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The Columbus Scene is Kicking Ass for Artie

I don’t think I have had the pleasure of meeting Arturo de Leon. However, I can’t say with any degree of confidence or certitude that he and I haven’t crossed paths. I have been fortunate enough to rub elbows with hundreds of musicians in the last year and have been inundated with wave after wave of new names and faces. I wish I could commit them all to memory, but sometimes—oftentimes—I fall short in this futile endeavor, at least when it comes to initial introductions. I will never forget a song lyric that resonates with me, even when hearing the song for the first time. Still, even after seeing a band enrapture its audience, I often have trouble committing faces and names to memory unless I am lucky enough to have a handful of meaningful interactions.

I can say without a doubt that I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Artie perform, and I hope that someday I will have the opportunity to do so. Otherwise, I may live to regret not seeing one of the most legendary rockers in the Columbus scene when I had a chance.

You see, on November 15th, 2022, Artie had a stroke. To quote the information his friends provided on GoFundMe, “The infarction occurred in his brainstem and, while it impacted his small motor skills, balance, coordination, and ability to perform self-care independently, he was incredibly lucky. There has been no paralyzation and minimal cognitive involvement.”

Strokes are scary enough, but their potential impact can be particularly devastating for artists and musicians. In my experience, most guitarists claim they would rather die than face the reality of never being able to play again. Of course, that mindset often dissolves in the unfortunately terrifying reality of a life-or-death situation, as it likely should.

If the measure of a man’s character is an accounting of how far his friends are willing to go to aid him, then Artie is undoubtedly a living legend of the Columbus music scene. I sincerely hope he understands how well-loved he is, and I hope, for his sake, that he has the opportunity to perform live again. I say this because, as a relatively new arrival to the scene, I have the perspective of an outsider, which in this situation, allows me to see the bigger picture of the scene’s collective effort to rally around Artie. As of right now, Artie is still going through the thick of it. He is fighting to regain his ability to live independently, and through all the triumphs and setbacks, he can’t take his eyes off the prize. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to see what I have the privilege of witnessing. But if we are lucky enough to see Artie triumphantly return to the stage, the love in that room will be so palpable that he will be enveloped in its glowing radiance.

I am witnessing the extraordinary strength of our scene when united behind a common cause. The sheer amount of time, effort, and energy people like Pat Dull and Linda Flowers Dull are giving to this cause to ensure that the road to recovery is as smooth as possible for Artie is as astoundingly beautiful and speaks volumes about the kind person Artie is.

I recently attended a benefit show organized by the dynamic Dulls alongside their friends, and I will soon be attending a second one. This write-up aims to convince you to attend the benefit show coming up on February 3rd, 2023. There is no better way to spend $20 on a Friday night. You aren’t just helping the scene support one of its most steadfast members; you are also getting a killer show with one of the strongest lineups I have seen. Howling Commandos and Hell Fire Sinners on the same bill is already worth the price of admission, but the team behind this benefit show would never stop at that. You will also have the privilege of seeing the most culturally significant punk act that emerged from the Columbus scene, the New Bomb Turks. While the elusive local legends will only perform a short set, opportunities to see this band live are few and far between and shouldn’t be missed.

I can’t tell you what this benefit show will be like, but I can provide a point of reference by writing about the last one. Simply put, the “Kicking Ass for Artie” benefit show on December 29th, 2022, featuring Milan Karcic, MethMatics, Betty Machete & the Angry Cougars, and The Whiteouts was perhaps the best benefit event I have ever attended. Most benefit shows are planned months in advance, but with the urgent need to help Artie pay the extensive cost of rehabilitation therapies, time was of the essence. In a few short weeks, during the peak of the holiday season, the Dulls and a handful of other key players organized a benefit event that was so well organized and professional while having so much heart.

Rumba Café is not among my favorite venues (outside of the talent they book, which is phenomenal) because of factors mainly beyond ownership control. Sandwiched within a string of shops that mostly share the same concrete and brick infrastructure, the historic venue is limited by its own architecture. However, ownership does make it work despite having limited options, primarily by clever design choices (porta potties outside, two indoor bathrooms including one with both a toilet and urinal, smaller sinks, an extra-long bar, etc.).

The team behind this benefit show made a space that can be awkward during a typical show work remarkably well. While congested by the sheer number of attendees, the setup was easy enough to figure out, and we eventually found where we could buy raffle tickets. It was obscured by a large mass of people trying to buy a gratuitous amount of raffle tickets, which considering this was a benefit show, was an excellent predicament.

