The monthly, completely undefinable music night at Churchill's known as Night of the Weirds celebrates its final installment tonight. For a brief explanation in this week's issue of the paper, click here. For an in-depth exploration of what Night of the Weirds was all about from Sasha Weisfeld, an active founding member of the local "weird community," read on.
Night of the Weirds takes place Tuesday, April 1, at Churchill's, 5501 NE 2nd Ave, Miami. Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is free. Those 21 and older are welcome with ID. Call 305-757-1807, or visit www.churchillspub.com.
Now is Over
My life as a Weird
BY SASHA WEISFELD
1996. We were two former New World Art School students who figured we had no future in the rough and tumbled world of business and art. With fathers broken and brilliant, mothers who cared so much we should be gay (we’re not and we’re okay with that), we figured it was all a joke. Carlos Vega (Vidavox founder, current PhD pure math student) and I, Sasha Weisfeld (actor, playwright, performance artist, musician and FIU alumni/ BA Sociology) sat in a townhouse in Kendall. So far, we had only accomplished being known for being talented and smart, doing a lot of drugs in high school, and just being weird.
We dreamed up a band in a townhouse in Kendall. We would play tiny instruments through gigantic amps, sing songs about feeling small in a big world, and become known as Fuckmemommies. It was a joke -- or so we thought.
Five years later, Fuckmemommies began opening up for Laundry Room Squelchers every Thursday at Churchill’s. The Squelchers are a noise band headed up by Rat Bastard, legendary player, performer, and producer. I played a half-size Gibson clone through a borrowed Marshall stack, and while Carlos didn’t have a small drum kit, he was small at 5”6’ and a then-135 lbs. We never thought we would have the guts to do something so stupid, pointless and embarrassing. It was fun and I felt like myself.
This was an era when Dopee Francisco (highly intelligent, freestyle noisy jazz), played Thursdays at Churchill’s. One night some University of Miami students affiliated with the WVUM radio stationed came to the show and loved it. After asking about any recordings we might have (we didn’t) they invited us to play live on the radio (it never happened). One student said he played bass and asked if we would be interested in having him as our bass player. I asked him if he had a small bass and he said “no,” and I said, “I don’t think that’s going to work." The weirder your band is, the bigger your ego has to be. Carlos and I became distracted with other pursuits and the band stopped playing.
Carlos went on with his studies and formed Vidavox, an instrumental unit that became recognized as one of the best bands in town. I went on to work on my play, Decay, which was being produced at the now-defunct C-roc art cooperative. Decay would be the final piece in the C-roc story, appropriately, working along the themes of destruction, confusion, self-mutilation, worship, and decadence. A musical piece with scenes and monologues, a band was always present on stage providing accompaniment for the performers as well as performing the play’s theme music and songs about being in a band. I spent a lot of time at the co-operative with the cast, which included Asha Loring, Ed Hale, Max Bluto, Amanda Green, and Matt Sabattela. Jeff Rollason lived at the co-operative and, at first hesitant about being involved with a play, eventually couldn’t help himself from watching every rehearsal
During my work on Decay came the first time I heard a weird person refer to others as "weirds" in a positive, endearing way. In my mind, this is the beginning of weirds defining themselves in Miami as a subculture. It was Amanda Green who would show up late to rehearsals, and even later to hang out with Max and Jeff, who I remember saying in her high-pitched, candy-sweet, somehow reverberating voice, “Hi weirdees,” or “You are a weird,” or “Bye weirdees." It sticks out in my mind because I have been called weird many times before by peers, co-workers, and friends, but never in a way that endeared me to them and never in a way that included me in something.
Fast-forward to Little Haiti, 2005. I met Jon Jon Cassgnol who had just finished a stint working with Clarence Reid and was a little put off about the exploitation that happens to musicians in the music business. We reformed Fuckmemommies and began playing as a duo. I had a backlog of songs and Jon picked out the ones he liked, and we worked on those while he played drums and I played a full-size Gibson. We played a night hosted by Jeff Rollason called Real Rock at Churchill’s. Amanda Green came to one of our shows and after asked if she could join the band as our bass player. This time I said yes. We borrowed a bass from Chris Salazar (graphic designer, Vidavox, Milkshed) and we were a trio.
