Sunday, May 24, 2009

HALTOM CITY NIGHTS: An Oral History

20 Years of Friendship, Bad Behavior, and Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Haltom City-Riverside Crew


God bless Haltom City (Hell yeah, hell yeah)
We’re not trying too hard, but we’re doing all right
The scenery ain’t pretty (Hell no, hell no)
But we always manage a good time


- The Me-Thinks, “God Bless Haltom City”

Calvin Abucejo: I know it sounds lame and gay, but I knew this group of guys was special the very first time we met and I wanted to be friends with them for life.

Haltom City, Texas, located five miles northeast of Fort Worth, was incorporated on July 5, 1949, and proceeded to annex surrounding Oak Knoll, Garden of Eden, East Ridge, and unincorporated portions of Birdville. Fort Worth native, jazz drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson once told me how in the mid-1950s, when his African-American family moved into their house in northeast Fort Worth, a white neighbor had his house dismantled and moved, brick by brick, to Haltom City.

One wonders what that neighbor thought about the influx of Southeast Asian immigrants to the area during the late ‘70s. Today, Haltom City’s population of 39,000 is 7.71% Asian (compared to Fort Worth’s 2.64%); the student body at Birdville Independent School District’s Haltom High School is 9% Asian. Local landmarks include the Vietnam Plaza shopping center, the Nguyen Loi supermarket, and the Sara Lee corn dog factory. Drive through the place and you might think you were back in the ‘70s. In recent years, it seems to have become a favorite spot for tornados to touch down.

The HC has an illustrious rock ‘n’ roll past dating back to the ‘60s, when the Holiday Roller Rink AKA Holiday A-Go-Go was the stomping ground for teen-snot bands like glue-sniffing 8th grade dropouts the No-Names, future Bloodrock tunesmith Johnny Nitzinger’s badass Barons, and the Nomads of Back From the Grave “Be Nice” fame (the latter two immortalized on the Fort Worth Teen Scene garage compilation series a few years back). More recently, musicians and bands as diverse as new wave aggro the Fort Worth Cats, rootsy eccentric Homer Henderson, rap-metal misogynists Pimpadelic, bombastic rockers Aska, Bertha Coolidge keyboardist-vibist Joey Carter, Bindle/Pablo & The Hemphill 7 guitarist Steffin Ratliff, angry young rockers Phleshpipe, and jazzers turned jam band Confusatron have claimed roots in the area.

Starting in the late ‘80s, Haltom City’s been home to an incestuous collection of musicians who embrace diverse rock, punk, metal, and indie influences, jamming and partying in cramped, alternately sweaty/freezing warehouses, creating their own witty, self-referential, smartass take on the DIY aesthetic pioneered by the Black Flag/SST Records crew in bands like the Me-Thinks, Barrel Delux, and Shotgun Messenger (and their precursors Hasslehorse, HellDamnCrap, and Mullet Malicia/the Riverside Ramblers). In the ‘90s, they’d have “Haltom City Nights” at the Dog Star on Berry Street, with a revolving cast of bands that featured the same musicians playing different instruments. It’s a universe all its own, where obscuro demos and one-off gigs can take on legendary status. But it’s more than just the players, it’s everybody that hung out at the Freak Palace and the Shack and the Warehouse and the house on Riverside – and in the fullness of time, their wives and kids. They make annual trips to canoe on the Brazos, and hold an annual celebration, Mustachio, around Christmas time, for which participants grow extravagant ‘staches which are judged and awarded prizes as part of the event.

I first encountered the crew back in 2002 when I went to see the Me-Thinks, then a power trio (they’ve since added a second guitarist) who transformed their mutual enthusiasm for high energy Rawk, Gibson guitars and Marshall amps, smoke machines, beer and 40 Creek whiskey, self-deprecating bullshit and Haltom City mythologizing into what can only be called “performance art as a way of life.”

How was I to know then that Me-Thinks frontman Ray Liberio was an art school victim? I might have guessed from seeing the Me-Thinks’ show posters, created by Ray and his fellow Pussyhouse Propaganda “art criminal” Calvin Abucejo, which have a visual style as distinctive as the classic poster art of Stanley Mouse, Gary Grimshaw, or Raymond Pettibon. Pussyhouse was also responsible for the cartoon ape motif on the first couple of Me-Thinks E.P.’s (including the Kiss homage on Rock and Roll Another), their Fonzie-with-a-gun drumhead design (which also appeared on the cover of the HellDamnCrap compilation CD), and the Isaac Hayes mural at the Me-Thinks’ favorite performance venue, the Wreck Room at 3208 West 7th Street in Fort Worth. They’ve gone on to create posters for loads of bands and venues (not to mention our wedding invitation), and even have exhibitions of their work.

The band itself was famous for giving away their CDs, T-shirts, buttons, Me-Thinks “inaction figures,” and koozies for free, and having an “Asian Media Crew” that photographed and shot video of all of their performances. (It was subsequently revealed to me that the AMC’s real purpose is “to get in the way and make us uncomfortable on stage.” In later years, I’ve been privileged to be an honorary member of the AMC.)

My first memory of the Me-Thinks is of three chunky guys in black rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts and cargo shorts, opening for Goodwin at the Wreck Room. I was as impressed by their choice of covers (Turbonegro, Dead Boys) as I was by the relentless pace of their set. The singer, who also played bass, tilted his head back, screwed his eyes shut, and roared into the kind of microphone that James Brown used to use back in his “-and-His-Famous-Flames” days. The songs he sang chronicled a lifestyle of rock ‘n’ roll dissolution, with song titles like “Speed Hair” and “The Future Mrs. Hydrocodone.” The guitar player, who had a beard like a rabbinical student, wore his white Les Paul slung low and barely moved at all except to trigger the smoke machine or occasionally strike a Roman statue-like pose during a solo. The drummer, a muscular fella wearing a ball cap, attacked his skins like he meant to do them harm. As noteworthy as the music was the beery camaraderie between the players and their audience, with lots of shots and raised beers all around.



The first time I interviewed the band, at their legendary warehouse in the weed grown wilds of Haltom City, I learned that a typical Me-Thinks practice involves a lot more imbibing and socializing than playing. The next day, Ray helpfully provided me with a fake “interview” that was funnier than the one they’d actually given. I still have that crumpled, beer-stained document, which contains this fine statement of principle amidst all the funny bullshit, in response to the question, “You guys don’t take yourselves too seriously, do you?”:

Raymundo: Nope! This is playing in a rock band. It should be fun. If your goal is to get free beer and have a good time, you won’t be as likely to get disappointed [as you would] if your goal is to be a rich rock star and get signed to a major label and date Drew Barrymore. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not for me.

The Haltom City crew is living proof that you can keep your bad habits (and your good friends) well into, um, adulthood. I find them fascinating because everything about them – their music, their style, their humor, their self-mythologizing, even their band names – is so sharp and clever. How can a couple dozen creative people keep partying and playing together in infinite permutations – hell, just being friends – for two decades, from high school into their mid-30s?


WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM, JON DOE, THE BEAUTY MUTANTS

It all started out in 1988 at Haltom High School, home of the Buffalo, where Mike Brown, Andy Ivey, Chris Lundy, Richard Hurley, and Ratsamy Pathammavong all studied music theory. Mike (AKA The Camper, AKA Mr. Houston) and Chris (AKA Sir Marlin Murray Von Bungy) had both played guitar in a metal band called High Voltage (“we wore capes”), with Andy on bass.

Chris Lundy: There was an area in Summerfields [housing development] where if you lived on one side of the street, you went to North Oaks Middle School, and if you lived on the other, you went to Watauga. Everybody’s parents wanted them to go to North Oaks. Mike, Andy and I all went to Watauga.

At Haltom, Marlin wound up in the same science class with Robert Scheuerman, who’d gone to North Oaks with Richard and Ratsamy (AKA Rat). Robert had been learning guitar from Rat, a jovial Laotian who dug the Beatles, in a shack behind Rat’s house.

Robert Scheuerman:
Rat pretty much showed me the ropes and I'd go over to his house and we'd practice in the shack. Mostly Metallica and Misfits. My guitar was a Les Paul knock-off that I named my Less-Than-Paul. It fit in perfectly with the Shack's knock-off motif.

