By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
Some say that it really isn't happening, that Less Pain Forever (a.k.a. Lush Budget Presents the Les Payne Product) isn't really leaving Arizona, that all this talk about the duo living, recording and touring for perpetuity in a 1983 Chevrolet Southwind RV is just the latest in a series of stunts devised to dupe the more gullible members of the local press. Some even think their "final" Valley show this weekend carries no more finality than the countless other "farewell" gigs local bands announce in June so they don't have to sweat a slow club scene during the mind-searing summer months.
Jeez, the Sand Rubies don't have these sort of credibility problems and they've split and regrouped more times than your average amoeba.
But then again, how can you trust two guys who'd form a Wings tribute band and then refuse to learn all of Linda's keyboard parts? And what other group has arranged to have its members kidnapped during a show or traded singers with someone else during a battle of the bands? And who else has initiated more lugubrious name changes than Prince and Cat Stevens combined?
The answer will be apparent in the coming months, when local music fans find there are no more Less Pain or Les Payne shows -- and it's too bad. For as much as group leaders Chris Pomerenke and James Karnes have bewildered and alienated some folks with their antics, they've delighted the rest of us who've tired of seeing bands play the same set lists so people can have the same conversations over them.
If some Valley idiots came away from a Les Payne show feeling cheated, I suggest they don't deserve a band this good.
As a writer who has been duped by these charlatans on numerous occasions (and unwittingly taken part in a stunt or two), I realize everything I write about Less Pain Forever is naturally suspect. But trust me. These guys are really, really leaving. I have seen the "For Lease" sign outside the compound they've called home for the past six years. I've touched the hem of their RV awning and have drunk one of last beers from the refrigerator inside.
Sitting inside the Southwind reminiscing with Pomerenke and Karnes, you realize what an amazing vehicle the Les Payne RV is. Everything inside of it either folds out into a bed or a spice rack. And the duo will need every inch of space they can get to allow room for a public address system and all their computer and recording equipment. In paring down their possessions, Pomerenke and Karnes are parting ways with their beloved 30-inch TV, countless mannequin heads and five 30-gallon trash bags worth of thrift store stage clothes. Pomerenke swears they will only wear silk pajamas from now on.
"We're gonna stroll out of this mini-castle like two Hefs, sipping champagne. No more beer, either. This is the last time you'll see beer in here," he grimaces, pointing to a couple of Coors Light cans.
With only two shows booked as part of their endless tour, the band's impending odyssey starts to sound as unlikely as an Elvis movie plot -- two drifter musicians travel the country in search of places to play and some nice people to help along the way.
Even if their greatest adventure is yet to be written, what's gone before is certainly not chopped liver. For those of you who missed it, we offer the following recap of the best of Les Payne -- and some of the strangest shows ever to be staged in the Valley.
Trunk Federation CD release Party, January 1997, Hollywood Alley
Les Payne Product's first attempt to upstage the headliner included inviting a series of "special guests" onstage. Among those was a one-man band affectionately known as Fuckin' A.
Pomerenke: "He sat behind the drums, played guitar and sang a song about how he had 'rock 'n' roll in his veins.'"
After Fuckin' A's one-song set, Les Payne returned wearing bloodied butcher smocks and carrying congratulatory bouquets for their guest.
This show also marked the first and only appearance of "Sara, the Les Payne Dancer." Ripping off their smocks to reveal homemade Slayer tee shirts, the Payne boys and Sara devil-danced the night away to the strains of evil metal music, much to the chagrin of a perplexed crowd.
Phunk Junkeez CD release party, October 1998, Bash on Ash
The boys exorcised their megalomaniacal demons by hiring personal valets to hold up full-length mirrors so they could check their look onstage during the entire set. Bogus rappers J.T. Nasty and T.C. Classy (Jeff Bufano and Chris Corak from Reuben's Accomplice) also performed a song with the duo.
Pomerenke: "We were white rock-rappers seconds before it stopped being cool."
Mike Watt Show, Mason Jar, April 1998
The night the guys decided to become faith healers -- a transformation which actually brought the crowd to a hush. One unidentified man in a walker came away healed but another guy with a creepy gold-plated mask and a limp wasn't so lucky.
Karnes: "That was Chris Corak from Reuben's Accomplice. He tied the lower part of his leg up inside a really big pair of pants and had a prosthetic limb tied on. I reached out, pushed him backwards and, as he fell down, the limb just came out of his pants. It scared the audience half to death."