November 8, 1994
Tiny Tim stepped gingerly onstage (he's nearly 70, mind you), his short, chubby body filling out a suit fashioned entirely from cloth printed with sheet music. He flashed his expansive, tooth-filled grin that is either depraved or endearing, his thinning, dyed-black hair fanning over his cheeks. He blew a few kisses at the giddy crowd of aging hippies, moms and dads, rockers, yuppies, strippers, hipsters and college kids. With locals the Beat Angels standing behind him, ready to play back-up to an hour's worth of songs they had spent 30 minutes rehearsing, Tiny lifted his battered ukulele and began to sing.
And he did not stop for a long, long time.
"She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain," "Working on the Railroad," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "Wait Until the Sun Shines, Nellie," "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey," "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," "Darling Clementine," "Goodnight Irene," "A Bicycle Built for Two," "And the Band Played On," "The Man on the Flying Trapeze," "Harvest Moon," "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Yankee Doodle," "Harrigan," "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Over There," "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and "This Land Is Your Land."
Does this sound like the aural equivalent to the Bataan Death March? Does this sound like some kind of hellish cavalcade into the dullest corner of Tin Pan Alley? Does this sound like anything but entertainment?
Well, it was none of the above.
Tiny Tim was a driven man. Call him a has-been or a freak, but you can't say he doesn't give his all. And that translated into an evening of what, at times, bordered on performance art and skirted absurdity, but was anything but dull.
A large part of the spectacle was watching the Angels valiantly working through what must have been the ultimate exercise in frustration, trying to follow Tim through this marathon medley of songs written before their grandparents were born. Bass player Kevin and drummer Jon were able to provide at least some skeletal background; guitarist Keith gave up about halfway through, turned his guitar off, sat down and fired up a cigarette.
But Tiny was unfazed, plugging on with his Rudy Vallee vocals, changing keys and time signatures at will. After the applause that followed "This Land Is Your Land" had died down, Tiny thanked "Mr. Franco" and a number of others--all with exceeding politeness--and remarked on what a fabulous job the Angels were doing.
Then his musical juggernaut moved up to the latter half of the 20th century, all the way up to Elvis. Listening to Tiny Tim impersonate the King on "Heartbreak Hotel" was one thing, watching him do it was another. At one point, the man stripped off his coat and began writhing on the floor, then made it to his feet in time to segue into "Great Balls of Fire." The night was sad, ridiculous, poignant and truly mind-boggling, sometimes all at once. Tiny closed with "As Time Goes By."
There was something truly transcendent and moving--though something Cole Porter probably never envisioned--about witnessing this odd, longhaired man with a ukulele flutter through the classics with as much unique passion as Dooley Wilson himself. But, after all, the fundamental things apply . . . --Peter Gilstrap
Dancing French Liberals of '48, Fastbacks, and Zumpano
November 8, 1994
Since DCG Records bought out Nirvana's Sub Pop contract, the stench of secondhand teen spirit has been nearly inescapable. Two of this night's four acts work for the Seattle label, yet have about as much to do with grunge as a plate of oatmeal.
I missed local punk legend Jeff Dahl's set, which started promptly at 8 p.m. (what is this, wartime Germany?), but made it through the door just as Dancing French Liberals of '48 were setting up. This slightly new Seattle foursome, incidentally not a Sub Pop band, used to be known as the Gits. Unfortunately, most people heard about the group only after its lead singer Mia Zapata was raped and murdered in 1992. Given the crowd's somewhat morbid curiosity, DFL of '48 played an energetic set, mainly because of the band's hyperactive bass player. You found yourself looking at his flying fingers time and time again, especially in lieu of the group's rather uncharismatic lead singer, who looked somewhat like a stodgy Danny Bonaduce with tattooed arms.
Equally indiscernible were the song lyrics--one chorus sounded like he was singing "Constant Cinderella." "Screw by Screw" (at least it sounded like that) was a breakneck number which broke into a sprightly jig for about a minute and a half. Perhaps more entertaining than the band's set was an audience member's sweat shirt that bore the beautiful likeness of everyone's favorite ski-instructor assassin, Claudine Longet.