12SEP08 – Dog Fashion Disco and the Spider Sandwich

While on tour in Mesa, Ariz., and opening for Insane Clown Posse clones Twizted, the rabid audience of Juggalos antagonized Dog Fashion Disco by flinging their pocket change and spitting on them. Throwing caution and excrement to the wind, Dog Fashion Disco front man Todd Smith proceeded to defecate on stage before launching it into the audience. The move incited a full blown riot, which pretty much means tear gas was involved.

I’ve gotta admit, even after reading that, I’d still have gone to see them.

Noted for combining lots of different music styles – 70s psychedelic, jazz, piano recital, circus music and vocals, among others – Dog Fashion Disco is primarily considered an avant-garde metal band. The band’s lyrical content is both esoteric and satirical, charged with references to the occult, drug use, and mutilation. Hardly surprising, considering their chief influence is everyone’s favorite genre-defying act, Mr. Bungle. While they’re often referred to as DFD, they’d originally marched under the banner ‘Hug the Retard’ but changed it in order to keep from pissing off even more people

As I entered the Otto from the side entrance, the double doors of a van near the entrance opened and a sea of red-eyed punks in black t-shirts poured out in a cloud of dense white smoke, giggling wickedly. The gorilla at the door who took my ticket wore a t-shirt that read: “There are two people fucking on the back of this shirt.” (Punch line: “Just kidding, Jesus loves you.”)

I moved past him into the room, my eyes immediately drawn to the rows of concert flyers along the walls. I’ve always loved concert art, no matter how absurd. I think there should be a national gallery somewhere where people can walk between the different rooms sipping over-priced coffee and admiring this often overlooked art form, while making insightful comments to one another regarding the use of Dom DeLuise as a Christ figure, and the recent revival of nuns in fetish gear.

I honestly didn’t do much in the way of note taking for this gig. I believe that most of what can be said about shows like this in venues like The Otto Bar have probably already been written. Instead I spent the evening enjoying myself and taking pictures of everything in the hopes that it would make sense later. Putting words to or trying to describe the show in any conventional manner is patently stupid, and there are people who do this sort of thing for a living. Essentially, my Friday night was spent in a tiny bar packed full of nice people who wanted to have some good times, drink some cold beers, listen to songs about leprosy and urination, and engage in a little naked stage diving. Where’s the harm in that?

I looked up from my notebook at one point to see the stoic face of a gruff young motherfucker in mutton chops and a ball cap scowling back at me. “Do… you… like… Clutch?” There was a certain intensity in his eyes, and I wasn’t sure how to answer, but it was clear that he expected me to. Was this some new form of speed I was being offered? “Well, I don’t know,” I replied cautiously. “Should I?” My new friend Mike was quicker on the draw in his reply, and the goat scowl changed to a moony smile. “If you guys like Clutch, you’re right with me.” Goat ambled off to the bathroom, and was not seen again for some time. (Note: I went home, looked them up three days later and bought three albums worth.)

Sensory overload. The drums explode in my chest and tickle my skin… lights begin to flash, casting strange shadows on a waiting mob attired in Mohawks and PVC pants, shaved heads, dog collars, corsets, and amusing t-shirts. How much more black is black? The Otto Bar place reminds me of a close-quarters Halloween parade with a really good soundtrack. I find a space near the back of the room with an unobstructed view of the stage and start snapping away, holding onto my friends’ Angela and Mike’s eyeglasses for safe keeping. Two songs in for DFD, and the mosh pit begins in earnest. Fireplugs in sleeveless plaid shirts start wind-milling and stomping about the sticky black swamp of the crowded dance floor in loose figure eights, like power walkers weaned on a steady diet of caribou burgers and testosterone fries, boring wide holes through the crowd as they begin shoving each other enthusiastically into the center.

