As/Is







5.28.2015


Various Juxtapositions


Gaetan Spurgin was a major Free School presence, partly because we all liked him, and partly because he'd been a major presence in This Charming Lab, the predecessor to PFS. The shows we'd done in 2000 (Gaetan with his band Metro, me solo, and others, including Matt Stevenson and Radio Eris) at venues like The Khyber, The Pontiac Grille (JC Dobbs), and the Killtime Warehouse in West Philadelphia, had been, at best, semi-successful, but they had bonded us socially. Later in the early Aughts, I used the This Charming Lab moniker to book readings at the Kelly Writers House at Penn (see 3/27/04) as well; the multi-media angle was gradually built into it. But the 2000 version of This Charming Lab was mostly straight rock, and Gaetan, as front man for Metro, was a selling point to get the gigs. Gaetan was tall, brawny, and statue-esque, at 5'11; had lank blonde hair usually dyed jet black; closely resembled a Goth/fetish boutique version of Hugh Grant; and had (like Matt Stevenson) a killer IQ which meant that those who condescended to him as a degenerate were stunned to find themselves articulately rebuffed.

By early '03, Gaetan was stationed in a live-in recording studio in South Philly, at 13th and...Carpenter? Ellsworth? I don't remember. I had the intriguing idea of fixing Gaetan up with Abby Heller-Burnham. I was with Mary. So, the three of us descended on Gaetan's studio one late afternoon in spring. What happened was classic Philly Free School mayhem- Abs took one look at Gaetan, decided he was declasse (though she was happy to smoke his deliciously laced weed, as we all were) and wouldn't talk to him much. Even with me there, Mary and Gaetan started flirting. Blatantly. In such a way that I was gripped with weed paranoia. So, I disrupted Gaetan and Mary and found a manner of asserting that, in this time zone/context, Mary was mine. Another little factoid worth offering up- Mary Harju is the only woman in my life who has ever caused me sustained, chronic jealousy. In those days, when Mary decided to tart it up, I would go bonkers; and she enjoyed yanking my puppet strings. Yet, significantly, she did end up following my lead. Through our stoned fog, I managed to frog-march Mary and Abby out of Gaetan's studio. Mary confessed to being attracted to Gaetan; but Gaetan had fallen for Mary very quickly, and was never quite the same again. A year later, I had broken up with Mary, and I encouraged Gaetan to go after her. The truth is what it is- had Gaetan made the right moves then, something could've happened between them. But Gaetan was otherwise engaged, and forced not to act. Their moment never returned.

Gaetan's band by '04, ElektroWorx, were at a tangent to Metro's glam/garage-punk; it was all Goth/industrial electronica, complete with (for their live shows) multi-media slides/ image presentations which made them perfect for the Highwire and the Free School shows. ElektroWorx did precisely two Highwire shows- and, for the long season Mike and I spent doing the Center City rounds recruiting, promoting, and hustling our wares, Gaetan's studio in South Philadelphia was always a port of call for us. Mike and Gaetan got on well, as Mike treated Gaetan respectfully and was gracious (as was I) about smoking Gaetan's dope. Matt Stevenson and Gaetan Spurgin had a bunch of levels in common, including high IQs and involvement in rock music production work. But because Gaetan was derisive about Radio Eris (who, honestly, I couldn't include in the Free School shows in the form they were in then because they were too dissonant), which was Matt's baby, they couldn't bond. Gaetan did visit us once while we were recording Ardent at 11th and Webster, also South Philadelphia. One punchline of this whole narrative is that ElektroWorx brought a crowd to the Highwire- the pungent Philly Goth/industrial crowd- who made an amusing contrast to the standard Philadelphia art-gallery ambiance enough that I knew these shows should be noted for posterity somehow. PFS had that stock-in-trade going: amusing juxtapositions. One perk about the Highwire shows I know Gaetan enjoyed- he got paid. As was important to the Highwire, our shows there did turn a profit.