Walls Of Genius Video
Live at Folsom Stadium
May 3, 1985
The Walls of Genius video footage was either taken by or supervised by Shari Bernson of “Channel 12”, a public TV station in the area. Shari was a gorgeous blonde chick, very glamorous looking, who appeared on some of the public television station’s programs. She was a friend of Mikal Bellan’s, so somehow we knew her from connections dating to the pre-WoG Rumours of Marriage band. We thought it was her intention to make some kind of video for the TV station from this, but I suspect the poor quality of what was shot put the kibosh on it.
I believe the show was organized by Charlie Verrette, a sometime collaborator with Walls of Genius. It was billed as “University Electronic Cooperative, Phantomes de L’ouest presents: Tidal Force 2” and then the bands were listed: No Punx, Doll Parts, the Functional Replacement of the Ear, and Walls of Genius. The show took place at Folsom Stadium, room 173 at Gates 9-10. The fee was $3 and no alcohol was allowed. The date was Friday, May 3, 1985.
Folsom Stadium is where the University of Colorado Football Team (the “Buffaloes”) played and where the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones and the Who had played big concerts. Within the labyrinth of offices and rooms below the bleachers is where we played.
I don’t recall anything about No Punx. Doll Parts was Charlie Verrete’s mixed experimental-and-new-wave band. Functional Replacement of the Ear was Charlie’s purely experimental sound group. Somebody produced a nice flyer for the show on fluorescent red card stock.
The video opens with me reading text about the riot in Boulder’s Central Park bandshell at the conclusion of the April 1985 “Peace Unity Concert” with a bunch of punk-rock bands. This was an occasion where I saw the police actually start a riot. Boulder’s Central Park features an outdoor bandshell. The concert was supposed to go until 6 PM, but, as usual, everything got started late. The police showed up, in full riot gear and with dogs, at 6 PM and said the show had to stop. The band that was playing objected, said they’d gotten on stage late because of delays earlier in the day and couldn’t they just finish their set, another fifteen minutes at most? The police said no. According to the local papers, one of the band members took a swing at an officer and people threw beer bottles at the cops and that precipitated the violence. I don’t remember seeing that and I was sitting in the bleachers watching this unfold. Next thing I knew, the band members were in shackles, like chains, and the police were carting them off. Then, all of a sudden, people started racing around in every direction, and the cops were detaining everybody they could get their hands on. I was watching this from the bleachers when a cop tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said I had to come with him, as I was going to be cited for an open bottle violation. There were, indeed, open and empty beer bottles near me on the bleachers. Maybe I had had a beer, maybe not. So there I was, standing by the cop who had my driver's license in his hand. Next to me was a kid with a cooler full of beer, waiting his turn to be cited. We heard this incredible screaming noise from Canyon Boulevard, behind the bandshell, and all heads turned to see what it was. The rear axle had fallen off a Winnebago and it was cruising down the avenue with a shower of sparks flying behind it. The cop said “oh shit” and the kid next to me dropped his cooler and took off running. I couldn’t leave because the cop still had my driver's license in his hand. I was fined $10 for open bottle violation. Both Leo Goya and I wrote poems or text about that incident and I don’t recall whether the video captures me reading mine or Leo’s text. From what little is on the video, I suspect it was mine.
While this is heard, all you see is David playing the bongos. He’s wearing one of his infamous “lasagne jackets”, the wild and tasteless sport coats that Ed Fowler had obtained for us. At one point, there’s a nice shadow of me on the back wall.
At 2:30, you finally see me and Ed Fowler. We are both wearing our ‘genius jackets’. I’m also wearing a home-made hat, woven by Jeanne Strzelewicz (now J. Hatherly, a/k/a Goya). There’s a close-up of my Fender Jazzmaster bass while Ed is taking a fabulous solo on lead guitar, a good example of the camera-person focusing on whatever was not out-front happening at the moment. The video cuts off.
