Whirling Hall Of Anxiety

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I was going to realize my dream of meeting The Butthole Surfers and see them perform live at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto.  With the assistance of Myspace, I managed to find guitarist, Paul Leary.  We shared correspondence regularly and often.  Most musicians have their heroes.  Paul Leary was MY guitar hero.  I loved his ability to make his guitar sound drunk one minute, and then like it was having a panic attack the next.

Paul gave me a three person guestlist for the show.  I decided to take Sick-Girl , who I literally just started dating, and one of my best friends, Hurricane, who was the only person I knew who was as geeked about the Butthole Surfers as I was.

Sick Girl’s 1972 Mercedez got us there in one piece.  I mean it was only Toronto but if you saw this Mercedez…  There is a lot to say for German efficiency.  Germany is a country that was decimated by war TWICE and still manages to be one of the most efficient countries today!  What does this have to do with my story?

When we got there I was a little nervous, wondering if Paul would actually remember to put us on the list.  He did.  We got in with no problems.  Once inside, there was a significant problem.  We all realized that we were starving.  The concert hall didn’t serve food.  No snacks.  Nothing.  No problem.  We could run down to Dominos down the street right?  Wrong.  Once you were inside, you can’t leave for any reason or they don’t let you back in.

I don’t know about any of you guys, but when I need to eat, become a starving, spitting, snarling fiend.   And that’s being nice about it.  To me, there is no rage like the rage that encompasses me when I need to eat.  The rage that encompasses me when people talk in movie theaters, not withstanding.

I bugged the goons at the door to let me out.  They refused.  If I left then I couldn’t come back in.  I begged and they weren’t budging.  It was only when I told them I left my insulin in my car, they relented and told me I better be back within 5 minutes.  No problem.  I sprinted down to the corner store like a crazy person.

In the store, I just pointed and grabbed.  Chips, pop, chocolate bars, a loaf of bread, pastries…..

Four minutes and fifty-nine seconds later I returned victoriously to the Phoenix with two plastic bags, stuffed to capacity with goods.  The handle was ripping from the weight of one of the bags.  The same hulking black bouncer that wouldn’t let me leave, stopped me.

“You can’t go in there.”  He stated, very matter-of-factly.

“You guys need to make up your mind.”  I retorted between clenched teeth.

This guy made me look like a piqsqueak.  And I am no slouch at six feet four inches, and two hundred and sixty pounds.  But I have something this professional wrestler doesn’t have.  Hunger rage.  He eyed me suspiciously.

“I thought you said you had to go get your insulin.”

“Yeah well I forgot it.  So I had to go get all this junk so I don’t go into diabetic shock and start break-dancing.”

“Well you can’t bring that in there.  But you can eat it before going back in.”

I could work with that.  I started inhaling the contents of bag one.  I almost choked twice from trying to eat and breathe at the same time.  After about five minutes of this the Ving Rhames lookalike looked at my snacks hungrily.

“Say, whatcha got in there?..” He asked.

Ving and I ate munchies with a vengeance.  I listened to bouncing war stories and other tales.  After he helped me kill the first bag of snacks, he told me I could bring the other bag in but I had to hide it.  I could live with that too.

On my way in the ticket ladies were eyeing me incredulously from their cubicle wondering how I managed to become nine months pregnant within a matter of minutes.

I found Sick Girl and Hurricane in the concert floor area.  I couldn’t help but notice how dead the place was.  I always thought Hurricane and I were the only Butthole Surfers fans on the planet, but now I was beginning to believe it.

They got into the snacks, but not quite with the enthusiasm I did.  I decided to head on backstage to meet Paul Leary.  I ended up running into a scowling Ving’s brother.  I explained to him I was on the guestlist.  He stated that didn’t entitle me to getting backstage.  I was furious.  I didn’t have the heart to use the snacks Hurricane and Sick Girl were eating to negotiate with this goon.

On the stage I saw a dude walking around fiddling with equipment.  It wasn’t one of the Butthole Surfers.  He was too normal looking.  I beckoned him over.  I handed him a Doug Hell CD and told him that Paul was expecting it.  He shook my hand and introduced himself to me as Andrew.  He disappeared for a minute and returned and said something to Ving’s brother.  Ving 2 looked hard at me, and moved the derelict barricade to let a smirking Doug Hell into the stage area.

I followed Andrew around the corner into the backstage area and BAM!  There was Paul Leary.  I am pretty sure a few of you out there have had the pleasure of meeting your idols.  Some of you probably kept it cool.  Some of you probably started babbling like a dumbass about the dumbest dumbass things you could babble about incoherently like a lunatic.  I opted for the latter.

