Viper vice

It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves ; but we grow old and we see that these are sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to one, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.

– Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans

Sunday seems like a good day for some self-reflection and auditing, and specifically a good chance to take stock of those sins we might see writ large in others tomorrow evening, Monday, September 8 as The Viper and His Own Sins Writ Large in Others play on the Mickey’s Tavern patio in Madison, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

In no particular order, here is that inventory.

  • Late-night snacking
  • Generalized misanthrophy
  • Unearned morbidity and an inflated sense of existential injustice
  • Unnecessary car errands
  • Cold-blooded murder
  • Exaggeration of my vices
  • Phone phobia
  • Wrath
  • Pretending sleep to avoid dog-walking
  • Pretending to nerd status I haven’t earned
  • Ungenerous assumptions about the private lives of other a**holes on the road
  • Treating ibuprofen as a basic food group
  • Bleach stains on shirts/pants
  • Secret glove-compartment stash of M&Ms
  • Cultural co-optation
  • Making of vice lists on company time

That’s a start, anyway.

Detail of coloring contest page
Detail of coloring contest page
Madison Match-up Madness, culminating in this moment of mental chess between Milwaukee, WI's The Viper and Ghent, Belgium's Stijn Debrouwere. Photo by Rob Henn.

These Band Names I Have Shored Against the Ruins

The Viper and Ann Vipersspouse spent a very nice Milwaukee summer night not so long ago, eating cheese, consuming Wisconsin potables, and scrolling on Ann’s phone through T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land looking for good alternative “The Viper & His” band names to use when truth-in-advertising would seem to call for it.

(Such is the case on Monday, September 8, 2014, when The Viper & His Own Sins Writ Large In Others, with The Viper & His Second String, will be playing the patio at Mickey’s Tavern in Madison from 5:30-7:30.)

This turns out to be the really most enjoyable way to read The Waste Land. Try it at home!

Here’s a few of the choice ones, in order from the poem (not by preference), and organized by section, including the footnotes. So look forward to future performances from the Viper & His One-Eyed Merchants of Smyrna and the Viper & His Bats With Baby Faces (though Ann is really pushing for The Viper & His Old Men with Wrinkled Female Breasts).

  • The Viper & His Miglior Fabbro
  • The Viper & His Burial of the Dead
  • The Viper & His Cruellest Month
  • The Viper & His Dried Tubers
  • The Viper & His Handful of Dust
  • The Viper & His Irisch Kind
  • The Viper & His Wicked Pack of Cards
  • The Viper & His Pearls That Were His Eyes
  • The Viper & His One-Eyed Merchants
  • The Viper & His Unreal City
  • The Viper & His Hypocrite Lecteurs
  • The Viper & His Game of Chess
  • The Viper & His So Rudely Forc’d
  • The Viper & His Jug Jug Jug Jug Jug
  • The Viper & His Dirty Ears
  • The Viper & His Shakespeherian Rag
  • The Viper & His What Shall We Ever Do?
  • The Viper & His Lidless Eyes
  • The Viper & His Knock Upon the Door
  • The Viper & His Nice Set
  • The Viper & His Pills I Took To Bring It Off
  • The Viper & His Fire Sermon
  • The Viper & His Other Testimony of Summer Nights
  • The Viper & His Loitering Heirs of City Directors
  • The Viper & His Rattle of Bones
  • The Viper & His Chuckle Spread From Ear To Ear
  • The Viper & His Slimy Belly
  • The Viper & His Mrs. Porter and Her Daughter
  • The Viper & His Voix D’Enfants
  • The Viper & His Week-end at the Metropole
  • The Viper & His Violet Hour
  • The Viper & His Human Engine
  • The Viper & His Old Men with Wrinkled Female Breasts
  • The Viper & His Unreproved If Undesired
  • The Viper & His Automatic Hand
  • The Viper & His Wallala Leialala
  • The Viper & His Death By Water
  • The Viper & His Profit and Loss
  • The Viper & His Handsome and Tall As You
  • The Viper & His What the Thunder Said
  • The Viper & His Rock and No Water
  • The Viper & His Maternal Lamentation
  • The Viper & His Bats With Baby Faces
  • The Viper & His DA
  • The Viper & His Age of Prudence
  • The Viper & His Fragments Shored Against the Ruins


  • The Viper & His Bill of Lading
  • The Viper & His Cauldron of Unholy Loves
  • The Viper & His Approach to the Chapel Perilous
  • The Viper & His Handbook of Birds in Eastern North America
  • The Viper & His Spanish Tragedy

Now, let’s see what we can do with Howl!

Madison Match-up Madness, culminating in this moment of mental chess between Milwaukee, WI's The Viper and Ghent, Belgium's Stijn Debrouwere. Photo by Rob Henn.
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME. Milwaukee, WI’s The Viper plays Ghent, Belgium’s Stijn Debrouwere in a game of chess that is unreproved, if undesired. In Madison! Photo by Rob Henn.

Just add tuba

We’re very excited to announce that tuba/jug player Jerry Shelato will be joining us as The Viper & His Own Sins Writ Large In Others take to the stage on the Mickey’s Tavern patio in Madison on September 8, 2014 (1524 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703 | (608) 251-9964). 

If you’re in Madison, or can get there by hook or by crook, then please think about coming out. This will be the last of our summer-ish shows on the outdoor patio, unless the thunder speaks and a damp gust brings rain over the arid plain and dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit.