At 4:17, David is playing the roto-toms and we’re in mid-jam. I am playing the synth and there’s a close-up of my hands playing random sounds on the synth/organ, I think it was David’s Farfisa organ. Ed is keeping a nice rhythm on the electric guitar, while I take a squeal-y synth solo. The camera pans to a close-up of Ed, deep in concentration. The sound is crappy here, popping in and out, but there are nice psychedelic trails reflected off Ed’s eyeglasses. Then there’s a close-up of some guy with a goatee sitting behind the band. He may have been doing a recording or running a PA sound board for vocals, but I’m not sure. The jam concludes to scattered applause.
At 9:10, David is dancing, wearing a funny hat as you hear me playing the chord progression for “Palisades Park”. Ed is accompanying on lead. I whisper something into David’s ear and then start the vocal part, in my ‘laconic’ style, sort of an expressionless response to the idea of emotive singing. I’m playing my little 1890’s Haynes acoustic, with a pickup inserted in the sound hole. You can see how beat-up the guitar is. I eventually had this guitar fixed up nice and then I was afraid to play it, for fear that I would once again destroy it. I finally sold it in 2012 as I knew that my style of flat-picking would destroy the thing. It was my favorite guitar for many years, though, including the Walls of Genius period. For a parlor-style guitar, it was always the loudest acoustic in any room. Haynes was a 19th century luthier who also made guitars for the early Martin company. This particular guitar had a serial number stamped into the headstock, H520, and resembled what would later be a 1910 Martin. I had to take the 1890s provenance on the word of the guy who sold it to me in 1979. The camera goes to the floor and cuts off.
At 11:25, the video cuts in mid-solo to Ed Fowler blazing away after the first verse of “Amerika Futura”. He is wailing, truly on fire here. David is on percussion and making lots of funny faces. The sound sucks again, popping in and out. My glasses threaten to slip right off my nose. To this very day, I sweat a lot when I play a show and I’ve taken to wearing chums to hold my glasses on my face, and even more recently got ‘cables’ fixed on to my glasses so they won’t slip off. I didn’t want to use chums anymore because I’ve been using the harmonica rack so often and you can only have so many things strapped to your head while performing. David is making incredible funny faces for the audience. The sound is bad again. There’s a nice sequence of the three of us, from the side. As I repeat the phrase, “hot beds”, the sound is very bad, as if they were using a one-hundred year old videotape.
At 16:30 or so, “Amerika Futura” ends and I start up the riff for “Suzy Q.” The camera pans to the floor again. At 18:00, it cuts out in mid-song and picks up with the end of David performing as Little Fyodor solo, finishing up the song “Everybody’s Fucking”.
Then he launches into “I Want An Ugly Girl”. There are nice close-up shots of Little Fyodor’s head in a birdcage while he performs. This is a great version of the tune and it is complete from beginning to end, something very rare for this video. The sound is good.
At 20:04, the camera cuts in to the middle of David and I doing The Fabulous Pus-Tones version of “Surf City”. The Fabulous Pus Tones was an interlude in any WoG show where David and I would both rock out and butcher golden oldies known to me from my otherwise ‘straight’ repertoire. The camera pans around on absolutely nothing. Then you see Fyodor wearing a straw hat before the video cuts out.
At 21:30, the video captures some crowd noise, then a new song starts, with me playing the harmonica on the rack. It’s “Ballad of A Patriot”, which never appeared on a WoG title, only on a compilation because of Ed Fowler’s objections to the lyrical content and David’s ambivalence about political content. Despite the fact that I am singing the lead on this, the camera focuses on David banging on a pot instead. The audience sings along with the call-and-answer refrain of “fuck you” (Ronald Reagan). The camera stays off me singing the lead and wanders to an audience member, whose shy grin reveals that he is a little embarrassed to be on camera. I don’t know who this fellow was. Then the video cuts off again.
At 23:30, the video cuts in to the middle of the Pus-Tones doing “Love Potion #9”. David is singing lead, but the camera is close on me. Then the camera pulls back so you can see both of us and I sing the lead on the bridge. Then… the camera goes back to the floor.
The song ends and at 25:30, and we start “The Letter”. There’s some really nice crazed dancing from David on this one. You can see me pushing up my glasses again. This is the other complete song on the video. These Pus-Tones songs were all songs that I knew from my otherwise “straight” repertoire.
