DROMEDARY RECORDS MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY WITH BENEFIT AND
TWO NEW COMPILATIONS
by Jim Testa
Dromedary Records marks its 20th anniversary this year,
and to celebrate, label owner Al Crisafulli is rolling out
some treats: First off, there’s this year’s
Camelfest, Dromedary’s annual benefit concert at Asbury
Lanes. On Friday, October 18, Dromedary will present the
Everymen, Cinema Cinema, the Coffin Daggers, and Wax Darts,
and on Saturday, October 19, it’ll be Stuyvesant,
the Anderson Council, the Brixton Riot, and Overlake. Doors
open at 8 pm, admission is $10 each night for 18+, and the
proceeds benefit the Roots & Wings Foundation, which
supports at-risk young adults aging out of the foster care
Want more? That night, Dromedary will release its newest
compilation, From ’93 ‘Til Infinity, where Al’s
favorite bands rework classic songs released in 1993, the
year of the label’s birth. The songs include Cinema
Cinema’s steroid-injected hard rock interpretation
of PJ Harvey’s “50 Ft. Queenie” as well
as some of the many artists associated with Dromedary over
the years covering songs by bands like Superchunk, Yo La
Tengo, Liz Phair, and Seam. And finally, there’ll
be another compilation that collects some of Al’s
personal favorites from all of the Dromedary releases from
’93 to the present.
Dromedary’s had a long and interesting history, including
a long hiatus during which Al pursued a family and a career.
But then he got the bug again, and for the past few years,
he’s been regularly cranking out both reissues and
new releases. (I wrote about the label’s resurrection
(I should also mention that around the time Al was remembering
his glory days as an “micro-indie label” exec
and contemplating restarting the label, he wrote the
nicest blog post about me that has every been written.
You can read all more about Camelfest 2013 and the new Dromedary
compilations at Speak
Into My Good Eye and United
By Rocket Science, two NJ music sites that you should
be reading regularly anyway. I talked to Al and started
out by asking him to recall some of his favorite memories
in his 20 years doing Dromedary Records.
Al: I guess, in the order they happened, my first memory
that really stands out is the day our first compilation
came out, Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth.
I was proud of that record for a really short period of
time, then really embarrassed about it for a long period
of time, and only recently have I become proud of it again.
The day the CD's arrived at my my apartment in Lodi, we
had a big assembly party. And some of the people who were
there - just putting together the CD's and the booklets,
and drinking beer, and enjoying the fact that we had this
record in our hands - are people who are still associated
with the label today and still our best friends. Steve Bailey
was there, Mark Abney was there, Ralph Malanga was there.
My wife Sandy and I and our friend Rich, and all of us were
just listening to the compilation and assembling everything
with rubber gloves on so we wouldn't get fingerprints on
anything. And that was great.
The release party for that compilation was great too. That
was a moment. We filled up Live Tonight! (in Hoboken,) there
were people lined up outside the door waiting to get in.
We had nine bands played in one night and raised about $500
for a food bank in Hudson County, and that was really the
first time we did anything with the label tied to a charity,
which was cool. And that night was also the night of the
single greatest live performance I've ever seen in my life,
which was Godspeed. They were ferocious, and they had just
added a second bass player. I had never seen them live before
and only met them at that show, and at one point, they were
playing and they just chased people out of the room they
were so explosive, it was awesome. And at one point Tommy,
the guitar player who went on to play in a big stoner metal
band called Solace, took a bottle of beer and just smashed
it over his own head. He almost knocked himself out, it
was amazing. He went down to his hands and knees for a second
and he was bleeding all over the place, and he just stood
up and started playing again. That was pretty unforgettable.
Second, the night Ray Ketcham called me on the phone and
told me that the Melting Hopeful's "Pulling An All
Nighter On Myself" 7-inch was in Spin magazine's "Top
10 Singles Of 1993." That was definitely a moment.
A memorable Footstone performance
And the day that Footstone reunited and played in my backyard
was really the thing that cemented the relaunch of Dromedary.
Footstone is my favorite band and Ralph is my favorite songwriter.
Probably the closest friend I've made from Dromedary. And
I woke up that morning and had no idea, Sandy had kept it
a complete surprise. I knew we were having a party that
day, because we always did a Labor Day thing in the backyard.
But when I woke up, Sandy was wearing a Footstone shirt
that she had made up that said "Footstone reunion"
on it, and she dragged me out of bed and told me I had to
set up some stuff so we could have a band play in the backyard.
It was crazy. It was particularly amazing because
I hadn't seen some of the guys in Footstone for years and
years. And then Steve from Cuppa Joe had recorded a song
for me and made a video of it for my birthday that year,
and they played that song live in my backyard. It was the
coolest thing. And from that point on I knew that reviving
the label was something I really wanted to do.
And then I guess the last one would be the first Camelfest.
It was really cool to do an event at Maxwell's that was
so ambitious and had so many great artists. We had Richard
Barone open the show, we had Yung Wu, Wild Carnation. Richard
Barone closed his set with a version of the Bongos' "Number
With Wings" backed by the Mommyheads, which was just
They never even rehearsed it, and it was great. Especially
getting so many friends together at a place that was so special
to all of us. And we got to reaise a lot of money for Roots
& Wings, which was very cool.
Q: We should talk a little about Roots & Wings, the
charity that Camelfest supports. I became aware of it from
you, but it's such a great organization.
Al: It's fantastic, and it's a cause that no one ever thinks
of. When a kid turns 18 and has been in the foster care
system, he or she just has to leave. They have no training,
sometimes no job, no parents or family to fall back on.
Roots & Wings supports those kids and actually trains
them to do the things we all take for granted. Believe it
or not, I got a piece of paper in the mail, just a piece
of junkmail, and it talked about Roots & Wings. One
of the directors of the organization has a son who's a member
of the youth baseball league I run, I volunteer and do a
lot of coaching with the recreation program where I live.
So her son was in my baseball program and I recognized her
name on the flyer, and I started reading it, and there were
just quotes from some kids that blew my mind. There was
a story about one kid who just talked about how he had to
go to work, and take the bus home from work. But he had
no food at home, so he needed to go to the market. But he
had no money, so he had to go to the bank first and get
some money. And then from the bank he had to take another
bus to the supermarket, and then from there he had to take
another bus home, and by the time I walked in the door it
was 9 o'clock. And I'm thinking, this is what his life is
like? It's just a silly, simple thing, and it really hit
home. These kids have nobody to teach them these things.
These are just normal everyday things that you do as a family
and don't even think about, and kids who have been in a
facility all their lives have no idea how to do them. They
have no role models, no adults to turn to for guidance.
It really just broke my heart. So just reading that piece,
I felt compelled to reach out. The kids who are that age
but who have homes and have families, to a large extent
those are the people who are buying rock records. So why
not get behind an organization that helps kids who are basically
the same age as the people who are buying our records. My
wife Sandy and I do a lot of volunteering with younger kids
but we don't really do anything with young adults, and to
be that age - my son just turned 18 last month - it's weird
to see him go to college and his job, and have a nice house
to come home to and parents who love him and will guide
him through the mistakes that young people all make. To
think of kids who are that same age, my son's age, and have
none of that, really inspired me to get involved with this
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