Sunday, January 04, 2009

WALLY THE WHALE: Starship Beer meets the Colorblind James Experience

The famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Scorgies gig from 1985. Don Scorgie, owner and proprietor, was FURIOUS with Chuck for having Starship Beer open up for us. Their set featured one song only, Wally The Whale, which began with frontman P.J. O'Brien chanting "Wally The Whale" with a bucket on his head and ended 40 minutes later with the entire Experience on stage, each of us playing the wrong instrument. Me? I was on drums. Most of the crowd walked out but the core audience that remained loved it.

Starship Beer pioneered what they referred to as "nut music" and their first release, Free As The Squirrels, featured liner notes by Chuck. It was recorded above the Market House Music Hall on Water Street in Oswego, New York and came out in '79.

P.J. O'Brien is an artist and poet who received the kind of respect and admiration from Chuck that Chuck meted out to a scant few. Kevin Whitehead, Starship's guitarist, is NPR's jazz critic.

To this day, the loyal few whose eyes were opened that night will laugh, remember and for a moment feel again the delirious euphoria created that evening.


david d. mcintire said...

Thanks for posting about this legendary gig, Phil. It's one of the several shows that happened in Rochester that I missed that I still regret not seeing. (Two others would be Tom Verlaine (at Scorgie's!) and the Talking Heads on their Stop Making Sense tour.) One of the things that I loved about CbJE was the fact that they could embrace the Starship Beer sensibility so effortlessly. And why I thought to myself after seeing them for the first time that they were the most important local band around. Many people loved the group for many different reasons, but for myself, the fact that they could reach for the anarchic so spontaneously was one of the group's greatest strengths.

david d. mcintire said...

I remember Tom Kohn telling me about this gig the following week when I reported for work at the Bop Shop. Standing next to him at the show was a fan of the band who was utterly horrified by "Wally the Whale" and told Tom that "This could really hurt their career!" Tom replied in effect that this was exactly why CbJE was a great band and that it only increased his admiration for the group. The effect on the band's "career" at this point seems negligible.

mike said...

Yeah, this was my first show of both CBJE & Starship Beer (on my birthday, no less). The memory is still rather vivid, as it's kinda hard to forget the creative chaos that ensued; needless to say but it inspired me to work on my own nutty (and some not-so nutty) musical endeavours, which continue to this day.
And CBJE? Well, what can one say about one of the finest bands that came out of ho-hum ol' Rochester except that the music really speaks for itself, eh?

Don Argus said...

The internet radio station "Radio Heartland", a project of Minnesota Public radio, has "I'm Consideing a Move to Memphis" right now. Pleasant surprise!