Compiled by G. Murray Thomas

Next … Magazine covered the Southern California poetry scene on monthly basis from 1994 through 1998. In the process, it provided a ground-level view of a transitional period in poetry, in SoCal and nationally. “From the Files” will reprint articles which capture important but ephemeral moments, events and publications from that period. News Clips and Ego Trips: The Best of Next … Magazine will be published by Write Bloody Publishing this fall. This week, a look back at what was obviously not one of the reviewers’ happier nights.

MTV “Free Your Mind” Spoken Wurd Tour
Featuring Ellyn Maybe, Reg E. Gaines, Maggie Estep, John S. Hall, Gil Scott Heron
Monday, February 28, 1994, Doug Weston’s Troubadour

Reviewed by Charles Ellik

The hand-stamp say “hip,” and does not lie. Walk in and, Surprise! a local is on stage wandering through a long stream of clever conscious. How did she get up there? After she ends the monitors start and ask us to detach our heads. Many bright pixels of faceless mouths speaking much political correctness.

The video then moves on stage by possessing warm bodies (and is not referred to again). The first performer is racial/political/predictable black man with a jazz/rap/black thang rhythm. Chants much anger at symptoms of social sickness, with bass and keyboardist. We are surprised by all the musical instruments on stage, but here it works. This preacher delivers no revelations, however. Good delivery though. Poet says it may be MTV but not censorship. “Fuck that!” he says. There doesn’t need to be. He avoids eye contact with the audience.

There is a long empty gap between performers filled with music. A barmaid asks if we want booze. We do, but at $4.00 for domestic beers, we pass.

A ratty hair vamp chick with cigarette and power suit comes on stage and tells us she wants to be a vampire. Recites many words about victimization backed by 3-piece punkish band. (Can punk ever be “-ish”?) Her armpits are strangely naked — shaved. A barmaid in tights often blocks the view.

After that set, a friend wonders aloud how the director decided what demographic niches were to be filled. We argue whether the performer was a singer trying to be a poet, or a poet trying to be a singer.

The third up does goofy misunderstood alternative very well. His set is almost a comedy routine, and the interaction is well received. He asks someone up on stage to read his infamous piece titled “Detachable Penis” while he does back-up vocals. The drummer from the last set comes back out and works with the poet better than any other word/music combo of the evening. After he ends someone brings up a good point: the only performer so far who actually is in a successful band chose to come out without one.

He actually comes out to talk in the audience after his set. Very friendly, shaking lots of hands. “Better listeners than New York …”

Long set-up for last performer. A bluesy slurred-voice street-wise black sage type. Anthem songs sung over the world’s most extended play of four chords. Works with very intense percussionist. His advice to poets: “Try not to be deep.” (The other performers must have listened.) Those who are very interested stay that way, the rest leave. A very sad barmaid with an empty tray wanders through (lots of thirst, no money). The performer congratulates the others and ends. Long applause.

A few stay and talk. We agree the performers know how to use their microphones. It is noted that most memorized their work. Yet it is obvious that it is no better content than any good open reading. Why so popular?

We steal posters and leave. (4/94)