LAUGHING HYENAS: Brooklyn Voodoo 1988 Tour Diary

Music Features
LAUGHING HYENAS: Brooklyn Voodoo 1988 Tour Diary
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Apr 11, 2007, 15:48

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Author's foreward, 2007: Gee whiz, was I ever obsessed with girls, beer and records back then. I got a little overworked at times. You kids will see a lot of names you might not recognize. Here are some hints: Mario Cuomo was the governor of New York State in 1988, Rolling Rock was considered to be a decent lager at one time and there was a great record store in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Schoolkids'.

•••

Your humble diarist, 1988

1988: Like most folks in Ann Arbor (A2), when I started this little endeavor, I thought that I was doing something “different” and “creative.” With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that my tour diary is like any Albini opus; all you have to do is substitute “Rolling Rock” for “pussy” and you've got my version. As in: “lots of Rolling Rock, real cheap,” or “man, I really need some Rolling Rock.” Please note that I wrote each entry a day after a show.

I started this thing two weeks before departure. There are extensive expurgated passages referring to my grimy private life, general impatience with and the goings on at my former place of employment (Schoolkids Records), which can rival the House of Atreus. I've spared the general public most rantings about my personal Clytemnestra. (Gosh, that's almost like Mike Rubin would write it.) So you will have to wait for the book.

The real story, though, is the first ever exposure of the eastern seaboard to the acid-washed soul music of Laughing Hyenas. Being around to witness that as a roadie was the gas of a lifetime. So here we go…

3.10.88: Tonight lots of details about finance. Larissa got the ink for t-shirts, which will be made Saturday. The Norwalk show is off and best left behind. Telephone calls to Mssrs. Henssler and Cosloy lead me to salivate over spending March 26th at CBGB's soaking up Dig Dat Hole, Happy Flowers, Necros and (my secret fantasy) White Zombie. Prime coolness in my book, although the band would rather play than watch.

3.12.88: Rolling Rock and schnapps make a fine combination on a Saturday afternoon as I tied one on with [co-worker] T.J. I got a lot of unsurprising news. T.J.'s got the new UT, which I have to get.

3.18.88: Last day of work! The trip to Chicago is off, the promoter having messed up big time. He told both Larissa and Die Kreuzen some laughably ludicrous stories about the gig; it looks like a show in late May will be more realistic. Piling disaster on top of disaster, 428 Lafayette has closed, so we'll have to find a Manhattan show.

I bought socks. Can't have too many socks.

I'm going with Doug to catch Ingrid's artshow tonight, as well as dig into free food and beer. I guess I'll have to look at hazy photographs of naked women lying in fields, too. (Addendum: There were photos of topless women.) Naturally, I had to stare conspicuously at the one artiste who photographed herself buck-naked.

3.22.88: I almost made it out. One day left to go. Doug and I arranged to have a few beers with John after his departure from Schoolkids. Well, somebody told somebody, and I get a call about “the party at your house.” (Sorry, no dice.) Then it's, “okay, Bruce, who don't you want to see?” Everybody, actually.

I hadn't managed to finish up two beers before Jenny O and Nancy (with a camera, naturally) showed up. I couldn't drink enough at that point. Chris Geary whined about T.J. and Barry teasing him—as if there was anything I could (or wanted) to do about it. And I didn't even get to talk to Bump.

3.23.88: Off at last. Over breakfast I heard prophecies of purges to hit at their record, which makes last night's soiree a delicious exercise in irony. I'm glad I won't be around to see/hear about it.

We head due east. The area between Ohio and Buffalo has got to be the most desolate north of Tierra Del Fuego. As we head into Buffalo, we see firemen on the side of the road putting out fires in the grass. These become “dirt fires,” a permanent part of Laughing Hyenas lore.

Stopped at my parents' house. I go to the local grocery store to get some beer and the clerk tells me that I should get an Onondaga County sheriff's ID card. So I have to undergo the arduous process of telling a New Yorker that there are other states in the Union and that, so far, I have found a Michigan driver's license to be sufficient identification in the state of Michigan. These things are difficult for people in the cosmopolitan center of Manilus, New York, to grasp.

