Bacon Shoe
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Bacon Shoe

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I hesitate to go on record with this, but there are parts of the new Bacon Shoe DVD that are damn near sublime.

For those unfamiliar, Bacon Shoe is a popular local, absurdist-comedy rap act. Its well-edited DVD contains two chapters: (1) a short film titled Bacon Shoe: The Movie that blends skits and concert footage and (2) a documentary of the group's barnstorming of last year's South By Southwest festival (see the March 23, 2006, Wayward Son). Like Bacon Shoe's upcoming album, Back From Stinktion, the DVD remains unreleased, but I'm hoping that the group will find a local label to put out both in one package.

Because this shit needs to be seen.

For example, whenever the dance moves of the trio's gonzo hype man, 'Toine, are captured in slow motion, I about fall off the couch at the wonder and hilarity. If Ian Curtis had been the father of krump, 'Toine would be his living avatar. In jeans, earflap cap and a running jacket, this honky dances like he's being raped by invisible demons. I'm not sure hip-hop had ever been paired with physical comedy before 'Toine came along. - Pitch Weekly


There's a lot of exciting traditional hip-hop going on in KC. And then there's Bacon Shoe. This trio — consisting of an MC (Lethal D) who raps about sex and disease, a hype man ('Toine) who shouts out the number of beers he happens to be holding and calls himself "the cocktopus" (because I got eight dicks), and a guy in a paramedic suit and mangled dog-head mask (Mr. Ruggles) who cooks bacon on a griddle onstage and distributes it to the crowd — treads the line recklessly between insult and tribute. Beloved by local indie-rock stalwarts — in fact, all three of its performers are local indie-rock stalwarts — Bacon Shoe presents a major mindfuck for anyone set on comparing the group with notions of serious hip-hop. The band is thoroughly absurd, but is the absurdity ironic or avant-garde? Is there a difference? And what qualifies as "serious hip-hop," anyway? These questions and more (especially a hushed Is that dude really retarded?) abound at Bacon Shoe concerts, but the bottom line is that these guys are weird, hilarious and always entertaining. Contemplate the paradox of the Shoe's nature or throw your hands in the air between bites of greasy pig flesh at this show, where the Shoe crew will film footage for a promotional DVD. - Pitch Weekly


Beats go frying
Bacon Shoe serves up its raps greasy style
TIMOTHY FINN


Long before the sizzle and scent of fried bacon entered the act, Bacon Shoe was a one-man enterprise: a rapper with a keyboard, a crock of beats and an errant sense of locale.

"The first live show I ever did was at a (restaurant) in Lee's Summit," says Lethal D, the sole founder of the rap/farce troupe he calls Bacon Shoe. "I got kicked out because of the lyrics. There were kids eating with their moms and dads, and about five songs in, the owner got all (ticked) off and kicked me out.

"I was getting no respect. ... Kids ruin everything."

That hard-knock lesson in demographics happened more than seven years ago, before Bacon Shoe started living up to its name and long before Lethal D hired his current sidekicks: the two-fisted drinker Toine, who retired as bacon-cooker and is now a full-time rapper/dancer; and Mr. Ruggles, a big-head dog who knows what to do when you put a hot grill and a pile of rashers in front of him.

These days Bacon Shoe is getting respect from crowds in more appropriate, kid-hostile places: in bars and clubs and the occasional off-campus living room, where fans are inured to D's lyrics, allured by Toine's foot skills and hungry for whatever meat scraps Ruggles tosses their way. These days the Shoe is a growing enterprise that's working harder and living larger. In 2006 it will release a new album and a companion DVD and hawk a lot of merchandise (T-shirts, aprons, mousepads, hand towels and thongs). It will also take its quirky antics wherever it is welcomed, proving that fried bacon and satire have their place in hip-hop.

Ego and vague logic gave birth to Bacon Shoe.

"I decided I wanted to make a rap album," says Lethal D, "because I really liked watching people watch me make it."

