In Caribbean culture, the "calypsonian" holds the responsibility of being a social commentator, a collective voice for the people. Calypsonians' music has altered elections, sparked social revolution, and uplifted repressed minorities. The unique thing about calypso is that while the message is often related to social consciousness, the music is exciting and lively. It makes you want to smile, get up, and dance. Though it may be difficult to find a local equivalent, one artist approaches this lofty standard.
Though he may not take the burden quite so seriously, local musician Page the Village Idiot does tell it like it is. Much like the comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen, Page's hyperbolic stylings are both hilarious and disconsolate. Though he's great at making people laugh, there's usually some ugly truth behind what he says. His repertoire includes songs such as "Hey, Bin Laden!" "Anal Beads & Things," "Homeless People Smell!" and Valley-specific songs like "The Scottsdale Scene," "Westside Girls," and "Tweeky Pete," about a meth addict in Apache Junction. Perhaps his most requested piece is titled "Joe 'R Piehole," which seems to elicit a heartfelt reaction from many.
Billed primarily as a comedian, Page's music is loud and distinct. Other local musicians have remarked that he should never be booked as background music. You either have to listen to him, or you don't; there is no ignoring him to carry on a conversation.
Page the Village Idiot
Page the Village Idiot is scheduled to perform on Monday, October 5, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa and Friday, October 9, at Donna Jean's in Glendale.
He proudly admits that others have called him everything from "folk singer funny guy" to "one-man-band Page Against the Machine." He also claims to have been influenced by The Beatles, The Beastie Boys, and the "kind of blues music that would piss [blues radio personality] Bob Corritore off."
Page, a 42-year-old ex-librarian whose never-before-revealed birth name is actually Peter Davis, has lived in Phoenix since he was 13 years old. His take on society was shaped by suburban mall culture, which has driven much of the city's expansion. While these traits may be especially characteristic of Phoenix, he sees many of the same commercialized tendencies as widespread. "Some things are universal," he says, "like meth labs." He also believes his critiques are heavily rooted in his generation — which he describes as having "suburban angst" — and understandably so. Page's generation came of age in the Reagan Era, not long after punk rock was in its prime. So while it may be Phoenix-induced criticism, and the lyrics may be Phoenix-specific, his ideas reflect a larger collective experience. Just as Springsteen speaks to the working class through the lens of his own community, Page speaks to suburbia through the lens of ours. As Page puts it, "It's about as New Jersey-specific as Asbury Park is for Bruce Springsteen, when you think about it. There's suburbia everywhere. We're all just a suburb of L.A. if you live on [the West] Coast."
So how exactly do these understandings manifest themselves? In sarcastic outbursts, which are a form of anger management to him. What pisses him off becomes comedy. Take, for example, lyrics from the song "Teenage Plastic Surgery."
"Her 16th birthday's comin' up / Should she get her tummy tucked? / But her big nose bothers her like a disease / She wants nostrils like a Pekingese / For her birthday she can either get / A brand new nose or a used Corvette / Keep your second-hand Corvette keys / She wants plastic surgery."
Perhaps it should be mentioned that Page grew up in Scottsdale. Though consumerist tendencies are one distinguishing feature of life in the area, so are the excessive, excruciating, exceedingly uncomfortable summers, which contribute to the reclusive behavior of many of the city's dwellers. For kids in the summertime, the heat means little to no social activity, while kids in the rest of the country are outside playing during the day.
"There's been a lot of weird bands that come out of here, whether it's Michael Condello from the Wallace and Ladmo-type things to the Tubes and Alice Cooper and a bunch of other crazy psychedelic bands . . .," says Page. "It's being locked up, watching TV for half the summer. You're stuck in your submarine. You're waiting for water to hit. So I think that inspires weirdness."
In addition to housebound weirdness, Page isn't afraid of drawing more than a fair share of awkward attention to himself. Some time ago, he staged a fight with local musician and Yucca Tap Room personality Terry Garvin. He also performed at the Yucca's "Petty Thieves" event, in which every participating musician covered a Tom Petty song. Page, however, thought it would be better to create a song as an homage to the rock icon.
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"She was a woman in love / I was a refugee / I'd be a whole lot better if she was jamming me / There was a shadow of a doubt / I'd been fooled again / Then she stopped dragging my heart around / Now you know I'm free falling."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Page's unique act draws various demographics. Therefore, he winds up playing at a variety of venues. Though he does hit the West Valley dive bars and East Valley sports bars that you'd expect, he plays on Prescott's Whiskey Row a few times a year. He's also hit the occasional biker rally, the recently closed Chandler Cinemas, a Seventh Avenue lesbian bar, and even a military base.
When asked how he was received by soldiers, he simply replied, "Diversely. You cannot be doing terrorist jokes. There will be no Page Goes to Iraq CDs coming out."
So what does the Idiot have coming up? Even in a depressed economy, Page manages to play 15 to 20 shows a month. He's working on his third full-length record and his penmanship. The man is hell-bent on improving it in the next year or so. Rumor has it that the director of the cult classic film Repo! The Genetic Opera has asked Page to play at his wedding. Lastly, he is also in the process of planning his birthday party/End of the World party for December 12, 2012 — the last day of the Mayan calendar. "It'll be a good party," he boasts, "'cause no one will have to drive home."