Man or Astroman?
A Journey to Tempe, Arizona - July 1996

Copyright © 1997 Jon Trent Adams

I'm not a groupie, I'm not. Really. I happen to feel that jumping on an airplane, flying 400 miles, renting a convertible and racing across the Arizona desert another 120 miles to go see a band, then performing the reverse about 12 hours later is not a fundamentally unreasonable thing. Especially when it's Man or Astroman!

About 7 months ago, while wandering though the CD shops in old-town Pasadena, I came across a CD in the "SURF" section by a band called "Man or Astroman?". The CD title, Destroy All Astromen, the artwork on the CD that depicted a cadre of robots mining and constructing on an airless, heavily cratered alien world complete with what appeared to be Mars in the night sky, the silly titles (Popcorn Crabula, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Love Theme, Gargantua's Last Stand, etc.) for many of the 21 tunes contained within, and the fact that I recognized one or two of the traditional surf titles, piqued my curiosity enough that I figured I'd find out what it was.

Upon opening up the CD, I found that these were indeed strange people. The drummer's name was Birdstuff; the bassist was Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard; the rhythm guitar was wielded by Dr. Deleto and His Invisible Vaportron; and the lead guitarist was named Star Crunch. Apparently, these four or so individuals are alien invaders to our fair planet, their fiendish plans for Earth including the subjugation of all earthlings. How do they intend to do this? Their music!

In the seven months since getting that first CD, I collected another 6 or 7. This is a very prolific band. For earthers or aliens. And the music became a regular theme for my life, expecially for driving or working outside. Then one day, while puttering around Flagstaff, Arizona, on yet another one of my epic summer vacations, I happened into a CD shop there and in addition to finding an Astroman CD previously unseen, I discovered a flyer that promised an Astroman show later that month in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix!

In the week before Tempe, the Astroboys were working their way down the west coast , from San Francisco, then Los Angeles on Thursday, San Diego on Friday, and on the 20th of July, Saturday, in Tempe. Unfortunately for me, I had to travel on business that week, spending most of it in Tampa, Florida. (Ever notice that Tempe and Tampa are the same except for the vowels?) Anyway, this meant that I would miss them at their closest approach, and as things happened it meant that would also miss them at their San Diego stop, a mere 120 minutes away by fast truck.

I had a frequent flyer coupon on-hand already, just for these kinds of occasions. I called up Delta, found out they had an early afternoon flight that left LAX and landed about 80 minutes later at Tucson. The only seating available was in first class, which was pretty cool, too.

Saturday arrived, I unpacked from the week's trip to Tampa and repacked a few things for the weekend's trip to Tempe. Within about 3 hours after leaving the house, I was on the ground at Tucson International, and renting a car. The outside temperature over 100 degrees, the cloudless sky, and the need to bleach out my hair, simply forced me into the convertible choice. A red Mustang with saddle interior.

There's obviously several ways to get from Tucson to Tempe, The primary one is via Interstate 10, an easy 90-minute jaunt down the Santa Cruz River valley. Except for the possibility of Arizona APS being out there, there's precious little chance of excitement on that route. Also, I had driven I10 many times over the years, and so I decided to choose the Pinal Pioneer Parkway, a two-lane highway that parallels I10 and remains about 15 miles east, close to the feet of the Santa Catalina, Tortilla and Superstition Mountain ranges, and passing though such scenic spots as Catalina, Oracle Junction, the Tom Mix monument, Cactus Forest, Florence Junction and finally joining the Superstition Freeway (such a cool name) at the very east end of Apache Junction.

Boy, was it warm. I suspect that by the time I neared Tempe, the temperature was well into the 110-120 degree range, the humidity had come up, and even driving at 85 miles an hour and drinking great quantities of water were having little of a cooling effect. It was great. I arrived at the Motel 6 around 6pm, changed, ran 5 miles, then showered and drove over to a little brewpub that I'd seen on my run. Had dinner and a couple tasty local brews, with catchy names that I can no longer remember :^( .

The venue, Boston's, would open at 8pm, so about then I arrived over there and discovered a crowd of mostly college students (about 60/40 male) lining up for entry. A Ford van with a cargo trailer bedecked in decals was docked in the parking lot. This was the dreaded Astro conveyance.

It was still over 110 when we were let through the gate into the band area. Boston's consists of an inside bar/stage/dance area, and an outside stage area. In order to allow the under-21 crowd access, MOA? would be playing at the outside stage and no alcohol would be allowed outside. This was cool, 'cause the younger ones would be able to enjoy the screamin' tunes, but it promised to be a mighty warm evening outside in the Valley of the Sun heat.

The band came on around 10:30 after the Subsonics, who were the opening act and really sucked. The stage was all dressed up in all sorts of electronic doodads, old black and white TV sets, pressure hose from the soda dispensing systems at countless bars, three 16-mm projectors aimed at white sheets hung behind the bandstand, plenty weird indeed.

More one of these days!

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