Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fat Strippers, Punk Rock & B-Ball

I didn’t have anything for yesterday. Jeffistopheles couldn’t recover anything off of the flash drive, so I no longer have any backup articles for the days when I just don’t feel like writing or haven’t had time.

But today… oh, do I have a treat for today.

The wife and I spent an evening at the illustrious Clermont Lounge last Thursday amongst punkers, lesbians and exotic dancers who were in no way exotic or dancing. It was uncomfortable and disgusting and we had a great time. This is a long one, so hang in there.

Here’s a brief history of why we ended up at the Clermont:

Years ago – right after high school – I was in a punk band called The Irresponsibles. I’m writing a lengthy, separate piece on that, so I won’t go into all of the details here. We were terrible, but a real band called The Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs helped us out a lot and were generally just really cool guys. They were good and fun and got us the only real show we ever played.

I think the Pig-Dogs were as good as broken up for several years, but they popped up on MySpace and Facebook some time ago. Soon after that a show was scheduled. I don’t remember where or when the first one was, but the first one I tried to go see was at Lenny’s. I had to work the day of the show – I woke up at 3:30 AM and got back home around 6:30 PM – and I wanted to get some sleep before I went out. I checked with various sources to try and figure out when they were going on and it seemed like 11:00 would be a fine time to arrive. They were literally walking off the stage when I got there due to another band not showing up on time.

All was not lost, though, since I did get to see my old friend Geoff – The Irresponsibles’ bassist and sole experienced member. Mr. Miller was also there, but our meeting was too brief to bust out any a capella They Might Be Giants, Waffle House style.

My work schedule has prevented me from seeing any of the shows since.

When the Pig-Dogs’ Facebook page announced a show at the Legendary World-Famous Clermont Lounge I immediately arranged the work schedule adjustments that would allow me to attend. I mean, that’s fucking special, right?

For those who don’t know, the Clermont is what people kindly refer to as a “Novelty Strip Club” and accurately refer to as “Fucking Disgusting”. It is located in the basement of a hotel and is clearly aimed at attracting indigents and people with an annual income that is just a few dollars too high for them to land in the hobo tax bracket. I can’t claim that the Clermont is dirty – the lighting is far too poor to make that call – but you wouldn’t want to bring your grandmother there. Which means they must attract their performers some other way, because those overweight geriatrics get in there somehow. Yes, the female entertainers at the Clermont trend about twenty years and sixty pounds above the average that you would expect out of a strip club. This, apparently, is part of the place’s charm. When I used to work at the Masquerade all the bands wanted to go there after the shows. It was apparently considered a must-see portion of Atlanta, kind of like how out-of-towners always think it must be so great to live near Six Flags.

When I was a kid, my favorite ride at Six Flags was the Monster Plantation. You’d have all this nervous anticipation built up as you waited to go inside. An overly nice character greeted you as you entered, making you feel comfortable but still a bit wary. Once inside, loud music would be playing and everybody would be having a good time. Then you go deeper inside and there are strange, freakish creatures in poorly lit quarters; getting closer than you cared for them to. Then, in the end, you’d see that the monsters weren’t so bad, after all. They were all just trying to party and have a good time and you were never in any real danger.

That is exactly what the Clermont Lounge is like.

So we dropped Lil’ Troublemaker off at my mother-in-law’s last Thursday night and headed downtown to see some freaks.

We got there around 9:30. That may seem a little early, but I didn’t want to chance missing the Pig-Dogs again. An incredibly nice fellow was at the door checking IDs and taking money. He was far nicer than his job required him to be. Another guy in a Lookout! Records shirt was hanging around and complimented my Angus Scrimm tattoo. For some reason I am still surprised when this happens. That movie just isn’t as obscure as I think it is.

