Thursday, August 1, 2013

Maximum Effort at CBGB

I read something yesterday that kind of struck me as an universal truth. It was from a column by The Great Jaime Lees in the RFT. She had interviewed Jimmy Griffin and he said, “One of the first things we always tell them is that nothing ever goes right in rock and roll. And it's the guy that you don't want to kill at a truck stop in the middle of Oklahoma at two in the morning that stays in your band, you know? A lot of things about music involve bending and being able to go with the flow and figure out your place in a group.”

“Bending and being able to go with the flow”…That alone is great advice for anybody regarding anything. It hit me because so many times you start off doing one thing but because of other people and circumstances, you end up doing something else. However, if you “bend” and “go with the flow”, you might find things turn out for the best anyway.
I offer the painting above as an example. It’s of the St. Louis band Maximum Effort playing at CBGB from a show on July 3. In the painting you not only have the members of Maximum Effort but also an audience made up of musicians from some of the best local groups in St. Louis right now. Starting with the bass player on the left, Chris Keith, who I first met when he was playing with Jason Hutto’s last band Warm Jets USA. Then you have the drummer, Tom Valli, who is also a member of the incredible band Shaved Women. In the center of the painting is Zeng who is a personal hero of mine. Not only is he in Maximum Effort but also Bug Chaser and the awesome Catholic Guilt and maybe more I’m not aware of. He’s a South City Rock and Roll God. On the far right playing guitar is Adam Hoskins who has also been in many local groups but is probably best known in the South City Three which plays with Pokey LaFarge.

In the audience is a wide assortment of musicians as well. Down on the left is Ben Salyers from Shaved Women, close to the center is Matty Coonfield who I first met when he played in the fabulous The Electric twelve years ago, but is currently in Bug Chaser and Tone Rodent. Then to the right is Elly Herget who fronts The Skekses and right behind her is Brice Baricevic from Rat Heart and Bob Reuter’s band Alley Ghost. And in the far back is Jeff Robtoy, who is another personal hero of mine. He fronts Pillow Talk and handles guitar in Tone Rodent and does so many other things behind the scenes that it’s impossible to list.

Now, back to the above mentioned quote and how this painting came into existence. Early this summer I was talking with my friend Thomas Crone about different ideas and ways for us to collaborate. He’s a writer and I’m an artist. What can we do? Well, one thing we can do is cover local events and see if anyone is interested. OK, great, what event?

The first thing on our radar was a New Music Circle event that was happening in a refurbished building down by the river just north of Downtown St. Louis. The event was part of the Contemporary’s Open Studio that’s done each year to try and get exposure for local artists. Musicians were set up in the William A Kerr Foundation building and encouraged to play quietly, sometimes complementing each other while other times conflicting with each other, but creating an interesting mixture of sight and sound. A concept that was also explored a decade ago by Eric Hall at his yearly event at Dunaway Books. The idea was for me to do illustrations of the performers and Thomas to write about the event. We met up, soaked in the astrosphere, I snapped some photos to work from and we were off. I did pieces on Dave Stone, Laura Dempsey and Gwenyth Merner. We decided to get a few pieces under our belt before publishing anything and pondered our next event.

A few weeks passed and I happen to run into Thomas at the Royale where I’ll occasionally take my kids for dinner after they beg me for the Royale’s tasty burgers. While catching up he mentioned a great showing happening that night at CBGB featuring Rat Heart, Shaved Women and Maximum Effort and perhaps this should be our next piece. I was all for it.

That show was also the latest record release from Tower Groove Records which was putting out a single split of Shaved Women and Maximum Effort. When I arrived the place was already packed and Rat Heart was about to start. I pushed my way up front and snapped some photos. Then hung back and talked a bit with Duane Perry from Tower Groove. Then Thomas showed up and we got beers. Shaved Women started and they were incredible. I wanted to get some photos but didn’t want to push through the crowd again so I stood on a chair in the back and got what I could of the crowd. Shaved Women played a deeply hypnotic psychedelic punk that mesmerized everyone.

After a while it was getting really crowded in CBs and I needed some fresh air, stepped out onto the front patio and it was just as crowded filled with all kinds of young people I’ve never met. A whole new scene. 10 years ago I use to hang out here nightly but life goes on as they say and now I’m just some weird old dude showing up at shows. After a while I noticed Maximum Effort was getting ready to play and rather than fight my way back inside, I figured I’d just watch from the front window, which really does have a great view. As soon as they started playing the audience started slam dancing, the band was in constant motion. I held up my camera and looked through the lens, the shot looked phenomenal so I started shooting. Someone I had met last year, Bowls MacLean, was standing next to me and said “hi”. We started talking and he was asking me about the camera I was using. Bowls is a photographer, film maker and knows all about cameras and stuff like that. I honestly have no idea what type of camera I have or how it works properly. I just point and shoot and hope a decent photo comes out of it to work from for a painting. As I was explaining to him my lack of knowledge, he noticed the audience going nuts inside and people were crowd surfing and he said “You’re missing it” and he was right. So I went back to shooting and shooting and shooting. Got some great shots.

The next day I was looking at the shots and realized they’re a bit too dark to work from for illustrations (which is a different process for me as opposed to a painting). I was disappointed that I couldn’t use anything for a illustration but did really like the Maximum Effort photos and decided when the time was right I’d might do a painting of it. At that very moment I got an email from John Parker who was at the show and asked about the photos I had taken. He expressed interest in having a painting from the show and it seemed the time to do that painting was right.

Haven’t seen Thomas in a while but we have another meet up planned for another, different secret project I’m working on. The original plan we had never quite worked out but I did get some really cool pieces out of it and sold a painting. Thomas is now very busy with a cool project of his own that has been taking up most of his time as well. He’s currently in the process of writing 10 long pieces on the issue of graffiti in the city.

So, we come back to that quote from Jimmy Griffin in the RFT, One of the first things we always tell them is that nothing ever goes right in rock and roll. And it's the guy that you don't want to kill at a truck stop in the middle of Oklahoma at two in the morning that stays in your band, you know? A lot of things about music involve bending and being able to go with the flow and figure out your place in a group.”
“Bending and being able to go with the flow”, that’s the key to most things in life. What you plan for or think will happen, might very well not happen but if you can bend and go with the flow, it may turn out just as well or even better.

now playing - Maximum Effort