Monday, June 1, 2009

Holy Modal Crabs

One rainy night the great musician Billy Kennedy told me the story of his early Portland days with Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel of The Holy Modal Rounders.
Lets trace the lineage: Greenwich Village 1961, Robert Christgau called Weber and Stampfel the only geniuses of folk music. Not even Bob Dylan was in this realm yet. They found Portland early on and became fixtures.
Weber called himself a hedonist, Billy said, and all he wanted to do was take drugs, play music and have sex with anyone who was willing. Still, one of the greatest guitar players next to Baby Gramps on the planet, and Stampfel one hell of a great songwriter too.
Kennedy was living in a place in NW Portland, and everyone got crabs. They picked off the little critters and put them in a little jar on the kitchen table. The collection was growing, little critters covering a half inch of a small vial, right next to the peaches and homemade bread.
Weber didn’t live in this place, but he came around a lot, even crashing on the couch. He didn’t really live anywhere, but he never slept on the streets. He got the crazy genius treatment.
Billy said Weber walked into the apartment late one night with no one around and saw that vial with the little black specks. He immediately dumped out the crabs and chopped them into a few lines, snorting them through a dollar bill. When Billy came in a little while later, he said he saw Weber sitting spread eagled with his arms across the back of the sofa. He was staring at the ceiling like there was something ready to jump down on him. Billy went to the sofa and Weber motioned with his bony finger to the kitchen table. Billy saw the empty vial lying on its side and the remnants of the little black specks next to an unfurled dollar bill.
Billy went to the table and picked up the vial.
‘ You just snorted three months worth of crabs Weber, you stupid fucking idiot! ‘ Billy laughed.
‘ Well keep going boys, that’s the best shit I’ve ever done.’

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