Opening will be The Viper & His Second String. The Second String features me, Madison’s own Rob Henn, 52nd Street’s own John Peacock and a washtub bass, roaming wild and off-mic as we invade your personal space. The Own Sins Writ Large in Others add Jerry Shelato. Long-time listeners first-time callers will remember Jerry from our set performing music from The Simpsons at the Great Cover-Up in Champaign, Illinois in 1998. You will remember, won’t you?

Or how about this, from a really, really hot day in Champaign in 2009? (That’s not me and John in the middle.)


Set list for July 14, 2014

Here’s what you missed if you weren’t at Mickey’s Tavern in Madison last evening for our happy hour show on the back patio.

Riley Broach on the back patio at Mickey's takes a self-shot photograph-ie as The Viper contemplates the structure of the universe.
Riley Broach on the back patio at Mickey’s takes a self-shot photograph-ie as The Viper contemplates the structure of the universe.

Mickey’s sits at the center of what has to be one of the loveliest four-block radii in all of this best of all possible worlds. And The Viper and His Famous Orchestra had a lovely, radiant, best-of-all-possible world, even revolutionary time on this Bastille evening, with two Viper parents, one sister, two nieces, and several rain clouds in attendance.

It was great to see old Madison friends like Kissyfish songwriter John Papageorge, roadie Mark Kuether, and videographer John Rademacher, along with new Madisonian Anthony Burton, whose Golden Horse Ranch Band had once let the Viper sit in as a guest as part of their residency at The Whistler in Chicago (a show for which I wrote “Big Headed Small Minded Man”).

Speaking of new songs (we were speaking of that, weren’t we?) last night’s show debuted “Dirge” – a composition about decomposition – and witnessed the performative maturing of our newish “Dopamine.” John Peacock did a good job throughout on the suitcase and melodica — and you can let him know I said that.

You need more? Well, here’s the whole megillah, gorilla:

Set #1

  • Don’t Want To
  • Winnebago Bay
  • I Left My Liver in Libertyville
  • Hotzeplotz
  • Good Morning Irene
  • Body and Soul (Ludlul bel nemeqi)
  • Party Girl
  • My Seafaring Lassie
  • Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been…Blue?
  • Randolph St.
  • Curb Your Dog
  • Dopamine
  • Party in the U.S.A.

Set #2

  • Another Birthday Song
  • Sharkin’
  • Big Headed Small Minded Man
  • I Love a Girl in Moscow
  • Bled-a-loe Lang-de-lang
  • Stopper in My Hand
  • Tavern in the Town
  • Dirge
  • Ukulele Rhythm
  • Hey! Rounders
  • Whispering
  • Make a World Brand New

Come and see us when we’ll play another Monday happy hour on Mickey’s patio on August 11. And if you can’t wait that long, come and see us at the Madison Children’s Museum Adult Swim: Summer Speakeasy on Friday night, July 25.

A wet hot Madison summer with The Viper

Lamp this: The Viper & His Famous Orchestra will be calling Madison, Wisconsin their viper’s nest this summer, with three (free & outdoor) shows at Mickey’s Tavern and an Adult Swim: Summer Speakeasy show at the Madison Children’s Museum.

Look for The Viper & His Famous Orchestra in Madison this summer of ’14. Here’s a younger Viper playing trombone with My Cousin Kenny: David Koller sings, John Papageorge plays accordion, and Joel Mark (out of frame) plays guitar. We were playing what would not yet have been known as a “house show” in the apartment of (I believe) Kathy Rathke on E. Gorham, or E. Johnson, or E. Gilman, or something like that.

The first of the Mickey’s Tavern shows happens this upcoming Monday, July 14, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. That’s Bastille Day, you know. So we’ll plan on opening up some prison doors — mental and physical, but mostly mental — during our two sets. And did I mention it’s free? And outdoors on the patio?

Then on Friday, July 25, 2014, we’ll provide the musical portion of the entertainment at the Madison Children’s Museum’s Adult Swim: Summer Speakeasy (ages 21+, with tickets at $12). The whole event runs from 6:00-10:00 p.m., and we play between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. As the museum describes the event: “Dust off your Zoot Suit and travel back to the 1920’s for a Prohibition-Era party featuring the music of The Viper and His Famous Orchestra.” Along with our music, you’ll be able to:

  • Discover a rum pot in the Log Cabin
  • Sneak into a secret society meeting
  • Play your cards right in Possible-opolis™
  • Get connected with post-war spiritualism talks
  • Learn the Charleston, Foxtrot, and other steps

The Viper has a lot of fond memories of summers in Madison, where I played in a number of bands as an undergradate (Phlegm, Enzymatic Fly Vomit, My Cousin Kenny, Kissyfish, The Beatles, Gentlemen Prefer Hank), and where I first honed my ukulele chops on various corners along State Street… to the consternation of my many unwitting serenade victims.

My usual practice was to busk until I’d earned enough to subsidize an evening of pitchers, burgers, Tetris, and “Beat on the Brat” on the jukebox at The Plaza Tavern.

So if you can’t catch us at Mickey’s or the Adult Swim, look for us near The Towers, if we can jostle Art Paul Schlosser out of the way.

Viper the Younger (Ryan Jerving, right) plays with John Papageorge at the foot of State Street, between the University bookstore/Christian Science reading room and the UW main Library. I think we’re singing Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” here. The boombox in the back stands at the ready for our rap numbers.


the kind of music your great-great-grandparents warned your great-grandparents about


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