All the fun dudes

By Rich Tupica

A truly odd assortment of soaking wet, half naked, grown men smiled for the camera as they washed a dilapidated car on a chilly day last September.

The men are members of Lansing’s notorious Cartridge Family, a punk rock band/performance troupe, posing for its newly released 2010 “beefcake” calendar.

The questionably sizzling 13-month concept was debuted at Schuler Books & Music in the Eastwood Towne Center on Dec. 14. The evening also featured a wild acoustic in-store performance by The Cartridge Family and a bachelor auction showcasing six of the band’s single members.

The top seller in the bachelor auction ($40) was Josh David, one of the group’s “stunt monkeys” (He doesn’t play an instrument, he just spastically flails about). Auction proceeds benefited the Capital Area Humane Society.

While there were some confused looks from unsuspecting customers, the band didn’t get as crazy as usual out of respect for the store and Whitney Spotts, the store’s promotions manager who booked the event. “We played slightly toned down, because we don’t want to get anyone fired,” said Scott Bell, the group’s co-vocalist and hype man. “Also, there are some elderly people here who were just about to buy a Glenn Beck book, and then they saw us.”

After the show, nothing was broken and no injuries were reported, likely a first.

Visishta Cheerala, 23, came out to the show for the group’s dance techniques and ample audience participation. “I’m a huge fan. It’s absolutely hilarious,” Cheerala said. “The costumes are incredible, and the band’s dance moves, by far, top a lot of girls’ moves.”

Ben Hassenger, Cartridge Family guitarist and 2009 Lansing mayoral candidate, said the show went as planned. “Sonically, it was different, but the show went well,” Hassenger said. “Schuler isn’t the type of venue we are used to playing, but we still brought [our] usual madcap hi-jinks. We also raised some money for a good cause and our own reimbursement for all of these calendars.”

Keyboardist and ringleader Cale Sauter said the calendar was originally conceived by Dan Fox, a “stunt monkey” who sports a lion suit. Sauter also admitted it started as joke. “When we first started joking around about this, we liked the idea of old school fire department bachelor auctions and beefcake firefighter calendars,” Sauter said. “That became the gimmick early on.”

When local music photographer Kim Nastal got involved, the concept of a scantily clad calendar took shape rather quickly.

“Kim took all the photos, did a lot with the layout, conception and execution,” Hassenger said. “She did a phenomenal job. It’s one of the coolest things we’ve ever put out.”

Nastal, who has been professionally shooting photographs at local rock shows for two years, said working with the band on the project wasn’t an easy task. “It’s been in the works for over three months,” Nastal said. “It is a bigger project than I thought it’d be, especially working with these guys. They are not used to structure, but we all had a good time and it turned out well.”

Nastal said each shot in the calendar was thought out by the group members. “I let all the guys pick their own props and location, so it expressed each personality,” she said. “It was a little uncomfortable at times, especially with them being partially nude. I had my helper arranging them, so I didn’t have to actually touch any of them.”

While Hassenger called the calendar “all of your sexiest fantasies concerning the hot studs of the Cartridge Family,” his band mate has a different outlook on it.

“I know there is not much of a market for scrubby Cartridge Family dudes in provocative poses,” Sauter said. “But hopefully there is enough of a market to get rid of 100 of these things.”

For those not interested in a calendar full of male punks, another selling point is the free download of the Cartridge Family’s vast catalog of music that comes with the calendar. The download also includes unreleased cuts and B-sides.

“In the span of time between 2005 and 2009 that we haven’t released music, we’ve actually recorded songs here and there,” Sauter explained. “We did stuff for movies, we did a theme song for ‘Text Me TV.’ The free download is those released and unreleased songs. There’s some weird demos in there too.”

The “Dudes of the Cartridge Family” calendar is available for $10 online at