Rat went on to teach several members of the crew the fundamentals of guitar. Richard was a more experienced guitarist who’d been playing in bands and recording them on Radio Shack jam boxes since he was 12.

Richard Hurley: The first time I met Rat, we were seven years old and he was holding a Beatle album under his arm. I asked him what it was and he said, “The Beaters!” A few years later, I was in a music store, waiting to buy reeds for my clarinet, when I saw a longhaired guy waiting to take a guitar lesson. He just looked so cool that I decided, “That’s for me!”

His father was an industrial arts teacher and Richard had learned early how to work on instruments. Most recently, he’d been with a Southern rock bar band called the Waves, but wanted to try original material. His fellow Waves, James and Brent Atkinson (guitar and drums, respectively), were willing, and Robert agreed to switch to bass for the project.

Meanwhile, Mike Brown met John Frum at a party that same year. Frum was a skateboard kid who’d gotten bit by the punk rock bug through listening to radio shows that his friend Vinny Pimentel recorded off Dallas co-op station KNON. Born John Himelrick in West Virginia, Frum legally assumed the name of a mythical World War II GI worshipped by South Pacific cargo cultists when his stepfather adopted him at age 12 – “I was adopted into mythology,” he now says. Writing in a ten-part history of the Haltom City crew on his blog (captaingoodwine.blogspot.com), Frum recalls Mike as “a skinny long haired gaunt looking chap that worked at Mazzio’s Pizza and drove a wicked big white car we called the Shark.”

Frum talked his stepfather into buying him a set of pawnshop drums, and soon, he and Mike were jamming on TSOL and Misfits covers. With the addition of Lorenzo (AKA Loel) Aguirre on vocals and Ivey playing Marlin’s blue B.C. Rich bass, they were a band: Jon Doe.

Mike Brown: I didn’t know Loel sang, but he bought a PA that we called “the Dido PA” because it looked like a church public address system – a couple of two and a half or three foot tall columns. We’d sit in John’s room and make a racket.

They started writing songs, with Frum providing the words while Mike came up with the music. Within six months, Marlin replaced Ivey, and a kid named Chris Kovach, who’d just transferred to Haltom from Boswell High (home of the Pioneers and part of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District), was added on second guitar. “He had a metal tinge, but in a real drugged out way,” Frum recalls, while Mike remembers “Vatch” as “a real charmer who could make everything smell like roses.”

At the same time, Marlin was playing in a punk outfit called the Beauty Mutants with Will Risinger (AKA Boyo) from Keller High School.

Chris Lundy: Our live shows were mostly Bad Religion, Minor Threat, Black Flag covers…I played bass and Will was the drummer. He was rad even back then. The singer’s name was Curl [Mike Curry]. He was a huge alcoholic and always did extremely stupid things as a result. Joined the Navy, almost got kicked out for PI's. Sobered up, got a degree in electrical engineering and now lives in San Diego working with nuclear power. The guitar player was named Kevin Hurst. He got into a lot of drugs after the Beauty Mutants…I vaguely remember doing a gig at a church (my father-in-law’s Episcopal church to be exact) when I was 16 or 17 and there was a band that opened up for us named Jesus Christ and the Nail Drivin’ 5 that I think Sam [future Ohm percussionist S. Forest Ward] played drums for. A bunch of skinheads showed up and hit some kid in the head with a baseball bat that night. The skinheads showed up to another show of ours about six months later in Carrollton and I went up to one of [their] cars and said hello. They asked me where the Beauty Mutants were. I told them they just left and where I thought they were going. They thanked me and left.

The Beauty Mutants recorded a demo of several poppy punk originals at Boyo’s house -- including a slammin’ Vinny Pimentel-penned ditty containing the immortal lines, “Milk Bones/Are great to eat/Milk Bones/They clean your teeth” -- that sounds like they would have fit right in with the Epitaph Punk-O-Rama stable of bands. When Marlin left Jon Doe to devote his full attention to the Mutants, Kovach brought in a friend from Boswell who Frum recalls had “a huge fucking bass cabinet, a little Pinto smaller than his cabinet, hair down to his ass, and a Hamer Cruise bass”: Raymond Liberio.


ENTER RAY, THE FREAK PALACE, THE DRAGWORMS

Ray was born in Rochester, New York, and moved to Eagle Mountain with his family on the first day of 1980, when he was just a couple of months shy of eight years old.

Ray Liberio: My first day of school here, they had chicken fried steak with white gravy for lunch and there was nothing on my plate I could recognize as food.

Ray’s best friend David Konen had an older brother who was friends with Michael Bandy, a guitarist whose playing piqued Ray’s interest in music. Ray and David got “mini-Strats” when they were in 6th grade and took lessons from Bandy. At the same time, Ray was playing cornet in the school band. He started skateboarding in “7th or 8th grade.” Skateboarding was a favorite activity for many in the crew during their teen years, and had the collateral effect of stoking the fires of their musical fandom.

Calvin Abucejo: Skateboarding taught us to search for stuff. You’d buy these skateboarding magazines and see little ads for punk records. You couldn’t find them in mainstream stores, so you’d have to become resourceful to hunt them down.

Another formative influence on Ray was the Gallagher family, who’d moved to Eagle Mountain from San Clemente, California.

Ray Liberio: They were a huge Irish clan – six kids. Three of the brothers had a band called Naked Picnic: Brian played bass, Eric played guitar, and John (who was a bank manager) played drums. I had a little band that played “Cocaine” and “Smoke On the Water.” Brian kind of took us under his wing. The Gallaghers had a practice space with a stage and a fridge. We’d go there to watch them play and just be mesmerized. It was the best shit ever back in ’86, ’87.

Ray’s next musical venture was an unnamed punk cover band with some other kids from his neighborhood ("we loved the Misfits”), then in 1988, he formed a band called the Camels with Kovach, Brad Hicks – “a drummer whose mom was an anesthesiologist and had a sweet pad on the lake” – and Lyle Darrin (later of the Denton bands the New Originals, Shiva the Destroyer, and Stanton Meadowdale).

At this point, the focal point for the Haltom City crew’s activities was the Freak Palace, the name they gave to Jeff Boschert’s garage. Jeff was a highly technical metal drummer with “a penchant for flair” whose mom, an R.J. Reynolds executive, traveled frequently, giving the crew access to lots of free Camel cigarettes as well as a free jam space. Frum remembers, “We would meet at Jeff's like clockwork on Friday nights and get someone to get us some booze and our evenings would be going.”

Robert Scheuerman: Every circle of friends has that one house that serves as headquarters for all activity and Jeff's house was where we congregated. Mostly to drink until passing out...or smoking out if you could keep up with Richard and the Hipster (Matt Worthy). I think the very first night Rat and I were over at Jeff's house, I drank an entire bottle of Jim Beam and put my head through his wall and broke a mirror -- an omen of things to come.

Mike Brown: A lot of people bonded in that place. There were always drums and a guitar and bass rig set up there, and there was a constant rotation of people who were either learning or already knew how to play.

When Ray encountered the Haltom City crew – “all 50 of them” – sitting in the living room at a house party when he went to check out Jon Doe, it reminded him of hanging out with the Gallagher brothers, and he became a regular on the set, although he continued to summer in Eagle Mountain.

Ray Liberio: The first time I met Will Risinger we got in an argument because he didn’t like Social Distortion. He said that Mike Ness’ singing was “too monotone.” I thought, “How could anyone not like Social Distortion?” But after that, I couldn’t hear [Social D’s music] without noticing how monotone Ness’ vocals were.

Jon Doe played at parties and did a couple of gigs at a Dallas reggae club called the Exodus, where Frum recalls, “they were fond of us…even though Loel set the stage on fire one night and I was caught trying to steal a bottle of Jagermeister another.” They shared the stage there with the Drag-Worms, who played a mix of grungy psychedelia and stoner punk and were led by Ray’s friend from Eagle Mountain, guitarist-singer Mike Bandy (who’d previously had a band called Potato Salad), with Randy Wagar on drums and Tony Medio on bass. Before playing shows with the Drag-Worms, the crew had become fans via a demo that included the song “Baby In a Blender” (“There’s a devil in the kitchen…”).

