By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
The Frankie Valli Show, December 1998, Nita's Hideaway
No sooner had Pomerenke stopped this gig -- because he was despondent about missing the Frankie Valli show being held at the Celebrity Theatre -- than did a man claiming to be Valli show up to sing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." The man claiming to be the head Four Season -- he wore a black fright wig and a loud red suit -- was an obvious impostor. Plus, the real Frankie Valli would never have called the Celebrity Theatre "a spinning dump" or run sideways in circles on the floor and screamed like a beached Robert Plant.
Karnes: "We had two guest appearances that night. Elvis came on and sang 'In the Ghetto.' That was Jim Andreas of Trunk Federation making no attempt to actually look like the King except for a birthday boy crown and one of our white jumpsuits. He hated doing that. That was the show that made Trunk Federation give up shtick completely."
Night of 1,000 Props, February 1998, Hollywood Alley
Karnes: "The entire night was structured as a telethon to raise 1,000 props for charity. Everyone who played that night came on at the end of our set to bring up the last 30 remaining props needed for the night to be a success. We had 20 computer monitors, five prosthetic limbs and some wig heads. All the performers appearing that night came onstage to sing 'We Are the World' with us and someone threw a beer bottle at Psycho Gypsy's drummer. All I can remember is him going after the guy brandishing one of the prosthetic limbs."
The Impostor Show, March 1998, Hollywood Alley
A recurring character during Les Payne gigs was their archrival Decepto (played by Shane Caraway), who would continually crash their show and have his evil Girl-Bots beat on the band just long enough for him to sing a malevolent song, usually one filled with foul language and artichoke references. For this show he managed to knock Karnes offstage, steal his clothes and pose as the standing half of Les Payne. Only when Decepto's piercing Paul Lynde vocals received amplification was the ruse uncovered.
Trunk Federation's second CD release party, March 1998, Jackson Hole
In a New Times interview that week, Trunk Federation stated that they were through doing shtick in their live shows. Mildly irritated by this, the still shticky Les Payne began a fake feud with Trunk in the press that threatened to boil over into a genuine one several times leading up to the gig.
Karnes: "During that show we gave Trunk a double dose of shtick. Our set ended with us playing 'Homeward Bound,' which got 'Trunk-cated' by Decepto. He played their condescending road manager, telling us to 'swim away, little guppies.'"
The disgruntled duo took their grievances to the stage before making friendly again and singing David Bowie's "Fashion" with the Trunkers.
New Times Music Showcase, April 1998, Trails
Taking a page from David Letterman's book, the group used some cleverly edited taped footage to fool an unsuspecting showcase crowd.
Karnes: "The premise was we were trading singers, with me going to Reuben's Accomplice and Jeff Bufano joining Les Payne. Our showcases were at the same time and about a good 200 yards or more away. We had TV monitors set up that the crowd was watching. We shot all this video footage the day before of us running up and down Mill Avenue to the other venue, wearing the same clothes we'd wear for the show. All these shots of us running upstairs, shopping at the Gap, going to the movies and then arriving at the gig."
Pomerenke: "It was a fucking amazing idea. I just remember being onstage seeing all these blank faces just staring up and I remember saying, 'Okay, you're never gonna see this again.'"
Dust Devil movie shoot, January 1999, Boston's
Who else but Pomerenke and Karnes would've tried filming a movie during the course of a concert when the average movie shoot takes three hours just to get the best boy into position?
The group's motion-picture project, Dust Devil, was never completed and the scenes shot that night did not even include Les Payne.
Karnes: "Our characters in the movie were supposed to be too big to play a place like Boston's. So we filmed a bunch of other people singing instead. I'm sure some people didn't think there was any film in the cameras, and having never seen the footage, I can't even be sure."
Bluebird Show, August 2000, Emerald Lounge
Most people doubted the sincerity of Les Payne's purported "love" for the music of Wings. Mostly because the Lovely Linda, as portrayed by Pomerenke with 5 o' clock shadow, was a lot tougher than the late vegan activist appeared in real life. Witness her cover of "It's a Man's World" or her version of John Lennon's vitriolic anti-Paul rant "How Do You Sleep?"
New Times Music Showcase, May 2001, Mill Cue Club
Les Payne Product changes its name to Less Pain Forever and lets a cover band from Glendale do the set for them. The alternative plan was just as intriguing.
Pomerenke: "We were actually just going to show up with a videotape of our last show and take questions from the audience. Then we thought that New Times might not pay us for honoring the contract. That would've been so cool."