A Personal Pantheon of Bogart's Highlights

CityBeat writer and former Bogart's employee Brian Baker remembers his favorite Bogart's moments

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click to enlarge Early shot of R.E.M. (not at Bogart's, but from that era), from the cover of the band's "The Best of the I.R.S. Years" compilation
Early shot of R.E.M. (not at Bogart's, but from that era), from the cover of the band's "The Best of the I.R.S. Years" compilation

 

Here are just a few memories I have from Bogart’s, where I worked, drank and lived over the past 33 years.

• My first live experience at Bogart's: John Prine, just after the reopening. A guy at the next table was so drunk, his friends kept checking his neck for a pulse.

• Getting my freshly purchased copy of Iggy Pop's autobiography, I Need More, signed by Iggy; my girlfriend's boob was involved but it's not what you think.

• Doing a co-promotion with Showcase Cinema in Tri-County to publicize the Modern English show by having the band sign albums and Valley Girl film posters in the lobby; their song, "I Melt with You" was featured in the soundtrack.

• Watching Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson pour beer in R.E.M.'s monitors during the Replacements' opening set, causing Tommy Stinson to storm off stage and quit the band. He agreed to remain for the rest of the tour but refused to go back onstage that night.

• Seeing R.E.M. on the Murmur tour. The band played nearly everything from the Chronic Town EP and the album, including two spins through "Radio Free Europe," and finished with a hair-raising version of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'."

• Talking to a woman who called the club the day after the R.E.M. show to complain about the sound because she couldn't understand Michael Stipe's singing. I had to explain that his impenetrability was by (Stipe’s) design.

• Having drummer Curly Smith, a veteran of Jo Jo Gunne and other early ’70s bands, shush me when I mentioned his résumé because the guys he was playing with in Gary Myrick's band didn't know how old he was.

• Seeing Marillion watch in astonishment as its opening act, local Prog band Mara, played Genesis' "The Cage."

•The Adrian Belew/Raisins show. An epic gig, an even better story. Another time, perhaps …

• Manager Mike Kelly trying to talk Carlos Santana into convincing his first-show crowd they had to leave to make way for the second-show crowd outside, with the rationale that Santana was the only one they wouldn't kill. Santana wisely refused.

• Designing the poster for the Peter Tork Project show, which the band used as its tour poster for the remainder of that road trip.

• Rick Nielsen flipping me off for taking pictures during Cheap Trick's show (I had a photo pass!).

• Talking with local southern Michigan hero Cub Koda for nearly an hour in the band's van behind the club while the band’s bassist worked on the stalled engine.

• Seeing John Hiatt play passionately for a crowd of maybe 250 on his Warming Up to the Ice Age tour mere weeks after his estranged wife committed suicide. One of the bravest performances I have ever witnessed.

• Losing the upper range of my hearing at a Robin Trower show (or maybe it was Uriah Heep). What's that you say?

• Having the opportunity to get close to the stage in order to watch Leo Kottke's hands and dispel the suspicion that he hides a third arm behind his guitar. Bonus points: It was a co-headlining date with Michael Hedges.

• Having beers with Harry Dean Stanton and Timothy Leary (not at the same time; the universe would have exploded).

• Seeing Jane's Addiction open for Iggy Pop.

• Meeting Tommy Keene at the back bar (he was playing second guitar with Velvet Crush that night).

• They Might Be Giants' full-club conga line.

• Watching Soul Coughing drummer Yuval Gabay bang his head, feet, elbows, shoulders and ass against the wall outside the production office in perfect rhythm while waiting for load-out.

• Seeing The Judybats perform their exquisite non-LP track, "All I Wanna Do is Fuck Your Hair."

• Watching the college-age crowd wait for over half of the Ben Folds Five's set in anticipation of its then-hit "Brick," their giddy elation when he announced, "Well, it's just about time to do the big hit single," and their crestfallen reaction when the band played "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." BF5 never performed "Brick" that night; an extended dub remix of the song played over the house sound as the crowd left the club.

• Miserable fans, Part II: Listening to the wracking sobs of a young woman who was upset by the Hip Hop/computercentric aspects of Todd Rundgren's No World Order tour material. "This is just sick," she repeated endlessly. "I just want Utopia."

• Seeing King Missile's John C. Hall sing the band's "hit" song, "Detachable Penis," while the faithful waved dildos and threw condom packages at him from in front of the stage, until he finally shoved the mic under his armpit, unwrapped a condom and rolled it onto the nearest dildo, declaring at song's end, "All dressed up and no place to go."

• Every sublime moment of Ladysmith Black Mombazo.

• Seeing the always entertaining Warren Zevon twice, both solo and with a full band. Brilliant either way.

• Taking my son to see Todd Rundgren on the Nearly Human tour in 1989, which he loved. Even better was his 9-year-old's review of the opening act, Big Bam Boom — after first song: "That was pretty good"; after second song: “That sounded like the first song;” after third song: "I'm bored." A guy at our table laughed and said, "I'm with him."

• Watching Butthole Surfers' frontman Gibby Haynes continually coat drummer King Coffey's cymbals with lighter fluid and set them ablaze while a gruesome driver's ed movie was projected behind him on a screen and a naked go-go dancer covered in white ash.

• Making Sam Kinison laugh. A proud moment indeed.

• Bob Dylan.

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