Tuesday, December 7, 2010


After I'd stopped drinking in April 1998, my desire to attend any rock 'n' roll shows considerably lessened. Not because I tired of live music from such drunk 'n' punk luminaries as The Pleasure Fuckers, Nashville Pussy, and The Candy Snatchers. Rather, I feared going into a relapse from which recovery would've been impossible.

Rewind to my rock-bottom: One Saturday morning, I awoke after sleeping off the damage from a usual kick-ass Route 44 show. My bed was the seat of a 1984 Plymouth Horizon, while my blanket was stitched with projectile vomit from threads of Jim Beam and Molson Ice. Started to remember that Bon Scott had died in his car. But he'd given the world High Voltage, Powerage, and Highway To Hell. All I contributed, by comparison, were rough demos of '74 Jailbreak. Guess "The Big Guy in the Sky," or whatever name He goes by nowadays, wasn't ready to invite me to His party to end all parties. Now there's a guest list I'm glad my name didn't appear on.

Post-Acca Dacca feelings of guilt began to override any temporary satisfaction I'd gotten from being inebriated. Thankfully, several more attempts at a quick drum lesson with Keith Moon remained unscheduled. Reading and writing replaced my main activities of drinking and driving. Until a friend of a friend showed up on my porch, three months had passed since I'd seen a live band.

Drew was a band mate of my sister's boyfriend Thomas. The first time I'd ever met him had occurred during a practice in a storage unit. Drew's playing of the guitar indicated he was no stranger to that instrument. Good pace, nice tone -- his strumming through classic punk numbers by Black Flag and the Adolescents was met with applause from Shannon and me. Past introductions, I complimented Drew on his taste and ability. We started gabbing about bands we liked/disliked, shows we'd been to, and other musical topics. This roundtable-yet-with-nowhere-to-sit discussion lasted over 90 minutes. We parted ways and exchanged phone numbers. Good deal. You can never have too many friends in this world, and I already considered Drew to be one.

Two-and-a-half weeks after that initial meeting, Drew came to my house accompanied by six other people (mostly of the teen-age set). This one curly-haired rascal was covered by a "Godweiser -- King Of Kings" T-shirt that parodied the Budweiser logo. Another female tag-along wore a Pepsi tee (except that it read "Jesus" in the circle) with a matching WWJD? (Where Was Johnny Depp?) friendship bracelet. Drew sported an old Ramones black-and-white short-sleeve, paired with a brown crucifix. Was there some sort of playful blasphemy going on here? Joey and Johnny on the cross! Hanson from "21 Jump Street" as The Almighty! Domestic lager as holy water! These seven unexpected visitors shared my warped sense of humor, and I was all too ready to befriend each and every one of them, names not necessary. Instead, these S.O.D.'s (Soldiers Of the Deity, not Stormtroopers Of Death) had come to my humble abode with serious intentions. Apparently, Thomas had filled in cool Drew and the gang about my on-again/off-again relationship with the bottle, as well as my whereabouts. Drew asked me how I'd been holding up, and I told him that things were going OK so far. The Jesus-Pepsi Miss wanted to know if I would like them to say a prayer for me. "No, I'll be alright" was my cut-to-the-chase reply. Before taking off in the church-band van, Rev. Godweiser invited me to see his band (Ma's Collision Repair) at a yet-to-be determined house of worship. "Wot the 'ell" were my thoughts; "Sure, I'd like that" were my words. Drew was running late for rehearsal, so all seven bade me good evening. Went back inside to catch the rest of the Braves game I'd been watching (before the 7th-inning stretch had become 7th-inning strange).

