Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Robinsons of the East, and other tales of rock and identity

One of the less healthy parts of learning to program in Java - an unsavory fact that nobody tells you before you sign up for the class - is that having your code fail over and over again will drive you to drink and spend money online.

Last week, stuck in another failure loop, I veered over to the Cats Cradle website and was reminded that Unrest will be playing a 26th anniversary show there July 11th. After ponying up $33.80 for a couple tickets, I then proceeded to teenbeat.net and got a t-shirt (on sale now!) and a “deluxe vinyl” reissue of imperial f.f.r.r. (definitely not on sale).

I was introduced to Unrest by the first girl I almost married. She put Isabel on a mix tape and of course I was floored. In the mid-nineties, the idea of that kind of song just seemed so love struck bizarre and perfect for the transformations my teenage self was going through. Teen Beat indeed.

I found the CD somewhere, and I’d never heard anything like it before. The song Imperial is emblematic: it starts in a pop groove, lined with words that are beautiful or devastating when they stutter, and then devolves into these incredibly pure sounds that both aggravate my tinnitus and enchant me completely. This happens throughout the record. A high-schooler, it was probably the first album I owned that pulled me all over the lines between experimentalism and pop like that. And that’s still the feeling that’s at the heart of my music tastes today.

When I opened up the record, there was a note on the back of a 3x5 Teen Beat “partial catalogue” signed by “Mark.” I don’t know, but if I was the Mark Robinson that helped start Teen Beat, if there was some guy working in the mail room named Mark, I might ask him to sign his little missives a little more specifically, e.g. “Bye - Mark (i.e. not the one that started the record label).” So I’m going to go ahead and claim that Mark Robinson of Teen Beat and Unrest and etc. fame sent me a copy of a record which he made. As someone very wise once said, “I gotta say it was a good day.”

a classic, mine again from Mike Control on Vimeo.

But here’s the punch line. In 2005, I started working for a guy named Mark Robinson. Not in a mail room, but there were other similarities. My Mark was also a guitarist. In fact, my Mark was not only also a musician, but also a mid-Atlanticish East Coast resident, also in an experimental pop band, and also born late 60s-esque (I think). I don’t know if this ever happened the other way around, but my Mark got at least one gig through being confused with his D.C.-based counterpart.

Here’s a video of my Mark Robinson in 1994, in a performance whose lead character Lemmons the Shiny Clown (n.b., misspelled in the video titles) is definitely someone you should google after finishing the video. The performance was at "The Brewery" in Raleigh, NC for the pub­lic ac­cess tele­vi­sion show "Live Around Town" (Episode 15).

Laso Halo - Lemons the Shiny Clown

Craig Z | MySpace Video

The myspace user who posted this vid, Craig Z, has some other vintage RDU stuff on his page.


  1. Whoa, that video is totally creepy. I remember the Brewery well, but I didn't see any weird shit like that there. However, I was really into this satanic ska band called Mephiskapheles that I saw there one time. They were making love to inflatable sheep. Corrupted an already misled youth...

  2. Oh THATS where you get that from... Yeah, doesn't seem like the kind of stuff the brewery is up to these days, huh?