© J/Fotoman

Halfway through dinner Mom informs us that the baked ziti contains venison and tofu. I sleep in my room (don't give me that “guest room” line, mom) in my bed, and the world is good.

3.24.88: Dad has given us directions to Boston via Route 20 so that we avoid paying the Thruway—sorry, Mario. We pass through the heart of upstate New York redneck country, past abandoned motels and satellite dishes. Just because Herkimer County hasn't produced its own Ed Gein doesn't mean there isn't one waiting to get his chance. Then again, who would notice?

At a stop in Ludlow, Mass., we see (no kidding) a woman wearing a business-type skirt, blouse and Doc Martens. Larissa moons two truck drivers who manage to stay on the road despite the Christ-like revelation of booty.

3.25.88: We arrived at the club in Cambridge at 4:30 (as per promoter's suggestion) to be told that sound-check is at 7:30. Jim Kimball goes to the Boston Uno's to snag some free pizza. I hang out in the club and read in the latest self-congratulatory Boston fanzines about the latest round of lame Boston bands, including one called Bullet Lavolta (one of the proposed names for the Ford Edsel, hyuk, hyuk) with some guitar player from Moving Targets (Chris Geary feels his penis swell with anticipation).

Only two free beers, so I gulp down lots of free Pepsi. The Hyenas rip into their set and Jim breaks his drum pedal on “Playground.” He slams it back together. When “Candy Apple Girl Whip” starts, the crowd takes a step back. Along with “Lullaby,” it makes an incredible one-two punch. The crowd seemed passive to me, just working it up. More people showed up to see headliners Pussy Galore. I can't see much from my merchandise booth. I do see an old acquaintance of mine from A2 who is now in Boston (her hometown), ever so gently tugging on the dicks of all the guys around her.

Now (at the time of the writing) we're driving around Boston, trying to find a Tama bass drum pedal. I run into Newbury Comics and grab a copy of the long sought-after Walking Seeds, Skull Fuck LP. Bliss.

3.26.88: As soon as we arrived at Maxwell's (after a harrowing ride along the cliffs of Hoboken), Gerard Cosloy called to say the Necros bailed out of the CB's show. Just like that, the Laughing Hyenas are added to the bill. It's free food and $1 Rolling Rocks at the club.

Dave and Jerry from Phantom Tollbooth show up. They've been back from Europe for about 10 days. White Zombie show up and I stammer to Sean about how I like her band.

The Hyenas needed to be good and they were very good. A much more active crowd, about a quarter of whom left after the set which was too bad for them because Pussy Galore was great. Any reservations I had about them evaporated; a lot better than their set in Boston.

We're staying in a loft in Brooklyn by the Williamsburg Bridge. There's one of those big Japanese German Shepherd-type dogs [an Akita] that sticks his head out the third story window to look around NYC. Jim goes into Manhattan tomorrow to find a drum pedal.

3.27.88: CBGB's. Where to begin? After we load out, we park across Bowery. While John and Larissa are changing, some guy tries to break into the van. So we take a half hour driving the van to SoHo and work out shifts so that the van will be guarded. The net result is that I miss the Dig Dat Hole set (and they sounded really nifty at sound-check) and the Hyenas' set. Instead, I sit in the van with a can of mace and a baseball bat, listening to Captain Beefheart and reading Calvin and Hobbes books

Kevin relieves me so that I can catch the White Zombie set and sell the merchandise. White Zombie is surrounded by a bunch of metal head roadies. They all look like 15-year-old guys trying to grow mustaches. I like the music fine. Straker [Rob Zombie] doesn't have the stage presence I expected, though. He just kind of skips around like Kevin Seconds. I just hope that White Zombie doesn't achieve the instrumental means to fulfill their bombastic metal aspirations.

In other news, Cosloy is putting Larissa in touch with the people who booked Phantom Tollbooth's Eurotour. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein put on a cameo appearance, at CB's, but I didn't get to see them. Oh well.

