Tales Of The ACTION MAN: Lightning Strikes Twice

by Roger Neville-Neil

From Aural Innovations #13 (October 2000)


It came suddenly -- without warning. A square. Quartered in equal colours of red, yellow, blue, and white. This square was pasted on the upper left hand corner of the envelope. Each small quarter confined an icon -- imprisoning it within the square in its own colour coordinated segment.

Red held the icon of flames. Yellow held the icon of explosion, a world bursting at its seams in all directions of space. Blue held the icon of death, a skull and cross bones. And white held the return address of King Black Acid.

The postage stamp was a colourful splash of dada art with happy stick figures holding hands. Around the borders were four phrases: CREATING A WORLD/ADOPTING A CHILD/SHARING LIFE/BUILDING A HOME.

The stamp and the square were clearly at odds with each other. Perhaps like a tarot reading one was an alternative path that could be taken. The choice is yours to make. Which path do you choose?

I opened the envelope and looked inside. There were two solitary rectangular objects. They were green. They were tickets. Consecutively numbered. Labeled: King Black Acid Record Release Party. VIP GUEST PASS. The date was for October 13th. The location was Berbati's Pan.

I slid the tickets out of the envelope and glanced at the calendar on the wall. October featured a pre-Raphaelite oil painting of an 18th century soldier in a red jacketed uniform sitting beside a tree and a drum. He was playing a fife to three young homeless girls. Sort of a militarized pied piper.

I'd just been retained for another King Black Acid show. The path I chose was music, mystery and mayhem.


Feathered in silver, she raises her wings
releasing a flash of electronic stings
daughter of Thunder, she's a tempest in flight
dazzling immortal, disrobing the night

Lightning stretches
twisting her body
and craning her neck
transforming darkness
with the spells she'll wreck

Traveling faster than the speed of sound
she's a graven image piercing sacred ground
when she alights in violet and red
thick angry clouds churn, boiling overhead

Lightning's sharp eyes
are scanning beacons
strobing and bright
guiding her emotions
assault on the night


It was a rainy day at Bogart's. Summer had spun off into autumn. Autumn was spinning off into grey skies. The grey skies were spinning translucent projectiles earthward. These splashed randomly coating everything in that slick shiny pacific northwest stew known as rain.

I walked up to the bar and asked for a menu. I gave it the once over. Then I gave it the twice over. Everything had it's own unique name. Sandwiches with labels like: "To have and have not", "The big sleep", and on and on. I wasn't sure how the sandwiches corresponded to these films. All I knew was, I'd avoid the Big Sleep. So I settled for a "Kid Galahad" and a Budweiser. This turned out to be a bacon burger and a facsimile of beer. Yellow rain with bubbles. Undistilled Portland piss.

I walked up a few stairs to the booth area and sat at a small table near the open grill. I was facing a couple who were pointing out several b/w Bogart stills on the wall above their table. Next to the couple's booth sat two guys relaxing. One heavy set with a beard munching away at his bogart sandwich. His lips were going along for the ride. The other guy was sitting with his feet up on the bench while engrossed in a book. I wasn't sure if he was reading it or hiding behind it. He had a habit of looking up at me and staring. I had a habit of staring back at him and flexing my upper lip until he'd become uncomfortable and look down into his book again.

A life sized Black and white cut out of Humphrey Bogart was mounted on a door by the entrance. Bogart was smoking and giving that classic look. Eyes boring holes in your soul daring you to cross him. The door was labeled "spaten" in small letters, and "MUNCHEN" in big letters. This room contained office supplies.

I spread a copy of the Rocket on the table. A local rock paper. I was looking for information concerning King Black Acid. It didn't take long to find it. It was splashed across one page in gigantic type. You could of patched the hole in the side of the USS Cole with it. The only way you could have missed it is if you were on some other planet. If you are -- say hello to my Ex for me.

