couple-a-jokers.

hopefuls-release-party-ad  Judging by the other clubs advertising around our Village Voice ad, there were lots of good bands to see in the New York area the week of the Melting Hopefuls/cuppa joe record release party.  On the date of the party, Friday, October 22, you could see a variety of good bands, including a few that were actually friends of ours, or of the bands on our bill: The Original Sins, who were planning to record with Ray (and eventually did) were playing at Brownie’s.  Oral Groove, who had a song on Elizabeth, were playing at Nevada Smith’s (a club I never visited).  The Swirlies were playing at Maxwell’s.  Maxwell’s had a crazy schedule that week, with Yo La Tengo performing the next day, Liz Phair supporting her outstanding debut Exile in Guyville, The Boredoms, Rodan, Come, Pitchblende, and Throwing Muses all slated to perform.

I was pretty nervous that nobody would show up at our release party.

I was also tired of Seattle by this point; we made a habit of making fun of “grunge,” having all but eliminated it from the kinds of music we listened to.  While an ad in the Village Voice was a pretty expensive proposition – even for the small ad you see to the left – an ad in The Aquarian was much more reasonable.  So we got a little more forceful with our ad in that publication:

 

Melting Hopefuls and cuppa joe release party ad from the Aquarian Weekly.

Melting Hopefuls and cuppa joe release party ad from the Aquarian Weekly.

I found it fun to use the word “fuck” in our ads.  Actually, I found it fun to use any word in our ads; I tried to be snarky and funny and goofy and friendly, all at the same time.  Sometimes it worked, usually it didn’t; always, it was fun.

The night of this release party was much more nerve-wracking than that of Elizabeth.  For that party, we had no idea what to expect and wound up jamming the house to the point where people were lined up outside, waiting to get in.

This time, we had that original release party as a benchmark – we expected crowds.  Ditch Croaker and Melting Hopefuls both had very large fan bases, and Footstone always seemed to draw an enthusiastic crowd as well.  We were a little worried about cuppa joe, since their live performances that I had seen were a little weak – this was their release party, so they’d be going on late, and I was concerned about disrupting the flow of a solid live show with a weaker band – how would they perform?

This time, it was Footstone’s turn to go first.  Since there were only four bands playing this time (as opposed to the nine we had at Live Tonight), we were able to wait until the club had a decent crowd, and by the time the band jumped onstage it was pretty full.  Footstone always brought a decent crowd with them, too, so we were happy with the size of the audience before the first band ever took the stage.

For a guy who claimed not to know how to play guitar, Ralph was a natural, banging on a Gibson SG and injecting a lot more energy into the songs than Guy ever had.  Since there were no guitar solos, Ralph and Eric had this twin-guitar, AC/DC sort of thing going and they rocked a lot harder than the Footstone of the past.  They played all new songs, none of which I had ever heard before, and I noted that the new song I really liked, “Superworld,” sounded even harder and faster than on their rehearsal tapes.  There were times that it felt like the band was hurtling forward like a runaway train, manic and barely under control.

They were playing much faster and harder than I had ever heard them play before.  They were playing new songs that were one hook after another, punctuated by these short, percussive-sounding instrumental passages that simply rocked.  And Ralph’s voice was nothing short of amazing; he could hit every high note, with power, and his sense of melody was outstanding.  They were playing off each other, one, tight unit, with Mark and Dave propelling things forward at breakneck speed, the twin guitars adding a huge, fat sound, and Ralph’s voice absolutely amazing.  Inbetween songs, Ralph and Mark had a quip or a joke or a goofy story, so they won the room over right away, and kept everyone’s attention from start to finish.

At one point during their set I looked at Rich and said “This is the best band that’s going to play tonight.”

He said “I know.”

When they introduced “Mountain Man,” they introduced it as their next Dromedary single.  It was the first time a band had actually thought to mention Dromedary from the stage.  The Footstone guys were the guys that really liked being on Dromedary.  They were into what we were trying to do.

Ditch Croaker came on next, and played a strong set that included the songs that I had once hoped to release on Dromedary.  The guys in the band went out of their way to thank us for inviting them to play (remember, they were playing for free), and were friendly as could be.  They played a tight set, but I’ve got to say I didn’t pay much attention – we were sitting at “our table” with a large group of friends that included not only Sandy and I, but Rich, Matt (who was drinking, something he does infrequently), the Footstone guys, Ray, and a host of others.  Unlike the Elizabeth show, where I was a nervous wreck and trying to keep everyone together, I was dead set on actually enjoying myself at this show. 