Okay. Now we get to the really weird stuff. While walking the dog, Kevin and the guy we're staying with, Brian, found a voodoo idol of some sort. It was a chalice with a rooster on top and a red ribbon on the stem. It was filled up with corn, herbs, and a strange pink thing. There was also a small coffin in the river near where they found the chalice. While Kevin and Brian are looking at this chalice in the apartment, we notice that a Coast Guard cutter and helicopter keep going up and down the river.

At 6 PM, Patty returns from the veterinarian's office where she works. They examined the contents of the chalice and the pink thing is either a monkey or human ear. Eeek!

We spent the day at the Fulton Street Fish Market with Art Black and Monica Dee of Away From the Pulsebeat. It was lots of fun and a real professional rock-type photo session for the band.

3.28.88: Long drive to Williamsburg, Virginia today. Before we left Brooklyn, Brian said that the police want to look at the voodoo chalice. I get paid. Wee ha. Boston, Hoboken and CB's were all prime gigs for the band. They left wreckage in their wake and a cadre of Laughing Hyenas Mujahadeen-fanatic holy warriors prepared to follow the band anywhere. I've waited a long time to see those East Coast weenies expose to Ashetonaw County's finest.

3.30.88: A two-day layover in scenic Williamsburg, Virginia—a whole city that looks like the inside of a paperweight. The College of William and Mary is so neat, so goddamned squeaky clean that you'd like to toss some rotten eggs around. All the students are either picture perfect Greeks or stereotyped Deadheads. You can't buy beer after midnight. The whole place has an air of unreality about it; no grey skies, no wrecked cars on the side of the road—not even potholes.

I saw more personalized license plates than I've ever seen before, including a bunch of Grateful Dead-oriented ones. I've always thought that it was one of history's greatest tragedies that General Sherman had to stop his march through the South simply because of surrender. Never leave a job half done.

I've been out of A2 for one week. It seems like a month.

3.31.88: We pulled into DC Space about 2 hours late, with no adverse effects—the show went off without a hitch. Scott showed up, so we grabbed dinner in Chinatown. The club sound system was great, the place was packed, a good show. Cheap Rolling Rocks, too.

Fugazi, Ian MacKaye's new band with ex-Rites of Spring guys, is a bundle of influences. I detected a definite Ruts/Au Pairs vein. I'm kind of undecided as to whether I like it or not. They play out a lot and seem to want to avoid the “indie club” circuit. We're listening to a studio tape in the van, so I will magnanimously delay judgment until a Fugazi record emerges.

Guy has a band called “Happy Go Licky” that intrigues me more. I've always been into the Rites of Spring more than any other DC band since Minor Threat and Void.

© J/Fotoman

4.1.88: The Scheduled in-store at Philadelphia Record Exchange did not materialize, but I did go crazy and buy a bunch of records (discounted, thanks very much). Thurston Moore had apparently called the store asking for directions to “the house party Laughing Hyenas are playing at.” John and Gerry from Tollbooth drive out for the show, along with Art Black and Monica Dee. Hyenas Mujahadeen.

The show was in a house by U. Penn. The crowd was really into it, swayin' 'n' slammin'. The house was cool, with a one-eyed cat, a three-legged cat, and lots of flyers from shows all over. Thurston and Steve Shelley showed up after driving all over Philadelphia. Thurston's sister was there. She bought a shirt from me in Hoboken. I remember. Really. This time for sure.

I guess I should mention the party was shut down by the police. The cop involved was really cool (sorry, all you MRR punkers), so it was hard to get upset about it.

4.2.88: The Pittsburgh show has been blown off and everybody's guilt-ridden. The place we were going to play [Electric Banana] has a very bad rep, and the show was booked on very short notice.

Instead, we spend the night at Day's Inn in Cambridge, Ohio. I register under the name Barry Henssler. That way, once we trash the room the Necros will be banned from Day's Inns nationwide and their flagging career will get the boost it needs. Unfortunately, I could not find two-dozen mulatto prostitutes on such short notice.

4.3.88: Easter Sunday and I'm ensconced in my secret bunker in A2, listening to all the records that I've bought.

Cincinnati was profoundly weird, beginning with the venue: The U of Cinci Student Rhine Room. The first band had a gravelly-voiced singer who played a Telecaster while he sang Replacement songs [Afghan Whigs!] Sort of like a Cincinnati Folkminers, only worse (what a thought).

