Posted January 17, 2009


Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio
December 26, 2008


Between factory layoffs, being Ground Zero for the mortgage crisis, and the beloved Browns setting an NFL record for most quarters without an offensive touchdown, these are tough times for Cleveland. And worse, the one thing that always provided solace, the music scene, is in a lull.

But on December 25 and 26, like a dog returning to lick up its own vomit, a band who provided amateurism and sarcastic humor in the face of the otherwise vibrant ’80s Cleveland underground, Les Black’s Amazing Pink Holes, reunited for two gigs at C-Town’s hippest venue, the Beachland Ballroom.

Though sparsely attended (and not by this author), the Christmas gig was apparently vocalist Les Black’s time to shine like gaudy Christmas lights -- his witty humor coming through like a slam dunk by Lebron James, one of Cleveland’s few bright spots. The next night (attended by this author) was packed, and if Black wasn’t as sharp as he repeatedly asked if anyone could get him a car (he wasn’t kidding), the enthusiasm of the crowd and band made it a great time.

But not before another blast from the past, Akron’s Teacher’s Pet, did a bang-up job with their opening set. Hailing from the legendary late ’70s Rubber City punk scene, with ties to local legends like the Rubber City Rebels and Hammer Damage, the Pets never quite fit in with the artsy-fartsy crowd that dominated their city’s music landscape. But that’s what made ’em cool.

On this Day After Xmas, Teacher’s Pet comprises three of the four members from their most enduring lineup -- Ron “Pete Sake” Mullens on keyboards and vocals, Kal “Rex Lax” Mullens on guitar, Billy “Billy Whipp” Tomazic on drums -- plus long-time Mullens sidekick Dave Stephenson on bass. With a tight pop punk sound, they rip through originals like “Hooked on You,” “Meet Me at the Hotdog Stand in Half An Hour But Don’t Tell Your Dad,” and their ode to the trampling deaths at a 1979 Who concert, “Cincinnati Stomp.” And then there are the covers, like an unexpected remake of the Misfits’ “Astro Zombies” (Ron was sporting a Misfits T-shirt), an impromptu version of the Pork Dukes’ “Stuck Up” stemming from hecklers’ demands, a sped-up “Teenage Kicks,” and worthy revivals of “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am,” Status Quo (“Big Fat Mama”) and the Heavy Metal Kids (“The Cops Are Coming”). The audience digs it, and their enthusiasm carries over.

The headliners are up next, and plenty of pomp and circumstance precedes them. A drum riser constructed from milk crates and duct tape is erected front and center. A large pink and black Pink Holes banner (at least 12 feet long) -- with a comic-book-styled quip of “fuck off” -- is unveiled in the back. And then there’s the elaborate drum head with skin beater Freddy Pants’ mug on it, plus a huge gig poster billing Les Black’s Amazing Pink Holes at stage right.

The scenery, however, quickly takes a backseat as the Amazing Holes take the stage. Renowned for attacking the audience with projectiles and throwables, the Holes haven’t mellowed with age -- employing a sidekick with a Mexican wrestling mask to do their dirty work. Several cans of silly string sprayed crowd-ward kick things off, followed by a barrage of balloons (popped quickly) and then the hurling of a large stuffed ape -- we’re talking nearly 4 feet tall -- into the crowd. A tug of war/mosh pit ensues, and pretty soon the ape is disemboweled into an explosion of white stuffing that’s enough to cover damn-near the entire floor with mock snow. Snow angels are made. Stuffing is continually hurled into the air like confetti by moshers. And the now ripped pieces of the ape -- head, limbs and torso -- are flung back and forth between the band and crowd in a mock war. At one point, guitarist Kurt Turd (Bob Richey) is knocked back by a piece of the ape, and at another, drummer Freddy Pants (Tom Fallon) is masked as the ape’s gutted head somehow finds its way onto his noggin.

Oh, and there was music, too. At least some approximation of it. Except Fallon is really a guitarist (from the New Salem Witch Hunters, Satan’s Satellites and the Alarm Clocks), though his crash-and-bash beats -- basically floor tom and snare, with occasional nods to cymbals -- anchor the band. And Richey (from the Offbeats and the Pagans) is really a drummer, but his deliberately silly guitar licks add to the hilarity. But Cheese Borger is really a bassist, and Les Black is really a vocalist. Or something. They go through their covers of “Land of the Lost,” “Ring of Fire” and “The Proof Is On the Pad” (an old Stridex commercial jingle), plus a smattering of originals like “MSB Love,” “I.A.G.A.H. (I Ain't Got A Head)” and “Drink More Liquids and Eat More Shit.”

By the time it’s over, beer cans and other stage items (such as the stuffed dice adorning Fallon’s drum kit) have been added to the tally of flying projectiles, and the Beachland looks like it’s been through a war. Nah. Just another Pink Holes gig.

Assessing the situation two days later, Beachland co-owner Mark Leddy notes that the club not only had to clean the floor with a broom and snow shovel, but also had to take apart the monitors to get out the stuffing.

“It was a time-consuming process,” Leddy notes while swigging a Dortmunder Gold Lager amongst the cool vintage neon beer signs and vinyl in Fallon’s basement.

Putting a rare Rationals single (“Guitar Army” -- original non-album mix) on the turntable, a smirking Fallon turns to the author and says: “Don’t write about the gig.”