SAW OFF YOUR MANHOOD: The Husky Youth Story – Part 1

“What a time it was to be alive in Towson: so fertile… fervent… febrile… fetid…”
         – Scott Gilmore on Towson’s cultural climate in the early-mid 1990’s.               

Gilmore was one of the founding members of Husky Youth; he also worked with The Preschoolers, The TGAUC, and many other Towson-Glen Arm projects

~~~

The photo above was taken at the first show ever booked by The Towson-Glen Arm Unity Coalition. It took place on Labor Day 1994 in the basement of Scott Gilmore’s family home in Hunt Valley, Md. This concert could be called a festival as it lasted for most of a day into the early evening, there was a large varied line-up which featured all of the most active TGA bands (except for The Preschoolers and Spastic Cracker *), and it received a bigger promo push than many other early 90’s TGA basement gigs. Inspired by the interior design of then recently defunct Lutherville-Timonium venue Matt Bray’s Basement **, The TGAUC commemorated their Labor Day ’94 event by creating a set of political flyers and posters. These decorated the Gilmore basement and proudly introduced a whole new audience to the movement’s wild mix of absurdity and activism. The most irreverent of these was created by Jeff Duncan; it appears on the right. The central image is a primal drawing of a handsaw accompanied by text instructing patrons to “saw off” their manhood. 

One big thing that inspired this wacky piece of anti-machismo was a fresh addition to The TGA rogue’s gallery of art damaged activists. The Labor Day 1994 event was notable for featuring the debut live performance from Husky Youth (their first set list is hanging on the wall right next to the “Saw Off Your Manhood” flyer). The band was formed by Doug Hammond, Scott Gilmore, and two of Towson-Glen Arm’s pioneers: Lou Thomas and Chris Teret. The pair had been founders of The Nudists, the crazed multi-media collective that kicked off the entire TGA explosion back in 1992. The Nudists’ first recorded work was the expansive semi-improvised tape “Live @ Lou’s”. As the earliest and one of the most experimental TGA groups, The Nudists set a precedent that’d rarely be matched creating a sound and a style completely antithetical to the genre obsessed conventions that surrounded mainstream and avant garde art during the late 20th century. From 1992 to 1994 this creative energy was TGA’s unique m.o.

Focused on subverting any and all established genres and aesthetics became paramount. It was an obsession for these young artists, so much so that – within their tiny corner of the conceptual universe – eventually the act of subverting the mainstream became routine and formulaic therefore subject to subversion itself. In short, “weird” became “normal”. TGA was all about breaking boundaries, so, as the scene evolved the new question that the north county underground faced was this: “We know how to break boundaries, but how can we break the boundaries that surround the act of breaking boundaries?” The search for common ground between the conventional and the experimental, the progressive and the nostalgic, the “weird” and the “normal” was on. It was an exploration of their own fluid aesthetic, but it was also a way to attract more attention and support for the artists’ far left political ideals, things which were (by the pop culture standards of the 1990’s) slightly more common than their ideas about creative work.

Many ideas made a quick transition from “weird” to “normal” during the alt-rock era. Radical 3rd Wave feminism was one of the most ubiquitous of these. Everyone from actress Anne Magnuson to hard rock icon Joan Jett to Newsweek magazine were celebrating the works of Kathleen Hanna, Bratmobile, Miranda July, Huggy Bear, and numerous others who emerged from the moment when the riot grrrl movement became feminism’s first major punk/pop-art fueled wing. Within a wider variety of fringe culture media outlets and zines –  from pro-level globally distributed publications like Maximum Rock’N’Roll and Raygun to micro-press outbursts created by Towson-Glen Arm artists like Claire Mysko and The L Crew – radical feminism was even more ubiquitous. Just like veganism, anarchism, and anti-racist action, feminism was embraced both as a sovereign movement and as a lifesaving weapon in the arsenal that the far left was building to defend itself and the world against the great threat of imperialism. As imperialism has always been a bi-product of toxic machismo, naturally feminism has long been defined as one of the world’s ultimate anti-imperialist movements.

Despite their iconoclastic background, the members of Husky Youth were a ‘lot like other smart, sensitive young male activists of their time. They felt a strong kinship with riot grrrl. The fact that they had many female friends who directly supported riot grrrl made Husky Youth even more enthusiastic to offer support as feminist allies who could bring more than just agit-prop weirdness to the table. Looking back at the accomplishments of the TGA artists it’s easy to see how they were successful and how so much of their work has stood the test of time. From an aesthetic perspective Husky Youth was a cathartic high point of the Towson-Glen Arm story. On the other hand, from a political standpoint, the group was a flop. Their zealous embrace of 90’s pop culture and their awkward ambition to become the world’s first “riot boy” band did not bring disastrous consequences, but these things did have a big impact on the scene’s development and its dissolution.  

