RAW POWER "Big Ass tour '98" (or "what i did on my summer vacation") by Sassy
I first saw Italy's Raw Power in 1984 at the International punk show at the Olympic Auditorium in LA headlined by the Dead Kennedys. Of all the bands, DK's included, they left the biggest impression with me. One of the most energetic bands I've ever seen and I've seen a lot of bands in my day. It wasn't long after that i got a call from Paul Mahern of Zero Boys fame who told me he had just recorded these guys and was wondering if I'd like to put it out on Toxic Shock. I jumped at the chance and "Scream from the Gutter" was released and the rest as they say is history. the band came over to the states many times in the '80's, hooked up up with countless support bands (Inbred, Tucson's U.P.S. and Dayglo Abortions among others) to travel on a shoe-string budget all over the US and Canada, leaving amazed and astounded crowds in their wake. A good example of their impact was relayed to me recently by someone in San Diego, who saw them open for GBH in '85, who were huge at the time, reminisced how they walked on stage and the crowd started booing and calling them posers because one of them was wearing a Van Halen t-shirt. This guy didn't understand any of this as it was one of his first punk shows he went to as a teenager and was confused by the crowd's initial reaction. All that changed as soon as they started to play and when they were done, there was no longer any reason for GBH to play. There are countless others with their own Raw Power stories out there. They would tour Europe over the years, release more records on various labels, guitarists and drummers would come and go, but the band never went away. After a 7 year absense from these shores, they did a poorly-planned cross-country in 2 weeks US tour in '94 with FUCT and the Rhythm Pigs and i was lucky enough to tag along from Tucson to SF. 4 years went by, I was ready to hang it up as far as the label was concerned, getting disillusioned with putting out CDs from bands that would never play outside their hometown. I couldn't afford to lose any more money on such a gamble anymore. however, in the midst of my summer doldrums, i got a call from Mauro letting me know Raw Power had a new album recording ready for release and had found someone to set up a 3 week tour to support it. I received the tape and was amazed that they had lost their metallish influences which plagued their sound in the late '80's/early '90's and gone back to their roots of hardcore punk rock. Go ahead and call me a nostalgic old-school fart, but let's face it the late '90's punk scene blows, I can count on one hand the bands which will elicit more than a yawn from me and I'm not about to jump on the ska/swing/lounge bandwagon. As far as I'm concerned Raw Power is still the shit! Being so bored with the stagnant Tucson music scene or lack of, I was ready to jump at the opportunity to join them for as many shows as i could, something I could'nt afford to do in the past. Since I still have my part-time job at AA, I could fly out dirt-cheap and catch as many shows as possible, and that alone convinced me to revive the label and put out "Reptile house". The plan was to have it out before the tour started, but sticking with tradition, and numerous artwork problems, it was to come out in the middle of their visit. I was too broke to pay their airfare over but agreed to help them rent a van.
Raw Power faces down the sweet smelling ABC No Rio throng
After months of preparation and anticipation, the time had finally arrived for the return of Raw Power to the states. After catching a short set by Hasil Adkins in Phoenix, (I had to catch a red- eye outta Sky Harbor) I arrived in Philadelphia to rent the mini-van for the 6 Italians and myself. Supposedly, this is a 7 passenger van, I think the seven dwarves might find a more comfortable ride not 7 adults. Anyway, I made the trek through New Jersey by myself and after fighting gridlock traffic from the moment I hit the Holland Tunnel, I finally arrived at the reknowned Lower-East side punk haven ABC No Rio. After stumbling through the decrepit cavernous hallways of the "club", I ran into the older core members of Raw Power I've known since 1984 and met the two bambinos of the band. We all joked how nice ABC's web site looked in comparision to the reality. Imagine 3 stories of crumbling brick and exposed plumbing with the ground level where the bands play perched precariously over a basement area. It seemed any moment the buckling floor would collapse into armaggedon. And what pleasant company to share the experience with! Let's say you put 150 4th ave Gutterpunks in the same room, gave them all cheap quarts of beer, deprived all occupants of any ventilation and allow them to stew in their own juices while 4 opening crust bands played. When myself and a member of the Infected (the support band from Kentucky the booking agent had found to open for Raw Power) asked about displaying our merchandise at a table full of boxes of crusty punk, we were told no way and directed to a piece of drywall by an overflowing trash can. Naturally, there's no stage, so when Raw Power finally set up to play, it was only a