It Came From Jersey

When a show is billed as “all ages,” and you’ve just squeezed through the Roseland lobby past a gaggle of chaperoned 10-year-olds, that sort of tempers the appeal of seeing a woman getting fucked onstage with a power drill. At the Misfits’ 25th-anniversary show on April 18, openers the Impotent Sea Snakes, a nudie-s&m performance troupe who call themselves “America’s most outrageous band,” might also have been America’s most inappropriate booking. The Misfits—the revamped post-Danzig Misfits—may be an over-the-top cartoon horror-punk ensemble, but they’ve always had an aesthetic: a Halloweeny, B-picture aesthetic that knows the difference between the macabre and the plain old lurid. The Misfits are, if there ever were such a thing, a family cartoon horror-punk ensemble (dammit). Take off the greasepaint and filter out the sidemen, and you’ve got two stand-up Jersey-Italian brothers—Jerry and Paul Caiafa (a/k/a Jerry Only and Doyle)—into hard work, clean living, and weight training. Other bands sell hoodies and baseball caps; the Misfits have action figures and lunchboxes, and wrestle in the WWF. And who else in this locked-down, niched-out era of pop music could manage to gather preteens, oofy Nü-Metal mooks, and a barful of haggard old Max’s castaways together under the same roof? Alas, only the Ramones—and that, never again.

But end of lecture. Jerry hit the stage in full monster panoply, whomped a note on his distorto sludge-bass, and dedicated the set to Joey—who had planned an appearance here before being called away to a greater appointment. With Jerry and Doyle as anchormen, the band blew up like an atomic trash-bomb with 1978’s “Static Age” and worked song by song into the present, while guest stars came and went. After finishing 1982’s Walk Among Us album, drummer Robo came out with his ex-Black Flag bandmate Dez Cadena for a Black Flag set. Then Marky Ramone, and a Ramones set. Then another 700 Misfits songs—and then the after-show party, at the WWF café. Squeezing out of the WWF lobby at 4 a.m., you would’ve heard the tireless Jerry still onstage, wringing extra choruses out of every song his guests knew. Let this be an example to all you kids out there: Hard work, clean living, weight training. —Gavin McNett

Another Ball of Wax

The Knitting Factory is back on its feet, but a former ally claims it’s got a boot on his neck. In January, musician/producer/wise guy Mark “Kramer” Kramer sued Knit Media and its chief cheese, Michael Dorf, in New York State Supreme Court, claiming Dorf defrauded him by breaking a promise to employ him. According to the suit, Kramer sold his Shimmy Disc label and Noise studio to Knit Media in 1997 in order to resolve his “personal and financial crises,” at a time when his wife was hospitalized. Dorf agreed in the contract of sale to “engage” Kramer as head of production, engineering, and A&R for five years, but did not specify a salary. Kramer says Dorf promised to pay him at least $50,000 per year plus royalties and estimates his damages at $3.16 million; he’s asking for a judgment for three times that.

“I trusted and believed him,” says Kramer. “As a result I am picking up the pieces of my life. I gave up the tools of my livelihood and now I am out of music. I am working a day job seven days a week to pay my alimony and child support.” He says his girlfriend is supporting him and Penn Gillette is paying his legal bills.

Dorf, of course, has another view. “I feel for Mark Kramer as a friend, and as someone who tried to help him out,” he says. “I respect him as a musician and a producer. I am frustrated that he had to resort to legal action, but his claims are completely without merit.” Last week, Dorf’s lawyers asked the court to dismiss the fraud allegations and any claims against Dorf personally; they’ll answer the rest—and raise their own counterclaims against Kramer—after the court rules on their motion. Christine Lepera, who represents the Knit, won’t specify exactly what her case will be, but says her client unknowingly assumed debts as a part of the deal. “Lies,” responds Kramer.

The Knit appears to have survived the cash squeeze that left it unable to meet payroll on time last fall (The Sound of the City, October 24, 2000). Dorf says he’s found some angel investors, in part through guitarist Gary Lucas (who seems to have assumed the unofficial artist-in-residence role relinquished by Kramer and John Zorn). Employees are getting paychecks on time again and there’s beer in the Tap Room, although the computers don’t always work and many senior managers have left. The L.A. club is now making money too. “We just had the premiere party for Josie and the Pussycats,” Dorf says. “We’re only 50 yards from Mann’s Chinese Theater.”

Dorf won’t have the opportunity to repeat one of his biggest disasters of 2000: Verizon announced last week that it would sponsor a summer jazz festival organized by George Wein (who also runs the JVC fest) and expand the event to both coasts and Florida. Last year’s Bell Atlantic edition, which Dorf handled, was a massive cash drain for the Knit, but Dorf submitted a bid again and is sorry he lost out. “They wanted to go national, be more commercial,” he says. “I thought we were a good fit.” He hopes to mount his own festival later in the year, but doesn’t have a sponsor yet.

The Knit continues to hang on to its narrow niche for dear life. “This place is like a giant yarn ball that a kitten got into,” notes one employee. “There is no grandma sitting with a neat basket of yarn, like our poster shows. Grandma hired a bunch of underpaid, overworked people a long time ago to do her knitting, and now everything is unraveled.” In other words, it’s back to business as usual at the Knitting Factory. “It’s been an extremely humbling learning experience for me,” says Dorf. “I feel lucky.” —Josh Goldfein