I suppose everyone's prone to nostalgia. Even the wonderful oddballs, misfits and other creative types who wandered the South Side back in the mid-'90s, when freaks and artists could still afford to live there. The scene had a mini but cause-driven reunion this past Sunday at the Lava Lounge, to raise medical funds for Olivia Kissel of Zafira belly-dance troupe.
Back in the day, of course, the Lava Lounge itself was still new, but co-owner Scott Kramer's Beehive coffeehouse was ground zero for the subculture. Kramer himself was among those who congregated anew on Sunday, in the immediate wake of the Steelers' last-minute win. The MC was Phat Man Dee, who came of artistic age on the South Side in the '90s. And indeed, along with bellydancing by Zafira's Christine Hamer and Maria Hamer, some fire-eating by Lady J, and a little neo-cabaret singing from PMD herself, we got the latest incarnations of two of her erstwhile compadres in the Bull Seal! Collective, the splendidly strange performance group.
Liz Hammond (a.k.a. Ukulizzy) performed on four strings. (Her partner, Buddy Nutt, who accompanied PMD on his singing saw, was one person who hadn't yet come to town way back when.) "Pain-proof clown" Andrew the Impaled changed from street duds into leather harness and jester's cap to driven a ten-penny nail up his nose, then a screwdriver. Maybe best of all, though, was seeing Big Daddy Bull Seal. The singer, prop-maker and indefatigably mustachioed caper-cutter -- a sort of cross between Rufus T. Firefly and Captain Beefheart -- was back in town for the first time in four years, resplendent in vertically striped knickers, red plaid smoking jacket and bird's nest of bright orange hair. He and his lovely and talented "persistent," Sabrina, were visiting from Santa Fe, N.M., where they're making a living making puppets (some of which get shown in art galleries), and it was great to hear him recite one of his Beat-style poems to her violin accompaniment.
By 9:30, the place was packed, and they must have made some money for Ms. Kissel. Near the evening's close, Phat Man Dee noted how many of the night's performers -- herself included -- had once worked at janitors at either the Beehive, the Lava Lounge, or both. It was an amusing note to end on, with just the right touch of grubbiness.