UHF.TV #4 A Night at the Cacophony Museum
By Dave Travis
Into The Zone, a documentary by John Alloway chronicling the history of the Cacophony Society had a benefit preview screening on Saturday, February 4, 2012. The Cacophony Society is a society of cultural anarchists that aim to snap America out of its catharsis through surrealistic interventions into people’s reality. Cacophony evolved from the Suicide Club, a San Francisco group of adventurers. When the Suicide Club had run its course a new group the Cacophony Society evolved in its place. A Los Angeles branch opened up soon afterward. My college friend Eric Brown introduced me to the Cacophony society in the early 90’s. It was like taking a trip to the Island of Misfit Toys. The Cacophony Society were a bunch of friendly freaks that did performances, field trips, and art projects. I went to various Cacophony events for a few years but then drifted away. I made a lot of lifelong friends at Cacophony twenty years ago that I still see on almost a monthly basis. The Cacophony Society is most famous for Burning Man and Santa-Con; but they have done hundreds of smaller events and non-events. When I found out that they were making a documentary about Cacophony I was intrigued. And when I heard that there was going to be a benefit preview screening of the Cacophony documentary “Into The Zone” I knew I had to be there. So I hopped in the car and drove behind the Orange Curtain to Santa Ana to make the scene. Here is my report.
Into the Zone was previewing at the Yost Theatre in Santa Ana. The Yost is an old Vaudeville Theatre from the old days in Santa Ana. It is kind of like a smaller version of the Orpheum in downtown L.A. I arrived and saw lots of old friends. They sell alcohol at the theatre so there was a lot of drinking and socializing with people that hadn’t seen each other for years or haven’t seen each other for days. The theatre was packed to the point where there was almost no place where one could sit or stand. The lights went down, and it was time for the show.
Jon Alloway’s film Into the Zone does a great job telling the story of the Cacophony Society. It entertained and informed and everybody left smarter and happier. You can find out all about the movie at www.IntoTheZoneMovie.Com . It is the movie that “took thirty years to bring you instant gratification”. The movie uses a straight forward moving narrative that makes the story easy to comprehend and is illustrated by footage that is hilarious beyond belief. I highly recommend you check it out whenever it comes out.
After the movie was a Q&A where they answered questions. Dean the taping machine asked if the movie was coming out on DVD soon. Jon Alloway answered not yet, and that this was just a preview.
After the movie there was a reception. It was like you see on TMZ except the celebrities were Bob Moss and Steve Moramarco. A few blocks away was the Cacophony exhibit and street fair. I rambled down the road.
The Cacophony street fair was part of the Santa Ana art walk. About a third of the people were Cacophony people and their ilk while the rest were just local Orange County people out for an art walk or hanging out in downtown Santa Ana on a saturday night.
The First act I saw on the stage was Creekbird. I had heard about him when I was playing in WACO but I had never seen him. He came on the stage and he looked kind of like a cross between Guy Smiley and Thurston Howell III, wearing a Red Blazer and a Pit Helmet. Creekbird had an old school nostalgic vibe like Groucho Marx. He played old time music on a tenor guitar. It was very reminiscent of R Crumb’s Cheap Suit Serenaders or Ian Whitcomb. When I got home I checked out some of his stuff on You Tube and one comment he had said it all: “George Formby on acid.” It was good seeing someone writing new music in an early 20th century genre. I was lucky enough to see Tiny Tim a couple times before he passed, and Creekbird has some of his spirit.
I went inside the Grand Central Art Center to check out the Tales from the Zone Cacophony Exhibit. It was great, it reminded me of when they did the Degenerate Art Exhibit at LACMA with all the art that Hitler hated, or the Street Art exhibit they had at MOCA last summer. There were several rooms filled with Cacophony memorabilia and ephemera. There were old flyers and pictures of there various stunts. I would highly suggest it for people who like art with humor.
The next act outside was Clowns and Fetuses with Rich Polysorbate singing and Creekbird playing an iPad. They sang about subjects like spontaneous human combustion, and Polysorbate dressed like a burn victim. It seemed like they originally thought they would be shocking but the Orange County crowd was not shocked, just entertained. Clowns and Fetuses then proceeded to be entertaining and everybody was having a good time.
I walked around the Santa Ana art district, to check out art. There was a variety of art in different shapes and sizes and styles and the art ranged from the bland to the amazing. There were blocks and blocks of galleries. I saw street performances by a classical cellist, and a Vietnamese break dance crew. I at some birria and headed back.
Headlining the festival was Fancy Space People, Don Bolles’s space rock conglomeration. Unlike other space rock bands they actually dress like space people. They looked like they stept off the show Lost Saucer, a mid 70’s Sid and Marty Krofft science fiction show which starred Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi or 70’s space band Zolar X. The instrumentation was Paul Roessler on keyboards, Don Bolles, Sara Tonin, and one other on guitar, plus bass and drums. Their lead singer is No-Ra Keyes formerly of the Centimeters. She sang with a high-pitched soprano tone that was like a cross between Tiny Tim and Blossom Dearie; while her stage presence was reminded me of Grace Slick. They played a late 60’s early 70’s prog/glam mixture that most reminded me most of Status Quo and Mott the Hoople. The triple guitar keyboard bass lineup sometime sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd as well which was kind of funny considering that Fancy Space People have the origins in bands such as the Germs, the Screamers, and the Deadbeats. Of the past bands that these people came out of the ones that seeped through the most were early 45 Grave (when it used to be with Paul Roessler, Don Bolles, Paul Cutler, Rob Graves, Mike Borens, and Dinah Cancer) sonically; and Celebrity Skin with the use of vocal harmonies and stage theatrics. The multiple male/female vocal harmonies also sometimes were like the Mamas and the Papas. I have seen them a couple times before and I have seen at least 100 shows with different bands that had Paul Roessler or Don Bolles in them since first seeing Twisted Roots and 45 Grave in 1984. This is one of my favorite of their conglomerations and I look forward to seeing them again.
The Cacophony movie and exhibit and fair blew my mind with so much interesting art and music. I learned a lot from the movie and the exhibit and had fun hanging with old friends and new. It was totally worth the drive to Orange County. The exhibit will be up at the Grand Central Art Center until April 5 and you should definitely check it out. The Grand Central Gallery is at 125 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701. For info on the Into The Zone movie, check out www.IntoTheZoneMovie.Com. For more video and the like check out UHF.TV