~~~

In the next installment of this piece we take a look at the rise and fall Husky Youth through the eyes of those who witnessed the group’s strange politically charged moment firsthand


Posted in 90's alternative culture, Anti-imperialism, Chris Teret band Company, experimental music, Riot Grrl zines, Riot Grrrl | Leave a comment

Odds & Ends – Part 3

An alternate flyer for the 7/27/1998 concert at Small Intestine. This “Sg.t Pepper”-esque collage piece was collectively created, designed, and lettered by members of the quintet Mach Schau! The original flyer and more info about the groups who performed at this event can be found via the “Odds & Ends – part 2” post here.
A photo probably taken in the fall or spring of 1994 during a Towson High School art class field trip to Hunt Valley’s Oregon Ridge Park. (Left to right) multi-media artist Spence Holman (presumably) modeling for fellow artist/writer Laura Burke
Baltimore city nightlife in the mid 90’s didn’t experience much crossover with the Towson-Glen Arm scene. This was mainly due to the city’s extreme lack of all ages venues. Outside of the infamous west Baltimore squat The Loft, there just weren’t many places that would regularly cater to the predominantly underage teen audiences and artists that comprised the north county underground. One of the few legit urban Baltimore venues that did support TGA during its heyday was the Maryland Institute College Of Art. The photo above shows The Unheard Ones performing live at MICA in 1996. (left to right: Tim Kabara, Eli Jones, Lisa Starace)
An understated flyer created by Ben Valis circa 1997 or ’98. The art and design here doesn’t reflect the TGA aesthetic, but nonetheless this piece and the show it advertises both came from one of the scene’s most unique historical moments. The band credited here as “The Permits” was a short lived project featuring members of Freedom Riders and Spontaneous Gyrations. Along with The Decency Squad, The Permits were the only live band ever to perform the songs of Drew Bena; the singer/songwriter played in both groups. Soon after this gig Bena would begin recording a series of poetic experimental folk rock albums under the name Luxuous.*
The preceding two shots are the only known photos of (top) Engine Killer and (bottom) Grrrls Of The Grid Iron. Engine Killer was a self-described “Beefheart punk band” featuring members of The Preschoolers, The Six O’Clock Alarm, Lard Star, and Husky Youth; Grrrls Of The Grid Iron was a pre-Husky Youth/pre-Manisexdestiny band. Both groups existed briefly during 1994. This photo comes from the Labor Day ’94 gig put on by The TGAUC at Scott Gilmore’s family home in Hunt Valley, Md.

More info on this important event can be found at the “Odds & Ends – part 2” post here, the Eli Jones tribute blog Eli Lives: https://elilives.tumblr.com/post/56883441369/the-story-of-shovel-by-mike-apichella , and even more info on the concert is here: https://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2021/04/08/saw-off-your-manhood-the-husky-youth-story-part-1/

Another dayglo/psuedo-psychedelic show flyer created by members of Mach Schau! This one advertises a late 90’s concert at Baltimore’s Ottobar. The vintage graphics come from a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not** publication.

In 1998 The Small Intestine suddenly shuttered its doors; soon before that several of the major north county DIY venues closed***. Many late 90’s events originally booked at Small Intestine and other TGA-friendly spaces then had to be rescheduled and moved at the last minute. Small Intestine svengali/Baltimore music impresario Ben Valis made sure to find new homes for most by re-booking them at some of Baltimore city’s bars and indie rock clubs. The Ottobar frequently played host to these displaced gigs.

* You can hear Luxuous’ music and read more about the artist via the first Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation album: https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/luxuous-ultraviolent-rays

** https://www.comics.org/series/1701/covers/?page=3

*** https://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/matt-bray-and-the-early-days-of-towson-glen-arm/

Posted in graphic design, Lard Star, MICA, mysticism, Odds and Ends, psychedelic | Leave a comment

Odds & Ends – Part 2

This excerpt from the 1995 Towson High School yearbook just may be the best illustration of Towson-Glen Arm’s status as an enclave for outsiders. Note the dramatic disconnection displayed by the senior quotes here from “normal” high school kid Julia and TGA artist Tyler Roylance. The quotes Tyler shared come from the following sources (top to bottom) : “Paradise Lost” by John Milton, and the bottom quote paraphrases an ancient Latin saying originally utttered by Greco-Roman prisoners who were about to take part in war games. It first appeared in print when it was included in Suetonius’ ‘De vit Caesarum’. The literal translation: “Those who are about to die salute you”.
A flyer for an early Freedom Riders show which happened at the short lived venue Freedom City Cafe, probably circa 1995 or ’96 (artist: unknown). The other performers here were not TGA artists.
In the genre-obsessed 90’s it was tough for conventional venues and promoters to figure out how to market concerts featuring the frequently genre defying Towson-Glen Arm artists. The Within show flyer here (created by an unknown designer) is evidence of this. Despite being booked at this popular Baltimore coffee shop’s “No Wave Night” event, the band never cited no wave music as an influence. The other act on this bill was even less no-wave-ish: Goodbye Kitty were an improvisational shoegazer band from the Annapolis area which included drummer Ben McConnell who later played in several short lived Towson-Glen Arm bands during the late 90’s.
The hand written track list from a mix tape made by Dave Willemain; the tape was a gift made for his Towson High classmate Brian Knudsen circa 1995 or ’96. Willemain’s output as a compiler of unique mix tapes was just as influential as any of his original music and multi-media art work. The track list’s aesthetic diversity reflects the political beliefs and emotional breadth that defined the TGA movement’s approach. Brian Knudsen was kind enough to share this image; he also made an online playlist featuring most of the original tracklist – you can find that here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1N2P3EnxWKxDUim1cTkLXL?si=ZJdbvohHTCCLkiGfiYX9TQ&fbclid=IwAR2hA33abYWMr16GIZZJAOn6PwnB83E-abNtHJLDLQr_tbLPbUCdpepADBM&nd=1.
As a great testament to Willemain’s crate digging prowess, a few tracks from the mix are so obscure that they have yet to be made widely available via all major streaming platforms. Here’s where to find those cuts:
“Some Clouds Don’t” by Fred Frith – https://youtu.be/cFCML8N4fZE
“Tous Les Matins” by Les Frelons – https://youtu.be/Sa9QgOwUFNY
“Trop Belle Pour Rester Seule” by Ringo (aka Ringo Willy Kat aka Guy Bayle) – https://youtu.be/1hPT9mQMFnk

A flyer advertising one of the first live concerts to feature The Spontaneous Gyrations. Layout, design, and lettering was done by the band themselves circa 1994 or ’95.