As soon as we saw the gift baskets that were being raffled off, I immediately wished I was in a position to buy more tickets. December was a particularly difficult month for us, so challenging that I don’t think a younger, less stable version of me would have survived such a devastating series of events. Luckily, the scene provides. With the help from the punk community, I am well on my way to fully recovering from what happened, and hopefully, ***fingers crossed*** Artie will be able to say the same thing.

I only bring up that point to emphasize my next one. I wished I had more money to buy raffle tickets because I wanted to believe I had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning any of the fantastic raffle prizes. I have never wanted to win a raffle prize more. The bands and the organizers put together the absolute best array of prizes. There was a grand prize, a lovely guitar that so many attendees vied for, but I put all my tickets in the bowls for the gift baskets.

Usually, gift baskets at these events are a little underwhelming, but you enter the raffle anyways because it’s for charity. But these gift baskets weren’t the typical “wine lovers” baskets filled with mediocre charcuterie fixings. They were meticulously assembled merch bundles for each of the bands featuring all kinds of cool shit like vinyl records, tee-shirts, accessories, and so much more. In addition, they weren’t haphazardly thrown together. The presentation of these things was stunning and made them feel all the more desirable. After the show, I learned that this event raised more than $6,000. This news wasn’t surprising because I saw several people buy strands of raffle tickets that were longer than they were tall. The length people will go to support their friends within the local music scene would bring a tear to even the most grizzled punk’s eye.

But onward to the show review.

We arrived halfway through Milan Karcic’s set due in part to my underestimating the Columbus punk scene in multiple ways. The first of which is that very few shows start on time, but this one did. There was no need for the organizers to wait until more bodies came through the door and filled the room, which is the other reason why I arrived later than I would like. For a Thursday night event, this show drew a substantial crowd. It was a whose who of the Columbus Punk scene, and everyone was eager to help somehow. We ended up having to park several blocks away, despite arriving before the start time, which is something we never had to do before, not even for the sold-out Dwarves/Queers show.

The last half of Milan Karcic’s set was so good that I was immediately filled with regret over missing the first half. Even if the Dulls had months to plan this event, I don’t know if they could have found a more appropriate opener. Karcic’s performance provided the perfect ambiance to set the scene for the evening while pleasing a diverse group of people having radically different experiences simultaneously. Of course, everyone was there to help Artie in some way, shape, or form, regardless of whether they knew him. Still, the people in the crowd showcased an amalgamation of human needs. Some people were there to enjoy the pleasure of live music despite the somber circumstances. Others were there seeking the comfort of friends after nearly losing one of their own. Several of the more reclusive members of the old Columbus scene were there to reconnect with old friends after realizing that you never know when the last chance of seeing someone will be.

Despite all of this, Milan Karcic provided the ideal soundtrack for the varying and very human experiences unfolding within every corner of Rumba Café. The ambiance he created offered space for melancholic tenderness and bittersweet nostalgia in equal measure while still welcoming strangers like myself to enjoy his melodic originals and covers that held you in their warm yet firm embrace. That being said, his music still had teeth, and his rousing rendition of “Children of the Grave” by Black Sabbath, which he dedicated to Artie, was impressive. At points, Karcic captured the tonality of Ozzy Osbourne’s voice (which was likely at its peak when the song was written) while simultaneously doing Iommi’s iconic work on the guitar justice. Was it a flawless cover? Of course not; that is impossible for any one person to achieve. However, it undoubtedly captured the most essential essence of the song to the extent that I didn’t notice the absence of Geezer Butler’s basslines or the rhythms of drummer Bill Ward until after the song had finished, and it definitely got the crowd warmed up for the evening.

Next came the MethMatics; if the MethMatics are anything, they are consistent. They are so consistent that their “good shows” are absolutely electrifying, and their “bad shows” are still pretty damn good because I don’t think the MethMatics are capable of an awful show.

This wasn’t their best show for numerous reasons, most of which the MethMatics had little to no control over that evening. The primary one, in my humble opinion, was the somber atmosphere of the event was contradictory to their mercurial yet snotty, in-your-face nature. As well-put-together as this band is, they shine their brightest when headlining the darkest and dingiest of venues.

Other factors may have been in play as well. Unless opening for a well-known national act touring through the area, this is a band that typically headlines for a good reason. When this band is firing on cylinders, they can set the room on fire with their radiant energy. In any other situation outside of a benefit show, I would feel immense pity for just about any band that has to play after the MethMatics because you have to bring your absolute A-game to compete with the heat this band brings to the stage.