few songs before some spikey pinhead rammed into Giuseppe's amp and the set came to an abrupt halt. We said our goodbyes to the Infected, after loading what t-shirt boxes and equipment that wouldn't fit in the rental van. More gridlock outta NYC, a long drive through the New Jersey darkness to find our hotel. next morning, we drove to New Brunswick after one of many to come visits to Burger King to soak up some American culture. Found the Melody Bar and waited for the club to open. The Infected pull up and I could tell something was wrong by the way their singer approached our van with this sheepish look on his face. Seems the boys left their van unattended while a party at "rat girl's" residence (someone they had met the night before at ABC) , only to find their side window smashed and BOTH of Giuseppe's guitars stolen. Did I mention this is the Infected's first time playing out of their home town? A band with a bit more road experience may have had the good sense not to leave guitar cases in full view of a window, especially when leaving the van unattended in lovely New Jersey. Fortunately, nothing else was stolen, but that didn't make Giuseppe feel much better. Ya see, his Les Paul has been with him on all the previous RP US tours with countless support bands since1984 and this time on day two of the tour it was gone and his heart was broken. While Junior and his brother got drunk, i spent some time listening to classic rock with "Lloyd" in the van, discussing Syd Barrett and david Lee Roth (his hero) stories. Lloyd played me a tape of the Deep Purple tribute band from Parma he's also in. For this show Junior borrowed a guitar from Nicollo and being the seasoned troopers they are, RP put on another great show. Did I mention that after going to shows for over 20 years Raw Power are still one of best live bands on the planet in my opinion? We hit the New Jersey Turnpike southward and stopped at a Bob's Big Boy where I order spaghetti and the rest order burgers, naturally. Junior made fun of my pekkid pasta plate and american "shit" coffee. with the rough day he experienced, I could only humor him. On the way out Junior came up with a new name for the'98 tour. In Italian, someone with either incredible good or bad luck is known as a big ass, hence this tour was officially dubbed Raw Power's "Big Ass" tour.
Got into Baltimore early enough to check out the city. parked in"little Italy" and walked to the "old harbor" part of town, which is dominated by a towering Hard Rock Cafe , pricy seafood cafes and Hooters. Being on a Big Ass rocknroll budget, we went in search of cheaper food and spirits. The younger half of the entourage settled for McDonald's , while we old schoolers find a pub up the street, and enticed by the promise of a Maryland Blue Crab soup de jour sign, we go in. Turned out to be Campbells soup with some minisule crab droppings. After this tourist afterburn, we had to search Baltimore for a guitar store which turned out to be Atomic Music 20 miles south of the city. Junior found himself a Gibson SG for a "hardcore" price from a sympathetic RP fan who was working there. Back to downtown and the Ottobar, a quaint pub run by cool people where bands like Royal Trux and Low have played. Nice friendly crowd, good turnout. Openers, Little Miss Suction and Daybreak? were rockin. Infected didn't suck and Raw Power fuckin rocked! Junior running around the back of the club with his cordless "newborn" guitar. After yesterday's shitty day, we were back on track.
Live at Melody Bar, New Brunswick New Jersey
Junior annoys the slouches in the back of the Ottobar, Baltimore
Next up was Pittsburgh, where some guy from Aus Rotten was supposed to have a show for us that either fell through at the last moment or was never confirmed in the first place, we never knew. Luckily, the day before I left Tucson, I made some quick calls to secure a show at next decades's a nice rock club downtown. Got there early enough to soak up enough atmosphere and drinks to start the night out right. Played some sex-trivia games on a bar game monitor and generally had a good ole time singing along to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Sinatra. Went around the corner and had pizza with Mauro and Lloyd, which turned into a hilarious stand-up routine as Lloyd discussed his troubled love life as Mauro translated/embellished. A regular Italian Abbott and Costello, let me tell ya. You should've been there. By showtime, a few people had trickled in to see the bands and as Raw Power started their set, the mood turned a bit tense as some over-enthusiastic fan splashed beer on the stage, hitting Ale's natural wood bass. Some cursing took place, the offender ran around the club nearly in tears. After the set, he buddied up to Mauro, all apologetic, offering a menage-a-trois with his 250 lb wife and his place for us to crash for the night. For some time "Ajax" (a member of GGAllin's Urine Dogs so he claimed) tried his best offers of hospitality. Luckily another offer from one of the opening band members came up and as it was late and we made only $70 and had a long drive to Cincinnatti the next day, we opted for the generous floor space for a few hours rest.