Mike Bandy: The Drag-Worms lasted from around 1988 to 1992. We got the name from the guys on the Drag in Austin [Guadalupe Street, near the UT campus] that would sell acid and weed back in the day. People always thought that we were from Austin, but just our acid came from Austin. I remember hearing Nirvana's Bleach and thinking that they had the sound I was trying to get with the Drag-Worms, but they were ten times better than us…We played a lot at the Axis Club, Trees, and sometimes at Joe's Garage. The Joe's Garage shows were usually with the Toadies. Ab, the shithead owner of Joe's Garage, would only pay the headlining band, so we never got paid there. We got free beer so it was worth it. Our biggest show was opening for the Flaming Lips and Dinosaur Jr. at Trees. Also, we got to open for the original lineup of the Loco Gringos at the Axis. Randy, the drummer, would pull his VW bus up outside the front door of the Axis, and we would smoke weed in it until it was time to play. It reminded me of the Fast Times van scene when Spicoli got out at school.

The Jon Doe boys also got some career guidance from the older gent that ran the open mic night at J&J’s Blues Bar.

Mike Brown: He took one look at us and told us, “I don’t think this is what you’re looking for,” and that everybody wanted to hear Hendrix or something.

Undeterred, they borrowed money from Mike’s sister to cut their own demo at a Dallas studio called Hot Tracks. The resultant recording included “a swirling freakout song,” “No One Even Cares,” which they were surprised to hear on KNON Halloween night, “right after a Butthole Surfers song.” The sound is very ‘80s new wave, the guitars slathered with reverb and chorus effects, but Loel’s snarling garage punk vocals, in the manner of Strummer or early Westerberg, and Frum’s existential angst-dripping lyrics make this more than just a period piece. The Jon Doe demo is especially impressive when one considers that it’s the first recording of a bunch of 16-year-olds. “I ponder and I wonder/Who am I?” indeed.


SIR MARLIN VON BUNGY: THE ORIGIN STORY


Chris Lundy: I started going to Dallas as soon as I could drive. I had a friend named Leigh who lived with the Last Rites guys and I would spend a lot of time drinking at his house before and after a show or bar in Dallas on the weekends. I lived in Grand Prairie for a year or so right after high school and it was easier to go to Dallas than Fort Worth. I spent my fair share of time in Arlington also. I hung out with the Cool Christine and Agitators guys quite a bit. I knew them from playing Beauty Mutants shows with them.

The name Bungy came about right after [serial killer] Ted Bundy got his offing [in 1989]. Because my last name is Lundy, people started calling me Bundy. Then these people started drinking and slurring and it became Bungy. Mike Murray was some skater we hung out with. When I first met Frum, he was wasted telling me that he thought I looked like this Murray guy -- who looks nothing like me, by the way. Marlin came about because we were at Freak Palace one night and I had this cheap magic trick that came out of a cereal box. They told me that I was Marlin the Magician.

The first time I ever saw “Marlin Von Bungy” was in the “thank you’s” for the Hasslehorse CD [in 1996], but these names were cool with me because my name is Chris, and there were so many Chrises around, I usually wouldn't even answer to the name because most likely it wasn't for me.

I went to [ex-Hagfish bassist] Doni and Shelly [Blair]'s wedding reception. Now, I knew Shelley totally separate from Doni, and she was from Dallas, but I knew Doni from HC. He’d been telling her that his friend Marlin was there and he really wanted her to meet me, and she was telling him that her friend Bungy was there and she wanted him to meet me. Sometimes when I see people I haven't seen for a while I forget whether they know me as Marlin or Bungy. But as a rule of thumb, Dallas people know me as Bungy and Fort Worth people know me as Marlin.



LETTERS TO DEBBIE, BUDDY’S BUSINESS TRIP, PEE PEE


Inevitably (for every band is hardwired to self-destruct), Jon Doe fell apart due to friction between Frum and Kovach, the latter of whom “had this ‘we’ve gotta make it and be rock stars’ mentality,” according to Mike Brown, while “[the rest of the band] just wanted to play music.” Frum started a new wave-ish trio called Antenna, heavily influenced by the Church, the Smiths, and Joy Division, while Ray, Kovach, and Brad Hicks formed Lid Symphony, “a really cool drony Dragwormish type of band” that Frum dubbed “Sagedelic” for their home base in Saginaw.

Ray also played in a Lake Worth-based outfit called Letters To Debbie, for whom he sang and played bass, Brad Hicks drummed, and Eric Gallagher (from Ray’s early inspirations Naked Picnic, some of whose material got recycled here) played guitar. Their sound has a nervous energy that’s equally reminiscent of rockabilly and early Talking Heads (they covered “Psycho Killer”), but Ray displays a lot more vocal dynamism than David Byrne ever thought about doing, even when he affects quirky “new wave” mannerisms.

Frum and Mike Brown tried making a band with Richard Hurley and Robert Scheuerman. Mike’s parents were divorced, and his father was always on the road while “I was trying to remember to get up early and go to Saturday school because I had skipped so much.”

John Frum: We would basically just congregate at Mr. Houston’s dad’s house and jam…Mr. Houston’s dad's name was Buddy and when he would be away, we would get high and jam at his house, hence the name Buddy's Business Trip.

A tape survives of a long, stonerish Brown-Scheuerman-Frum jam recorded while Richard was off picking up his equipment and entitled “Zoiks!” – which showcases Mike’s highly processed guitar tone and interesting melodic ideas -- as well as a piece of percussion-and-vocal weirdness entitled “I Love You You You” that sounds like a troupe of demented Hare Krishnas, or at the very least, a precursor of “freak folk.”

When Frum bowed out, Loel Aguirre and Jeff Boschert stepped in, and Buddy’s Business Trip became Pee-Pee. Frum recalls being mightily impressed by a Pee-Pee demo he heard, even after realizing that some of the lyrics were cribbed from an old notebook of his.

John Frum:
The recording was really raw, maybe the mix was just odd, but as that demo unfolded I knew I was listening to something really special. Loel's vocals were mature and his delivery was intense and strong…. The guitars were rocking as hell, angular and gritty. The tones were greasy and raw…. Robert was a newbie [on bass] but he played lines and grooved like he had been playing for years, a natural…. The drums were stuttered. There were kit mistakes but the intensity forgave it and it worked. I was floored by it.

Mike Brown: [The Pee-Pee demo] was recorded in Richard’s parents’ living room by an A/V guy from TCJC who made independent films with trippy soundtracks. We recorded it live to VHS tape because that was supposed to sound better.

It’s easy to see why Frum was so impressed. The music on Pee-Pee’s demo has the same bleary-eyed Nuggets-and-Stooges-fueled garage-snot aggro as Sub Pop bands like Green River and early Mudhoney, featuring agreeable collisions between Mike’s Telecaster and Richard’s Les Paul, with Loel’s over-the-top vocals -- which Robert dismisses as “pterodactyl screams” but sound to these ears more like a possible influence on Ray’s Me-Thinks vocal style – as the icing on the cake.

Mike Brown: In Jon Doe, Loel sang; after that, he didn’t. Everyone was getting into Butthole Surfers-style new psychedelia and just making groaning noises, yelling, whatever. He’d also upgraded to a Crate PA with reverb.

Robert Scheuerman:
Pee-Pee once played this massive bash that was being held at [the Gallagher brothers’ warehouse]. I remember that the place was huge and that there was even a good size stage there. I had dropped a hit of Strawberry Fields before the gig and after Letters to Debbie finished, a bunch of us made it back to an unpopulated part of the building in order to smoke before the set. We piled into a rather large office bathroom and people kept piling in. There were probably 20 people lined up against all four walls of that bathroom and only a couple of joints. I only recall bits and pieces because of the LSD, but I do remember being in the middle of one our songs and Richard literally tapping me on the shoulder to tell me to stop playing. In my acid soaked brain I didn't realize that the place was filling up with cops...they marched into the place and put everybody up against a wall and trotted a drug-sniffing dog through the room. I guess there were simply too many people holding, because the dog seemed confused and didn't really point any one person out. The cops soon told everyone to leave and I left, walking past them barefooted and out of my head. The next day Ray and his friends went back to the warehouse to clean it up. Apparently they found endless discarded bags that people had ditched when the cops first arrived. Free smoke!

