Fools Gold

Page against the machine

To be completely blunt about it, ubiquity isn't really an asset when it comes to playing around town. It's good to have your name out there, to be recognizable. But if I see your name or your band's name in the music section's ads week after week for years, I'm prone to just ignore your shit. If you've got to play three nights a week at strip-mall clubs, I kind of doubt I'll be into your music.

However, I'm not always the supreme oracle when it comes to parameters like that. Twice in the past few weeks I accidentally encountered an artist I'd studiously avoided for years, literally. The first time I saw Page the Village Idiot (a.k.a. Page Davis), I was at Hollywood Alley in Mesa on a Saturday to see hip-hoppers Drunken Immortals and Grime; Page was the opening act. The second time I was at the Alley on a Monday to see another band I was writing about, and caught Page playing beforehand.

Each time I inadvertently saw Page the Village Idiot play — and the subsequent time when I went on purpose — I was blown away by his razor-sharp humor and by his guitar (and ukulele) shredding. And I kind of felt like a dumb-ass, because, like I said, I'd avoided his shows for the eight years or so Page has played Monday nights at the Alley (he also does Wednesdays at Jugheads).

Besides his omnipresence in clubs ads, I was turned off by the name, too — if you call yourself an idiot, I'm prone to call you even worse than that.

I caught up with Page on a recent Monday and bullshitted with him before I suffered through the opening act, a snore fest called Sleepwalk (during their set I wrote "Shut Up" on my notepad and held it up so the band could see; I don't think they noticed).

Page has been playing in bands since he went to Chaparral High School back in the '80s (he states his age as "late 30s"), but abandoned the band thing in the '90s. "I just got sick of bands breaking up, and I started doing acoustic open mics just with an acoustic guitar. I got laughs, and it was so addictive, just as addictive as starting a mosh pit."

Soon after, he got his drum machine, a late '90s Roland MC303, which also provides his loops and MIDI bass lines. "It's a lot more dependable than a real human being," he tells me. "I can practice when I wake up in the morning or when I come home from a gig." Later that night, he gives it props in a song, exclaiming that the machine "doesn't get herpes, and it doesn't smoke all your pot."

He's also got an array of pedals he runs his guitar through, which he uses extensively while he's warming up on the last Monday I saw him. He kicks off with a personalized version of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." After Ozzy's classic "Generals gathered in their masses/Just like witches at black masses," Page continues, "Governments' thumbs are up your asses/Anybody know what the price of gas is?"

He soldiers on, running through a song ragging on the west side/Metrocenter white-trash stereotypes, and segues into a track about local bands who think having a laminate around your neck makes you a rock star. A song about Sheriff Arpaio follows, which I'm sure Joe would actually love ("I got 20 years for getting high").

"Dead Rock Stars," which Page has managed to get onto the syndicated Dr. Demento radio show in the past year, comes next, where he lists said deceased and how they died ("G.G. Allin ate too much shit/Leave Freddie Mercury out of it").

"Check it out yo bitches!" he yells, before launching into "This Song Sucks," which rips about every radio song you can name. He gets the crowd into a little call and response with "I say 'Clear Channel,' you say 'fuck that!'" While fiddling with his machine, he deadpans, "I sampled that from Blink-182, because real punk rock scares me." The song ends with a chorus that goes "Stupid fuckin' kids, scratchin' all the records their parents thought they hid."

"I'm not gay, but I love a man named Jack," he declares later, before asserting "but I've woken up many a morning, fucked by Mr. Jack Daniel's." This song, which is also on his latest CD It's No Fun Being One Dimensional, is the one I relate to most (although I get fucked by the entire family of Jameson's ordinarily).

Page started doing the Village Idiot gig full-time about a year and a half ago, after completing his master's degree in Library and Information Science, which seems sort of incongruent. Nonetheless, he rocks his set out about four times a week, at Hollywood Alley and Jugheads as well as comedy clubs around the Valley.

Despite never having performed standup comedy prior to launching the musical comedy act, Page strikes me as having a standup's perspective on his career, which is the reason he's on stages around town so often, and why I hesitated to even check him out for a long time.

Unlike most musical acts in the Valley, Page doesn't have dreams of rock stardom, which I suppose is a good thing since critical sorts like me dismiss those who saturate the local market with their acts. But on the comedy tip, Page is second to none, despite using a guitar and drum machine as crutches.

I may have learned my lesson about prejudging acts that flood the music scene, but I still won't recommend it; Page the Village Idiot is the exception rather than the rule.

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