Berbati's listed the bands for this event as: "King Black Acid, plus... Helio Sequence, The gun street girls, and All the way down". It sounded like a wild bunch. I also spotted a listing for an in store acoustic set by KBA on the following day. Saturday. At the Ozone.

After finishing my meal, I left and cased the Ozone record store. It was compact and tight. The in store acoustic set would be total mayhem if word got around and a large gathering turned out for the set. Yes this was going to be a very interesting arrangement.

I planned to be at this set as well as the record release party. Yes indeed... lightning does strike twice.


By nature I'm a suspicious person. Not to say I'm dark and shady. I mean that I suspect everything and everyone. Nothing is above suspicion. Nothing is left to chance. It's all orchestrated. Fixed in the ether. Destined to be. We are merely playing out the secret script passed on to our subconscious. Intuitively read, eaten, digested, and committed to the soul. My soul was busy. Very busy. I had several past lifetimes of karmetic public service to work off.

As I drove up the on-ramp to I84 West, the bottom of the sky fell out. My windscreen became a portal to a washing machine... the wiper blades frantically trying to spin dry my view of the road ahead.

It was friday the 13th and I had just discovered a reservoir in the spare tire area of the car. I wouldn't recommend drinking from it. That is were I launder my pyrotechnics. A soggy flare was sloshing around in it as I headed toward Berbati's Pan. I parked over in the Pearl District. It had stopped raining. I looked up at the sky arching an eyebrow as I gave the gods a mocking grin. "Thanks guys... wait till I stop driving to turn off the heavenly sprinkler system".

I shook my head and walked to the club. A couple had stopped at the door to Berbati's Pan to ask the guy at the door who was playing.
"Tonight is KING BLACK ACID...."
I gave the door man the once over with my eyes.
He glanced over at me and quickly looked away.
I shrugged and walked on in... past the tables for the eating area and made my way to the entrance for the club section. No one was stationed at the cash register. Some people were already in. Mostly the bands setting up. It was 9PM. Nobody seemed all that concerned, so I just kept on going.

To my right was a pretty brunette sitting at the King Black Acid merchandise table. For only ten American dollars you could walk away with a KBA T-shirt, or the new "Loves A Long Song" CD.

We exchanged smiles. Then I walked over to the stage.
Daniel spotted me and walked over to me on his way to the dressing room. He reached out and gave my arm a tap as he passed by.
"Hey Action Man--"
He smiled as he vanished around the corner.

I veered over to the bar. IT was time for a drink and to check the chalk board. Berbati's Pan is known for the artwork on the chalk board announcing upcoming events. This is drawn in coloured chalk and generally has some very interesting figures.

A lovely woman dressed all in red was featured. Red high heels, red one piece body suit, and a red skullcap with horns. A she-devil. Her arms were reaching out to the left toward the bar. I think she was reaching for a pumpkin. Maybe she was reaching for Tom Collins. Hard to say, I've never drank with a full fledged she-devil. The dames I knew were only in training. They haven't been certified. Just demi-she-devils. All flicker and no flames.

I joined Helio Sequence over at the small tables by the window. I said Hello and ask them how things were. They said everything is fine. They had got the review I sent them from a place in Belgium. Brandon was very pleased about the review. After hearing the new CD, the reviewer had to admit the band surpassed his expectations. It was a great turn around in what he had said earlier for their EP. He loved the new CD and was greatly impressed.

The first band to hit the stage was "All The Way Down". Much to my surprise King Black Acid's bass player, Erik "Star Wars" Alley, was in the line up. They sounded good. Very good. A nice psychedelic sound which had its moments of heaviness. During a few of the heavier passages I had faint impressions of early Dandy Warhols or possibly a twinge of grunge. It was a nice catchy groove--

The audience was getting down. All the Way Dow was getting all the way down. I was impressed that they just clicked and everyone liked them. This is particularly notable for a support act going on at 9:30PM.

