Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Mighty Warlock Pinchers

You can still order the first Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks book from Amazon by clicking HERE.

From the forthcoming: Denvoid 2: The Colorado Crew due out in Dec. 2019, a short excerpt from our interview with the Warlock Pinchers. 

My introduction to the Warlock Pinchers came by way of the US Post Office. The band must’ve found my address on the first Donut Crew compilation and mailed me a copy of their self-released, This Is The Cobbler And He Hates Your Bellbottoms EP. Once I got past the title and opened the record that’s when I realized that these guys were waging war on the predictability of punk rock and perhaps music in general. An odd assortment of unrelated items spilled out from the off-registered two-color photocopied sleeve. The mess that laid before me was an absolute labor of love and it had my attention.   

I was curious about the music packed inside those grooves and couldn’t wait to set it on my turntable. The song title that initially caught my attention was, James Dean Is An Overrated Asshole. That needed immediate listening. As the record spun I stared at it completely dumbfounded. I looked at the cover then looked at the record then glancing at the pile of coupons, stickers and whatever else the band shoved in the sleeve. After the first side ended. There was still hope for side 2. Nope. It looked punk, but it sounded like bad rap over distorted noise…an instrument for New World Order torture. Aesthetically, it was the best thing to come out of Denver since the Bum Kon or the Frantix EPs. Maybe even better than Tom Headbanger’s handwritten zines and flyers...  

Interview by: Bob Rob (Medina) and Sonny Kay.

Eventually the band became five permanent members. How did the others join?

Andrew: I came in as a percussionist. I would go to the practices and play along with the drum machine. I was into industrial music, stuff like Psychic TV...I can beat on metal. I started doing backing vocals because the band came from seven people where everyone would yell the key words. I would start yelling the key words. Dan was writing, listing to all this rap and he was writing stuff where he could switch-off vocals to a tee. He could write something that was way more complex and play with having two vocalists where you could talk over each other, line to line and overlap. Dan was writing really cool stuff to experiment with vocals.

And Derek?

Derek:  This is kind of out of order, but my first show with WPO was at Penny Lane, and I think we were opening for Again!, Dave Clifford’s band.  Bob, I think you were putting on the show, and wouldn’t let me in without a ticket.  I kept pleading that I was “in the band,” and you finally rolled your eyes, and said, “yeah, sure” and let me in.  That’s the show where we had a squirt bottle filled with acetone for pyrotechnics, and the outside of it caught on fire, and then someone stomped on it, and we basically caught Mark’s drums on fire.  I thought Penny Lane was going to burn down and that I’d be fired.  No more rock n roll fantasy for me.

Dan: Our crew was Smedley's Van and the Warlock Pinchers. We'd try to play shows together whenever we could. They had a goofy sense of humor like we did, but they were doing something different musically.

Derek: I think the thing we all had in common was a combination of openness to - and interest in - everything, but at the same time an initial and total lack of respect for everything.  Things sucked unless proven otherwise.  Smedley’s Van wanted to make a whole album that sounded like Led Zeppelin just to show how unnecessary Led Zeppelin was.  It turns out we didn’t have the skills, and somehow ended up writing “Psycho Santa” which is even more sad because we were trying to recreate “Ghetto Defendant” with the Allen Ginsberg voice-over stuff (which we loved!).  So yeah, a long way of saying we had the same ethos.

Eric: I was a few years ahead of them at CU. A friend told me that this band the Warlock Pinchers were playing a party at my old house and that I should go check them out. It was amazing. Around the same time, I was helping Michelle Clifford out at the Program Council at CU booking bands at Quigley's. I was up at in the office of Program Council when Mark came around when the 7" was finished. Mark gave me a copy. I was always into the punk rock do it yourself thing. I was booking a show for Steel Pole Bathtub at Quigley's. At the show I told Mark it would cool to have a band with two bass players. Mark was like, "Well maybe, yeah."

Dan: I wasn't around for that conversation, but I definitely heard about it after the fact. Mark said, "We have a show at Quigley's” and the day of the show I got diagnosed with mono so I couldn't do the show. I couldn't sing. I think that's the day Eric was talking to Mark about that, because after that Mark goes, "I was talking to this guy Eric and he wants there to be two bass players in the band" I went, "Ok"

Eric: After that we practiced in the basement Dan's parents’ house in Louisville. I drove up, joined in at practice and that was it.

Andrew: There was the tour that there was the six of us.