If judged only by face value, this image may not seem to be as action packed as others that document TGA’s performance art energy. But looks can be deceiving. There are several major reasons why this photo is dynamic and important. First, it is one of a series of shots taken at the legendary Labor Day 1994 concert at Scott Gilmore’s family home in Hunt Valley; this event featured debut sets from some of the scene’s biggest acts, including Husky Youth, Shovel, and the only live set from the Within line-up that featured Lou Thomas on drums. Another high point: the band Lard Star made their swan song performance here. The Labor Day ’94 show also marked the debut of The Towson-Glen Arm Unity Coalition. This activist group set up the show and ushered the TGA movement into its most significant moment of popularity (late 1994 & most of ’95). Additionally, this photo is the only known documentation of M.U.S.C.L.E., a short lived free music group with a fluid membership that included (above, left to right) Spence Holman and Cory Davolos. More rare photos and details from the Labor Day ’94 TGAUC concert will be shared soon.

Posted in graphic design, Lard Star, mysticism, Odds and Ends | Tagged | Leave a comment

“The Aftermath Of Project Nike” by Robin Molloy

A US Army diagram illustrating the launch process and functions of a Nike Hercules nuclear missile. The diagram also provides a side view of the common underground and above ground infrastructure of Nike missile sites circa the 1950’s-1960’s.

A Nike Ajax missile test circa the 1950’s or 60’s (this photo comes from the nikemissile.org website)

The following piece was written by a TGA artist. The writer’s name and many other names mentioned here have been changed to protect the innocent.

Thirty years after its construction, Phoenix, Maryland’s abandoned Nike missile battery became the awkward reminder of a doomsday that never happened. For me and many others who grew up in central Maryland, the site took on a mythic status. It became a rite of passage for kids to invade its rusty netherworld. The irony of its existence was impossible to ignore: a once deadly underground complex lay hidden in plain view stuffed between agricultural lands, retail infrastructure, public forests, and other wholesome community centers. Phoenix, Md. was designed to be a tranquil ex-burb and yet at one point the biggest army on Earth felt it was the perfect spot to hide a nuclear arsenal.

Project Nike was a strategic initiative created by the US Department Of Defense. It encompassed the engineering, testing, and diffusion of guided anti-aircraft missiles. They were called “Nike” missiles because that name originally belonged to the Greek goddess of victory, something that the army was certain it could attain with these weapons. From the 1950’s through the early 70’s Nike sites came to every corner of the globe that had a US military presence. It wasn’t an exclusive part of Maryland’s culture, but the project began life at the Fort Meade army base – roughly forty five minutes to an hour west of the city of Baltimore and its greater metro area which includes Phoenix. Though first conceived in 1944 as a plan of defense against The Axis Powers, once Cold War tensions began to mount it became one of the many bi-products of anti-communist paranoia and the military industrial complex.

Nike launch sites were constructed specifically to protect densely populated urban centers from the threat of nuclear war. They were built within existent bases or on the grounds of National Guard armories. When extra land wasn’t available the army built on property bought from the private sector. Each site comprised around 50 acres of land most of which was taken up by underground infrastructure: missile magazines, control rooms, office space, and storage areas. The Nike sites’ major above ground structures were radar towers. The number of batteries built in any given area was tailored to fit individual populations and the sites were arranged in circles (nicknamed “rings of steel”) that surrounded whatever city they protected.

The specs for these missiles were technically sophisticated technically sophisticated. There were a total of three different Nike models created: the Nike Ajax, the Nike Hercules, and the Nike Zeus. Hercules and Zeus were equipped with nuclear warheads. All three were controlled by a triple radar system invented by Western Electric. The missiles themselves were built and jointly designed by The U.S. Army and defense contractor McConnell-Douglas.

A map of America created by FEMA; this charts regions of the country determined to be high risk targets for a nuclear attack from foreign enemies (date of creation: 1981)

A 1958 advertisement for the Douglas Aircraft Company (later known as McConnell-Douglas)

Public safety issues associated with Project Nike first emerged in 1958 when a Nike Ajax was accidentally detonated at a site near the Gateway National Recreation Area in Leandro, New Jersey. The explosion killed six soldiers and four civilians.

The Cold War’s slow acrimonious end began in 1972 with the SALT I arms control treaty, a bilateral effort in which the U.S. and the Soviets worked to reduce their collective stockpile of nuclear weapons and other WMD’s. Project Nike was among the first of the U.S. defense programs to get the axe. All Nike sites were decommissioned by the DOD soon after the talks concluded.