Ten days after the attempted S.O.D. coup on my soul, Drew and I were on our way to see Ma's Collision Repair. He'd brought his lady friend Stephanie along for the ride. She was a nice girl, though somewhat spaced-out. The three of us talked about novelty license plates. I mentioned how one day I'd like to have my car tags read “G8544.” Drew quickly rebutted my wish, by stating how plates with the letter "G" followed by four numbers were reserved for the handicapped. "No, handicapped tags are novelties in and of themselves," was my counter-reply. Just at that moment, a Ford Escort passed by Drew's car in the left lane. License-plate number -- PAPA WC (with the wheelchair icon in front of the inscription). I laughed uncontrollably, Drew mildly chuckled, and Stephanie sat by her beau with a blank "Huh?" expression. Her usual look, in other words. We entered the church parking lot, as I observed how many spaces were taken. Damn near every one of them. Besides Ma's Collision Repair, Elder and Squad 5-0 were also on the bill. "That'll be ten dollars," said the doorman. Not a bad price for three people, right? "Uh, that's ten from each of you," stumbled His Collection Agent. Unbelievable! I had seen Our Heavenly Fathers (the Ramones) for $9.00, ogled the Sweet Daughters of Eve (The Muffs) for $8.00, and shaken the blessed hand of an assistant to His Absolute Holiness (Scott Asheton, ex-drummer of [Iggy And] The Stooges) for free, prior to this forced offering.

With a scowl, I forked over two five-dollar bills and began to soak up the atmosphere. This concert hall was most certainly a religious setting. Lots of crosses, pictures of biblical scenes, and quotes from "The Good Book" decorated the walls. Though "the kids" around me presented themselves like many a Manic Panic casualty I had run into at past secular shows, their shirts and jackets were adorned with patches of unfamiliar-to-my-ears-and-eyes bands (MXPX, Supertones, The Dingees, The '77s, The Blamed, etc.).

Like "Godweiser" and "Jesus Pepsi," He and His Son's names also found their way onto tees depicting Visa credit cards and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Another youngster flashed a more general slogan --"Jesus Died 4 U." Who did this Jesus H. Christ think he was? The Artist Who Wished He Were Prince? After a pre-show prayer involving both the performers and attendees (my eyes remained open), Elder struck their opening chords. You know how some bands sound like Pearl Jam, while others sound like the bands who sound like Pearl Jam? Well, Elder furthered the category by sounding like the bands who sound like Pearl Jam who sound like the bands who sound like Pearl Jam. Confused? See, Creed. The final one-third of their set was spoken-word concerning God and stuff. Then they were finished.

Wandering around the place was a three-foot-tall man with a gregarious manner. He looked strangely familiar. If you're a "Baywatch" fan, you may recall an episode that featured a character named Simon, who tried to re-establish ties with his son. In one scene, the boy asked Matt (whom he looked up to), "Why did my dad have to be a dwarf?" Didn't confirm whether or not the happy little man was Simon. Too bad, cause I had a million questions for him.

The next act, Squad 5-0, actually shone under the restrictive conditions. Judging by the tape Drew had played earlier and their live set, the Squad echoed the U.K. Subs with ska leanings. Final song was a M.C. Hammer/Vanilla Ice medley, where the vocalist sang about something "that makes me hard." Quickly, a Tim Robertson-like (Pat's son), finger-pointing member of the church ("No, no, no") scolded the band for use of suggestive lyric. Good performance from Squad 5-0, who'd made me question their "religiousosity." Could they've duped the naive Christian fan base with their thoughts and feelings? If so, kudos! To paraphrase Hannibal: "I love it when a sham comes together."

Headliners Ma's Collision Repair sang and skanked for a shade under half-an-hour. Then came the most bizarre appeal I'd ever seen/heard a band make. During the final phase of their set, Ma's Collision Repair underwent a transformation from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to The Mighty Clouds Of Joy. Instead of their usual happy-go-lucky ska-punk sounds, MCR employed a choral stance with bits of brushwork drumming. Each member took a turn "praising Him," then asked people in the crowd who were not yet saved to come up onstage and share in the glory. Now, I may have accidentally gotten saved when forced to attend Sunday school during my pre-teen years (my brother Mike "accepted J.C." over fifty times -- his way of getting out of the classroom), but I'll be damned if some two-bit local ska act with a single-digit number of shows under their belt thinks they have the power to influence my beliefs/non-beliefs of a supreme being.

The only band whom I would “surrender to Jesus" for is Husker Du, because (as any fan will tell you) it would truly take "an act of God" to bring Mr. Mould, Mr. Hart, and Mr. Norton together again. If that reunion ever happens, I'll be the first to shout, "Praise be unto Him!" Until then, there will be no right way for me to eat a Jesus Peanut Butter Cup.

1 comment:

  1. Worst genre ever? Probably Christian rap. At least Stryper TRIED to rock.