Guest pass from Crazy Mama's with a picture of a woman in leather

Never been prouder of Columbus thanks to a spontaneous moment of dance at Bruce Nutt's Crazy Mama's 40th Anniversary shindig starring the indefatigable Fleshtones at Skully's, Friday, October 4.

Deep in their super-rock garage soul show, lead singer Peter Zaremba, guitarist Keith Streng and bassist Ken Fox began doing a 'boogaloo' line dance onstage to the catchiest stripper/tiki/funk beat I've ever heard compliments of drummer Bill Milhizer.

The lanky Zaremba and his fellow super-rock skinnies urged the audience to join them and 'boogaloo down High Street/c'mawn, c'mawn.'

With no further prompting almost the entire dance floor crowd did exactly that. Eight lines or so, each roughly a dozen people, instantly and joyfully in sync with the band began marching back and forth, like the best New Orleans' New Year's party you've never been to.

An already-hot Fleshtones show/special anniversary show kicked into ultra-high gear, spirits levitating, middle-aging bodies gyrating, the night now a happening and not just a remembrance of youth crazily spent.

Oh it only went on for a glorious minute or two. But it was hilarious and so funny and fun. And that Milhizer tiki-striper beat--I could listen to an hour-long loop of his groove every day. Nutt brought the best out of everybody--again. His efforts, our good time. Mama's infamous mirrors weren't there but the dance was back.

If nothing else, Nutt's night was a meditation on time, mortality and the fleeting passions of youth.

Yes, even I got a little sentimental. Especially when I saw faces no longer with us seen in the photographs projected above the stage throughout the night--Charlie and Greg Six among them. Lump in the throat time.

And then I saw a person in a pic long gone whom I knew in my '20s--me.

I was in ragged shorts (never was a snazzy dresser like Bruce) dancing and so into it--as was everybody else in the photo.

In fact, I noticed that about so many of the people in the pics: they took dancing seriously, be it Goths or rockabilly cats and kittens or B-52 afficionados. They were into it.

I can remember physically giving myself one night to the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen and thinking what a beautiful, beautiful song it was, my body and soul singing together as my limbs locked into those blitzing punk guitars. We all felt so much back then.

We were dancers once...and young.

Now look at us.

Once a gazelle, now an old goat. My back hurt like hell anniversary night and for the first time ever I did not dance to the Fleshtones. It happens.

And it happens to us all: Johnny Rebel of the earlier performing Flyin' Saucers shouldered on despite suffering incredible physical pain. Valiant Johnny--stoic and heroic for the night. But I must admit drummer Ralph was in fine form, looking like Kid Rock doing a beatnik gig as a street drummer with talent. Glad to see some people never change, Mr. Rex.

The openers of the night, Willie Phoenix and the Soul Underground, were, um, OK, if you happen to like lengthy psychedelicized blues guitar solos. Willie sang great and made some righteous noise but I never would've associated his current stoner blues as a Mama's flavor.

I mean I knew it was too much to expect him to resurrect his superbly sharp and melodic power-pop genius of The Buttons or even his Springsteenian Romantic Noise, both bands of which were stylistically in keeping with Mama's prime.

Willie is a mystery. We need a career-spanning best-of from the man. Hear me, son of a preacher man?

Jack Neat, a quartet perhaps permanently resurrected because of Mama's anniversary night, dating from Mama's latter days, was more in keeping with the club's vintage, esoterically eccentric character.

A Mae West-like lead singer in the powerful presence of Nikki Wonder backed by Matt Newman's brilliantly thoughtful chordal guitar arrangements and an utterly empathetic rhythm section with more timing intelligence than you can believe, they stunned triumphantly.

Think a lot of NRBQ energy powering pre-rock '50s nightclub music. Vegas cabaret? Nikki is personality-plus, a great singer and entertaining as hell. Newman promises more gigs at a later date. Do not miss.

A final word on the Fleshtones.

These NYC-based boys have been also at it for 40 years and were a staple among the DJ's in Mama's play booth. I've seen 'em every decade and am in awe: their show keeps getting better and better, not unlike how the Stones' stadium shows are nearly absolutely perfect these days. They do more physical stuff onstage as a band than I've maybe ever seen. Think the Great Wallendas doing acrobatic tricks while playing super-rock garage rock and you've got a pretty good idea of how fun the 'shtones are live.

A final word on Mama's. I miss the place. It was a Noah's Ark of every type of young person who didn't fit in at the campus meat markets, sports bars, gay bars and dying discos. It was live and let live.

As for our man Nutt, Mick Jagger's right as rain about the ephemeral nature of youth. But if you're lucky like we are your town has a someone with his inimitable style so that you still can on occasion go back--even if for one wonderful night. Because something about Nutt is timeless.

 Long may you run, son.

Appears in Issue: