“Used to be so deep…”

This amuses me.

I was doing a search for statistics on the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises for my weekly music-game column over at Green Pixels, and for some reason stumbled on this article about late-’80s/early-’90s punk band Pennywise. I was pleased (if a bit surprised) to learn that the band is still together and performing, but the part of the article that really amused me goes like this:

The band’s punk credibility was boosted by some Sex Pistols-like antics. During an appearance on the syndicated call-in radio show “Loveline,” [guitarist Fletcher] Dragge intentionally vomited on strait-laced co-host Dr. Drew. The interview took place at alternative rock station KROQ-FM in Los Angeles in 1995.

What the article does not tell you is that a day or two later the band played a show at Peabody’s Down Under in Cleveland, Ohio. I happened to be in Peabody’s legendary green room while they were telling the story to a friend of mine — it’s possible my band was actually opening that night, but I honestly don’t remember — and was as aghast as you probably were the first time you heard this story. But then Fletcher did something that in some ways is even worse.

Apparently, after the appearance on Loveline, he had been smoking a cigar. And apparently, he decided it would be a good idea to put the cigar out on the back of his own hand. (I cannot see Fight Club without thinking of this story.) And apparently, before going on that night, he decided it would be a good idea to pick the scab off the burn and draw the Pennywise logo on the wall of the room.

In his own blood.

And make it three feet high.

But this was just one contribution to the art on the wall, which included a nearly mural-sized bit of abstract art courtesy of Natalie Merchant, and another large drawing from Eddie Vedder. Lemme tell you, Peabody’s back in the ’90s was the shit. They had this spectacular booking agent who had an almost scary sense of when a band was about to get really big. Nirvana and Pearl Jam both played there right before grunge exploded. Jane’s Addiction played there when nobody had any idea who they were. The Offspring played there right as “Come Out and Play” was hitting the radio. It was uncanny. Maybe it was the size of the club — big but intimate, I think the capacity was around 450, which is just right if you ask me. Maybe it was the great sound system and sound guy. Maybe it was the location in the Flats, Cleveland’s longstanding (but now largely tame) neighborhood of debauchery. But this place was something special.

Technically there is still a place in Cleveland called Peabody’s, but it’s not remotely the same. (And a quick peek at their website indicates their days of booking interesting up-and-comers are pretty much over.) Luckily the memories aren’t going anywhere. I even have a nifty memento to mark my own experience with the club: On Ani Difranco’s live double-album Living In Clip, there’s a shot of her sitting on a battered couch in front of a wall with writing all over it. (I’ve tried to find a version online, but can’t seem to.) Above her head is the name of my band, and the bands of some of my good friends. That’s Peabody’s green room. It was legendary.

It’s gone now.

5 Replies to ““Used to be so deep…””

  1. You DID open for Pennywise that night. That’s why I was there and I remember that dude’s hand was all wrapped up in a big bloody bandage. That was sick.

    Fun times!

  2. Adam @ 1: I used to play bass and sing. You can hear some very old examples here: http://www.johnnyhighground.com/MP3s/whatever.._/ Now I kinda do everything, but much less often. And by Conor I assume you mean Oberst? Haven’t heard the album yet, but it’s on my short list of new purchases.

    And Pugs @ 2: Are you sure we played that night? Its bizarre that I really just don’t remember playing with them at all. For some reason I feel like I was tagging along with Jen.

  3. Peabody’s Down Under *sigh*
    – where I saw my first hardcore shows
    – where I was tossed into my first ‘pit’
    – where I would stand by the stage and promise I would never be that ‘old’ girl in the back by the bar

    I know that pic from Living in Clip. Either pugs or someone else I dated showed me that. I think it was before I new you were you.

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