The most effective way to hurl a frozen turkey across a field, it would seem, is shot-put style.
The frigid, formerly flightless bird should be held with one hand and pressed against the cheek of the thrower; when it's released, the motion is more of a push, really, than a throw. The power comes from the momentum of the pitcher's body shifting from the back of his heels to the balls of his feet.
There are other methods, of course. The reverse granny toss, in which the bird is hurled backward in an underhand fashion, over the thrower's head, can also be rather effective. But it is more risky — frozen turkeys are slippery, and if you're at a point where you've decided that throwing one as far as you possibly can across a field is a good idea, there's a reasonable chance you already have a few drinks in you. One wrong move, one slip, and you're simply smashing yourself in the face with a turkey.
These findings are based on research by the members of long-running goofball St. Louis punk act Bassamp and Dano, who met with RFT in Tower Grove Park on a recent sunny Wednesday afternoon with bird and beer in hand to discuss the band's upcoming Turkey Toss show at Heavy Anchor. Or, as the members of the band insist on calling it, "Bassamp and Dano's All-American League of American Beer Drinkers Of America Presents: Bassamp and Dano's 2nd Annual Night Before Thanksgiving Turkey Toss & Beer Party Featuring Bassamp and Dano Sponsored By Four Hands Brewing Co."
Goofballs, meet Butterballs.
Now, in spite of that exceedingly long and redundant title, the band explains that last year's event didn't even involve any tossed turkeys. It consisted instead of acoustic performances of the band's songs, a series of drinking games featuring terrible prizes, and a lot of what the band calls "flabongos," which is when you take a pink flamingo lawn ornament and turn it into a beer bong. The group even has a "beer ref" they call McAlpine on their roster, who wears a striped shirt and keeps the booze flowing into the flamingos at all the band's shows. At a recent Halloween event, McAlpine apparently dispensed 42 beers to the crowd in this fashion over the course of a twenty-minute set.
But aside from those pink ones, there wasn't a bird in the building at the first annual Turkey Toss. In fact, not one of the band's members has ever tossed a turkey before today's practice session.
"It was just a name," drummer Dan Kelley explains.
"We couldn't toss anything inside the Heavy Anchor because it would smash everything with a frozen turkey," guitarist Bassamp points out.
"And they won't allow us to shoot off fireworks in there either," laments bassist Dan Lawless. "They have all these rules."
"The first Turkey Toss, Jodie at the Heavy Anchor told me: No fireworks. No meat," Bassamp says. The reason Jodie — co-owner Jodie Whitworth — had to be so specific, he explains, is that the band had tried both things at the venue before. The Heavy Anchor subsequently smelled of ham for a minute.
Further complicating things: Bassamp and Dano is not a duo. Nor is Dan Kelley the "Dano" represented in the band's name. That would be the other Dan, Dan Lawless — Kelley goes by "DK" for short.
Bassamp, who confusingly plays guitar, insists his real name is Bassamp, and won't budge on the matter. Bassamp and Dano can perform with anywhere from two to nine players — these three represent the core of the group since 2010, though. Recently they've been playing as a four-piece, but their second guitarist was unable to make it to the park today. His name is either Brian or Jason. There seems to be some confusion among the members of the band, on account of the fact they branded him "Ernie" at their first practice with him and have been calling him that ever since.
Bassamp points out that it is very easy to join the group. Just hit them up and ask, he says, and you're in.
"And they'll give you a nickname you don't want," Kelley — DK — adds.
But back to the matter at hand. The turkey in question weighs 11.63 pounds — perfect for throwing long distances — and is frozen solid as a rock. The face-smashing risk is a point of real concern for the researchers on the scene. "I don't wanna get concussed," Kelley says as the group prepares their initial throws.
Lawless attempts a hammer-toss method, holding the turkey by the mesh it is wrapped in and spinning in a circle, intending to launch the bird. Instead the bird launches itself as the mesh snaps in Lawless' hand. The turkey travels a considerable distance, but it's a one-shot situation. The hammer-toss method is out.
Next the three take turns trying out the reverse granny toss. Lawless reasons that his feet are each roughly twelve inches long, so he walks heel to toe from the throwing line to the spot the turkey lands to track the distance of each throw. Lawless wins round one with a commanding lead of 47 "Dano feet." Kelley comes in second with 38; Bassamp gets 32.
Round two is shot-put style, and each member except Lawless improves on his score. Bassamp sets a new record, with an impressive 48 Dano feet. Kelley puts up a score of 40.5; Lawless comes in at 30.
But it's around this time that the structural integrity of the turkey's packaging gives way, exposing the raw meat within. Rather than risk getting salmonella on everyone's hands, Lawless impressively shoots the bird into a nearby trashcan — like a basketball, only with a much more loud and satisfying "clunk." And with that, the band's first-ever actual turkey toss is over.
As for the Turkey Toss scheduled for November 22 at Heavy Anchor, Bassamp and Dano will again be performing acoustic versions of their songs, including some from the group's forthcoming LP on Indiana-based Failure Records & Tapes. They will be joined by fellow St. Louis acts Brasky and Tracing Wires. There will be flabongos. There will be drinking games.
And maybe — just maybe! — there will be flying frozen birds.
"We should get some of those little cornish game hens," Bassamp says in a moment of inspiration. "We can probably throw those in there!"
Heads up, Heavy Anchor: You might need to go over those rules again.