Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Under Water Rain Journal - from the Detroit archives


LISTEN to Under Water Rain's 1988 demo album:


Under Water Rain were Joe, Brian, Bonnie, and Sally.

Under Water Rain - 

Rain Journal by Sunfrog

Babyfish (lost its momma) # 1 - 1988 

May 1987

My favorite band and good friends looked at their future like a pile of ashes. On the brink of breaking up, a pile of anger and passion pumped through the veins of the Hamtramck Pub. Field by this gig and the souls left in the rubble of the Pub parking lot, Under Water Rain decided this band was too important to end. The Man Who Collected Time offered them some more.

July 1987 

The summer heat produced the band’s birthday concert with Gangster Fun. The hats and eyes huddled beer glasses until the lock was broken to dancing on the floor. The corner had been turned. The summer brought communal participation. Standing on the break water of a Great Lake, we saw the edge of the universe. The Big Hands in the sky turned up the amplification. The beach became electrified and our electricity had found the beach. Standing beneath a concrete overpass next to a murky city river, we brought out the paint and destroyed nazi graffiti with color and light. Richard Brautigan sent us fishing. We got high and we resisted the terrorist television reign of Oliver North. I made my salad art in the humid and steamy kitchen of the Inn Season Cafe.

August 1987

Under Water Rain went into Tempermill Studio to record seven songs with Dave Feeny (of the Orange Roughies) producing. They laid down now Rain classics “Always Darkest,” “My Two Heads,” “Phinster,” “Theme for a Dying Planet,” and “Bikes.” They added the slow, tortured psychedelia  of “We’re Waiting” and “Drowning on Land.” The result was a grand demo tape which has yet to reap any label interest but still serves as the booming weed which tangles your mind into the garden. The garden includes my ever matty and nasty hair. A gig with SST’s Always August proves to be a great night and moment for the Rain. Joe is in top poetic form and August chooses to flower their own noise jazz Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Minutemen organism after the Water. The percussionist for Always August was on two peace marches with me and shared a jail cell with me in Washington, DC. We had told the Department of Energy to stop testing nuclear weapons. Bands like Under Water Rain and Always August are part of the godhead and true department of energy. The previous Friday, the band had opened for the Roughies and had the chance to turn on some new minds.

November 1987  

My autumn was spent in academic exile at Antioch College. I was depressed. I had been cut off from my family. I could not stand the loneliness and my lack of educational motivation. I dropped out of college before the end of the semester. Zero credits but home with my friends and loved ones. I went on a reckless pilgrimage to discover Detroit. I had lived in the suburbs for five years and finally found spiritual and cultural liberation in the city. I met the men of the street. And the concrete spirit began to poison and save my veins. The city screams and so I began to scream with it. Joe often ventured to scream with me and explore the city with me. Under Water Rain began more and more to let me share the stage for powerful hard rock poetry. 

My first Friday home, the band played the “new” Community Concert Series at the Paradigm Center for the Arts. It was mass counterculture celebration. Rain were the final band and some tie-dyed deadheads got turned on to them for the first time. I was very turned on. They had added percussion on a freight train version of the self-pity-mindfuck “Drowning on Land.” “Lame Deer’s Song” pays homage to Joe’s own saint, a Native American named John Fire Lame Deer. His book Seeker of Visions is Joe’s “spiritual manifesto” of sorts. The song creates a mythical clash between the sacred truth of Lame Deer and the obscene lying of Oliver North. Joe and Lame Deer sing to the US military’s media death monster, “Would you lie to me?”

During the mind blast section of “Man Who Collected Time,” I took my place in the forest of sound. I wrapped myself in wire and read a poem about the takeover of Detroit by apples pummeling from the sky. Apples in the street. Apples stopping the cars. Dogs vomiting apples. I had been christened “Apple Andy.”

December 1987 

I started the night with wine and other mind-altering substances at the Peterboro Gallery, enjoying mass explosions of abstract social paint. I rode the bus to Royal Oak and walked to the Under Rain Den on Altadena. In the smoky basement rehearsal, I really began to trip out. The chairs and people, we all became unbelievably alive. A community spirit became present. I felt the power of being a part of a vital hip enclave. I had Beat visions skipping through my head. The night first enclosed me in the band’s newest assault, “The Eleventh Hour.” The song written by the band’s drummer Brian Ferriby is about coming down from a ten hour experience, when you just want that drugged out feeling to get the hell out of your body. You want to be normal again. It is getting close to the eleventh hour and “how long will it take for the milk to sour.” I was high. I saw Sara and her friends and presented her with a written testimony of my love. We embraced and soon her and friends left. I dove back into my world of incense and cigarettes. My milk would sour at the gig. We were playing the Hamtramck Pub. The club is now 21-and-over, and they tried to keep me out. The whole place had a creepy aura of trying to be elite and adult but really being nothing but ageist closed minded shit.

After a few great songs where the band’s sincerity merged with me on a cosmic level, a drunk man came forward and began to harass Bonnie and Sally. The set and my high lost their steam as the fish of my dreams began to fight being sucked up by this awful monster. As the band ended its set, Rod said in his true drunk asshole state, “Sometimes we have real music here.” Implying only the worst. I was a pissed screaming demon. I told the band to refuse Rod’s stupid money. I advocated to never play there again and only play places where the value is community not money--people and music not alcohol and profit. You need to play for our people not a bunch of bar-heads who don’t give a shit about you. I pledged to organize a gig where the guitars could rage in the proper spiritual context. 

