New Years Eve 1982, and we’re standing together in the upstairs loge of Irving Plaza.
We got to play and then the plug was pulled; the promoter has bailed out.
Those lumberjacks of DOA are wandering the venue, trying to find someone to beat for this shit.
As with so many stacked shows in those days, no one knows anything, no one’s getting paid, and the sound company starts dismantling the rig 3/4 way through our set.
It’s our first time in New York City, and we are still trying to wrap our heads around this freezing cold, the mountains of buildings…the people.
Kimm is chased out of a Kosher Deli for requesting a slice of cheese on his brisket, Jack is still trying to find parking for our rental station wagon on the streets around Union Square.
Larry buys a quarter gram and four Quaaludes off a friendly cab driver, yet is rewarded only baby powder and AlkaSeltzers for his 50 bucks.
We are just kids in the city, having a fuckin blast.
Biscuit’s counting heads, trying to calculate how much money someone has skipped out with.
He stops counting and shrugs, resigned to just another cancelled gig, though this one is 2000 miles from home in the dead of winter.
“So how y’all?” he asks, and that honey smooth Texas accent adds some familiar warmth to this strange moonscape. We haven’t seen The Boys since we passed through in July, though it seems like a lot has happened for both our bands.
A snotty kid comes up to us then and stops in front of Biscuit.
Yo, you’re the guy from Big Boys, right?
Biscuit nods and sticks out his hand in greeting.
Hahaha!, the kid spits, faggot! and then he runs off.
I am frozen, sick with shame, as much from this brutality as my own cowardice for not chasing the kid down and poking his eyes out.
But Biscuit just turns back to me and continues our chat.
“So y’all got some good shows going on out LA huh? We gotta get back soon.”
I think of that now, and imagine all of the ignorant abuse this man endured, being one of the first openly gay guys in the hardcore scene.
It doesn’t seem any big deal now, but amidst that macho bullshit of the early 80’s, this supposedly independent music community was often soured by a prison yard mentality.
And when I heard a couple of years later of The Bad Brains passing through Austin and cursing Biscuits’ lifestyle as an affront to their pseudo Rastafarian religion, I could only imagine Randy taking yet another insult in stride, if not with graceful anger.
When we pulled up at The Ritz it was already a boiling Texas day, the damp blanket of humidity another new experience for us.
But we’re cheered immediately by the hand painted sign welcoming us to town, and what a fucking lineup!
The Big Boys had humbly put their name down at the bottom of that banner, though they explained to us it would be a lot better if they played last.
The crowd was great for our set, though we were shaky and nervous as hell.
The Huskers were a little shaken by the charming Austin tradition of tossing empty LoneStar cans up at the stage, and warned us to keep an eye peeled.
We simply requested only full cans only be tossed in our direction and spent the set running around with our mouths open like drunken sparrows at dinnertime.
It got the crowd on our side and by the end of our set we were sticky with beer and drunk off our asses.
And then The Big Boys got up there to close out the night and we understood:
This was their town.
Tim Kerr stage left playing loose and fast, all syncopation and jangle.
Chris Gates to the right, a block of power and mass: a car battery.
And Biscuit front and center, using up that stage. I think they had some horns along, though you couldn’t really hear them for the crowd shouting their lyrics right back to them.
This felt like community compared to LA, our metropolis flattened and spread wide like a squashed and molded fruit.
We had already had punk on punk violence and splintered tribes formed by area code, but here it was still us against them, and everyone in that hall was united by the music, the life, the city.
What else to say? They were a great band.
A few years went by.
Looking back, it was a shockingly short time that bracketed that first episode of punk for us. I mean, our EP came out in 1982, and by ’86 we were already dressing like Eastern Bloc whores and playing the goddamn harmonica onstage for fuck sake.
But in that sweet season we got to connect then reconnect with these people again at different waypoints.
Compare notes on what we saw out there in the wilds of America. The crisscrossed network of promoters and clubs grew bolder with every month, and bands would return with new reconnaissance to share.
The Big Boys would come back through town, a show with us at The Vex, or we’d go to see them at another club.
One night we picked them up at whatever pad they were camped and took them down to the Cathay for a weekday gig. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were the openers that night, and though I know it’s hard for you youngsters to believe, they did not always suck.
The Peppers charged the basement room, Flea slapping the shit out of that MusicMan, AnthonyK rolling the floor as he spit the sixteens.
The ride home was quiet. They talked about what they saw: something ferocious and new, obviously inspired by them.
I think they sensed that someone had discovered and refined the art they had created.
Made it sleeker and sexier, ready to be repackaged to the very Frat Boys that were the Big Boys’ earliest nemeses.
After that Ritz gig, Duane, Jackie and I went back to Biscuit’s place while Larry and Kimm went to stay with Tim and Beth.
We pulled up sweaty, drunk and exhausted.
Biscuit opened the door wide for us, cleaned up and smiling.
The wild force we’d witnessed onstage just a couple of hours ago was now the proper Texas host once again. He bowed to bid us in and then pointed us to our beds for the night.
“Well, I just had myself a cool bath and made a peanut butter jelly sandwich, and I invite y’all to do the same,” he said.
We were grateful as abandoned dogs, and fell upon the white bread and Skippy in kind.
“That was a real good one, wasn’t it,” he said then.