If the guy in the rakish spectacles at the next table at Mezzaluna Wednesday night bore an uncanny resemblance to Les Claypool, it’s because that indeed was the Primus bass player and bon vivant tucking into the Italian supper specialties off the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale.
And if another guy at the table looked just like Dean Ween, guitarist and founder of the irreverent (and much-missed) rock duo Ween, well, again, that was Deaner.
But this was no mini Lollapalooza at Mezzaluna. Two of indie rock’s more dynamic and cult-crushed figures were in South Florida for a much quieter passion: They were fishing.
Les and Dean, who we’ll call what everyone else called him, Mickey (full name: Mickey Melchiondo), spent several days together this week fishing and shooting footage for a pilot episode of a TV show they will shop to cable TV networks. Both men (pictured on Lake Santa Barbara) expect many episodes to be shot in Fort Lauderdale.
“I’ve had a great time, a spectacular time,” Les said Wednesday night while unwinding just before midnight at the Internationally World Famous Treasure Trove bar on Fort Lauderdale beach. The fishing that day had been spotty, so … Spectacular?
“I’m in Florida, and I’m fishing from kites,” Les said, incredulously, of the lines that hovered above the sea from the back of the Fillamagilla, a Conch 27 operated out of Fort Lauderdale by brothers Phil and Greg Dunn. “I’ve never done that before. It was spectacular.”
Les, who lives in Sonoma County, Calif., and Mickey, of New Hope, Pa., are accomplished fishermen, each with a menu of angling videos on YouTube (below a classic episode of Mickey's Brownie Troop Fishing Show with Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers). Mickey is a longtime charter boat captain on the Jersey Shore. A few years ago, Mickey was looking to do some fishing in South Florida and found Phil Dunn on the Internet. They’ve been fast friends ever since.
The recent turn in the weather made for some tough fishing, highlighted by intermittent battles with sailfish and free-jumping kingfish, some mahi and jacks, plus an accidental snagging of a sea turtle (quickly released).
Mickey flew in from Austin (where he was recording a Moistboyz album) more than a week before Les arrived and had much better luck with the Dunns, going seven for 11 on sailfish and hooking a blue marlin (“Had to be a few hundred pounds,” Greg Dunn said) off BeachPlace on Fort Lauderdale beach.
“It was great, man, but I knew we were peaking too soon,” Mickey said over drinks at the Treasure Trove.
“Mickey is serious about fishing,” Les said. “I just like to have fun.”
It was Phil Dunn –– to the Trove what Norm was to “Cheers,” though effortlessly more cool –– who turned Mickey on to the boozy, late-night charms of the Jeff Rudd’s Treasure Trove. He was a frequent, laidback presence over the past couple of weeks, sometimes sitting in with the Trove’s regular live performers, solo guitarist Catfish and the rock-cover quartet the Fifth Circuit.
On Feb. 16, a Saturday, Mickey heated up a couple of sets with the Fifth Circuit in front of a packed house, most of whom had never heard of Ween (including the bus full of bachelorette partiers parked outside). The alt-rock cult figure easily acclimated himself to the setlist of the Fifth Circuit, led by Fort Lauderdale attorney Rich Della Fera on vocals and guitar, drummer and attorney Nick Reising, brother Matt Reising on bass and former Crease guitarist Fritz Dorigo, dueling with Mickey out front.
“That was so much fun,” Della Fera said. “I understand his band [Ween] has kind of a … experimental sound, so I was very impressed that he just picked up our kind of classic rock so easily.”
Among the songs heard that night were Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” and "Cinnamon Girl,” Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue,” the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower,” the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and the Robert Johnson/Allman Brothers classic “Crossroad.”
Among the other spots you would have seen Les and Mickey: fishing in Pompano Beach’s Lake Santa Barbara and Dumbfounding Bay near Aventura, and dining at Coconuts, Southport and Shuck ‘N’ Dive. At Mezzaluna Wednesday night, Les pulled out a bottle of 2007 Purple Pachyderm pinot noir from Claypool Cellars, his winery in the Russian River Valley section of Sonoma. He later autographed the empty for a fan.
If the fishing was spotty, the camera crew seemed pleased with the footage they got of Les and Mickey merely hanging out in South Florida. Everyone agreed the one moment likely to make the cut for the pilot came on Monday as the sun set on Lake Santa Barbara and Les and Mickey got into an impromptu jam session. It was the antithesis of rock star hysteria.
“Fishing is more than the fish. It's about ritual," Les said.
For more on Mickey's exploits or to book a charter, go to MickeysFishing.com. To catch up with Les, who is scheduled to play the Wanee Festival in Live Oak on April 19, go to LesClaypool.com.
Photo: Phil Dunn, courtesy