January 23, 1987

A month of planning, organization, work, and publicity brought us a night at the Mansion Gallery. The Mansion is a four floor cultural center and gallery, blossoming with color and sound. The Earth Community Cultural Center Gallery, the righteous child of the rainbow community in Detroit. An old stone house just off Woodward, with Jim Allen’s famous vegetarian kitchen. We brought in about 100 of our closest relations and we had a reunion hoedown. The people’s motive of Under Water Rain became incarnation as the stage was filled with no less than six guest performers throughout the night. I read poetry, a sister sang “White Rabbit.” People danced and met nirvana. Joe kicked in with an acapella litany: “It starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes and aeroplanes, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid . . . .” And then an unashamed call to action with “A Theme for a Dying Planet.” Tonight we were playing for our people. There was no age limit on who could come, and it was in a historical home, not a corner bar. It the spirit of communal partying.

This was the night of honor. The band is clear they would much rather prefer to play community-based shows, be it the benefit for a high school conference on Central America and the Draft, the Community Concert Series, or the Mansion.

Joe testifies: “When people are getting together and rallying around something there is more strength. We are a tonic for the troops, for the people working for the community, working for the better. People need a rallying point. They need a kick in the butt. They need to dance and sing.”

Why are people who congregate at these community-based events more receptive to your music? “Those people get into us because we get into them. I care about them. The Community Concert Series and The Mansion are great for creating a whole artist’s community. People can relate to ‘Theme for a Dying Planet.’ Bar owners are ultimately out to make a profit. We want to inform, entertain, and create a community feeling.”

The band laced our own songs with familiar covers: “Paint It Black” and “Got To Get Out of This Place” and the whole spirit reached orgasm during “Gloria.” The all-out-community-free-for-all as Scott’s harmonica wailed and rainbows drummed. The stage became ours, and the folks dance, from room to room. Bonnie and Sally began to move. Joe reflects this easily as their best show ever. “Don’t Expect Miracles” bounded like ballet leaps for the boogie children. Rain’s dance turn was a welcome surprise shot of love. “Welcome to my house . . .” Alas, they closed with “Bikes.” Joe’s voice rattled and fried. So we rode our ten speeds in the snow. Summer rain is not that far away.


Under Water Rain play music which is grounded in the guitars of Bonnie Shanburn. Bonnie plays with a sense of humble concentration, deification, and meditation. The work of Bonnie and her soul sister Sally Still are the quiet and loud foundation of this band. The mysticism of this band is centered in their balance, their harmony of male and female, dark and light, sun and moon, fear and love, anger and affection. Lead guitar is virtually egoless and karmically sends the band in the limitless universe of sound. This is no mambo jumbo hippie philosophy. This is foundation and strength. 

Under Water Rain are also embarrassingly human. The honest ownership of their own insecurity and feeling can often offend, frighten, or disarm. Joe is everyone’s shy brother. He lived a sheltered life with most of us under the repression of high school unpopularity. Shy kids with glasses do not become rock singers. Or they do. Music changed Joe’s life, and being the singer and brilliant songwriter-lyricist in this band is his way of offering sacred testimony to the force which changed his life.

“Music has saved people. It is salvation. It is not a ‘religious’ thing, but it is definitely my salvation,” Joe says from the gut. It is complete hope for all of us to break out of the fear and lies of this society. 

It should be stated that despite certain values gains from the culture and examples of the 60s rock rainbow revolution, Under Water Rain draw their fuel and energy from the present day. This band stands strongly against fashion revival for the sake of fashion. Rain music asserts itself in their early punk rant “Change Your Mind” that Nicaragua, El Salvador, and homelessness have left the Reagan men with bloody hands and that while they may “say that might is right, there is always room to change your mind.”

Joe was changed by The Clash, and the band was motivated by the 80s punk and new wave movements, and the example of bands like Husker Du, The Meat Puppets, and R.E.M.. It was only after total immersion in the 80s scene that we discovered some roots from Bob Dylan, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin, and our Detroit mentors John Sinclair and the MC5.

Sinclair said so well that rock music needs to be integrated with the community it comes from and is played for. Under Water Rain are working for those values. And Joe feels some bands in Detroit today have reached that point and into the beyond. The most obvious examples on the Corridor and political cutting edge are the Layabouts and the Blanks, who Joe cites as two of his favorite Detroit bands. Joe also digs the Orange Roughies and the Colors who have both been successful in the community.

Joe also likes jazz player John Coltrane, author Kurt Vonnegut, and singer Marvin Gaye. He is currently listening heavily to the Tall Dwarfs and the Throwing Muses. 

The center for it all in Under Water Rain stems back to the “balance of it all” concept, which can be understood through division. Of a lot of good and a lot of bad. How to live with what Joe calls “being depressed and hating myself,” the dark side. He says great things can happen when you are depressed, and they can pull you out. He said the music and the band walk the line of feeling good and feeling bad, which is what the song “To Heal Yourself” is all about. 

Joe, what are you you rallying for? “People getting fed, educated, and seeing some of the statues kicked down. The economic system needs to change and liberate us all from the corporate mind.” He says it all stems back to the teaching of Native Americans. “Ultimate respect for the children of God, and the children include, sand, trees, and rocks.”

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