Song 21 – Stuyvesant – “Ever”

September 12, 2020

Song #21: Stuyvesant – “Ever”

The very first show we put together was in the late winter of 1993, a nine-band show that coincided with the release of our piss-poor first effort, a ten-song compilation of New Jersey bands called Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth, a record that gave me serious misgivings before it even came out, and that we don’t sell today despite having a shit ton of copies left in inventory, just because I wouldn’t want to take people’s money for such a subpar thing. The artwork was dark and shitty, the bands on it were inconsistent, we made way too many copies (including 500 cassettes). The experience of putting it together, the amount we learned and the lifelong friends we made were all tremendous, something I wouldn’t change for anything, but I’m certainly not going to subject you to the thing.

The show, though, was a blast. We held it at Live Tonight!, a venue on Washington Street that’s now home to “a new classic American tavern.” We decided that we’d make it a benefit show, with the money going to a local food bank, and the show was a smash – one of those shows that was teetered on that tightrope between being an anxiety-riddled nightmare, a smashing success, a breakdown-inducing horror show and a shitload of fun, managing to be all four things at the same time. It established my going-forward plan with shows (and also with any other kind of event): when I organize a thing, I’m hoping for bedlam. I want the place to be too full. I want the bar to run out of beer. I want the police called. I want there to be car accidents out in the front, because of the traffic it generates. I want lines of angry people who can’t get in, trapped outside.

And while over the years, it’s very rare that those things happen at an event I organize, at one time or another, all of those things have happened.

Once, for a company I worked for, I organized a grand opening for a retail store. I’d hired an ad agency to help pull it together, and at one point, I saw the owner race out the door to the grocery store next door, race back with an armload of cleaning supplies, and rush into the men’s room. I looked at her business partner and asked “What’s going on?”

He looked back at me and shook his head. “You don’t want to know,” he said.

“Really, I do.”

“Well,” he looked at me somberly. “She heard someone complaining about the men’s room, so she poked her head inside to take a look. Somebody had shit on the walls.”

Somebody shit on the walls?” I asked, incredulously.

“Somebody shit on the walls.” he confirmed.

“Like, somebody got some shit on the wall?”

“No. Somebody shit on the walls.

She came out of the men’s room and went right into the ladies’ room. Ten minutes later, she came out of there, a little green around the gills. I made a beeline for her. “What the hell is going on?”

“People are gross,” she said. “Men are gross. I don’t want to talk about it.”

That’s when I added “I want people to shit on the walls” to the list of stuff I’m shooting for when I set up an event. Even though it’s only happened that one time, probably thankfully.

Anyway, in 2011, I decided that organizing one show wasn’t enough, and I really wanted to have shows over the whole weekend. So we organized what we called “Camelfest,” a weekend-long benefit show at Maxwell’s. The first Camelfest included Richard Barone (of the legendary band The Bongos), New Jersey power pop band Readymade Breakup, The Mommyheads, the Brooklyn band Robbers on High Street (an excellent band that included Benny Trokan of the Reigning Sound and also Spoon), Yung Wu (many members of the Feelies), Wild Carnation (Brenda of the Feelies), Speed the Plough, Charlotte Sometimes, The Library is On Fire, The 65’s, Stuyvesant, and Varsity Drag (Ben Deily, original member of the Lemonheads).

Bands represented in this photo: No Pasaran!, American Watercolor Movement, Overlake, Stuyvesant, Friends Romans Countrymen, Varsity Drag, The Lemonheads, The 65’s, Shirk Circus, Balloon Squad, Puggle, Voice of Doom, and I’m sure a bunch more I’m missing. This photo by my cuz, Tom Hespos.

The whole thing was tremendous fun, and while we didn’t have anyone shit on the walls, we did have a near fistfight between bands, we had a night when none of the performing bands thought to bring a hi-hat stand and a Hoboken local had to run out and find one, and we had three nights of various band members jumping onstage with one another, playing each other’s songs.

During the show, I was interviewed by a reporter for one of the Hudson County newspapers, and the following day’s article identified me as the owner of Merge Records (an easy error for a lazy reporter to make since I was wearing a Merge Records t-shirt that day). I wondered if Laura and Mac employed a clipping service, and wondered how they’d feel about me hijacking their label for a day.

(Oddly enough, as I’m writing this entry, I realized I’m wearing the same Merge t-shirt today).

I fell in love with the Lemonheads fairly early, and was a little bit of a fanboi when it came to their members. Stuyvesant wears its Lemonheads influence on its sleeve, and often covered the Lemonheads song “Ever,” written by Ben Deily. In August of 2010, Stuyvesant opened for Varsity Drag at Maxwell’s, and invited Ben to jump onstage and sing “Ever.” Some asshole with a tiny record label brought a video camera with him and captured the whole thing, although the fidelity is awful:

Stuyvesant – “Ever” from Dromedary Records on Vimeo.

The following year, the band released a cover of “Ever” on the Fret Sounds album, and Varsity Drag came down to play the very first Camelfest. After the night was over, our pal, photographer James Damion, took a version of the picture above – still my favorite picture of anything Dromedary, full of people from some of the greatest bands to ever come from the area.

Here’s the Stuyvesant cover of “Ever,” from Fret Sounds. Buy it today or tomorrow (September 12 and 13), and we’ll donate the proceeds to Brand New Congress.

~ by Al on September 12, 2020.

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