After first hearing Interrobang’s set at O’Connell’s a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but suspect occult affiliations. The quartet sounded like Tortoise loosely covering Jobim tunes for a traveling freak and medicine show somewhere in Eastern Europe. Probably their jam sessions were fueled by cold shots of armadillo blood while chanting incantations from Rasputin’s personal notebook. Possibly they were high-ranking officials in the Golden Dawn. At the very least they worshipped Moloch.
So, it came as no surprise when, upon arrival at their City Heights house party the following night, I was subjected to a rigorous initiation process. Like the others present, I was made to take the mark of the beast by choosing from a basket of temporary dinosaur tattoos. The birthday girl, Caroline, had gotten engaged that afternoon to Interrobang guitar/keyboardist Matt and proudly displayed her ring as she seared the terrible lizard onto my arm. As I write this several days later, the grinning purple triceratops on my right wrist shows no sign of fading. To further complicate the hex, several of my fingers were bound with woven Chinese handcuffs, exacerbating the boozing process while my inner Admiral Ackbar could only look on screaming, “It’s a trap!” A quasi-drunk initiate appeared in the kitchen with four crucifixes drawn in Cholula hot sauce on his cheeks and forehead. Clearly, the human sacrifice would be coming soon.
Instead, a dance party erupted to “Stayin’ Alive” in the dining room. The shimmy was short-lived but intense, the kind of outburst I’d pictured when I first registered to vote years ago. I had selected “Other” for political alliance, penciled in “Dance Party,” and was forced to settle for “a real party” if I intended to cast my ballot. What other party is there?!
On the porch, several people smoked and talked. “You look like that one guy!” a girl told me. “You know, from 101 Dalmatians. Daniel something...” “Jeff Daniels!” someone interjected. “Like from Dumb and Dumber.” It wasn’t the most flattering or even accurate likeness I’ve been accused of, but then, neither is the usual “that one guy from Lost.” “The only person I’ve been compared to is a character in Apocalypto,” said Art, Interrobang’s marimba player. “And here’s why.” He showed us his driver’s license photo. “You look like Mogli,” someone said. In long hair and dark skin, he certainly could have passed in the right light for a blood-thirsty, baby-killing Mayan warrior. But was Art honestly suggesting we cut to the sacrifice already? Before the birthday song? While we still had whiskey left to drink?!
Luckily, Caroline shifted the subject with a brief history of the interrobang. “It’s a combined question mark and exclamation point that was available on some typewriters in the ’70s,” she explained. I felt alarmed that the university which had given me a degree in English never felt the need to mention it. Did this reflect on the dismal state of the American education system or my own ineptitude? Did they believe I could make it in this world without the dual “WTF? WOW!” of the interrobang?!
Inside, Caroline ignited the sparklers on her birthday cake and everyone sang the song. A handful of friends broke into a perfect barbershop harmony on the last line followed by a chant of “Shot! Shot! Shot!” After several ounces of the sacrament, we made our way outside to continue the smoking rituals. Sate with vice, we took up instruments in the living room and proceeded to invoke Baphomet with angular, improvised jams. ■
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