Random destruction and diplomatic rigmarole weren’t all that cast a negative shadow on Project Nike. In the early 1980’s – twenty years after its establishment and nearly a decade after its shut down – toxic chemicals began to contaminate water in neighborhoods that surrounded the remains of BA-03 aka the Phoenix Nike site. Industrial solvents had seeped into wells after being used to clean missile storage units and other parts of the site that were located deep underground. The pollution was so devastating that people who lived in Baltimore County’s Sunnybrook Road area couldn’t drink their tap water for most of the 80’s. The army finally cleaned up the water supply in 1993, but efforts to decontaminate the soil were ongoing as recently as 2007. By the 90’s any trace of live ammo had been wiped clean from the site. It posed no threat connected to bombs, missiles, or any other explosives. Other than toxic residue, the biggest thing that us young trespassers had to worry about was aggressive confrontations with security guards who occasionally patrolled the grounds.

It was absurd and terrifying to even think about it. This grim complex was once located within walking distance of the baseball diamonds where we all played little league and the shopping centers where we bought comic books and candy. The churches and schools our parents dragged us to were all in the same area. A dangerous military installation in my dorky white bread neighborhood? Could it really be true? I had to see it to believe it.

In addition to being my high school’s biggest class clown, Sam was an accomplished lacrosse player. Other than me, most of his close friends were macho jock kids. My arrival at Sam’s house coincided with that of several Jeeps filled with Sam’s beefy lacrosse bros and their glammed out preppy girlfriends. Covered in perfume, wearing tie-dyed t-shirts, open toe sandals, subtle touches of glitter and blush, and cut-off denim shorts, these girls looked like they were heading out to a dance club, not some crusty military bunker. The guys were decked out in standard issue jock gear: Umbros, backwards baseball caps, white socks or no socks at all, pro-sports team jerseys, and name brand sneakers (including big puffy Nike basketball kicks). I could only hang with them because Sam and I were Dulaney’s ultimate abstract comedy team. We’d do almost anything to sabotage the zombifying banality that passed for American public education at Dulaney. These muscle bound local sports stars might have wanted to beat the crap out of me, but they just couldn’t find time for that; they were too busy laughing at all the insane shit Sam and I did to disrupt class.

Their WASP-ish girlfriends were just plain nauseated by me. I was the anti-thesis of a clean cut jock – an emaciated, un-kept, no-count vegetarian with long greasy hair who consciously refused to wear designer clothes. Outside of school, the world these kids lived in seemed alien to me. Knowing that they had an even vague interest in military arcana further piqued my curiosity about the Nike site.

Sam’s parents weren’t home that evening so before heading to the abandoned battery we hung out at his place for a little “pre-gaming”. Classic rock and rap blared from a stereo, beers got chugged, cigarettes were going around, maybe some of the couples were making out. It wasn’t a Dionysian orgy, but it was far from wholesome. Daylight savings time had kicked in, so it couldn’t have been any earlier than nine when the adventure began. Within the sleepy environs of Phoenix we were surrounded by bored pensioners and stay-at-home moms who’d jump at the chance to rat on suspicious activity. The Nike site was only a destination when kids had the cover of night to protect them.

Once the caravan of Jeeps rumbled out of Sam’s semi-suburban development it wasn’t long before we turned off a country road down on to an unpaved gravel stretch. The grey and white path shimmered in the moonlight as we lumbered along. Even with all-terrain wheels no one could drive too fast as the pathway which led to the Nike site’s main gate was just as decrepit as the site itself. Before the main entrance there was a cul de sac where up to four or five vehicles could park, an area wide enough for a big rig to make a U-turn. A few of the cars parked off to the side underneath some mammoth evergreen trees. One of the jocks parked his Jeep in a position that faced the entrance gate directly. He sat idling for a minute before Sam walked over and noticed that it’d been chained shut. Sam then gestured silently pointing in the directions just to the left and right of the gate.

“What hell’s going on?”, I whispered. The other kids remained silent. This was old hat to them, nothing unusual. Sam scurried over to me, leaned in and replied, ”Just stay over there and whatever you do don’t move or make a sound.”
The jock revved his engine a few times before peeling out, kicking up a cloud of dust, and crashing his jeep head on into the gate.

I was awestruck. I’d never seen such recklessness up close. “What the fuck is he gonna tell his parents!?” That’s all I could think. But some of these kids were from really wealthy backgrounds. Their fathers and their fathers’ fathers were probably all jocks at some point. “Boy will be boys” was a common justification for anything destructive done by any man prior to the p.c. revolution. The sensitive indie rock nerds and defiant riot grrls of the post-Nirvana era had yet to embed themselves into pop consciousness. We were barely past the Reagan years and the overblown machismo of low brow touchstones like The Morton Downey Jr. Show and Wayne’s World. A couple scratches on a Jeep grill? These were badges of manhood.

The impact broke the chain instantly but caused no severe damage to the Jeep. As its front end met the fence there was no violent explosion of sound, only a muffled clink. This wasn’t a razor-ribboned electrified fortification bound by multiple padlocks, it was probably the cheapest metal fence money could buy. In 1991 there was no great threat of Soviet spies to worry about; such things quickly became faint memories thanks to glasnost and the fall of the Berlin wall. The government had no reason to give the Fort Knox treatment to the Phoenix site or any other gutted Nike battery.