I don’t know if it was intentional or unintentional, but I think the MethMatics were holding back. Perhaps it was a professional decision. Maybe they wanted this benefit show to have seamless transitional pacing. The show did have such a perfectly gradual escalation throughout the night, with its climax being The Whiteouts’ closing performance. It was a textbook example of how a typical show should flow. Perhaps the band needed to play it safe in order to not jeopardize themselves before going to the studio or were tired from practicing as they prepared to record their newest album. Maybe one or more members had a minor (or even not so minor) seasonal ailment, as they are well-known for NOT canceling shows, even when struggling with extreme obstacles.

I don’t want this to sound overly critical, as it is merely an analysis after seeing this band numerous times. Everyone has an off-night on occasion, and the MethMatics are so good because off-nights are just as good, if not better, than most bands on their best nights. This band has spoiled me thus far with their high-energy and damn-near flawless performances; perhaps I have grown a bit entitled. Simply put, even when the band can’t give it their all (for whatever reason), it only takes one member of this five-piece to get hot for them to level the playing field and ignite the crowd. I have seen Yates do it. I have seen vocalist Chris Price do it. However, on this particular night, it was guitarist Billy Spitfire’s turn.

Billy Spitfire put on a blistering performance with guitar solos that made me melt. It was clear that some aspect of the occasion or something about the atmosphere of the crowd that night was fueling him. He was so effortlessly vibrant that his melodies were intoxicating and almost hypnotic enrapturing everyone in their glowing warmth. The fact that more people aren’t talking about how talented this man is should be a crime. By the time the band reached the end of their set, the MethMatics that we have come to know and love looked and sounded like they were at full power again.

I could write ad nauseam about every aspect of this band, but I mustn’t burn myself out, and it is even more vital that I give the other bands their due as well. However, with the MethMatics releasing a new album this year, I am sure there will be plenty more opportunities to discuss this super group at length.

Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars promptly followed the MethMatics, and never have I been more grateful that I waited to review a band. I have seen this band at least four or five times since April of 2022, and to be perfectly honest, nothing could have prepared me for the moment when I heard the most monstrous and gravelly voice come out of Linda Flowers Dull’s petite little body for the first time. I was completely unnerved. I spent the rest of that evening trying to wrap my brain around how such a big, angry voice could come out of such an adorable little human instead of enjoying the music.

Since starting this endeavor, I have learned never to trust my initial reaction to something new blindly; some things are acquired tastes that take time and exposure to develop. I found Dull’s voice to be very grating and the lyrics overly simplistic at first. However, it takes talent, skill, and often training for anyone, especially a woman, to consistently deliver in that register without damaging their voice. This becomes even more evident when someone’s singing voice sounds radically different from their speaking voice.

As for the simplicity of the lyrics, I realize now that I needed to check my elitism. Of course, being an English major, I love all of Greg Graffin’s six-dollar words. However, punk became a genre because bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones made rock music more accessible for the working poor and often undereducated youth that were marginalized by society and needed an outlet for their rage. Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars keeps the formula simple from a lyrical standpoint, which allows audience members to make a quick connection with the words, empowering them to release the pressures of their frustrations.

Needless to say, Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars have grown on me immensely. This is another band that doesn’t have bad shows. Existing in the dark chasm between punk rock and hard rock, this band offers a bit of a Motorhead vibe, which adds an interesting element to their sound and makes their onstage dynamic a bit whimsical in its contradictory nature. Every member of the band, with the exception of Linda, typically looks like they are having the time of their life while on stage. This is especially true of their drummer (I believe her name is Heather), who looks so blissful and radiant when she plays, and the vibe she gives off is so contagious. She is undoubtedly the most underrated drummer in Columbus and is undeniably my favorite to watch.

Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars had an outstanding performance at the benefit show. It was almost flawless, and Rumba is an excellent venue for this band. Everything about this place worked in the band’s favor, from the stage’s shape, size, and height to the sound guy and lighting. Not only did the band sound great, but they looked great doing it. Linda worked her way across the stage multiple times, so every side of the room could be entangled in her rage-filled glare. Her ferocious growl was absolutely on point, and so was the music, which allowed her to slip entirely into her element.

