Monday, May 21, 2007


Saturday, May 19th

Pin-A-Go-Go Pinball Show
Dixon California Fairgrounds
Dixon, California

I've been threatening Capt. Fireball that I'd attend this event for, like, 2 or 3 years, and I finally made good on that threat. The Fairgrounds in a rural town like Dixon (65 miles or so NE of S.F.) was the perfect venue for an event like this; no annoying poser hipsters! It was a cool scene: 150+ machines with around 200 attendees playing by intuition, feeling all the bumpers, always playing clean. Everyone was there for F-U-N.

The highlight of the event was seeing the amazing one-of-a-kind Hellacopters pinball by artist Dirty Donny, who's done artwork for the likes of Metallica, Gearhead Records, The Wildhearts, and The Hellacopters among others.

Dirty Donny and his Hellacopters Pinball
(Pic by Umlaut)

I was surprised by the number of soccer themed machines there were (3 or 4), but The Hellacopters machine overshadowed all of the others for me... Although I did geek out playing a prototype Star Trek machine (only 10 were made!)..

(Pic by Umlaut)

I like how there's an entire subculture of pinball gearheads who twiddle with their machines, sell spare parts, and generally behave like car gearheads.. except their machines don't use fossil fuels. It's all so Lock 'N Loll.. and I like it. Pop that hood and let's see what you got..

(Pic by Umlaut)

Almost 4 hours of standing like a statue and becoming part of the machines flew by, and I've still got a supple wrist. Number of Who shirts = 1 (mine). I ran into a guy I know who works for that Rock band who fought Napster; I didn't know he was a Pinhead! 'Twas cool seeing him again (Hey Jeff)... During the drive up, Drunk Ted called my cell but it kicked into my voicemail; he was in NYC and had a question about a Metallica boot he'd found. Dude, sorry I didn't call you back! Man, the Umlaut Network sure is everywhere these days.

How do you think he does it (I don't know)? What makes him so good? Click HERE if you want to see more of the geekdom... The digit counters fall.. He sure plays mean pinball..

After driving back, I took a break at Casa de Umlaut before Timo jetted up from the South Bay. We hit The Bank for the first time in awhile... When we got there the waitress recognized us; after frequenting The Bank for about 10 years, I'm finally a regular... Could this day get any better?

Yes, yes it could. Later that evening:

The Knitters
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco

It was nice being in a crowd of folks my age and older; no annoying poser hipsters! Of course, given the Music Geek nature of the event, the Umlaut Nation was nicely represented, so a shout out to Capt. Fireball, Dema, Lori, The Sheriff & Mrs. Sheriff, and Timo. I ordered a PBR at the bar 'cause it seemed like the right thing to do for the occasion.

Although the album was reissued on CD awhile back, I still only have my original Slash Records vinyl of that first Knitters album. I haven't written about it much in this space, but the truth is "Roots Rock / Alt Country" has been just as profoundly important in my life as Metal; I dig a twangy Strat or Telecaster as much as a screaming Les Paul or Flying-V. Uncle Tupelo is as sacred to me as Iron Maiden.

Watching John Doe and Exene sing together is as transcendental as it gets; timeless. Hearing Dave Alvin and his Strat is also about as transcendental as it gets. Combine those elements with the rhythm section of D.J. Bonebrake (one of my favorite drummers) and Jonny Ray Bartel on the stand up bass and this was one of the most purely musical experiences I'll have all year. 'The Call Of The Wreckin' Ball' was particularly GREAT.

Music Geek Moment: When the riff from 'Ziggy Stardust' was used as the intro to 'Poor Little Critter On The Road'. Brilliant.

At one point during the set it hit me that it's been 20 years since I first saw John Doe / Exene onstage together (X @ The Oasis, San Jose, CA... a show Jayne has no memory of seeing with me.. Hi Jayne!)... Crazy. Mrs. Aragorn onstage can be a sublime force of nature.

If you bought one of every Knitters merch item you would have paid around $90. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. To quote Capt. Fireball as the houselights went up: "It was pretty much a perfect day, wasn't it?" Yes, yes it was.

"They call me Wreckin' Ball... 'cause I'm the baddest of them all..."