So he made a rap record and, after leaving Lee's Summit for Kansas City, circulated the album in the local music scene.

"I didn't know if it would be all right or not," he says. "I thought it would suck, but it ended up being really good. ... So people started asking me when there was going to be a show."

Who got the sole?

It's New Year's Eve, and Lethal is sitting in a crowded, disheveled bedroom/studio in a West Bottoms loft. The room is also the headquarters for Dandercroft, the music magazine published by D's alter ego, John Bersuch. Lethal is wearing a three-fingered "trinkie" ring with three dollar signs rendered in fake diamonds and, on his head, what looks like the form-fitting insides of a hard hat.

His Shoe mates are there, too: Ruggles, who speaks through a hidden mic wired through his dog head that alters his voice, and Toine, who wears a dark Nike hoodie and sips on a 22-ounce bottle of beer. He, too, wears a dollar-sign trinkie ring on his right hand; his left hand looks suspiciously like a fake monster paw.

Lethal is trying to piece together the murky evolution of Bacon Shoe, and his two chums are helping him, starting with the band's name.

It came from two inspirations, Lethal says: "I was looking at Kenny Rogers' face," he said, "and in the room I had a pair of old shoes that kind of smelled like bacon. It felt right."

Rogers inspired more than the name of the band. His face appears on that first Bacon Shoe album, and he is the focus of the rap "(Bleep) Kenny Rogers."

Why Kenny Rogers?

"His music," Ruggles says, "is the fat on bacon."

"His music," Toine says, "is somewhat baconlike."

"Certain people," Lethal says, "are bacon people."

And then all three give examples: Kenny Rogers, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lou Diamond Phillips, Fred Savage, Mel Gibson, Doogie Howser, Michael Bolton.

Is it good or bad to be baconlike?

"It is neither good nor bad," Lethal says. "It means you are annoying and slightly greasy."

Feats to the beats

The earliest versions of Bacon Shoe were 100 percent bacon-free. Its first Kansas City performance was in 2003 at a benefit for Dandercroft at the Hurricane in Westport. That night Bacon Shoe was still just Lethal D with a keyboard. Lethal's first official sidekick was his buddy Jeremiah Rozzo, who is now in Bersuch's psycho-rock band Minds Under Cover. Rozzo performed once with Bacon Shoe, as Dr. Freako.

"He wore a mask and danced on a Nintendo Power Pad," Lethal says. "I thought he was going to die. By the end of the show he was insane."

Then came the live bacon, via the enigmatic Cappy, who figured the band needed to live up to its name. So he sat on stage reading a magazine while his griddle crisped slices of bacon. Cappy's reign was mysteriously short - "We really can't talk about it," Lethal says. Cappy was succeeded by Toine, who became a Shoe fan after listening to the "Kenny Rogers" CD many times.

When he joined, Toine was all geared up to dance but not so prepared for his grill duties.

"I wanted to do explosive (dance) stuff and be all over the place as much as possible," he says, "but I couldn't because I had to cook bacon at the same time."

And things tended to go awry. One night, Toine says, he got too "explosive" and knocked his loaded George Foreman grill off the table, breaking it. Despite the occasional slapstick moment, Toine became better known for busting moves than for frying bacon. "Girls go crazy over Toine," Lethal says. "Most of the audience doesn't even look at me when I'm up there."

As he became more of a focus in the band, Toine felt more pressed to leave the bacon in someone else's care. Enter Mr. Ruggles, who takes his role more seriously than any of the Shoe's previous grill boys. One night at Davey's Uptown, for example, he prepared a special maple-cured bacon.

"It was an experiment that went awry," he says, referring to the odor and the mess left behind. He has since retired the maple bacon. Sometimes adults ruin things, too.

"Back Porch Mary played Davey's a few days later," Toine says, "and they complained."

"Have you ever smelled Back Porch Mary?" Ruggles asks. "It says a lot if those guys complain about a smell."