Derek:  Yes, we did overlap for one show!  Salt Lake at whatever that awesome place was.  We were naked except for Brian and his dog food wrap… I think that’s the trip where I remembered that I forgot my guitar when we were north of Fort Collins.  I’m still sorry about that…

I think a lot of people underestimate the influence of the book, Pranks at the time. It was literally a how-to guide for culture jamming. 

Andrew: It sort of gives you permission to lie and do whatever. Also, trying to get shows on tour, you had to have a manager. But, of course we can't afford a manager. No club wants to talk to the guy in the band. So we had a fake manager. His name was Wil Wheaton. It was ridiculous because no one ever realized that Wil Wheaton was a child actor.

Dan: That came about by playing with the Butthole Surfers. They had the teen magazine in their dressing room. They were looking through them and there's all these pages with Wil Wheaton and their drummer Teresa said Mark looked like Wil.

Mark: I did!

Andrew: Since we didn't get sued by Tiffany, we weren't going to stop there, let's just say we got sued by Tiffany. So we made a press release and Wil Wheaton sent it out to all Denver’s media. We made a fake logo from Tiffany’s manager and put it on letterheads and everybody called. The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Campus Press Westword, Colorado Daily...They all called, wanting to interview us. I had this wall of Tiffany posters and flyers and magazine clippings and I had Tiffany shoe, which I totally made up. It wasn't her shoe. Yes, I did meet her, yes, I did interview her. So we fuck-up the interview and it sounds totally fake and I say I got her shoes which I got on clearance somewhere and I have this Tiffany stamp from a Columbia House mailer which I licked and put on the shoe. So I said Tiffany gave me her shoes when I interviewed her because she didn't want them anymore. It's all true, I'm a Tiffany fan but then I lied about the shoes for no reason. Lied about things that don't matter. The press is interviewing us and Wil Wheaton is not around...

Derek: Before Eric interrupts, I’ll just point out at that this point I’m still not in the band, but I’m living with Mark and Andrew and “Wil”.  You can’t imagine how much fun it was to answer the phone, trying to figure out as fast you could who was trying to call for whom and what to say/do in those split seconds.  Some kind of crazy chess game where we got to make up the rules as went along.  I’m still not quite sure how pulling a prank differs from just being an asshole, but it was a blast.

Eric: This is a good place to interrupt! I had an awkward encounter with Gil Asakawa form Westword because I was working at Wax Trax then. He came in asking about the Warlock Pinchers because they just got the press release and he was all hot to write this story about sticking up for the little guy. He was asking me and I was trying not to let him know I was in the band. It was actually Mike Serviolo who told him to talk to me. He asked me about Wil. So I had to face-to-face lie to him about Wil Wheaton. I told him "I don't know where he is." I guess I lied well enough because Gil's Westword story was one of the few to go to press before the lid came off our scam.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Denvoid 2: Keith Curts (Echo Beds, Fauxgazi, Junkdrawer, Subpoena The Past, Glass Hits)

Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks Volume 2: The Colorado Crew is coming out this year. Really it is. Sonny Kay and I have been slowly chipping away at it over the past 3-4 years. The problem is that this is a hobby and often takes a backseat to our jobs and families. On my end, living in Alexandria, Egypt makes calling folks across the pond tricky. Additionally, I'm in the process of relocating to Abu Dhabi for work; there are plenty of balls in motion. 

I'm obsessed with this project and feel lucky when I'm able to set aside chunks of time towards completing it even if it entails transcribing interviews in the front seat of a car on the way to Cairo. My bigger problem is that I want to include everyone and don't know when to stop. Typically, I interview one person and usually go, "Ohh, I should also interview this other person" and it avalanches from there. So here we are. forty plus interviews later and we're STILL hunting down the last couple of folks. As the project has expanded beyond the initial vision, it will easily overshadow the first Denvoid book in its massiveness (and star power) not to mention tons of artwork, photographs, flyers, etc. Unfortunately, not every band from that period (1988-1996) will be interviewed, but we are being conscious to include them in one form or another.

Q: When will Denvoid 2 be reseased?
A: Mid-December 2019. Not the ideal time, but it's the time I can get away from Abu Dhabi. We are contacting people to try and make this a special release. Ideally, we like to devote a weekend to this event with bands playing at different venues around Denver. My goal will be to release excerpts of interviews each week until the book release.

