Once I escaped the teeming mass of Melrose Place fans in the low bleacher seats and climbed high enough to feel the breeze on my nipples, I got into U2's POPMart phantasmagoria at Sun Devil Stadium, May 9, a lot more than I thought I would. Turning all the spotlights toward the heavens during "Bullet the Blue Sky" was genius--such a smart, simple touch for a spectacle otherwise based on excess. The giant lemon turned glittering spaceship that split to birth the band for its first encore was a direct bite from George Clinton's Mothership-era shows, but, what the hell, that and the eye-popping light show and massive media screen (the biggest ever, remember) nicely compensated for the washed-out sound inherent to any stadium show. Bono does tend to go on a bit--I don't know where he got that bit about former Governor Mecham making a political comeback--but it was a kick to watch him prance around for a couple hours. Plus, aside from the best singles off the last two albums, U2 played "Pride," "Still Haven't Found," "With or Without You" and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The music was overwhelmed by the accouterments (which was the point, duh), but U2's set list was solid. And maybe it was the hydrochronic, but that hallucinatory video of the sex-shifting raver still had me reeling hours later.
I was people-watching at the Icehouse during Discotheque, the "official U2 after party," and I kept tripping on the transgender aesthetic to rave culture. That and Discotheque's unfortunately low turnout. There were maybe 500 people inside at the party's peak. The promoter's break-even point was 1,000. Ouch. So what happened? Well, 30 bucks at the door must have turned a few people away. Plus, I didn't see the party promoted at the concert in any way. And, two days before, Phoenix cops told promoters they would enforce curfew and shut down the party if it wasn't strictly 18 and over, which meant Euphoric Entertainment had to refund more than $10,000 in presale tickets. The party ended early--well, early is relative when you're talking four in the morning--when Will from the Icehouse announced, "We're sorry, the promoter didn't pay security. Security has walked out, so the event is now over." Bummer. Double bummer for U2 fans who threw down $30 thinking they'd meet the band, and refused to give up hope until the bitter end.
Ads for the party promised "U2 will make an appearance." Well, here's a head's up: "U2 will make an appearance" means that contractually/legally, all that had to happen was for one member of the band, any member, to pull up in a limo, make a three-minute lap through the party, and bail. However, no one I asked had seen or heard any member of U2--or even a good look-alike--making the rounds. Disappointing. But not more so than Florida live techno act Rabbit in the Moon's prime-time set. The much-hyped act's music was flat, and the whole show was based around gimmick props and costumes. Sure, it was orb candy for psychedelic cosmonauts, but artistically speaking? Please, Mr. Emperor, clothe thyself.
Despite all that, I had a fine time. I liked the psychotic mechanical clown that greeted everyone in the cathedral room, and the chill-out room was close to perfect--silver-sheened drapes over plentiful couches, and ambient music low enough to allow conversation. Outside, R.C. Lair spun a warm, fuzzy set, and Markus Schulz got high marks from everyone in the main room (I arrived just after his set). The giant mobile of multimedia screens hanging in that room was incredible. So were the roving belly dancers. I'm sure a lot of promoters in the Valley were happy to see Euphoric aim high and hit low, but it was nice to see someone do more with a space than throw up strobe lights and a slide show and call it a rave.
Scottsdale pop/punk band Chronic Future got yanked from the bill for May 3's Rally in the Sun music festival in Tucson after state park rangers demanded lead singer Mike Busse refrain from using naughty language. The festival, held in Rillito Park, was headlined by Fountains of Wayne and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. According to the band's manager, William "The Willobeast" Carlan, rangers threatened to stick a bar of soap in Busse's mouth (just kidding) and fine the band $2,500 (that part's serious) for each profane utterance. Rangers provided Carlan with a "partial list" of banned words that included "piss," "hell," "damn" and the f word. Carlan told them the well-funded group would just pay the fines (which would have totaled at least $12,500 if Chronic had played the same set as its performance at the New Times Music Awards Showcase). Then, Carlan says, the rangers turned the screws on festival promoter Brad Nozicka, who cut the band from the bill. Nozicka played dodge ball with phone messages.
"We don't believe there are good words and bad words," CF lead guitarist Ben Collins wrote in a band statement. "I can't believe park rangers have the jurisdiction or competence to make such judgments. They should stick to keeping Yogi Bear from stealing pic-a-nick baskets."
Popular comedian Robert Schimmel, who also lives in Scottsdale, was slated to emcee the event, but pulled out in protest over the Chronic fracas. I recently spoke with Schimmel about his debut recording for Warner Bros., Robert Schimmel Comes Clear, and it beats me why the rangers were sweating Chronic Future when they had Schimmel to worry about. Here's an excerpt from our chat:
Me: Do you get any material just from living in the Valley?
Schimmel: Oh, sure. Spider bites make for good material. One time I got bit by a black widow, and so, of course, I rush to the hospital, and they ask me if I brought the spider with me. And I'm like, "Fuck, no, I didn't bring the spider with me." And some doctor proceeds to tell me they can't give the antivenin because the guy that specializes in poisonous bites and stings is out of the hospital. And I'm like, "The venomous bite guy doesn't have a pager? Junior high school kids have pagers." So they just pumped me full of Valium until he got back. You know, people say laughter's the best medicine, but Valium is a lot better. Fifteen or 20 minutes later, man, and that spider was the best thing that ever happened to me.
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Me: Any other spider stories?
Schimmel: Well, I got bit on the dick one time.
Me: How'd that happen?
Schimmel: I was in bed, I was naked, something bit me on the dick, I don't know. So, anyway--I put my dick in a glass of milk and, once again, rushed to the emergency room. The doctor asks me, "Why didn't you just put your dick in a glass of water?" And I said, "Well, doctor, because you can see through water."
David Holthouse is now wired.
The Web site is Mothership. The address is www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/holt/index.html. The options are myriad (multigenre criticism, archives, rave data, freak links).