I am heading to play a show in Pittsburgh tonight. Pittsburgh hasn't been an especially great town for me or any of the bands I have been in over the years. There's been some good shows here and there, but it's been hard to sustain a regular momentum there. It's hard to say why really. Sometimes a city embraces you, and sometimes they just don't. It's the way rock works at our level. You can be the biggest thing in the world in one city, and an hour away no one has ever heard of you.
Pittsburgh has some really good people. I love the 31st Street Pub and Joel. I used to like the Decade too. However, one of my favorite shows we ever played was at the old Electric Banana. The Banana rose to prominence as one of the first clubs to host punk rock shows when most punk bands were happy just to have a place to play. Johnny Banana, the owner with his wife Judy, has more great stories about his past than John Dillinger. The time he pulled a pistol and shot at the Circle Jerks comes to mind. Is it true? Probably, but does it even matter? Isn't it just great to know that there was a place and time where a crazed bar owner fired shots at Keith Morris and Co in anger?
This is from the early Cowslinger days. We rolled into the Banana on a Saturday night hoping to trick a few wayward souls into hearing us. The way it usually works is that you show up at the club by 830pm for load in. By 845p you are loaded in. Then you sit around for about 3 hours until you play. The trick is to make sure you don't drink too much beer while waiting to play to actually render you unable to play at all. This particular night we were shooting pool in the back room, and the phone started to ring. And ring. And ring. Finally Leo decided to pick up the phone and answer it to help out Judy Banana. "Hello? Oh! Yes, tonight The Cowslingers are playing and..."
"HANG UP THE MOTHERFUCKING PHONE!!!! HANG UP THE FUCKING PHONE!!!"
Judy came at Leo at 100 mph with the scariest outburst I had ever seen from a woman. We were all freaked out, but none of us as bad as Leo who stood absolutely frozen in fear. "HANG UP THE PHONE!!!" Then in a quick movement, Leo hung up the phone to avoid what appeared to be incalculable sudden violence heading his way from Judy Banana. I don't know why she freaked out so bad, but she really didn't want Leo to answer that phone. And then poof, she was gone upstairs.
We talked about it amongst ourselves wondering if Johnny was going to shoot us for some reason, but decided that it would be OK. We played to probably 20 people, and the sound guy (who I think was Johnny and Judy's kid) broke a cement block with a karate chop on stage before we played. With 20 people at $5.00 each, we should have gotten about $100. Instead Johnny said we only had $20 but since we were such good guys he would cook us a toaster oven pizza too. That was the best part about getting stiffed at the Banana. With $20, that would mean that there were only four people in the room. It's not like we brought anybody, but twenty is clearly more than four. To be able to walk up to us and say with a straight face there were only four people is so brazen it's great. It was just considered part of the "Banana experience" to get shorted when you got paid. We asked Johnny and Judy about the Circle Jerks story, laughed about how Judy yelled at Leo, and then Johnny started waving the pistol around the room. It was great. I wish Johnny and Judy still had the Banana open.