On another occasion, Ray recollects, “the cops were looking for Pee-Pee because of the flyer they hung around Denton. It was obscene in some way -- maybe a penis or something on it.”


BOB COX, LOEL AGUIRRE, THREE MEN AND A BABY JESUS

An important newcomer to the Freak Palace during this time was Bob Cox, an Arizona expatriate who’d drummed with skate-punk legends JFA before developing a heroin habit. Being of legal drinking age, Bob became the crew’s designated alcohol mule, and he soon insinuated his way into Pee-Pee’s lineup. Bob was influential in a number of ways.

Robert Scheuerman: The guy was an alpha male without question. He dominated the room when he was in it. We deferred to him because he was a bit older and had been in JFA, so he'd been around. His reputation preceded him. His aggressive manner and his semi-infamous history got us into some pretty good gigs over the years. He knew how to work a room, or a person, in order to be heard. His bold attitude won some over and turned some against us. We'd often be looking over our shoulders at gigs because there were often people on the look out to hunt Bob down...at their folly, most often. Bob was a fighter and had no reservations [about] kicking the shit out of a troublemaker…I also think that the non-basic element to a lot of the Haltom scene also comes from Bob turning some of us on to prog rock. We'd never heard pre-Phil-Collins-vocals Genesis until Bob brought some around. The same goes for King Crimson. Once we had a taste of that crazy music, it sort of steered our tastes into a broader area…Bob wound up having a kid with Brigitte, the co-host of the KNON show Twisted Kicks with Dave Chaos. Because Bob had been involved with Brigitte for a long time, we'd often get one of our songs from our demo played on Dave's show.

Bob was involved in an altercation with touring San Francisco punks Flipper.

Robert Scheuerman: Generally you'd recognize [Bob] because his bass drum [head] used to say, “FUCK YOU.” We opened for Flipper in Oklahoma once and one of the guys in Flipper stood watching us play. He kept staring at Bob and that drumhead. When we finished a song the drunk guy yells, "No-no-no-no...NO! FUCK YOU!!!" And his band had to drag him to the bus to calm him down. Bob was ready to throw down, but it would've been an unfair fight. We had Jesus on our side. Flipper just had...well, Flipper.

The end of Pee-Pee came in 1991.

Mike Bandy: [Loel] was really good, but nutty as a squirrel turd. He was always catching something on fire, or flinging the mic into the crowd.

Ray Liberio: He was a great guy when it was just us…but when he got in public or on stage, he turned into a different person, and sometimes it was difficult to deal with. I think all great singers seem to have that problem, especially if they don't play an instrument. That's just the way it is. It was stuff we always had to smooth over with [club owners]...Got old.

Richard Hurley: He blew so many gigs. It broke my heart, working so hard on the music, and then when it was time to play, he’d just be lying there, not singing.

Mike Brown: We were playing at Slipped Disc in Dallas, and Richard and Bob were living there. There was a gig where Loel couldn’t stand up – I don’t know if he was really inebriated, or just wanted to put on a show. He’d do a lot of hateful stuff when he was drinking. We were getting ready to play with this band Junk Church who had that glam look – this guy was wearing a Faster Pussyat cop hat – and Loel was yelling at the guy, “Hey! Shit Church!” I was going to art school, driving to Dallas every day, and I didn’t have a penny to put together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was the one that bailed; I just didn’t care.

Loel continued to hang around on the fringes of the crew, but gradually dropped from sight, while Richard, Bob, and Robert opted to stick together. The new trio was billed as The Gayest when they opened a Dallas show for G.G. Allin.

Richard Hurley: It was one of those shows where there were not that many people, but since [G.G.’s] dead now, it seems that every Dallas punk says they were at the show that night! We weren't punk, but our stuff was so off the wall, we could only play punk shows. [G.G.’s]guitar player and I traded guitars for a while in the back room. He played a gold top with used tampons dangling from all the tuning keys, that he had collected on tour.

Inspired by their mutual love of Frank Zappa (at one point, Bob lived in a house with the cult-hero composer-satirist-bandleader’s name painted on the roof), the trio became Three Men and a Baby Jesus. If Loel Aguirre had been the force that tore Pee-Pee asunder, Three Men’s musical approach represented a final solution of sorts to the lead singer problem.

Robert Scheuerman:
We played instrumental, often to the chagrin of some of the people in the audience. They need a bouncing ball to follow along with I guess. We'd have five or six parts and mesh them together. We weren't as musically adept as far as Zappa music goes, but we liked to dip a toe into the pool of progressive rock from time to time. But all of our stuff was written sans lyrics, so we always sought out an intricate path when possible.

Perhaps because of the change in drummers, or perhaps because there’s more space to fill in the three-piece format, recordings from the Three Men period sound leaner, more aggressive and hard-edged than the Pee-Pee demo, with Robert weaving busy, burbling bass lines underneath Richard’s crashing chords, stinging leads, and snaky, Echoplexed slide. But without vocals or strong melodic content, the material sometimes feels incomplete.

Robert Scheuerman:
Misty (Richard's wife at the time) made up an awesome stage prop. She took a Cabbage Patch doll, drew a li’l Jesus beard and 'stache on it, pierced its side and nailed it to a little Cabbage Patch size cross. So we actually had our Baby Jesus nailed to a cross...even still in his li’l diaper. Some people flat-out scolded us for blasphemy. Most people laughed.


POTTYMOUTH, THE SHACK, GRIT, HAGFISH

In the fall of 1991, Frum had fired the bass player from Antenna and was starting to write music as well as words. As luck would have it, the wheels were coming off the Beauty Mutants around that time.

John Frum: Boyo was shipping off to the Navy so I didn't have to hear about how great it was playing with him as much from Marlin.

With the addition of Marlin on bass, Antenna morphed into Pottymouth. Ray would come around to jam on “Funk 49” and a few other songs. Frum, Ray, and Mike Brown were also working together at the Olive Garden as breadstick maker, line cook, and busboy, respectively.

After Pottymouth fizzled out, Marlin went on to play in two different bands simultaneously (again): Matty Girl (“very typical of everything in the 90s”) and the lugubrious and menacing Inch Man, with drummer Jeff Wilganowski, later of Red Animal War; guitarist Sean French, later of The Theater Fire; and “a black guy named Henry who was as nice as his voice was bad, but…had real good stage presence.”

When Jeff Boschert started school at the University of North Texas, the Freak Palace went the way of all flesh and the action shifted to the Shack in Rat’s back yard.

Robert Scheuerman: When we weren't at [the Freak Palace], Richard, Rat and myself would either drive through Roanoke to smoke a joint and then listen to Pink Floyd's Relics or [the Butthole Surfers’] Hairway To Steven or Dead Kennedys. It was the perfect place because you could easily drive 5 mph through the entire area and not get hassled by cops…We'd also hang at the Shack and everyone thought we were crazy to do so, but fast forward a couple of months and the Shack became the place to be in Haltom City...or at least for beer-soaked freaks who like Fugazi. There'd easily be a roomful of people at the Shack on any given day. We'd all be lined up on the sofa, looking like the Haltom City version of The Last Supper and through the crack in the closed door we'd see Rat's back porch light come on. This was his mother's way of telling Rat to chill things out. We'd get quiet for a couple of minutes and go back to chaos.

Rat and Vinny Pimentel (who’d introduced Frum to punk rock, written lyrics for the Beauty Mutants, and taken up guitar with an instrument he’d bought from Frum) started jamming in the Shack with their tiny Peavey Rage amps. Frum bought a pawnshop bass and miniature Gorilla amp, and Grit was born, taking its name from the Saginaw/Lake Worth slang for cigarettes. The three started writing songs, and Frum was their first-time singer. Ed Rock, a friend of Ray’s from Blue Mound and Boswell, played drums for a while, before being replaced first by Brady Stephens, then by Lee Shadden. Grit played its first gig at the Freedom Club – a reggae joint on Rosedale Street in Fort Worth -- opening for Hagfish. Says Frum, “Vinny and Rat stood with their backs to the crowd the whole show and feedback just walloped the place.”