At 26:42, the video cuts in mid-jam. We’re doing “Mars Needs Women”, which is essentially an improvisatory jam played along with the soundtrack to the cheesy sci-fi film of the same name. We did not have anything particular planned in terms of the improvisation. You get a good look at my outfit on this one. I’m wearing jeans that my mother had patched for me, big patches on the knees and butt cheeks. I’m wearing one of Jeanne Strzelewicz’s home-made woven belts and the hat she made for me. That hat was never quite big enough for me, especially in those days when I had more hair, so it sort of squeezed my poor cranium. I could certainly have used a more colorful Hawaiian shirt for the performance, but oh well. David is back on the synth, as well as the gong, which you see a close-up of. The camera goes black, the video-feed pops out and then cuts back in around 30:04. There’s a nice sequence with David doing a contorted dance with his shadow on the wall behind him. You can see (and hear) me manipulating the volume-knob on the bass to get a rumbling non-rhythmic effect. Behind me are the silver stripes of the Kustom Bass amp and cabinet I had at the time, which dated back to Rumours of Marriage. I got a lot of good loud growl-y sound out of that cabinet. So much so that it finally wore out on me and I put it out on the sidewalk for somebody to take away. The camera pans to the floor again as the sound blips out. Then the video cuts out and back again, with the camera once again on the floor and at about the 37-minute mark, cuts out completely.
My own take on this video is that, besides offering the only historical visual-record extant of a live Walls of Genius performance, it could have served as a useful tool for us to hone and perfect our live performances. For instance, I am embarrassed by my glasses sliding down off my nose. I should have seen this as instruction to do something about that, but it took many many years for me to learn that particular lesson. Also, I should have had a more colorful Hawaiian shirt. But we weren’t focused on live performances and I was already playing up to three different guitars (incl. bass) at each show, doing the Pus-Tones materials and the long psychedelic jams with the bass. So I was distracted by what I saw as my responsibility to make sure that the music elements were in place. David, on the other hand, was so often playing only percussion or a few notes on the synth and organ, that he had a better opportunity to develop his showmanship, which he did to great advantage. His dancing and face-making are the most interesting things to watch in this video. And, of course, you see the earliest incarnations of the Little Fyodor character in solo performance, which was nearly fully-formed at the time of this video. So I can’t blame my lack of showmanship on the fact that I had to play the guitar… David played his, sang his songs and even stuck his head in a birdcage. He had a fully-formed vision for Little Fyodor. My own “alternate persona” in Walls of Genius, Joe Colorado, was never such a fully formed vision and never would be. “Red Ed” was just an invention for the cassettes, so that there would be the joke of the three of us having fake names.
We first connected with the woman known publicly as Shari Bernson when she called me on my KGNU radio show. She was working for the local public TV station’s music video show, Teletunes, and she asked me what kind of things I would like to see in music videos. I sure had no idea what to tell her!! I stumbled out something like “stuff that’s interesting” along with a lot of stammers and stutters that served as padding. She asked me this because she felt that her show needed something, something to improve it, some new direction to take it in to make it more relevant and meaningful. It was in relation to this that she expressed great regard for my radio show as well as for that band she knew I was in, and she suggested videoing us in live performance for Teletunes. Welp, that was sure good with us, and soon we were meeting with her at her Denver apartment to ostensibly discuss strategy for such a video. I remember her remarking on how she seemed fated to spend her entire life on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike cause she had just recently moved from Boulder to Denver to be where the action was only for it to seem to her that the action was now in Boulder (we were tickled a little by that!).