The second band was from Bloomington, Indiana: The Belgian Waffles. This band defies description. During the Hyenas set, the two singers (male) rolled across the floor, and then simulated a butt-fuck. These guys must crack 'em up at the Indiana U. art school parties. Their own set was a mishmash of Devo/Big Black clichés thrown out without shame.

There's a big storm outside now. My windows can't keep the rain out, so I'm running around with towels and sponges. Gee, it's great to be back in A2.

Back to Cincinnati: This couple had a baby with them. They actually had John kiss the baby while the band played! When John and Larissa asked the parents why they had brought their child to the show, the parents replied, “she's seen all the Touch & Go bands.” Then there was “The Cincinnati Tease Queen,” some chick in a skimpy black lace bodice with flowers pasted to the butt of her fashionably distressed jeans. She walked around the club practically feeling up every male she knew or just tossing her tits around guys she didn't know. No small amount of amusement in that.

I'm in A2 until Wednesday morning. Let's see if I can run some errands without anyone finding out that I'm here.

4.6.88: We're on our way to Buffalo. I (more or less) kept a low profile in A2 and I did get to have some beers with Bump and (wonder of wonders) actually talked to him. All of T. J.'s predictions came more less to pass. There is probably another swing of the axe yet to come. Nancy quit, in a burst of idealism—the kind that comes easily to college students with part-time jobs. Doug and Ingrid are now officially broken up. Even Babylon fell, I guess. He wants to go to South Bend. I want to go, period.

© J/Fotoman

4.7.88: You can't say enough nice things about people who provide you with a good meal. Labatt's Blues (the real Canadian-strength stuff) and a cake with “Laughing Hyenas” written on it. The Pipe Dragon is a great three-story co-op. Let's hope that people in Buffalo learn to appreciate and support it.

I've waited through the whole tour to see a band like the warm-up, The Stripminers, from Rochester, NY: A very cool band; unsigned and shopping tapes around. They're raw, with chug-a-lug bass-lines and a truly grating guitar sound. Some day people will be moistening their undergarments over this band, they are that good. So you read it here, in Your Flesh, first. [The Stipminers went on to be signed by Community 3 Records and their debut record was reviewed elsewhere in the issue this feature ran in—YF #15]

The Hyenas were well received and did an interview with John Hull, who is (surprise) Phantom Tollbooth's roadie. The show was run by nice people, was a great venue, and a good show. I've always been into Buffalo. Tonight we crash in A2, then on to South Bend.

4.9.88: South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame University, South Dining Hall. We'll start out with the good stuff: hotel room; money for food; two cases of beer. The bad stuff: A soundman with the brain of an alligator snapping turtle. Despite tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, the bass was barely audible, stage monitors were non-existent and harsh words were exchanged. Urge Overkill and Killdozer got similarly muddy sound.

Doug, his sister and Deb drove out from A2. Doug claims some rabid Notre Dame girls lunged at his newly free butt—a likely story. Corey and Lisa Rusk showed up, along with Rey Washam and Albini.

(Author's note: The South Bend show was booked by Tim Adams, who went on to run the Ajax label and mail order service.)

I opted to drink beer and watch Satan's Cheerleaders on TV rather than go out and eat with the A2 posse. Poor Doug, stuck in a car with that party all the way back home. I'll have to buy him a beer when I get back.

Kevin has convinced Doug that I did an impromptu free-form metal percussion jam with The Belgian Waffles in Cinci. How will I get out of this one?

Corey and Lisa told the band to expect an LP recording session in August and there are real possibilities for Europe, both record release-wise and for touring. Tonight: Madison, WIsconsin with Die Kruezen.

4.10.88: O'Cay's Corral is a great little dive with appropriately cheesy country & western décor. The bar was kind enough to supply me with free beers, so I was able to lean back and truly enjoy myself.