Yes, this had the makings a an excellent night.
I loaded a roll of b/w 1600 ASA in my camera and set up a flash gun on an extension cord. I planned to try this out off to the side of the camera. Holding the flash gun in my left hand while I juggled the camera with my right hand. It was a fiddle, but it might prove to give odd and unique results. I also took a few shots using existing light. I was in the mood to experiment. I was also drinking casually as I shot photos and scanned the stage.

The Gun Street Girls were up next. They were not a band. They were a burlesque act. Four ladies in various different outfits strutted onto the stage. Individually featured. Displaying their wares.

"Ladies in the view finder -- are closer than they appear".
This should be the label affixed to my wide angle lens. When I lowered the camera I discovered my front row position almost placed me in the arms of a stranger. These strangers were armed with pasties -- and they knew how to use them.

The audience was cheering the ladies on. Off to my right, a group of rowdy ladies were cheering louder than any of the guys in the club. Perhaps they were closet strippers. Perhaps they were friends of the Gun Street Girls. One thing was clear... The Gun Street Girls were making many new converts to the art of burlesque. These were not nuns with bad habits.

After each girl stripped down to the legal Oregon statutes, which kept us just this side of being raided, a young thin guy had the glorious job of retrieving the clothing in order to clear the stage which was now littered in lingerie. We all cheered him on.
"Hey, you missed a purple bra!"

Earlier in the year Berbati's Pan did get raided during a bikini contest. It seems that the girls being judged got too wild in their enthusiasm to win. It quickly turned into a free for all strip off. The cops mysteriously arrived in time to restore the piece and reclothe the huddled masses. But where are they when you really need them?

I leaned over to a KBA fan that had drove all the way up from Eugene, Oregon to see the show.
"You know, I think he has the best job here."
Mr. Eugene smiled and sighed "Yeah!"

After The Gun Street girls cleared off, I walked around behind the stage to an area between the club and the pool tables. The video poker machines are located here along with various band equipment waiting to be carried on stage or be taken out to the bands vans.

Scottie, KBA's drummer, and his girl friend were off to the side talking. We spotted each other and vigorously shook hands.
I smiled, "I've been seeing your photo in the press a lot lately."
Scottie's eyes went wide with surprise, "You have?"
"Yeah, a nice photo of you in one paper reviewing that show in Eugene a while back. Also another advertising this show."
"Which paper?"
"Either the Rocket or the Mercury".
Scottie's girlfriend beamed a proud smile. "My dad told me about them. He'd seen them too!"
Suddenly a guy rushed up to us practically shouting to be heard over the din from the club. "The show is SOLD OUT!"

I was sure it must have sold out. As each act took the stage, the crowd was swarming larger and larger. My only hope was to get down front as fast as I could during the stage set up. Then just dig in and ride it out. If I didn't do this I wouldn't be able to get near the stage to take clear shots of the bands.

Helio Sequence churned the crowd with their lovely beatlesque sound. Their set was and is always a pleasure to hear. The amazing layers of sound produced by only two people. If you shut your eyes, you'd swear that several people were playing on stage. The press has been fantastic for this band and they well deserve it. Keep an eye on this band -- they're going to take off big!

Following Helio Sequence was the return of the Gun Street Girls for more burlesque tassel twirling mayhem. Denny from Cavity Search spotted me and laughed "Have you been photographing the girls?"
"Oh yeah."
Denny just chuckled and the crowd swallowed him up.

I wandered through the crowd. Navigating was becoming difficult. A combination of too many people, their unpredictable trajectories, and the beer I had been casually drinking. When they say "This Buds for you" I mistakenly thought the commercial was talking about three or four of them. I was consuming them with great speed and gusto.

A face passed me in the crowd and smiled at me. Just after passing this face I was grabbed and held in place. It was Joel, a band member from Lava de Mure. As soon as I recognized him we both cracked up laughing like lunatics. I shrugged and arched my eyebrows. He mocked my expression and I raised him another. We never exchanged a word. It was some strange mime encounter full of physical humour and gestures. We just kept laughing and finally spiraled off in separate directions.

