Saturday, July 30 2011 @ Fraziers on the Avenue
919 W. 36th Street, Baltimore, MD. (410) 662-4914
The inaugural 2011 Natty Boh Film Festival was held this past Saturday night at Fraziers on The Avenue in Hampden and featured 16mm prints of vintage Natty Boh commercials (courtesy of Sam Fitzsimmons) – not to mention some Natty Boh DVD rarities from Atomic TV and the excellent documentary Mr. Boh’s Brewery by Alex Castro, Harry Connelly and Lyle Hein – as well as live music about Natty Boh (and other quality-of-life essentials in the Land of Pleasant Living) by The Motor Morons, TT Tucker, The Beatoes (a special reunion for the former Baltimore eccentrics whose leader Chris Dennstaedt now resides up I-95 in Philadelphia), Mongolodian Glow, and some related songs by guest artists (at least I suppose so – I wasn’t able to hang around for the full night’s festivities because my girlfriend Amy had to get up at 5 in the morning for work!).
Although many troubadours took the stage on this night, I didn’t hear anybody sing my favorite vintage jingle, the one once belted out in a Boh ad by a cartoon Lord Baltimore: “National Beer, National Beer, you’ll like the taste of National beer.” Though most people associate National Bohemian with the one-eyed Mr. Boh, there was a whole cast of characters in the Land of Pleasant Living and they were all given a shout-out in this song: “There’s Chincoteague oysters and crabs and clams, and fried chicken and Virginia hams, and while we’re singing, we’re proud to say, it’s brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.”
Likewise there was quite a cast of local characters on hand for the evening’s festivities because in the Land of Pleasant Living and National Beer, “good things happen when you put the two together.” I spotted Skizz Cyzyk, Bob Wagner, Teresa Dugan, Liz Abeth, John Ellsberry and even Ellsberry’s erstwhile Dork Brothers (and former City Paper and New York Press art director) pal Michael Gentile, who was back in town from NYC for the occasion.
But before the films came the tunes…
Down the Beatoe Path: Chris D. Returns to Charm City
First up were The Beatoes, featuring Chris Dennstaedt (Poverty & Spit) on guitar and vocals…
…Charleigh Chadwick (The Livers, Pornflakes) on guitar…
…Chris “Batworth” Ciattei (Go Pills, etc.) on drums and Mike Kiker (of Philly’s St. James and the Apostles) on bass.
I really liked Chris D.’s t-shirt that said “Big Man Music,” a reference to his dearly departed friend (and former Beatoe) Mark Harp (Mark “Harpo” Linthicum); my girlfriend Amy Linthicum (Mark Harp’s former wife) certainly got a “big” kick out of it as well!
It was the first of two shout-outs this night to The King of Peru (who passed away before his time in 2004), as Sam Fitzsimmons ended his Motor Morons set by crying out his name and holding up Mark’s guitar. It made sense on this night of remembrance of good things past, for Harp was every bit a part of Baltimore lore and legend as Mr. Boh (whose namesake libation is now brewed out of town by Pabst).
The Beatoes opened with “Beer Drinkin’ Woman,” an obvious homage to Mrs. Boh, aka “Natalie Boh” (doh! – if only Amy had remembered to wear her Natalie Boh t-shirt this night!).
Next up was “Polyester” and “12-Bar Blooze” and probably some other tunes I should know (but the sound mix at Fraziers was a little, how should I say, funky?).
Anyway, following are some Beatoes pix I took before running to the back bar for a Boh (oddly priced at $2.20 a can – obviously feeling the effect of the new city beverage tax hike). Oh, I also made a quick stop in the Men’s Room, where I had to agree with this thought-provoking graffiti:
OK, back to the Beatoes…
On with the Boh Show
And now for a word from our sponsors…
After the Beatoes finished their set and broke down their gear, a big screen was set up and the film screening started. Although there were some technical difficulties with the 16mm films that came from Motor Morons bassist Sam Fitzsimmons‘ private collection (the projectors were provided by Hampden’s own audio-visual specialists, the Falkenhan’s Audio Visual Service over on 34th and Chestnut Avenue), everyone enjoyed the vintage National Bohemian commercials that were screened.
“Hey, we’re turning black and white like these Natty Boh ads!” Skizz observes, while Amy quips “In that case, I hope Liz and I turn into animated dancing clam shells – though I’d be tempted to eat myself!”
As a backup, someone called former Senator Theatre owner (and current candidate for Baltimore City Council President) Tom Kiefaber to give a hand with the the screening, and Tom brought along a DVD of ads taken from the Atomic TV public access television show’s “Atomic Cocktail Hours” episode as well as from the Mr. Boh’s Brewery documentary – some of which I had never seen (like the French chef cartoon with Frenchy serving Mr Boh the “wet, cold and delicious” brew from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, a Preakness Stakes Boh ad, and the dancing clamshells of Maryland’s capital, “Clamapolis”!).
I hope the Natty Boh documentary becomes available soon on DVD, because it promises to be chock-full of “extra feature” goodies like these vintage ads (the film transfers look beautiful!). Until then, this Atomic TV sampler will have to suffice:
The Motor Morons
Next up were The Motor Morons – Jeff Bridges lookalike Sam Fitzsimmons on bass and vocals, “Wild Bill” Hagy lookalike Craig Stitchcombe (Judie’s Fixation) on the skins, TT Tucker (Tom DiVenti, whose Baltimoronic pedigree goes back to late ’70s punk rockers Da Moronics) on the guitar, Fred Collins on machines and vocals, Blade on vox and firestarter device (?) – who took to the stage in pitch darkness, all the better for the sparks to (literally) fly during their incendiary metallic K.O. set! Though the Morons have played just about every venue in Charm City over their long existence, I’ve most associated them with the annual SoWeBo Festival, where they’ve been absent the last several years; so it was good to see them back in a setting where their genius was once again fully appreciated.
The Morons opened with “Another Girl.”
I’m not as adept as Amy when it comes to discerning which Motor Moron song is which, but I’m pretty sure I heard “Urinal Cakes” and “No Brakes” in there, and probably “Big Truck.”
Following are some Motor Moron pix I took.
Unfortunately, the Morons set was the last tune-age we would hear for the evening, as Amy had to get up early the next morning. But I’m glad Amy was there to hear Sam Fitzsimmons bid adieu to former Motor Moron Mark Harp (circa 1998-2004), holding up Harpo’s 4-string guitar as he shouted “Mark Harp!”
On the way out, we ran into Amy’s friend Robyn Webb, who was playing pool in the adjacent room. We exchanged chit-chat about spotted dick and mushy pees – er, peas – since we all love British pub food (though Amy and I didn’t discover spotted dick until we “spotted” it next to a packet of Asian “Cock Soup” in the Dundalk Giant’s International food isle).
What a fun night! But I have a question for the folks at Fraziers: since former milltown Hampden is becoming increasingly upscale and well-heeled, can we expect a National Premium Film Festival anytime soon? It was the “classy” beer of choice in this town for many years. Expensive? Yes. Extravagant? No.