"[Andy Animal is] Wavy, GG Allin, every John Waters character and John Belushi, all rolled into one delicious toasted-testicle-'smore special edition Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor."
Andy Animal is a special guy. Long a standby of the New York garage-punk scene, Andy's identity goes far beyond mere frontman to such important roles as community organizer, agent provocateur and psychic mascot. One might say he's the Wavy Gravy of the Black Lips generation, if Wavy's sense of mischief had extended to musical death trances and shooting fireworks at people. Were one feeling particularly bold, one might even go so far as to say he's Wavy, GG Allin, every John Waters character and John Belushi, all rolled into one delicious toasted-testicle-s’more special edition Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor.
An epic man like him deserves an epic birthday party, and so Andy Animal's Country Time Meltdown Birthday Funabration Weekender 3D was born. A musical sleepover/mushroom orgy that's taken place three years in a row in the idyllic environs of Uncle Pete's Campground in Phoenicia, New York (near Woodstock, where Andy lives part-time), the Meltdown is surely in the running for Best Time Of Our Lives.
For entertainment, a bar mitzvah tent (introduced this year) was peopled with the likes of Fletcher C. Johnson, the Tough Shits, Hector's Pets, Apache and, of course, Andy's own band Stalkers. As Mr. Animal was the man of the hour, I passed around a pretty pink birthday card for each band to sign as they told me their birthday wishes for him.
[Photos and illustrations by Debbie Allen]
Fletcher C. Johnson
When Debbie and I first arrived at Uncle Pete's, the Fletcher C. Johnson band was already onstage, lowering us gently into the Melt with some pleasant, mid-tempo, folk-inflected tunes made memorable by Johnson's shaky voice and handsomely sincere, shaggy-hair-framed face. As I cracked open my first beer, a male friend ran over, picked me up, twirled me around, and skipped off into the woods giggling hysterically about how he was the Greek god Pan. These people were not wasting any time.
When I caught up with him the next day, Fletcher signed the card with a small but accurate doodle of Andy's fiery antics from the night before. (More on them later.) What were his birthday wishes for his buddy? "You don't need to wish anything for Andy because he makes whatever he wants to happen happen," Fletcher sagely replied. He went on to outline their history together:
"When I moved to my first city, which was Boston, I worked at a pizza parlor and Andy was the delivery boy and I was the dishwasher, and I was 19 years old. So that was my intro to the city, and I was like, holy shit, is this what everyone in the city is like? But now I've learned that he's from the country. Now I'm back here in the country with him, and I'm still afraid."
After Fletcher C. Johnson finished, the night melted into an endless vision quest that only grew more surreal when the sun rose. I was getting a little tired of having to talk to everyone through a glowing plasma curtain overlaid with lasers, but I couldn't go to bed for fear that a naked and raving Andy Animal would point his genitals in the wrong direction and set my tent ablaze. I wasn't imagining that last part. Andy was holding roman candles with/against his penis and anus as he came/shat/pissed fire all over the place, scorching his own balls at one point. "Animal, stop! Animal, no!" he cried, powerless to control himself.
That particular campsite sufficiently terrorized, he moved onto the main party area, and inexplicably (animal magnetism?), we followed him. As yet more fireworks went off, he blasted the "Happy Days" theme song on an endless death loop, physically blocking anyone who tried to shut it off.
The following afternoon (which felt less like "the following afternoon" and more like an extension of Friday), I caught up with Adam Fithian of the wildly fun Brooklyn rock band Hector's Pets, and he pieced together the previous night as he signed the card. "I just hope he has a sensuous year," he said of Andy. (Here's an example, from YouTube, of Andy's love of sensuality and Yankee Candles.) Was anything more sensuous than shooting fireworks out of one's dick? Adam clarified: "Well, he also shot them out of his butt." I asked him if 100% of us had been on shrooms that night. "I still am," he replied, and I noticed he was having a bit of trouble signing the card.
Amid all this debauchery, it was nice to see that Tough Shits had brought some family values along in the form of an adorable baby. John the guitarist/dad helped her sign her sign the card "Bing Bong." Did he have any birthday wishes for Andy? "I just wish that he grows up. I just hope that he changes everything about himself," he replied with a grin. Had he had fun last night? "I was in a whole other dimension." (A fun dimension.)
I know babies aren't supposed to be able to form longterm memories, but I still can't help thinking Bing Bong is destined to be the weirdest kid at her school.
Later, when Tough Shits sang "All my life I've been pretty wild," the weekend had its first unofficial theme song.
As the sun went down, finally ending mega-Friday, and my second helping of poopcorn began to kick in, we found guitarist Nick Allen from Apache chilling on a log, waiting to play. "I hope [Andy] survives for many more years," he noted, signing the card.
Did he think he would?
"He was doing a lot of dangerous stuff last night…" I began, but before I could finish, Nick assured me that "What doesn't kill you can only make you survive for many more years." Was he looking forward to his show? "I'm gonna be there, I'm here, I'm present at the location, and I'm not anywhere else and…I'm gonna play this show. I can't speculate on anything else, all I know is what's happening."
As Apache took the stage, everything suddenly became hilarious. My big blue poncho was hilarious. My friend Callie's wizard outfit? Hilarious enough that I followed her around staring at her facial expressions while she made people do the limbo under her drug rug. All the people marching in from the outskirts of the field, fireworks blazing? UPROARIOUS. And don't even get me started on the squiggly black eels forming out of wet flecks of grass stuck to the tent. As if Nick's mind-bending solos and Omar Hernandez's perfect David Johansen impression were not enough, an impossibly slender naked girl with a full-on lion head appeared and became my spirit animal.
After what felt like a jump cut in a movie, Omar shrunk back down to human size to tell me he doesn't even remember how he met Andy. "I just met him, I think." "You were born knowing him?" "I kinda feel like that, yeah. Me and my mom and Andy all used to hang out. Motorcyclin'. Fireworkin'. Partying. Naked-ing. Rocking and rolling."
What's a little naked-ing between friends?
For all his maniacal behavior, Andy was subdued the final day of the Melt, sitting on his motorcycle and gently revving the engine as people came over to say goodbye. It's not like he didn't earn it; he'd delivered a thrilling performance the night before complete with much revving and fire, overlaid with some meta projections BA Miale had made of his recent genital pyrotechnics. He was Fat Elvis, Lux Interior, Johnny Carson, Divine…but above all, he was Andy Animal, big, beautiful freak. Did he have any wishes for himself?
"On my actual birthday, I made a wish for my friend whose brother just died," he said. "That was me blowing out the candle. But as for this…my wish has come true. Just having amazing people here, and I'm really happy, and this is the best one yet." He had one more wish: "I wish to keep this goin' and goin' and goin' every year, and to see all my happy friends. I get high off it, amongst other things."
Did he expect it to keep getting bigger?
"Yeah. I think we'll try to get Cheap Trick next year. I don't think they cost that much."