The nicest thing that set Madison apart from every other town I've been in so far? The women. None (well, a couple) of the usual scrawny punk chicks dressed in black with stringy, dyed-black hair. No sir, we are talking about corn-fed, blonde, blue-eyed Rhine maidens of unimpeachable Nordic lineage. I found myself fixated on two fine specimens of Aryan womanhood all night. For some reason, one of them thought that I was Eric from Die Kreuzen, an error in judgment that I was, unfortunately, unable to exploit to my advantage.

Bill, Die Kreuzen's fine soundman, and butch Vig mixed Laughing Hyenas' set, which was impeccable except for a brief shutdown of the PA. A contingent of folks from South Bend came up (I told Tim Adams he would bail on homework, but he didn't believe me—welcome to the Mujahadeen!), as well as Corey and Lisa.

Die Kreuzen played as well as I have ever seen them play. They really cut deep and I like the way they mix styles/speeds/songs and avoid any possible expectations. I grabbed a set list and blurted out my usual inarticulate mumble of admiration.

After the show, we spent two hours driving around looking for a motel. Somehow, the sight of a man with red dreadlocks and an Amish beard driving a van with Michigan plates was enough to motivate motel managers to flick on that “No” above “Vacancy” on the neon signs.

Giving credit where credit is due: Steve Albini is going to call up the company that did the sound for South Bend and tell them they have a chowderhead working for them.

4.11.88: We pull into Peter Davis' crib in Minneapolis. He has beers waiting, as well as Tom Lax, in from Philadelphia. Peter is a bundle of information and I salivate heavily over his record collection before we leave for the 7th Street Entry.

© J/Fotoman

We get free beers and a good deal on food. The show is free, which is a great deal for the kids. Hannah Yaeger shows up and we exchange info on the Diaspora of Schoolkids' “Golden Age” employees. The warm-up band is Bad Thing, an unsurprising hodgepodge of Minneapolis guitar band-isms. They actually did an encore.

The final Laughing Hyenas show of the tour is great and easily matches Hoboken (the best show that I saw). Larissa broke two strings on the first song, but the set ripped right along. I talked to a guy who saw John sing in Static, but had never heard of Negative Approach. Prince skipped in, no Huskers two Soul Asylums…

After the show we had more beers at Casa Davis. Listened to God Bullies, U-Men, Sonic's Rendezvous and Phantom Tollbooth. Larissa and Bill Hobson from Killdozer talked all night—expect a “Guitar Monsters” flexi in the next issue of Art Forum with the obligatory Christgau piece.

I slept in the van and damn near froze my testicles off. Soon I'll be home in my own bed and can toss the ugly green and orange sleeping bag my parents got in 1971 away for good.

Authors closing notes: The rest of my notes refer to the ride home and the strange multitude of large animal statues in Wisconsin, including an orange moose. You figure it out.

Since April, Laughing Hyenas have played Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Kalamazoo and Chicago (with Die Kreuzen and Rapeman) and toured with Sonic Youth. The new album was recorded in Madison in October with Butch Vig. It will be out in February/March.

This above article originally ran in Your Flesh #15 which was published back in 1989.

••••

LARISSA  STOLARCHUK:  An Afterword Appreciation

In November last year word got out that Larissa Stolarchuk had passed away.  Larissa performed and recorded as Larissa Strickland, first in L-7 and then in Laughing Hyenas.  It was a true privilege for me to be a roadie for Laughing Hyenas in the late 80s and then to be able to promote the band as an employee of Touch and Go Records.

Hopefully you have read some of the tributes to Larissa's musical abilities that were published in late 2006.  She did considerable work publishing a fanzine and booking bands at a time when women in the scene were, more often than not, treated with attitudes that wavered between impatient tolerance and outright condescension.  The Laughing Hyenas' records are there to be enjoyed today.  Anyone who saw Laughing Hyenas bears visceral memories of Larissa's playing.  She could be simultaneously corrosive and incandescent as a player, an apt foil to John Brannon's vocal powers.

Years after witnessing more rehearsals and shows than I can count, however, what I like to recall about Larissa is something else.  It is the simple warmth of sharing some tea and a bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese.  Because she had the God given ability to make you believe that all she wanted to do on that day was have that time with you.  Larissa was one of the warmest and most generous people I have ever known.  She is missed.Â

center pic © J/Fotoman

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