Report from Lake Worth -- there's no shortage of noise up here! Or at least there wasn't Friday night when I drove to the quaint hamlet to see 13-year-old Nick Klein (or Prodigy, as he dubbed himself for the evening) and his infamous local cohorts. As promised the eclectic and mercifully brief "Tribute to Keith Moon" at Lake Worth's tiny bastion of experimental art terrorism, Downtown Books and CDs on Lake Avenue, included absolutely no reference of any kind to the Who. No good drumming, either.
Bookstore owner and New Times subject Kenny 5 ("The Art of Noise," July 6, 2000) touted the event as "an experience Lake Worth will have never known." The town has come to know and fear Mr. 5 and his collection of odd, noise-producing "instruments," including the 'lectric surfboard, 'lectric wood, and his favorite, the 'lectric grease pan.
The Keith Moon tribute (an in-joke, obviously: nothing about the night had anything to do with Moon, even peripherally) was the tenth and final installment in Kenny's series of "Sounds of the Future" performances at its current venue. Evidently the city became uptight after he hosted a mid-January "punk-rock pizza party" that attracted about 150 kids to the bookstore. The city boasts an outdoor space for public performances -- the Cultural Green -- but Kenny knows his type of show wouldn't go over too well in such a venue. "They'd come and shut me down in a couple seconds," he complains. To avoid future hassles at his store's recently purchased new digs -- the building next to Lake Worth's drive-in theater -- Kenny has decided to put the kibosh on the live loudness. He does desire to team up with Rat Bastard, his brother-in-noise to the south, and haul some of his sonic fury down to Churchill's Hideaway in Miami from time to time.
The young Klein has watched Kenny wreak aural havoc at the store for the last year or so; he seemed thrilled to be staging his own event there. Slightly pudgy, tousle-haired, and sporting some impressive muttonchops-in-training, he held court behind a most unKeith Moonish kit: in lieu of a proper throne, he used an old chair. He also played around with a sampler and a turntable, which he manipulated rather clunkily.
Guggenheim Awardwinning, black turtleneckwearing, chiseled physique sporting dancer-choreographer Demetrius Klein (Prodigy's proud papa) contorted and twisted amid it all. The elder Klein, surely one of Lake Worth's artiest citizens, frequently collaborates with Kenny 5 and thus has a high tolerance for din. On this night he needed it.
Young master Klein's pal George Bechtel -- who uses the handle 8 Inch Gazing Ball -- coaxed the evening's most interesting sonic textures from a collection of effects pedals, walking a line between feedback and sheared-off melodies. The terror with a Telecaster broke off some chunks of raw noise and played with them in true avant-experimental fashion.
As Prodigy threw down a slightly-less-than-sick party beat, Bechtel's accompanying squall of feedback cleared the front row -- including eight-year-old Kelly Jo, who had begun the night with a not-very-noisy cover of Tammy Wynette's "I Don't Want to Play House." As Kenny explained, "I was trying to pull off my equivalent of Nico for Lake Worth." Just a few weeks ago, Kenny discovered the precocious tyke singing Wynette covers on the street in front of her house. Tonight, however, Kelly Jo appeared genuinely distressed as soon as the ruckus began and was escorted (hands over ears) from the building by her father.
The two dozen patrons who braved the rest of the show were treated to Joe Canepa's gradual construction of a large painting against the store's rear wall. Hooded figures slowly emerged from the swirl of gray, pale pink, and sea green against the black canvas. Having no way of knowing, we wondered if this is the sort of thing that happens every night in Lake Worth.
Klein père continued his handstands, headstands, and balancing on one leg in the center of the room. The store seemed to shrink even more at that point, and I felt uncomfortable with his crotch pointed at my face. When I averted my eyes, I looked down, and a used Trixter CD stared back at me! I shrieked instinctively.
Some "songs" began with looped rhythms, but they soon faded, leaving Prodigy to steer the boat on his own -- right onto the rocks, unfortunately. After he shifted into only-slightly-less-jarring tribal pounding, he enlisted his dad to hold a large piece of sheet metal and invited audience members to bash it, Kodo style, as well. This metal-smacking resulted in some toothy cacophony, but it wasn't until Kenny 5 broke out his famed 'lectric surfboard (a sawed-off board with strings and pickups affixed to it) that the results lost any remaining vestige of melody and truly lived up to the billing "an evening of noise."
Immediately after the performance, Mr. 5 orchestrated a question-and-answer session in which some hapless soul actually asked the kids if they'd rehearsed! (Dude, Keith Moon never rehearsed!) Prodigy asked the crowd what they thought, soaked up the smattering of applause, and that was it. The youths' "suave sounds" inspired Kenny, who sees Klein and Bechtel as noise pioneers ready for the accelerated program at Skronk Academy. "When I was 13, I didn't have a clue," he said. "I was listening to Ted Nugent."
The Class of Aught-One may want to take it upon itself to investigate the output of a San Franciscobased industrial/noise group by the name of Sharkbait that operated during the last half of the 1980s. The tribal bang-'n'-clang, sheet metal torture, and guitar bondage are awfully similar to the young pair's. If the kids have never heard Sharkbait's Feed Our Frenzy or Blowtorch Face-Lift albums, they sure sound as if they have.
Outside the bookstore after the performance, Nick Klein, the aspiring compliment-fisherman, again asked us what we thought of the show. After our polite grunts of affirmation, he reiterated, almost embarrassed, "I'm the prodigy."
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