Enduring aromas aside, word is supposedly out about Ruggles' grill skills. He is threatening to move on to bigger bands with better small appliances.

"I might be cooking bacon for Coldplay next year," he says.

License to grill

The music of Bacon Shoe is weird and familiar - a piquant chutney of Beastie Boys, 2 Live Crew, Buck 69, Tenacious D and Chris Parnell's raps on "Saturday Night Live." It's not what the average soccer mom wants to hear as she dines on nachos and chicken fingers with her third-grader. It is, though, the kind of shtick that gives juvenilia a good name and the kind of absurd theater that some people can't turn away from, even when it shows up unexpectedly.

Like the night the Shoe crashed a party near UMKC.

"We just showed up and plugged into their stereo in the living room," Lethal says, "and I think we blew out the stereo."

At one point, Lethal says, Toine ended up dancing lasciviously with a kitchen table that eventually tipped over, spilling drinks to the floor. Surprisingly no one got punched, arrested or thrown out.

"They were all pretty cool about it," Toine says. "I don't know if they were into it or not. Maybe they felt sorry for us."

Or maybe they were swept away by the absurdity and the shenanigans, like so many who see the Shoe for the first time.

"I was in awe. I was stunned and amused," said Sheri Parr, owner of the Brick, 1727 McGee, which has hosted Bacon Shoe several times. "They're up there cooking bacon and throwing it, and people in the crowd were opening their mouths and eating it up."

"It's so quirky, how could you not like it?" said Mike Devine, who owns Mike's Tavern, 5424 Troost. "Plus you get the added benefit of the heavy aroma of bacon. They've played here twice, and both times they ran out (of bacon) before I could get up there and get a piece."

So is Bacon Shoe all about the bacon or the beats? Lethal says the bacon is just the sizzle in Bacon Shoe. The raps and beats, he says, are the steak.

"The beats are phat," Lethal says, "and the rhymes are sick and weird."

Many of the rhymes are too sick and sexual to be printed in a mainstream newspaper. Others are merely weird. Take this excerpt from "The Bacon Beacon":

My nose bleeds

When I wake up overseas

I take baths in Febreze

Spend hours on my knees

So kill me please

'Cause I'm a living disease

None of that lyricism, you notice, has anything to do with Kenny Rogers - and for a reason. Bacon Shoe has changed its theme.

"It used to be '(Bleep) Kenny Rogers,'" Toine says. "Now it's not."

"We're not really hating anymore," Ruggles says. "It's more about cheese."

Cheese and STDs and genitalia and sex, too: The Shoe is definitely not made for suburban, dinnertime consumption. It may not be made for the late-night adult-swim crowd, either. Nonetheless the trio has declared 2006 the Year of the Shoe and is preparing to hit the bars and clubs with its act and a new CD and DVD.

Along the way, it will leave behind much more than its trademark trail of sweat, grease, spilled drinks and bacon-filled tummies. Because, like the pride of Mr. Ruggles' grill, Bacon Shoe renders an aroma that lingers long after the meat is gone.

FRIDAY

Bacon Shoe performs (and prepares) Friday night at RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Call (816) 753-5207.

Toine gear and other Bacon Shoe merchandise are available at www.cafepress.com/unibrown.

For more, see mindsundercover.com.

THE PLAYERS

Lethal D: Bacon Shoe's main rapper/lyricist is John Bersuch, editor/publisher of the local music magazine Dandercroft and a member of several other bands, including Minds Under Cover.

Toine: Rapper/dancer Toine is John Peterson, who also performs in the local band In the Pines.

Mr. Ruggles: He refused to reveal his identity, but friends point out that Ruggles has never been seen together with local musician and cultural provocateur DJ Clem, who has a vast profile at myspace.com.

Photos (2)

JOHN SLEEZER/The Kansas City Star

Lethal D (from left), Mister Ruggles and Toine make up Bacon Shoe. "Certain people are bacon people," Lethal says. "It is neither good nor bad. It means you are annoying and slightly greasy."

