation
Value City Arena - Columbus, Ohio
April 16, 2004

by Rick Brown
Prince always gets five stars out of five. That doesn’t mean one show may be a little better than another. It’s just that this guy is such the consummate entertainer that his concerts are always great for different reasons. Having seen Prince, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and the Symbol command different stages I’d say his mood may be what determines the tone. I’ve witnessed Prince brooding, reflective, intense … even seemingly bored … and never been disappointed. Yet this show was something special. Maybe he was still exhilarated from his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. For this show the guy was downright devilishly playful.

Fronting the New Power Generation…a band that could rival Funkadelic any night … Prince hosted the party for some 2 1/2 hours in what seemed to be one extended medley. Of course it was not…it just felt that way…and that was a very good thing. Beginning with “Musicology” … the title track of his brand new release (every concertgoer was give a free copy upon entering the arena) … NPG sounded much like a 70’s James Brown jam … complete with horn section. Segueing into “Let’s Go Crazy” the evening became a blur of funk fantasia. Prince didn’t even sing the line “When Doves Cry” from the tune of the same name. And it mattered not to one soul in attendance. We were all having way too much fun to concern ourselves with such detail.

A retooled “Controversy” from early in Prince’s career (when he was named Prince the first time around) was the definitive highlight of the first segment of the show. It was longer and edgier than the original and by the end everyone was up shakin’ his or her respective “thangs”. And the audience was predominantly middle aged … and get thi s… white! At the midway point Prince skillfully toyed with the crowd. Alone at center stage (the concert was in the round) and playing an acoustic guitar he led a delightfully engaging sing along of such hits as “Little Red Corvette”, the popish “Raspberry Beret” and the deliciously smarmy “Cream”.

The second half was nothing short of a guitar infused dance party blow out. During the course of an entire Prince concert the listener is treated to the soul music of a James Brown … the funk of George Clinton … the pop genius of a Sly Stone…the gospel influence of a Reverend Al Green…and the guitar virtuosity of a Jimi Hendrix. And that’s probably an understatement. In all honesty … this guy is one of the finest guitar players I have ever witnessed … and I’ve seen more than my share.

The only small fly in the ointment came when several “ladies” were escorted onstage to dance. I’ve seen this done before by many performers … and a couple times with Prince as well. I assume it’s to give the stage more of a party atmosphere. The woman on saxophone for the New Power Generation was not only gorgeous but played like Maceo Parker (who sometimes sits in with the band) so all this was totally unnecessary. And … unfortunately … this evening the “ladies” were not particularly good “dancers”. In fact there was one “lady” who I firmly believe had just had her “features” “enhanced”. She strolled around the stage…arms uplifted in the air like an evangelist calling out to the Almighty exclaiming for all to hear “Look at THESE!! Look at these glorious sacks of silicon that have been surgically implanted on my chest!! LOOK at THESE!!! LOOK! LOOK!” (What a sad excuse for empowerment…she was single handedly diminishing the sexually charged atmosphere…oh the irony!) Even Prince himself sashayed up to her side … whispered in her ear something that may very well have been, “Hey chick. That ain’t dancing!” Yet she continued strutting with her arms outstretched high over her head. “Look at THESE!! Look at THESE!!” Then Prince laughed at her (no shit)…rolled his eyes demonstratively for the crowd (she was too busy to notice)…and brought the house down with yet another smoking guitar solo. All of this nonsense melted into oblivion once the opening strains of “Purple Rain” filled the rafters. Almost a religious anthem at this point in time the song was neither slow nor dated…just awesome…in the godly sense of course. And Prince gave a little sermon in the midst of all this wonderful funk fallout. He reminded everyone that a singer’s microphone has to be on for a singer to perform music. Otherwise it ain’t music at all…let alone funk music. Are you listening Brittney?

We all stood mesmerized…arms waving in the air…singing “Purple Rain”…listening to brilliant soaring guitar riffs until the stage was empty…and we were exhausted. This was the kind of experience where…walking to your car…or wherever…the sights and sounds are still lingering vividly in your dizzy head…until it hits the pillow for nighty-night.

Prince had just held court. Veni, Vidi, Vici. And that’s something you won’t forget for a while.

