Bring the Noise

Cover your ears or bask in the blare. Miami avant-skronkers Harry Pussy, Rat Bastard, and Tom Smith's To Live and Shave in L.A. have launched an audacious aural assault on the senses. But is anyone out there listening?

Smith named his new project To Live and Shave in L.A. after an obscure porn video; the result of his thirteen months in Rat's studio is a CD titled 30-minuten mĄnnercreme, which consists of 40 tracks of all-out, no-holds-barred bedlam.

"This album is about sex straightup," Smith enthuses. "Lasciviousness stripped of its PC. It's the only thing I'm qualified to sing about, basically. We recorded 85 tracks, then narrowed it down to the best 40. Most of them are short, a minute and a half or less, because that's all you can really absorb with music this dense. We incorporated more than 300 samples of other people's work A guitar solos, drum tracks, lines of dialogue from films. I don't consider it noise, I consider it balls-out rock and roll. After all, the Stooges are the standard; Rubber Legs is the ultimate fucking record of all time.

"This," he says, holding up a copy of 30-minuten mannercreme, "is number two."

Tuesday, June 28. It's raining. Cafe Bacala, an acoustic music showcase shooting for a postmodern coffeehouse ambiance (chosen Best Beatnik Hangout in New Times's 1994 Best of Miami issue), is in full swing at Blue Steel, a Boho lounge at 29th and Collins on Miami Beach. The club is abnormally dense tonight, maybe twice the usual crowd of 35-40. Acoustic performances by Harry Pussy, Tom Smith, acclaimed jazz saxophonist Leo Casino, Rat Bastard, and King Felix are slated. The intrusion of these veteran noisemakers into hippie country is putatively to celebrate the release of King Felix's Owl Plane Crash CD on the San Francisco-based Sulphur label.

Many in the crowd have come expressly to catch Harry Pussy in an acoustic setting. And although neither Orcutt nor Feehan is anywhere to be found a few minutes before their scheduled showtime of 12:15 a.m., a pair of battered Kay acoustic guitars, one missing two strings and the other missing three, are propped against the blue stucco wall near the back of the room under the pinup-style painting of a woman whose pink nipples teasingly protrude above the towel in which she has cloaked herself.

Apparently moved to passion by the artwork, a young, expensively dressed man with a beeper and a leggy brunette woman in a black microskirt French kiss vigorously and uninhibitedly on a well-worn love seat near the club's entrance. Local legend Casino kicks off the noise segment of the night's program with twenty minutes of free-form jazz, backed only by Rat on electric guitar. Casino, black and bald, cuts a high-profile figure just mingling with the predominantly white, latter-day hippie Bacala crowd. Once he starts wailing, with Falestra behind him (it's a little-known fact that Casino was a founding member of Scraping Teeth), the joint is mesmerized. The air is electric, full of possibility and danger.

There is a slight commotion in the back of the room. The Kay guitars are gone. A journalist who has come to hear Harry Pussy panics, then spots Orcutt and Feehan heading for the door. "We need to tune up," Orcutt says sheepishly. But he isn't fooling anyone. Harry Pussy is trying to sneak out. The journalist shames them into staying.

Casino finishes and steps aside to enthusiastic applause. Rat launches into a solo set. People begin streaming out of Blue Steel. In less than a minute sixteen patrons leave the bar and stand vigil under the awning outside, waiting for Rat to finish. A young woman runs into the rain screaming "Augghhh!" at the top of her lungs.

Harry Pussy tries to sneak out again. Again the journalist intercepts them. This time Orcutt informs the writer that Feehan refuses to play because drummer Hoyos isn't there, and "it wouldn't be Harry Pussy without her." The journalist persists, pointing out the fact that they must have known it was an acoustic night and that there were many inside who, like the journalist, had braved the elements specifically to get a little Pussy. But Feehan remains steadfast. He won't play. (Later it was revealed that Feehan became distraught when, upon arrival at Blue Steel, his ever-present can of Mountain Dew soda was confiscated at the door.)

So it was left to King Felix to make up for Harry Pussy's abstinence. A one-man band who creates sound sculptures using a variety of samples, sequencers, and synthesizers, the King does not look very regal. Felix suffers from Marfan syndrome (the condition, which is characterized by abnormally elongated bones, was not identified until 1892; Abe Lincoln, Paganini, and even Jesus Christ may have been afflicted as well), which makes him gaunt as Ichabod Crane. He surrounds his skeletal person with keyboards and pedals and esoteric digital equipment. He begins playing and the crowd noise subsides to an unnatural whisper (unnatural for a bar, at least). He looks like the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy pulls back the curtain -- a lone man surrounded by strange machinery, creating sounds that no one has heard before.

He blows some Tibetan horn into a microphone, processes it through a synthesizer, loops it through a sampler. His cheeks look like Dizzy Gillespie's in reverse, imploding instead of popping out. Hyperventilation seems like a real threat.

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