Raw Power search for new tour sponsers, K-Mart and Mentos "the freshmaker"
we pulled into the University Hills area of Cincinnatti and found Bogart's, a long running huge concert hall/club where the Doors,Hendrix and Joplin had played in previous decades gone by. Tonight, the Subhumans were the main attraction, but we got the perks of free drinks, meals and dressing room as support act. The night went by like clockwork, the new mall punks weren't sure what to make of Raw Power and were further confused when they covered the DK's"California Uber Alles". The Subhumans were very nice to us, last time they shared a stage with RP was in Cleveland 1985 and they made sure we got twice the agreed guarantee of $200. Thanks, Dick! Sold some merchandise, made some new friends, met Tony the booking guy, who we accidently ditched in our search for motels on the interstate.
Arrived in Cleveland after a shopping spree at k-mart in the afternoon. passed the exit by 10 miles and finally found Speak in Tongues. I've been doing this so often, Junior has crowned me the "best wrong way driver". the'club" itself was in a strange ghost town neighborhood and it reminded me of the old Dodajk. Artist-run living quarters turned concert hall which used to be a bowling alley in the 40's. There were cats, kittens and trash everywhere with a nice wooden bar to display merchandise. All ages, no alchohol, but with the AM/PM across the street that wasn't a big deal. We took a walk to a thrift store in search of a jacket as the weather had turned cooler. we stopped into a strange diner run by a grizzled character that served only "old fashioned" hot dogs. Only $1 with kraut or chili. Yum Yum! As we left, Ale asked me what was the difference between old-fashioned and regular. I told him the new style dogs were served by someone who bathes, shaves, uses deoderant and has a full set of teeth. This crazy American culture! This night, the show was a success. As usual, lots of jaws were dropped when Raw Power hit the stage. The various pockets of people otherwise watching regional wrestling on TV or engaged in idle conversation had come under the spell and all eyes were fixed on this crazy Italian Rockn Roll renegades who transform from mild-mannered K- mart shopping tourists to uncontained pure explosive energy on stage. Unfortunately, I had to fly home to Tucson the next morning, but I would return to catch their shows in Texas 5 days later. Check our web site for Raw Power's Ale diary for the cities I missed, Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, and Nashville.
Live at Speak In Tongues, Cleveland
Junior and Alessandro, Cleveland
Dallas TX Sept 22
flew into DFW and caught a shuttle downtown to the Ellum district, sort of a 4th Ave/Bourbon St historic district in the middle of modern metro Dallas. The street was roped off for a private party hosted by some computer geeks. caught up with the band at the club, Tree's. We wandered down the street to see Glen Frey of the Eagles playing some boring yuppie tunes to the tech heads which forced us to drink much beer. Ran into Casey of GWAR who came down for the show to see his Italian buddys. Raw Power has toured twice in Europe with GWAR and they all had some catching up to do, which led to more beer of course. Probably due to the roped off lack of access to the street to non-corporate types the turnout was pretty small this night, but the few who did show up were treated to a great show as usual. after the show we found a Waffle House to ingest food and we found ourselves in the middle of a modern day Texas brawl as one of the burly and very drunk customers got in a arguement/shouting match with a waiter over money lost on arm-wrestling. We shrunk down in our booths in case guns were drawn, but luckily it blew over by the time the cops showed up.
