Monday, February 02, 2004

Athens, GA: Outside In
My 36 Hours in Hipsville South for FLUKE

Well I took off Friday morning around 8 am for the first grand road trip experiment of 2004. Destination Athens, GA, land of a thousand bands (it seems), to expose myself artistically to the South East at the mini-comics event known as FLUKE. FLUKE doesn't really stand for anything, although Festival of Largely Unmarketable Kinds of Entertainment was suggested at one point in its genesis a couple years ago.

I had an 11-hour drive to get there, but that went smoothly. The CD player was my traveling companion, and it was loaded with The BoomTown Rats' A Tonic for the Troops, Jon Spencer's Plastic Fang, The new disc from JET, a 2-disc live Stray Cats collection, and also faves from BLONDIE, DEVO, QUEEN, The SPECIALS, Guadalcanal Diary, The Fleshtones, Graham Parker, The Donnas, Southern CUlture on he Skids, and many more. With plenty of happy, peppy tunes, a cooler full of Mountain Dew Code Red, some Combos, some Goetz' Caramel Creams, and some Twizzler Bites, I was set for the trip.

I was humming Screaming Jay Hawkin's version of "I Love Paris" as i hit the highway, because the mini-comic I'd be debuting at the show was my I LUV PARIS which adapted her infamous night-vision internet phenom into a comics parody. I'd made a limited edition of 50 copies for the show, with silk-screen covers. I was determined to make back some of the money I'd spent on eye medicine in November and December. You might not know it, but what made my UVEITIS flare up in the left eye back in November was straining to see enough detail in that video clip to draw the parody. That stuff took six weeks to heal.
I'd also printed up a fresh batch of my Chick Tract parody trilogy, and the set of f-ARTjoke minis. I'm glad I did, because the dick and fart jokes kept their streak alive, and outsold all my other material.

I rolled in to Athens around 8:00 P.M., got checked into the cheapest motel i could find, and went off to locate the Tight Pockets zine hangout/event space, where a pre-show party had been organized. I found the location, then found a six-pack shop and got myself some Mike's Hard Lemonade, and enjoyed the performances by We Versus The Shark, a second band i can't remember the name of, and ELF Power.
Elf Power are very impressive punk-pop.
At first the only person at the party I recognized was todd bak, and i felt somewhat like a chaperone in this place, where the average kid was 19 years my junior. But I spotted an issue of Carrie McNinch's FOOD GEEK on the zine table, and pointed out the page I'd contributed, and that was something of an Ice Breaker. I met a nice, talkative punk girl named Cat, and we had some conversation. I also had the thrill of chatting with a zinester who originally hailed from Annapolis, but was doing some kind of activist work in Athens. He assumed that I was also an activist and asked if I had been to the anti-war actions in York, PA. I steered the conversation toward a safer topic, York's Former Mayor and Murder Defendant Charlie Robertson, and people who got arrested for punching police horses during the last anti-racism rally in my lovely Downtown. Then the bands started playing, and it was too loud to talk, so I was rescued.

Then i got a surprise as Missy Kulik, a fellow Pennsylvanian mini-comics artisan entered the gig. I didn't know that she'd moved down to Athens. We got caught up on our mutual zine aquaintances, she told me about the mini she'd just collaborated on with John Porcellino (which I picked up a copy of on Saturday), and i shared some of the Misun and John items tht have been discussed on the Small Diary yahoo group.
Then we watched Elf Power's set. After a few songs, I was feeling beat, though, and headed back to my Hotel for the night.

