Strange bedfellows

What th–!?! They’re cancelling Yeah!? Oh, $#%)•TT”!

All across the universe, millions of aliens are mourning because Yeah!, a nationally syndicated comic book, is no more. And with it goes the three-piece girl band that built its reputation entirely on interplanetary gigging, but could never develop a following at home. Central characters Woo-Woo, Krazy and Honey started Yeah! the band (the comic takes its name from their galaxy-bending endeavor) as soon as they were out of high school.

Through a most peculiar series of events, the girls found themselves at the center of a multiplanet musical frenzy that, sadly, did not include Earth in its orbit.

Unable to get a terrestrial record contract, forbidden to cash their “space money” at any bank in the world, and mocked at every Earthly gig, the girls of Yeah! faced adversity at every turn. With their faithful manager, Old Crusty, dragging them from planet to planet, life was full for Yeah! But rejection at home seemed to stand in the way of true happiness.

Sound ridiculous? Of course, and deliberately and beautifully so. Yeah! the comic was created by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez (the creative force behind the beloved underground comix Hate and Love and Rockets, respectively, and two of the most successful and respected cartoonists of the last 20 years). The Yeah! collaboration was a rarity in modern comics — a strip designed to appeal to children, but with enough sophisticated humor and genuinely bizarre flouting of convention to convince adults — in summary, a silly, nonviolent romp, free of the self-consciousness that mars even most good comics being published today. The cartooning (by Hernandez) was topnotch, and Bagge’s stories funny and uncommonly character-driven.

It could have been a bestseller, maybe even a phenomenon. Tragically, the comic book is being cancelled by DC Comics after only nine issues, due to poor sales.

Yeah! was a comic book that would specifically appeal to young girls [not exactly the market its publisher, who owns Batman and Superman, normally woos],” says Chris Atkins, manager and chief comics expert at Pastimes, one of Asheville’s few remaining comics outlets.

“There was no market for either of those creators in DC world, and most of the already-established fans for the ‘alternative’ creators wouldn’t be caught dead reading a comic book published by an evil, corporate mainstream company like DC, let alone a kids’ comic book published by DC,” he continues, adding: “This is just my opinion, but [the comic] was doomed.”

Besides, where on Earth were you going to get it?

“The only place I ever saw Yeah! in Asheville was at Pastimes,” says Letitia, bass player for She Bang! “Whenever I saw a rack of comics I kind of looked to see if it was there. I never saw it around, which is a shame. I gave a couple to girls who’d never read comics before, and they were fascinated by Yeah!

Those lucky enough to have caught one of She Bang!’s dozen gigs around the area won’t be surprised that the local group identified with the ill-fated comic. She Bang! is also an all-girl trio, and one whose sound doesn’t quite fit with accepted contemporary-music styles and local trends.

In short, She Bang! is a rock ‘n’ roll band — though pigeonholing the group’s sound is as hard as defining Yeah!’s place amid the cliquish ranks of contemporary comics. The trio covers songs from the Monks, Jeannie C. Riley, Iggy and the Stooges and Springsteen, plus the tunes of a strange, “unknown in the States, but huge in Mexico” rock band called Three Souls in My Mind.

Their sound combines the bedrock whomp of Terri’s drums, the pop determinism of Letitia’s bass, and the loopy, spontaneous chaos of Amy’s guitar into a unique and driven blend that has wit, energy, loft and style. All three sing (often at the same time), bringing a classic “girl-group” — think ShangriLas — quality to the band. At a time when rock’s cultural coin seems pretty tarnished, She Bang! hits you with the shock of seeing the real thing — played for love, with no feeling of pretense or posture.

“[When] Amy heard that Yeah! was getting cancelled, she was really upset and decided we were going to do something about it,” says Terri. “So we … decided to do a really big show, to at least let a few people know that the book had had some kind of impact. I mean, really, it was a great comic book, and it would be a shame for it to come and go and no one notice. So we’re havin’ a Yeah! party.”

Extraterrestrial decor will enhance an atmosphere already enlivened by popular Asheville musicians Chris Geer and Gavra Lynn, humorous between-set skits, and an alien-costume contest.

“It’s just going to be a big old good time! Go see Ween if you’re a Weenie, but see She Bang! if there’s even a hint of Yeah! in your heart,” the drummer advises.

For most of Asheville’s punkier, edgier or simply lesser-known bands, the venue of choice and necessity is a strange little subterranean coffeehouse known as Vincent’s Ear. Nonregulars like to think of the Ear as a tiny, smoky, deafening pit where lowlifes thrash about to poorly mixed, inaudible white noise masquerading as music. Some of this reputation may be deserved; much is not. Over the last year, Vincent’s has improved things dramatically, adding a bigger stage and a schedule that includes the most important shows Asheville has to offer. But due to economic priorities, among other factors, Vincent’s Ear does not really advertise. Nonetheless (or maybe because of this policy), the club remains solidly on the cutting edge of Asheville’s music scene, showcasing the best of local talent while bringing in everything from Royal Trux to free-form Klezmer jazz to the hip-hop/acid-jazz rhythms of Isotope 217.

But the world She Bang! inhabits can still seem pretty small.

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m marooned on planet Blurb,” says guitarist Amy. “Blurb is this very small planet where all unknown, castaway, unmainstream bands are exiled. You get your little ‘blurb ration’ every time you poke your head out of your hole, but other than that, you go hungry. Oh, well, the inhabitants of Blurb happen to be the most loyal, die-hard rock-‘n’-roll-lovin’ bunch in the galaxy! They aren’t afraid of the possibilities that Blurb bands offer them — such as rule-shattering bliss, truth-seeking rocket blasts, and mind-blowing ecstasy!”

Though the group harbors few illusions that its Yeah! awareness campaign will lead to anything other than a silly, fun evening of aliens and rock, the girls figure that’s motivation enough.

“I know the Yeah! [show] is a pretty empty gesture,” allows Letitia, who also notes (with ready wit), “We’re still calling it the Yeah! ‘benefit,’ because we’re trying to expose people to Yeah! for their own benefit.

“It’s not like we’re going to make enough money to get Yeah! put back on the stands,” she admits, adding: “When I wrote Pete Bagge to tell him about the show, he mentioned that ‘You probably don’t want to give Time Warner any extra money.’ So we’re giving part of the money to Vincent’s Ear, because they need new monitors.

“But we didn’t want to call it a Yeah! ‘memorial,’ because that’s too sad,” the bassist concludes. “And anyway, who’d be there to remember Yeah! besides us?”

The Yeah! benefit, starring She Bang!, starts at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 19 at Vincent’s Ear (68 North Lexington Ave.). The costume contest will be judged at 11 p.m., with the winner receiving a complete, nine-issue collector’s run of Yeah! and a 45 by creator Bagge’s old band, The Action Suits. Second prize is an Action Suits 45 and a Yeah! issue of the winner’s choice. Third prize is a comic. Call 255-7573 for more info.

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