So Shari and another woman, whose name I forget if I ever knew it, probably also from that public TV station, known to most as Channel 12, came to our next show armed with a great big ¾ inch videocassette camera, which I understood to be the broadcast industry standard at the time, and which I remember as having a long thick chord constantly trailing after it across the floor and a bright light that shone in front of it. Despite this gallant and concerted two-woman effort, broadcast quality footage was not, alas, attained. For whatever reason, and whatever they were thinking (and what the hell did we discuss that day?), no entire song of ours got completely taped from beginning to end (only one comes very close), and the footage is also sadly-marred with a myriad of technical glitches. We were pretty disappointed when we saw the results and not very surprised that none of it ever made it onto Teletunes as per the original plan. At least we did get our copy of the raw footage, and I’m grateful now that we at least have this sole surviving video document of WoG live in concert (I remember one or two other videos taken of us, but who knows what became of them!). (This was obviously before the era of phone cameras!) If you can deal with those glitches and a lot of throwaway shots, a lot of it at least works fine as a document of us. I even used a few small portions of it in my half hour Little Fyodor video (in the historical section!) that was produced (by Babushka and Martha Roskowski!) a few years later at Mile Hi Cablevision, Denver’s cable access station, on which a friend of a friend reportedly saw it air so frequently he called it the Fyodor Channel! (I couldn’t watch the Denver cable access station myself still being in Boulder at the time….) (I’ve since seen the very photogenic Shari Bernson hosting many a fundraiser program on Channel 12, the only times I’ve seen her since then….)
Anyway, the show took place in a room within the University of Colorado football stadium, Folsom Field. A number of punk and underground shows were being held there at the time. Room 173 between gates 9 and 10, I can tell by the flyer in the WoG Scrapbook. I think it was popularly known just as Gate 9. This room was reportedly the staging ground for beverage services during football games, presumably through a window that opened into the stands. I just confirmed with Charlie Verrette that he was indeed Phantomes de L’Ouest (“Yea dude who else would go with the pretentious French name,” sayeth he, who now fronts a Viking metal band!) who, again, as gleaned from the flyer, “presented” the show and who thus evidently was who organized it and invited us to play at it. (Tidal Force 2 indicated that this was the second show he put on at the location.) He also played in Doll Parts, an avant-garde tinged synth-pop band who played earlier in the evening, as did Functional Replacement of the Ear, a more out there experimental band comparable to Architects Office (some of its members quit AO to form it). I have no recollection of No Punx. A member of FRotE named Douglass Stickler can be seen behind us running sound (yes, from behind us), I believe utilizing his own personal equipment….
The video starts off, well, actually it starts off with a side shot of my butt, but in the larger sense, it starts off with us jamming to a poem that Evan wrote about an incident in Boulder’s Central Park in which a punk rock show held at the park’s band shell was cut short by police the split second the officially allotted time for the show was up (6 PM), and when a few kids got pissed off about that (one did throw a bottle) the police reverted immediately to riot control mode, calling in reinforcements and dogs and such. (The engineer of my upcoming EP, Allan Baumgartner, told me he was either in the band that got shut down or the next one about to play.…) I’m playing bongos (seated on the floor), Ed’s playing guitar, and Evan’s playing bass and reciting his poem. Little Fyodor fans might recognize the jacket I’m wearing as one of several “thrift store loud”-styled jackets I alternate between for Little Fyodor shows to this day, as well as a loud green shirt and space-mod tie. All these accoutrements were outfitted for me entirely by Ed, who we can see has similarly outfitted himself, and Evan is also wearing a vintage Ed plaid jacket as well as a hat made for him by Jeanne of the Miracle. I described Ed’s outfitting of Walls Of Genius in a little more detail in the notes for The Many Faces Of Mr. Morocco….
The next piece is a jam that I think we did to a backing track that I came up with, probably made up of electronic drums and midi-linked synthesizer. I think I called this backing track the “flatu-rhythm” cause the synth sounded kinda farty, but it was never released on an audio release, so it was never given any official name. Ironically, we see me playing Evan’s roto-toms and Evan playing my Farfisa through my digital delay, which he was also “playing”, that is, manipulating its controls. Ed is still on guitar! I believe I’m also playing some other percussion that cannot be visually-discerned, probably also part of Evan’s percussion ensemble. Y’know, actually I hear Evan playing my synthesizer as well! Moderately-paced insanity! Ed is rocking back and forth and I think the Channel 12 gals were trying to get trails going from his eyes as he did so….
Next we have "Palisades Park", featuring me wearing something silly (is that a bonnet?) on my head and playing kazoo. Evan has picked up his acoustic guitar and sings. Ed is still on guitar, lead guitar! During the intro, I dance around into the crowd. Someone from the audience dances past me, and I think that was a friend of ours we knew as Crazy Craig.