Any time you walk in a new place (or one you haven’t been to in a long time) you have that adjustment period. Everything is slightly off and uncomfortable and you just aren’t sure what to do with your hands. This is why bars are great. Everybody knows how to order a beer and find somewhere to sit. Ice broken. We got our beers and tried to sort of look around without looking like we were looking around. I spotted Mike and the rest of the Pig-Dogs sitting in the back at a table together. There was an awkward moment here where I realized that I didn’t recognize everybody that was sitting in the area that the Pig-Dogs were sitting in. This meant I couldn’t introduce Mrs. Troublemaker to anybody because I wasn’t sure if there was anybody there that I should know but didn’t.

Since this whole Facebook thing has happened, I have become aware that my recall isn’t what I thought it was. There have been a whole lot of friend requests from people that I could swear I never knew. There is also the less common occurrence of a name that I’m sure I know but then I see the picture and have no idea who the person is. This will come up again later.

So we made our way back to the bar where my wife ended up being far more entertained than I had ever imagined she would be. She had actually been wavering on whether or not she was going to attend this festive event because of some basketball game that was happening Thursday night. The Lakers were playing the Celtics in what I guess was an important game. I don’t know because I am not a sport-oriented person. Luckily for Mrs. Troublemaker (and probably me) the Clermont had the game on. She let out a noise of pure glee and plopped down at the bar. My wife is a big basketball fan and, more specifically, a huge Lakers fan. She is also a pretty big beer fan. She was content.

I sat down next to her and – knowing I would be writing about all of this – made some mental notes about our surroundings.

The first thing you notice about the bar at the Clermont is that about half of it is some sort of duct tape pillow. This is ingenious for several reasons. Firstly, it is comfortable to rest your forearms on. Second, your brain doesn’t immediately scream and wonder why the duct tape is sticky. This would not be the case if it were a standard wood or vinyl bar. You would jump up and make a noise that indicates extreme repulsion. With the duct tape bar, you have time to collect yourself before you start running through the various possible causes for stickiness:

Is it beverage?”
Maybe somebody spilled some ice cream…”
Could be semen!”
No, you can just tell yourself, “Of course it’s sticky!”
Duct tape is sticky! Can’t be semen! No, sir! Ha, ha!”

And then you can just keep drinking until eventually you won’t even be thinking about it anymore. Much.

The next thing you notice about the bar at the Clermont is the large square of raised floor behind the counter. This is where they “dance”. Now, if one of the performers was there before it would have been the first thing you noticed and then immediately tried your hardest to un-notice for the rest of the night. That little square of potential horror was mercifully vacant when we sat down, so I had time to take it in, recognize its purpose and steel myself for the inevitable before the first act began.

While I was bracing myself for one of the old, sagging, costumed beasts I had spotted around the room to ascend the stage and make everyone’s life less pleasant; a group of strangely attired females walked in the door. I don’t mean they were wearing space suits or druid robes – they were all wearing mustaches. They sat down at the bar next to me, so I was able to glean from their conversation with one of the bartenders that they were all lesbians of the hardcore variety. The type that dress up as dudes and wear strap-on dildos under their pants. That’s fine by me; to each their own. I even got to hear a delightful story of some friend of theirs who had an adverse reaction to being smacked in the face by one of those strap-ons. Silly bitch.

It was after or perhaps even during this story that the first performer of the evening took the stage. I’m not going to go into a whole heck of a lot of detail, here. Suffice it to say that her girth was such that I would have been hard pressed to determine if she was wearing panties or not without more extensive investigation than I was prepared to endure. As I watched the Lakers/Celtics game with the sort of intense interest than I generally reserve for movies featuring space-faring smugglers or costumed crimefighters, I could see desperate gyrations out of the corner of my eye. I have never had so much practice at averting my gaze as I did that night.

A short time into this exercise in visual control, dan d. arrived. I hadn’t seen this guy in years, but it was like no time had passed. He was The Irresponsibles’ drummer and his tale of mastery of the skins and ascension to the title of Drum Lord is a lengthy one that I’ll save for another time. We immediately just started talking. No awkward catch-up bullshit, just stupid guy stuff. It was great, especially given what had been interrupted. I introduced dan d. to Mrs. Troublemaker and then we moved off to the side to talk and I did that thing where husbands kind of forget their wife exists. About fifteen minutes later I went back to the bar feeling kind of guilty, but she was fine. That game had her enthralled.

