Arts & Culturewilliam orten carlton ort

William Orten Carlton = ORT

Seems like Athens just played host, albeit unwittingly, to its own version of the Destroy All Music Festival. You say you missed it? Well, you really didn’t miss much, but I will tell you a little more about it.

The scene was the Grit on Friday night, February 17th. The band was called Wussppig (unfortunately this typewriter does not have one of those German-language symbols for the single letter they use for “ss” that looks kind of like an elongated lowercase letter “b”, or an umlaut, the two dots they place above stressed vowels), and they were from that hotbed of musical culture– Clemson, South Carolina.

At face value, what they did was not bad at all. They used a projector to show slides (somewhat arty ones at that) of highlights of their home state; such as a backwards shot down Main Street in downtown Columbia, several construction sites, some backwoods skeesters standing beside a hep-hep 1940’s car, and Episcopal-church-looking building, a theatre, something on Columbia’s Huger Street, some brigks, some out of focus weirdness, and the like. This was coupled with an industrial-type musical presentation using such semi-typical instruments as a saw, synthesizers, drums, and so on. At first look, something new and to be highly recommended. This band came with an opening act of the most torturous folk singers since Suffer Dandles made beer commercials in 1964 or 1965, leading the brewer in question to take him off the air because sales of their brand (which I will not mention) were becoming flatter than Suffer was (the beer was NOT flat).

Now comes the rest of the story. These folks journeyed down here just to make fun of us. They wanted to ridicule our music scene here… admittedly so, even. One can suppose that the seeming void left by the departure of one highly successful ex-Clemsonite has been filled, not by bar bands doing covers of tired old top 40 songs and/or heavy metal hucksters, but instead by jealousy, envy, and pettiness. Football rivalries are one thing, but this sort of thing is not really along thos lines. After the game, the hatchet is usually buried and business goes on as usual, y’know? But, with this going on, it is possible for me to believe that a lot of people in other places see Athens not as a place that they would like to visit to rake it all in, but one to visit to take US all in. There is a wide gulf of difference.

Back in the 1950’s there came a country duo called Homer and Jethro. They performed ghastly parodies of then-popular country songs, such as taking “Doggie In The Window” (which was a hit for Patti Page circa 1954) and turning it into “(How Much Is That) Hound Dog In The Winder?” At first, people were outraged: “How dare you make fun of Hillbilly music?” outraged fans chanted in droves. Then the truth came out: Homer and Jethro were actually Henry Doyle Haynes and Kenneth C. Burns, two boys from out East Tennessee way who could, when seriousness was needed, pick and sing with the best of them. In fact, until his death a few weeks ago, Jethro Burns was classed as one of the greatest mandolin players in the world. People got over their original upset and their records sold steadily for many years, in spite of the fact that their formula never basically changed. In short, they were the “Weird” Al Yankovics of that day, and rightfully there is a place for such often-high comedy as that in music. We often take ourselves too seriously, and if “Weird” Al can come along and mimic Michael Jackson—not once but twice, and with Michael’s ASSISTANCE not just blessing nor even tolerance), then parody can live and prosper.

This is an entirely different story. I felt something was weird when none of the people would speak to me. “What is up with these folks?” I thought. I even went so far as to tell several people in the entourage who finally would talk that I thought their little gang were some of the unfriendliest folks I’d ever met outside of Heflin, Alabama. “I guess they think this place is pretentious.” came the reply.

I mean, I passed up Bar-B-Q Killer’ last show for this! I passed up Love Tractor for this! I passed up Retro Groove! I missed Chicago Bob and Jack-o-nuts and an Evening With The Garbagemen (although I did to see Deacon Lunchbox) and John Berry and/or Nathan Sheppard, not to mention Bluestreak. Am I wrong to feel cheated?

“Aldous Huxley’s secret serum is pored over unsuspecting cornflakes.” I noted as I listened unavoidably. Yes, it is true, only on a little different scale. Now that they have done this, what else can they do? I suggest a return to the pastures of piedmont, South Carolina, a listen to dismal bar bands and the same old metal, and perhaps even a search around to find someone gives lessons in cow tipping. Who knows? Perhaps the Horry E.M.C. will have a mass retirement of all its meter readers in a couple of years… it might behoove those Wussppig folk to go apply now and avoid the post-graduational rush.