April 19, 2001. Sub Pop anniversary shindig at the Crocodile (2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611). I'm caught in that rubber band of paralyzing boredom vs. holy-shit-that's-a-quasi- rock-star bemusement, whenwhat the Christ?some joker outside is wearing a sandwich board that exhorts the label to "Sign the Lashes!" There are homeless men picketing with similar signs, a sight as hilariously morbid as Calvin and Hobbes' infamous snow goons. Hmmm . . . the Lashes: I knew them mostly via their obnoxious frontman, Ben Clark, who looks like Dolph Lundgren auditioning for Robert Smith in Disintegration: The Movie. What a bunch of audacious assholesyet they're making this yawner a party.
"We also decorated their building with balloons and streamers," Ben recalls. "And we're still not signed to Sub Pop . . . even though somehow the Makers are."
That's BEN LASHES speaking, not necessarily Ben Clark. In the next two years, as his young band developed into a rowdier, tighter six-piece, as I saw him gallivanting around the Cha-Cha every night like Conan O'Brien's Masturbating Bear, as he engaged in a preposterous Friendster.com war of acquisition with Graceland (109 Eastlake Ave., 206-381-3094) assistant booker Frankie Chan (they tied), it became hard to conceive of a more visible party starter in Seattle's uptight indie-rock scene.
One Saturday, Mr. Lashes and I hook up at the Cha-Cha (506 E. Pine St, 206-329-9978) at 11 p.m., shortly after his shift at Sonic Boom in Ballard. He promptly orders some fruity concoction ("It's not a real drink unless it's blue") and introduces the Hug Game. The loose, unsurprisingly asinine premise: How many hugs would women bestow upon him, unprovoked, before one of the women kisses him?
When the embrace count tapers off (six in a half-hour), we engage in a rousing game of Street Sparks, in which one publicly consumes the hideous Tang-like alcohol and ogles/heckles passersby ad nauseam. On the street, Ben gets into a ridiculous spat with a gay man after suggesting that everyone in the neighboring minimart purchase the VHS Vagina Split. Next, we encounter a scantily clad Bellevue hottie and her ponytailed, Tim Robbins-look-alike date.
"I can see through your shirt," Ben announces. "Someone's getting laid tonight . . . and it ain't ponytail guy."
More weekend warriors stumble toward the Cha-Cha; more half-hammered idiocy ensues: "Watch out! There's rock stars in there. Candlebox and the remaining members of Alice in Chains." For every stone-faced frat boy, Ben settles on "cheeeeeese dick!"
The ladies of the night are ignoring us, despite Ben noting, "Hey, we were just talking about sweater coats and about how they're in this fall," so we adjourn to the Nitelite (Second Avenue and Virginia Street, 206-443-0899) to celebrate Minus the Bear guitarist Dave Knudson's birthday. Within an hour (hug count: 20), Ben is "accidentally" breaking glasses, and key-Bear-dist Matt Bayles admonishes him for making the 3,000-year-old janitor clean up his mess. Immensely more disturbing: I'm referred to as a member of Ben's "crew."
Final destination: a house party in the Central District. Ben kicks some ceramic shit off the porch, pisses on the side of the house, and ends up dancing to his heroes, the Strokes, before receiving his 25th hug, third kiss, and second tongue kiss, courtesy of his friend Nat. A frank exchange of ideas ensues.
Ben: I know you're not wearing a bra because I've touched your nipples multiple times. And they remind me of pencil erasers.
Nat: I'm the only girl that Ben will make out with in public.
Ben: I am in drunk town, meaning in the town of drunkenness.
The night ends fittingly, with Ben's apartment broken into and his bootlegged new Strokes CD purloinedalong with countless more important possessions, including his glasses, which prompts him to start a Friendster donation crusade titled "Vision Quest 2003."
It would help, I suppose, if Sub Pop would just float a fucking contract, already.
Check out Ben's band at www.thelashes.org.