This first installment features Keith Curts. I've had the pleasure to play music with Keith from 1994-96 with both Junkdrawer and Llamas NoVa. When I met Keith in 1992 he was just starting out, I had seen his first band, So Far Gone play. The band was young, but everyone involved had an intense energy to them...although their set was technically sloppy, it was played with passion and sincerity and that's what mattered. They were heavily influenced by the DC sound that had pretty much infected every corner of the country - even in Longmont where So Far Gone was hatched from.

Keith's next band, Junkdrawer made room for me after I returned from living a year in Birmingham, Alabama. We played out often and even survived a three-week summer tour of the southwest and west coast. After Junkdrawer called it quits: Keith, along with Patricia Kavanaugh (Harriet The Spy), Sean Watson (Savalas drummer #3), Mark Bradin (Savalas drummer #2) and I  didn't waste any time in forming Llama NoVa. It should be noted that Tim Nakari (Small Dog Frenzy) played in the second incarnation of Llamas NoVa.

In 1996 Keith left Colorado for the bay area and played in a few band there including Subpoena The Past with Sonny. Upon his return a decade later he played in: Glass Hits, Fauxgazi (A Fugazi cover band that went on tour - check out the documentary here and of course his latest project Echo Beds.

Keith caught the playing music bug early and never stopped. He had always pushed himself to learn and grow in his endeavors. Always humble, approachable, and easy to strike-up a conversation with. Enjoy the excerpts of the interview.

Interviewed by Bob Rob (Medina)

Brush and ink drawing after a photograph from Jeff Davis

What did that whole Longmont scene look like to you?

There was our band and New Breed who was Andy Lefton on Bass, Jared Allen on guitar, Matt Sandau sang, and Mike McNaughton on drums. Mike eventually ended up in Linus. There was also a crossover metal band kinda like DRI, called Salacious Crumb. This guy Nick played with them and Jason Barlowe. Jason ended up playing bass in Linus. So there was this thread throughout the Longmont scene. There was another band with Mark Risius and Andy Brazycki and a couple of other people, they would go through different names changes, Fahrenheit 451 was one of their names at one point. There was also Caste who was Will Welty, Dan Parris, Pete Lyman along with Mike McNaughton. Mike and I went to high school together and he was the first one who turned me on to things like Godflesh and Nitzer Ebb. You know, I remember in 9th grade I was getting turned on to so many different things and it kind of kept going. Then you have this moment trying to figure out your music identity; Am I a new waver? Am I a punk rocker? You don't realize it's all under the same umbrella. Then you start putting it all together, like Godflesh is kind of a punk band, kind of an industrial band, kind of a metal band...

The few of us would take a bus into Boulder to catch a Savalas shows. We'd see people from Dead Silence walking around and that was weird because we were from this little podunk town and Boulder seemed like it was so much more grown-up because it had more of a scene. We looked-up to that. Seeing some of those bands were life changing, to get to experience Savalas, Belljar, Dig, Small Dog Frenzy… That was out big city experience. (laughs)

What was So Far Gone's first show? When did you guys actually start playing?

We would play in Jeb's dad's garage or like my parent’s basement when they went out of town and my step brother wasn't home. We’d play in other people's living rooms. I remember playing a show at a grange hall in Lafayette. The Offspring and G’rups played there at one point. We had local shows there too. We weren't a good band. At least I felt like I wasn't a good part of that band. (laughs). It was the thought that counted.

I remember Brian Gathy and I liking So Far Gone at the ballet studio show in Boulder.

Oh yeah! We did play that show because it was recorded! We played with Belljar and Dig. It was Dig's last show because their guitarist, Ken Smallwood was moving back to the East Coast. I vividly remember Brian Gathy smashing his bass into pieces, like splinters because he was so distraught that the band was ending. Later, I got to know Brian and understood that was how he was... I had never experienced anything like that before. I had never witnessed that kind of emotion that connected with music. I didn't get to see bands like Rites of Spring. I know Brian did since he was from DC. Watching Brian that night, I just connected with that. And Belljar’s set - Grant Gutherie just fucking wailing. That was an amazing time.

Like with So Far Gone, we didn't know what we were doing. We didn't do it long enough to actually get good at it. It wasn't like you listen to a bunch of records and then try to figure out how to play like that. We just played. There was no artifice and no roadmap. Dan turned me on to a lot of the Dischord stuff, “emo stuff” that just rang a bell with me. I immediately became inspired by all that stuff, but I couldn't play like that. We just all started playing. Andy Rothbard and Jeb had been friends forever, there were like fifteen when we started the band, I was 17, and Dan was 19. It really was a collaboration, a sum of its parts where everyone came in with something different. It was like creation for creation sake. That was it, it was really liberating to just play. The beauty of youth, not yet looking through the microscope.

