Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

FROM THEN 'TIL NOW: Buck Pets and a fulfilled path

In the spring of 1991, I was a misguided, malnourished, and somewhat ideologically lost individual.
I had the good fortune, as a member of Kenosha, Wisconsin’s “Video Whiplash”, to interview The Buck Pets on a Milwaukee swing-through. As big a fan as I was, I was a tad nervous of that “fall from grace” that can happen when one discovers their heroes are assholes.

That. Never. Happened.

Being 18 years old didn’t help one bit in the nervousness department, but at least I had that musical connection that all fortunate youngsters have with a band to latch onto. That artist or group that echoes the sentiments, becomes a conscience of a sort, a comforting guardian angel of the musical variety perhaps making it an easy interview for one who feels those things.

Somebody out there gets it, feels that youth.

When you’re a teenager, and you have that to hold on to, it literally can be a difference between life and death, and in this case meant a difference between a joke and a solid Q & A.

I love the Replacements, and see Paul Westerberg as a deity. That being said, by the time I discovered the Placemats, they were recording “Don’t Tell a Soul”, and all my friends had been into them for years, knowing more than I did, and joyously rubbing it in my face. As much as I loved Paul and the boys, there was a bit of a distance there.

By the time “Nevermind” smacked the world upside the head, I was engaged, and preparing to start work on a family. So, in short, for my formative years of 17 to 19, when it all “went down”, the Buck Pets were My Nirvana.

That’s not an overstatement. Make no mistake.

I met Chris Savage, Andy Thompson, Ian Beach, and Tony Alba (I hadn’t had the pleasure at that time of meeting Ricky Pearson, the drummer who had taken the stool behind the kit for “To the Quick”. But I can tell you in hindsight, aside from his multiple instrument virtuosity of musicianship, he’s also one hell of a photographer) in Milwaukee in the winter of 1991. I won’t ever forget it.

Having seen the condescending jackassitude that can emanate from established rock acts, especially the ones I had dealt with, I was refreshed to find none of this with the Dallas foursome that emerged from the musically fertile whirlwind of vigorous youthful vitality that was Deep Ellum around 1988.

The Pets first record, a self-titled debut, didn’t so much emanate from the speakers, as it did violate them. It was a double-barrel blast with buckshot soaked in spit, rage, hurt, longing, lust, and “Inamorata”, “Good Day”, and “More and More” ran parallel to my state of mind at that time.

The second LP, “Mercurotones”, was a step, slightly drastic, into a different direction. This was a band progressing rapidly, evolving quickly, a whiplash snap into more mature territory, but do not be fooled, it still rocked. I can still get weepy hearing “Five o’clock or Thursday”. “Moon Goddess” blows the doors off the joint(especially that double feature tempo change at the end). ”Hey Sunshine” is a beautiful piece of acoustic song craft.

So I was prepared and excited for the interview. I had been burned by previous interviews in the past, so I had an understandable timid streak. That was immediately disarmed from me by these guys. They charmed me that quickly.
These kids were close friends, and family-minded. In the liner photos of “Tones”, Chris’ dog, Walt, is in full view. That’s right, hard-rocking six string slinger puts his pooch in the artwork. In and amongst the packaging was a boy and his dog. How un-grunge, unpretentious. How REAL. The Buck Pets looked out for each other, I found that obvious, not just because they had to, but because they wanted to.

In my interview, I found them hilarious, quick-minded, and damn, if not in complete opposition to their peers in the “genre”, Goddamn smart and self-aware.


The interview went well, as well as any could considering the fact that due to my age, the club owner refused to let me interview the guys inside Shank Hall. Because of his stubborness, really the Pets were off the hook, and had no obligation to do the interview…..

They did it anyway.

Andy and Tony decided to bring it into the cramped Winnebago they were touring in, sat us in the small but usable space, and as I like to remember it, one hell of a fine interview came off. Under the scrutiny of a plastic Godzilla. The kicker to this story isn’t the question and answer session that had me tickled pink. It was Andy’s reaction to the fact that I wasn’t allowed in for the gig either.

Thompson and Alba quickly made off to find Savage and Beach, and they instantaneously engaged in what looked like a football huddle minus 7 guys. This went on for several minutes before they pulled in what appeared to me to be the driver/ road manager.

The original plan was to boycott the show because I couldn’t get in. Unreal…..I got the interview I came for, I was thrilled, but because of my efforts, my fanhood, they wanted me to see them play. I was touched beyond belief. I, of course didn’t want to see that happen, a nightclub mutiny, people were beginning to file in to see them, and I had spoken to the leader of the opening act earlier, a big Pets fan, and he was geeked to be taking the stage before the Dallas foursome.