We played real rock at Churchill’s and did a special engagement with Britt Juleen (Miami-born ballet dancer, eight-year soloist with the Dutch National Ballet) at a Design District gallery. We were in a band and life was good. We hung out and did weirdo things like eat crappy food and drink coffee late at night. Amanda cackled when Jon and I annoyed each other. We were all so annoying and it was funny almost all the time until Jon had a revelation. He loved the music and the band felt like family but he had family in east Ohio whom he was missing and needed to be near. He decided to move to Pittsburgh, one hour away from his family. While I felt it was the right thing to do and felt proud to be apart of this life choice Amanda was heartbroken that the band was breaking up. We only had two weeks before Jon would be gone.
With the help of our old friend Steven Covey (union stage hand, sound guy, closet bassist) we recorded the skeleton of an album over the next two weekends. One weekend was at my parents' townhouse while they were out of town, and the next weekend at my aunt and uncle’s townhouse while they were also conveniently out of town. It’s so great when people help out by not being around. It was Jon’s last night in town and we all drank and sang together around the mike with screaming and talking. I believe there were times when our arms were around each other.
Night of Weirds finally began in August of 2007 and has continued since then on the first Tuesday of every month. Always a free event, the participants have varied from acts born out of the noise scene to acts from the old scene, to acts from no scene. Jeff Rollason’s nights have always been my favorite. He books acts that he likes and he seems to enjoy every show even the ones that are giant train wrecks. I love him. When you played Real Rock at Churchill’s you felt like you were real rock. Night of Weirds is even better because we can just show up being who we are -- weird!
Jon Jon Cassagnol returned to Miami for an extended visit to finish the album. I love it. I think it’s beautiful and heavy. I don’t know how fuckmemommies, the name itself, affects you, the reader. Its obscenity and absurdity empowers Jon and myself. In it we are the mommies and we want to make art that is special and beautiful and unique just like real mommies. And like real mommies we want love and sex. We want to be cared for and fucked.
The album says a lot about how we feel about ourselves, and the place in which we came of age. We were both born in New York and grew up in southern Miami-Dade County. I was born Jewish, tall, and stocky. John was born Haitian, short, and thin. He grew up in Richmond Heights and I grew up in Kendall. We’re good friends and we’re honored to be releasing our album, Cared For and Fucked at the Last Night of Weirds ever, tonight.
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Why is N.O.W ending? I can’t quite say for sure. I don’t know who decided this would be the last one but there was a certain telepathic agreed consensus between weirds that it felt like the right time to end it. The good die young but weird does not. It has to be killed.
We will be killing it weird-style tonight at Churchill's, starting at nine p.m. with short films made by weirds. Besides, of course, Fuckmemommies, scheduled to perform are members of the weird community including Adrian Mesa (comedian), Amanda Green (singer-songwriter), Ariana Van Gelder (musician), Ben Shahoulian (poet), Beruka Beragri (big mess), Cherry Impact (double weird) Crash Mitchell (folk preacher), Curious Hair (Miami spiritualists), David Gunter (seer), Dan Hosker (musician), Dino Felipe (feeler), Dyslexic Postcards (cool dudes) Jiblit Dupree (noise god), Kidd Art and Babble (new blood), Luciano Guidini (foreign), Mountain Limb (young blood), Rat Bastard (legend), Mitch Kopp (musician), Rick Nasty (evil friend), Yo ama vs. Ryan H. in the Battle of the Century (stage fighters).
Sasha Weisfeld is a playwright, performance artist, actor, and musician who has performed his work at the Miami Shores Performing Arts Center, GablesStage, Colony Theatre (opening for David Lynch), the Miami Beach Cinematheque (performing two different improvisational comedy shows), Art Center of South Florida, (special engagement with NY performance artist for Art Basil), Deluxe Gallery (special engagement with Britt Juleen, soloist for the Dutch National Ballet) Cinema Paradisio (Fort Lauderdale), Alligator Alley (Fort Lauderdale) the Poorhouse (Fort Lauderdale) Churchill’s (Miami), at the later and now-defunct C-Roc and at the old Sweat Records location in Miami. Performances in NY include the old Surf Reality and the old Collective Unconscious theatres in Manhattan.