Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Here's something totally non-political that's been swishing around in my brain for a while. I followed Allen's link to the Stinky Finger site with the Psychic Sex Turnips on it and found Bruce Honeycutt's quote,

"...What is with this sudden rush of nostalgia for the way things used to be in Johnson freakin' City. Hello! Does anyone remember how we used to sit around watching cartoons doing bong hits whilst complaining we had nothing to do? This so called scene everyone and their grandmother is on about consisted of...what...three or four bands? At best? And of those bands, only Stinky and the Nightmares were really any good...and Plane Jane Has a Date...honestly did anyone truly ever LIKE them? Did you? They had good hair. And my bands...GSI...buahahaha...damn we SUUUUCKED....but we did have a Japanese girl playing bass! Did any of YOU guys ever have a Japanese girl bass player?...Yep, we were way ahead of our time...The scene (as it was), can only really be summed up in one word...and that word is BEER. We drank beer. We rolled in beer. We swam in large vats of beer. Remember? Of course you don't because of all the beer. Things weren't better then, we were all DRUNK..."

I know it's absurd to think about Johnson City as an idyllic place where life gelled and suddenly made sense, but when you live in a place where nothing happens, and it's up to you to do stuff, then doing nothing can be very good practice for doing something. After the bong-hits, people actually DID stuff! And there's nothing wrong with BEER! Stephen Wright said "24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not." Hell, I'm drinking a beer right now. A very good one, brewed in Sevierville by a guy from Knoxville named Ron Downer... you have to check this place out if you get a chance, "Rocky River Brewing Company." Damn good shit. Ask your bartender in JC to pick up their brew -- especially the IPA.

I know there is lots of wonderment about what the hell was so great about JC when most of the time we were bored to tears... but think about it. Imagine living in Atlanta or Miami or New York during those formative years of high school and college. All around you there's tons of art and music and commerce. What incentive do you have to do anything on your own? You're spending all your time checking out what other people are doing. Being a spectator. Where does that get you?

Lets imagine for a second the name of this blog is New York Stories and we are all here discussing stuff that we watched happen that we weren't a part of. Maybe the "quality" of spectating would be higher. Maybe we would be talking about the rise of some band that now sells songs to a car maker or a beauty product. Would we even care enough to say anything about it 10 or 15 or 20 years later? What would be the point?

Johnson City was so devoid of distraction that you HAD to jump right in and do something -- beer or no beer. Not all the bands were good. Even the "good" bands were questionable at times. But, I think we had a connection to each other that we might not have had in another place.

Shit, having worked at the Carroll Reece Museum, I would say that even the art was outstanding in JC during the time. I will never forget Billy Malone's and Duncan Anderson's senior show. Duncan, I LOVED the bunny stuff, especially the furry paintings matching the bunny suit video -- BUT my favorite piece was Billy's. It's probably my all-time favorite artistic statement ever. He took a photograph of Marcel Duchamp to Janet Browning's pastel portrait hut in the mall and had her draw a portrait from it. I'm sure being none the wiser, she took his 30 bucks and did the hack portrait of the father of DaDa and signed her name in the lower right hand corner. He framed this and put it in his show, signing his name on the mat below hers. OH MY GOD, IN A WORLD OF SHIT, THIS MAKES ME HAPPY. Billy Malone, you are my hero! If you are out there, please send a scan!

And it wasn't just high falluting' statements like this that are worth remembering. Plane Jane's Andrew (thanks, Tony) Moore did tropical watercolors, and later REM-industiral-esque work that totally rocked. As I understand it, Andrew had never taken any art classes at the university level and by god, he did these beautiful large-scale paintings that completely energized the JC art scene. It was Moore's unadulterated talent that fueled the interest of JC art buyers and created the market for lots of other artists to peddle their wares in our little backwater. I see stuff at Cumberland Gallery here in Nashville that was passe there, then.

My feeling is if it weren't for boredom, bong-hits and cartoons, there'd be nothing to talk about now. Too bad the folks on "My Life As A Sitcom" won't ever see this shit. They are too busy feeding their jones for the least common denominator. Something we never tolerated.


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