Gary Hempsey
“Has the Time to Answer Come At Last?”
by David Hochman

We’ve all seen the photos of tortured Iraqis; and the evident lack of remorse on the face of the entire line of command, from the bottom ranks to Rumsfeld to the President.

There are many facets to this; one is fairly obvious. Half of the world hates us. A quarter was ambivalent. No more. I think that Bush has accomplished in nearly four years what it took decades, if not a century or so, for other presidents: turn the ambivalence into hate. Importantly, a large part of this formerly ambivalent section was Muslim.

What Iraq has accomplished is this: we have created hatred that will last a thousand years. It will manifest itself in many ways, not least through terror.


Television is to Intelligence as Cancer is to Life
by Patrick O'Malley

With very little trouble, and in all likelihood a great deal of pleasure, I’m sure I could fill this space every month with rants and diatribes on the medium of television; its content and its influence. I suppose I don’t because it’s too sad to think how many people watch, how much they watch, and just how heavily influenced by it they are. Not to mention what people watch. The total shit that literally millions and millions of people take in boggles my mind. To each his own? I guess, but not if you watch ‘Extreme Makeover’, that’s just fucking stupid. Where do I draw the line? I don’t know but it’s way, way above that and legions of other shows just like it, and not just “reality” shit. Those are some of the justifications I use to keep myself from watching too much, that and the fact that television sucks almost completely.

1,001 Nights of the Fold (if not more)
by Ted Kane

As a music fan, Los Angeles can be a very satisfying place in which to live. While the would be movie star moving to Hollywood to be discovered is a cliche, the city also attracts a plethora of aspiring musicians and so can boast several thriving local music scenes. Even for those artists who don't want to move here, perhaps preferring the rain and snow of Chicago or New York or perhaps the overpriced damp of the Bay area, those people still have to come down here and make a name for themselves in L.A. On any given night in southern California you can expect to have around five compelling shows to chose from if you want to go out. One or two of those shows are likely presented under the banner of promoter Scott Sterling's the Fold. The Fold Compilation is a 2-CD set that offers a good cross-section of the national and local bands that Sterling has booked over the last seven years, mostly represented by otherwise unreleased or hard to find recordings.

Sound Tribe Sector 9
Newport Music Hall,
Columbus, OH
by Cory Tressler

A cold wet rain fell upon the city outside of the historic Newport Music Hall as the five members of Sound Tribe Sector 9 meandered onstage and began performing their atmospheric instrumental compositions. The band consisted of a happy drummer who smiled and bounced along to the up tempo beats he was creating with his massive drum kit, a percussionist whose bongos were barely audible, a head bobbing bassist who stuck to his 3 – 5 note bass riffs as if he were cemented to them, a guitarist who, like the percussionist, was turned way down in the mix, and a keyboardist that jumped between playing classic piano lines and wild synthesized noises in a matter of seconds. Collectively these players creat! ed moody music that was full of climactic build-ups and spacey cool downs that fell somewhere between the works of techno gods Lords of Acid and indie vibe creators Air.

Dirty Little Secrets 2K4
Shadowbox Cabaret
Columbus, Ohio

by Rick Brown

I could easily say the current show at Shadowbox Cabaret is typical. And by that I mean it’s entertaining, witty, and sometimes subversive. (Hey guys…beware of the FCC. Colin Powell’s son is trying to make a name for himself…like shall we say… “puritanical tyrant”?) Beginning with a Dave Barry piece titled Valuable Scam Offer actor Julie Klein performs a charmingly naïve interpretation of a monologue about those offers sounding too good to be true. Klein smoothly explains the experience she and her husband endure while trying to be pressured into a vacation scam. And despite the fact hubbie gets angry her character takes it all in stride.

Collateral Damage by Grant Gottschall follows with a clever reading of a lunch between a military man and one of his supply representatives. David Whitehouse and Jimmy Mak set a conversation about who will pay the check into a paradoxical whirlwind that leads to subtle yet surprising intrigue. The only minor distraction being if one notices, the waitress (played by Christina Connor) is trying to conceal…and walk convincingly…in her “Kiss Boots” (Christina’s label)…left on from her opening song number…hidden under her slacks.

