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K Records Showcase (Puncture, 1987)

MECCA NORMAL
RICH JENSEN
THE GO TEAM
SPOOK AND THE ZOMBIES
November 23, 1987

Bound Together Bookstore, SF

The K Records roadshow blew into town in its unassuming way, popping into Rough Trade on Saturday afternoon and setting up at a Haight St. anarchist bookstore two days later. Two sacks of free bagels were passed among the small crowd of ragamuffin rebels and curiosity seekers. A friendly, no-bullshit atmosphere for informal music. Bound Together is a great performance space because there’s so much to look at if things get slow.

The Go Team were Calvin and Tobi, a boy and girl guitar duo. They stood stiffly, like terrified children forced to perform at a school assembly, and strummed and picked out lovely crystalline instrumentals. Occasionally one would contribute a halting, nervous vocal. The best was a chilling tune sung by Tobi about good times with her best friend that climaxed unexpectedly: “my best friend is dead.”

Spook and the Zombies were a boy named Aaron who strummed an acoustic guitar and sang in a voice that was to Jonathan Richman what the latter was to Lou Reed. A Misterogers Neighborhood hootenanny. Aaron sang about wanting to be a child chasing ladybugs down the banister and how he couldn’t hold on to his girlfriends (“Girlfriends Don’t Keep”). He redeemed himself at the end with a too-cute-to-resist a capella song about being in love with everybody. “So if you feel I’m sitting a little too close/It’s prob’ly cuz you’re the one I love the most.”

Rich Jensen might be called a performance artist. A young man with a microphone croons observant, impressionistic stream-of-consciousness poetry in the voice of a schizoid Tony Bennett barely holding on to his sanity, going completely berserk for a few seconds and then hastily pulling himself back together. The predicament of Western Man? Riveting.

Mecca Normal began by explaining bemusedly that they aren’t exactly like the other K bands, but they’re “trying.” They ought not to try. They were a refreshing breeze of pissed-off adulthood infiltrating the playpen, stars in the best sense of the word. Such drama and presence in a woman/man vocal/guitar team. The way Jean Smith’s barbed words and delicately tortured voice mesh with David Lester’s subtle wild rocking guitar is a thrill to hear, and the way they prance and prowl and flail is a sight to behold. They won my heart with instant classics like “Smile Baby,” “Strong White Male, Here’s A World For You,” and “Will He Change?”, the last of which featured David ravaging his guitar with a flashlight in the darkened room. All they need is a bit of bongos or tambourine, a Mickey Finn to match their collective Marc Bolan. Come back soon.