Wednesday, September 29, 2010
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.
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.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Attesting to the thorough nature of this blog, I would like to introduce, Pinky, possibly the only one-show-wonder, all-girl band in the history of ND Power 90s rock. Closely linked to the Florida Evans Showband and Revue, Pinky exploded out of fan-club/girlfriend status to take their place on the stage. Shamelessly using all Flo Evans equipment and practice space in the Bulla St. stone house basement, Pinky soon relished a sugary sweet sound, hailing from their icons Cub. Elfin Amy Bowman led the charge as singer/guitarist. Her shy, sweet stage presence set the tone for the band. She was supported with more enthusiasm than talent by co-habitants of the 716 Washington St estate, Courtney Blum on drums, Kristin D'Agostino on bass, and Emily Edwards on vocals and "keyboard that never managed to materialize."
While Pinky was hyped-up on the thrill of playing as a group, Matt Curreri had the foresight to make a Pinky recording (sans Edwards) of the two Cub covers before the first show. Pinky opened for Florida Evan and (to our surprise the ultra-hip and therefore extremely intimidating) Boston-based Lynx, on a cold night in the stone house basement (probably the late fall of 1998). Possibly because we stocked the audience with ready-made fans, the set was a huge hit. There were cameras and even a video, but no evidence could be relocated [ed. check that-- we found two photos!].
Still enjoying the "first show high," the band imploded with the sad truth that three Pinky members could not date two Florida Evans members and coexist.
It was great while it lasted, but love, love it tore us apart again.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
So, it was the best of times... it was the worst of times. The heyday of riot girls had ended and emo and math rock indie bands were replacing the grunge and punk forefathers. A few bands seemed to hang on and try to differentiate their styles... but bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, L7, Kreviss, Huggy Bear, Courtney Love, Beat Happening, Red Aunts, and many more were already on the way out. In the midst of the Power 90s, the South Bend scene emerged and it was only natural that girl bands or bands with leading female vocalists would arise - it seemed a critical mass of musical creativity was being reached in the midwest and South Bend was oddly and strategically situated to be a part of it.
Most of my memories are of the early days when the idea first came up to even start a band. I think that Faye had been playing bass for a while, Annie was picking up guitar quickly, and Anne could already play drums. Think it was Faye and Annie's idea to start jamming and writing songs and they invited me to get involved. The only thing I really had to offer was a voice and we were all pretty good singers. Contributing to lyrics sticks in my mind - think we made it a collaborative effort to write "Rev" as the lyrics started out so clever and were projecting that strong, assured female voice that I think Las Peligrosas unintentionally was trying to get across. The Dalloway's concert [ed. performed under the band's original moniker, Speed Queen], the basement show at the Guerra-Concannon compound and the show in Columbia, OH (at a coffee house, I think??) made everything seem so real! I can't remember a thing about the "Rev" recording for some reason... but think I remember it being difficult to get our vocals to sound on key and good, so were were in there for a quite a few hours.
I remember that I was so inspired by Faye's punk rock ethic and bad(ass) attitude, and Annie's absent-minded innocence mixed with confidence! I had so much fun being in the band - it was nice to be a part of it all, dragged kicking and screaming into so much fun... and we were the only serious all-girl band at the time. Seemed so apropos without being predictable.
I bought my bass and practice amp with money that I had earned from waiting tables in Arlington, TX. That money was supposed to be used for books and other collegiate endeavors. But I blew it on a bass--that I have to this day. Mostly I was tired of seeing music and wanted to figure out a way to make it... along came the shining Ms. Emily Davis, the creative Annie, and the rhythmic Anne Evans. I can say that when we started this band I had no training, but Emily's vocals and Annie's basic guitar were a saving grace and --hell Anne and I weren't all that terrible holding up the rhythm section for this track, although I have no illusions. I think we had more band names than we did songs.
"Rev," if I recall, was created without lyrics. I remember that we looked through a fashion mag and wove together our lyrics. Interestingly, with as many smart women with a lot to say, we were at a loss for words for lyrics. We played several shows (why didn't anyone tell me that I should not wear ankle socks?) and I remember going to the St. Vincent DePaul and proudly scoring the black and white dresses shown in some of the photos. To be honest, none of our music was particularly good, but it was a good time.
We were originally passed up on the campus CD, sfumato, but were somehow reconsidered? If I recall it was because the CD needed more "diversity," but I also remember that we had a lot of friends encouraging us along the way. It's nice to have a musical memory of this time. It was apparent that when we got into the studio to record for the CD that we had not recorded before. We were able to record this song and now I kinda wish we had more recordings. I hope that "Rev" doesn't cause the listeners to regress into some sort of fetal position or bang your heads against the wall (but maybe that isn't so bad). It was literally a first attempt at music in a band, and one I remember fondly. Thank you Em, Anne, and Annie!
I had the house with drums, and they had the vision. I don’t remember the conversation that began the band, only that I was always up for adventure and trying anything new. I was flattered that these ladies, creative and individualistic each one, invited me to join them on their endeavor to make music.
A few clear memories:
- In practice Emily said, try this: which was a definite punk rhythm, not rhythm and blues (which was all I knew how to play at the time); I started hammering away and it made me feel free. Thanks, Em!
- Faye turned around so I could see her and be in rhythm with her bass; Awesome! A connection of creating something immediate. Thanks Faye!
- Annie: Laughing always, but led us (me, at least) with intuitive, kind, and sparky grace.
- I was so nervous about the St. Mary’s coffee house show that I dropped my new hot pink drumsticks on the 1-2-3-4- Count, and a few other times. Sorry, ladies! (I think that was our debut)
- Going to find outfits: loved the black dresses with white collars; wish I still had mine…
- Struggling over that tricky transition in "Rev" in general and in the studio. Still sounds so awkward to me.
- Overall, having a blast! So much fun! I loved being part of the group, and entering, even so shallowly (I think we had five total songs) into the larger ND music scene.
I must also thank Vinny Carrasco, who gave me the gift of hot pink drumsticks (labeled “Hotsticks”) which I still have today... Thank you, Vinny, wherever you are.
Thank you also Steve Sostak, who I believe was integral to getting us on the CD, and for all the folks in bands who encouraged us and friends who supported us.