Bad Ass of the week: Krystal Asche
The definition of DIY success, Krystal busts her ass working three jobs to bring art, laughter and community to Oakland’s collective art and music scene.
Many of you know Krystal if you frequent the “Oakland Metro Opera House”. What you may not know is what a powerhouse this woman is. Next time she serves you a drink, TIP HER WELL and remember that you’re talking to a BOSS.
Krystal moved here from Chicago roughly 10 years ago. Taking first roots in Berkeley, she didn’t feel at home there…something was lacking. Oakland proved to be the bay area home she was looking for.
She was founder of “Mental Graffiti” in Chicago and was reminded of the spirit and community behind “Mental Graffiti” when she came across the event “Tourettes Without Regrets”.
“For those that don’t know “Tourettes Without Regrets” is an underground crazy sideshow, freak show, vaudeville experience that also has Slam Poetry, Comedy, Battle rap, and interactive audience contests. Jamie is the consistent thing in the show, he is the reason that the show is still going strong and getting bigger after 15 years–He is hands down the best host/MC that I have ever seen, and that’s saying a lot. He says whatever he wants on stage, everyone and everything gets poked fun at. There is no such thing as being PC, and the whole show is pretty much a Trigger warning for those who like to use that phrase in the performance world.”
If the words, “Holy Shit…” came to mind after reading her description of this event, you’ve got the right idea. I was curious how the title and general concept came about; is anyone ever offended by the title?
“Tourettes Without Regrets” was started 15 years ago by Jamie Dewolf. He had a controversial performance style, as well as material type and would get kicked out of a lot of venues, so he started his own show. And the name pretty much comes from people “accusing” him or “joking” with him that he had Tourettes because of the things he said. Yes, this is not what Tourettes Syndrome is, but it is what society thinks it is–so he was like “Fuck it, I Have Tourettes, I Have no regrets I am going to wear it proud”. This is a really condensed version. Sometimes people with TS will contact us and say that we are insulting, but then we say, no this was meant to be empowering–because what kind of people go around accusing others of having a disease? Fuck them. Most people that have contacted us knew where we were coming from straight away and were like Hell ya!”
I had to ask: “How many jobs do you have?! How do you support your creative endeavors and pay the rent?”
“I have been lucky enough to cover some shifts at DNA(DNA Lounge in SF), when I’m not working at Metro. “Tourettes Without Regrets” is an actual part time job now. I put in 40+ hours a month on it and then another 6 or 7 hours the day of the show. I also sell some rare and unique books online. I do all of these things, so that I can do “Tourettes” and explore my own creative outlets such as writing and photography. I don’t think that this is uncommon for artists and creative types in the DIY community to work a lot of different jobs. We work when we can. Many performers only do odds and ends jobs because they can’t keep a steady job and do steady gigs.”
As she is such a big part of the art and music community out here the last 10 years and given her experiences in Chicago, I asked what she would like to see more of; what does she feel the current scene in Oakland is lacking?
“I would like to see more combined genre shows. I have seen a few of these, and they have worked out quite well. You know instead of having 10 hardcore bands to try and get more people in the door–Have some Punk, Sludge, and Doom thrown in there and maybe have 5 bands instead. It all starts to sound the same no matter how good they are. Have a comedy act in between bands….I think many people are like “punks won’t watch this, metal heads won’t watch this” but perhaps they are thinking of their diehard friends or other musicians. At Metro, I see the same faces at Metal and Punks shows of all genres. People are capable of liking more than one kind of music. Shows like these give the smaller bands a chance to get new fans, as well as bring new blood into each scene. I would also like to see more shows start, and run on time. I hate hate hate when people have to leave for Bart before the headlining act (that is usually from out of town) takes the stage. Or maybe they have to leave at Midnight because they work at 6 AM. The people don’t get to see the band that they really paid for, and the out of town band is often times playing for the least amount of people, which must be a letdown for them, and also affects their merch sales which many of these bands depend on just to get gas to make it to the next town. If a show has to run late, maybe flip the headliner to second to last–I have seen this done a couple times.”
