April 23, 1981

ER Night.

In the evening I went off to ER Night, [one of Bloomington’s first performance art evenings, conceived of by Bill Weaver and Melanie Wellner] and found it much more unified and structured than I had expected, and also a great success with the crowd, which I hadn’t foreseen. I sat with Bill D. and we began whooping and shouting wisecracks before anything began, which loosened up the crowd. Many imaginative and amusing skits were performed. I was really in the spirit and shouted many witty things at whatever target was on stage. John “Butch” Terrill gave an acoustic rendering of the Cigs’ “Wild Times” which was beautiful and amazing. Donna recited from strange dreams she had had, and read out “Mary-like dress standards” from a religious pamphlet, dressed like a nun (this was very well received). Melanie gave a reading of a poem, with Kirk and Emily on guitar and bass behind her, with weird line drawings projected upon them and upon a screen at the rear by Paul Smedberg. Strange and inexplicable movies were shown. Bill Weaver did his “I Hate Poetry” on stage, tearing up a copy of Serge Perkins’ publication, “Streets,” and flinging the shreds in the air.

Perhaps the best-liked piece was Gordon Trubey reading “The Church of the Subgenius” with an overhead projection of a 50’s-era Good American with an inane grin, introduced to us as “Bob,” the head of the Church of the Subgenius. The crowd began shouting “Bob! Bob! Bob!” over and over in unison, stamping and beating chairs on the floor, to such an extent that Don had to give up and retire from the field, shrugging the pages of his script in the air, still followed by chants of “Praise Bob!” “In Bob we trust!” “Hallelujah!” “Bobby!” “Robert!” “Bubba!” and even “Bobbalouie!” It was a total success, even if Gordon couldn’t finish. Throughout the rest of the program, shouts came from the audience for a re-appearance of Bob, and at the finish, when the house lights went up again, more rhythmical chants of the holy founder’s name were heard.

The entire program was staged unintentionally to resemble an acid experience. The lighting, the weird noises coming across the sound system, the texts themselves, and the pulse of music downstairs in the bar floating up through the floor made it all very strange and unreal. At one point especially during the Barn Boys’ act (Tim Noe, Don Trubey, and Michael Gitlin of the Cigs) there were movies projected on top of the musicians as they themselves moved and played, giving it the unmistakable look of a 60s light show at a rock concert.

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