Our Last Gig: Packed like Sardines

Albert Licano photo

As we skirt across the webbed span of the Gerald Desmond bridge, an industrial glow emanates from below.
Terminal Island pulses with the churn of commerce, harsh sodium lighting showcasing an evershifting city of shipping containers.
I gaze down at those boxes stacked eight or nine tall for endless blocks.
They sit in purgatory, a moment of stillness between the churning black Pacific and the stinking miles of highways ahead.
Waiting to be plucked by the cranes hunting from above, fattened grubs helpless to the cruel whims of a hungry mantis.

I have to wonder what lies within those corrugated steel walls.
Worthless trinkets made by starving children?
Medicines delayed by customs, while a young man dies surrounded by family?
Perhaps huddled within are humans, ready to emerge blinking in the sunlight, the opportunity or destruction of the American ideal on their minds.

It’s a chilled Friday night in the South Bay, an area that has always held a mysterious shroud over its industrial bent.
The legendary Dancing Waters, sure.

But we recall earlier riotous nights on that side of the Vincent Thomas:
There we are after a drunken gig at the Minutemen’s private space in 1981, when we lost the keys to the van and were stranded at 3 am.
A vigilante troop of cholos sweep the darkened streets of punk trash, breaking my nose and tearing off a side view mirror for good measure.

The Cove in Hermosa 1982, when one industrious punk notices a working firehose coiled innocently against the wall.
And like Chekhov’s gun introduced in Act One, said hose was surely unfurled and unleashed by night’s end.
The geysers flooding the lobby a glorious fountain of crimson and azure, colored by the police cars surrounding the building.

But we hope no such water damage or bodily injury awaits us at the Sardine complex tonight.
It is a tight friendly crew, our boys in Spider once again joining us along with youthful ragers Love Equal Death from up yonder Ukiah way.

Love Equal Death

The Sardine, It’s a very cool space.
Neighborhood bar up front, decent sized gig space in back.
And a lovely little courtyard just beyond that, where people smoke and chat.
They sprawl along picnic tables like divorced dads waiting for the end of soccer practice, dreading the inevitable conversation with the ex through gritted teeth.

Lorrie Smith photo

After Love=Death slays with their high energy melodic take, our Spider men take stage and do their thing.

Albert Licano live photos

The lads are energized tonight, Hector bounding about the stage, pointing out the targets of rage that only he sees hidden in the dark rafters of the club.

It is the finest set I’ve seen them play, though I dare not mention that when we pass them offloading the stage as we set up.
Can’t have them getting too high tone on us, yeh?
“That second song from the end,” I ask Karl while he packs up his pedal board. “Is it supposed to sound like that or was that a fuckup?”

Lorrie Smith photo

I see Randy from the legendary Alley Cats slinking around the perimeter of the courtyard looking the world like a wizened spectral vision.
I say hello and we chat about band stuff for a bit, and I am relieved he doesn’t warn me of two more holiday spirits that shall me visit me on this night.

I notice my old pal Marcus standing by the stage, and I haul him up to do the band introduction.
A former Buddhist monk, he agrees with a serene nod when I ask him to start us out with a brief chant.
Om Mani Padme Hum, he sings, Om Mani Padme….
And then we climb upon the stage one more time, one more Friday night sending out our own mantra into the ether.

No lobbies are flooded tonight, no cartilage bruised.
We launch the music skyward, in hopes of transmission, contact, engagement.

A mile away, the port hums its own chant of concern.
A battle call of grinding gears, a song of its cargo, of the treasures and terrors that lay in wait.

A Day in the Park

I’d been up in these hills before, so I knew what to expect.
Up Santiago Canyon, past my beloved Saddleback Park, the crown jewel of So Ca motocross now shuttered and relegated to landfill.
Irvine Lake shimmers to the left, and as we enter Oak Canyon I start to track the dwindling cell coverage on my phone.
The bars dropping off like the weakened pulse of a hospice patient, vital signs growing fainter until finally flat-lined.
Sweet merciful death.

I put my neutered phone back in my pocket, and I suddenly realize just how much we’ve all become reliant on these goddamned rectangles of silicon and glass.
As we follow their directions along routes we already know, as we allow them to strip beloved phone numbers from memory and reduce human interaction to emoji, so there goes our soul.

It is liberating, a day out without impersonal connection.
Textless, we all make plans to meet up by certain gnarled Oak if we happen to get lost, and I am transported to youth.
The luxury of two hours away from the parents at Disneyland: a child of ten rewarded for a sparkling report card, with only the sole duty to meet at Sleeping Beauty’s castle right after lunch

We park in the dusty back lot, directed by signage identifying us as either Troop 606 Boy Scout or Punk.
And I ask you this: Can’t we be both?

It’s a grand day out, a promised rainstorm holding off until the Punk in the Park fest can wrap up under a bright full moon.
Inside the gates it is a massive play space, beer gardens slinging free sips of crafted beers, a cigar lounge over here, art gallery over there.
The crowd is giddy, kids running into the hugs of friends met by surprise.
A clutch of trees shade families of punkers two or three generations deep.
And here, here comes the Manic Hispanic cart, passing out fruity paletas to the laughing grandkids.

I briefly wonder if we took the wrong turn and had indeed stumbled upon a jamboree of jolly scouts.

We stop by to see our pals at the Steady Brewing booth where they are passing out samples of the new-yes- CH3 lager.
People down the tiny cups like mental patients tossing back daily medications.
I watch people sipping at samples, and I ask how it is. They give it the thumbs up.
“It’s good,” one punkette tells me. “It’s better than the FEAR beer, but not as flavorful as the Damned.”

There is a brief moment of vertigo then, as I consider our band branded upon beverage.
Compared to our heroes through not song catalog but by brewing temperature and alcohol content.
But who am I to question this new day of lifestyle symbiosis?
A guy walks by in a Pennywise flannel, smoking a Shattered Faith cigar.

The lads in Pulley have to get out early so we are switched to their later time slot.
Backstage we are also gifted their trailer.
They wave off my grateful apologies from the tent next door as Nick plops down on the couch.

He’s a fuckin madman, our man Nick.
Just off a ten day tour with Final Conflict in Japan, then straight to the dragstrip for a gathering of the Gassers.
I wonder if he is delirious with jetlag and V8 deaf, but he is ready to play, chipper as can be.
When he leans in close to show me the new billet drum pedal he got in Tokyo I can smell burnt rubber and bonito flakes.
I know it’s gonna be just fine.

Friends and family have been welcomed backstage, and it soon takes on the flavor of a backyard barbecue.
We are introduced to kids of the kids we grew up with, and push our grown children before us in return.
Proof of life, sheepish reminders of our nihilistic vows to never grow old.

I ask my daughter which shirt to wear on stage.
She rolls her eyes and reaches for the bottle of vodka I smuggled in my guitar case for her, my sole paternal duty done for the day.

We get up on stage just as the sun dips below the hills, a happy bonus to winding the clocks back an hour the night before,
The timing is military tight, and just as Voodoo Glowskulls finish on the other stage we are given the signal to jump.
We launch into Indian Summer then, guitars ringing out true into the cooling night air.
And here comes the crowd migrating toward us, like parched Serengeti cats toward the watering hole.

