my dad at acme.

I invited my father to see a show at ACME once.

Melting Hopefuls and Footstone were on the bill.

See, Under ACME worked like this: there was a restaurant on Great Jones Street in the Village (still is) called ACME Bar and Grill.  It was a trendy little restaurant that had the occasional high-profile visitor (“Pete Townshend came in for a burger last night!” I heard once).  They had a pretty decent crowd in the restaurant most nights.

In the basement of the bar, there was a room.  It was a nice, big room, long, with a stage at one end and a bar at the other.  The sound system wasn’t spectacular, but it was decent – as good as any other sound system at the clubs we went to, with the exception of CBGB, which had the best there was.

It seemed like there was a good band at Under ACME every weekend.  In 1993, they were right up there with Maxwell’s and Brownies in terms of quality of entertainment, slightly ahead of CBGB and Continental (who usually put seven or eight bands together on the bill in one night, which was insane), and miles ahead of places like Coney Island High, Bond Street Cafe, Boo-Boos, and the like.  I never could figure out why – when we went to ACME, we never even bothered to see who was playing – we’d just show up, and there would be someone good on the bill.

Eventually we discovered the secret – Under ACME had no booking person.  The bands booked themselves.  Essentially, you had to know the person responsible for scheduling the room.  You’d call that person – her name was Sharon – tell her who you were, and then she’d run down a list of available dates.  You’d then pay the club $150 and they would provide a waitress, bartender, sound man, and a person to work the door.  The sponsor of the show would get 100% of the door money, and the club would get 100% of the bar money.  The sponsor of the show was responsible for doing all the marketing.

It was a sweet deal.  But you had to know someone who could give you Sharon’s phone number – so, essentially, booking shows there was the community’s best-kept secret.  The more people who knew how to do it, the fewer dates were available to play.  So out-of-town bands would try and piggyback their shows with local bands, just to get into the club when they were in town on tour.  And people didn’t freely give up the phone number.

This particular night, Melting Hopefuls and Footstone were playing on a bill with someone else (can’t remember who).  Sandy and I were going to the show, and we decided to invite my father – we figured he loaned us the money for the 7″, and was so down about it, that maybe actually seeing the band in a room full of people would show him that there was actually something to this, and that we weren’t just throwing money at something stupid.  Surprisingly, he agreed to come.

He arrived midway through the opening band (whoever it was), eyes wide, dripping with sweat.  He was scared shitless.  Apparently he got lost driving there, and then parked his car (an expensive, luxury car) on the street.  The first thing he said to me was “Man, this is a shitty part of town.  You hang out here?”

I introduced him to Melting Hopefuls and Footstone.  I hadn’t told Melting Hopefuls that I borrowed the money for their 7″, as I didn’t think it was their business and didn’t want them to feel like I was overextending the label to get their record out.  So they were just happy to meet my dad.

Footstone played the next set, and about two-thirds of the way through, my father looked at me and said “They’re not bad for a heavy metal band.”

“They’re not heavy metal,” I said.

“Sure they are,” he replied.

“Just because they’ve got loud guitars doesn’t mean they’re heavy metal,” I explained.  “They’re really more influenced by punk rock, and power pop.  They’re much more like The Who than Black Sabbath.”  I somehow expected this to resonate with him.

“It’s all the same shit,” he said. “Heavy metal, punk rock, whatever.  Want to hear a real rock band?  Santana.  Blood, Sweat and Tears.  The Doobie Brothers.”

My parents are pretty young – they had me when they were in their early 20s.  This was the first time I ever felt a generation gap.  Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Footstone finished their set, and my dad found Ralph and said “Nice job.”  Ralph smiled broadly and I started to realize how utterly weird it was for me to have invited my father into this.

No sooner had he complimented Ralph than he came over to me, shook my hand, and said “Listen.  I left a Lexus out on the street in this shithole.  I have no idea how to get home, I’m in the middle of a slum, and I don’t want to be wandering around here in the dark.  I’m going home.”

I looked at him funny.  “Dad, this is really not a bad section of town at all.  I come here all the time.”

“You need to find another hangout,” he said.

“Really, it’s fine.  Nobody’s going to steal your car.  The band you loaned me money for is up next.  Don’t you want to see them?  Don’t you want to see what you’re spending your money on?”

He looked right in my eyes and said “No.”

I smiled, shook his hand, and told him the easiest way to get home.

As he walked out the door, Mark came up behind me and said “What’s the matter?  Your father doesn’t like the rawk?!”

~ by Al on February 15, 2009.

One Response to “my dad at acme.”

  1. […]  I’m an old man.  It makes me remember the night my father came to see one of our shows at Under Acme and raced the hell out of there as fast as he could.  I think in his case he was afraid for his […]

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