Once we all sauntered past the bent up gate Sam led us straight to an entry hatch. A few trailers and supply sheds dotted the perimeter. There were telephone poles and fluorescent street lamps out by those, but the central area was cloaked in shadow. This hatch was part of an emergency escape route which lead to the control rooms and other infrastructure located below ground. As it opened that’s when the kids turned on their flashlights. As the first beam shot down I noticed a wrought iron ladder that went straight into an abyss. Five or six kids went in.

Initially I stayed above ground with one or two others who chose to be lookouts keeping watch for the security. I wandered around the massive concrete slab under which lurked ominous launch racks. I marveled at time’s organic destruction. There were weeds, ivy, and dandelions growing everywhere around the slab’s edge and from rusted metal seams throughout the launch pad and buffer zone areas. Some of the trailers and supply sheds were also blanketed by wild fauna.

After a few minutes I finally decided to check out the interior. Climbing into the narrow metal escape tube I could see dim flashes of light ping ponging around as I slowly made my way to meet the others. As I caught up with the crew laughs, mumbles, and a faint splashing swelled in volume. The ladder ended up in a passage way that flanked the missile magazines. It was there that I noticed the murky water.

“What the fuck?! Are you kidding me? That’s gotta be polluted water!”, I exclaimed. These goofballs were meandering about laughing, making scary ghost noises, clanking keys and flashlights against walls, all doing their best Jacob Marley/Poltergeist imitations. I looked over to one of the kids who was wearing shorts standing ankle deep in the grey water stomping around like a madman. “Dude, you’re gonna get poisoned or something, that’s probably toxic waste, I’m gettin the fuck outta here!” A moment of silence, a few kids yelling ”Oh shit!”, and the party was over. We shot back up the ladder, shaky flashlights leading the way like strobes on the fritz.

My close friend and fellow anarcho-freak “Kevin” lived around the corner from Sunnybrook Rd. Before we became friends in high school he had a few brushes with the Nike complex. Here’s Kevin’s take on the landmark:

The Nike site was pretty legendary turf… The first real experience I had there was when my Cub Scout troop camped out on the property… most of the info relayed to younger kids seemed to re-iterate warnings to stay the hell out of there, it was dangerous and older teens did stuff there like drink alcohol and worship Satan.

…(some friends and) I finally snuck into the restricted area years later. We found one of the accessible entry points and one by one climbed down into some sort of control room. It was pitch black and I was freaked out the entire time I was there which wasn’t long at all. I remember tons of graffiti covering just about everything and plenty of empty beer cans.

As the neglected Nike missile sites fell into disrepair they became hang outs for bored teens all over North America. Sketchy tales of these abandoned relics can be found coast-to-coast:

A man had to be hoisted to safety after plunging 40 feet down a hole at an abandoned missile site in Chatsworth.

Los Angeles city and county firefighters used a pulley system to raise the man from the hole at the decommissioned Nike site in Chatsworth after friends say he fell while they were drinking and smoking during a party there…

  – a September 9th, 2018 KNBC news report

Area children… have vivid memories of cavorting on the property. The silos were open – well, we found a way to open them – and, believe me, nothing beats the Cold War memory of clambering inside a missile silo…. Generations of Stapleites recall the Nike site as an abandoned, overgrown, unpatrolled area – the ideal spot for drinking, drugs, and sex (“Hey, wanna see my silo?”)

  – Dan Woog’s 70’s memories of a Nike site that was near Westport, Connecticut’s          Staples High School, originally published on the blog 06680

When I was in high school we used to party at (Nike site) SL-10 (Marine, IL. [near St. Louis, Missouri]) Everything below ground was flooded and had more than a few dead animals floating around in it.

  – A comment from a thread about Nike site remnants posted to the ar15.com forum

Among the many odd twists in the post-Nike saga, Hobart, Indiana’s recreational attraction Blast Camp might provide the wackiest one of all. This quote comes from its website:

Chicagoland’s longest running and most unique paintball and airsoft facility… Blast Camp is located on a historic national landmark that served as a Nike missile defense base… Nike Missile site C-47 is one of 20 missile bases utilized as a “last ditch” line of air defense for Chicago… Our playing field is located over 20 acres and contains 13 original buildings such as the mess hall, the generator room, five radar towers, administrative buildings and barracks.

An artist’s partial rendering of the underground infrastructure at a Nike missile battery (art commissioned by The US government circa the 1950’s or ’60’s)
A recent photo of a typically dilapidated Nike site circa the post-decommission era complete with a flimsy/damaged fence (Newport, Mi.; this was found via the website Abandoned But Not Forgotten)
There are no known photos of the Phoenix Nike site ruins, but the three preceding b&w shots bear a striking resemblance to the Md. battery in all its overgrown/unkept splendor. The third in this series shows an emergency entry hatch much like the ones that dotted a small section of the Phoenix site (these photos show the ruins of the Barrington, Il. Nike site circa the 1970’s or 80’s – photography commissioned by The Library Of Congress)
An abandoned Nike Missile launch rack in southern California’s Santa Clarita Valley (Los Pinetos-Newhall, Ca., near Bear Divide at former Nike site LA-94; photo by The City Of Los Angeles Public Library; date unknown)

Why should anyone care about a bunch of delinquents wandering through the skeleton of a Cold War monster? It’s not clear if the Phoenix Nike battery made a big impression on Sam and his bro’s. They were partying hard back then, so nearly thirty years on few could remember much when I asked them to share their overall impressions. For me, everything about the Nike site symbolized defeat. This hulking complex built to protect people ended up doing the polar opposite. It scarred the land with its visual appearance as a cold concrete slab filled with rust and dilapidation. It never saved anyone from a Soviet nuke attack. It was nothing but a nuisance and an eyesore. The environmental destruction it caused is remarkable for being one of the few things to ever drive down property values in bucolic north Baltimore County.

