Fixing Up the Fringe
'Everybody laughed, and I breathed a sigh of relief and grabbed another beer'
This is the third in a series of articles by Josh Medsker as he attempts to re-establish a zine library in Austin. For the previous installments, go to austinchronicle.com/issues/ dispatch/authors/joshmedsker.html , and keep an eye out here for future ones.
I spent most of June 28 struggling to get everything done for the Austin Zine Library Benefit, which was to happen that night, all the while worrying that I was forgetting something important. My friend Jef and I ran around town, eventually getting the beer and the P.A., and then returned to the Rhizome Collective space to set up everything. Even at 5pm, we were sweating profusely. We figured it would cool off later in the evening, when the crowd would be gathering. We even had a 5-foot-tall fan. It never cooled off. I set up the kegs while Jef and Andy, the Americans UK frontman and bassist, respectively, set up the P.A. When the place was deemed rock-worthy, we sat back and had a beer or two.
A small group of people was already milling around looking at the library as the first band, OK Beth, was setting up. A couple of regular volunteers, along with some of my friends from Barnes & Noble, had also arrived to help with the door and the keg.
After a tight, moody OK Beth set was a short open-mic segment. I was anxious that no one would read, but a guy named Dan Solomon emerged and read a funny, politically themed piece in which he called George W. a "fuckwad." Everybody laughed, and I breathed a sigh of relief and grabbed another beer. As the Quicks set up, a Ruta Maya regular named Maslow stood up and read a damning piece about the state of current affairs called "America 2003 Remix," which anthropomorphizes our country itself, and states "America, I don't love you; I'm not drunk enough," and asks, "America, are you out there? I can't tell anymore, all I hear is a bunch of gibberish." Ginsberg would've been proud.
On my way back from an HEB run, I heard the Quicks all the way down the street. They were young, loud, and snotty, ending with a spirited, well-paced version of Link Wray's classic Fifties stroll "Rumble." While the Americans UK were setting up, So New Media publisher Ben Brown read something he'd written especially for the benefit called "The True History of the Zine," about how he created the first zine when he lived in Berkeley in the Sixties "in a burnt-out flophouse on the corner of Shattuck and University," where he lived with two prostitutes and his "comrade in arms, Diego, an illegal immigrant and third cousin of our hero and political pundit of choice, Fidel Castro."
Brown then introduced Neal Pollack, who read "I Remember Austin" (which was written for and will soon be published in the local lit zine Two Note Solo). Pollack was relentless. He took on the persona of an aging Austinite pining for carefree days at a Liberty Lunch show, when "Waylon was throwing sheets of acid out into the crowd, and Willie did 'Whiskey River' six times in a row," and how everyone "missed work on Monday, but it didn't matter 'cause none of us had jobs anyway." It was beautiful.
By the end of the night, the warehouse felt more like a greenhouse, even with the giant fan. Jef Burandt threw up his arms and contorted his body like Iggy, while the band bashed out their New Wave rock & roll behind him. They slowed things down halfway through with a Belle and Sebastian cover and later played their signature cover, Jonathan Richman's "Government Center," before closing out the evening with a new tune. By the end, Jef was writhing around on the concrete in the dirt and spilled beer, and the music was all squalling feedback.
We made almost $400, $100 of which we had to give back to the Rhizome Collective. I'd say it was a success. About 75 people showed up at the height of the evening. We even got some volunteers, and benefactors brought more zines for the library. All we have to do now is catalog the zines. All we have to do! Ha.