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July 21, 2010

I must not think bad thoughts

Having a fairly skimpy budget for entertainment (after my cable bill, I have a pretty skimpy budget for groceries, too), I came up short on July 9, as I sadly realized I would not be able to attend this year’s Forecastle Festival. Dejected, I got on Facebook and posted my intention to boycott the affair because of my budgetary circumstances.

Not 30 seconds later, I noticed one of my facebos (i.e., virtual reality friends) had posted a giveaway of two tickets, and I was fast enough to win the right to try and find somebody to take with me. My buddy Ron was a good choice, ‘cause he offered to cover the cost of drinks (me = two bottles of water, six bucks).

I was thrilled to see Devo. Their “negative” approach delights me. As lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh pointed out (as he looked over the crowd), we didn’t need to look very far for proof that devolution
is real.

As good as the music was, I think I more enjoyed talking to the friends I found in the crowd. Why is it that I don’t see these people more often? I suppose having kids and jobs and busy lives has something to do with it. But why don’t we all meet in the park on a day when nobody is charging 70 bucks? I’ll have to think about that for a bit.

It was then that I ran into my second stroke of good fortune, a buddy I hadn’t seen in months, maybe years. It just so happened he had an extra ticket for the last day. Poor as I am, I am rich with friends. I nearly cried. My desire to see Paul K’s set that next night had become an obsession. I wasn’t even thinking about the Flaming Lips. Paul had drummer Tim Welsh on board for what was to be the last Weathermen gig, and I wanted to be there.

In any case, I got in. I did miss some of the local bands I really wanted to see, The Broken Spurs in particular, but these guys are almost certainly better appreciated in sweaty little spots like the Nachbar, so I minded not so much. Our paths will cross again someday and soon, I hope. They bring the rock.

Paul’s set was cursed with technical problems. He broke a string during the first song, and the sound was muddy. But it just felt good to see him playing (and harmonizing) with Tim. It really moved me to see them working together as the sun went down behind the stage. There weren’t many people there; the crowd was over yonder watching Spoon and/or Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Hard to pull people away from big names like that for a sentimental journey into local music history, but that shouldn’t surprise anybody.

The Flaming Lips were spectacular. They had a big semi-circular video screen with images of naked women dancing around and doing karate kicks. And there was confetti and big balloons. Their existential message was clear and engaging, culminating with “Do You Realize,” a near-religious bit of sermonizing regarding the value of love and compassion. The guy next to me was getting totally stoned, which was all right as far as I was concerned.

That next day, two of the most unique and underappreciated voices of 20th-century counterculture passed away: Harvey Pekar, the pioneering creator of the autobiographical comic book, “American Splendor,” made a series of captivating appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman” (check YouTube) throughout the 1980s. Tuli Kupferberg was a Beat Generation poet and singer in the legendary, satirical rock band The Fugs.

The irony of the juxtaposition of these events is hard for me to ignore. Pekar and Kupferberg were notorious iconoclasts. Their deaths make me wish I felt more comfortable reporting the, um, darker side of this story, but better judgment prevails. Maybe when we get together next time, over drinks or some such?

For next time: “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,” a new comedy series starring David Cross and Will Arnett (both formerly of “Arrested Development”) will premiere on IFC in October, but you can find the pilot episode online. (And you thought I was going to tell you not to miss the season premiere of “Mad Men.” Well, there’s that, too.)

Bonus tip: The Broken Spurs will be at the Vernon Club on Friday, with The Ladybirds and King Sonic.