Geoff arrived with his lady shortly thereafter and it really was like old times. I wish Scott had been there (he was the guitarist and one of my best friends for many years). Seizing an opportunity, I mentioned my pet project to the guys to get their reactions.

My pet project is the aforementioned history of The Irresponsibles. I have a decent little amount written up, but I’d really like to get everybody’s input and memories. I’m sure there are things I don’t remember accurately or at all, and I would really like to put together a record. Not for posterity (obviously), but because I think it would be ludicrous to have a well-done biography of our brief existence. That’s the kind of nonsense I can really get behind. dan d. seemed up for it, and Geoff took it one step further – he suggested we all get together and re-record our songs without listening to the original versions or anything. I think that would be a fantastic exercise in futility. I can’t remember more than a couple of verses of any song. I better up my freestyle game, and soon.

As the three of us were talking, another guy walked up. He was entirely unfamiliar to me. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said there were Facebook people who had familiar names but faces I could swear I had never seen? This was the guy I was referencing. I had mentioned him to dan d. earlier and he swore up and down I knew him. Now, with the guy standing right in front of me, I was positive I had never seen him before. The part that sucked – he seemed to know me. I sort of nodded at him and hoped no conversation would ensue between us. I can’t stand looking ignorant. Which is clearly why I write for the internet all the time.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how Mrs. Troublemaker is faring at this point, don’t. she’s just fine. Her shenanigans include:
  1. Becoming BFFs with the bartender. 
  2. Tipping the most elderly of the performers to come over and give me a hug. Several times. 
  3. Tipping the most youthful of the performers for lighting her (the performer’s, not my wife’s) nipple on fire. 
  4. Driving several Boston-loving patrons away from the bar area by cheering and proclaiming her love for the Lakers in general and Kobe Bryant specifically when her team won the game.

As Geoff and dan d. and I chatted, something magical happened. These strange people wearing bizarre makeup (not the strippers) had been moving around the bar all night. Now they gathered on stage and, like Voltron, came together to form an entity that was badly proportioned and kind of lame.

This was 52 Ways.

I wish to God I had taken pictures, but the Clermont had signs up all over the place explicitly forbidding photography and proclaiming dire consequences for its practice. These warnings were enough to keep my camera pocketed the entire night, but I eventually got ballsy enough to sneak some shots and some video with my phone. Granted, during the last band some redhead was just walking around, brazenly recording the entire set with her phone; but I’m just not a rule breaker or a risk taker like that.Here's a little something I found, though.

52 Ways is the most confusing band I have ever seen. They look like the Misfits and Turbonegro had an orgy and somebody put the ensuing vomit up on stage. Their sound is best described as, “Every type of punk you’ve ever heard, but terribler.” Yes, I know that’s not technically a word, but special situations call for special measures. These guys would play one song that sounded like the Misfits, then one that sounded like old Lookout!, then a Bad Religion clone. It was very weird and the best indication I have ever heard that punk truly is a collection of many different subgenres of music, none of which mesh smoothly together. Truly, 52 Ways are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Especially that last part.

While taking some notes on my phone’s memo pad I typed the band’s name in as “Dohper chaosererrcao” because my stupid little virtual keyboard sucks sometimes. I only know they are 52 Ways because either dan d. or Geoff told me later (well, that and I looked up the flyer for the show later). The band’s members include:

Casper Chaos - bass guitar
Bear Trap – guitar
Scarecrow – drums
Molly Tin Man – Boss-Tone

I didn’t catch the vocalist’s name and I don’t think I’m correct about their hype-man’s moniker. Yeah, they have a guy who just sort of hangs around the stage and shouts occasional backing vocals while wearing stupid glasses. I thought for sure they would have a website or a MySpace page, but I couldn’t find anything after some extensive research lasting approximately forty-five seconds.


