I’m only going to tell this story one more time. Not only does this week mark the 3rd anniversary of Mediocre At Best’s historic trip to Marquette, Michigan, it also marks the 100th time I’ve told the story of the events. So listen closely.
It was April 7, 2001. We had been invited to Marquette by a wonderful young lady named Mercedes. She was doing her best to keep the Upper Michigan punk scene alive by booking bands from further and further south. We had met her at a show in Green Bay some time back, and were more than happy to make the trip. Her folks owned a nice little roadside diner and motel, so we all got to stay there for free. This was all we needed to hear. We packed our equipment, and hit the road.
We had to take 2 seperate vehicles for the drive. Celia and Aaron rode in the van, and me, Ben and Sherry went up in the Chevy Lumina (R.I.P.) The idea of an all-day drive without Celia nearby was more than a little annoying, and I spent the whole day telling Ben and Sherry that it was so. I got over it, or eventually bitched myself to sleep, or had a ball gag put on me, I can’t remember.
The drive north was beautiful. There was still snow on the ground, lush forests, and no civilization for hours at a time. On the way up, we spotted an out-of-business drive-in with a giant chicken on the top of it. Sensing a great photo-op, we snapped the picture you now see atop this post. Once we started seeing the Canadian flags around we knew we were getting close. Having never been to Canada, I’m sure that Marquette is the closest thing to it that we have in the states. It was a really neat, surreal place.
We get to the motel, and meet Mercedes and the 2 other Wisconsin bands that were on the bill for tonight’s show. First on stage was the Green Bay ska nightmare known as the Kremlin Conspiracy. Then, Milwaukee’s Day Kepler was up, followed by yours truly. The headliners were the local heart-throbs known as Milton. We didn’t get to meet them until we got to the venue. The Kremlin Conspiracy opted to stay in a different hotel, because they wanted to swim in a pool and steal towels. This bothered me none. We chatted a bit with the Day Kepler folks, and got along as well as strangers could. After some dinner, we headed out to the Aurora Underground, deep in the heart of Marquette.
This venue was great, but a building can only do so much. It was the inhabitants of the building that we had some trouble with. First off, security wouldn’t let Sherry in early because she wasn’t in the band. We bitched and moaned for a while, but being the nice guys we are, just let them go on their power trip, and threw her out into the cold. Sort of. The kids in attendence were just as bad. They valued image over talent, and refused to be impressed by anything, not because they were critical and intelligent, but because they wanted to be jerks. Not only that, but the long drive had taken it’s toll on us too. We were all pretty much fighting with each other most of the night so far.
So with everyone mad at each other, and everyone there already being mad, the Aurora Underground was in for an interesting night. The Kremlin Conspiracy came and went, the crowd didn’t care much, and more or less booed them off the stage. Sensing animosity, Day Kepler knew what they had to do. They stepped up there, and unleashed a non-stop barrage of insults and jokes at the expense of Upper Michigan. There were boos, things were thrown, and good rock music was played. It was hilarious, and actually got most everyone there in a better mood. They were doing this thing where they would dedicate every song to Satan, as confused onlookers shrugged and flipped them off. However, people starting moving around and enjoying themselves. I was surprised that Day Kepler left without injury though.
So, when we took the stage, we also knew what we had to do. We didn’t give them a chance to dislike us, because we immediately started freaking out. We channeled a day’s worth of anger and uneasiness into the most energetic show of our short careers. People were hurt, blood was shed, things were thrown, and the crowd loved it. The set ended with me throwing my cymbal stand and myself through the drumset. We were liberated, happy, and done. We sold a few CD’s, listened to an overrated Milton play, and headed back to the motel.
The next morning, I rang up Day Kepler as Satan, wishing them a safe drive home, and thanks for playing with them and all. Mr. Bojangles, the resident cat of the motel, greeted us in our room and almost got kidnapped by us. The 5 of us went to the downstairs restaurant for breakfast before we headed home. The place was full of people, and we stuck out like a sore thumb. There were about 50 or so after-church, conservative, republican breakfast munchers there. We began talking about last night’s show, and about how funny we thought the “Satan” bit was.
Now, there’s some controversy about what happened next, but I can say with relative certainty that Ben was talking about Satan way too loud around these people. Some people think that it was me doing the talking, but it wasn’t. I only started talking when people started to yell at us. My friends are big babies when it comes to being assertive, so I had to take the reigns and fend off the protest. After some dirty looks and harsh words, someone came over to our table with a Bible, telling me to take it with.
Here’s where my friends are split. They think I should have just taken it, said thanks and left. But I did the right thing. This person had no idea what we were talking about, had no idea that we were totally kidding, and had no idea what kind of people we were. They were completely overstepping their boundaries, and I absolutely hate it when people do that. I slam my door on preachers, and that’s what I did here. I basically told her to go away, and to leave us alone. I was diplomatic but firm. I could have just as soon told them to go to hell, made devil horns with my fingers to the whole diner, and left, never to see any of them again. But I didn’t, yet I still come off like an ass.
Eventually, this woman’s Husband restrained her, and we all got back to finishing our breakfasts. We left Marquette, seperate cars and all, never to return. Memories.
Epilogue: 2 members of Day Kepler would go on to form a band called Chevalia Manta, whom we would play another infamous show with some time later. They then went on to a band called the New Blind Nationals, who still play around Wisconsin to this day. Check them out, they’re good.
Milton, The Kremlin Conspiracy and Mediocre at Best would eventually break up in later years. We lasted the longest though, and made the most artistic progress.
Mercedes was never seen or heard from again. We still have a picture of Mr. Bojangles on our refrigerator.