Saturday, August 09, 2014

Audioblogging: The Lemon-Fresh Pinetones In Psychedelic Hell

The Lemon-Fresh Pinetones were my final band, formed accidentally in 1987.

At this point, PS Bingo (see previous posts) was a two-piece consisting of myself and Joel Nowak. We had done a few shows together, and recorded an epic noise tape called Sludge Mountain (watch this space) for Al Margolis's Sound of Pig Music.

One of our more interesting public activities was when we collaborated with San Diego's fledgling Sledgehammer Theater on a wild street performance on Prospect Avenue in tony La Jolla which involved haranguing passers-by with offers of tiny cups of apple juice while I droned "We Are the World" while dressed in a full sewage worker costume. Ha, performance art!

In 1987, Sledgehammer asked Joel and me if we would compose and perform the sound design for Brain Fever, their first original stage production. We agreed, but warned them that we were, after all, a noise band, and they shouldn't expect "normal" music. They were fine with it! Or so they thought!

Shortly after rehearsals began, the producers/directors panicked. Sure enough, our music was totally chaotic and noisy (go figure). Their solution was, without even asking us, to bring in a third musician, John Gange, a talented pianist and synth player, to "tame" us. At first we were kind of upset, but we quickly grew to love John, so it all worked out. We called ourselves The Pinetones (we added "Lemon-Fresh" later) and performed the sound design live for every showing of Brain Fever. It was hard work, and the folks at Sledgehammer constantly tried to reign in our noisier impulses, eventually saddling us with headsets and directing us on a cue-by-cue basis. They didn't trust us AT ALL. Just imagine how smug we were when the eagerly-awaited Los Angeles Times review of the play came out, and the critic harshly, dismissively panned the play but praised the music and video work:

The best moments are provided by the disturbing, jungle-like sound design by John Gange, Peter Huestis and Joel Nowak and the video portions, directed by Dave Cannon, on which commentators from the Tinsel Town Tattler (Elizabeth Backenstow, Philip Charles Sneed and Paul Eggington) comment on the movie production. There, at least, most of the humor is comprehensible, consistent and pretty much on target.

After Brain Fever finished its run, we played a handful of shows around San Diego. We were largely an impov noise/rock band, using some of the themes we had developed for Brain Fever as a jumping-off point for somewhat Krautrock-style jams.

This recording is of our first public performance, in which we played between sets of a "Psychedelic Night" at UCSD's hippie Che Café. We played behind a curtain in an alcove, so nobody could tell who or what was making the sound. The bands playing that night were the worst kind of "Paisley Revival" imaginable, all of them trying their hardest to sound (and look!) like The Seeds. One of the bands was called Hair Theater, which neatly sums up the aesthetic. We thought we were WAY more psychedelic than any of the other musicians that night.The audience did not agree: "This is giving me a migraine," one hairhopper lamented.

Judge for yourself! This is a short recording, only 20 minutes. You can download the zip file here.

As for Sledgehammer Theater's Brain Fever, they've recently uploaded a highlights reel from the play on the youtubes. You can't hear much of our music, but there's a brief snippet of our heavy metal parody "Heave No Evil" on it, and you can hear how we used, for instance, party favors as sound effects:

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