Joseph J. Lorenzo always seems to make a monologue riveting and his take on Michael J. Nelson’s Do As I Say… is no exception. Lorenzo plays a father still enamored with his own boyhood shenanigans yet determined to prevent his own kids from getting in harm’s way. His mythological rendering of a time when he and his buddies inserted a smaller boy into the center of a wire wheel (those big wooden spools most of us have used as a table at some point in our younger days) reminds many of us that we all have to survive out childhoods…except for his kids of course.

The second half of the show features the audience favorite “Jason’s Scary Stories” this time including three separate flashlight illuminated tales read by Jimmy Mak and pantomimed by David Whitehouse. “The Nightmare” includes a description of being lifted high in the air by a Giant Eagle. In one massive claw is Jason. In the other is a Big Bear. (Local grocery store Big Bear was recently bought out by Giant Eagle) It took the crowd a few moments to visualize the joke. Dumb…clever…and funny. But it was the parable titled “The Precious” where Jason’s story truly shines. Jimmy Mak’s Lord of the Rings parody is nothing short of brilliant.

Psssst!!!…Hey George!!
by Rick Brown

I want to tell you something Mr. Bush. You know that dirty little war of yours you call a moral crusade … the one the Almighty told you to wage? It’s over … finished. I’d tell you to stick a fork in it but you’re too prone to holding up plastic turkeys rather than the real deal. And you know what George? You lost … we lost. In fact I could probably say you’ve lost two wars but nobody is paying much attention to Afghanistan these days.

Oh sure the fighting will continue. The dying will continue. You’ll use the words “evil” and “terrorists” 3 or 4 times in every sound bite you spit out of your mouth. And I’m sure you will swagger around blathering about those who aren’t with you are against you because only you and your cronies know what real patriotism is. But you’re the captain of a sinking ship George. And the thing you seem to be best at is pointing to the tip of the iceberg our ship has just slammed into and saying with a smirk, “See! It’s not so big a problem! There are so many good things going down. The liberal media only points out the bad stuff. Stay the course. We’re all safer now.”

You know George…you’re not much older than me. We both had to make our decisions concerning the Vietnam War. And we both successfully avoided it. I went to college and sweated through 2 draft lotteries. Your daddy got you into the Reserves by pulling strings. And he got you out early by pulling strings. Your father was a wealthy influential businessman turned politician … like you are now yourself. My daddy was a janitor. He didn’t have any strings to pull. And I like to think I’m honest about avoiding Vietnam. I thought it was wrong. And I think you did also. Or you were just scared. Or perhaps couldn’t be bothered. Yet you insist you served. I ain’t buyin’ it George.

So now some thirty-five years later you’ve had your fun playing Commando in Chief … Macho in Chief
… whatever name you want to dress it up with. You flew your jet airplane onto the aircraft carrier…the Lincoln no less…waved to the troops who had been delayed going home just so you could get the right photo op. You looked so excited walking up to that podium … helmet tucked under one arm … ”Mission Accomplished” banner displayed proudly behind you. That was over a year ago George. Now it’s just … over. There never was any real mission to accomplish. And there isn’t now. It’s all over but the shout … er I mean … killing.

It’s what secretly we might call “saving face time”. I know you know what that means George. Damage control. Positive spin. Call it what you like. What it means is this. We lost … another one. And we’ve lost our allies. We’ve lost what respect we used to have in the Arab World. The Great Uniter … that’s what you called yourself in 2000. The Compassionate Conservative. You called yourself that too. But all you’ve really done Mr. Commander in Chief is try to take our attention away from the iceberg. “Look! Look how small it is” you say as you point to the very tip. “It’s a small insurgency and the closer we get to democracy in Iraq the more you will see them.” “The looting isn’t widespread.” Ah yes … the tip of the iceberg. I see it.

I don’t believe you George. You lost your dirty little war. It’s over bub. Okay … you want us to think it’s a small number of guards who went all “bondage and discipline” and “sadism and masochism” on Iraqi prisoners. Just a few you say … while once again pointing out the iceberg’s pinnacle. And after John Kerry got lambasted for stating he witnessed American atrocities in Vietnam can anyone even imply he didn’t? I mean George … unlike you or I he was there in the flesh. And what about all those “privatized” security folks whose orders those very few were following? Can’t do anything about them can you? They’re hired guns … mercenaries … like the bounty hunters in the Old West. So you and Rummie will make examples out of the enlisted fools who followed their command. And how about those hapless guys who were burnt and strung up on the bridge? Terrible. Horrible. Certainly it was. But no one is calling them “heroes” now are they? Why not? Because they too were hired guns…mercenaries too. Paid soldiers from the private sector. Can’t give them a Purple Heart now can we? Their families will receive no folded American flag. As your daddy would say, “Wouldn’t be prudent.”