The show did go on,.

But that didn’t spare the owner of Shank from getting dirty looks from the guys behind his back, and noticeable attitude.

The Buck Pets, looking out for the little guy. A true deviation from the norm in the music biz.

As we drove away, I was looking over my shoulder to see all 4 members of the band waving good-bye…..I thought to myself, perfect….just perfect….."and he drove off into the sunset, a moment cryogenically frozen in time, that he would never forget".

If this was a movie, right now is where a sound effect would come in, with car brakes screeching, or the ripping sound of a needle being scratched across the vinyl of a LP record.

There’s more to this little tale.

Through a bizarre and wonderful twist of fate, Chris Savage and I have become close friends. He’s a person who means a great deal to me. A guy who is an infinitely patient listener, particularly when being subjected to the idle complaining of a broken human as myself. He treats me as an equal, values my opinion as much as I do his, and always has advice, and answers to questions, not about music necessarily, but life in general. He is indeed, a special person to me.

Chris is still in Texas, as is Ricky, the other two are spread out across the country… I mentioned them being talented and intelligent lads, they’ve gone on to start businesses, grow families, investigate unique endeavors ranging from culinary arts, the restaurant industry, motorcycle renovation, teaching, and photography, making unique music, and in some cases, all of the above.

But all have retained their senses of humor, humility, and likeable nature. Damn it, I love these guys.

They’re still funny and smart, yet they lack the superficial ego of many who’ve accomplished what they have, yet they’re still aware, sometimes self-deprecatingly, of their gifts.

And now, we come full circle….

On April 10th at the Trees in Dallas, Chris Savage, Ian Beach, Andy Thompson, and Ricky Pearson will take the stage again, after some 16 years, as the Buck Pets.

And I will be there……No, I won’t miss it this time.

The Buck Pets covered more ground, stylistically and emotionally, in their brief 3 album oeuvre than many bands with decades under their belt do in their careers. That’s varied, beautiful, crunching, eclectic, primal stuff. And eye-opening more is on the way.

That says a lot about what’s upstairs. Minds of differing thoughts and cultures, who when put together create something unique and powerful. Minds that are more than just music……

The Buck Pets are real.

Fakeness need not apply.

What happens next after April is anybody’s guess, but under those lights, bathed in sound, the circle will be completed for me. And maybe start a different one for them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Inconceivable. 311 is huge....

Monday, February 22, 2010


"The photographs of God I bought have almost faded away"--Jesus & Mary Chain

Mental Illness.....

I saw "Shutter Island" this weekend, and it may have been one of the more difficult to watch movies I've ever viewed. Not because of content itself, but because of how I've seen and read of all the various psychiatric maladies that many in the film suffered.

Including myself.

I'm wrapping the cloak around myself again.

The guys I work with see it. They don't care, but they see it. They think I'm crazy, not "wacky", "nutty", or "different". Insane. Gone.

I know where it comes from. I'm unreachable at times. I hate the "snap" reaction to questions, and when it happens, I often "shudder". A defense mechanism. When my mood makes a slight upswing, I get silly. That's not acceptable to them, either. I'm not falling in line, they don't understand me, therefore I am to be looked upon with disdain or even ridiculed for it.

In short, at my 8 year place of employment, in no way, shape, or form, am I allowed to be me. I can only do that at home.......

Do you know how confining that is? The weight that puts on a person? There are others like me out there, somewhere.

Where are they?

More talk, more meds, more......worry.

Now I've been told,  it's just work, and co-workers, their opinions shouldn't matter. And really, when it comes down to brass tacks, it doesn't. But my co-workers are the only people I see on a day to day basis.....

The world's a quiet, cold place when that happens.....and then I bring out the cloak.

I'm gonna be quiet for a while.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The funeral had been painless so far. Comparatively.

He had barely known the deceased after all. A kid he had known in grade school.
How did he end up a pall-bearer? Christ.

Standing in the arched doorway, David thought about the look Sherry gave him on his way out the door. That soft look of acknowledgment that he was doing the right thing. He had tried to talk himself out of this a thousand times. She though he needed it.

A trip 2500 miles to attend a funeral for someone he hadn't seen in 25 years.

David rubbed his eyes until they hurt, and the blackness that accompanied their closed nature sparked with electricity from the pressure. Perry was a good friend in the fourth grade, no doubting that. Pick up baseball games, stay overs, board games, sure. It was all there in the past, but did he feel anything now.


