Last summer at a restaurant, Greg, who had never liked his original nickname “Griffin”, without warning declared, “from now on, you will call me The Big Prawn.” (Popular variations have been simply “Big Prawn” and also “Master Prawn”). In the year that followed, Greg continued to prove himself a master of naming things, from Darwin’s pedal case (“The Calzone”) to our most recent Brazil/California tour leg (“The Last Supper”).
Exhibit B: on occasion, our band would have some downtime between shows, anywhere from three days to a full week. During these times, Greg would often make a trip to the grocery store, returning to our temp-apartment with three of the most budget-yet-healthy food group basics: uncooked lentils, uncooked brown rice, and a big head of cabbage. Prepared with little embellishment, besides occasional seasoning from squirreled away fast food salt and pepper packets, Greg would boil his rice and boil his lentils and saute his cabbage, spending as little money as possible until the next haven of free backstage food.
Exhibit C: during February, I tried my hand at rap battling Darwin during the City Remix. Although my execution was lukewarm, at best, I wrote a few good lines. Between our band, my most popular line was “Big Prawn, get frugal with the cabbage”, the final line of my verse. This was, of course, a reference to Greg’s cooking habits and his general spendthrift approach to money.
As the months of tour progressed onward and inside jokes mutated into even less accessible inside jokes, this rap line received many treatments. Members would frequently and spontaneously sing, “Can we get more frugal?” (A parody of Kanye West’s line “Can we get much higher?”). Another favorite was “Prawn, frugal, cabbage. Cabbage, frugal, frugal…” (A parody of the YouTube video “Big Booty Bitches”). Also popular was repeatedly rapping the phrase, “Big Prawn gettin’ frugal with it, DAH.” (dah = breath punctuation sound)
More recently, Darwin began imagining in the van, “what if we were able to get ‘frugal’ to catch on? Like as a slang word… what if you started hearing people say things like, ‘hey man, did you hear the new Chris Brown joint? That shit is frugal!’ Darwin continued, “what if people found out about Big Prawn and cabbages, and they started showing up at our concerts with cabbages?” As we would drive along, Darwin would riff about all the funny ways he could hype the cabbage holders in the crowd. “What if we bought a bunch of cabbages and passed them out?” one of us suggested. We paused for a moment, and then unanimously agreed, “People would throw them at us. We couldn’t do it.”
Which is why I was surprised when Darwin and Greg showed up at the Echo with a grocery bag of green cabbage heads. “We’re going for it,” they announced.
Soon it was time to start our entrance music (accomplished by pushing the first button on Darwin’s foot pedal), which is currently the theme from Star Trek. “Start the music, but don’t leave the stage,” Darwin instructed me. “Take your position on the right, extend your hand, and hold up the cabbage. We’ll join you when it’s time.” I did as I was told. I stood there, staring into the blackness of the Echo, staring into that familiarly nebulous region of the room where you can see the tops of people’s heads, mostly darkness, perhaps an exit sign in the back. I almost broke into laughter onstage. A few days later, I’m happy to discover that this moment was captured and posted by two different YouTube clips.
Mid-set, Darwin distributed the cabbage (smartly selecting girls who looked least likely to throw the heavy heads back at us). We played a little bit more, and then Darwin broke out the same riffage that we had entertained ourselves with in the van. “All you ladies in the house,” he hyped, “if you’ve got your OWN cabbage, and you don’t need NO MAN, raise your cabbage in the air and say I’M FRUGAL!”
It was a lot of fun. I especially liked it because LA is another one of those shows where there’s this undercurrent of band awareness telling you: “this is a big one. Important music industry people and press people are here. You’ve got to nail it tonight.” At some of our shows (Glastonbury, for example), I think we’ve psyched ourselves out with that pressure, but this time in Los Angeles, we just had fun and did an over-the-top silly show using one of our favorite long-time inside jokes. The concert received two reviews, and both mentioned the cabbage, and, miraculously enough, both reviews were POSITIVE!