Last night I attended the Neil Hamburger show at at Alex's Bar. It was a weird show overall: opened up with some thoroughly average stand-up from Jason Boggs, then an acoustic solo set from Joe Jack Talcum, followed by the inventive yet oddly laughless musical comedy of Pleaseeasaur and ending with Neil Hamburger himself—who sang one song off Sings Country Winners, then did less than a half hour of his act (which was predictably great, but still, really short. Though he didn't start until midnight and it was a weeknight, so it's not like people were totally devastated).
What was really puzzling, though, was the complete indifference on the part of the crowd to Joe Jack Talcum, the guitarist and one of two main vocalists of '80s jokey punk band The Dead Milkmen. Now, my perspective is probably skewed because the local alternative radio station (full disclosure: I used to work there) in my hometown played—and most likely still plays—”Punk Rock Girl” and “Bitchin' Camaro” in fairly heavy rotation (despite both of those songs being totally old at that point), but I've always felt that the Dead Milkmen were pretty cool and a fairly big deal.
But last night, there appeared to only be a handful of people there who actually cared, as he did solo numbers and Dead Milkmen tunes like “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies” and inevitable set-closer “Punk Rock Girl.” About a half-dozen crowded to the front and sang along, but everyone else just kinda talked among themselves.
Even more egregious: most people there didn't even seem to know who he was. “I hope he does 'Punk Rock Girl,'” a bartender said to a patron. Response: “Oh, is that him?” The whole thing was, well, kinda sad.
The fact that Talcum was there was no real surprise; he's worked with J.P. Hasson (the artist behind Pleaseeasaur) in past projects We’re Not From Idaho and Touch Me Zoo. The real surprising part, is the collective lameness of the crowd at Alex's Bar on Wednesday, Nov. 12. What's next, sitting on your hands during Camper Van Beethoven? (as far as I know, Camper Van Beethoven isn't coming to Alex's Bar anytime soon, but in case they do, consider this fair warning, Long Beachers).