A fistful of tunes

The Big Gundown squints into the sun, throws its serape over its shoulder, and makes its play

Most of us manage to make it through this trying time and on into cogent adulthood without being murdered, but this won't be the first instance of someone noting rock 'n' roll's ability to retard such development. Phish is a wildly popular band long on expository talent whose most devoted followers subscribe to a mythos so densely woven and impenetrable as to make a Masonic lodge seem as accessible as a hot-dog stand.

In the service of this culture, the band puts out a newsletter, Dsniac Schvice, a feature of which has been a column by Phish bassist Mike Gordon. Described by Gordon himself (or some press flack) as "absurdist send-ups, farcical rants, and surreal flights of fancy," his contributions to D. Schvice have now been collected in book form--Mike's Corner, available now from Little, Brown, and Company's Bullfinch Press for $14.95.

Remember that certain long-ago point in the night, when somebody would wipe a tear of laughter from his eye, cough, and say something like "Man, I bet if we just put a microphone, like, in the ceiling or something and recorded this--y'know, after we forgot the microphone was there and we were really rollin', man, I bet it could be on, like, Saturday Night Live, man!"--remember that?

Of course, that person was an idiot. A transcript of such a late-night session--laden with insider quips, code words, and humor that couldn't possibly outlast the situation--would be much like Mike's Corner: incomprehensible, annoying, justifiably embarrassing, and totally without purpose or merit. A sample, the opening lines from a bit titled "Deem Team:"

"Deem Team. May I help you?"
"Sure, we'd like a deem."
"You can't have one."
"Can too."

"Okay, we'll send you a deem." Chuck Razzle liked to deem, but he did not like telemarketing.

Lest someone accuse us of meanly choosing the very dumbest lines in the story merely to mess with Gordon, here are the final lines of the three-page "story":

"Deem Team"
"a deem."

I mean, what the hell is that about? It's hard to blame Gordon--you assume some publishing company mook came up to him and said, "Yo, Mikey, we'll give you X dollars to let us print the accumulated mass of whatever it is you write in Dsniac Schvice." And the bassist said, "sure," or possibly "deem."

It's just interesting (in the same way a car wreck is interesting) that Gordon, a member of an industry currently buckling under the weight of what many experts simply call (deem?) more crappy product than the market could ever bear, has chosen to introduce into the publishing business even more crappy product, thus ensuring consumers an even wider range of crap from which to choose.

Lest we sound like Grandpa when he runs out of medication for his rash, Street Beat would like to go on record as an enthusiastic fan of fanciful flights, whimsical ranting, tomfoolery, and all other forms of fun designed to distract us from the yawning abyss at our feet, but Gordon's not Edward Lear; he's not even Shonen Knife. He's not even trying. Perhaps there is a layer of Phish Phandom at which Mike's Corner is rollicking good fun, but all those people had bootleg copies of the book before it even came out. Are you sure Bullfinch Press isn't a misprint?


Scene, heard
Congratulations to the winners of Poor David's B.W. Stevenson/Townes Van Zandt memorial songwriting contest: It was a tie again this year, with Austin's Diana Jones and our own Leslie Gail Brooks neck and neck. Victory must be sweet for Brooks, who has toiled long and hard in Local Band Hell. The winners go on to the Kerrville Folk Festival and will split a $150 purse...

Street Beat imagines Mike Gordon is probably a pretty nice guy. If you were at a cookout, there's probably no one better with whom to drink a few beers and sear a few wieners than ol' Mike. We value his input, assistance, tips, and feedback every bit as much as yours at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.

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