Photo by Kristy, the fifth Good Apple:
I had never been to Ronny’s before Good Apples played there the witch’s-tit-cold night of December 11. We drove up to the club to unload, and noticed that most of the neon signs were on the blink, but there was a board outside simply stating:
Ronny’s serves dual purpose: it’s a dive bar, with $2 Old Milwaukee cans and a performance space where you can hear loud local bands for a $5 donation.
The bar also smells of something that’s hard to identify, and Gabor’s observation that it smelled like gas (like when the pilot light goes out in my gas oven) is a good description. Incense sticks didn’t help much, but it was a nice attempt.
The garage part of the establishment houses Ronny’s Center for the Performing Arts. The garage is slowly being renovated: instead of cinderblock walls and garage doors you might expect, there are now dark blue panels on the walls, the smell is much less noticeable, and the place is pleasantly warm. The ceiling is full of old water stains, but there were no leaks. The floors are linoleum, and there is no stage—the bands play tucked in the sharp corner where the two panels meet, in a triangle delineated with the PA.
Killer Moon went first. The trio consists of a lead guitarist, a drummer, and a bass player, and delivers hypnotic but energetic instrumental tunes. They have a quiet, reserved demeanor on stage. I was digging the tunes.
The club was slowly filling with our friends, and by 10:50 we were sound checking. I sort-of tuned the Fender Stratocaster Gabor’s sister is letting me play. Next time I’ll tune it better and sound check it for real—gotta respect the instrument. I only played it on one song, with much distortion.
Good Apples opened with "Mt. Killer," the perfect instrumental to open the set. So much energy and adrenaline: what a privilege to play with Dillon, Gabor, and Pete! The first song I sang was “Used to Sing.” The song consists of lines taken from Kathy Acker and then altered to fit the song structure and the story of the song (in my head) which is about disillusionment with love and a mixture of scorn and despair, from the point of view of a member of a megalopolis underclass. The chorus goes: “The Beatles used to sing ‘All You need is love’” and you can guess what the implication is. Personally, I am a Beatlemaniac to death, but it’s fun to assume a persona of someone too jaded for The Fab Four. And it’s a ridiculously arrogant statement on our part to use the platform of Ronny’s Center for the Performing Arts to scorn the Beatles, which only doubles the fun. It’s all in good humor. The Acker text was cut up and rearranged first by Kristy, and then I kept playing around with it until it clicked with the music written by Gabor and Pete.
Other lyrics were written the same way. “Gem” is a cut-paste-and-alter of Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Frank Norris. “Industry”: Helena Maria Viramontes, Sherman Alexie, Acker again, Carol Pateman, and Snezana Zabic (ha! I wrote the chorus all by myself!). “Once Is Enough”: Alexie again, and Hegel. “She Crashed My Car”: Viramontes again, and Hegel again. The exception is “Secret Book of the Dead,” a song for which I wrote the lyrics and the music, albeit using a standard blues/bluegrass chord progression in F sharp.
Our 8-song set clocked in at just under 40 minutes (the above-mentioned tunes, plus "Cannon Box," another instrumental), which felt good. The audience consisting of our friends is only getting to know our tunes, and it seems right not to stretch the limits of their attention span.