In 1992, an old Freak Palace acquaintance from Mansfield, James Newhouse, asked Frum to audition for the drum slot in the Dallas punk band he was fronting: Hagfish. (To the crew, Newhouse was known as “Terminal,” because he claimed to have been the lead singer for the band Terminal Rot, known for their single “Double Double Cheese Cheese Burger Burger Please.”) Frum reckons that he got the call because James – a limited vocalist at best and not much of a lyricist, either -- knew he wrote lyrics from having been around in the Jon Doe days. Frum says that Zach and Doni Blair, Hagfish’s straight edge guitarist and bassist, had been “raised on a diet of Grand Funk and the Who” by their late father, and were trying to steer their band away from punk and into rock. Within weeks, Frum persuaded them to add another guitar to the lineup, and soon, Mike Brown was sharing the weekly commute to Dallas with Frum.

Mike Brown: I think they wanted to add a Pearl Jam influence, and they equated me and John with that because we had long hair, maybe even flannel shirts. We played a show at Common Ground and [Doni] got mad because nobody moshed or slamdanced.

There’s a hilarious wikipedia entry on Hagfish that misspells Frum’s name as “Fromme” and incorrectly states that he was in Pee-Pee. Frum vehemently denies the wiki’s allegation that “rampant drug abuse” caused the dissolution of that Hagfish lineup. In the end, he says, James was fired from Hagfish. A few years later, the singer and his brother were killed in a car accident. Frum and Mike severed ties with Hagfish after an attempted recording project went south. The Blairs regrouped yet again and went on to attain MTV notoriety before disbanding in 2001, then joined the punk supergroup Only Crime. Today, Doni Blair plays in the Amarillo surf-punk band the Mag Seven.


THE WAREHOUSE ERA BEGINS

The year 1992 was also when the Haltom City crew moved its base of operations from the Shack to a warehouse off Pharr Street in Fort Worth – Warehouse #60. Frum recalls, “We were in an industrial park, yet we managed to get the cops called. It was beautiful chaos.” A few doors down, Aquila Rose (drummer Brandon Martin AKA Tequila and guitarist Arthur Autrey, later of Mullet Malicia/Riverside Ramblers/Shotgun Messenger fame) were jamming ‘80s covers (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Styx, Journey, Motley Crue) and some originals, with Frum learning valuable lessons from Arthur on bass. They stayed together long enough to play a battle of the bands (they lost) before packing it in.

Robert Scheuerman:
The Pharr Street warehouse was Haltom City outside of Haltom City limits. The back wall of the Grit warehouse was a collage/barrage of endless porn mag pages from one corner to the other. Once the police got called for some reason and one of the two cops that showed up was a very angry looking woman cop. I remember the slow, meticulous way her eyes traveled over that wall of porn before she began speaking...hating the warehouse more and more with every lurid picture. And nobody ever took the trash home, so there were literally ankle-deep empties throughout the entire warehouse. We all thought it was funny, so the cans kept piling up higher and higher. You had to wade through empty beer cans to get to another part of the warehouse…In the summer it would get so hot that Brady [Stephens] once brought out a wall-unit air-conditioner and when I showed up, there was this unit, wedged under the door, chugging away -- doing its damnedest to cool off an impossibly hot warehouse…What was great about the Pharr Street days was that we knew the manager of the warehouse at the time. Trudy was this bawdy, beer swigging redneck of a kind, but gruff woman. She'd troll down to our warehouse in the warehouse golf cart and talk to us...sometimes she'd smoke with us. So we had it made in the shade, as far as all that was concerned.

The end of the Pharr Street warehouse was “like a movie.”

Robert Scheuerman: Our friend Kirk Burris often came to hang out on weekends. To get into the warehouse, you had to drive through the central gate, use the code and come in. There was a second gate that had to be opened manually via button, or triggered from a pressure pad on the other side by a car. We were all standing out in front of the Grit warehouse, so Burris thought he'd be cool and open the gate himself by jumping out of his car -- while still rolling. He ran to the button, triggered it, slipped and didn't make it back to his car, which swung violently to the left and smashed into the brick barrier in between each warehouse. This took a huge stack of bricks out of the front surface. At least eight bricks were crumbled and his car was dented…This was when the warehouse had new management and they weren't so friendly. They came down and told us all to leave. We procrastinated and eventually at the end of the complex we watched about five police cruisers pull in. One by one we got out of Dodge. The stragglers had to deal with the cops and that was that. No more Pharr Street.

Frum and Mike Brown stumbled on a humble 10 x 20 storage facility they rented for $40 a month: Warehouse #58, located near Rat, Richard, and Robert’s old stomping grounds, North Oaks Junior High. Before long, the warehouse became the focal point for the crew’s musical and extramusical activities, surprisingly drawing no heat from Haltom City’s finest -- possibly because, in Frum’s words, “we were kind,” although there were some incidents of borderline violence:

Robert Scheuerman: John Frum once brought a golf club out to the warehouse…He was sort of playfully wielding the club as if he was going to mess with somebody. He raised the club behind his head to swing forward, but as the club arced backwards, it cracked Rat right on the skull. You could hear the bone THOK! We had to laugh as we showed our concern. A good laugh is always a good laugh…Ray used to have this huge collection of beer bottle caps. He had an igloo cooler full of the damned things. There were times when others would get on Ray because the things were everywhere. There were also dozens of broken musical doodads. Studio gear, old analog pieces, pedals, amps...none of it would ever be thrown away. The stuff would pile up and up and when they'd finally clean the whole place out, all the electronics would be put back in, whether it got used or not. Until...One night, after the familiar buzz of too much beer, whiskey and weed, someone -- I think it was John, or Pappy, as some called him -- threw a beer bottle against the far wall and it smashed into pieces. Before we knew what was going on, everybody started picking up bottles, cans and anything else and began throwing them at the far wall. It was raining bits of broken glass and other debris for the next five minutes. Suddenly a chair crashed into the wall...and then a stool. And then all of those unused broken pawn shop pieces of equipment. Metal and screws and glass were everywhere. I drop kicked the rotating fan that I had brought as it churned away. I almost broke my foot that night…When the storm finally subsided, the back end of the warehouse was piled high with garbage -- about three feet of it. It looked pathetic...a pile of refuse, destroyed by monkeys. We all sat, catching breath and looking around in befuddlement and laughter: Spontaneous Human Destruction.


FATHER SPROUT, PIMPADELIC, RIVERSIDE

Frum (back on drums), Mike Brown, and Ray started a new project, Father Sprout, which was reflective of their increasing skills and broadening tastes, covering material by Grand Funk (“Aimless Lady”) and King Crimson (“Red”), as well as composing some longer, multi-part opuses. They stayed together long enough to play a single gig, Ray’s graduation fete from the Art Institute of Dallas, where he and Mike had been students together.

Around this time, Ray played bass in the embryonic version of rap-rockers Pimpadelic.

Ray Liberio: While I was in art school and working at the Olive Garden, I shared a place in Irving with Mike Brown because it was halfway between work and school. After I graduated in ’93, our lease was up and I moved home to Eagle Mountain…Kovach was trying to make a rap band with [vocalist] Donnie Franks, and he asked me to play bass. It was the time of Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Funkdoobiest, and that was the kind of thing they were going for – weed-oriented, white person-friendly, really funny rap music. We did dual MC shit with [ex-Drag-Worms bassist] Tony Medio on guitar and Jason Russell on drums…The shows were chaotic and fun, but we wound up getting blackballed after a show in Dallas with the Buck Pets and Rubber Bullet where somebody got stabbed and someone else wound up needing reconstructive surgery. Besides that, Donnie’s lyrics were getting pretty misogynistic – mentioning girls from the neighborhood by name to make them cry and stuff like that. Not my thing.

Another popular hangout starting in 1993 was the house on Riverside Drive owned by Eric Payton (AKA Wheatley), who’d grown up there before moving to Keller and now shared digs with Justin Jones. Calvin Abucejo, who’d moved from Keller to Austin before his senior year of high school, was a frequent Riverside visitor while attending Texas A&M in College Station.