By the time cuppa joe was ready to take the stage, the club was pretty full.  Not as full as Live Tonight, mind you, but it was an excellent crowd.  Just before the band began playing, doug brought a boom box over to where we were sitting, popped in a tape, and hit the record button so that he could tape their set.  He asked me if I could sit by the boom box so that nobody would take it or break it while they were playing.

Of course Ralph saw all this, and immediately walked over and stood next to me.  No sooner did the band begin their set then I saw Ralph leaning over and speaking into the box.  In trying to listen to what he was saying, I was totally not paying attention to the band.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “Please welcome cuppa jokes.  Country Joe.  Couple-a jokers.  Crumbly toast.”

Throughout the entire set, he kept riffing into the boom box, commenting on the songs, goofing on the lyrics, poking fun of the band.  “I hope he never listens to this,” he said.

Meanwhile the band actually played well, introducing some new songs that I hadn’t heard on any of doug’s home-made demo tapes.  One, called “swinging on your gate,” reminded me a lot of Crowded House (one of Doug’s favorite bands), and had an outstanding, sing-song quality to it.  They played a few heavier songs that I also had never heard, thanked “Uncle Al and Aunt Sandy,” pushed the seven-inch a bit, and were done.

I was pleased with the way the night was going so far, and when Melting Hopefuls began performing I had an ear-to-ear smile.  The floor of the club was packed with people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, dancing and yelling.  Matt, sitting next to us, had begun babbling incoherently, which provided us much enjoyment.

Early into Melting Hopefuls’ set, the bartender called me over.

“We’re out of beer,” he said.

“WHAT?!”

“We’re out of beer.  You’ve got a lot of people here.”

“How could you run out of beer?” I asked.  “This is a bar!”

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “We have none left.”

I was amazed.  We had packed the club to the point where they ran out of beer.

Melting Hopefuls were an excellent live band; the live environment really gave Max an opportunity to shine on guitar, and with their second guitarist, Lorraine, playing rhythm, Max could really open up a bit.  The bass player, Sue, sang backing vocals – but whenever we saw them play, we could never hear her voice.  

At the end of their set, they also thanked us and encouraged people to buy a copy of the record.

And then the night was over.  The doorman gave me a fistful of money, and I, in turn, gave fifty dollars each to the waitress and bartender, and a hundred more to the sound man.  Then, we said goodbye to everyone and dragged our box of records back to the PATH train to Hoboken, where our car awaited.

I smiled all the way home.  We had done two shows at this point, and both were successful – the Live Tonight show had a crowd lined up outside the door, and the ACME show ran out of beer.

Sandy did a quick calculation in the car, and figured out that, after our Village Voice and Aquarian ads, our mailers, and the tips we had given to the ACME staff, we walked away with about $500.  That was a nice chunk of cash to help us promote the records.

“We should do shows all the time,” I said.  “I wonder if we could get bands to play free for us once in a while?”

“It couldn’t hurt to ask,” Sandy said.  “We’re getting pretty good at doing shows.”

~ by Al on March 4, 2009.

6 Responses to “couple-a-jokers.”

  1. What….. no song to post off of the “Cuppa Jokes Live at Under Acme” tape? I gotta hear that!

  2. I was hoping that I had a recording of it, but no dice. I’ve got a handful of cuppa joe live tapes, but none of them contain recordings from that night. That’s one I would have loved to have.

  3. Another night I have no memory of. I better quit drinking.

  4. […] to 1993. In the entry about the Melting Hopefuls/cuppa joe release party, you could see that Liz Phair was playing Maxwell’s the following Tuesday, October 26 by […]

  5. […] Couple-A-Jokers.  The story of the cuppa joe/Melting Hopefuls release […]

  6. I digitized many (and listened to all) of our old cassette a few years ago, but I don’t remember hearing the couple-a-jokers tape then, or ever. Doug must have it. Ralph, you’re in trouble – but “crumbly toast” was a good one.

    http://www.plasmicstudio.com/cuppajoemyspace/cuppa_music_player

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