Saturday began with me watching a Rhythmic Gymnastics competition on The Oxygen network in the Hotel. To me, Rhythmic Gymnastics can be very erotic. Especially the routines with the ball. If they knew the reaction I have when i catch this on TV, they wouldn't be carryiong it on the Oxygen Network. They'd put it on Spike TV.
Then I put together my kit for the show, and headed into town. On the way, I passed by the world famous The Varsity Diner. I'd seen them featured on a PBS documentary about Hotdogs, so I thought I'd get my breakfast/lunch there. I had one of their chili-cheese dogs and a "Co-Cola". It didn't really live up to the hype, but maybe it's because it was just after opening on a non-football Saturday, so the place wasn't hopping with it's much-touted atmosphere. I still saved my paper plate as a souvenir.
I wandered around town, snapped some tourist photos, took some pics of odd signs I noticed, and felt the need for a bathroom, but i still had about 45 minutes before i could get into Tasty World for the comic show, so i stopped at The Diner on College, and used the facilities, and also had some Orange Juice and Grits. Yes. I had breakfast after I had lunch. So I'm screwed up. Bite me.
I recognized my busboy as a member of We Versus The Shark from the night before. I think everybody in Athens is either making art or in a band, and they all have dayjobs in the service industry, or in retail.
Athens would be a cool place to live, but I bet it's hard to find a job there that pays a living wage. I heard some folk over the weekend discussing how they enjoyed their jobs, despite that they only made $6.50 an hour. I'm sure the steady influx of college students and artists/musicians looking for a break provides a very deep pool of wage slaves from which employers may choose. In other words, Athens doesn't need a Wal-Mart to keep wages low. Maybe I'm offbase. I shouldn't base my opinion of the town's economy on a couple over-heard conversations among punks.

The actual FLUKE comics show was fun. I saw bak, and Sam Henderson, Erica Merchant and Jeff Mason, and Missy Kulik, and Drew Weing all again, and finally met in person many folk who i only knew as message board posters at Finally I had faces to associate with the names Robert Newsome, Patrick Dean, Devlin Thompson, J. Chris Campbell, and Justin Colloussey Estes. I also met Klon Waldrip, whose crazy minis blew my mind a couple years ago when i first saw them. This guy is the Hillbilly answer to Johnny Ryan. Really funny, but extremely sick, humor. Then i see him holding his new baby, and he's just a normal guy.

I met several other comics folk from the area, and overall, had a nicely profitable show. I'll be posting my pics later tonight at the FLUKE page on my site.
Saturday Night was the Fluke Afterparty at Tasty World. The Trapeze Tarts got things going with a sexy, yet tasteful, trapeze performance. What i said earlier about Rhythmic Gymnastics goes double here.
Next up was a 3-piece band called The Bent. For a minute, when i saw this name on the poster, I wondered if they expected me to perform. They were good, led by a cute seet girl who reminded me of a young Kelly Deal. Next up was Madeleine and The Beats. This was their first show together as a band, but they were tight, and kept the crowd pumped. I was told Madeleine is a local star already, having been a member of a defunct popular group called The SugarShakers.
The headliner was The Carrie Nations. Wow. Infectious Onstage Energy out the Wa-ZOO. They steamed up the windows of the joint, and had the whole place jumping around and doffing layer after layer of clothing. I'd estimate a snall crowd of about 20 fans actually spent the whole set dancing up on the stage in the middle of the band. I was impressed with the group, and had to go pick up their vinyl.
They really got the crowd excited, and before we knew it it was 2 a.m., and the club had to close up. I probably could have had myself a one-night-stand if I'd wanted, there was more than one girl whom I'd been chatting with thru the night, and a couple of them inquired if I'd be sticking around town for the night.
But I'm stupid, and wasn't going to try my luck. I really wanted to get at least six hours sleep before I had to hit the road in the morning. Oh man. I'd rather plan ahead for an 11 hour drive home than spend
a few minutes, uh, hours, of ecstacy with a perky, smart southern-belle blond named Stephanie. Maybe I really ought to open up those e-mails I've been getting about Viagra.

go to my site for the pics! and Go to Bizarro Wuxtry at 225 College Avenue in Athens if you didn't get my books while i was in town. They are now the best place in the South to find my work! --BenT

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