Calvin Abucejo: It was a revolving cast – besides Eric and Justin, Cody Yates, Jim Yule (AKA Buck O’Kilroy), Derek Blanton (AKA Motor Skillz), Ratsamy and Vince all lived there at different times. It was pretty much an open door policy; if you wanted to hang out and crash, find a spot.

Ray Liberio: [Kirk] Burris lived there for a good year, too.

Calvin Abucejo: There was always music being played there, people strumming on guitars, the stereo cranked wa-a-ay up late at night. There were two huge carports out back where the Pine Barons and Wizbang and I’m sure some other bands played at some of the parties. I really cannot believe that there were never any noise complaints on us. I mean, the stereo would be blaring at 4am with the front and back door wide open with us just hanging out in the front yard. And Eric’s grandma lived next door…It seemed like every evening the people that just came out of the Salvation Army Alcohol Rehab place down the street would walk by past Riverside with 10 or so of us just drinking out front. I’m sure it was torture for them.

Wheatley studied photography at Tarrant County Junior College’s Northeast campus, and his instructor, the great Fort Worth photographer Peter Helms Feresten, showed up for a couple of parties at Riverside.

Ray Liberio: I walked in the kitchen and thought, “Whose dad is that smoking the bong over there?”

Calvin Abucejo:
We used to have slide shows at Riverside – Eric would show his pictures, but it wasn’t like a big “art” event.

Meanwhile, Grit was progressing past its garage punk roots, writing a ballad that was later recorded by Hasslehorse -- “What Would Chu Say,” sung by Rat and inspired by his brother Chu (whose name the band members would often use in place of “you”) -- and covering a Todd Rundgren song. Lee Shadden had moved to Weatherford and been replaced by yet another drummer, Teagarden by name, whose house served as jam space in between warehouses. When he was fired, Ray stepped in and proved to be a capable drummer. Frum had acquired a ’75 Fender Telecaster Deluxe and wanted to play guitar. Rat agreed to switch to bass, and Hasslehorse was born.


HASSLEHORSE, THE GREYZ

The band took its name from a remark Rat made about Ray’s belly looking “like he was carrying a baby Hasselhoff.” Starting out, they were over(t)ly influenced by Telepathic Surgery/In a Priest Driven Ambulance-era Flaming Lips. (Besides enjoying the lysergic chaos of the early Lips, perhaps Frum was taking pointers from Wayne Coyne on how to make effective use of a high, reedy singing voice.) Other influences included Vinny’s new favorites the Jayhawks, Ray’s beloved Sub Pop bands, Frum’s highly revered Guided By Voices and Afghan Whigs, and an obsession with serial killers. Frum was writing and singing more somber and personal songs, sometimes collaborating with Ray on lyrics, and it was also decided that Ray should do some of the singing, since he was clearly the strongest vocalist. Vinny Pimentel was developing an interesting space-rock guitar style, while Frum’s solo guitar forays sometimes skirted the fringes of tonality.

Hasslehorse gigged at Club Nowhere (now the Chat Room) in Fort Worth – sometimes with Mike Bandy and Randy Wagar’s new band, Tractor Trailer -- and at Club Clearview in Dallas. They recorded some demos on a pawn shop-acquired reel-to-reel at Ray’s house in Eagle Mountain before heading into the Cave, a small studio in Watauga, to record a CD with owner Shane Dillard and Frum (who’d done an internship at Planet Dallas Studios a few years earlier) sharing engineering duties.

The sessions for The Chicken Factory -- another Rat title -- stretched out for almost a year. The ever-versatile Ray proved to be a skillful utility musician, contributing cornet, sitar, and synthesizer to the sessions. When the disc was released in 1996, the song “On the Mend” (sung by Ray, featuring a nylon-string solo by Mike Brown and containing the immortal lines “6am hits you like a train” and “I loved my mind so I learned how to bake it”) garnered some airplay on KEGL 97.1 FM “The Eagle’s” Local Show. The crushing, Mudhoney-inspired riff of “The Creeper,” another Liberio-sung tune with lyrics about a serial killer, pointed in a direction Ray probably didn’t realize he was heading in at the time (i.e., toward Me-Thinkdom). Overall, The Chicken Factory has stood the test of time well; it’s an appealing slice of ‘90s indie rock weirdness.

Ray’s mom Audrey had played piano on one track on the album, and as she was apparently uninterested in performing live, Marlin (who was taking piano lessons at TCJC) was recruited to play Vinny’s Fender Rhodes. In the spirit of self-improvement, Frum and Vinny even took voice lessons from an opera singer at TCJC. Inspired by Sonic Youth, Frum experimented with alternate tunings on the guitar.

The five-piece Hasslehorse made a couple of forays into the studio during 1998. “Black and Tan” was recorded at First Street Audio in Fort Worth, while “Soul Surgeon” and a second attempt at The Chicken Factory’s “Saginaw” were cut in Dallas. All three recordings showcase a more assured unit than the one that made the CD, but Frum was losing enthusiasm for the project. He surprised his bandmates by quitting the band and getting a “real” job as a computer programmer. Marlin left Hasslehorse at the same time and the band continued under Vinny Pimentel’s leadership, with Brady Stephens joining on piano.

John Frum:
I was working for Camel cigarettes and making "minimal" wage. I spent days stealing smokes from stores that we were putting cigarette racks in and hanging neon Joe Camel signs. Ray worked there with me for a while, I got him on board…I went to TCJC and took some computer science classes and Ray was working [as a graphic artist] at Flight Safety and landed me an interview there as a programmer. I'm a good bullshitter, so I got the job.

(On his blog, Frum reveals that he’d been writing programs since he was 14, and that he prepped extensively for the interview, learning the software the company used and developing a tailor-made demo.)

At Flight Safety, Frum made friends with Sean French, a 3D animator who was also a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist that had played in Inch Man with Marlin. They’d while away their work hours listening to Elliott Smith and Nick Drake CDs and Art Bell’s paranormal-themed radio shows, then would retire to Sean’s digs to drink wine and listen to music. Eventually, they started writing and recording songs together as the Greyz, taking their name from the extraterrestrials discussed on Bell’s programs. Marlin remembers a one-off gig in Denton with the Greyz.

Chris Lundy: Sean told me on a Sunday that the next Friday he had a gig at Rubber Gloves and he didn't have a band. So Ray played drums, Frum played guitar and sang, and I played keys. I honestly don't remember Frenchy doing anything. He maybe played guitar. But the crowd really dug it. They all sat Indian style on the floor and were in awe when Frum started screaming into his cheap guitar’s pickups and it came through his amp…I think we might have opened up for Centromatic.

At the same time, Frum was writing and recording songs out at the warehouse under the rubric Apartment Threading, one of which (“Seaside Stranger”) was included on the HellDamnCrap compilation CD Mike Bandy released in 2002 (more about which in just a bit).


A FORESHADOWING

In 1998, the warehouse where Three Men and a Baby Jesus rehearsed was burglarized, and all their equipment stolen.

Robert Scheuerman: We had a warehouse in the middle of the complex. One day we heard somebody playing loud metal music. We knew it wasn't any of the bands that were around, and sure enough, some younger kids had moved into a warehouse at the far end of the warehouse.

Ray walked to the far end so he could look around the corner without being seen. I walked right up on those guys as they were hanging out. They all eyed me warily and I introduced myself and saw rather quickly that these dudes were going to be trouble. They talked like wannabe gangbangers and they thought that their death metal take was original and truly evil, saps that they were. The next day Three Men practiced and I told Ricardo and Bob about the new renters and we all knew it spelled eventual trouble.

So not even a week goes by before I get a call at home. It’s Rat, telling me that it looks as if the Three Men warehouse might have been tampered with. When we get there we open the door and find...carpet and nothing else. My beautiful Mesa Boogie cabinet -- gone. My Sunn head -- gone. Richard's Fender amp -- gone. Bob's drum set -- gone…. The only thing they did leave was a banner that we had picked up on the way to an Oklahoma gig that had a picture of Jesus on it and it read JESUS LOVES YOU, which was perfect, considering our band name at the time. The banner had been torn from the wall and trampled….I guess they assumed that we might have been a religious band, imbeciles that they were.