My ears are ringing like they’ve got bundles of electrified knitting needles jammed into each one, I’ve got a cold bottle of beer thrust deep in the hip pocket of my old camouflage pants, and a smile on my face that probably won’t fade for hours. I wondered briefly what it must be like for DFD’s front man, or any lead singer really, to stand up there looking back at an outward manifestation of himself. These people were here to listen to his band play:

When that first note of a song drops on the stage like a bomb, and the sweat-drenched face of a hot-wired crowd reacts by belting out the lyrics you wrote and going completely apeshit with joy, you might kinda get the impression they like you. When large, sweaty men take off all their clothes, clamber up onto the stage glossy with spilled beer and fling themselves tackle a-dangle into the outstretched arms of their fellow fans, it’s safe to say they’re having a good time. You don’t see that kind of shit on Oprah.

At one point, ten or eleven of the largest bruisers scurried up the steps at the back of the room, climbed out along the rail and perched there, waiting for the word to leap to the floor below before threats of show closure caused them to back down grudgingly, although one madman made the decision to jump. When the lights came up, nobody looked like as though they’d been denied a good time. Everyone stumbled toward the doors, inhaling the fresh night air and looking around them for that late night hookup. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

An hour later, we found ourselves at the Double T Diner. You can tell it’s a high class joint by the rented security hanging out near the door, and the graffiti scrawled just above the urinal: “Bush is Bin Laden’s bitch.” I ordered a farmer’s omelet and a cup of coffee. It seemed like the right thing to do.

After ten minutes of peace, the ringing in my ears had almost begun to subside. It was then that a group of kids invaded a nearby table. College-aged, they’re loud, but no one seems to care. It’s only when one of them explodes back in his chair with a yelp of surprise that things begin to pick up. Turns out he’d taken a bite of his sandwich only to see a spider fall into his lap. He trapped it under the lid of the serving platter, and there was a lot of muttering and urging exchanged before one of them attracted the attention of a busboy who summoned the manager. Naturally, the manager thinks they’re trying to pull a fast one. He shakes his head and laughed it off. Too bad spider boy doesn’t see things his way.

“Hey, everyone! I just want to say that I found a spider in my sandwich, so I probably wouldn’t eat here anymore if I were you!” The manager was red-faced, but the staff seemed fairly composed. I suspect it happened often enough. By this time, restaurant security had come running over to address the group. “Pay your bill and get out,” hissed a large black man in ODU pants and a polo shirt. His hands were up, palms out, establishing his command authority. “You’re gonna pay your damn bill, and you’re gonna leave.” The kid tried to explain his position, but the cop wouldn’t hear of it. Presently, the group grumbled toward the door. When we paid for our meals, they were waiting outside, joined by a real cop. “Say the word,” he says to the security guard, eyeing the group one at a time. “I’ll chain them up for trespassing.” The gesture was probably meant to frighten them into turning tail, but they weren’t impressed.

I called the cop aside and tried to use my considerable Jedi mind powers to explaining things to him, but the look on his face said he was set in his ways. “We get a lot of what we call ‘dine and dash’ in this area,” he assured me. “The bars let out and guys like these guys are out looking for trouble.”

“I don’t know these guys from Adam,” I replied. “But I’m telling you what I saw. That one, he’s eating his sandwich, he yelps, drops it in his lap, and traps something under the platter. Shows the busboy, busboy shows the manager, and the manager laughs it off. While I agree with you, he should have done things on the down low, but he doesn’t deserve to get locked up for finding a bug in his food. What message will this send if the papers get wind of the story?” Too little too late, the cop was set in his ways. “Thank you for your help,” he said through a condescending grimace. “Now you folks go straight home.”

Yes sir, officer, sir.

What a jerk…

The ride home was quiet; we’d been hammered into submission by the explosive energy of the show, the amount of food in our stomachs, and a late night debate about regarding the percentage of Mormons converting to Scientology vs Scientologists switching to Mormonism.

Besides, if I’d eaten a spider without knowing it, it was better him than me.

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