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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

The Most Awesome Concert Ever

A Father-Son Conversation

After several unsuccessful attempts to get my son Max to write this article, I realized it might be easier if I simply interviewed him and recorded the results. Max’s step-mom Robin was also in the room, and added commentary. Enjoy.

The Interview

JASON: In 2001, my son Max was 10 years old. One of my favorite Seattle bands, the Posies, scheduled a rare all-ages show at my favorite Seattle venue, the Crocodile Cafe. Since Max and I often listened to the Posies while driving to school and stuff, it seemed like it would be fun to take him to the show. And thank God we did, because it turned out to be THE MOST AWESOME CONCERT EVER. I’m here with Max, who is now 15. Max, what are your most vivid memories about that Posies show?

MAX: DAD! Can we do this interview after I’ve finished taking my shower? Jeez! Get out of the bathroom!

(45 minutes later…)

JASON: Okay, I’m here with Max again, ready to talk “mano y mano” about THE MOST AWESOME CONCERT EVER.

MAX: Don’t do that.

JASON: What?

MAX: Those stupid finger quotes. I’m leaving if you do that again.

JASON: “Comprende, muchacho.”

MAX: (sighs) Okay, That’s it. I’m out of here.

JASON: Wait! I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.

MAX: I’m serious, one more time and…

JASON: Okay, so back to that sweet, sweet night in 2001, when we saw THE MOST AWESOME CONCERT EVER –

(at this point, Robin joined the conversation)

ROBIN: Most awesome for who?

JASON: For everybody in attendance! Honey, we don’t really need your commentary yet…

ROBIN: You’re not listening to your son. Why don’t you ask him what HE thought of the show?

JASON: I might do that, if you guys could stop yapping for two seconds! So what about it, Mr. Smarty Pants? I challenge you to name one other concert that was more awesome.

MAX: The Faint at the Moore, two weeks ago.

JASON: Jesus… okay, be that as it may, this is my article, and we’re going to talk about the Posies show. If you’re so excited about the Faint, you can write your own article. First, I’d like to mention the coolness of the Crocodile Cafe.

MAX: It’s basically like a dirty little hole –

JASON: Hey! The Crocodile is a recognized Seattle landmark! They’ve got those papier-mâché snakes hanging from the ceiling –

MAX: Yeah, just like in my kindergarten classroom. Very cool.

JASON: Did your kindergarten room have a giant SATAN HEAD hanging from the ceiling?

MAX: Uh, let me think…

JASON: I rest my case. Back to the story, how old were you when we went to the Posies show?

MAX: I was two years old.

JASON: Oh, for Christ’s sake…

ROBIN: Max is fifteen now, which is why this interview is so impossible…

maxbw

MAX: The thing I remember from that night is Robin giving us many a lecture about various things, the most memorable of which was her insistence that we wear earplugs…

JASON: Ha! I remember that!

ROBIN: You guys think it’s a big joke now, because nothing’s real to you, the only important thing is the excitement of the moment, but one day you will be 50 years old, and you WILL have hearing loss. It is WELL-documented.

JASON: That’s what rock and roll is all about, baby!

ROBIN: No, what it’s all about is me, yelling and yelling and yelling from the living room, and you can’t hear me, because you had to go see Rush or whatever and stand at the front of the stage with your ears bleeding! Go ahead and laugh, but I am totally serious.

MAX: “On the real, yo!”

ROBIN: Yuck it up, hipster boy. When I think about you guys ruining your ears for some temporary… feeling, it just makes me furious.

MAX(in “adult” voice): “Would you ruin your life for one night of pleasure?”

JASON: HELL yes!

ROBIN: You two make me sick. I’m going to wash the dishes.

JASON: Okay, so getting back to the story, Robin sent us off with fistfuls of earplugs. What happened next? I think we ate something.

MAX: We ate a gigantic tub of fries, and the waitress sat down and talked to us…

JASON: She was cute.

MAX: …and I remember she was wearing a shirt that just said “BITCH” in big letters.