It’s only a thirty minute set, so there’s hardly time for the usual banter and confusion onstage.
But it is Kimm’s birthday, of all things, and we take a sweet moment to wish him well as our kids bring out a cake.
He blows out the candles as I surprise him with the opening riffs of Last Time I Drank, a song that soured us for a generation of punkers.
But now it takes on a renewed, celebratory ring.
And when an honest to god circle pit starts to swirl up a cloud of dust I turn to Kimm and think I see a wee teardrop form in the corner of his eye.
Happiness or embarrassment, I’ll never know.

It gets cold, it gets dark.
Lights sparkle along the trees as couples smooch in the shadows, dudes barf in the bushes.

We do our last sweep of the dressing room, swipe all the Redbulls and Cornchips we can carry from the abandoned trailers.
As we head out of the Canyon we are all silent, each of us already reliving the day past.
The lights of Orange County come into view below us, a vast bowl of twinkling lights stretching to the horizon.

Suddenly everyone’s phones start chiming and buzzing, for we have re-entered the coverage zone.
My leg tingles with phone vibration, text after text, social media notifications.
Notifying me of things I have no need to know.

I surrender a quick look at the newsfeed, and a certain red hatted madman has threatened a return campaign
A terrifying election looms in just hours, the fucking Astros take the series, the planet burns and weeps.

And I turn back then, back toward the blackness of the hills, toward a day among family and friends.
And I long to be up there still:
Surrounded; Unconnected.

No Sleep til Sacto

55 minutes.
That’s all I’ve slept when I am awakened by voices.
I turn to see if it is Kimm, still awake, talking on his phone.
Or perhaps mumbling through a nightmare, the one where he fights off the night demon torching his balls with a blowtorch.
But he is snoring gently into his pillow in the bed next to mine.

Then another volley of conversation comes from the wall, from the room next door.
3:58 am, that’s what the clock says.

I get up to take a leak, navigating the anvil cases and 4 x 12 cabinets blocking my way.
On my return, I put my head up to the wall and listen, trying to decipher the late night conversation next door.

I can only make out the mumbling pattern of consonant and vowel, the muted trombone speak of grown ups talking to a Peanuts character.
I hear a clearing of throat, then the laughter of a woman-no, two women-and a man.
There is the flick of a Bic lighter, silence, then a cough.
Gah! I pull my head back from the wall with grim diagnosis:

The night earlier was grand, the first night up North in a good goddamn while with the lads from Field Day.

It’s been years since we’ve taken this familiar route, but soon we are lulled into the old rhythms of Interstate 5.
The trip up the dustbowl spine of the state once more, the blasted landscape punctuated by the occasional signs accusing the governor of dumping almond grove water into the ocean.
Nothing much changes along the 5, save the startling appearance of another block of Amazon warehouses among the condemned cattle.
But soon the bay comes into view, and we roll down the windows to take in the salt perfumed breeze.

Ivy Room in Albany tonight, this side of the bay, saving us the humiliation of trying to cross that goddamned bridge on a Friday evening.
It’s out first meeting with the Field Day crew, though Doug and I have been email tagging for months to plan out these gigs. We hug it up, one of those virtual friendships borne of social media that somehow become real.
And though I am still confused by the Wikipedia entries of the comings and goings of Dag Nasty I recognize Peter as the chap perusing the menu of the Himalayan restaurant next door.
I approach, say hello, then we compare notes on the indignities of air travel and the departed Daghouse forum.

We get up and roll out the Fear of Life set out once again.
On the intro to Catholic Boy I try to match the muted downstrokes of the recording, but I simply cannot play that fast any more.
I surrender to a lazy up and down strumming, as if fanning a cowboy hat over a glowing ember, willing it into flame.

@Digdivi Photos

Field Day get up then, Peter and Doug joined by a couple of ferocious musicians in Shay and Kevin on guitar and drums.
They blast through the Dag hits, barely stopping to acknowledge breath or thirst, the earth’s very gravity.
It is fierce and tuneful, the crowd responds in kind, the show is over in a blink.
We are all talking and laughing then, jazzed on being out playing once again.
The bar lights are suddenly switched on , shooing us all into the night.

Field Day
@Digdivi Photo

But now the town is shut up tight, not even a 7-11 to grab some regret laden treats.
We pull into the third rate motel off the 580, one of those Expedia picks that are succinctly reviewed with triple exclamation points (Nope!!!) and it all comes back to me.
We accept that this is no place to leave stuff in the truck, and grimly start the last bonus load in of the night, stacking the gear into our cramped rooms.
As we pass the lit and darkened windows, their curtains part slightly, inmates checking out the fresh fish.
At one open door an old gent sits on an office chair, plucking at a worn acoustic between drags off the sativa packed corncob pipe lodged between his gums.
I dare a peek over his shoulder and look into his room, and see he is in for the long haul: the room is piled with WalMart groceries, stacks of black garbage bags bulging with the detritus of a previous life either failed or escaped.
A grey tabby rests upon the garbage bags shamelessly licking at her crotch, a goddess upon her throne of cumulonimbus clouds.

We load in, finally, then meet at a bank of vending machines for a late night snack.
There is microwave popcorn and honey buns, cup noodles and Doritos.
After briefly considering making a county jail style spread, we come to our senses and grab a sensible Kit Kat, head to our racks for a night of sleep.

For 55 minutes.

4:30 am now, and returning to sleep is impossible.
For now I have become attuned to the rhythms of their drug addled conversation next door.
I have come to believe the two women are newly acquainted, the man older than either of them.
The ladies’ rapid fire dialogue is only occasionally interrupted by the basso profondo interjection of the man.
Then a beat of silence, then a coughing fit of laughter.
I fall into a trance, then, and it is not the talking but the rare lulls in their conversations that kill me.
It is the torture of waiting for the next whoo! to break the silence.

Around 5 am I surrender and switch on the TV.
The local PBS is rolling out old cooking shows, those late 80’s gems before the Food Network turned chefs into fucking Country music stars.
Good old Jacques Pepin demonstrates how to debone and entire chicken through its asshole.

Yan Can Cook comes on next.
Yan smiles and mugs for the cameras, shows the rotting insides of the Durian fruit before returning to the studio kitchen to slice up some stuff.
This is what we are here for, and he knows it.
Fuck the chef knife, Yan wields his trusty cleaver, and decimates all that he surveys.
He chops with ferocious downstrokes, smiling up at the camera, mugging at us-it’s so easy, dummy!-his hand a blur.
Old Yan, he juliennes everything before him save his calloused fingers.

As Yan chops away, I become aware of another sound, a matching beat to his chopping.
I mute the sound on the TV.
It is next door I am hearing, but not the rumbling dialogue that has haunted me thus far.
The drug fueled discourse has been replaced with a more urgent human expression.
There is a grunt, a singing hum, a single expression clear as a bell through the drywall: oh!
Then it is a rhythmic pulse, the tick of bedspring and and tock headboard, the panting exhalations: the unmistakable sound of fucking.
On the screen, Yan now flattens a clove of garlic with the flat of his blade.
From next door comes the answer:
Aye papi, papi! Now…now!

The fellas finally rouse me at checkout time, shaking me out of a fitful sleep that came only after daylight.
Twisted dreams where Yan had chopped down a forest of broccoli, only after the people next door ingested the last of their treasures and spent the last of their bodily fluids.