Beyond its colossal aura of failure, my most intense memory of the Nike site was when the jock guy bashed his Jeep into the fence. That replays over and over again in my head, popping up in daydreams whenever I least expect it. Regardless of whether or not the Nike site was active, it belonged to the U.S. Army. Through all the pro-choice rallies, gay rights demonstrations, anti-war protests, and animal rights events I went to in the 90’s never once did I see the destruction of federal government property. I’d never been directly connected to such brazen civil disobedience until spending an evening underground in a rotten sludge bunker with a bunch of drunken jocks playing Poltergeist.

 

Around the turn of the 21st century the former site of Phoenix, Md.’s Nike missile battery became the property of Baltimore County’s local government. Today the site is used as a storage area and parking lot for County owned vehicles and equipment. (This photo and the preceding two pics were taken by Andy DeVos circa mid 2020)

Posted in Anti-imperialism, Cold War | Leave a comment

A Dispatch From The Trenches – 1992/1993

For an insecure teenager struggling to maintain a sense of identity and purpose, defending a divirgent opinion can be a make or break venture. This was especially true within the anti-intellectual environment fostered by Dulaney High School circa the early 1990’s. For this reason, some of the nerdy Towson-Glen Arm artists (many of whom were also Dulaney students) refused to embrace academia with any extreme enthusiasm. Most of the TGA kids continued their academic careers long after high school ended, but there were a fair number who didn’t do that. There was even one (Cory Davolos) who opted for a general equivalency degree instead of waiting around for Dulaney’s mindless 4 year “sentence” to run its course.

Up now at Splice Today is a piece that summarizes Dulaney’s status as a symbol of all the political beliefs and philosophies that Towson-Glen Arm hated, and how that hatred transformed systematic education into one of the movement’s biggest targets for subversion:

https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/doing-nothing-is-not-acceptable

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Devon P. Till’s “St. Ronald McDonald The Fryer”

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T.E.A.M. vocalist/keyboard player/harmonica player/lyricist/conceptual spazz Devon Till was one of the first artists to create work in the Towson-Glen Arm style*. He’s also one of the movement’s most enthusiastic modern day proponents **. In addition to working in the mediums of music and performance art, he is also an accomplished visual artist and writer. Back in February of this year Devon completed a maniacal painting called “St. Ronald McDonald The Fryer”, a provocative graphic summary of his critical views on corrupt politics and socio-economic strife.

Here now are some thoughts on the painting and its meaning direct from the artist:

This painting was born of silliness more than anything, and a long harbored, lurking notion that I should take some likeness of St. Francis of Assisi (a yard ornament maybe), and cross him with Ronald McDonald. The original intent was one of dark and borderline offensive humor. Sort of somewhere in between Gardener Lodges PBJ sandwich in the final scenes of Suburbicon, and the cocktail hour bloodbath of Inglorious Bastards. It was to be more unsettling than the first, less disturbing than the latter and in painting form. There was also supposed to be some room for independent interpretation by the viewer.

As the process moved forward, a subconscious undercurrent began to emerge. A vague and loose smattering of sociological elements that had really not been piecing together beforehand. Those elements started to ooze into the borders of my consciousness as I completed the beginning stages of the painting. As they started to become a concrete vision, so too did the forms that accompanied the Friar.

American Free enterprise, with all of its obvious advantages, comes with a huge disadvantage, rooted in the freely spoken concept that all is just fine in the name of money. The road towards the legalization of marijuana was a very long one indeed. We have our pharmaceutical industry to thank for that, as well as many other grievous crimes against humanity. It is comprised of numerous entities that underhandedly monopolize for the purpose of shameful price gouging. We sell working class people homes and automobiles their small salaries cannot really afford them. They cannot save, they cannot prepare for the unforeseen, and they must train themselves on some levels not to care about the eventual shitslide that may result.

When their anxieties finally crest, they are prescribed psychotropics with extensive lists of side effects, and they will eventually not be able to survive without medication because the function of their neurotransmitters are too dependent on these drugs. The people are not as likely to be able to afford cognitive behavioral therapy (a much more natural, safe and effective treatment in the long term) as they are the dollars they spend on the pharmaceutical relief that they are offered and must rely on their insurance to pay for. Insurance which they must rely on the government to help them keep. Despite numerous graphic PSA’s against cigarette smoking, the tobacco industry is always in full swing. Like big pharma, and big sugar, they handfeed our Congressmen, and/or sweeten the deal for consumers with coupons, two for one specials and prizes. All the associated corporations receive various tax incentives paid for by and balanced on the backs of the workforce. In turn, these congressmen receive a little chunk themselves. All this while both parties have healthcare free of cost, ample salaries, transportation and technology free for the asking. I could go on all night about it, and name so many names

Don’t even get me started on Walmart. McDonalds is by no means even among the worst of these corporations (thank goodness for Ronald McDonald House Charities). It is however, a classic example of a chain that has gained widespread popularity with absolutely NO retention of quality. We have come to expect unpredictable service as well as food that struggles towards even borderline savoriness, and occasionally insults the palette. A faithful employee (with mediocre training and the going wage) can expect to part with over an hour’s wage to eat dinner. Poor soul.

