The Bar-B-Q Mitzvah Tour
The Bar-B-Q Mitzvah Tour
(The Flaming Lips, Stone Temple Pilots, Butthole Surfers)
“You guys wanna hear a song, or you all wanna hear a joke?” asked Gibby Haynes, frontman of the Butthole Surfers, in his strong Texan accent, about midway through their set at the P.A. Beach Club. When the crowd responded with random shouts of “joke,” it was fitting that guitarist Paul Leary started hammering on his guitar and the rest of the Buttholes followed suit and launched into a song. It seemed to be the continuation of the Buttholes’ attitude of doing whatever strikes them at any particular moment no matter how incoherent, how meaningless, or how backwards it may be. Remember this is the same band that takes great pride in its excessive recordings of belching noises, wacked-out cover versions of songs by Donovan and the Guess Who, and even its recording of an album of songs with no titles. So, when the song ended minutes later, no one was surprised that we never heard that joke.
However, when the Bar-B-Q Mitzvah tour came to the wilderness setting of the P.A. Beach Club in Gardiner, Massachusetts on July 31, we did get to hear three quality bands – the chaotic sounds of the aforementioned Butthole Surfers, the thoughtful straight-ahead rock of the Stone Temple Pilots, and the quirky pop of the opening Flaming Lips. And, oh yeah, we even got to witness an Elvis impersonator who kicked off the entire show and subsequently got booed off the stage after three songs. Needless to say, I found that fitting also. When the Flaming Lips hit the stage a half hour after Elvis, I couldn’t help but realize what a way cool place the P.A. Beach Club was. With a small pond on one side (which many concert-goers took advantage of for swimming), a baseball field in the back, and a thick green forest surrounding the rest of the area (there was a woods path you had to walk to get in), the place had the atmosphere of a neighborhood backyard barbecue where you, along with 5,000 other people, were invited guests.
When the Stone Temple Pilots took the stage after the Lips, the guests began to get rowdy. It was evident that most of the fans had paid their money to see this band and it was understandable. Despite all of their MTV hype and their commercial success, STP are an enjoyable band to listen to and a quality live act. Their hard-edged music combined with reflective, intelligent lyrics that had the fans grooving, moshing, and singing along. Their set consisted of songs from their debut album “Core” plus a new one which they premiered with guest guitarist Paul Leary. They pleased the fans and left them with the feeling that this was only the beginning of many great things to come.
When the Butthole Surfers took the stage, the crowd was unsure of what to expect from this slightly warped band. Although the band has been around for over a decade, they have not enjoyed MTV success or any radio airtime. And though they are now on a major label (Capitol), they are still in essence an underground band and will probably never achieve even the success of their tour mates STP. Judging from their albums and this live show, I do not think this was ever their intent. They kicked off their set with “Human Cannon Ball” from the Locust Abortion Technician album and proceeded to mix old songs with the new, though most of their set did come from their latest album, “Independent Worm Saloon.”
Along with their hard-driving, ’70s-influenced, twisted rock, they displayed an immense light show which featured a colossal bank of strobe lights which proved to be very disorienting. The lights did not seem to follow any sort of pattern. Spotlights were guided across the stage randomly and the strobe lights, it seemed, came on whenever the guy controlling them felt like putting them on. This all helped accent the band’s unconventional brand of music, their morbid, twisted humor, and their almost overbearing stage presence. In between the lights and the music, the crowd was treated (though I’m unsure if that is the correct word to use) to Gibby Haynes’ crude, ignorant humor, which involved several references to the female genitalia. This prompted one of my friends to say, “Dude, this guy needs to be slapped!” As big a fan as I am of these guys, I couldn’t help but agree. When the Buttholes encored with more lights, some pyrotechnics, and one of their oldest songs “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” (which features the zany lyrics “I smoke Elvis Presley’s toenails when I want to get high”), they brought to an end an exciting and enjoyable concert. In this time where alternative music has become the new trend and bands are altering their image and music and conforming for mainstream acceptance, it is refreshing to see a band that has been doing its own thing, as inane as it may be, for a long time. This band will probably never get many corporate executives venturing too far into the depths of their bizarre music. And judging from their performance, that’s just the way they want it. n
Review by J. G., Houlton, ME