Barely a Ripple

How bad management made a mess of Making Waves '97

Despite the irksome details, all was not lost. Dren MacDonald did get to close out the festival with Vaccination friends and alumni -- Beth Lisick, Rube Waddell, Giant Ant Farm, Eskimo, and Idiot Flesh -- proving once again that San Francisco's best bands come from Oakland (with the notable exception of Rube, who actually do hail from the city). With performers and audience in mind, MacDonald programmed continuous music for the last four hours of the evening, allocating a side stage for Rube to kick their Appalachian junkyard blues intermittently between the main stage sets. Once self-styled (sub)urban folklorist Beth Lisick stepped up to the bandstand to retell a few "swingin' tales" from her new book, Monkey Girl (while Rube improvised a backbeat), the tenor of the Waves fest finally crested.

Lisick's storypoem performances of "United Petri Dish Incorporated," "People Pleaser," and "Weekend Warrior" were riveting. From shopping to bumper stickers to battles with the snooze alarm, she transformed the mundane into comic-absurd revelations on the human experience. Excerpts don't do justice to Lisick's vision, which often involves skewed variations on the American Dream ("Michael Douglas checked me out!") and a litany of breathless observations ("There is good fat, bad fat, and figure flaw fixers now that the girdle has made a comeback, but with catchier names like Rear-Riser, Hip-Slip, and Banded Belly Brief"). Rube's hoedowns on "tiny" instruments (two-string guitar, ukulele, harmonica, tabla, back-porch percussion) provided just the right concrete-and-backwoods support for Monkey Girl's verbal antics.

Thanks to Lisick, Rube, Giant Ant Farm, and Eskimo, the atmosphere was sufficiently pumped for the grand finale of Idiot Flesh. Last year, Oaktown's over-the-top jesters ushered in the Waves fest at noon on this same stage. So it seemed appropriate that they punctuate the end of this excruciatingly long day of largely arrested revelry with a howling exclamation. (Especially since they're definitely opting out next year.) And the audience (for the most part) agreed.

By encore, the incredulous grinning faces of the crowd appeared to forgive all administrative blunders. Singing, dancing, and baying at the moon ensued as Lorrie Murray pulled hapless onlooker Tamson Fynn (companion to the macho boy who wanted to sit, no less) into the Idiot Flesh circle-round-the-armadillo-box. She giggled and played along, with charismatic call-and-response timing, until the group put the final spin on Making Waves '97: "One two, fuck you, armadillo box, thank you, good night!

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