We have popular news medias that feed us any flavor we wish, and the dumber segments of our society fellate this massive, stinking scoop of concocted narratives and paranoia, and it drips down onto their hands as they chew on the cone. They go to the polls and spread their goo all over the rest of us, voting selfishly and fearfully, just as was intended.

Last but certainly not least, we add the element of organized religion. This is an institution that has brought the most beautiful things out of people when operated in the spirits of love and faith. Whenever one disagrees with this, I tell them that I have in fact met the kindest people I know in Christian circles. However, when true spirituality is removed from the recipe, it becomes hateful, greedy, controlling and dangerous. Followers are brainwashed of their deeper sensibilities, and fed fear of the devil himself by the bucketful. Crooked politicians, money grubbing suits and mentally ill evangelicals are positive geniuses at using this virus for their own ends. In the wash, we learn to hate and fear anyone who is different, and we exclude them for our shortcomings. We’ve created societies (and the US is no exception) where might makes right. And although the kinder segments of our societies win periodically at the polls where hateful and unfair policy is on the chopping block, retaliations in practice dull the axe. Biblical figures of surpassing tolerance, love, piety and kindness (such as St. Francis of Assisi and even Jesus Christ) are used on followers as the image of the messenger of the version of God to which they have been indoctrinated. Advertising characters and mascots such as the endearing Ronald McDonald are used similarly to distract our more innocent and surface level psyches from all negative aspects we might see in the partaking of their related services and goods. Joe Camel was an example of this that the public actually found a good excuse to dispose of.

In the end, this painting (though it has gotten lots of laughs) shows a picture to me that is more like the Jonestown Massacre. The Dark, hollow eye sockets of the dominant figure denote the absence of conscience or caring towards the masses at his feet. In the end, he requires them for his very existence and validation. To love them would be to allow them their own wills, their own minds, to give them truth, to make them see themselves and each other with love (allowing a demonic friar/clown to feed you McDonalds French fries is not an act of self-love). The friar cannot allow them such clarity. As McDonalds French fries are known for imperishability, they symbolize the permanence of the defects of human character and spirit that are so dire to make one act in their own interests as a parasite would. This creature is capable of compartmentalizing the harms he brings. Grimace Stands in the background with a lifeless expression as if to stand guard. One might find it challenging to determine whether it is he or the friar who is in control. The same confusion exists in the relationships between our political, corporate and religious communities. The same white vacant eyes used on the captive Fry Guys are used on Grimace. These are the eyes that cannot see either because of ignorant comfort and sheltering, or misinformation and brainwashing. Regardless of who is in control, either can be ignorant, or fully aware of what is going on (perhaps in multiple and varying aspects), and their positions within this structure would not change. The sky in the background is the shade of doom, and a large hedge blocks it from the view of the masses. These creatures become so scared of losing their God given liberty and their voice that they ally wholeheartedly with any who promise completely and without pause to protect it. Without even seeing it, they’ve long since traded the real thing for an illusion.

* Devon Till’s earliest TGA work can be heard here: https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/the-retarded-dogs-harmonica-song-excerpt

** Devon’s newer music work can be found here:
https://kman925.bandcamp.com/album/t-e-a-m-together-everyone-achieves-more

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TGAF vol.’s 1 & 2 now supporting Doctors Without Borders

Ever since Nuns Like To Fence released the first Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts double tape set almost 10 years ago a portion of the label’s profits have gone to benefit a great organization called Music4More, a Maryland based non-profit who refurbishes and distributes musical instruments to schools in need. They also do great work supporting music education programs in at-risk schools and other financially challenged institutions who provide music education to a variety of marginalized communities.

As important as Music4More’s work is, the task of dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak must be prioritized and addressed. Towson-Glen Arm was (and always will be) about combining art and progressive activism in a seamless way, so for the duration of the current public health crisis Nuns Like To Fence will be re-directing M4M’s donation money to the international non-profit Doctors Without Borders.

More info on DWB (aka MSF) can be found here:  https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

Physical copies of the TGAF albums are still available for mail order in the US (and possibly also via curbside delivery at a limited number of record stores in the US)

You can purchase downloads of the TGAF compilations here:

https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/album/various-artists-towson-glen-arm-freakouts-1992-1999

And here:

https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/album/various-artists-towson-glen-arm-freakouts-2-1992-1997

 

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T.E.A.M. tour dates/Yabba Dabba Duul II

TGAF hh and team - 11-23-2019

YABBA DABBA DUUL II

art by Devon Till

It’s been almost 20 years since a Towson-Glen Arm band went on tour. It’s been 25 years since the TGA group T.E.A.M. performed live. And sometime during the early 2000’s was the last time that a new Towson-Glen Arm music project formed.

All that changes this fall when T.E.A.M. returns to take the stage as a support act for a few of Human Host’s upcoming U.S. tour dates *.