The day out there is spectacular, though, and the bay breeze is delicious after the insane So Ca heat we’ve been sucking down for 2 weeks.
We load all the gear back out to the truck, and after my final sweep of the room I purposely linger outside the room next door.
I wonder if they might open the door then, if their faces can possibly match the hideous and wonderful features I have spent the night projecting upon those distant voices.
I put an ear to the door but hear nothing, and I console myself that it is better this way.
What is it they say? We should never really meet our heroes.


It is a straight shot to Sacramento for the next show, but we cannot resist the urge to visit the city.
I mean, it’s right there!

Of course, there is the pesky thing called the Bay Bridge to navigate first, and the quick jaunt into the city takes most of the day.
But really, who cares? What are we going to do with the day anyway- Sleep?
Debone a chicken? Reproduce with diseased strangers?
Lunch is at our old beloved Parkside, being the only place we figure we can grab a bite and still keep an eye on the gear.
Our pal James meets up with us and we are soon stuffing our mouths with those famous tater tots.

We drive through North Beach then, and look longingly up at the top story of Vesuvios.
There’s no way we can leave the gear out here on the streets of San Francisco though, so we drive on.
We pass City Lights and I make a small discrete sign of the cross over my chest.

After dropping gear at the Colonial in Sacramento, we check into a Motel 6.
Cheap but corporate, a couple steps up from last night’s circus.
This one has a gate around it, parking passes to be displayed on the dash, not two but three warnings not to hang around outside the rooms late night smoking: The cops will be called,
The room is sparse but clean and we have the luxury of an hour and a half before doors.
I try to nap, but now I am maddened once again, for the room is too quiet.
On the TV England is saying farewell to the Queen on every station, but I can find no one destroying vegetables.
I put my head to the drywall and listen.
I hear only the hum of water coursing through plumbing and suddenly I’ve never felt so alone.
I cup my hands to my mouth and whisper into the wall then, hoping someone-anyone– will hear:
Aye? Papi?


It’s a jolly crew at the Colonial Cafe tonight, and we are humbled to run into old and new fans.
These people who have waited out these last few insane years to come on back out to the clubs.
Third song up is You Make Me Feel Cheap, and our old mate Chris Shary jumps up on stage to sing it with me.
He does his wild Saint Vitus dance then, stomping the stage with raised knees , reaching wildly above his head as if gathering the last fireflies of the summer.

Robert Taylor photos
Robert Taylor Photos

It is Saturday night, and I get to stand on a stage with a guitar in hand once again.
We play Catholic Boy, and I urge my wrist down upon the strings, harder and faster, conjuring the carefree downstrokes of my past.
My wrist blurs, as if holding an 8 inch cleaver and making it sing upon the cutting board.

And when I turn to the microphone, it is not verse or chorus that comes from my mouth, but a more primal sound.
Ugh, I sing. Aye.
Wordlessly pleading, as if urging an amphetemined lover to climax, at last, so we can finally go to sleep.

Fear and Life at Alex’s Bar

Edward Colver photo

We let the final chord of I Wanna Know Why ring out, vamping it out with a storm of crash cymbals and dissonant guitar leads.
We turn to each other, shrug, then bring it to a dead stop.
Like putting down a wounded animal with a merciful bullet to the skull.

Time! I call out as Kimm checks the timer on his cell.
“Thirty three and ten,” Kimm says, holding up his Iphone.

Anthony opens the studio door, and even this humid heatwave night tastes delicious compared to the County Jail stank of the rehearsal room.
We stumble into the parking lot, gasping for air like stranded mudskippers, our clothes soaked as if we’d just been rescued from a shipwreck.

We’ve been trying to relearn the Fear of Life album, both sides in order: no stops, two and half seconds between songs.
23 minutes, 35 seconds, that’s what they tell us the original playing time is of this record, yet we still can’t get it under thirty minutes.
Perhaps it is our constant goof ups, or the wheezing I do between songs, hands on knees, cursing that nineteen year old dick who had to write so many fucking words, and shouted them way too fast.

The record is 41 years old.
But of course that pesky little worldwide pandemic put a damper on a proper 40th anniversary, so the plan is to commemorate it now, asterisked by Covid like a home run record smudged by steroid use.
We find ourselves in a race against our younger selves now.
Trying to compete with those determined and beer drunk children.
Them; They: they wrote those first ten songs on the shag carpet of their bedroom floors, innocent of every thrill and heartbreak that lay ahead of them.

Brian Walsby art

Most of the songs come back easily enough.
Hell, we’ve played Catholic Boy and Manzanar almost every set for fucking four decades.
But we take a moment to listen to the original tracks, Nick holding his YouTube loaded phone up to prove we are playing one too fast, the other too slow.
I try to match the impossible downstrokes, only to awaken insidious roots of arthritis climbing through my wrist.

We get to Double Standard Boys, and realize we have never played this track live.
After failing to identify a proper key we resort once again to the internet.
Sure enough, there is a tutorial on how to play the song.
That our teacher is wearing a Duck head means nothing; I am just grateful he keeps his pants on and the clip doesn’t dissolve into some bizarre furry Only Fans episode.

When I pull up to Alex’s it is packing.
Surprising, as we are in the middle of a suffocating tropical heat wave.
Hot, that’s all anyone can yap about the past week, the news anchors giving us handy little tips on How to Stay Cool:
Stay indoors, hydrate, save electricity by masturbating to old Penthouse magazines.
Fuck that brother, these people are here to drink beer and howl along to punk rock.
Dance while the wounded planet tries to shake us loose by turning up the heat.

Happy tenth Dead Rockers!

It’s a matinee show, my favorite thing lately.
We can play and be done before the sun surrenders to the horizon, be home and showered before the first dragon appears on the latest awful Game of Thrones prequel.

The big top tent remains outside of Alex’s, one sweet benefit of those virus years.
Everyone is smiling, damn glad to be out among friends, even in the thick heat.
Tacos grilling, ukulele music going, Decry heating things up inside.

Live shots: Albert Licano @jerryskid1 photos

When I pull the Rickenbacker out of its case the neck already feels gummed, the strings corroded with dried sweat from the practice sessions.
As I tune up I try to remember the lyrics, those words four decades old.
Verses all mixed up in my head, along with the grocery list for the week and passwords for a dozen websites, my locker combination from Faye Ross Junior High.
I consider the limited capacity under my graying hair, the countless motocross crashes and drunken stunts that resulted in only head injury and skinned palms.
I ask you: a teleprompter in a punk rock band–would it really be so bad?

Out of Control, that’s an easy enough opener, though a song we’ve relegated to the minors for the past few years.
A pedestrian rocker in a standard 12 bar costume, it’s a song that we’ve played with an eyeroll and a groan, nobody’s favorite

But this time it seems different–we play it with a renewed focus, in context of the whole.
Kimm and Ant bark the answer lines, Nick pounds out the backbeat with urgency.
We finish it and roll into Accident, and now people in the room come forward.
It seems to call to some past memory, of being a teenager and sitting on a couch while vinyl spins on a turntable across the room. Friends and music, together.
A lyric sheet is held on lap, an album sleeve is covered with seeds and stems on a cluttered coffee table.

We roll into Make Me Feel Cheap then, and I can see people smiling, nodding their silver and balding heads.
Household pets, all of us, yet aware of our wild ancestors who howled at the moon and feasted on sweet human flesh: it’s still there.