Reflecting back on the on that show at the ballet studio, it's funny how some people had that “holy shit” moment seeing Brian smash his bass. I saw the appeal of witnessing someone shattering an instrument because they were consumed by the moment. I can tell you for certain that Sonny and I had a different “holy shit” moment as in, "Fuck, Savalas is about to head out on a three-week tour AND fucking Brian just smashed his bass. You know, we were like, “What an asshole.” (laughs)

Savalas was really good, you guys were older and knew how to play your instruments. You played shows, toured, had shirts with Chris Shary's artwork! If Chris Shary is doing you artwork that really meant something...Take this as a compliment, because it is, I never met anyone with tattoos before (laughs). Seriously, we looked up to you guys. We were like, "These guys know what's up." We're just fumbling around in the dark over here and that's fine because I'm seventeen and I'm allowed to do that. So I get it that you and Sonny were being practical while we were looking at Brian in awe. 

I don't remember if we played after the Shudder To Think show. I didn't know if the recording was before or after the Shudder show, but I think that was it for the band.

So we have to talk a little bit about that too. At least just touch on it. There was a weird backlash between what was punk and what wasn't. That was a strain for our band, it wasn't like we were careering or on the fast track. It was around that time that some punk bands were getting picked up by bigger labels like Shudder To Think, Samiam...

And that Shudder To Think show was being boycotted by some of our friends because it wasn't punk enough!? It wasn't a punk show?  Huh, that really like confused me. I thought what we were doing was a punk band. The fact that we did it ourselves and didn't rely on anyone else. We wrote everything ourselves. You booked everything pretty much. It was all us, but that somehow wasn't punk enough. It kind of was a kick in the nuts, you know.

It was disheartening and reflecting back on it, it was petty. The whole DIY thing got really out of control, it was like the absurdity in the DIY culture that the TV show, Portlandia lampoons. When did punk start having rules, that's kind of an oxymoron. Who gives a shit if we played a $7 show?  

It became a very dogmatic thing.

Llamas NoVa 
Photo: Jeff Davis

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Colorado Krew 2 update and more!

Sorry for the long absence, here's an update on our new project(s): 

Denvoid 2-The Colorado Krew: Tales From the Colorado Punk Scene 1988-96. Longtime friend/former bandmate/roommate, Sonny Kay will co-author and bring in his insights and role in the scene. We've been feverishly slaving away collecting materials, interviewing people, and making the artwork for it. We will be releasing bits and pieces every week. Also, we've been working with History Colorado Center about having our book release event there (with live music?) in late 2018 as they gear up for their awesome Colorado Music History exhibit in 2019. Exciting times are on the horizon.

In the meantime, I will be traveling to Denver to talk to a class at DU on Colorado Punk and hosting a panel discussion at Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway, Denver on October 26 at 7:30 pm with: 
Jill “Razer” Mustoffa (promoter) 
Arnie Beckman (Choosey Mothers) 
Andrew Novick (Warlock Pinchers)
Jason Heller (Crestfallen/music writer)
Tom Murphy (former Westword music columnist)

Speaking of books. Robot Enemy shows no signs of slowing down. You can still order Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks and Sonny's book, Headspaces by clicking here.
Sonny Kay is a graphic artist and illustrator, punk rock vocalist (Angel Hair, The VSS, Year Future), record label founder (Gold Standard Laboratories), and underground music icon. Beginning in the early nineties, his cut-and-paste flyer making gradually evolved into designing album covers, and by 2007 he was mastering a graphic technique all his own, crafting seamless, painting-like collages, often on behalf of some of the most colorful names in rock music, such as: THE MARS VOLTA, THE LOCUST, RX BANDITS, THE GLITCH MOB, AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR and 311, to name a few. Ranging from the provocative to the surreal to the incomprehensible, Kay's work is true to his anti-authoritarian nature while often exploring themes of higher consciousness, multi-dimensionality, and so on. HEADSPACES is the first book of his work. Packed with nearly 200 images, it's an exhaustive collection of high-definition, mind-bending collage art new and old, featuring many previously unpublished works, and of course, covers to a lot of albums.  

