Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona around or before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
First Friday is soon approaching and I'm remembering when First Friday really meant something, namely The MadCaPs driving around and doing guerrilla shows from the bed of a pickup truck powered by a generator. For my February 7, 2003, New Times article titled "Truck Ruckus," I rode around with the band, documenting their itinerary for one night and even did a song or two, if I remember correctly. The exhaust fumes from the truck kinda got to me after a while.
On the first Friday of each month, the MadCaPs hit venues guerrilla-style, becoming that day's truly unofficial "house" band. They visit six to eight galleries a night, playing for hundreds of people. The ’CaPs' biggest audience to date remains its set after the Flaming Lips/Beck double bill at Gammage Auditorium last November. Positioned between the Lips' and Beck's tour buses, the 'CaPs held a CaPtive audience of thousands filing out of the hall, including the Flaming Lips themselves.
"They were watching us in the parking lot," says bassist Christina Nuñez. "And when John goes, We'd like to thank the Flaming Lips and Beck for opening up for us tonight,' the drummer for Flaming Lips is like, 'Yeah!' Later, they said they could hear us from backstage. John was inside the show with a cell phone and he came out during Beck's encores. As soon as people started coming out, we counted off the first song. No one fucked with us."
Fear of the unknown makes this venture more exciting than a bar soiree. There's always the concern this could be the night they get hassled by authorities, ignite someone's road rage or get a flat tire. This is also the first "First Friday" on which Logan's oldest friend and the band's newest guitarist Kevin Henderson is along for the ride. To date, the cops have been super-supportive, coming to the group's aid once when a highway patrol car ran their license after an impromptu gig at a Circle K. After local police informed them, "It's all right, they do this every month," the perplexed patrolmen followed the MadCaPs before getting on the bullhorn and requesting "I Shot the Sheriff." Take that, Joe!
8 p.m. Still at Thought Crime. The traditional "opening ceremony" unfolds without incident, but drummer Troy Maskell later tells of a neighbor on the other side of Central who was more than slightly mad over the MadCaPs. "She circulated this complaint around her building about that ominous place known as Thought Crime' where she called us noise terrorists,'" he chortles.
8:35 p.m. The Paisley Violin parking lot. Although the band arrives at each destination playing an original surf instrumental, any allusions to beach rock cease once Logan hops from the truck and sets up the mike stand on the street (where the group is safe to perform sans permit). Their actual set diverges in style from the Velvets to prog-rock to spacier sounds. "Anything goes but everything must go," says Logan. The dedicated ones who've nicknamed themselves "Madheads" follow the group from venue to venue and risk carbon monoxide poisoning. The truck keeps running to power the generator, which has its own fumes. "At least we're not using a diesel truck tonight," says drummer Maskell. Regardless, Nuñez, who played violin before taking up bass last year, says the truck is still her favorite venue. "Nobody's telling us You need to do this' or Be here at this time.' And I like it when people get pissed off when they're stuck behind us. It's like being in a Mexican restaurant and the mariachis come up to your table."
9:15 p.m. Monorchid Gallery. Here, the 'CaPs enjoy their most dramatic setting of the night thanks to the adjacent walls with recessed lamps. Within minutes, their sound sets off a nearby Ford Bronco's car alarm. But like something out of Pleasantville, its owner is actually happy to move it.
9:32 p.m. Modified Arts. "Hello, Phoenix, we're from Ohio," lies Logan as the band rips into "Squaresville." The MadCaPs unload their space rock material for the all-ages crowd at Modified and, after 10 minutes of hovering overhead, a police helicopter finally favors the MadCaPs with a searchlight from above.
And so it went throughout the night. I encourage you to go back and read the entire article while listening to this week's Heritage Hump track, which you would've heard the 'CaPs play arriving and leaving a gallery stop. This is the first time I'm hearing it not bouncing off of buildings, and the studio incarnation sounds exactly like it later would on the streets.
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"It's an early version of 'Cat Burglar.' It was our instrumental 'truck song' while we were moving," says Logan, who became a co-owner of Carly's Bistro on the same strip of Roosevelt Street, where the MadCaps did most or their moto-vating. Nuñez now plays bass with the Love Me Nots and Casual Encounters, but the promise of the MadCaPs reclaimimhg these streets on First Friday still hangs in the air.
"I'm shocked no one else did truck shows," says Logan. "I thought it would be commonplace. We almost did a truck show in June of this year. Glad to have added a little chaos into the downtown art scene, and I still believe what I said as the last quote from that article you wrote all those years ago":
"This is pushing the barrier of what entertainment and playing at a venue is," says Logan. "I know a lot of people will think, 'Oh, the truck, that's your thing.' But I say the more, the merrier. If you're not bringing a scene up, you're bringing it down."
The Love Me Nots are scheduled to perform Saturday, October 3, at the Rebel Lounge with Calabrese and The Limit Club.