Scratchie Records Showcase at Metro

Photo credit: Henna Neill

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 23, 1997

For the first time Saturday night, James Iha and D’Arcy weren’t the center of attention. The Smashing Pumpkins musicians, acting as emcees, stood together at the mike, preparing to welcome the evening’s headliner at Metro. Before they could finish their introduction, however, the Frogs walked onstage, dressed in their typically flamboyant costumes.

“What’s that?” a child asked her father, pointing at lead singer Jimmy Flemion, who was decked out in his trademark sparkly green suit with matching angels wings.

“That’s Batman,” vocalist Mark Rew told his daughter. Shrugging his shoulders, the musician – whose band Catherine had just finished its set – said, “How else can I explain him to her?”

So began the third Scratchie Records Showcase, a laidback, four-hour affair.  The sold-out show boasted the talents of three Scratchie bands – the Frogs, Fulflej and Mike Ladd – and local favorites Catherine, whose drummer Kerry Brown is married to D’Arcy. The couple, along with Iha and a few other musicians and business partners, run the Chicago-based record label.

The evening’s most explosive set came courtesy of Catherine. Rew’s vocals sliced through the humid room as he and guitarist Scott “Fever” Evers cranked out power pop chords.  Joined by D’Arcy for “Four Leaf Clover,” the singers sweetly fed off each other’s voice.

Iha introduced Fulflej as “the Power Rangers.”  The trio’s 45-minute set went by quickly as the musicians played songs that were influenced as much by hip-hop as they were punk.  M.C. No Joke G has a unique voice that sounds pleasingly strained. It is the type of voice that twists syllables around so that even covers such as “Nothing Compares 2 U” sound distinctly original.

Though Flemion’s undulating vocals are more interesting, his brother, drummer Dennis Flemion (who toured as the Pumpkins’ keyboardist) has the smoother voice. When the two harmonize, the melody almost makes you forget that one is dressed like the Jolly Green Giant on acid and the other looks like a white-feathered Big Bird.  Their attire reflects their eclectic taste in music, which veers from Indian-inspired vocal inflections to classic rock rave-ups to not-so-ambiguous titles such as “Adam and Steve.”

Opening the showcase was Mike Ladd, whose day job is teaching English at Boston University. His manipulation of the language came through in both his smooth rapping and his easy onstage patter with his fans. Ladd played to a crowd that initially had little idea who he was, but left the show wanting to know more about him.

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