In October, Robot Enemy will be releasing Patterns of Reconciliation by Matt Mauldin.
Matt Mauldin is a poet living in Santa Barbara, CA, originally from Atlanta, GA. He was involved for many years in Atlanta’s underground rock scene as singer and lyricist for the bands Car vs Driver, Chocolate Kiss and Sonn Av Krusher. His first anthology, Patterns of Reconciliation, is comprised of select poems written between 1993 and 2017, and is organized around themes such as coming-of-age, trauma, love, mourning, depression, anxiety, relationships, enlightenment, social commentary and spirituality. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Acid Pigs and Short Fuse tour diary 1988

In the summer of 1988, I went on my first ever rock-n-roll tour with a band. Below is the tale of wide-eyed teens and musical instruments crammed into two vehicles traveling through the midwest and east coast. Still available: Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks: A Collection of Stories From the '80s Denver Punk Scene Click on the link to order a copy. http://bobrobart.bigcartel.com  

The Acid Pigs/Short Fuse split EP was released in the spring of 1988. Maximum RocknRoll gave the record a favorable review, plus Kaleidoscope and Caroline-two East Coast companies were distributing it. Since I had established a few East Coast connections, I thought it would be ideal for both bands to hit the road together. I brought up the idea of a Midwest/East Coast tour with Arnold, who played guitar in both bands. He was into it. After we convinced all the members of both bands to suspend their normal lives for the month of July, I devoted the remainder of late spring to booking our tour by calling and sending out promo kits to prospective clubs and promoters. The method behind my madness would be to cram eight people plus instruments into a Ford Bronco and an old VW van.

The Acid Pigs/Short Fuse Summer of 88 East Coast tour started with a hiccup; Short Fuse’s vocalist Todd was scheduled to fly into Denver’s Stapleton International Airport at 6:30 on the eve of our first show. Once he arrived the plan was to pull an all-nighter and drive to Lawrence, Kansas. After waiting around for a bit, an announcement over the intercom informed us his flight would be delayed an hour. By the time 8:00 rolled around, the gate agent announced the flight had been diverted to Colorado Spring and was scheduled to land around 9:00. The agent assured us the passengers would be bussed to Denver.
Acid Pigs/Short Fuse Record Release show. Collection of Author.
The coach bus finally pulled into the airport parking lot a little after 11:00. Todd with his meager carry-on bag was ready to hit the road. We got into the Bronco and headed east on the stormy I-70 for the next nine hours. We were both wired form dining on Gatorade and sugary snacks from gas station gourmet isles. The drive was quiet with an occasional stretch of rain showers and lightning storms on the distant and flat horizon. To curb our boredom, we played padiddle, the road game that involves looking for trucks and cars with a one headlight then punching your opponent in the arm.  

Daylight broke just as we pulled into the sleepy college town of Lawrence. The air was thick and the ground was still wet from the previous night’s rain. We were both beat, and all we wanted to do was stretch out and catch a little sleep. After crawling through downtown, Todd spotted a park with a gazebo. I made a comment that we had just stepped into an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. We parked, found our pillows, and slept under the shade and safety of the gazebo until later that morning.

In the early afternoon we headed over to The Outhouse, the club we would be playing at later that night. We were scheduled to open for the seminal SoCal punk band, The Vandals. The Outhouse is an infamous, small, one-room structure converted into a club a few miles outside of town in the middle of a cornfield. The Acid Pigs had already arrived by the time we showed up. They told Todd and me they had found young pot plants in the back of the club. A couple of Acid Pigs drove to the convenience store down the road to nuke the plants in a microwave to dry the leaves to smoke them. It was a long and hot summer day with little else to do. The excitement didn’t get underway until The Vandals arrived in their posh Winnebago. They introduced themselves and handed us a brick of bottle rockets so we could fire them off at each other in the parking lot.

After loading in, Short Fuse set up on stage last because we were the opening band. Our sound check was horrible. I walked out of the club around dusk, and there were a couple of skinheads acting as sentries, standing on the wooden posts waving American flags at the entrance to the club. 

By the time we hit the stage, it was dark, and 80 degrees with punishing humidity. The heat made us insane; we played like demons writhing on the ground drenched with sweat. The Acid Pigs played a rocking set. After the show, we met some people who were having a party at their house, and they offered to let us stay there. Everyone in the bands slept well, and we woke up to a hearty breakfast prepared by our host.

