Jack Antonoff: My Page (Fist to the Face)
In the July issue of Relix, Steel Train’s Jack Antonoff shares “Lessons learned from being punched”
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes
When I was 11, a clown punched me in the face. No exaggeration here.
It was 1995 and I was attending the Big Apple Circus, sitting ringside when a clown came charging along for all the kids to high-five. One of those “distract the crowd with a high-fiving clown while we prepare the elephant props” type of moments, a job not typically reserved for the most professional of clowns. Regardless, at the age of 11, I had some sort of a three second high-fiving/personal space misunderstanding with the clown, which begs the question, what are the personal space lines when slapping five a clown? Apparently, I crossed them. He grunted, “back off” and in his defense, I didn’t. A second went by before he punched me in the face and I hit the floor. Truth.
I’d also like to note that this particular performance was a benefit for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. What that means is that a large percentage of the audience was kids with cancer on chemo. Therefore, you might assume that of all days for a clown to fly off the handle and punch an 11 year old in the face, the brain tumor benefit day would be one of the worst. The only thing that could really trump that would be some sort of fragile bone disease day. Nonetheless, it happened and it was awful with hilarious and confusing undertones. Bear with me here.
Being punched in the face is one of the most offensive acts you can do to another person, and therefore raises massive life questions. Most notably: Am I that repulsive of a person that I need to be dealt with in such an extreme manner? I’ve had numerous altercations, but have only been punched in the face twice. Once by an unhinged circus clown (as you know) and the other by a man who looked like Shrek’s ‘roid-raging twin (while drunk like GG Allin). A terrifying combination.
This guy took the liberty of throwing me down a staircase as well (a bonus that the clown did not indulge in, probably circumstantial). The experience—although less visually stimulating—was more poignant, being that it was entirely unprovoked. I was standing in the street. He approached me, yelled some derogatory/homophobic slur, punched me in the face and then in my disoriented, “ Mortal Kombat -finish him” type of state, threw me down a long metal staircase ending in a heap of trash. This actually happened.
Lying in the trash, I thought of the clown. Logically, I should have been concerned with him “finishing me,” but rather I was worried with the fact that this had now happened twice.
It’s wildly confusing to be put in situations where you never get the answers that you need to move on—like a terrible break up where you’re left with your own distortions as the only tools to work with. I’d love to sit down with the clown and take it step by step. Was it me? Did you realize that you could have been punching a sick child? Nonetheless, why would you punch a child? Maybe he just forgot to take some vital mood stabilizer and we could chalk the whole thing up to circus pressure and mental illness.
As for the jock guy years later, why the staircase portion? Was it my outfit? Was he just on a crusade to mangle anyone he found to be an overly effeminate man? Perhaps he was dealing with some gender confusion himself and needed to throw a small 24 year old down some stairs to work it all out? Glad to help.
What I’ve come to is this: Although confusing and horrible, the punching stories have become a real fixture at Thanksgivings and such. I’m always telling these larger than life stories, and in some way, that brings larger than life situations to my existence. I guess I’m saying I’ll take responsibility. Clowns don’t just beat the shit out of a possibly ill kid and drunk Biff doppelgangers don’t just chuck McFly look-alikes down staircases.
I’m putting something out there that provokes these scenarios, and I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to do so. I just hope that my next attacker is a bit more courteous with my face. I can only handle so much before I resemble a current Mickey Rourke.
Jack Antonoff is the lead singer for the band Steel Train which has just released its third full length record, Steel Train, on its own Terrible Thrills label. Check out www.steeltrain.net for more information.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
- Sexmob: Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti (Sexmob Plays Fellini: The Music of Nino Rota)
- Summer Stars: Shovels & Rope
- Visions of Bonnaroo Friday (Paul McCartney, Passion Pit, Conspirator…)
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Free Download "Dear Lord (Give Me The Strength)"
- God Street Wine with Warren Haynes "Sweet Little Angel" (Live 1996)
- The Howlin’ Brothers "Big Time"
- Primus in Toronto
- Twice "The Joker" on Saturday at Bonnaroo (Gov’t Mule and Jack Johnson)
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll