So wrote Big Jeter in an October letter to the Pitch, suggesting, "with all due respect," that the "black clouds of porcine stink" described by writer Joe Miller in his pig-related cover story ("Pig Out," September 7) were actually "the deteriorating wake of decrepit dabblers the Bacon Brothers." Like any good civic activist, Jeter did not confine his outrage to the editorial pages; he vowed to show up outside the Beaumont Club on the evening of the Bacon Brothers' October 22 show and chase the would-be crossover artists with "a traditional purification ceremony, loud noises, mockery, and shooing gestures." The protest failed to materialize, and the Bacon Brothers' show, for better or worse, went on as scheduled. But Jeter and his irrepressible crew of the same name continue to wage war on purveyors of tepid entertainment. They're armed with savage wit, an encyclopedic knowledge of both pop culture and obscure Missouri- and Kansas-based landmarks and retailers, and a decided disregard for p.c. standards.
Jeter, the group's leader, handles his vocal duties with a preacher's intensity. "I holler and testify," he explains. "I fuck and suck," Gladiola Dishwasher says of her role in the band, but given that she breaks into renditions of tunes by everyone from Billy Squier to Silk to Eric Carmen to Jimi Hendrix during an hourlong brunch conversation, it's safe to say she does some singing as well. Jeter describes DJ Clem, an intimidating, goateed man modeling an intriguing mix of cowboy and biker attire, as "the musical backbone of our family" (the relatively soft-spoken Clem adds only, "I play all instruments and do programming"). Bo, the aforementioned scriptwriter behind Bludgeoned, describes himself as a "visual aid," and Jeter says Bo has experience in this role. "Bo makes extra money posing as a fetus at anti-abortion rallies," Jeter reveals. "That's how he came into our family; I adopted him at one of those rallies," adds Dishwasher. "I didn't want him to be abandoned." In addition to providing his thespian talents, Bo brings various other skills to the Big Jeter table. "I squawk and honk on a saxophone occasionally. I sing, dance, and, when I'm in the zone, I shave my head," he says, sporting a newly shiny dome. "I'm versatile." He says that last word slowly and proudly, leading Jeter to divulge that Bo added it to his vocabulary only recently: "He learned it from the Pitch personals."
Bo's new favorite adjective offers an apt description of the band, whose performances are unique thematic events. For its Thanksgiving show, Big Jeter's feast offered such appetizing items as hair gel and chicken-in-a-can, as well as a "psychedelic freakout" from Bo, who opened in character as Julia Child before morphing into Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and finally Jim Morrison. However, the band's inspiration isn't limited to holidays and stars of stage and screen; Big Jeter often pays tribute to local celebrities. Its latest muse is the bubbly spokeswoman for Watson's Pools, Spas, and Leisure Products. In addition to inviting Jennifer Eichler, better known as the Watson's girl, to join the group, Jeter expresses interest in casting her in Bo's latest string of potential films, among them Primatene Mist -- The Movie, Sweet Babette's Bad-Ass Feast, and a remake of The Loneliest Runner, Michael Landon's tearjerking 1976 paean to a bedwetting marathon runner. "She's more beautiful than Merlin Olsen's beard," raves Jeter before offering the obtuse Clash of the Titans reference "She releases the Kracken."
Despite the group's obvious affection for camp, Big Jeter maintains that it does not fall under the same tent. "We're not camp," insists Bo firmly, "but we like going to camp." "We're avant garde," offers Dishwasher, pointedly butchering the pronunciation but accurately describing the group's performance-art approach. "We play a lot of jazz," deadpans Clem, and although the city's purists might cringe, Big Jeter's improvisational aspect is undeniable. Jeter himself summarizes the Big Jeter experience: "There are no frets on our fingerboard."
It's difficult to imagine the group funneling its chaotic live show onto a record, which, along with the chore of selecting tunes from a massive list of concert favorites, might explain Big Jeter's delay in releasing its long-rumored double album. "We booked studio time in Nashville," Jeter explains, "but since none of us live in Nashville, that didn't work out too well. I think a team of studio musicians is working on it out there right now." Though it might be a while before there's music to match, the group has composed titles for the discs. "The first will be called Laugh, Children, Laugh," Jeter reveals. "And the second one will be Songs of Suicide, Despair, and the End of the World. We're breaking it up so it can fit any mood."
In the meantime, Big Jeter passes the time between its gigs at such haunts as the Indian Springs Mall, Fritz's, and various Speaker's Corner kiosks. That last hangout has already paid dividends, as Big Jeter earned a rare performance slot on KCTV Channel 5's free-speech soapbox, thus moving closer to coveted Watson's-girl-style local celebrity status. Big Jeter's December 19 gig at Davey's Uptown with Rohypnol Rangers offers the next chance to witness the band's steady climb toward its ultimate goal of "world domination."
Christmas Cheer and December Demons
This week boasts an impressive array of holiday-themed events and nonsecular soirees. Among the highlights: El Torreon celebrates its one-year anniversary, no small feat for an all-ages club in Kansas City, with a raucous street-punk bill including Hudson Falcons, GC5, Sixer, and local Oi! boys Tanka Ray on Friday, December 8. Davey's Uptown hosts a party in honor of the release of Demons, the latest album from experimental jazz trio Malachy Papers, on Saturday, December 9. And the Missouri Valley Folklife Society offers "The Seasons of Winterlife," its third annual Celtic Christmas concert, on December 8 and 9 at Unity Temple on the Plaza. Among the performers are Niamh Parsons, an esteemed vocalist flying in from Dublin for these shows; singer Aoife Clancy; and folk artist/harpist/music director Pamela Bruner.