The following afternoon, we loaded up our vehicles and said our goodbyes. The Acid Pigs needed gas and pulled into a nearby station. After filling up then waiting to cross the intersection to catch up with us, a motorcycle behind them impatiently tried to pass. Their VW bus sideswiped the bike. The doomed motorcyclist laid on the ground unconscious, bleeding from the head wound; Jack of The Acid Pigs took off his shirt and wrapped it around the guy. The police and the ambulance finally arrived and rushed the cyclist to the hospital. The roadie/driver roadie was issued a ticket. This incident set the tone for the remainder of the tour.
Mini tour stickers posted on gas pumps and in pay phones booths across America.  
Collection of Author.
We finally escaped Lawrence during rush hour and headed into the darkness of I-70. Hours later, outside of St. Louis on the opposite westbound lanes, Todd and I spotted the burning cab of a semi truck with the silhouette of the trapped driver inside among the flames. It was a terrible sight. We coined our tour as “The Tour of Death.” We pulled into town and met up with the other van. It was time to put this day behind us.

None of us had ever been to St. Louis, so we thought we should visit the Gateway Arch and check out record stores. I wanted to get a pulse on what people did at night for fun. One record store employee told me he and his friends watch the folks in East St. Louis use the wood from boarded-up buildings to burn the city down. I waited for the punch line; he never flinched or offered a half crooked smile. When we left later that evening we drove east towards the glow of a fire on the horizon. Another wooden building gone, I thought. The record store clerk wasn’t bullshitting after all.  

It was onwards through Illinois, Indiana and up north to Toledo where “Toledo” Pat was anxiously waiting for our arrival. He and longtime scenester John Stain had booked a show for us, but the venue had fallen through. Pat scrambled and spent all day trying to find a hall and pleading with people to throw a house party. He eventually convinced a friend, Sinbad, to let us play in his basement.
Toledo flyer. Collection of Author.
The house show was in full swing minus the brief glitch when the boys in blue stopped by. It was the place to be that Friday night. Pat did a superb job getting the word out and passing out copies of our music. Several people knew our songs, and we played a solid set that night. This would be the best show of the tour.

Unfortunately, The Tour of Death continued in Toledo when we crawled past, rubber necking like the other cars in front of us, yet another accident. This time the injuries and fatalities were within arms’ reach. It should have been an indication to turn back; the perpetual gloom and carnage was beginning to weigh in. This was coupled with several shows starting to fall through.  

The following night was Detroit. The show came about because we had help from Joe “Hardcore” Picolli, a longtime Detroit scenester, and his brother of Jerome, the original vocalist of The Acid Pigs. The club was called Blondie’s, which was primarily a heavy metal club on the edge of what seemed like a war zone.

Detroit is a rough town. While I was out picking up a bottle of Gatorade at the one of the convenience stores near the club, I experienced my first opportunity to place money into a revolving drawer at a counter completely enclosed by two-inch thick Plexiglas. A couple of other places we wandered past barred the entrance into the store altogether; you had to ask and point for what you wanted, hand the cashier the money through a slot, and then you’d receive your item(s) through a cage-like structure. It could have been a scene from a post-apocalyptic film.  

Short Fuse opened the show followed by The Acid Pigs, Dave of the Pigs was stoked to be playing on the same stage that some of his favorite heavy metal bands had played on. After our set, I was outside in the driver’s seat of the Bronco, going over paperwork when a huge black guy with a deep gash in his forehead and blood running down the sides of his face put his head on the hood. He looked at me, shouted a couple of words, then stumbled off into the darkness. I cautiously walked back into the club to catch a couple of songs from the headlining band Ugly But Proud. Accompanying them on stage was a vagrant submissively seated in a chair while the band played its loud and aggressive metal-influenced punk. The band kept the man supplied with a brown paper bag of tallboy-sized beers as payment for his mascot services. When he finished one can, a member of the band would hand him another.

We returned to Toledo for a couple of days before heading towards Philadelphia. Todd’s parents lived on the outskirts near Doylestown. The Acid Pigs’ van was typically somewhere behind us and somewhat in the vicinity. They were a little more adventuresome and would disappear for days at a time until it was time to meet up for a show. Although we were on tour together, they existed as a separate entity. Our drummer, Warren, was like a kid with two parents who shared joint custody. He would spend half the time with us if he thought he could squeeze a bed and shower out of the deal, but for the party component, he would tag along with The Acid Pigs. He was probably the smartest guy between both groups. 
Acid Pigs setlist. Collection of author.
Since we were within throwing distance of Trenton, New Jersey, Todd, Warren, and I drove over to meet up with concert promoter/booking agent Randy Now. Randy was hosting a radio show on the Princeton campus. He invited us to the station for an interview and spun our record. We asked about jumping on a bill at City Gardens. Unfortunately, we were a week late. He could have put us on the D.O.A., ALL, Government Issue show if I would have called him earlier.