I don’t expect you … Cheney … Rummie … or Condie to come right out and say we lost another war … maybe two. It’s election time. I’m not sure any of you have the guts to admit it to each other…even in an undisclosed location far away from the rest of us. You know … I used to think perhaps Colin Powell had that kind of integrity … but I was wrong. He doesn’t. And just like how I can admit I did what I could to avoid fighting in Vietnam I can also admit I was wrong about the Secretary of State. I was wrong. Those are three little words you have never … ever uttered huh Mr. Bush? I guess when you’re on a mission from God it’s impossible to say you were wrong. But I’ll say it. I was wrong about Colin Powell. He has no integrity. I thought he might. He does not. That’s how he fits in with the rest of you so called “leaders”.

So there will be the “pretend sovereignty” of July 1, 2004, “Pretend democracy”. The propaganda machine will grind out reports of how much safer we all are. Maybe we’ll open an embassy … but it won’t be the biggest in the world like you wanted. (And there will be no military bases in Iraq when the dust settles.) And I’m sure you will brag that the Iraqi people are much better off than they were before we invaded. But we’ve both seen this before George. “Peace with Honor”. Remember that? Nixon and Ford had to say that didn’t they. Because deep down inside they both knew we had lost. And we have lost again because you picked an unnecessary fight that didn’t need to be fought. You and your cronies called the U.N irrelevant…disregarded our European allies … feigned sensitivity toward Islamic culture … and had a lousy … if any … war plan for the war you were just dying to fight. Sorry about the bad metaphor George. No way in hell are you going to die in a fight.

Yeah the mighty, mighty United States of America has lost another war. “Shock and Awe” my ass. More like “Awe Shucks!” Maybe now you realize war isn’t a giant video game being played out from the White House. I feel bad for the troops who are going to pay the ultimate price so we can … once again … try to save face. And of course that can’t be done either. Mothers will cry. Children will ask about what mommy or daddy were like … then ache the rest of their lives because of the hole this war left in their very souls. This dirty little war we have lost. I’d like to think George that deep down inside you think about such things. But unlike some of us … I’m not convinced you possess a “deep down inside”. You’re too busy standing on your tippy toes … pointing at the tip of the iceberg … smirking … and exclaiming, “Trust me! See! It’s not a big problem. We got Saddam. We’re fighting the Evildoers! War on terrorism! God bless America”.

Pass me a life preserver.

Southern Comfort
2Co’s Cabaret
Short North
Columbus, Ohio

by Rick Brown

Leave it to 2Co’s Cabaret to rename their annual Kentucky Fried 2Co’s after the late, great Janis Joplin’s drink of choice…Southern Comfort. It’s easy to overlook Janis’ Texas roots but this cabaret’s superb music ensemble…Downtown DFN…draws upon at least two Texas greats, namely Lyle Lovett and ZZ Top. Alternating skits and monologues with tasty cover tunes deftly presented by the house band is the usual modus operandi. And personally I think it’s the band’s musicality that cements an entire evening together. Great music can compensate for a less than dynamic monologue. I’m not sure vice versa is as forgiving. There is no need for any philosophical discourse with Southern Comfort however. This show definitely fires on all cylinders.

Downtown DFN begins with a retooled version of Lyle Lovett’s “My Baby Don’t Tolerate”. Sung in a more bluesy fashion than Lovett with gritty vocals by Michael Duggan followed closely by Garth Brooks “Thunder Rolls”…rocked up a might by Mr. Tom Cardinal (thankfully), the music sets the stage for some salt of the earth poignancy. First up is the infectious recanting of Charles Bukowski”s “One of Those Crazy Nights” by the indomitable Joseph J. Lorenzo. The tall tale of two drinking buddies out for a night of “mutual interests” is brought to life by Mr. Lorenzo’s ornery impishness. His talent lies in his ability to make the audience feel as if the character being played is a lifelong friend. Not one you particularly want hanging around all the time…but a trusted partner in crime nonetheless. When Lorenzo tells a story it seems all too familiar…even the first time witnessed. Unlike some 2Co’s performances that take time to get moving…snowball if you will…Joe Lorenzo gets Southern Comfort through the gears quickly.

