John S. Hall (photo Megan Koester)
N.B. John’s appearance at Club Helsinki Hall has been postponed due to circumstance beyond anyone’s control.
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Punk-poet John S. Hall, best known as founder/leader of avant-rock group King Missile, brings his new group, Unusual Squirrel, to Club Helsinki Hudson on Sunday, September 10, at 7pm, as part of the monthly Rogovoy Salon series curated and hosted by music journalist Seth Rogovoy. Hall’s witty lyrics and spoken-word poems tell absurdist stories that entertain while simultaneously serving as cutting critiques of contemporary culture.
Hall emerged from the 1980s East Village spoken-word poetry scene, landing appearances in PBS’s “The United States of Poetry,” MTV’s “Spoken Word Unplugged,” and HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.” Hall soon felt, however, that more than a few minutes of a spoken-word performance were a few too many, so he began having musicians accompany him onstage, much like Patti Smith had done in the early 1970s.
Hall formed the first incarnation of King Missile (there were many) in 1986. After a few albums featuring Hall’s poetry spoken or sung over the band’s hard-edged guitar music were released on independent labels, King Missile was signed to Atlantic Records in 1990. The group developed a strong following on college radio, and scored minor hits on CMJ’s and Billboard’s Modern Rock charts, including “Detachable Penis,” “Jesus Was Way Cool,” and “Martin Scorsese.”
The New Yorker recently looked back on the group thusly: “The avant-garde style that King Missile developed bridged Patti Smith and Weird Al: vivid spoken-word narratives delivered with smirking derision, rattled over jaunty organ and spiky guitar.”
By the mid-1990s, the group broke up, because, according to Hall, “there was no reason to stay together.” Since that time, the group has had several subsequent iterations, including reunions of early and original members.
John S. Hall (photo Megan Koester)
In the interim, Hall went to law school and opened a firm specializing in entertainment law. He continued to record and release singles and albums under his own name and in various reboots of King Missile. As an author, Hall has had two books published by Soft Skull Press, also home to likeminded poet-rockers including Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty and the late Maggie Estep.
In January of this year, Hall’s new band, Unusual Squirrel, released its debut album, featuring songs concerning many of Hall’s longstanding obsessions: corporate America (“Monsters”), sex, human embarrassment (“The Guy Who Coughs”), classical music (“The Quartet”), and popular culture (“The Quartet”).
The Rogovoy Salon is a monthly series featuring musicians, writers, and artists hand-picked by Seth Rogovoy. Each event is hosted by Rogovoy and includes conversation and Q&A with the artists when appropriate. For over 20 years, Rogovoy has contributed a weekly cultural commentary for WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Rogovoy has been a cultural journalist and music critic based in the Berkshires and Upper Hudson Valley for 35 years, and is a contributing editor at the national Jewish newsweekly the Forward. Rogovoy is the artistic director of the annual YIDSTOCK: Festival of New Yiddish Music at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., and is currently working on a special project for Carnegie Hall, to be staged in spring 2019. His books include “Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet” (Scribner) and “The Essential Klezmer” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). Rogovoy lives in Hudson, N.Y.
For reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call 518.828.4800.