Mechanik, Calling All Destroyers, and Goldstar at the Intersection 5/8/2002
Going to a show in my town of Grand Rapids, Michigan, on a Wednesday night is a little like joining Fight Club. You recognize almost everybody from past nights like these, but you wouldn’t ever think of talking to them on the street, even if you knew their name, and somehow it’s understood that the feeling is mutual. You might get punched in the face, but there’s also the possibility that a semi-stranger will press a plastic cup into your hand and pour you a beer or two from his lukewarm pitcher, unasked, unanswered.
The Intersection smelled of blood and sweaty cardboard this week when I caught the triple bill of Mechanik, Calling All Destroyers and Goldstar. Mechanik took the stage dressed like a negative universe version of Ultraman, complete with black helmet, plastic faceplate, and blinking led vest. His solo set sounded like a combination of Queen space opera soundtrack and Space Invaders (both the game and the early eighties novelty record). Synth runs were punctuated by various electronic noises and raygun sounds; his keyboard case was painted like the side graphic of the Defender arcade game.
Calling All Destroyers had less of a stated theme, but they were definitely more in your face about it. Lead singer Mark Hendershot took the stage trussed up in a regulation straightjacket and spent most of the first couple of songs struggling to get it undone, rolling around on the stage and knocking over mike stands, and at one point rolling right off the stage entirely. Once free, he attempted to light his shirt on fire, lit off several firecrackers in his hand, curled up on the floor with a pillow and blanket while yelling “Don’t look at me!” He incinerated a plastic troll doll with a butane torch (which added a noxious chemical smell to an atmosphere already reeking of dry ice and cigarette smoke), and as a part of the finale, tore open his pillow with his teeth and scattered the contents in front of a fan. Normally this kind of activity might be hard for a band to keep up with, or encourage the type of punk rock sloppiness you have to be wasted to enjoy (or play), but the rest of the Destroyers musically fufill the promise of this manic mayhem. They’re tight and fast. And as Mark puts it, “It looks like we’re really fucking up here, but we’re not.”
One might consider this a hard act to follow, especially if you’re allergic to goose down or the smell of burning troll doll, but once the feathers were swept off the stage, Goldstar willingly took up the challenge. We’re old friends, this band and I. They’re the last of the Leppotone bands, and while a discussion of this history is a little outside the scope of this article, the band springs from a long tradition of great bands. They’re supposed to be a prog rock band, but I’m afraid that definition falls slightly short of what they’re capable of. Once they warmed up, I banished any thought I had of quietly sneaking out and getting enough sleep to remain conscious at work the next day. By the time they were wrapping up with “Kingdom of the Ants,” Nathan was playing faster than a toddler on pixie stix, Karl was playing standing up on his piano stool, and Scott’s drumsticks were a blur. Jason was nodding his head to the beat of his bass, but then, that’s what he’s always done. As the lights came up, the only people left in the place were the members of Calling All Destroyers and me. That’s how hardcore it was.
Mechanik and Goldstar both have recordings available on Scratch and Sniff Recordings (including Goldstar’s excellent Live at WIDR). You can maybe get more info on Calling All Destroyers by mailing this guy.