ROBIN: (from across the room) Yeah, that sounds like a wonderful environment for children. I hope you had a conversation with Max about the sociopolitical impact of a young woman labeling herself a “BITCH”?

MAX: Oh yeah, we had a long conversation about that. During the concert.

JASON: Anyway, after that was the best part, because we used the bathroom –

MAX: YOU used the bathroom, because you have to pee like every five seconds.

JASON: You should be grateful for my bladder problems, because this time, what happened?

MAX: Well… While urinating, we engaged in uh… friendly… conversation with Joe Bass, the bass player for the Posies. He was peeing right next to us.

ROBIN: Of course! What could be more fulfilling for a guy? Touching your pee-pee AND talking to a rock star at the same time! Unbelievable…

MAX: The conversation was pretty much like this: With his penis in his hand, Joe turns to me and says, “Hey! How’s it goin’? Ya here to see the show? Cool!” After that, he, uh, shook it off, and then shook my hand.

JASON: When I was young, we used to say that if you shake it more than twice, you’re playing with it. Max, in your opinion, was Joe Bass “playing with it”?

MAX: He was shaking it through the entire conversation, so… possibly.

JASON: Yes, it did seem like excessive shaking was taking place. Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, Max, but although urinating and shaking hands with a stranger might be acceptable behavior for a rock star, normal people like you and I should always wash our hands thoroughly with hot water and soap after touching our genitals. Is that clear?

ROBIN: Do you have any idea how many rock stars have died of AIDS?

MAX: …because they didn’t wash their hands after urinating?

JASON: Okay, good. I should mention that Joe Bass is also known as Joe Skyward. Now, what can you tell me about Joe’s tattoos?

MAX: One of them was a gigantic YES logo on his arm. He asked me if this was my first rock show and stuff, and asked me if I liked YES. I was like, “who is this ‘YES’ you speak of?” Actually, I pretended I knew all about YES. I was like, “oh, yeah… they’re, uh… great.” He told me about his daughter, and how she loved YES and a bunch of other stuff. He was a friendly dude.

JASON: But not in a creepy way. So that’s TWO awesome things that happened: Tub of fries with the cute waitress –

MAX: – with the “BITCH” t-shirt –

JASON: And then we urinated with a rock star. What happened next?

MAX: We went into the actual show area, which is like this tiny, dank, cigarette-smelling cave…

JASON: Don’t forget the giant glowing SATAN HEAD!

MAX: Yes, a perfect place for your innocent ten-year-old.

JASON: There were other little kids there, dancing around before the show. I loved that.

MAX: They were friends of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, but we’ll get to them later.

JASON: Yes. Now, Max, you are not a short person these days, but back then you were very short. Freakishly short, even. Like a troll.

MAX: I was short, yes.

JASON: We’re talking HOBBIT short. And you had a hard time seeing over the crowd?

MAX: Yeah, I was pretty much staring at some guy’s ass. Not cool.

JASON: I felt bad, because it was the first show I ever took you to, and you couldn’t see anything. That is, until AWESOME THING NUMBER 3 happened.

MAX: Yeah, this nice lady felt sorry for me and beckoned me to come up and stand by her.

JASON: At the absolute front of the stage.

MAX: Directly in front of Ken Stringfellow.

JASON: Holy crap, that was awesome.

MAX: Then Ken was doing his flailing guitar solo freakout frenzy thing, and he was like one foot in front of me, jumping up and down, his eyes rolling back in his head, spitting on me…

JASON: He looked like he was having some sort of…

JASON and MAX (simultaneously): – Grand Mal!

JASON: It was excruciatingly loud, I remember, and I was worried about you up there. But then you looked back through the crowd and grinned, and gave me a thumbs-up sign. I’m getting a little misty-eyed just thinking about it…

MAX: It was not the most… hygienic show, what with touching the bass player’s peepee and getting spat upon by the guitarist…

ROBIN: Good God. I hope you complained to the manager!

JASON: So that was definitely AWESOME THING NUMBER 4. After the Posies, the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players came on. For those readers who haven’t had the pleasure of basking in their presence, can you describe the Trachtenburg show?

