It’s easy to take an institution for granted. It’s there, it will always be there, I’ll think about it tomorrow. Then your parents die, your friend moves, your computer crashes—whatever the disaster—and you’re left with the realization that you sure could have paid more attention to that aspect of your life. “You should have been nicer. You should have spent more time together. You really should have backed up those files.”
So it is with the Funky’s closure. I’m one of those “old Cobalt loyalists” who hasn’t been to that venue since wendythirteen got the boot in late 2009 (not counting one afternoon interview that took place there, where I sadly mused how it no longer smelled like leaking shitwater from upstairs. It’s the worst smell that I have ever had a nostalgic attachment to.)
Ezra Kish, one of the guys now running the bar, seemed like a nice enough fella, truth be known. They’ve upgraded the place considerably: it’s still run-down, but much nicer and cleaner. With legendary Cleveland art-punks Pere Ubu booked to play there in early December, and the “old Cobalt” receding into memory, I’ve been giving serious consideration to going back.
That’s the page I was on—making excuses to Eargoggles’ Clay Holmes, another old Cobes loyalist who documented shows there on video for years: “it’s probably the last chance I have to see Ubu ever again!”
Then, within a couple of weeks of that conversation, wendythirteen—under her real, “no aliases” Facebook name, Wendy Forsythe—announced that Funky’s is going to stop putting on live shows. That’s when I realized (because I shot video of the night) that I haven’t been to Funky Winker Beans since 2014.
There’s not much that can be done at this juncture, it seems, especially since, as Wendy notes, the owners have been losing money on shows there for some time. But it turns out that the bands tonight and tomorrow both sound like really fun shows (I haven’t gotten as far as Saturday yet).
Thursday (October 27)—aka tonight!—Chilean thrash transplants Social Arsonist plays. Their Soundcloud page gives me all the inspiration I need to check them out: who doesn’t want to go see kickass old-school thrash metal from South America?
Actually, scratch that, though: they’re only half from Chile. Over the course of a brief exchange on Facebook, vocalist Cayle Charlton, in collaboration with his bandmates, explains that the band started in Chile in 2009 “as a project between our guitarist Manuel Morgado and bassist Dario Zuniga, who then started” —around 2010—“to work with [me] and drummer Danny Sever. Both of us are from Canada.”
It was a challenge, Charlton says, having a band with members on two different continents, but they kept it up for some six years, going back and forth. The scene in Chile, though, “is very local, there’s not much scene, specially for heavy music.”
Wanting something bigger and better, Social Arsonist officially relocated to Vancouver in June 2016, where they’re preparing for their first Canadian tour, “The Burning Ground tour.”
The name Social Arsonist suggests to me a pyromaniac who only sets fires when he’s out with his friends—like a social drinker, say—but the real meaning is even better, the band explains. Turns out it comes “from a drunk conversation our bassist Dario Zuniga was listening to, where some friend of his was calling another friend a ‘social arsonist’ because he was usually very loud and disturbing in social situations. We felt the name described or fitted with the band’s ideologies, so we went with it.”
Coming from Chile, their families went through some grief in the past.
“Pinochet’s military dictatorship affected everyone’s life down in Chile in some way or another, and some of our family members had to relocate to the States during those years, but it didn’t affect us personally.” The band tries to stay away from politics as much as it can these days. That’s not to say their songs don’t have meaning, however. In particular, they write about “the exponential decadence of society” Charlton says.
“It’s a wake up scream at the zombified masses, which are enslaved by those in power through institutions of mass control such as religion, politics and laws. It’s about how these institutions of mass control are perceived and worshiped, given the fact that perception is relative.”
Their music also kicks ass. Fast, catchy, and cool as Sepultura’s homemade bullet belts, with acknowledged influences (besides those aforementioned Brazilian metal trailblazers) including Lamb of God, Pantera, Megadeth, Chaimara, and a host of other musical heroes too abundant to do justice to. They also tip their hats to vocal instructor Melissa Cross (author of The Zen of Screaming), Ricky Bobby (?!), and “unbalanced washing machines” (which are always a good thing for a band to draw inspiration from).
So that’s Thursday, which is tonight.
On Friday (October 28) Bloody Betty Bathory—as “BB Allin and the Stabbers”—will be bringing her GG Allin tribute to Funky’s, complete with fake scat and penis, for a Halloween cover-band extravaganza that will also feature her Sex Pistols tribute (Fuck Guns). A Green Day cover band, Baloney Sandwich, actually ends up being the most eyebrow-rising band on the bill, because, y’know, which of these things has nothing to fucking do with the others?
There will apparently be some burlesque happening, as well.
Point of curiosity: would wendythirteen ever have booked GG Allin, if he hadn’t died of a heroin overdose in 1993? GG had a rep for getting shows shut down within minutes, with proclivities towards assaulting audience members, cutting himself, evacuating his bowels onstage, smearing himself with blood and feces, and singing songs with titles like “Cunt Sucking Cannibal” (one of his less-objectionable numbers, in point of fact).
Knowing all that, would Wendy have booked him for Vancouver? The spiky-haired punk impresario gives a long, thoughtful “uggh” before answering.
“Well, back in the Cobalt days I probably would have. Not these days though—I’m not much of a scat fetishist. Extreme Elvis was along those lines, too, right? He’s defunct now, but he used to do punk rock Elvis Presley tunes while naked and peeing everywhere.” She sighs fondly, remembering. She only booked Extreme Elvis just once into the Cobalt, however.
“He was a really depressive kind of person, and I think they broke up and sort of crumbled after that tour. I don’t know what happened to him.”
(You can read more about them mysteries of Extreme Elvis here.
That’s not to say gross things haven’t happened at Funky’s, however. There’s a story out there about the singer from Cum Soc vomiting all over the audience, for instance—real vomit, too, not the fake poop Bloody Betty is getting ready to smear on people. But Funky’s is “pretty civilized compared to the Cobalt’s wild west,” she tells the Straight.
She’s known Bloody Betty since she was in the Screaming Chickens, also back in the Cobalt days, “always with the blood and the needles and the fish—she got really freaky, right? Man, like some of her shows were just a mess after. I had complaints from the cleaners afterwards.”
Betty has been told to bring her own plastic sheeting for the BB Allin tribute, where she will likely be focusing on earlier, catchier Jabbers material (with a few choice Murder Junkies songs for good measure). “Die When You Die” is particularly a hoot to sing, she says.
People worried about the overt homophobia in the song’s lyrics should note that GG was also down with blowjobs from guys, also occasionally giving them onstage (I believe to his brother, if memory serves).
See y’all at Funky’s.