Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The HickUps - Live at the Canary House 11/22/1997

At first I thought I remembered almost nothing about this band. Luckily for you some of it has come back!

It happened the first semester of my senior year, sometime in 1997, and was very short lived. I am shocked there was a recording made of this, that someone saved it and it wasn't subsequently taped over by Trusty or Juliana Hatfield or something.

This band was an effort on my part to play the kind of music I was into at the time. I did not know how to play guitar yet and no one I was friends with was really into the same stuff, so it came down to finding people who would put up with me and do their best under the circumstances. I had spent the prior summer as an intern at Crypt Records, which at the time was renting office space in LA from In the Red and Birdman Records. In a short period of time I had been turned on to a lot of music that totally changed my life and while no one at Notre Dame shared my enthusiasm for any of it, I was dying to play in a different kind of band.

This is who I liked and sought to emulate: Nine Pound Hammer, Oblivians, New Bomb Turks, Dwarves, New York Dolls, Dead Boys, Pussy Galore, and GG Allin. Also older stuff like Hank Williams and James Brown. Which as you can hear means absolutely nothing in relation to what this band turned out to be.

I was living with Doug at the Canary House (where this live show took place) and though he says otherwise I am positive I bugged the shit out of him 24 hours a day. We had played together in the Mad Dogs the prior year and he was way into his more serious bands by this time. Playing bass along to my awkward anti-PC blabbering was not his idea of how to open a Butterfly Effect show, I assure you. I do not know how I talked him into the HickUps but I know he hated it.

I was poorly trying to learn guitar around this time and I think at least one of these songs originated in the band eventually known as the Go-Lightlys, who kicked me out for guitaral ineptitude and romantic incompatibly. Andy Yang was in that band, and as the ex-drummer of the Catatonics and co-host of the Chris and Andy Boom Boom Dedication Show on WVFI, was in no position to refuse the HickUps drum stool. Though he did repeatedly and eventually permanently. Of all the people who simultaneously quit the HickUps after this our second show, I believe his abdication hurt the most because it was the last time we ever played together. Though I am making it up and it is possible we played together at least 3 times afterwards.

When starting the HickUps, the only thing I knew I wanted was a lot of searing, obnoxious rocknroll guitar solos. This was like the least cool thing imaginable in the South Bend Power 90s scene and to do so without an ironic smirk would have been even harder. I had to go outside the Mad Dogs gene pool, which I was reluctant to do. I do not know where we found John Huston and his Fender Jag-Stang, but I am glad we did. With the Catatonics' Dave "The Night" Stoker nowhere to be found, John appeared to be the only guitarist available who knew basic blues scales and was unafraid to solo using them for more than 3 seconds. We tried to talk as little as possible about the fact that he had major wet dreams about Nirvana as late as 1997.

Listening to this show, here are my thoughts:

1) I hate my voice on these songs. I hate hearing my stupid between song banter and I hate my inability to keep my mouth a safe distance from the mic. I hate how I am doing this lame HC screaming, not singing. The lyrics are awful yet I am enunciating them toooooo much for full effect (none).

2) Getting these guys to understand what I was trying to accomplish was impossible. I was not good enough to do it myself and to ask them to mimic the Dead Boys or the New York Dolls (when the prevailing influences were Braid and Jawbreaker) was too weird.

3) The songs that were not covers were written by me singing guitar parts and John trying to mimic the sounds on guitar. Every time we played them they were different and I remember this show was really like making it up as we went along.

4) "Knoxville Girl" is a cover of bluegrass warbler Hylo Brown's version of the old murder ballad. To this day his version is the most sadistic I have heard. I found it on a cheapo 60s country LP comp with a burning prison on the cover. Pretty up my alley back then.

5) "Gazebo" steals thematically from the Raymond Carver short story of the same name. Written for the Go-Lightlys I think. Awkwardness abounds.

6) I still think "Like a Rolling Head" is a great name for a song. Though to be honest, Weird Al is a major lifelong influence.

We played one show before this at Club 23 (where I spent the majority of my time 1997-98). I hope Ted has a copy of the flyer for that show, because it is so much better than the band ever was. Of course as you would expect, Moe cut the set short and told us to pack it up. I am sure I dulled the pain of embarrassment one way or another.

OK! Enjoy!


No matter what Chris says, he did not bug the shit out of me 24 hours a day. I learned a hell of a lot about music during the year we lived together, and Chris did an admirable job of trying to bust me out of the Jawbreaker/Braid/DisChord Records bubble I tended to live in. (Though I did know about the New Bomb Turks -- in fact, one of my personal high points in the history of emiLy was playing in Columbus, OH and having Eric from NBT come up to us and compliment us on our set afterwards. I also saw NBT and Gauge in Boston sometime in the 90s and it was fucking awesome.) That Chris was not more successful is more a reflection of my stubbornness winning out over his. Shocking, I know.

The HickUps played more than one show? Apparently my memory of '97-98 is hazier than I thought. Great fun, but the sort of fun that sometimes requires photographic evidence to remember.


The funny thing is, I hardly remember playing in this band! I do remember a terrible showing at Club 23, and how I felt very inadequate as a drummer with Doug (master drummer) in the band wondering why I couldn't keep a simple beat. At least that's how I felt. Haha!


I remember this show. When Chris called out the first song of the set, I instead played the last song of the set. Not because I was super punk and trying to fuck up his shit. No, it was because I was a total moron and totally didn't know the names of any of the songs.

The HickUps was Chris' thing, and we all knew it. We were all just fine with it, too. A number of weeks prior to this show, he and I got together in the very same Canary House basement to "write songs." Chris, of course, had already come up with a handful of songs. Since he couldn't play guitar, he grunted and hummed and waved his hands at me, trying to figure out how to get what he heard in his mind to come through my guitar. I did my best to decipher his vocal "melodies" and ascribe a chord progression to them.

And yeah, it was a Fender Jagstang. Let it go, dude.

But that brings me to my favorite memory of the HickUps show at the Canary House. I don't know that I've ever told Chris about this, given his obvious hatred for grunge and embarrassment by my guitar, but some dude came up to me at the end of the set and he was ecstatic. Like, overjoyed, if I dare use that word. He'd been banging around in the "audience" the entire set. He told me that he was from Seattle, and that he hadn't seen a live show like that since the early '90s. He thanked me for going nuts onstage and asked when we were going to play again.

So while the HickUps initially started as a band that would combine Punk, Soul, and Country (making what I liked to call "poultry"), it was clearly a grunge band. And that was my fault.

And Chris has never forgiven me.



John Huston said...

I wanted to give credit for the fancy photos. They were taken by my friend Melinda Devaney, who shot them at one of our "practices" for her photography class. I don't think Doug was there. Either that or Melinda cleverly cropped him out of the band...

theodore said...

john... as a former graduate of the Chris Owen School of Collaborative Songwriting, i can totally sympathize. :)

and for some strange reason, listening to this set, i wish i had been around to play an inept second guitar in this band. why...? i dunno, i must have head problems or something.

chris o said...

John, i wish I had a Jagstang! I am not kidding. Also, my anti-Nirvana thing was just knee jerk nonconformity. I was and am a huge Mudhoney fan, seen em many times going as far as London to see the Mudhoney curated All Tomorrows Parties festival in 2006.