And by sheer coincidence, that very next day Richard observed that the death metal band were clearing their equipment out of their warehouse. So he called me and then called the cops. We arrived and met up with the cops and I walked around the complex with two of the policemen to see if any of our stuff was in their warehouse. We basically went over there under the guise of just giving a friendly warning that they should be careful with their stuff.

None of our stuff was in their warehouse, so nothing could be done. The cops couldn't do a thing because there was simply no proof. The guys finished loading up their shit and that was that. The following day I got a call from Bob. Somehow he had found the home of one of those band members and was parked right out in front of their house. He had a bat in his car and was ready to take our loss out on the guy. I had to beg him not to do anything stupid...else he'd end up in jail. He calmed down and eventually drove away...someone in the house kept looking through the curtains at Bob, so he may have left at just the right time.



GUY 2000, WIZBANG

By this time, Richard and Robert were living in a house with Mike Brown. When Ray moved in with them, the stage was set for a band that took Three Men’s Zappa-inspired instrumental explorations to the next level: Guy 2000. The lineup was Ray on vocals, cornet, organ and percussion, Richard and Mike on guitars, Robert on bass (replaced after a few months by Mike’s brother James Holt), and Jeff Boschert from Pee-Pee on drums (soon replaced by Ray’s Olive Garden/Office Depot coworker Brett Poirot). Their raucous extemporizations anticipated the sound of freewheeling Fort Worth ensembles like Confusatron, Sleeplab, Top Secret, and Villain Vanguard that’d be pulling big crowds a few years hence.

Mike Brown: It was an open jam sort of thing, and we had these songs that we’d tie it to. With the percussion and trumpet, it sounded kind of like the first Chicago Transit Authority album, really balls-to-the-wall, let-it-out, very organic and groove-driven. Ray was making the jokes and honing his frontman skills.

Ray Liberio: Those guys did the heavy lifting. They didn’t need me to do anything, and I wound up playing everything. Plus making up lyrics while I was drinking NyQuil. We’d jam at Richard’s and he’d record everything. He had his whole house wired for sound.

Mike recalls a gig Guy 2000 played at Club Clearview in Dallas for a friend of Richard’s who had a sex magazine -- “Sex Monger Night. We opened for Pimpadelic, and in between, there was a bondage show where you couldn’t tell the men from the women.”

When Boyo returned from the Navy in 1995, he formed the space-rock (“Smashing Pumpkins meets Dinosaur Jr.”) outfit Wizbang with Cody Yates on guitar and vocals, Dave Willingham on bass (not the Echo Lab engineer), and Matt Roth on guitar. Marlin replaced Matt on guitar and switched to bass when Dave quit.

Will Risinger: Cody was a friend of mine from Keller High School. I started talking to him about a year before I was getting out of the Navy. He said he had started a band and wanted me to play. He had been around for some of the Beauty Mutant gigs and spent some time at Freak Palace back in the day. At that time he didn't play anything, so I was surprised to hear he was in a band…The first time I went out to the warehouse, I was with Cody watching Hasslehorse practice and told him, "Man, we've got a lot of work to do if we are gonna play with these guys." I was really blown away by how good they were. One gig at the Dog Star, we got so ripped on Celis Grand Cru that for our show we played [Grand Funk’s] "Sin's a Good Man's Brother" for about 20 minutes and that was it. I don't think we got paid that night!

This was the era of the “Haltom City All-Stars” shows at the Dog Star (now the Moon), which Mike remembers as “a Ray Liberio marketing plan.”

Ray Liberio: I was always behind the marketing of the bands due to my graphic nonsense.

Mike Brown: Guy 2000, Hasslehorse, and Wizbang would play together. At the end of the night when we went to collect our money, we’d find that we drank it all and wound up getting $5 or something. But it was a small place that you could pack with your friends – kind of like the warehouse, but with a bar.

Robert Scheuerman: Once when Guy 2000 played the Dog Star, Bob [Cox] got his hands on an Icee Polar Bear costume...the Slurpee rip-off that K-Mart sold. This costume was huge...big belly, and tall. Guy 2000 comes out to play and then Bob walks onto the stage and starts playing percussion in this giant polar bear costume. I remember that he almost passed out because of the heat.

Ray Liberio: I was wearing a creepy clown costume. Most of the audience was frying on ‘shrooms. They sold so much beer they had to go to 7 Eleven to buy more, which was totally illegal. People went wild. I still have confetti in my trumpet case.

Chris Lundy: The next week, I was in the Aardvark and the owner was pushing his phone number into my hand. “You guys have got to play here!”

Similar alcohol-fueled abandon contributed to the demise of Wizbang.

Will Risinger: [During] the last months of that band, we were jamming out at a converted pig barn out in Ponder, just south of Denton. It was a very long drive out there, and to make things worse, the Fina station by Lundy's house -- known as the Death Fina -- was always having sales on questionable beer that he would bring to practice. Now, I don't mean a case; Lundy would show up with like nine cases of Elvira beer (that vampire chick) or Iron City beer that he bought for like three bucks a case. I don't think we got much done after that.

In 1998, Mike Brown left the HC for good and moved to West Virginia.

Mike Brown: It was time to do something different, and I knew I’d never get it done if I stayed in Texas. I had an aunt and uncle who lived there and I was going to go check it out, until Will told me, “If you go to check it out, you’ll come back here and then you’ll never leave.” So I moved, met the right people, and ten years later, I’m still here.


THE PINE BARONS, THE CUSTOM BLARE

Inevitably, Frum got the urge to play again, and before long, he, Ray, and Marlin were getting together at the warehouse once a week to write and record a song – perhaps inspired in part by lo-fi psychedelic weirdoes and eclectic satirists Ween. With an eye to performing live, Boyo was invited to drum. Originally, they used the name The Pine Barons, before Internet surfage revealed the existence of a barbershop quartet by that name and they became The Custom Blare instead.

The Pine Barons tracks showcase a somber-sounding set of songs. Frum’s writing is clearly influenced by the music he’d been listening to with Sean French; “Stranded In This Bar” and “The Effects of Alcoholism” paint a pretty bleak picture of the singer’s state of mind at the time. Curiously, Frum gave his most personal lyric (“The Burrow Patch”) to Ray to sing.

For his part, Ray provided lyrics about his marriage (the Nirvana-ish rocking “Underneath the Shopping Carts”) and his fourth birthday (“4”). Ray’s singing here sounds tentative compared to his vocal appearances as far back as Letters To Debbie – on “4,” it’s almost a Jim Morrison imitation. The exception is a song that’d later reappear on the Me-Thinks’ first EP: the alt-country trucker’s anthem “Appalachian Baby,” which sounds for all the world like the Bottle Rockets or one of those, down to the booming Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps guitarissimo.

The Custom Blare recorded a five-song demo at a studio called Deedle’s Room (run by one of the guys in pop-punk outfit 41 Gorgeous Blocks) that included two gems: Marlin’s cryptic “Lemonade Stand” and Boyo’s self-explanatory “Waves of Appreciation.” Submitted to the Fort Worth Weekly under the title Smoker’s Aquarium, it was lambasted in print, including the infamous slander of Frum’s “septic Prince Albert in a can” vocals. The coda to “Lemonade Stand” provides another foreshadowing of Me-Thinks to come.



But Frum’s straight job was about to take him for from the HC.

John Frum: After doing [programming] for a couple years and taking other software jobs, I had a manager that got a job at Microsoft and he had them contact me. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, I was living in Seattle, working for The Gates Empire.

With Frum out of the picture, the remaining Custom Blare musos reshuffled the deck yet again, with Ray and Marlin exchanging guitar and bass duties, and the Me-Thinks were born. (They were almost called “Peanut Butter and Belly,” but Marlin’s entry wasn’t the one that got pulled out of the hat.) Starting out, they knew they wanted to do pursue a different direction than the one they’d been following since Hasslehorse, but they weren’t quite sure what that might be.


INTERLUDE: RAY VS. THE BIG C

Ray Liberio: Besides being the slumlord for the warehouse after Frum left, I was the guy who swept the cigarette butts out of the warehouse and around the area where the cars were parked, so the landlord wouldn’t see a bunch of butts when he came to mow the lawn. One day I was out there and I started getting pains in my chest and shooting down my arms. It got to where it would start every time I drank, which is actually what motivated me to go to the doctor – I wasn’t about to get some shit that wouldn’t let me drink and not do anything about it!

