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March 13, 2015
The evening starts with a drive across Brussels, and a cab’s eye view of the historic and not-so historic architecture of this great city. Tonight I’m traveling with the Midnight Crawlers, who know the secret histories and alternate terrains of the Belgian capital, so I’m treated to a crash course in the beautiful and the brutal. I’m told that, although Brussels escaped destruction during the wars of the last century, the bruxellois have somehow managed to destroy their own architectural heritage. A tragic comedy, indeed.
We arrive at the VK, which has that illicit warehouse party vibe, and grab the all important first round of cold foamers. The main hall—a big black box—is perfect, and I’ve never been more ready for the heavy than right now.
Brussels own Moaning Cities is tearing it up on stage, bringing a rough-hewn edge to that old psychedelic magic. They’re a frenetic presence, and the all-women rhythm section is absolutely killing it. Their set ends with a proper garage-psych rave-up and its the perfect way to get this thing started.
There’s a break in the action, so its time for another round and a quick smoke for the Crawlers. Out front, we notice the exterior facade and some glorious Art Nouveau windows, and our faith in the hidden beauties of Brussels architecture is restored.
Back in the big box I notice a lonely, unlit disco ball hanging high at ceiling’s center, and wonder how long its been dormant.
Dead Meadow take to a sparse stage and there’s little fanfare. A few moments of recognition between band and crowd, and off we go.
The first riff, and the first groove.
The guitar is wet, and the drums dry. The bass is a hole punched in the Belgian night. A twisted electric blues, deep and wide. Riffs are conjured from older stories, ancient and primitive in nature. I think Band of Gypsies, and this is a good thing.
Dead Meadow is stretching its jams out, and a cross-fire rhythmic flow drives us deeper into an elemental vibe.
We pass through the crowd and score more beers. The VK is a no-hassle, its-all-good joint and members of Moaning Cities are chatting up the punters and somebody says isn’t this the way its supposed to be?
Back inside Dead Meadow is discovering a groove during the encore that’s so right and true the whole evening seems to collapse into one seamless, glorious riff-story. It’s sublime and you can tell that everyone feels it.
Still buzzing and wanting more, we spill into the night and find our way to an underground bar—a cave, a catacomb?—and it’s the next logical step in a night of strange and wonderous stories. We talk music. There’s whiskey, and beer. We’re inspired, and somebody says “let’s jam!” The sentiment is perfect, but we succomb to the night and continue the reverie in this timeworn space.
How the night ends nobody seems to know, but that matter lies elsewhere…
Photographs by the Rock File
Back in the Dot Com Era, when everybody had a venture capital website and disc jockeys were still employable, a small group of vinyl freaks from New York City started spinning rock records just for fun. An office space here, a clandestine basement bar there, wherever rock records and turntables could be found.
Yes, it was revolutionary, and people didn’t know what to make of it…
How dare you play records without charging a cover!
Where’s the velvet rope?
What did you say your DJ name was again?
Wait…are those actual records?
At some point, people began to let loose and realize it was in their best interest to get down to “Can’t Get Enough” by Bad Company without all the Y2K Baggage. Remember what it felt like to groove to Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do?”
The whole 14 minutes and 16 seconds?
Of course you do.
And it was good.
The Rock Fight started as a friendly game of give-and-take. If I played “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, what would be your response? It could very well be “Take the Money and Run” by the Steve Miller Band, for any number of reasons. A common theme, riff, or genre was all one needed to pick up a thread and spin.
Hell, maybe it was just another sonic ass-shaker that wouldn’t let you up, let you down, or let you go.
Either way, it was classic call and response. So what’s next?
Did somebody just mix four sides of Pink Floyd into a seamless web like some Psychedelic Sonic Acid Test?
Just keep the DJ honest. Show up with some vinyl of the rock vintage, spin ’em cold in the old way and see where it goes. And please don’t forget the booze.
At some point, the Rock Fight hit the bars and clubs of New York City. There were write-ups in the local rags–that’s magazines for you Millennials–and people signed up to spin their dusty-old grooves to the masses.
After the bubble burst and the Self Appointed Chosen People of The Information Supper Highway fell back to Earth, the Rock Fight found permanent digs at the Ding Dong Lounge, an uptown Manhattan dive with shitty taps and worse bathrooms. It was here that the need to solidify the movement was crucial. Define the style, own the copyright.
Give it a name.
And so the Rock Fight was officially christened and began a residency that some say helped rekindle the interest in scratchy slabs of vinyl.
Somewhere along the way the unspoken rules changed and Rock Fighters began hauling in mainframe computers and other modern gadgets to create “play-lists” for drunk co-eds looking for free shots. But that was never the point. (Well, maybe the free shots…or the drunk co-eds, but nobody seems to remember.)
Anyway, the Rock Fight soldiered on in ways never thought possible until the closing of the Ding Dong in 2014.
In honor of the brave women and men who hauled crates of records through the mean streets of Manhattan, the Rock File looks back and offers a sampling of Rock Fight fliers, designed by our good friend DJ Arturo.
Sample some of this good shit.
I’m at Musician’s Exchange in downtown Ft. Lauderdale to see Roy Buchanan with a bunch of friends. We down canned beers in the parking lot and listen to our own bootleg tapes of Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Sunrise Musical Theatre. It’s one of those wide-open, breezy Lauderdale nights that don’t get any better, and you somehow know you’ll remember this night for all-time. And then we hear somebody say something about some crazy shit that went down the other night, something about Jaco Pastorius, and how Jaco was jamming with some local cats right here at Musician’s Exchange, and man was that shit pretty fuckin’ rad. And we’re like holy shit how did we miss Jaco down here at Musician’s Exchange cause we come here all the time. So we make our way over to this other parking lot party and talk about the night they just happen to come upon Jaco Pastorius, one of the greatest bass players of all-time, jamming with a bunch of local South Florida musicians, and how utterly awesome and surreal it was. It can be that way sometimes. Can somebody pass me a can of beer?
The Rock File would like to credit the above photo, so if anybody has any information…
From the Rock File archives comes the event flyer for the Portland, OR edition of Lollapalooza ’93, which took place at Portland Meadows on June 20, 1993.
I remember a fierce Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, cutting a menacing silhouette against the falling evening light; a raucous Primus set that included a hyperactive pogo-mosh during “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,” while members of Fishbone jumped onstage and climbed the rafters; a Rage Against the Machine set that no band wanted to follow; an unruly and intimidating Babes in Toyland…
Share your experiences of Lollapalooza ‘93 in the comments section.