MAX: They are a family, a husband and wife and their seven-year-old daughter. The daughter plays the drums – quite well, I might add – and her mom operates the slide projector, and her dad plays the keyboards and sings. What they do is, they get all these sets of slides from estate sales and Value Village and stuff, and they make stories out of random compilations of slides, and then they perform the songs while the slides are projected on a screen behind them.

JASON: They had that one song about a “Holiday in Japan” and my favorite was the “ARCO Corporate Western Division Sales Conference” song, or something like that.

MAX: Very They Might Be Giants-esque.

JASON: The awesome thing that happened there was I got to stand next to the mom, and they just had the slide projector sitting on a plastic TV tray or something, and I helped her out by steadying the tray during the show. And after the show, we helped them pack up their slide carousels and stuff. So that was definitely AWESOME THING NUMBER 5.

MAX: For you.

JASON: Yes, for me.

MAX: That must have been quite exciting.

JASON: It’s all about the schmooze, my friend, all about the schmooze. Okay, I guess that about wraps it up, except for one last question: What did you do with the earplugs Robin gave you?

MAX: I threw them in the trash as soon as she drove around the corner.

ROBIN: Do you see the complete disrespect I have to deal with? Do you see?

JASON: Alright, Max, thanks for your time.

MAX: I’m gonna go write my article about the Faint show. THE MOST AWESOME CONCERT EVER.

UPDATE, JULY 2013

Not only did Joe Bass proudly display his Yes tattoo, he sagely advised Max to listen to more Yes. Yes is Joe’s favorite band, and Chris Squire his bass playing hero.

As I said in the introduction, that show at the Crocodile took place in 2001. 12 years later, I bought a ticket to see Yes on their “Three Album” tour, during which they would play The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One in their entirety each night. The VIP package wasn’t that much more… so I splurged. (We couldn’t really afford it, so don’t tell Robin.) As part of the VIP package, I got to meet the (current) members of Yes, which (as always) included Chris Squire. They signed autographs and we were allowed to chat briefly, but whatever you do: DO NOT SHAKE STEVE HOWE’S HAND. He doesn’t like that. Nice enough guy, though he looks like a frail necromancer.

JTwithYESsmall

In an ever-changing lineup, Chris Squire was the only constant member of Yes, for something like 45 years. No idea what he was like personally, but musically, he’s been an icon since my teenage discovery of prog. And here he was, saying hello to me. I took the opportunity to (quickly, awkwardly) tell him the story about Joe Bass and Max; about Joe standing at the Crocodile urinal, advising my son to listen to more Yes.

Chris Squire was a big guy – a glowering, imposing presence:

chris-squire

“That man gave your son excellent advice,” he boomed. “Hopefully he took it to heart?” It seemed like a lot was riding on my answer to that question. I assured Chris Squire that Max was a smart young man who definitely listened to Joe’s advice re: Yes. Then I asked Chris to sign my copy of Drama (The greatest Yes album! Do not argue with me!). Tongue-tied, and embarrassed for taking up so much time while other, more hardcore Yes fans were awaiting their turn, I stumbled away and was firmly ushered out of the VIP area.

Two years later, Chris Squire was diagnosed with acute erythroid leukemia. He died on June 27, 2015.

UPDATE, JUNE 2015

In the same month (June 2015), I saw a post on Facebook about our old friend Joe Bass/Skyward/Howard. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which had metastasized to his skeletal and lymphatic systems. Like most working musicians, he’s not rich, and he has crappy insurance. His daughter Brette organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Joe’s chemo:

GoFundMe: Joe Vs. The Volchemo

Joe has given me hours of musical enjoyment, plus he was cool to my boy Max, so I thought: Why not? I can chip in a few bucks. As an afterthought, I included a message to Brette, telling her about our long-ago encounter with her Dad, and about Chris Squire’s response. Brette wrote me a sweet message back, thanking me for that.

Best wishes for a full recovery to Joe Bass.

UPDATE, MARCH 2016

goodbye-joe

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