What should you know about The Dysfunctionells, the band that no one wanted, “THE Butt-Ugliest Band in Chicago”. Well, I’ll tell you…pull up a rock and squat down…
They were and are still:
Richard Krueger–acoustic guitar, vocals, songs
Oliver Steck–accordion, mouth organ, trumpet
Vernon Tonges–electric guitar, banjo, vocals, songs
Rich Krueger heard Vernon Tonges for the first time at Earl’s Pub on Lincoln Ave in Chicago the spring of 1987. Vernon set the stage a-fire with Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave”. Rich fell in love instantly. Their band, The Dysfunctionells, hatched out of all the evils that lurk in the mud back in 1991 in part out of Rich Krueger’s obsessive desire to record a “good” cassette of some his songs (“Tell Me A Story”), and Vernon Tonges desire to gig at Sheffield’s, but they’d only hire him if he had a full band. Since their emergence from the fetid swamps of young adult pipedreams, and from a love for kinds of music that (particularly at the time- circa 1990) few really ever loved. I still feel that few still really love this music but more and more a feigning affections. There are places in hell waiting for some of these folks.
The other players joined as a result of there each individual missteps and misfortunes. Russell Clark was a local Hyde Park Jazzer/bassist/jobber/ Vegetarian who had been playing a bit with Rich for a couple years. Vence Edmunds, a University of Chicago MRI technician and GREAT jazz drummer, had gone to High School with Russell and brought in for the Tell Me A Story sessions. Oliver Steck, Rock N Roll God and front man of Hyde Park’s legendary Fang Beach, was also brought in for those sessions (Rich always wanted to get to know him real bad).
Our song bag was pretty deep back in our day, which was 1991 to 1998. We could play for hours and hours at one time. We played the local Chicago clubs. We played Lounge Ax. We had bluenote artist and jazz great Kurt Elling banging tambourine with us as we played The Charleston in Chicago. We got banned for The Charleston after one incident involving someone fucking a mannequin, but it really was because we were too loud.. We recorded some music (kind of). We met and played and in some cases recorded with our heroes including Trout Fishing in America, Peter Stampfel of The Holy Modal Rounders, and Michael Hurley. Hel these folks even would come over to the house, or at least sleep in the drive way. Hurley fixed the squeaky hinges in my home. We played NYC four times, twice at the Mercury Lounge, twice at the Bottom Line. We were the backup group for the Holy Modal Rounder Reunion at The Bottom Line in July of 1996. Christgau heard us play that show. So did Neil Strauss at The New York Times, who called us self-consciously weird (like that’s some kind of bad thing?). On a good night we could play a fucking awesome show, although no one noticed really or cared much.
The band played only a couple shows after that HMR reunion show. Our last show before we started calling them reunions was The Bucktown Arts Festival in 1998. Rich left for LA that December. Oliver had already moved I think and Russell would soon move. The Dysfunctionells were a memory.
We have been consistent on the fact that each reunion will be the last one ever. Our first last reunion was July of 2002 at Lula Café in Logan Square in Chicago. Some of us used to hang out there in those days. playing cards, doing card tricks, and drinking tea. By 2010 it was a high end elegant restaurant. Go figure. The reunion was put together on the fly and with short notice. There is the recording of that show that is available to you now. The recordist was our hero Paul Kotheimer, who had help from Matt Sohn and his remarkable microphones. Paul mixed the recording you are hearing.
We had our next last reunion in 2012, again on the fly at The Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown. That show got recorded by Matt Sohn (although we haven’t done much with it yet) and video was shot but Garrett Lane which can be found on youttube at youtu.be/5Cp5JvSvcQU
Those who couldn’t attend previous last ever reunions, either due to scheduling issues, short notice or just plain common sense, have been asking of late when would The Dysfunctionells play it again. The thought of such a thing induced howls of derisive laughter. Apparently we are going to do again one last time over the November 7-9 weekend in Urbana, IL in Chicago, IL and in Hammond, IN. That’ll teach them for asking.
Enjoy ...if that is at all the correct verb - RK