Pizza fueled punk assault on Trees, Dallas, TX
23rd Austin TX
we were scheduled for two shows in Austin, but we showed up an hour too late for the in-store at Sound Exchange and since we hadn't called on the way down to confirm, the store thought we weren't coming and turned away couple dozen free-loader street punks who had filled the store. Turned out there was no PA anyway, so after running into Russell Fuckemo, we headed to infamous 6th street. Killed time drinking Mexican beer at a cheap watering hole, until the Flamingo Cantina opened their doors. We were hoping to play Emo's but I guess Raw Power weren't trendy of for the elitists, as they aren't Japanese or the latest garage sensation.. No loss, Russell was cool enough to help secure us a show here. Nice place, with an open-air balcony for the reeferheads to unwind. Local Austin opening bands the Dirty Hessians and the Chumps were great, the club started to fill up as time went by, so the place was packed when Raw Power hit the stage. From the first song, Raw Power had the appreciative and enthusiastic Texans all worked up. One of the best shows of the tour! Sadly, I had to leave the next morning for Tucson for my AA obligations and was stranded in DFW for 7 hours until finally a seat opened up for Phoenix (Tucson flights were too overbooked) for my standby employee "privelege". Wishing I had stayed for the Corpus Christi show, which turned out to be a beach holiday. Hurricane George was following the band pretty closely in New Orleans, Georgia and Florida, but you'll have to see Ale's report on the web for a insight into that experience. He's promised to send his own diary soon so be patient.
Lloyd and Russell of the Fuckemos, outside Sound Exchange, Austin
Live at Flamingo Cantina, Austin
Oct 2 Philly PA
Another long day of flights and waiting in DFW, arrived 9pm in Philly and called the club to get Fabrizio to pick me up. by the time we arrived at the Stalag 13, Raw Power had just finished their set and i was bummed. Another ABCRio/Gilman St clone PC punk club. good turnout but the band got stiffed with only $120. with last week's Hurricane tampered/cancelled shows the band was next to broke and spirit's were getting low. The way American bands are treated in Europe with meals provided and treatment more than fair, it's a rotten shame the same experience is so hard to come by for the first non- British Europeans to tour extensively in the states.
On top of the Empire State Building before last show at CBGBs
Oct 3 New york City
saw a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from the new Jersey Turnpike on the way into Manhattan. Junior decided we should stick with an RP tradition and visit the top of the Empire State Bldg. They do this every tour I'm told. a first for me. We snaked our way to the lower east side to find CBGB's which I've never been to but Raw Power have of course. Their original bassist Maurizio Dodi, who's now an architect in SF had flown in to see the boys last show. Tonight was weird in that RP was stuck in the middle of a bill with 6 horrible bands from the NY suburbs and since the Infected had broken down days ago, they had no equipment and had to beg, plead (and offer money!) to the insolent new Yorkers with no one willing to help them out on their last show of the tour. finally, 2 minutes before their time slot, a band took$50 to allow RP the privelege of using their stuff so they could play. In spite of the insulting treatment from fellow "musicians" Raw Power played their hearts out to the crowd of many indifferent idiots and the few fans who managed to show up for the only reason to be in CBGB's that night. For me, it was the best place to be in the world that night. The next morning they were to fly back to Italy. Hopefully these Italian "big asses" will return to the states soon.
The cast of Charactors: (left to right)
Giuseppe: rythm guitar, the founder of Raw Power, the oldest member at 42, but known as junior to the rest of the band. Owns a video store outside Parma, lives on a farm
Alessandro: bass guitar, been with Raw Power since After Your Brain, 36 years old, owns Westlink Recording Studios in Pisa
Mauro: vocals, Giuseppes younger brother, 38 years old, spent ten years in London, speaks better english than I do, works at a sound equipment dealer in Milan, also lives on a farm
Fabrizio: Raw Powers roadie/drum technician, 26 years old, holds a job in Parma supervising production of Parmesian cheese, played drums on White Minority in Memphis, wants to move to US to drum for a blues band
Emanuele: drummer, age 31, Roberto Benini look-a-like, member with best fashion sense, does video production work/soundtrack work in Parma
Niccolo: lead guitar(aka Lloyd), youngest member at 21, does a great job filling the shoes of his predecessors, Davide and Silvio, Lititure student, son of doctors