Fear of Life follows Wetspots, that pesky little ode to precum.
We’ve finished side one, and we’re ahead of schedule.
We’ve been playing the songs too fast perhaps, driven on by adrenaline and sheer momentum.
Breathe, I remind myself.
Enjoy this fucking thing.

I squint down at the setlist at my feet, then have to crouch down to make out the blurred print.
Life Goes On, that’s the song that starts Side Two.
I am back at Brian Elliot’s studio, a teen in OP shorts, listening to the playbacks and witnessing the lost art that was called song sequencing.
Jay Lansford sliding the candy colored faders, Robbie Fields pinching the bridge of his nose as he listens.
Posh turns back from the board and grins at me, cleverly answering the previous track’s cocking gun and final tragic denouement with this hopeful pop song.

Manzanar next, and we kill it: we’ve found a pocket that’s been lost for years.
Strength in Numbers then, a song that has got astonishing online plays due solely to an eight second background play on Netflix’ Stranger Things.
And though I have to question that doomed hesher Billy having the good taste to blast the track between his Scorpions mixtapes, we’ll take it.

And now it’s time to play Double Standard, and before we count off I turn back to Nick and nod.
He clocks my pleading eyes: play it slow please.

We get through it alright, all the lyrics remembered if not slurred and blurred.
But before I can catch a breath we are into You Lie, and the whole thing is almost done.

Only I Wanna Know Why is left to play.
And the room is on our side, all of us in another day, of phone numbers known by heart, clove cigarettes shared in the alley, black beauties sniffed out of the pocket betwixt forefinger and thumb.

We finish, ten songs done, an album of our youth revisited.
I turn to Kimm, raise an eyebrow and point to his wristwatch, but it doesn’t matter.
We are no longer in a race with the past, but have somehow conjured it up in a thirty minute visit.
Like a brief conversation with the ghost of friend gone too soon.

In Search of Internal Combustion at the HoeDown

We get to the Port damn early, pulling into the backstage parking lot before the morning mist has yet to lift from the harbor.
A huge tanker chugs past, like a block long condominium set adrift by a jolting shrug of the San Andreas fault.
I pause a moment, guitar case in hand, as we unload.
I squint up at the stacks of containers moving past, then down to the waterline where the filthy port water is churned turquoise by the prow of the ship.
Propelled forward by submerged violence, I wonder at the sheer horsepower generated within that steel hull.
The miracle of fuel re-imagined as power, the massive screws twisting endlessly in battle against distance and time.

Nick got there even earlier, and has already staked out a prime spot near the stage.
We have room for not only our pop-up and merch table, but also for Nick’s straight axle gasser, Dethtrap.

It gives our staked space the cool feeling of being back in the pits, of those 1970’s evenings out at Ascot or Orange County International Raceway, where we would race under the lights on the tight MX track while just beyond a chain link fence the garage built cars smoked their tires.
The night air perfumed with the acrid sweet funk of melting rubber.

We’ve pulled an early set time, but that’s okay.
It’s just a thrill to be back here at a festival, though Tucker went through hell pulling this one off.
Through re schedules and band changes, the fest remained a torn flag on the horizon, a beacon to end this nutso Summer.
There is still the delicious vibe of chaos going on.
But the bands are indeed piling in and the stages have been set, and it looks like against all odds this thing is going to launch.
We get up there and do the thing:

We play alright, though it it is always interesting to air our setlist under the midday sun.
Forty year old songs of longing and desperation, nocturnal as raccoons.
Perhaps they are better suited to the late nights in sweaty nightclubs?

I wander the festival grounds, the vast space starting to fill in with all the people who have sensibly arrived after our set.
People come up and apologize for missing us, ask how it was.
I assure them it’s all good, though a shame they have missed one of our all time great performances.
We walk away from each other, each reassured by the white lie, faces intact.


Familiar faces everywhere, there is a sense of relief in the air.
The lines snaking up to the food trucks start growing long, the port a potties start reeking with their astonishing stench. By god, it is a music festival after all!

Farrell with PR Karaoke

Back at the merch stand we huddle beneath the pop up, watch as Paul grumpily rejects another potential customer.
We don’t have that one in that size he repeats yet again.
But most people stop by not to look at our meager selection of T shirts, but at the car.
Nick stands by Dethtrap like a proud papa, pulling the pins to tilt forward the hood again and again to show off his build.
A mild ’61 Dart repowered and rebuilt to 357 cubic inches of primitive power, 500 horsepower atop a 2900 pound car.
It is Southern California.
As people stop and look at the car, the sight of it seems to conjure sweet memories of their own late nights in the garage.
Huddled over engines or flat backed underneath: a pal’s reassuring hands gripped upon their ankles to pull them out on the dolly, a four speed transmission cradled heavy upon chest, precious as an unexploded ordnance.

My brother JB comes by and I watch as he and Nick talk, and I know he is telling the story of his own ’72 Nova that he built and rebuilt, the most notable marker of his high school life.

Love Canal

And those memories are mine as well.
The nights pestering him for a look by shop light at the hulking big block, until he would finally send me to a corner of the garage with valve seating compound and a suction tipped wand to grind down the valve seats on a cracked head.
I haven’t thought of such things in decades, but I am instantly back in that Cerritos garage, long before we had the notion to egg carton the walls and turn up the amps.
I smell the upturned hubcaps filled with gasoline to soak dirty parts, hear the clatter of tools dropped out of reach and the string of cuss words that followed.


The three stages go non stop and the crowd sweeps back and forth with each changeover.
Every set seems a victory against the threat of a shutdown, under broken security lines or viral load.
The day gains terrific momentum, like pistons unleashed of gravity, sending propulsion to crankshaft with each miraculous ballet of intake and compression, ignition and exhaust.

The HoeDown lineup features several acts that tend toward rockabilly and sleaze rock, their mirrored audience looking like a generation longing for the days of leaded fuel and cigarette machines at full service gas stations.
Pinup dreamboats that look like they should be perched atop the classic rods and the greasy haired rockers who look like they should be underneath in the grease pit.


Back in the pits, another crowd has gathered around the gasser.
Marshall, my old pal who spent his career as a Ford mechanic, comes by and looks it over grimly, like a man who’d be happy to never peer at another greasy motor in his retired life.  
But then Nick opens the hood and Marshall grins, and he goes, aw jeez, what have you done here….and then they are both pointing and talking.

An old punker stops in front of the car.
In typical uniform, short pants and Vans, a faded Suicidal Tendencies Tshirt washed thin through the years and stretched tight over expanded waistline.
He holds hands with a young boy, and though I first assume it his son, I do a quick calculation and realize he is my age, and therefore that is a grandson.

His eyes come alive with memories of past cars, the sweet torture of working part time jobs and counting a pile of soft bills weekly until he could buy his own ride
And then, in the time honored tradition of So Ca Speed, he starts customizing.
We take what we love and then immediately want to change it.
Faster, and louder.

The boy squints at the gleaming motorwork and tilts his head in wonder.
He has looked under a hood but once, that at his Mom’s Mercedes E Class wagon.
He discovered only a bland sheath of plastic cowling covering a small city of computers and injectors.
He knows only of the sewing machine efficiency of vehicles, bland couches that transport him to soccer practice, silent as a block in solitary.

