The Mid-Period – Yuk-Yuks & Hiccups

I thought I’d make a quick mention for now about the period when Scorgies became Yuk-Yuks, then Hiccups. It was a time when stand-up comedy was red-hot on a national basis…and for then, Scorgies bands were on the wane. I had mixed feelings about the switch-over from a cool club (after The Ramones were the last major band to play there) to a painted-black and chilly downstairs place for a few years. I used to supply music cassette tapes for the d-j, and interviewed comedians from Saturday Night Live that used to swing by there (like Rich Hall, David Spade, and Colin Quinn).  Many local comedians became nationally known like Brother Wease, Joel Lindley, Eric Nusbaum, Dan Liberto, Ralph Tetta, Mike D’Ambra, Spilt Milk (with Eric Haessler, Mark Cooper, and Duncan Kennedy). Some of us stand-up comics (local guys) were also given the chance to write ideas for the then-popular Joan Rivers Show (prior to becoming The Arsenio Hall Show). Some of the comedians performed later when the place was Token Joe’s upstairs. I’m sure that I can write a lot more about those times…but that’ll fill yet another web site. Of course, stand-up comedy also waned and a newer Scorgies (albeit temporary) did come back again! – Del Rivers

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  1. richard gagnier’s avatar

    You asked for my best memory of Scorgies, Del – Here it is:

    I have been meaning for years to get my Natalie Merchant experiences down on paper.

    The first time I saw the 10,000 Maniacs was when they opened for the Violent Femmes at the University of Rochester. Like most guys I guess I was smitten with Natalie. Her dancing and twirling were quite intense, Jerry’s drums seemed to echo off the back wall of the room, it was magic. The act between the Maniacs and the Femmes was the Fleshtones.

    During the Femmes’ set they asked Natalie out to dance to one of their songs. When she hit the stage, they started playing a drum solo, and she did a pretty good job with it (This drum solo dance will come up again in a moment).

    I ran around the next week and picked up an album and Ep that the band had released themselves. I want to say it was only the next weekend that I saw the band headline at Scorgie’s. Strangely I remember the name of the band that opened for them. The guy I was with was trying to talk a couple of girls into coming downstairs with us and see the show. One girl was sort of dull-witted but she said one clever thing: “I’m not going to an invisible party with 10,000 maniacs”, … and so I remember the name of the opening band was Invisible Party.

    The upstairs of Scorgie’s was a bar anyone could hang out in and the performance area was downstairs and you’d pay a cover at the downstairs door. Early in the night the door heading downstairs was locked, so everyone was just hanging around upstairs drinking. I was sitting at a table in the room with the still-locked door that opened to the stairway leading downstairs. No one but me seemed to recognize them but the band filed into the room I was in and stood nervously up against a wall as if waiting for something. I had the liner notes from their album with me, hoping I might get a signature (I was still young enough to do goofy things like collect signatures), and I worked up the courage to go up and ask Natalie. What I actually asked her was for her address because I wanted to send her a tape of me telling jokes to a crowd (I do comedy – and have a CD available of my stand-up on Amazon – that’s a plug). I felt she’d get where I was coming from. She wrote her address in Jamestown down as well as her signature, then she asked me, “Where’s the key?” I thought she was being funny, asking me some question with an open-ended metaphysical answer. I suppose I laughed a little and told her I wasn’t sure or something. She asked me again in a more determined way. I told her I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently the band was waiting for someone with the bar to open the door for them so they could get downstairs. She assumed I was with the bar when I asked for her address. If you are one of those people unaware of her kind of temperamental nature, I can tell you she looked like she wanted to rip my head off. I slunk back to my seat.

    The show itself was incredible. The one thing I would like to get across to people who never saw the band pre-Wishing Chair is that they were above all else a dance band. Natalie spent a lot the night dancing onstage, the crowd danced almost throughout the set. The lyrical content was almost beside the point. I like to think that if they hadn’t become famous I would still see them at local festivals, have a couple beers, and dance. The performance also had a kind of mystical quality. As she stood feet away from us with two lit candles, she would drop the dripping wax from one candle down onto the other. Remember that she had most probably been to Lillydale at this time (She would name a song on The Wishing Chair after the town). If you haven’t been there it is a community of spiritualists near Jamestown where you can see people celebrate the sunrise, you can pay to have your fortune told, you can see sort of mystical healing ceremonies.

    After the show my friend pulled me up to her and re-introduced me to her with “He has all your albums”, which was a kind of stupid thing to say considering they had only one album. I probably talked to her for about a half hour. Unfortunately, being liquored up, I don’t remember much of it. I remember that she said when the Femmes asked her to the stage to dance she had no idea it would be to a drum solo. She signed a flyer from another show for me with all the band members’ names, she signed a band bumper sticker for me, I took the set list also which had been taped to the stage.

    Some months later I saw the band at a reggae bar which I believe was called The Calabash. This was a wonderful experience because she was walking around the bar before the show, recognized me and came up to me to talk. Life doesn’t get much better than Natalie Merchant walking across a roomful of people to talk to you. I remember I gave her the tape of my work. We also talked about R.E.M. who had just been through town on the Fables tour. She asked me if Micheal had sung a particular cover, I’m not sure the name now, I just remember that I wasn’t sure. The R.E.M. show was kind of echoey and I was in the back of the venue and I wasn’t absolutely sure how the song she meant went. She mentioned that some Asian acrobat had died and that she had met the troupe overseas. Can’t remember much more than that. I again danced and left with the set list which was taped to the stage.

    Richard Gagnier


  2. Stan the Man’s avatar

    I think Rick Baker & the Commercials played that show… and wasn’t there some explosive RB stage/audience melodrama that night?


  3. Michelle C.’s avatar

    Where is the comedy trio “spilt milk” now??????

    I saw them years ago at a comedy club in Syracuse, NY.. I have to say they were the funniest group I had ever seen!!!! I have been searching for them for years.
    SOMEONE please tell me if they are still together and where!!!!!


    1. Steffan Pappas’s avatar

      I was their first manager before they made it big. The toured a fair bit in Japan as part of a co-promition that would provide live subtitles to the act using a large dot-matrix display. The technology worked well, but the timing of the comedy changed and laughes would typically be 30 to 45 seconds behind the action. Tours in Brazil and Argentina had similar problems. Most of the members are alive but struggling with (mental) health issues.


    2. Ed Fischman’s avatar

      Thank you especially to Richard for his comment. Wish I’d gone to the Scorgie’s show. I was at the earlier show at the U of R. I’ve been scouring the internet trying to confirm my suspicions as to when it was and who was on the bill. There’s a site that lists their shows, and it seems exhaustive, but it missed the show at the UR gym (I believe it was the Palestra, but it seems to have a new name). I would never have remembered that the Fleshtones. I loved all 3 bands. One of the best shows I’ve ever been to. I was a huge Violent Femmes fan, and everyone loved the Fleshtones (their song “American Beat” was one of the great party songs). I had just won a copy of a promotional EP of the Wishing Chair (10,000 Maniacs), and was really looking forward to seeing them, too. Natalie was this awesome whirling dervish with hair that seemed to be below her waist and when it whipped around, it was an awesome sight. Great show. Do you remember what song(s) she joined the Femmes with during that encore? Or, any chance you know the date?



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