Regarding our impeding suburban Philly show put together by Todd’s friend Jeff. Jeff was the front man for the straight edge band Multiple Choice. The venue was Jeff’s family’s barn a couple of townships away from where we were staying. The barn also doubled as sleeping quarters for The Acid Pigs.

The show was booked for a Sunday afternoon. Arnold hit the bottle early, so by the time we attempted to play, he could barely stand. We took a stab at running through a couple of songs, but the frustration quickly escalated into fisticuffs. Arnold threw his guitar down and swung in my direction while yelling at me. His rage was the collective anger and irritation from the way the tour was unraveling. Shows kept falling through; everyone was running out of money and patience. In retrospect, I did a shoddy job with the booking, and in the end, let down those who had relied on me.

Suburban Philly farmhouse flyer. Collection of author.
We left the farm and drove to New York City, exploring Manhattan through the car windows for a couple of hours. Warren had a friend outside the city in Peekskill willing to put us up for the night. When we arrived, there was something odd about the kid; he seemed distant and lifeless. We gathered around the kitchen table with his friend’s father, and they started talking about the numerous car accidents his son had been in. Warren’s friend showed us his scars. It turned out the accidents involved drugs. The father just sat there with a look of disappointment and detachment. He interacted with his son like he had given up on him.  

We went out later that night to meet up with the kid’s friends. It was what you might expect from a gathering of bored and disenchanted suburban youth: lots of drinking and rampant drug use with reckless abandonment. We were parked on the cliff overlooking train tracks going into the city. A couple of the kids were carelessly swinging off the dead electrical and telephone wires hanging over the cliff. Everyone continued drinking and getting high while Todd and I watched in disbelief. Out of the darkness, I heard someone call out “Bob Rob” and when I turned around, it was a former high school classmate. We talked maybe five minutes before calling it a night. 

Todd and I were ready to bail on this depressing, life-sucking shithole. When we returned to Warren’s friend’s house, we were told how Stephen King based the book Cujo on the kid’s dogs and warned us about the rats in the basement. When Warren went upstairs to stay in his friend’s room, Todd and I half joked about which one of us was going to sleep outside in the Bronco. Neither of us wanted to sleep in the basement. It was pitch black with no outside light seeping in. We lay flat on the couches with our eyes wide open, taking in all the strange sounds.

The following day was no better. We spent the first part of the afternoon meeting up with a few more of the kid’s friends. We drove to a nearby park so they could score and smoke crack. Afterwards they took us for a drive on the winding roads. All I could think about was the accidents the boy’s father had mentioned the evening before. We ended up at a party, but Todd and I just hung out in the car listening to tapes. Warren was throwing a fit because we were acting antisocial. We went off on him and made it clear we were leaving that night. We drove to a payphone, and I called my friend Mark, the drummer for the band Slapshot to see if we could crash at his place in Boston. He made a few calls and put me in touch with Hank, the band’s roadie.

The initial hope for traveling to Boston was for a tentative show, followed by what would perhaps be our biggest gig at the Anthrax in New Haven, Connecticut, opening for DC’s Ignition. Todd, Warren, and I arrived in Boston late in the evening. Hank got us settled before going out. The three of us were beat; we decided to call it a night. We slept on the floor in the living room and the kitchen.

In the middle of the night, Hank’s roommate staggered into the kitchen, stepped over me, and bumped into the wall. I sprung up to see a large, drunk, naked man holding his dick in his hand, hovering over me. He gave me a half-cocked glance and with excitement in his voice shouted, “Billy Milano! It’s fuckin’ Billy Milano!” Billy Milano was the singer in the then popular speed metal band Stormtroopers of Death.  I was on the verge of shitting myself and frantically shouted, “I’M NOT BILLY! I’M NOT BILLY!” With disappointment in his voice and a limp dick still in hand, he apologized and walked over to the back door of the kitchen to urinate off the balcony. On his way back through, he said pitifully, “Sorry, I thought you were Billy.”