PopPop points at the motor excitedly, relieved to finally show his grandson these things, to be able to explain how the gas goes from there, and mixes with the air here, and explodes there, and exhaust comes out there.

“That?” he asks in response to his grandson’s whispered question.
He squats until his face is level with the child’s.
They both point to the chrome contraption crowning the motor.
“That’s a carburetor,” he says, as if showing his grandson the last of a near extinct seabird.

And later this night, he will hold his grandson upon his shoulder as the pit rages for Suicidal, and the boy will look wide eyed at the sweet violence, pure as the blue spark that ignites gasoline and propels us onward.

Awesome concert photos by Ron Lyon @Ronlyonphoto

Our Last Gig: Commissary Costa Mesa

I stand at the bar waiting for a Red Bull.
It’s past ten o’clock, you see, and I am unused to being up so late.

I stifle a yawn and try to snap back into nightclub mode, for we still have a set to play.
For the past glorious 18 months I would usually be tucked in bed by this ungodly hour, playing Golf Clash on my Ipad until it slips, finally, from my loosened grip.
Another day ends with a sigh and snore even before the tablet clatters to the ground..

The Daughter is suddenly at my elbow.
She has has migrated toward Dad With His Wallet Out, opportunistic as a hyena sidling up to a lioness chewing on the haunch of a downed wildebeest.
I sigh, ask the bartender to hold up, and ask what she’d like.

She is apparently fetching a round for her crew as well, and she recites an order of highballs and fruity seltzers that sounds like an incantation to summon fallen Indian warriors:
White Claw, Moscow Mule, Seabreeze, Ice Pick……Geronimo!
The bar space before me is suddenly cluttered with slim cans and cocktails concocted from cinnamon whiskey and fluorescent mixers.
I slide two twenties across the bar, and when the bartender looks down at my cash dubiously, surrender two more bills.

The Daughter has already danced back into the darkened depths of the club with her arms filled with drink, while I shell out my last cash for a suitable tip.
But I smile, for I am, at least for a single shining moment, a useful Dad.

Spider is up on stage, and it’s good to see our old pals once again.
The room is ruled by youngsters, dancing out of sheer joy and pent up energy.
Elbows fly, legs pump.
The club adopts the giddy vibe of a dog park, the butt sniffing attendees going crazy and off -leash.

It’s our old bandmate Alf up there on drums, slamming the skins and having a blast.
He plays with a renewed energy, and I have to admit it is bittersweet.
Like seeing an old flame now thirty pounds lighter and remarried, happily moved on from a hilarious yet doomed relationship.

It occurs to me that Alfie was the first to be a Father, though he is years younger than me or Kimm.
He started a family admirably young, and now counts Grandkids among his audience while he sips bronzed beers during his Sunday patio sessions.

I wander to the cordoned off backstage area, where Nick huddles with the other drummers.
They warm up their wrists and complain about singers.
Steven from Shattered Faith catches us up on his rockstar twins from The Garden, and their plans to play at vast halls on their upcoming Fall tour.
I wonder aloud if they perhaps need some aging punk rockers to open the show, or maybe even sell merch.
No response.

Bobby shows me photos of his own grandkids on his phone, unable to resist gushing while he talks of their crawling adventures.
Punk rockers reduced to big old softies, I tell ya.

I wonder about my own legacy.
“Now here’s a record your great grandpa made, waaaay back in the 1980’s,” I imagine a future offspring saying.
A toddler chews on the corner of a faded 12″ EP sleeve, my photo on the back: a long dead numbskull grin searches for a trace of dignity in the future
“Oh, here we go. Here’s a song grandpa wrote, it’s called Wetspots. It’s about pre cum.”

The Shattered boys hit the stage, and it is always wonderfully jarring to see Branden up there stage right.
He appears as if a hologram from their younger selves amongst their graying heads.
His slim Thunderesque guitar posing is a cruel reminder of what we all once were.
But he stands next to Pop, and Spencer looks over at him with fatherly pride.

As Anthony tunes his bass backstage, he eyes the cans of Modelo floating in the melting ice water.
I can tell he is tempted to grab a couple for stage, then hide the rest under seat cushions for after the show.
Usual backstage etiquette.

But tomorrow he and Amy will be hosting a party for baby Nova’s first birthday, so he grabs a Monster instead.
After taking a sip he makes a face as if he has just tasted the tears of a sad, sad clown.
It will be our first time meeting his kiddo as well, having watched her grow up these past twelve months by cell phone photos and emailed video clips, isolated safely while the world went about it’s deadly viral business.

I will watch his baby destroy a birthday cake with her bare hands, have her first astonishing taste of sugared icing.
And the world, it will suddenly open up to her, with all its sweet joys and bitter consequences.
I resist reminding Anthony that soon he will be Dad With Wallet, but by the time his daughter is drinking age a round of drinks will cost the same as a 12 volt Lithium car battery.
And he will pay it, and gladly, if just for the chance to stand next to his Daughter for a moment before she disappears into the night.

We play and it is one of those nights.

The bass drumhead breaks, I forget half the words to forty year old songs.
We are off by just that much, a millisecond of groove lost after the long layoff.
But Who cares? seems to be the theme of the night, as people are happy to just be out and together.
During our third attempt to play You Lie I look over and Alf is up onstage again with us, shouting along to the chorus.
He conducts us successfully to the end of it, and I hug him in grateful relief.

When we play Make Me Feel Cheap we bring up Max, Kimm’s son to join us onstage.
He stands next to Pop, and the eyes get a little weepy out there on the dancefloor.
Max, the spitting fucking image of Kimm at that age, straps on Kimm’s Gold Top and joins in with ease.
The crowd loves it, senses how much we love it, and we keep him up there for the set closer of Got a Gun.

With Max up there I have an unnerving sensation in my periphery, that jeweled corner to my left, where for the past forty years I have felt the reassuring presence of Kimm next to me on stage.
I see him as a young man, and imagine that I am young once again as well.

But we get to the final choruses, and I find that I am winded.
Out of practice, out of shape, I croak along to the final shouts, then finally just step back from the microphone.
And it does not matter.
The song blasts on, and young Max steps up to the mic and sings my part.
I watch as the pit boils and the crowd yells, while a new generation carries on.

Our Last Gig: Vaxxed and Unmasked

Kimm and I head into the club as The Berzerkers start their set.
It is dark and packed, and it all comes back to us in an instant.
That throbbing visceral pulse of bass beneath shrieks of drunken joy, the air thick with humidity, dancing bodies sweating in close proximity.
It all feels so distant yet immediately familiar, like the bitter arguments of parents heard through the drywall of a childhood bedroom.


We are both wearing masks, though we quickly abandon them, as no one in the entire club wears them.
It is less a sign of confidence than we don’t want to be confused as Anti-Vaxxers, or perhaps some other cowardly cult that believes in things such as witch burning or the flatness of the planet.
No, we have come cautiously to this first night back, tentative as monkeys first encountering open flame.
We’ve spent the ride down to San Diego hyperventilating, the truck cabin air perfumed with hand sanitizer.

Oh, we’d been offered some earlier gigs, sure.
Thought of doing one of those streaming shows, those odd sets that are performed on a sterile soundstage, rendering the band tame as a 3 a.m. dog act on the Jerry Lewis telethon.
A drive in show? A fucking podcast?
All of these things seemed just desperate half measures, the rationing of Punk Rock while the atmosphere still teemed with deadly microbe, each of us huddled in our caves around the reassuring glow of Netflix while we waited for GrubHub to make with the Pollo Loco.
We got vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, wore masks until told we were safe, lowered them before putting them back on again.