Lydia Tew performs a monologue from Jane Martin’s Talking With…concerning a homeless woman who finds sanctuary at the local McDonalds. She finds solace in plastic…comfort in fast food. Tew skillfully leads the audience through a surreal story of perceived tragedy…redemption…and resurrection through a Big Mac. The charm and sincerity portrayed by Tew convinced even me…a man who hasn’t eaten a hamburger since 1982.

An excerpt from Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class, relating the experience of a man castrating sheep while watching an eagle swoop down to retrieve the severed testes (as Dave Berry would say “I’m NOT making this up!”) is made believable by the graceful drawling of Chris Lynch. And a guest performance (for the run of the show) by 2Co’s veteran Pam Callahan of James McLure’s Bourbon and Laundry made me glow inside like a sip of Wild Turkey. (A little aside…I have myself…on occasion…imbibed some of the “crazy bird” while doing laundry in my basement. Upstairs were guests I needed a little inspiration for. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.)

The centerpiece perhaps is James Makofsky’s Waiting Room. Carrie Lynn McDonald returns specifically for Southern Comfort also, and her interaction with Joseph Lorenzo as strangers in a hospital waiting room is nothing short of brilliant. Makofsky’s play-let is full of genuine emotion…hope…loneliness…frustration…all convincingly presented by these two fine actors.

The closing monologue… “This Real Man Can Drive Any Truck Named Tonka” (Dave Berry) is excitedly…and more than aptly portrayed…by an exuberant Tom Cardinal. Cardinal dances that fine line between a manly man and a boy getting his first two-wheeler bike. I’m sure you’ve seen this guy at one of those huge appliance stores. He’s the one picking out the huge flat screen TV while his wife shakes her head in bemusement (disgust?). And despite the fact that Mr. Cardinal seemed to have trouble with an overused voice he soldiered on with dynamic effectiveness.

Musically Southern Comfort is a delight. Filling in on guitar for Matt Hahn…who is at Shadowbox Cabaret for the summer…is John Kengla. Hahn’s shoes are big ones to fill…and at first Mr. Kengla’s playing seemed a tad calculated. But by a third of the way through the show he had his guitar solos articulating with a passion not of this world. Carrie Lynn McDonald tore lustily through ZZ Top’s “My Head’s in Mississippi” followed by a soaring rendition of the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” seamlessly fronted by Tom Cardinal. And Michael Duggan giddily mugged his way through Molly Hatchet’s “Gator Country”. Pam Callahan’s sly…wink..wink…take on Michelle Shock’s “If Love was a Train” was a sensual double entendre of R-rated joy.

But the piece des resistance musically was newcomer Sheanneen Shelby’s soulful rendition of the Gladys Knight and the Pips classic “Midnight Train to Georgia”. It was extraordinary…to say the least. Backed vocally by Pam Callahan, Carrie Lynn McDonald and Tom Cardinal, Ms. Shelby’s immediate shyness soon gave way to self-assured interpretation thanks to the combined efforts of the incredibly talented Downtown DFN and smooth, angelic harmonies. The song came together…stayed together…and took us all to another realm. Ms. Shelby’s voice singing “I’d rather live in his world…than without him…in mine” echoed wonderfully in my brain the rest of the evening.

Slamming up into overdrive for one last tune, Downtown DFN with front man John Croke belted out a rollicking rock-a-billying version of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen’s “Hot Rod Lincoln”. The house band is Ernie Cordy on drums and percussion, bandleader Chris Champa on keyboards, Carrie Lynn McDonald’s “Main Squeeze” A. Brant Cook sitting in on bass, John Kengla on guitar, Mike Murray on guitar, and Joseph J. Lorenzo on percussion. The song… which in lesser talented hands could have easily diminished into a novelty tune, was a perfect finish to an extremely entertaining evening of nothing short than…Southern Comfort.

Southern Comfort will be presented at 2Co’s Cabaret in the Short North section of downtown Columbus until July 17th. For more information go to their website at http://shadowboxcabaret.com

© 2001-2004 NakedSunfish, All Rights Reserved

Issue 1 - January 2002