So, we wanted to go see Shitstorm play at a house party, mostly because we wanted to go to a house party. You should write a blog post about how house parties rule and there should be more of them. Oh yeah, you should also mention that Sleeper made those projections for Space Voodoo Crystal.
Anyway, instead we ended up going to the Rat Opera at like 10:30. When we first walked up a guy at the door handed us a program reading, “Hearing Damage aka The Rat Opera,” with a picture of Rat coming out of a bleeding ear. Inside, we saw a set by that dude Alex Diaz and Eric Lopez (isn’t that Tee Pee?) and some drummer who I really liked a lot but didn’t catch his name [the video below reveals it to be Ed Wilcox...this trio has been killing it lately - Ed.]. He played the drums with his elbows. They seemed like they might be just jamming, but it was cool. Tee Pee played the saxophone and Alex Diaz played some sort of noise making knob object.
The Opera was a loose collection of anecdotes and pantomime punctuated by short songs expanding on the stories. There are two things about the Rat Opera that immediately stood out to me. First, the band sounded like a Guided By Voices cover band singing about Rat. Second, it was short. The whole thing probably only lasted about an hour and a half. We were out of Churchill’s before 1AM. Usually when I see Rat at Churchill’s it sounds like a-tonal screeching, it’s at like 3:30 in the morning and lasts forever.
I counted five people dressed like Rat Bastard in sunglasses, black beanies and Guided by Voices t-shirts (six if you count Rat). I also counted three people wearing cowboy hats. That reminds me—we were about half the age of most of the audience. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I saw anyone I knew there the entire time. It kind of added to the cool uncoolness of it. I imagined that all the people were Rat’s contemporaries and “real” friends. I think I was probably right.
Preceding each Guided by Rat Voices song, someone came up on stage and said a few words about Rat. Each person would either recite a personal experience or read from a letter that would dictate the content of the next song. Sometimes there were projections of Rat’s face and people acting out the story in the background. They talked about Ratcapella, Rat sleeping during recording, Rat falling off of airplanes, etc.
The whole production wasn’t exactly what I would called “narrative.” Some pieces were better than others. My favorite part was when they talked about the Squelchers. After the anecdote, the Squelcher girls and a Rat impersonator imitated a Laundry Room Squelcher’s set. The accompanying band included a little squelching noise part and afterwards someone in the audience yelled “MORE NOISE!” The other super sweet part was when Scott Putesky (aka Daisy Berkowitz of Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids) talked about recording with Rat Bastard in the nineties. He looked way different than the mental image I have of him, but he was in freaking Marilyn Manson and JackOffJill!
A life-size cut out of Rat was placed near the stage for the entire performance, but it really didn’t need to be there. Rat himself was probably the most enthusiastic person at the show. He stood in the front filming/taking pictures the entire time. Calling him “enthusiastic” might be a stretch; it wasn’t like he threw his underwear on stage, but I think he was certainly honored and amused by the whole ordeal.
Overall, you probably would most enjoy the Rat Opera if a) you love Rat Bastard (or you are him), b) you love Guided by Voices, or c) you want to relive your youth at the Kitchen Club.