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IT’S LIKE THAT: McMusic Memories

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People get weepy when stadiums close down (see: Yankee Stadium) and legendary music venues go out–or are forced out–of business (see: CBGB’s), so it should come as no surprise that one can get a little nostalgic when certain fast food restaurants are leveled to the ground (see: Shaler McDonald’s).

This week, one of our Indie Ear contributors (the one who’s nuts about Madonna) informed me that my former place of employment back in Pittsburgh, Shaler McDonald’s, was whacked with a wrecking ball and is no more.

I spent seven-and-a-half years of my life in that building. Most of those years were spent flipping hamburgers. The other years (if you want to keep count) were used to figure out how I was going to quit and find another job, flirt with a girl who I would later marry, sneak my friends extra cheeseburgers and apple pies when I worked the drive-thru window, and make countless memories along the way (many of those related to music):

1.) McDonald’s first all-female punk rock group: Psycho Bitch
2.) Jason Andracki, McDonald’s heavy metal connoisseur.
3.) Milkweed performing one of their first shows in pink McD’s shirts.
4.) D-Boiz borrowing some McDonald’s attire for a photo shoot.
5.) Another musical group formed at Shaler McDonald’s: Deck-of-Jack
6.) McDonald’s uniforms made for great soccer uniforms.
7.) World Cup Champions (1998)
8.) Deck-of-Jack’s McDonald’s-inspired concept album, Shock Box

When I started working at McDonald’s we had one muzak channel that consisted of nothing but contemporary instrumental music. Imagine the joy that filled the grill area when a new muzak system was installed giving us the option of three channels: 1.) Contemporary Instrumental 2.) Adult Contemporary w/ Lyrics and 3.) Pop/Rock. Guess which one we chose? Boyz II Men and Def Leppard ballads never sounded so good. Years and years of classic McDonald’s sing-a-longs ensued.

The grill area–my place of expertise–was also a great place to talk music. The Morrison brothers loved talking about country music, the Craft brothers–who always wore their uniform pants way under their butt cheeks–listened to nothing but hip-hop, Jason Andracki was a heavy metal encyclopedia, Bob Kurtz loved Tool and Pantera, Eric Lengyel adored Dream Theater, and Doug Behling, well, he would punch you as hard as he could (no lie) if you didn’t listen to anything but hard rock in the crew room. Though I hated getting punched, I have to give Doug credit, because he was the first person to introduce me to Black Sabbath and Nirvana (he was also the first person I ever saw with the Nevermind album).

In the early 90’s, McDonald’s also inspired me to start a rap group. For one reason or another it seemed like a good idea to have a rap crew called the Mickey D Boys–who dressed up in McDonald’s attire and rhymed only about the golden arches. Fortunately, the odd conception in my head never came to fruition, although I did eventually start a rap group called the D-Boiz, and years later–more of an ode to the Beastie Boys than McDonald’s–we began dressing in McD’s jumpsuits that we borrowed from our store’s maintenance man.

My crowing McDonald’s musical achievement though, came in the summer of 1997. My goal was to start an all-female punk group consisting solely of McDonald’s crewmembers. Taking the role of Malcom McLaren, I decided to christen the band with an over-the-top, Sex Pistols-inspired moniker: Psycho Bitch.

The girl I flirted with (aka, my future wife) was really good on guitar, so she was my first recruit. The lead singer was also an obvious choice, since she was as punk rock as they come. She didn’t dress like a punk rocker or even listen to punk rock music–but–one day when the nearby Burger King began a promotion promising any McDonald’s worker a free Big King sandwich if they came in wearing their uniform, not only did Natalie take them up on their offer, but she also took the free sandwich out of its wrapper, said a couple expletives, and spiked the Big King off the floor–special sauce and all. How punk rock is that? Burger King called the police and Natalie became an instant celebrity.

Once Natalie’s friend Emily caught wind that she was going to be in a punk band, she also wanted in on the action, so Emily became our bass player. Since drummers are hard to come by–let alone female drummers–I decided I would play drums (although I made sure to stay way in the back, so all the focus could be on the girls).

That summer we wrote six songs together, taught Emily how to play bass (it was quick learning, since she was only responsible for playing 3-4 notes a song), and Natalie took it upon herself to horde up on pig Beanie-Baby Happy Meal Toys.

At the end of the summer, during my annual Wiffle Ball Classic festival, where a bunch of local bands would play out of my garage, Psycho Bitch made their debut. A lot of McDonald’s workers came, expecting it to be a joke, but midway through the set, I looked out from behind the drum kit and saw pure surprise and joy on everyone’s face–Psycho Bitch was actually GOOD!

The set culminated with a song called “Little Piggie.” During the chorus, Natalie tossed hundreds of Beanie Babies out into the crowd (the same ones she was smuggling throughout the summer). Fittingly, my dream of starting a female punk group consisting of my fellow McD’s co-workers came to life on the same day I saw pigs fly.

Like Yankee Stadium (see: above) Shaler McDonald’s is being rebuilt. The new multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art store will be prettier on the eyes and more spacious than the previous McDonald’s, but I can tell you this, it’s gonna take a long, long time before it even comes close to matching the memories that took place in that old pile of rubble.

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Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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