But it was our old pal Arab who persuaded us to finally make a date with the stage once again, a night to celebrate the astounding Hostage Records compilation album we were invited to join, as well as a benefit for the venerable Casbah club and its staff.

We prepared for the gig grimly, as if for battle.
Taking out the gear stored over the past 16 months since our last gig.
I found the strings on the Rickenbacker corroded to rust, had to consult YouTube to remind myself how to restring the wonky tailpiece.
When I unpacked gig bags left untouched since the Viper room, I found a sweaty T shirt that had moldered into a wad of gray, like a hairball coughed up by a shuddering jungle cat.
We practiced, and during breaks we rushed out to gulp at the sweet night air, so out of shape were we to yelling lyrics over roaring guitars.

Ant flexes his sore digits, his fingerpads unused to the cruel thickness of bass string.
His hands now familiar only to the keyboard tapping of home office and the gentle head cradling of infant Nova.
Nick searches his phone for clues to these songs unplayed for so long, somehow keeping them separate from the setlists of Lower Class Brats or Final Conflict in that file cabinet brain of his.
Kimm and I, we just ask each other the same question yet again: Are we really ready to do this?

The Berzerkers wrap up a quick set, the HB crew killing it with their melodic take on frantic Punk Roll.
Familiar faces start floating up to say hello, and I instinctively back away.
I have become enamored of the 6 foot radius clause, have begun to think it shall remain my own personal no fly zone for the remainder of my days.
But the people come in closer, 2 meters then one, and suddenly I am in within spitting distance of these old pals I have not seen in so long.
I hold out a fist, the expression of combat now turned safe greeting, but it is ignored as my hand is grasped in sweaty handshake.
What’s more, that hand is pulled in body tight, and I am suddenly wrapped in a bro hug, body to body with another living human, the thing we have been taught to regard as a Hefty garbage bag full of germs intent on your destruction.
But I somehow survive the hug, and we pull back amazed, amazed at a night out among friends, each of us wearing a smile that even an N95 mask could not hide.

Love Canal goes on next, Bosco playing guitar as well as singing tonight, Arab serenely holding court over the rowdy night that he arranged.
The band is tight and hot as the dancefloor mutates into pit. I am pushed against the back wall by a windmill-armed skanker, someone throws a can into the lights, sending a spray of fruity seltzer down my shirt.
And suddenly all thought of airborne toxicity vanishes from my thought.
Oh yeah, I think. This is a gig!
The soundman asks the guitars to turn down, someone is hustled the back door, his collar collected in the bouncer’s meaty paw.
These things, the Déjà vu details of a thousand nights before; the smell and sights, the noise and filth.
By God, I’ve missed it.
And I just know if I go into the bathroom, the toilet will be overflowing with piss and unspeakable flotsam.
And it feels alright, ya know?

Love Canal

It is our time to set up on the stage, and I surprise myself by being nervous.
We are here to play a set of songs rehearsed to instinct, some of the tracks dating back forty fucking years.
We have replayed this scene so many times, the hectic exchange of gear on and off stage, the quick hellos between guys rolling and unspooling guitar cables. We will tune and line check, squint down at a printout of a setlist and do it all once again.
But it seems new, and we have to pause while arranging the backline at one point, not able to remember if my amp usually sits stage right, or was it left? (It’s right.)
The soundman cuts the house, and the crowd comes in from the smoking patio. I turn to face them and suddenly realize I am not nervous, but excited.
Honored, really, to get to do this once again, to play for these people who have come out to join us.
And I tell myself to remember this, in the futile hope that I will never take it for granted again.

Bain Photo

We play and it is over too quick.
The crowd was great, drunk and happy.
As if they are immune.
Immune to any more bad news.
To the new variants, to the warnings of another drought, to a Western sun bloodied by firesmoke.
For all we know we may go back once again, back to a lockdown.
But for one night at least, we are given the chance to see friends, play some songs, remember what it was like—how it should be.

A guy comes by just as we finish loading.
He introduces himself and says great set, asks if we might take a photo together.
As we say good bye, he holds up a fist, expecting that very least of human contact, knuckle to knuckle.
But I surprise us both by grasping at his hand and then pulling him in, and giving a total stranger a hug.

Eating the Midwest

It’s Thursday and we’ve somehow lost two hours of our lives up there.

We hit the terminal running in Minneapolis, determined not to surrender any more of our precious senior years to the Central Time Zone.

Into a rental minivan, onto the 35 West.
Google Maps is set to Glueks downtown.
We hit scan on the FM and it skips along the unfamiliar stations.
Christian Rock gives way to Classic Oldies. NPR, Banda.
Stop at a station dropping the hip hop hits of the 90’s.

We’re down, apparently, with OPP.

We haven’t snacked since a surprisingly decent breakfast pizza at LAX.
Some raw almonds and ginger ale aboard Southwest flight 728, saving ourselves.

For this is a Midwest swing, and we are fully prepared for our dietary pyramid to be reduced to a mere rhombus containing only the two vital food groups: Meat and Cheese.

A gorgeous Indian Summer day is finally giving way to the shadows.
We stroll up First Avenue now, torsos packed with sausage and pretzel.

We pull up to Mortimers and find a nice crowd for a Thursday. Our pals Alisha and Norm kick off the night with their new act UFO TOFU, the kids belting it out like the hardcore Sonny and Cher.

We play and it’s a great set, confusion and noise, feedback screaming out of the unfamiliar borrowed gear between songs. Just how we like it.
The guitar cables are soaked in beer as we roll them up at the end of the night.

We load out into the cool Minneapolis night humming the Mary Tyler Moore theme song, considering the musical greats borne from this city of lake and snow.

The crew at Mortimers reminds us to take our meals that they have graciously kept warm in the kitchen, and we retire to the AirBnB with the luxury of meatballs and braised meats upon sturdy breads.

Halfway to Chicago, but the schedule just cannot justify the 45 minute detour to descend from Waukesha to hit our beloved Mars Cheese Castle.

Not to worry, as there are many palais de fromage along the 94.

We stop at Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet to test our lactose tolerance.
They, along with several of the cheese huts we pass, believe the common deer mouse is the prime mascot for their silky wares.

It is an odd campaign, when you think about it:
Our product is sure to attract thieving vermin–IT’S JUST THAT GOOD!

It’s just a vat of tailgate spread and some water crackers, thanks, for just across the street is a Culvers, home of the motherfuckin’ Butterburger!

We continue down the highway toward Chicago and its gift of Friday afternoon traffic.
We are insane: We dip fried cheese curds into the Cheddar spread.
We inspect each morsel for the telltale pellet of mouse endorsement, but sadly find none.

Naps at our fave dive, Heart O Chicago (no blood tic tac toe on the mirror this time-boo.)
Then it’s up and toward Liar’s Club and whatever hijinks Herb has in store for the night.

The White Castle on the corner of Ridge sits there like, well, like a castle.
We’re stopped next to it at the light, make jokes about the hideous food, memories of late nights we fell onto the sacks of wee burgers like tweakers upon air conditioning units.
The food is disgusting, we all agree.