I ended up at the video poker machine. I slid in a one dollar bill to kill time. The video gods blessed me. The credits started to mount. I was amazed. King Black Acid was about to go on stage and I have a winning streak. The machine was heeping point after point on me, trying to lead me into temptation. I had to bail out after I had amassed eight dollars. I didn't dare risk missing my position down front. The video poker gods lost this round. I ripped out the payment slip and headed to the bar to cash it in. This resulted in another Bud. I took a sip, pocketed my change and floated over to the stage.

King Black Acid reined supreme. Starting out in slow gradual, soothing melodies -- they weaved a magic carpet of aural delights and took us on a journey through the heavens. The songs floated above us on gossamer wings. They soared higher and higher... parting veil after veil of the celestial either -- never failing to enrapture. It felt so good. It felt so right. I forgot to keep track of the complete song list.

The new song "Rolling" followed the first number. Later we were treated to "Into The Sun", and another new song "Electrical". These new songs are fabulous. It feels like the next album already has a powerful base to build on if these new songs are the future launching pad for another album.

I was taking a few flash photos, some natural light photos and just flowing along in the wake of their sound. A photographer from JAM was working his way around the front. Picking off shots here and there. He looked firmly at me and boldly exclaimed, "You're not the only one here taking photos tonight!"
I shot back, "Great! The more people taking photos the better it is. You get more variety that way."

Mr. Jam Photographer softened. Looked thoughtful then smiled back at me. He realized I didn't care what he did other than he have a good time doing it. I stepped out of my primo spot -- dead center -- and pointed at it.
"Try a few from here."
Mr. JAM Photographer's mouth dropped. He wavered for a second and then looked very appreciative "THANKS!"

I had taken what I wanted to take and felt it was time to try a few other locations. When I finished I ended up at the end of the bar leaning on the edge watching King Black Acid spiraling up toward their grand finale.

My ears perked up near the end of Butterfly Bomber. It was Tahoe Jackson's voice. She had turned up to give the song that classic touch that you only get live. If you've heard the song on CD you have not heard the song at its very best. Tahoe raises it to soulful bliss.

King Black Acid then did something totally unexpected for their encore. I was expecting Alone on Mars. Instead they played a couple of cover songs. The powerful guitar sound of ACDC suddenly shot from the stage to the unexpecting audience. "BACK IN BLACK" was the song and it felt very appropriate for the Return of King Black Acid after their brief break from gigging.

The final song of the evening was Bad Company's "FEEL LIKE MAKING LOVE". I was amazed to hear KBA playing these songs. But I'm glad that they did. The night was full of surprises. Daniel had several aces up his sleeve and played them well. It was a real party!

After the set, I spoke with Denny. He liked a demo tape I had given to him by an ex-hawkwind lyricist. Half a dozen songs gathered over the years for the Steve Goodman Project. I wasn't sure what he'd think of the tape.
Denny said, "Actually I like it. Very Beatlesque. I've been playing it in my car.
"Really? Its one of those slow projects. The songs have been trickling in over the years. The project is still not complete. Denny looked surprised to hear this.

Before I left, I told Daniel that I loved the last songs they had played. I also told him that I would show up at the Ozone tomorrow for the in store set. "Its gonna be packed!" Daniel rolled his eyes. "We'll have to move some bins around."
I smiled, "See ya tomorrow."
Daniel nodded.

I left the club and drove home. Ready to catch a few winks before heading into the Ozone. In my wallet lingered one unused ticket to the sold out show. The other I had given to Sarah to use if she had other guests. I had never needed the tickets to get in. Something was looking out for me and clearing my path to the shows. I don't know what this force is, but I do know that it had been an excellent night out. This band certainly knows how to throw a party.

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