The KMAN 92.5 record label has sold out of mail order stock of the T.E.A.M. release they put out about a year ago. This tape is T.E.A.M.’s first full-length release and it is now only available direct from the group at their impending tour dates and at a special music event in Jacksonville, Fla. that occurs around the same time as the T.E.A.M. tour (we’ll get to details on that Florida event in a second)

Here’s T.E.A.M.’s Fall 2019 tour schedule:

November 7th – Columbus, Ohio at Dirty Dungarees Laundromat & Bar
2586 N. Hight St.  w/ Double Ski Mask, and Human Host – 7 p.m.; all ages,
$5-$10 suggested donation

friday November 22nd – Roanoke, Va. at Art Rat Studios  w/ Mothmen, Human Host, and Mr. Thursday; FREE admission (but please bring tip money for the artists); 7pm to 11pm, 18+

TEAM Cory the gatekeeper

T.E.A.M.’s Cory Davolos keepin the eternally weird flame of Towson-Glen Arm alive in Columbus, Ohio (photo by Joy Eichert, April 2018)

TEAM magic fire aura 2 (1)

Mike Apichella of T.E.A.M. in Columbus, Ohio (April 2018, photo by Joy Eichert)

~

In addition to T.E.A.M.’s tour dates there is one other major event where you can purchase a copy of the latest T.E.A.M. release. This event features none other than the debut performance of the new Towson-Glen Arm band Yabba Dabba Duul II. The line-up of YDD2 features T.E.A.M.’s Devon Till and Mike Apichella (aka your humble blogger). Like T.E.A.M., YDD2’s repertoire is made up entirely of improvised compositions and accidental melodies. In other words, if you dig TGA acts like T.E.A.M., Eli Jones, Guru Magpie, and other joyous weirdos then Yabba Dabba Duul II will be just your cup of tea.

The debut show from YDD2 happens at 10pm on November 20th in Jacksonville, Fla. at the legendary indie venue Shantytown Pub. Human Host, and several local artists will also perform. Shantytown Pub is located at 22 W. 6th St. Admission is $7, and you must be 18 years of age or older to attend the event.

So just for the record the band name Yabba Dabba Duul II was inspired by the incredible late 60’s/early 70’s German experimental psychedelic band Amon Duul II. They were one of the first and best non-U.S./non-U.K. psych groups I can ever remember hearing, and a group whose versatile approach to improvisation and melodic composition bears more than a passing resemblance to the improv music works of many TGA artists, most notably those created by Tim Kabara, Eli Jones, Jetball Taiwan, Out!, T.E.A.M., and Big Huge Fucking Machine.

Of course the name also pays tribute to the classic Hannah-Barbera cartoon t.v. show ‘The Flintstones’ and its main character Fred Flintstone’s wacky gibberish catch phrase “yabba dabba doo!”

How do these two concepts relate to one another? Hey, it’s no fun to reveal all of our mysteries.

But if important questions like that keep you awake at night and if you live anywhere near Jacksonville, Florida then please head on out to this wylde 11/20 gig.

Credit where credit is due: we didn’t make up the band name Yabba Dabba Duul II. This wacky moniker originated in the form of a F*cebook status posted by the great Florida based artist Dylan Houser aka Formaldehydra. Dylan also books shows in central Florida and performs as part of the group Hell Garbage. Thanks for all your support and inspiration Dylan!

TEAM aka e.w.j.e.a.m. show flyer Sept 3rd 1994

A flyer created for a Towson-Glen Arm show at Aaron Friedman’s house. Jammed with TGA’s over-the-top/bizarre inside jokes and political humor, the art and design here was probably created jointly by Aaron Friedman and Jeff Duncan. This show was originally supposed to feature T.E.A.M. side project E.W.J.E.A.M. aka Even Without Jon Everyone Achieves More. T.E.A.M.’s original drummer Jon Woodstock quit the group shortly before this show, so the remaining members came up with that alternate name just for this gig. Ironically, E.W.J.E.A.M. ended up cancelling partially due to their reluctance to perform without Woodstock. Nonetheless, this and the flyer for T.E.A.M.’s lone performance under the name Meat (which occurred at Cory Davolos’ house in August of ’94) are the only concert flyers that specifically advertise any projects directly related to T.E.A.M. that existed around the time of the band’s origination. Also of note: the act simply listed here as “Idiot” was actually TGA hardcore group The Idiots, a trio featuring Jeff Duncan, Aaron Friedman, and Jeremy Rosenshine. Soon after this event, Duncan and Friedman would form Manisexdestiny with Lou Thomas and Doug Hammond of Husky Youth. (flyer courtesy of Jeff Duncan)

* The full schedule of Human Host tour dates can be found here: humanhost.tumblr.com

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Mike Apichella – live at Trophy House: September 15th

bob phair mike ap and lou xmas 2018

It looks like Baltimore, Maryland’s eclectic venue Trophy House is fast becoming a hub for whatever’s left of Towson-Glen Arm music in the 21st century. For the second time in the past two years Mike Apichella will return to this venue for a live performance of improvised music/fate-based compositions in the TGA-style on sunday September 15th.

Doors open at 8pm; show starts at 9pm. $-5-$10 sliding scale donations will be taken at the door. The other artists performing are Nomii and Katie Shlon. They’re both non-TGA acts but they’re still gonna be great

(image above: l-r, a photo of Nudists/Preschoolers founder Bob Phair, Mike Apichella, and former Nudists/Woe*Be*Gone member/all around pioneer of the TGA aesthetic Lou Thomas having a holly jolly Christmas – December 24th, 2018; photo by Jesse Phair. Below: 9-15-2019 flyer art created by Izzy)

trophyhouse9_15

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