The name Bacon Shoe came from two inspirations. I was looking at Kenny Rogers' face, Lethal said, and in the room I had a pair of old shoes that kind of smelled like bacon. It felt right.
- KC Star




It’s no secret that I’ve been a monster fan of Bacon Shoe’s live act since first seeing them…I-don’t-know-how-long ago. Between then and now, I’ve seen that act four or five times, downloaded their debut album Ass, and generally tried to get everyone I know to see the Shoe live, which I always thought was their sole purpose for existing - to entertain in a live setting. Now, however, with the release of Back From Stinkton, Bacon Shoe can lay claim to making one of the best local releases in recent memory as well as proving they’ve got more up their greasy sleeves than just a bacon-cooking live show and crackhead hype man.

Bacon Shoe paints a difficult posiiton for the music critic (See Jason Harper’s article Deconstructing ‘Toine from earlier this year). It’s somewhat hard to take a serious listen to a group with lyrics like “I had sex with your Dad’s Rolex,” but take the Shoe seriously we must. They’re making retarded songs and delivering a surreal show, which is a rarity for KC rappers. Hell, Bacon Shoe may be the Ween of rap music: consummate musical satirists…who can’t help talking about their dicks.

Back From Stinktion won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The lyrics are predominantly dirty, sex rhymes in the vein of early Geto Boys and side two of 1980s Too Short LPs. Bacon Shoe adds to that old-schol, curse-filled formula oddball, absurdist, rhyme juxtapositions and nutter stories about things like holding up an Applebee’s with a tampon gun. Are the lyrics juvenile? For sure, but the irony is that a sophistication underlies them, both on paper and in the live act, in that Lethal D and ‘Toine take the dirty, sex rhyme persona to its exponentially infinite extreme. They represent the dirty MC as a kinky-ad-absurdum, STD-having (and loving it) weirdo outcast happily trapped at the maturity level of an anti-social 16-year-old American male - oversexed and overviolent. And this act is performed as much as an homage to those early sex rhymers as it is a satire of them. Bacon Shoe excel at the difficult trick of making fun of that which you truly admire.

What makes me so certain that the Shoe isn’t just a one-off joke act? The music - short and simple. The music on Back From Stinktion is sick. Not sick like Lethal D’s lyrics, but sick like make you wanna turn up the volume to 50, roll down the car windows, slide back in your seat, and let your head bob while you roll through Town Center Plaza. The production on the album is incredibly solid. So much so that I found myself similing at how perfectly it all seemed to enhance yet balance the surreal filthiness that Bacon Shoe so readily touts. Classic turntablism threads through several tracks, as does bass that hits like a sumo wrestler and sprinkles of samples used in classic rap fashion. There are snippets of live recordings supplementing some tracks and overall there exists a real sense of musical “weirdness” throughout that serves as a testament to Bacon Shoe’s professionalism (however insane that sounds when describing a rap crew with a song based on the childhood dirty rhyme: “This is what happens when your ass starts clapping and you think you’re gonna fart but you really start crapping.” (Sadly, not re-recorded for inclusion on this new album.)

You can buy Back From Stinktion at CD Baby or iTunes and probably Streetside in Westport. I imagine we can expect plenty of live shows from Bacon Shoe in 2008.
- Devious Bloggery


Discography

1st album (Bacon Shoe - ASS), 2nd album (Bacon Shoe - Back From Stinktion)

Photos

Bio

Bacon Shoe was formed in 1997 by John Bersuch. Some of his main influences include Bushwick Bill, Ganksta N.I.P., ESHAM the unholy, Slayer, Ween, Beck, etc. They are set apart from other rap music with their love of the extreme absurd, their experimental beats, and their strange skits. After the first cd "ASS" was made in 1997, they instantly started being asked to play shows. Soon their popularity rose to special heights in Kansas City. They are able to easily pack a venue and impress their fans over and over again. The release of "Back From Stinktion" in 2007 basically sealed the deal. They aren't going to backing down any time soon.