“Holy shit it’s you -here’s my CD- oh right you already have -you should see the car we came in- Hurricane and Sick Girl are over there- they wouldn’t let me go get food -I got snacks – but they wouldn’t let me bring my snacks in- they wouldn’t let me back here-”

A frowning Paul Leary asked me if I wanted to go have a beer.  Of course I wanted to go have a beer!

Paul, Andrew, and I were sitting in a tacky looking room upstairs with mirror walls and ugly trim.  I was drinking a 50 and they were drinking a Steam Whistle . It was during this time I found out that strange V-Shaped bass that Pinkus played was a Harmony, not a Gibson like I thought.  I also learned the trick to Paul making his guitar sound drunk, was to play it while being drunk.  “Independent Worm Saloon” was his favourite album to make.  For “Who Was In My Room Last Night”, he used a custom shop G&L Asat with a Bigsby installed.  The beginning of “Goofy’s Concern” didn’t make that dive-bombing sound with a tremolo, he would literally crank the machine-head on his guitar to lower the note out of tune then fly back into tune using a Boss Chromatic tuner.

While I was getting the answers to the questions I always had, Andrew was rolling a joint with the greenest weed I’d ever seen.   I had never ever been a pot smoker.  I could never handle the high.  I get paranoid.  Now I’ve heard other people mention that pot makes them paranoid too, and they LIKE that.  Well I don’t just get paranoid.  I get irrationally paranoid and it takes me hours to calm down.

Did that stop me?  Of course not!  When Paul passed me the joint I accepted it with the confidence of knowing that I was in the company of my idol.  What could I possibly have to be paranoid about?  I took about five generous hits off that joint.  I should also mention that I am a smoker of tobacco.  People have pointed out to me on several occasion that I sometimes forget to exhale…..

Then it all began.  It suddenly dawned on me that I fell for the Butthole Surfers’ trap.  How could I be so fucking stupid?!  This was history repeating itself!  Back in the 80s they gave Daniel Johnston a hit of acid that would send an already mentally fragile human being over the edge.  I too was a mentally fragile human being.  Daniel Johnston’s favourite band was the Butthole Surfers.  MY favourite band was the Butthole Surfers…… AUGHHHHH!!!!

I was terrified.  And when I say terrified, you best believe that I was sitting there fearing for my life.  I was going to die in that room.  Butthole Surfers had an extremely shady history with their fans.  In fact, after one show in particular in Canada, it was rumoured that a fan was seen leaving with drummer, Tereasa Nervosa, and was never seen again.  My heart started thumping in my chest.  It sounded like an extremely loud and irritating band.  Oh wait. That was actually the opening band downstairs, Psychadelic Ill.

As I was lamenting about murderer, Tereasa Nervosa, she decided to make her entrance.  Even I am not poetic enough to explain to you how physically hideous this woman is.  She looks like Death eating a cracker.  It was like a zombie straight out of a Lucio Fulci movie.  With the exception of my mother-in-law this woman is the scariest looking human being I’ve ever seen.

She immediately started inquiring about my tattoos.  I was too scared to tell her what they meant, not to mention the cat was making a slick getaway with my tongue.  I could only stare at her mute with terror.

Paul was busy telling a story about the time there were aliens gaggling around in his backyard.  I’d had about enough.

I rose to my feet and tried to seem as menacing as possible.  I was walking out of there one way or another and they would be foolish to try and stop me.  Daniel Johnston was a wimp.  I wasn’t.  Or at least I looked like I wasn’t.

In actuality I told them I wanted to go see the opening band.  Paul offered to walk me back down.  I agreed but let him walk ahead of me just in case he tried anything funny.  Back downstairs he gave me a laminate and told me to come back after the show.  I took the laminate but had no intentions of doing that.  I wasn’t stupid.  I tossed the laminate after he left my sight.

Back in the concert area, it was war.  The once empty venue was now teeming with 40 and 50 somethings.

We found a safe place to hide up on the balcony in the corner.  There was no way in Hell Tereasa Nervosa could find us up there.  Even if she did happen to peer up and see me, there was no way that crotchety old hag could get through a thousand people before I made it outside through the smoking area and over the fence.

Now this was my first Butthole Surfers experience live.  They had a reputation for their disturbing live performances that were both decadent and violent.  But that still didn’t prepare me in my extremely paranoid and psychotic state for the movies they played in the background while performing, not to mention the ear-splitting volume and sheer racket.

For the next hour and a half of my adult life I felt like I was inside a horror movie. Images on the giant screen included penis operations, violent death scenes, and Charlie’s Angels clips. It all became abundantly clear that Tereasa didn’t need to find me. Their performance onstage was going to kill us all in one fell swoop.

We somehow made it out alive.

And I’m still here.

For now. But I know it’s only a matter of time before they come calling for me.

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Posted by: Doug Hell on