An odd nausea started to set in as he remembered something Perry had said all those years back. Late one night as they lay in the dark in the bunks of Perry's room. The question had come from below David just as he dwindled toward that goal line of slumber, at first he thought he imagined it.....

"David, does your Dad ever hit you?"

He didn't answer. But now, in the rigid awareness that came with adulthood, those pieces came crashing together.
The black eyes. Perry's occasional limp. The infrequent but common absences.

Funny what you miss when your 10. As David looked up to the table where all the trimmings and hors-d'ouevres were located he saw Perry's father, standing there, shoving finger sandwiches down his throat, and yes, laughing with who David believed was Perry's uncle Frank.

Suddenly the nausea exploded.

Running to the basement, David's vision blurred, he turned the sharp right and slammed his left shoulder into the door, swinging it open. Weakness had begun to permeate David's body, and the wobbling legs held it together long enough for him to stumble into the stall and vomit hard.

As his system purged itself, the tears came. Huge pounding sobs, that gathered air deep into his lungs. The weeping was immense, as he slid to his rear end, swiveling his weight to his left to reach for the stall door and swing it shut.

He never cried this hard before.

He never felt this guilty before.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I've written before that my favorite thing to do is laugh.

It really is. That statement is probably looked upon as bizarre by most people I know, who read my blog, and most certainly by the people I work with. All understandable, really, when you consider the consistent state of melancholy I am in the bulk of the time.

But people who know me, REALLY know me, dying breed that they are, find me to be a card. I'm a funny guy, a nice guy. So they say. I've been that since grade school, when people starting joking around with me and girls decided to start using my shoulders for kleenex and nothing else.

I have always liked making people laugh. "You should be a comedian!", they've said. Great idea, only problem with it being that I can't write material for spoken word performances. Oh, you get me in a group, and I can riff off conversation like it's no tomorrow. I can go all night.

If I get in "the zone", there's gonna be some sore stomachs in that group. And their laughter is a gift to me. Especially that infectious, bent-over, tear-down-the-cheek roaring. My sister, Dee, for example, has always been my favorite target. Not because of any favoritism, or anything so arbitrary as all that, just because of the sound of her laugh. A full-bodied crack-up that's an addiction for me. I just have to keep that thing going until I am no longer able.

Because I know what a wonderful feeling that is.

That "pants-crapping" variety of laughter is few and far between for me. I can only remember a handful of moments that brought about that out of control, loss of function laughter that renders one incapable of even breathing.

One was in the 3rd grade, when in parochial school. The story I like to call "Be Careful with that desk, Eugene" is a simple one. A husky kid, the titular Eugene, was sitting across the room from me. I just happened to look in his direction and saw him attempting to wheel his legs out from under his desk. The desk was one of those old school one piece units, where a balancing piece runs down to the floor from under the writing surface then to the underside of the seat.

Now, as Eugene was swinging his legs out, the feet became entangled in that crossbar. Unfortunately for Geno, his upper body did not stop with his Keds-encased tootsies. He started to fall out of his chair, but since his lower body was held up in a purgatory of metal and corduroy, the tipping of Eugene over the side was a long drawn out process that involved the "big E" battling in an eternal losing battle with gravity, the front of his desktop, and the back of his chair.

Two hours later, the huddled mass that was Eugene, lay with his back on the floor, feet coming to a complete stop on the chair that long ago held his buttocks. By now, he had everyone's full attention. Most were looking at him in shock, a few asked him if he was okay. Our uppity teacher, told him to dust himself off and get back into his seat.

I, on the other hand, was breathing into a paper bag that had at one point held my lunch, for I was hyperventilating with maniacal laughter and in danger of fainting. I also had to urinate so badly that I left the room without the teacher's permission for the first time in my life.

My father had died about a year earlier, and this was absolutely the longest I had smiled and hardest I had laughed since before Dad passed.

It felt so good, so freeing. By God, with a simple accidental pratfall, a page had turned in my life.

Going home that day, the sun seemed a little brighter, a bit warmer.

If I can give someone a fraction of that, waking up that morning was worth while, and a gift.


When conversations with yourself
Half of what you said, You've no idea
Is there love from up above

And when you've had enough,

Because I've grown so tired of me
the fatigue sets in
as I begin to see
My act getting old
as my flesh grows cold
Because I've come too far to be
so goddamn tired of me

So I'm already feeling the pain
I'm too young to call it quits

So Tired indeed.....