Personally, “The Metro” (Oakland Metro Opera House) is my favorite venue in Oakland. If you haven’t been, you need to fix that shit ASAP. The Metro is an all ages venue with one of the best (if not THE best) staff you could ask for. Security is on point, the bartenders are fucking awesome, and the owners are hands on and involved in EVERY aspect of EVERY show. It’s fucking awesome to have a local venue driven by the community of people who run it and the people who attend. Krystal hustles at Metro slingin’ drinks when she isn’t doing a million other things and we get to hear about what it’s like behind the scenes:
“Working at the Metro is a new discovery every day. In Chicago I only worked at high volume clubs, that played House sprinkled with Hip Hop and some Industrial or super old skool R & B. When I moved out here, I worked in a hip-hop oriented joint for a year, and quit bartending for 5 years and just had my own little book selling business. I missed the hustle and bustle. Some people will be snobby and be like, “oh, you didn’t know about this band 10 years ago–you’re not a true fan”. etc, but I think that people need to realize that our lives change and what we listen to changes. I think that I am so lucky, to be able to learn about all this music like I am a teenager again, the many different genres of punk and metal are almost mind boggling at first! How lucky am I to have a job like this? And these bands, really don’t want to just keep the fans that they had 10 years ago, they want more! The other thing that makes Metro my favorite place to work, is that I am a community person…in Chicago I had my own Spoken Word events, and multi media events, and put a lot of work into that community, as well as the community that I lived in. Not only does Metro give home to a lot of Mid-Sized Punk and Metal shows in OAKLAND ( they are the only space this size here) They have over the years given Spoken Word, Comedy, Circus, and dance shows a place to have a show. They also have done things like Girls Rock Camp, and MotherLode Dance which is mostly kids of all ages.
I feel like working there is helping the community, and our community—it’s not just about getting people hammered and getting the highest ring of the night. The Staff is awesome, as are the owners Tom and Mia.
Fuck Yeah, man, that’s what it’s all about. All that awesomeness being said, I was curious about her favorite event/show she has attended or worked at in Oakland in the last six months…?
“Now this is a crazy hard question—I will make it into a weekend . In January at Metro, we had the Robb Flynn benefit for Nikki Davis, with members of Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, and many more. This was an awesome night. Although I was devastated when Jeff passed away June 2012, nothing made me love Oakland more than the way the scene came together and immediately started having benefits. These guys wanted to do something sooner but couldn’t because of tours, etc. And I think it is so awesome that they still remembered, and awesome because Nikki is going to have these bills to deal with for years to come. I didn’t know Jeff long, but he really was just the greatest guy, I still think of him every time I pull up to Metro to work. We keep a photo of him behind the back bar or side bar–whichever bar we think he would still be hanging at. Anyway, it was a packed night, with some really awesome music, and a who’s who of the veteran scene.
The next night killer…Weedeater! I love these guys, I love watching them play–they are a trio and put the drummer right between them up front and center, he does all kinds of tricks. Their live sound is just sick. I love their sense of humor–like when everyone was guessing how long Dixie’s Amp would last–which was 30 secs into almost playing the first song “iirc”. This night was a good juxtaposition to the previous night, all the up and coming musicians in our scene were at this show..It was a very past, present, and future 2 days.
There was a pretty funny night with a line up like that recently. There were 5 of these bands, and everyone was super chill and just standing around, there was no pit, no moshing, no stage diving..we’re like this crowd is so boring, do they even like the music? So the headlining band starts to do their tiny soundcheck and we start breaking down the bar, Security starts getting ready to close for the night since these people obviously going to be pretty non eventful and not want to drink anymore…The band plays 5 chords and all of a sudden it is the craziest amount of people stage diving that I have ever seen, like getting crazy air too. It took all of us by surprise, and Bar Triage started soon after.”
“I never thought I would want another dog, but a friend got in a motorcycle accident last year. I would take his Boston Terrier on walks and drives, I just loved this dog. After my friend got better and moved, I knew that I had to get my own. I tried to rescue a Boston, but everything just kept falling thru. Finally I saw a photo of a 7 week old puppy that made me drive 6 hours to the edge of the Mojave desert 9 months ago. I drove thru a heat wave, a thunderstorm in the desert, a windstorm and flooding. My friend texted me that night after I got him and said, “grats, you two are going to have an awesome journey.” I thought to myself, it’s a dog, yes I am going to love him…But a Journey? And you know what, it has been a journey. It is because of this dog that I now go explore areas I never would by myself. Once a week I try to go to a new area of California that is within 2 hours of Oakland. These are things I could’ve done before but for some reason never did. So it has been a journey.”
WOW. OK, so when you’re not contributing directly to the community or saving puppies after driving through desert storms and makin’ shit happen, how do you relax at the end of your long ass days?
“I love to play video games. I also take photos of graffiti and old signs for my instagram account ( kry_o0 )–part of the exploring that I do with my pups, and reading. I have a very dual personality lifestyle lol.”
Well there you have it. Krystal is a DIY BOSS. She works her ass off and still makes time for the things she loves most. Working being one of the things she loves. Let her be another shining example of how HARD WORK, a DIY spirit and general bad assery can get you where you want to be. I expect she’ll sleep when she’s dead.