Next is "Amerika Futura". I used a portion of this for my Little Fyodor video (a portion without sound dropouts). Ed’s really cooking, huh? I remember Evan telling Ed that he could have played his acoustic guitar to Ed’s playing on this all night long, and you can see the bliss on Evan’s face. You can also see me play the little drum my folks had bought for me in Jamaica for a dollar when I was a kid that I’ve mentioned a few other times in this archive, such as the other appearances of this song, for which I always played this drum.
When "Amerika Futura" ends, Evan segues straight into "Suzie Q" on his acoustic, as I move over to the drum set, and Ed keeps on playing that electric. Interestingly, we probably had yet to record this, though we soon would for Do Not Write Below This Line (the very next month, in fact, if I’m reading my perpendicular reel box notes right!).
Next, after the camera gets turned off and back on, we land in the middle of my solo section. As a nod to my solo persona, I got to play a few of my original songs all on my own – with a birdcage on my head, yet! The footage also resumes right in the middle of my song, "Everybody’s Fuckin’", which I finish to a resounding silence! I’ve since had fans yell for that song during other bands’ sets and embarrass me! Then I move to "I Want An Ugly Girl", a portion of which I used for the Little Fyodor video (a portion without the lyrical gaffe!). I’m playing my red Kalamazoo electric.
Next we have the Pus-Tones portion of the show, just me and Evan, with Evan playing his acoustic and singing and me playing whatever, or sometimes nothing, and sometimes singing too. At the very start of the footage of that section, during our rendition of “Surf City”, the camera focuses on a couple of enthusiastic audience members. I believe the one facing the camera and screaming is the aforementioned Crazy Craig. I’m wearing some goofy ratty old Panama type hat for this one! (I was a lot more into head gear back then!)
The Pus-Tones were usually an oldies affair, but we used this duo opportunity to sing Evan’s original, “Ballad of a Patriot”. I think at the start we’re hearing the tail end of Evan priming the crowd to “sing along” on the “fuck you” portion. During the first harmonica solo, the camera looks into the crowd, and I think that’s Riff Randall in the bright shirt, who would become part of our live ensemble later that year. I don’t know who the grinning guy is who gets focused-on for several seconds. I’m playing a saucepan with a drumstick for this one, as I think I did for the Pus-Tones’ rendition of “Green River” on Crazed to the Core!
Another rough video transition takes us into "Love Potion #9", on which Evan and I alternate lead vocals, as we did during the Fur-Balls From Outer Space show, a performance also captured on the Crazed to the Core cassette.
The next song is our rendition of the Box Tops’ hit, “The Letter”, and this is the song that comes closest to being captured from beginning to end by the videographers. I also used most of it in my Little Fyodor video. I’ve been described as looking like I have the heebie-jeebies in this one! At the end of this song we hear Evan estimate the crowd at 17 or 18 people, and I’m sure not going to try to second-guess him on that from 29 years later looking at a video, so I’m calling that the official count! It might have been a little more at the start of the show as it was getting rather late, and this wasn’t like a bar where some people might straggle in at any hour up till closing time!
The last eleven plus minutes of the footage feature probably our only ever live rendition of our “cover” of Mars Needs Women, i.e., our jamming along with the soundtrack of the movie (and by soundtrack here we mean everything you hear, not just the songs or music!), as we originally did on our Cultural Sabotage release, probably our most vintage performance of the evening. Ed and Evan play guitar and bass respectively (Ed veered off his guitar at some other shows at least, but maybe not at this one!), and I switch between keyboards and percussion, mostly the latter, though starting off with synthesizer as in the original recording. This time I also have the Farfisa and delay which I didn’t have for the original. Before long I’m out in front of the band playing that spacey Latin percussion instrument I don’t know the name of. You can see where I notice my shadow on the wall and then I start to try to strike artistic poses for it! Towards the very end you see me also play the Latin percussion device I’ve been calling the “three bell” cause I don’t know the real name. So in case you were wondering what the hell that really is, there it is at about the 36 ½ minute mark. Then the camera kind of spins out of control and our heroes spiral away into the deep dark abyss of interplanetary space….