We pull through the drive through and order sixteen of them, then avoid looking at each other as we gobble them down.
Shameful, as if eating small sparrows intact.

Oh, Liar’s Club, you goddamn slut of a bar. We love this place.

We walk in to find Herb and the crew have outfitted the stage with bombastic sound gear and lights that make it look like a Ozarks strip club.

Hazardous Youth and our pals Destroy Everything kick it off proper.
It’s loud as fuck in there.

I know the fellas are trying to keep a lid on things, but Herb keeps pushing water glasses of Jameson in their faces, pulling the night further into madness.
Silliness ensues.

We play and it’s a good one, like playing in someone’s basement after sitting in the hot sun drinking beer at a Cubs game.

Pics: MXV!

Pics: Patrick Houdek

Yo, Rod Stewart! Oh no, what the fuck up with your hair?
The girl behind the counter reaches out toward Kimm’s head.
What? Lemmee touch it. It’s stiff right? I bet it’s stiff.

She tousles his hair and then turns her attention to Anthony standing beside Kimm.

Alright, alright then. So what you want, you fuckin’ Keanu looking motherfucker?

Our dear mate Roy suggested a trip up to the famed Weiner’s Circle for a late night snack and some verbal abuse.

Anthony immediately falls in love with the place, going back in for yet another char dog and to trade more insults with the crew.
Soon he starts insulting the other customers as well:
“Hey, don’t wait on this ginger motherfucker,” he tells Rhonda behind the counter.

“You shut the fuck up and sit down, I got this,” she says.

Shoreline Drive and it’s Saturday.
We decide to dive into the touristy center of town.
We show Nick the sultry Chicago River, then the parking structure Bob Newhart used to sleep it off after a long lunch with Jerry the pervy dentist.

We hit Harry Caray’s and take pictures with the holy cow.

We act like caffeinated tourists without a trace of shame, the sly benefit of growing older and simply not caring.
If there was a giant foam finger nearby we would put it on.

It’s nap time in the Dodge Caravan as we set cruise control to 78 and hit the 90 East.
Now the sky darkens, clouds pregnant with mysterious moisture.

When the rain comes, it falls in angry sheets.
The Bridgestone Dueler S/Ts plow into the pooled water on the highway, then release hold on the asphalt and hydroplane the length of a shuttered shopping mall.
We drift across two lanes and it is thrilling.
I check the rear view as we regain traction. The lads snore peacefully still, unaware of the miracle of life.
I dip a water cracker into our trusty glovebox cheese spread to celebrate.

Now That’s Class , our home in Cleveland.
Paul stocks a full line of the finest fortified wines;
there are pallets of Olde English 800 in the basement.

A sign behind the bar: Women in their third trimester drink for free!

We pull into the back and smoke from a BBQ envelops us.
We walk headlong into the beefy perfume, then shed gravity and float along like Bugs Bunny enthralled.
Upstairs now to Paul’s living quarters.

He has food for us–sausages, yes.
Also some chimichurried ribeyes, then some local Walleye recently murdered on the banks of Lake Erie.
We eat and head downstairs toward the noise.

Nick has his concerns with the backline, hasn’t played behind the fortress of cinderblock since his teens.
We tell him it’s gonna be fine, it’s Cleveland.
And it is.
We play again, another set, another rendition of these songs let loose into the ether.

We cannot find anything to eat after the show.
We pull into one drive thru after the next, vacant except for the one cursed soul who is sentenced, apparently, to sit there all night and repeat: We’re closed.

Not a worry, as our action man Beenie puts on his CH3 onesie and pulls out his Seen on TV cooking gadgetry.

We eat, we sleep.

Sunday and it’s a bitch downtown.
The Browns have the home opener, on the thrilling verge of their 18th loss.
But we are just across the plaza at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame , of all places.

Our pal SuLee gets into the building gratis, and we wander the halls both disgusted and humbled.

There is a tote board where you can put in your own votes who should be inducted next.
Reggae pioneers 311 have 20,000 votes, plus.
We cannot find New York Dolls or Starz anywhere on the list.

But I stand before Elvis’ shiny gold suit, marvel at how dainty Prince’s lace gloves sit still.

I’m staring at Joe Strummer’s weathered Telecaster, thinking of the sound and sweat.
I drop a CH3 guitar pick to the ground in front of it.
An offering? Perhaps just proof to myself: we were here.

Closest we’ll ever come.


Later at Cleveland Hopkins International, the crowds gather around the bar TVs.
The Browns have chased the Steelers into overtime, and now an interception gives them the chance to win it.

The chance to break the shameful streak that this city has accepted, like all its curses, with humor and booze.
It is this close.
These people can allow themselves, finally, the unspeakable image of victory.

But as we board, a unified groan spreads throughout the terminal.
A blown kick, the game ends in a tie.

They didn’t win, but they have not lost.
That’s us.

FotoBlog: boston/NY/CT

5am touchdown, Logan International.

I fumble with my wristwatch to jump 3 hours into the future as we wait curbside for the Rental Car Shuttle to arrive.
It is dark. It is cold.

We’ve done this route before, the thought being we can save a few measly bucks & the early morning airport rush by taking that slutty stepsister of modern flight: The Red Eye.

But when the blast of cold air hits you (19 degrees?! Is there such a thing?) leaving the terminal you curse your former thrifty self.  And then the  unsmiling hotel clerk informs you the rooms will not be ready til 3pm, thank you very much.

Ah but this trip, to save us the usual humiliation of laying about the lobby like shattered refugees, we have the bright idea to use trendy  Air BnB to see if we can salvage some of our dignity.


After rousing Anthony from his apneaed slumber, we make our way downtown for lunch at McGreevy’s with our pals Brian and Irene from SF:

A quick walk down Newbury street to visit the usual spots, and the sun is already surrendering to the icy dark.    We report to the Middle East and meet up with our mates in F.U.’s and Silver Screams.

The show goes off well, a surprising amount of hardy locals braving the chill to cheer us on.

It is a rare treat to sleep in without the maids pounding on the door at 10 am, and we lounge about in pajamas sipping coffee before getting back in the minivan and heading South.

The Fall colors do not disappoint, and we stop at charming little towns along the way for the multiple urination stops befitting our age.

One little town square looks so artificially quaint I half expect the giant hand of a 10 year old girl to swoop down and grab us out of her play set.

No such luck.


We arrive in Brooklyn and check into the next AirBnB, following the owners’ specific instructions on where to park, where to go, and with whom not to make eye contact.  It’s fine, and get this, parking is free out on the rat infested streets of Bushwick!

With plenty of time to slum around, we head over to  Williamsburg to see what the crazy kids are up to these days.

I am threatened with bodily harm for snapping a pic of a trendoid Supreme pop up store; they apparently do not need the publicity to sell their 75 dollar Hanes Tee shirts.


We wander down Grand til we find a bar with a decent bathroom, and are soon shamed into ordering outrageously priced craft cocktails.

We have surrendered completely to the hipster neighborhood now, all scarves and V necks and we sip at spiced hot ciders served in miniature pounded copper spittoons.

We must leave this strange place before  our hair climbs unbeckoned into tidy buns atop our heads.

Showtime at Goldsounds Bushwick, and the joint is packed.  We have the treat of playing with our brothers in The Krays , who in turn bring up Davey Gunner to rip out Kraut’s Unemployed!

