No Mistake

I recently got a blurb about Mike Bromberg’s new band No Mistake. First of all, allow me to set out the caveat that Mike is not the only person in this band. He’s just the only one that I know personally. With apologies to the other guys in No Mistake, what I have to say here is going to center on him. Those of you who can remember the 1980s will probably recall Bullshit Monthly as one of the more influential fanzines from the NYHC scene. For those who are interested, Mike has apparently digitized some or all of the old issues and mounted them on his blog, which is also worth reading.

Mike has since relocated to San Jose, but you wouldn’t really know it from listening to No Mistake (you can do so here and there’s some live footage here). They are, in a lot of respects, comparable to Go! and ego, Mike’s earlier bands, but with a slightly more down home New York hardcore feel that put me in mind of United Blood-era AF. In any case, as with all of Mike’s previous projects, No Mistake rock really hard and have thoughtful songs to boot.

*     *     *

I first met Mike Bullshit when I worked at Reconstruction Records in New York in the early 1990s. I only sort of knew who he was. Both Go! and Bullshit Monthly were kind of East Coast things, and I was really a West Coast sort, at least in terms of the hardcore culture to which I’d been exposed. What I did know about him was that he was openly and unapologetically gay. For a guy who was a public figure in the New York HC scene, that was something that you really had to respect. I’m sure that there is no hardcore scene on earth that can claim to be free of homophobia or violence, but New York had the full measure of both. To be openly out in an environment like that was to invite some seriously nasty experiences.

Sometime in the winter of 1992-3, Mike asked me if I wanted to go out as the roadie for his band ego, which he had started with Charlie Adamec. I was broke, and Manhattan was really getting me down, so I said I would do it.

Things started off inauspiciously. We were driving though Cooper Square on our way out to Brooklyn and we got caught behind a cab whose driver was in the process of getting his ass kicked by some guy that he had insulted on the street. Ego’s drummer was a guy named Dave (I forget his last name), who was a very earnest anarchist type. He leaned his head out the window while this was going on and was like, “Hey now! Stop doing that!” Needless to say, this didn’t really improve the situation.

It was one of the most cramped tours that I’ve ever been on. We went in the drummer’s car which, as I recall, was something on the order of a Honda Civic hatchback. I was the shortest guy in the car, and since I’m about six feet tall you can imagine that we were packed in there pretty tight.

It was cold. Fucking cold. We stayed a couple of days in Philly in a squat house the only heat for which came from a series of kerosene heaters. Around lights out there was a nightly game of musical sleeping bags as people tried to appropriate a place for themselves such that they wouldn’t freeze before dawn. The upside of that place was that the people who lived there were very nice and seemed to have an unlimited supply of bagels and coffee. We spent our free time, of which there was a lot, playing endless rounds of spades.

One day while we were in Philly, we decided that we were going to explore the town a bit. We went down to Independence Hall, where the Liberty Bell is, and looked around at the hordes of tourists who had braved the snow to come see it. At some point a snowball fight broke out amongst us. This was a lot of fun, until the park rangers got annoyed and chased us off. In the process, I slipped on a patch of ice and smashed my knee into the pavement. After the adrenaline wore off, I realized that it had swelled up to half again its normal size.

Undaunted, we continued our tour of the city. Folded tight into the back seat of the car, my knee became psychedelically painful. At some point we decided that we would go the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I can’t remember whether the point was the museum itself (Mike was as I recall quite art conscious) or just to run up the steps like Rocky. In any case, my run up the steps was more of a shambling limp due to the state of my knee, and I certainly was not dancing around when I got to the top.

The last show of the tour was in a little joint in a strip mall in Parsippany, New Jersey called The Rusty Nail. We drove there in a blinding snowstorm. I was a little freaked out for the whole ride. My knee was killing me and the snow was piling up to such a degree that the little car in which we were traveling was on the point of high centering just driving down the interstate. I was pretty sure that if we had to get out and try to walk anywhere, I was a goner.

My mood did not improve that much when we got to the gig. We arrived late in the afternoon, and the only people there besides ourselves were some ratty looking Jersey rednecks. Queer activists that he was (and is), Mike was in the habit of giving a sort of anti-homophobia talk at the beginning of Ego’s sets. That was all well and good, because it was the sort of thing that people needed to hear, but I was a little dubious about how it was going to go down in front of that bunch of trashers. I fully expected that we’d all be killed and buried in a snow bank somewhere to await discovery by the cops in the spring thaw.

In the event, I had nothing to fear. By the time the gig actually got going, three other bands had arrived, as well as a bunch of people we knew from the Recon/ABC set, and the trashers had headed off to greener pastures. That left me relieved, but still exhausted, broke, hungry, and limping like mad. I was at kind of a low ebb when Charles from Rorschach came up to me at the bar. I knew Charles from working at Recon (which he ran with Freddy Alva). Ego was just finishing up their set and I was looking for a way out. Charles asked if I needed a place to stay before going back to the city and I was with relief that I drove with him to his parents’ house in Paramus. When we got there, his dad was still up and made us a plate of vegan ravioli. I cannot remember ever enjoying a meal more.

Several weeks after the end of the tour, I was walking around late at night in Alphabet City with Mike and Charlie. We stopped at a little Middle Eastern bakery and Mike went in while Charlie and I waited outside. After kicking around on the sidewalk for a couple of minutes, we looked in and saw Mike talking animatedly to a heavy set guy with greasy brown hair and a greasier leather jacket. He came out and we asked him who he’d been talking to.

“That was Harley Flanagan.” Neither Charlie nor I had recognized him.

“What were you guys talking about?” Charlie asked.

“Baklava.”

Magadh

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