Indicative of our streak of bad luck, the Boston show didn’t materialize plus The Anthrax show was a couple of days away, and we still hadn’t heard from Arnold and the other van. We were worried considering the numerous accidents we had witnessed. I finally attempted to call Arnold’s mom, but without success. The day before the show I started calling every couple of hours. Finally, well into the evening, eventually someone answered; it was Arnold on the other end. After a short moment of silence on my end, Arnold matter-of-factly said that he and The Pigs were done touring and had decided to return home. I hung up in disbelief. I walked around Kenmore Square, looking for Todd and Warren to tell them the news.
Post tour: Short Fuse did get back together to give it another shot. Because of the lack of practices Arnold and Todd didn't show put his show. It was the official end of the group. Collection of author.  
From the time we arrived in Boston, we had befriended a guy and had been hanging out with him. We told him our sob story about the tour falling apart. He jumped at the opportunity to get on board with us and offered to play guitar for our Anthrax show. We drove over to his practice space and played him our record. We unsuccessfully attempted to belt out a couple of tunes. It wasn’t the same without Arnold, so we decided it was pointless to force the matter. I called the promoter at the Anthrax and left a message that we were canceling the show and the rest of the tour. I also phoned other promoters to relay the same story.

Todd phoned home the same evening and asked his dad, a TWA pilot, to hook him up with a one-way flight back to Philly. The following afternoon, Warren and I drove Todd to Logan International. Now it was only the two of us left with a Bronco packed full of band equipment. Warren and I decided to leave for Denver the following morning. Practically broke, we killed the afternoon bumming around.

The plan was to meet up with “Slapshot” Mark after work and stay over at his house. However, that plan was hijacked when I tried to start the Bronco to the sound of a faint buzz. We ruled out the battery, since it had been replaced the week before. Luckily Mark came to our rescue with jumper cables. While following him back to his place, the Bronco started to lose power, and by the time we entered a tunnel, the car died completely. Mark continued driving, never to be seen again.

Warren and I jumped out and pushed the Bronco onto what little shoulder there was. There was no way in hell we were sticking around a dead vehicle in a tunnel on a Friday night, so we got the fuck out of there as fast as we could. A tow truck pulled up, the driver told us what the deal was; a non-negotiable situation. The police also came by and wanted to issue me a citation for blocking traffic. The cop and the tow truck driver had a little chat, and it was decided if I gave the tow truck driver $100 in cash, I wouldn’t get a ticket. I lost it, mentally check out, had an out of body experience. From what Warren said, I had a total breakdown and blacked out. The only part I remember was shaking and babbling when the tow truck brought us to a garage in Watertown, near where we had been staying with Hank. Hank was our savior once again.

Another version of the flyer. Collection of Author.
In the morning, the car mechanic asked a bunch of questions about the equipment in the back of the Bronco. He wanted to know if we were in a famous band and what sort of music we played. We didn’t dare say punk. He asked if we sounded like Aerosmith or The J. Giles Band, two of Boston’s finest, right? The diagnosis was that the electrical system in the Bronco was fried, and it would take him a couple of days to replace it. He and his buddy both laughed at and taunted us for driving a Ford and suggested we buy a Chevy next time.

We were stranded. I began selling off a couple of rare records I had picked up along the way just to feed Warren and me. We were emotionally spent and didn’t leave Hank’s house. My dad wired me $500 for the repairs. When the car was finished on the following Tuesday afternoon, Warren and I didn't waste any time; we westbound on I-90 towards Toledo. We arrived in the middle of the night, and I called “Toledo” Pat who had set us up to stay with Dirk from the band Majority Of One.

The following morning, Warren and I made a pact to drive straight back to Denver, no matter what. The only downside was that Warren didn’t drive. We only stopped for fuel and Gatorade. By the time we were in the middle of Nebraska, my eyes couldn’t take looking down the stretch of the interstate any longer. I was losing my mind, and seeing double. We pulled into a rest stop so I could regain a bit of sanity with a few hours of sleep on a picnic table. Warren’s allergies didn’t allow him any rest. He shook me in a panic, telling me that he couldn’t breathe. We hit the road without A/C and the windows rolled up because of his allergies.

We arrived at the outskirts of Denver just in time to be punished by stop-and-go rush hour traffic. In all fairness, Warren wanted to be dropped off across town in West Denver. Warren, like an excited child, jumped out of the car and raced into his grandma’s house. And just like that, I was alone for the first times in weeks; with an empty nest and cooperative traffic I merged into the ebb and flow of cars, thinking about the bed waiting for me on the other side of town.  

Edited by Rory Eubank.