It is just great, once again to catch up with all our NY pals.  We’re out at a decent 1am, but the night is not over yet.

Nick has spent the day with neck craned, spying the skyscrapers of Manhattan from a distance.

Nick admits he has never done the goofy loop of Mid Town, so we load up the van and head to Times Square and become the gawking tourists we were meant to be!




Sunday comes to us way too early but this is matinee day-back up the 95 to New Haven CT and our beloved Cafe 9.

On our way out of Brooklyn we stumble across  the diner used in  Good Fellas and proceed to have a hearty breakfast while coughing up lines from the classic.  The waitress rolls her eyes and sighs, as apparently we are not the first clever boys to geek out thus:

We knew we were never going to come back from Florida alive.

The shine box, it was got.

We get to New Haven in time to catch Damn Broads setting up for the matinee set.  The rip through the afternoon as do The Ratz  before we get and do the thing one more time.


There maybe 30 people in the room, that’s counting the bartenders, other band members and the 2 guys fixing the walk in freezer.

It is of no concern, though, as these people have sacrificed a fine Sunday of couch and football to come meet us.  We do it once again:

This room always leaves us smiling, a rare and warm little cove, and we get off stage and hang with the locals as long as possible.

Loaded up and back on the road, we have a quick stop at JFK to drop off Ant and Nick as they have foolishly agreed to work Monday morning.

Kimm and I, however, have other plans of the bovine variety in mind:

We sit there at 11pm Sunday night, chewing thoughtfully at hunks of cow, charred and basted of butter.
It is a momentary and shocking lack of movement, to be sitting here amid the butcher block and surly waiters, chairs being stacked as we are among the last of the diners.

It seems we have come to the end of another one of these brief adventures.

We stab toward the windows looking out at the city with stocky steaknives, as we tell each other stories we both know by heart.
We can’t help but reminisce on this city and what it has meant to us.

Dessert comes with coffee, then we push chairs back in submission.

Woozy from too much red meat and tired – finally, admittedly, tired –  we allow ourselves to act our age and look forward to sleep and home.

Remember the Punks

We hit the ground San Antonio and try to remember the last time through this nutty town 82? 83? Never?

Kimm and I talk about crazy nights in Texas and correct each other:  em, no that was El Paso, had to be….no, no-  It was Austin, the girl with one leg…

We continue talking as if we have been here before, but our gray matter has been rinsed and squeezed one too many times to recall.

Punk bands in the “Veteran Class”--ahem, they tend to hold a few key items as badges of honor.
How many years since the first record released, how many shows still per year.
And most important, how many original members ya got?

That’s a tough one, as very few bands are able to count off on more than an index finger and thumb, some even less.

In our own case it’s always been me and Kimm sure, but we’ve been through an army of good lads who have contributed to past campaigns.
But that’s the very nature of this thing, isn’t it?

You almost dare each other, how many days are you willing to take off work, how many vacation days will you give to a sketchy tour in lieu of a trip-finally!– to see her folks back in Des Moines.

And so every year we ask each other if we are ready to map out yet another year out there, the triumphs and humiliations, the hours of boredom interrupted by the jewel-like minutes of sheer joy, playing your music on a stage with friends.


Lazy tourists
And so it was a kick to the gut a couple years ago, when our dear Alfie decided to sit out the upcoming year. There were grandkids to think of now, a new interest in hoppy craft beers, Halloween decorations that took four months of planning.

We said our reluctant farewells and set off to find new drummers as we had done a dozen times before, but this felt much different.   Alf had been longer than any other chap in the CH3 trenches.

He had seen us from the garage dicks of the 90’s, just cranking the amps and drinking the beer for our own amusement, to bringing it all back to a touring act once again.  The wild memories we shared, the inside jokes that could bring tears to our eyes with a single word.

But Alf needed some time off and we wished him well.

And so it was a real treat to have a weekend out in San Antonio with the Spider crew who have somehow persuaded Alf to get back up on the stage once again.

We  check into rooms that we have the ridiculous luxury of being in 2 nights in a row!

Can’t remember the last time we were not chased out at noon by the cleaning ladies, and set about making the room into a home:



Playoff baseball on the road
Then its over to Korova for the Remember the Punks  pre-party Friday night,.

A few last minute venue changes have the bands confused and wary, and we wonder if this is going to be one of those weekends, a disastrous failure we’ve become all too familiar with over the years.

But promoter Angel handles it all in stride, getting us settled and directing traffic.  He never seems fazed all weekend, god bless him, as I can see his phone constantly vibrating like a pocketful of angry wasps.  The booking agents demanding to know what the deal is, the bands asking for their pay up front.

He and his crew handle it all with unflappable charm, and the weekend turns out a success.

We are there in plenty of time to see Spider play, and they do indeed rock it all out, Alf’s familiar ferocious drumming a perfect complement to the guys, Hector’s wild man front man gymnastics out front.


.….you’ll break yer leg, kid!
It’s our turn to get up there and do the stuff, and the set goes over well, some gray heads in the crowd nodding to the songs of their youth, some liberty spikes bouncing along as well.


Feel free to crop this yourself
It’s not long before Alf and Anthony are hanging off each other and arm punching like the 2 knuckleheads they are, and KImm and I are sure this will either turn to fisticuffs or homoerotic wrestling as it has so many times in the past.

Luckily, its been a long day for the Spider crew as they are in the midst of a week out on the road and they retire to bed.

We are left to scour the deserted San Antonio streets for melted cheese, and-finally-sleep.


On the advice of the locals we report to Pete’s Tako House for their flour tortilla masterpieces.


We get back to the fest  in time for our late afternoon set, and play to a moist club.  It feels just right, playing these songs, many over three decades old, to a crowd packed into a sauna mid day.

It’s like we are back on that first swing through TX, what? 1982?!

Sweat pours onto guitar necks, salt blinds our vision, and we wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.



Then it’s catch up time yet again, chattting the day into night with the lads from JFA and DayGlo Abortions, the sparkling Adicts crew and Starving Wolves.



With Khepi Ghoulie


These festivals have become such a nice convention of familiar faces, and we prod each other with stories of decades past, gigs in weird places, funny stories of terrible people we’ve all known.


We have a bit of time to kill before sundown, so we grab the crew and do that most touristy of San Antonio things and hit the Riverwalk!

It is like the Jungle Cruise at Disney,  but the wild animals are in the boat, and the guns are real–ammIright, people?   yee haw!

It’s back on dry land for the headliners now, and Adicts and Fear do a perfect job of capping the day.



It’s been hot as hell, confusing and loud, but ain’t that what it’s supposed to be?

We sneak to the lounge next door to see the fading hopes of a LA-NY World Series drift away, and are soon joined by the rest of the Spider crew, come to rest their weary feet.

After the Yankees finally surrender their post season to Houston I catch up to Alfie again, and he grabs me around the neck and smooches me a good one on the cheek.

“Ya know,” he shouts into my ear hole, “I love ya guys, love ya!

It’s just grand to see Alf out on the road again, and though we have the bittersweet perspective of having to watch each other from the audience now, it’s worth it just to be out here in America with the nut one more time.



“Love ya,” he says yet again, as he has been drinking since their noon set.
“Ya know, I was a fan before I joined the band , and I’m a fan again.”

And I take that back with me, through the night and all the way home, one of those  little moments in time that keep us going.