At one point, Andi Yates, the wife of MethMatics guitarist Joey Yates, looked at me as Dull sang and mouthed, “She could eat me alive. Just open her mouth and swallow me whole!” Of course, this statement was made all the more hilarious due to Andi’s ridiculously animated hand gestures and the fact that Andi is probably six feet tall. The thought of Linda Flowers Dull growing at least a foot taller after unhinging her jaw and swallowing Andi like a basilisk was enough to force the first genuine bout of laughter I had in perhaps a week, maybe longer.

I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss one aspect of Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars before moving on to the final band. Although I have seen them a handful of times, this is the first time I realized how well synchronized the two guitarists and the bassist are with one another. Whether using syncopation to add depth to the band’s sound, volleying back and forth, or performing entirely different but complimentary riffs, this element is so contradictory to the band’s unpretentious lyrical content that it gives the band some nuance that most music fans might not be able to pick up on its layered complexity upon first exposure. However, their richly textured musical compositions expertly offer a delightfully vibrant juxtaposition to their simplified lyrics. Ultimately this juxtaposition showcases the band’s diverse musical influences while creating a fierce but finespun signature sound that is uniquely their own and worth exploring in depth.

Finally, there were The Whiteouts…

If you told me at any point in 2022 prior to their set on December 29th that I would ever consider The Whiteouts #thehottestbandinthebus, I likely would have collapsed into an uncontrollable bout of laughter. Don’t get me wrong, The Whiteouts, who are perhaps the oldest surviving punk band in central Ohio, aren’t a bad band by any stretch of the imagination.

They are crude, lewd and are typically an absolute riot to see live. However, this “trashy rock ‘n’ roll” band, as my partner likes to describe them, is typically not the definition of “well-polished” or “well-put-together.” They are authentic to the core and have always favored having fun over the improbable potential of fame or fortune.

I have been waiting for an opportunity to review one of their performances for a while now and have seen them a handful of times. However, this band is known for being riotously fun but sloppy. Not sloppy in a way that makes the majority of the crowd step out to the patio for a forty-minute cigarette break, but sloppy in a way that it has become a comical and almost endearing element of the band’s brand. I used to joke that The Whiteouts were the most appropriately named band in the Bus. They will make mistakes; depending on the night, they might make a lot, but nothing so prominent that it can’t be laughed off and easily corrected.

However, until the night of this benefit show, I had never seen the band play like they had something at stake. It has always been fun and games with these guys, and I always felt like they weren’t emotionally invested in their performances despite being gregariously entertaining. But on this night, the band was 100 percent invested in their performance. It mattered to them; they were there to kick ass for Artie.

The Whiteouts are an entirely different animal when they are fully invested. The band sounded well-rehearsed without being overly polished. The high-octane thrill of their trashy rock’n’roll vibe was still very much intact as the band played in a way that simultaneously felt so effortlessly clean yet sleazy in the most convivial ways.

You could tell how much Artie meant to this band as they played their originals and a few remarkably selected covers with such fidelity (including “I’m A Drunk” by Cleveland punk legends, The Baloney Heads, which was featured on “Bloodstains Across the Midwest” compilation). Steve Richmond recounted some of his fondest memories of Artie while on stage and played the entire set on a guitar he purchased from him years ago.

The Whiteouts put on an absolutely unforgettable performance; it was truly one of the best that I have seen in the past year. Quite frankly, I was utterly stunned by how easily this band could turn it up to eleven without sacrificing their raunchy, almost callow demeanor and chaotically debaucherous charm. I honestly didn’t think they had it in them. Now that I have seen what they can do, I eagerly anticipate the possibility of witnessing such unbridled tenacity again. This band deserves its legendary status in the Columbus scene, not just because of their longevity but because of the heat they can bring when firing on all cylinders. I hope this review encourages the band to bring that heat more often.

In closing, Columbus is building one of the best music scenes in the country. However, it is our ability to come together to take care of our own that makes us great. Next Friday (February 3rd), we are coming together again at Ace of Cups for another benefit show to help provide Artie with the financial support he will need to access the immense array of therapies he will need in order to make a full recovery.

Artie’s friends were able to put together such an incredible show in just a few short weeks. I can’t wait to see what they will pull off at this show, especially since they had a little more time. For years, I have heard the hopeful clamoring of people dreaming of the day the New Bomb Turks remerged from their long (and well-deserved) slumber, and now it is happening. And it is all happening because a handful of people love their friend Artie so much that they are willing to move mountains to ensure that he has everything he may need to get better.

Until next time, stay safe in the pit.

Wanna see highlights from the show? Check out our YouTube playlist.

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