Okay, I couldn’t leave you – my loyal readers – hanging like that. I valiantly put twelve more seconds of time into searching and came across the MySpace page of 52 Ways. They originate from Gravedale, GA (which I am not familiar with) and are apparently “Exploding from the grave and into your face.” The problem I was having is that the correct spelling is “Fifty Two Ways”. Their stated motto is “Stay gold, stay dead, walk hard!”

I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time bagging on these guys since they were actually a billion times better than The Irresponsibles ever were, and I find myself respecting their ludicrousness more the more I ponder it. Also, the “Vokills” are apparently performed by one Hoax T. Massacre and they are playing at the Hot Topic at Mall of Georgia on July the 24th (you should totally go). The hype man’s name is Goggle. Because he wears goggles. Just go look at them here.

And then the Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs took the stage.

Did they live up to my expectations? Was it worth the wait? More importantly, was it worth enduring the puckered and creased flesh of the undying Clermont performers to see my old friends back together again?

Well, they kind of fucking blew me away. I’ve got a few old Pig-Dogs recordings. A couple of CDs and a seven-inch. I’ve always genuinely liked their music and still listen on a regular basis – it’s all on my Zune. I would never have said they were great. Thursday night, though, the Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs were really, really good. Like, you had to stop for a minute and think, “Were they this good before?”

Everybody was on their game musically and their bassist – Dom – had the banter of a veteran stage performer. It was pretty awesome and made me wish The Irresponsibles had stuck it out longer than we did. It was one of those performances.

If I had known the club really didn’t give a shit about people recording the bands I would have done the Pig-Dogs’ whole set, but I didn’t find out until later when the redhead was filming the last band. Next time I’ll bring my video camera if they’re down with that.

So The Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs are apparently back and better than ever. Mrs. Troublemaker even really liked them, and she has what she would probably refer to as more discerning tastes in music than me (she’d be wrong). We’ll definitely go and see them again.

The closing act was a band that I was not previously familiar with – Mourdella. They seemed to have a lot of fans in the crowd and Mike from the Pig-Dogs commented to them at one point, “I remember when you guys were teenagers coming out to our shows and now we’re opening for you.”

That must have been one of those painful old man moments that we are all starting to become better acquainted with. He didn’t say it with any bitterness or anything, just that gentle bemusement that comes with those stinging moments that signify that time is passing a lot faster than you want it to.

I’m sure he felt better after glancing around at the strippers, though.

Me and the Missus were both enjoying Mourdella (I particularly liked a song about hating Atlanta), but I had been up since 3:30 that morning and it was about one AM now. It was time to go. We said our goodbyes and I made sure to invite Geoff and dan d. to our next social gathering – a little concept I call Movie Roulette. I’m sure it’s not original, but I did come up with it myself. I’ll explain that one later.

On the ride home we discussed how much fun we had had. Both of us had been fairly unimpressed by the Clermont at first, but everybody there was extremely nice and just laid back. It was a very comfortable place where you didn’t even think about looking or acting a certain way. Yeah, the strippers truly were gross and unpleasant to look at, but you got used to it over time. They were just kind of in the background.

Apparently with the shitty economy, the Clermont Lounge is having to try new things to get business. That’s why the bands were playing there. “Novelty Strip Club” just isn’t something that people budget for right now. According to my wife, her new BFF the bartender said that several nights during the week are going to have different sorts of entertainment. Thursdays will have bands, Fridays karaoke, a DJ night, etc. I know we’ll be back and I think you should go too. Not only is the Clermont a true Atlanta landmark, it really is a pretty unique place to grab a beer and look at some titties. Horrible, old titties.

Oh, yeah – since Lil’ Troublemaker was at Granma’s we decided to make a little stop on the way home, and we are now the proud owners of this!:

Believe me, a review is coming (get it?) soon.

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