David Rhoden

The gigs we played at Mr. Liu's China King: Notes for May 23, 2024.

. Day .

I read something on Facebook from a group devoted to remembering things that went on in Fort Sanders (a neighborhood that housed many off-campus students).
Somebody brought up China King. It was a dingy Chinese restaurant on the Strip, Cumberland Avenue. People didn't generally go to eat there, not even college students. If the college students wanted to eat real cheap non-dining hall food on the Strip they'd go to Stefano's, or Antonio's buffet (a pizza joint where the owner would keep the lights off until somebody came in, and turn them off after you left....it wasn't good). So the Lius, who were lovely people, decided to let the college kids' rock bands play there in hopes that they could sell enough Budweiser to the hopefully legal-age rock fans that they could keep the doors open.

Thinking back on it, the China King may not have drawn the top tier of local bands. I know my band Everything Tool played there a lot. Interpret that how you may. But a lot of the shows were really good, and well attended. I remember we had to hide far from the front door when we played, or our friends would all try to get on the guest list.

Though Mr. and Mrs. Liu's booking polices were haphazard, not to say indiscriminate, there was one thing they abjured without reservation: slam dancing. One of them (I'm sure it was Mrs. Liu) got fluorescent posterboard and made signs that said No Slam Dancing. She put them on the walls and on the ceiling. The reason being that there was often slam dancing, and she felt, I guess, that she needed a pretext to stop it. When the slam dancing began she would wade into the crowd, always elegantly dressed in, say, a red blouse and black straight-legged pants. At first she would shine a flashlight on the ceiling-mounted No Slam Dancing sign, in case the patrons hadn't know such a prohibition existed. Then, when she was inevitably ignored, she'd go around with a high-heeled strappy shoe in her hand, swinging the shoe at the slam dancing scalps, shouting "No slam dancing! No slam dancing!" She really hated it. There was a guy around who played in bands; his name was Crisco Bill (lots of stories about how that name came to be). Crisco Bill, or Bill, would encourage slam dancing, and taunt Mrs. Liu. I can't remember any of the circumstances but my mind has the mental equivalent of a huge framed poster in it, of Bill laughing and dodging while Mrs. Liu smacks him on the head repeatedly, really hard, with that high heel.

An interesting feature of a China King gig was that the Lius would feed the bands if you got there on time. It was just big platters of pork fried rice and some egg rolls (which I loved, and still do). I remember one night though, when Mr. Liu brought out a lot of egg rolls. "Take two!", he kept saying, and who was I to argue? Later I saw my friend Ed trying to explain or translate something in a big binder Mr. Liu was reading. (He spoke English, but not really well.) I asked Ed what that was all about. "Oh, he's taking a course in refrigeration," Ed told me. I'm wondering if that was really true, about the course. And it's probably obvious but we all felt terrible from eating the extra free egg rolls, later. I hope he got his refrigerators down to 32° eventually.

Everything Tool rocking out at China King
Me, Matt, and Sam from Everything Tool, rocking the f out.

Everything Tool played with Across The Yard at China King flyer

I started reading The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh last night. I could barely put it down. I'm sure there will be some miserable act of pointless violence in it, it's hinted at strongly, but I'm laughing at it for now. It's a little like a Willeford Hoke Moseley novel, and a lot like The Wire; it's anecdotes about cop workplace behavior, both good and bad, except it's almost all bad. There's one goody-two-shoes cop, who I suppose is based on Wambaugh. He's the voice of reason, and the cop you hope you'd be if you were stuck being a cop with all these reprobates, but it's funny to think about how much disrespect he's forced to endure, including disrespect from you, the reader! It's a testament to what narrative voice can do. This detective makes the only right decisions in the book (so far) and you laugh at him and pity him for it.

Great book so far.