MILWAUKEE, WI (February 12, 2008)—On Saturday, March 8, 2008, UWM Union Programming and Blackhole Records will present A Milwaukee Celebration to the Cosmic Spirit of Allen Ginsberg at 8pm in the Union Ballroom. The tribute will include Ginsberg’s music performed by The Blackholes, poetry presented by Martin Jack Rosenblum, Antler, Jeff Poniewaz, James Liddy, Susan Firer, John Jeske and Bob Watt, and a psychedelic light show by Paka Paka Light Show. The event is free and open to the public.
The tribute to Allen Ginsberg pays homage to a visit to the UWM Ballroom by Ginsberg on March 11, 1982. Ginsberg had been invited to the Union to do a poetry reading. Opening for the poet was the local punk band The Blackholes. Ginsberg had come to Milwaukee from New York, where he had been recording with The Clash. His interest in performing his poems to punk rock carried over to his performance in the Union Ballroom. In a controversial performance before an over-capacity crowd (Ginsberg refused to go on stage until campus police let in everyone waiting outside the Ballroom), Ginsberg, at that time considered America’s greatest living poet, performed his work while The Blackholes played. A recording of this historic performance was made and is being released for the first time to CD. In the spirit of Ginsberg, the CD will be given away free to the first 500 people attending the March 8 event.
The Milwaukee Celebration to the Cosmic Spirit of Allen Ginsberg includes local poets Martin Jack Rosenblum from UWM (who also wrote the liner notes for the CD), former Milwaukee Poet Laureate Antler, UWM Creative Writing Professor James Liddy, who was the MC of the 1982 event, Jeff Poniewaz and Susan Firer of UWM, as well as Milwaukee poets John Jeske and Bob Watt. The Blackholes, with some of the original musicians, will perform Ginsberg’s music during a performance by the Paka Paka Light Show, a company founded by some of the pioneers of the 1960s and 70s psychedelic light show experience.
The event is organized by UWM Union Programming and Blackhole Records, and sponsored by WYMS, WMSE, and Woodland Pattern. The Art Bar, 722 East Burleigh, is sponsoring an after party for the Blackholes, who will play at 11pm. The UWM Union is the social and cultural center of the UWM community and provides a welcoming environment for diverse intellectual, multicultural, recreational and social opportunities for our student, campus and community members. For more information, visit us online at www.needabreak.uwm.edu.
On Thursday, 11 March 1982, Allen Ginsberg performed with Mark Shurilla’s group, The Black Holes, in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Ballroom.
The Black Holes was Shurilla’s band during a time when rock music was still turning to literary content without losing any of the smashing crash of the sound. The charge for this event, that sold-out, was two bucks. It was sponsored by The Society For A Better Society. The Black Holes’ lead guitarist that night, Rob Czarnezki, was a member of the sponsor and played a key role in bringing the volcanic event together with Shurilla to create one of Milwaukee’s most memorable music and poetry eruptions.
Ginsberg had just recorded with The Clash but the work was as of this time unreleased.
Joe Strummer wanted Allen Ginsberg to be the Sanskrit “Voice Of God” on the ‘Ghetto Defendant’ “Combat Rock”album track. “Combat Rock” was to become a major cultural statement.
The Union Ballroom was filled and yet hundreds more wanted to get in, so Ginsberg went to those in charge at the door and said, “you’re either letting them all in or I’m not doing the show.” They were let in. He stayed away from “Howl” this night to pursue other pieces, often accompanying himself on an odd instrument here and there, receiving his audience like the Beat poet cutting through troubadour territory with an abandoned sonic map.
There was a flash decision during Ginsberg’s poetry presentation that Shurilla’s Black Holes would back him up; this came from Allen, and at the time it offended some of the ‘old school poets’ in attendance.
During a party at Shurilla’s house a day or two before the scheduled poetry reading a cassette had been played of The Clash material that Ginsberg was toting, and Mark Shurilla, no coward when it comes to art as risk, got the idea for a live music and poetry experience -- he had noted that his band could back Ginsberg up for the upcoming Milwaukee gig. (The cassette that Ginsberg played was a mix of “Combat Rock” that deleted Strummer’s vocals so Ginsberg played it as a background for his own ‘cosmic verses and chanting’ as he called it.) So when Ginsberg decided from the stage this was the way to go once the evening was rolling, he recalled Mark’s insight from the party.
The Black Holes were one of the leading experimental bands and amounted to a musicians’ collective willing to stand up to Shurilla’s challenges. That night they did. Ginsberg was elated. Twisting and channeling literary angels and rock devils, Allen Ginsberg performed the material on the album you now have that has been lost except in public memory until very recently when Mark Shurilla, under what shall remain circumstantially hermetic chance, found the masters.
Allen Ginsberg and The Black Holes, Milwaukee, once again but this time with history as one’s guide to understanding what Ginsberg knew and asked Mark Shurilla to get done: rock the poem. Get it off the page. Toss the book. Dance like a shaman then and now. Crazy is good medicine and Allen Ginsberg with The Black Holes cured everyone there that night. You can take the cure now.
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