I noticed there was a lymph node under my arm that was swollen, but my doc said I had cat scratch fever, and for two years I was always taking rounds of antibiotics. They finally took it out, but they said it was benign. Then another lymph node near my collarbone popped up. The first one hurt like hell, but the second one didn’t bother me at all – I could push on it. Finally they took it out and told me it was malignant.

I remember feeling relieved when I found out – “Thank God, now I know what it is. The next six months are going to suck!” There are four stages and two categories they use to classify cancer patients; the higher ones are worse. I was 3B, which is right below where it starts getting less promising. I was on chemo for six months. I still can’t stand KFC or the smell of public restrooms. I’d go through four bags, with a bag of saline in between each one. There was one they called the Red Devil, which looked like fruit punch. By the time I got to that, I’d had five bags of fluid go through my body, and when I’d get in the restroom, I’d have to hold my breath so I wouldn’t smell it and gag – because what you pee smells pretty much like the chemo stuff.

I didn’t really worry the whole time I was sick. It was more of an inconvenience, or something like a jail sentence. At first I thought, “Why is this happening to me? I play by the rules, most of the time. I’m a good person.” Then I went through being mad at God, and mad at everything. I couldn’t drink or smoke cigarettes. I still smoked weed because it helped me with my appetite, and my doc was kinda “I can’t condone this, but…” I’d still go out to gigs. I cut down tube socks and wore ‘em over my arms to hide the ports. I didn’t have much trouble with the chemotherapy – I’ve always been a fast healer.

Right before I got diagnosed, I’d gotten a new job with a little bit of a raise, so I decided I was going to spend a couple of grand and buy a Les Paul bass. It took them six months to build it, and the day it got delivered to MARS in Arlington, I’d just had a bone marrow biopsy where they punch a hole and suck out a little piece of bone marrow from your hip on either side. My mother drove me to the hospital, and I was full of meds for the pain and my nerves, but when I got home and got the message that my guitar had arrived, I was yelling, “Ma, you’ve gotta take me to Arlington!” I walked into the place like Frankenstein, my voice was all froggy from the meds, and I had blood dripping down my arms from all the IVs. They must have thought I was the most degenerate person – being so stoned and having my mother drive me in!

Some good things came out of it. My family got closer. I only have to go to get checked once a year now, and pretty soon I’ll be to where I only have to go every two years.


THE ME-THINKS, THE RUBY-DOOS, HELLDAMNCRAP

The earliest Me-Thinks recordings have a country-rock tinge; only with their second EP Rock and Roll Another did their mature style begin to emerge. Ray came up with the concepts and artwork, and added a veneer of garage-punk snarl and sneer to his vocals as he bellowed over the band’s stripped-down, revved-up sound – like a Haltom City version of Motorhead. Boyo wrote most of the songs, offsetting the band’s hard ‘n’ heavy attack with his pop sensibility. Marlin ran the smoke machine and added low-key humor to the band’s stage presence.

They continued jamming at the warehouse and played infrequent shows, mostly at the Wreck Room, sharing bills with the likes of high-octane road acts Brant Bjork and the Bros, Nebula, and Dixie Witch, as well as like-minded local lights like Phleshpipe, the Rio Grande Babies, and the Gideons. They pulled tight with smart pop-rockers Goodwin and punky reggae rawkers Darth Vato, and opened shows for their heroes, legendary Dallas punks the Loco Gringos. In the fullness of time, they even took “best hard rock” honors in the 2006 Fort Worth Weekly music awards (their award accepted by a well-oiled Asian Media Crew).

This didn’t mean an end to side projects, such as the Ruby Doos (AKA Marcus, Harper & Mee, for the band members’ middle names), a trio that teamed the rhythm section of Rat and Boyo (with Vinny on guitar for the first month or so) with singer-guitarist-songwriter Marc Cote (accent on the “e”).

Will Risinger: I felt like the odd man out in the Me-Thinks. Ray and Lundy love really hard music, but I was into more melodic stuff and I was interested in jamming with other people to see what was out there. Justin [Jones] knew Marc through his sister and suggested that we hook up. Marc was a little older than us but shared some of the same interests in music that Rat and I had at the time: Jeff Buckley, the Beatles, the Band, ‘70s Willie Nelson, all kinds of older stuff. We also shared a love for drinking vodka with grapefruit juice, which we call “ruby doos”…I learned a lot about songwriting from Marc, [but he] was at bad place in his life when we were playing. He had recently gotten divorced, had custody of his two children, and then he got fired from his job and had to sell his house. I think he sort of relied on the band to be his only hope for happiness and put all of his energy into it. We played a few shows and recorded an EP before it all came crashing down. Rat and I both think it's the best thing we've ever done musically. And from what Justin tells me, Marc thinks the same.

(Since then, Cote’s released several CDs of Neil Youngian electro-acoustic country-rock under his own name or in the duo South Grove with Chris Torres.)

A track by the Ruby Doos appears on HellDamnCrap, a compilation CD of mostly alt-countryish material that Mike Bandy released on his label of the same name in 2002. Also included were tracks by Jasper Stone, early Me-Thinks, Klayboy Parker, the Wimps (a unit led by Ray’s Eagle Mountain inspiration Brian Gallagher), Eleven Hundred Springs, the Drag-Worms, Vena Cava (the Doug Feagin-led ensemble that evolved into the Theater Fire), ex-Dragworm Randy Wagar, Apartment Threading (a warehouse recording Frum made with Ray on piano), and Bandy himself under the nom de disque With Sings Following.

HellDamnCrap was also the name of the band that Bandy assembled with Vinny Pimentel and a revolving cast of supporting players that included Cody Yates and Brady Stephens. Eventually the lineup stabilized with the reliable rhythm section of Rat on bass and Trucker Jon Simpson (from Weatherford hardcore punkers One-Fingered Fist) on drums, plus Justin Jones on harmonica, and changed their name to Barrel Delux (after briefly considering “the Hermanicans”).

Ray has recorded a few tracks with Frum (including the infamous and now lost “Murder and Sushi”) during visits to Seattle under the rubric The Pungent Sound; an E.P. is planned. Since 2006, he’s also fronted the proto-punk cover band Stoogeaphilia. Marlin played bass in Your Son Is Dead, the “disco metal” brainchild of “two Nordic heavy metal brothers,” with Shotgun Messenger bassist Mike Ratliff on guitar. He also appears -- onstage at the Gypsy Tea Room with a band called the Bottomfeeders -- in the closing scene of the 2003 indie film American Generator, shot around Deep Ellum in Dallas. And Marlin subbed for Stoogeaphilia’s bass player on a late 2007 gig, wearing a flannel shirt a la Mike Watt.


THE ASIAN MEDIA CREW, UNCLE MEE

Calvin and Rat had been taking photos of the goings-on at the warehouse and Riverside for years, and when the Me-Thinks started playing more club shows, they were tapped to provide photographic, audio, and video documentation of the band’s shows. With the addition of some piss-and-fish-sauce-stained yellow jumpsuits and a snazzy Pussyhouse Propaganda logo of a leaping tiger, the Asian Media Crew was born.

Calvin Abucejo:
Rat and I always had a camera around, like good Asians, and would take photos and/or videos whenever we would just be hanging out at Riverside or the warehouse. Whenever you involve alcohol and what-not with a bunch of people that love to be on camera and get dressed up as a certain character, you never run out of things to shoot photos or videos. This group LOVES to get dressed up…I guess that’s one of the reasons Mustachio got started…Also, whenever the guys would play at the warehouse, we always had a camera around…especially in the early days when they weren’t playing gigs at clubs as much. The warehouse was basically our “club.” There would be nights when there were 15 or more of us packed in there like sardines with the band playing because it was too damn cold outside to open the overhead doors. Probably the coldest I’ve been there at the warehouse was around 20 degrees. Ray said they practiced out there when it was 12 degrees during the Hasslehorse days…It was during the summer of 2004 when it became “official.” Marlin asked Rat and I if we could be [the Me-Thinks’] “documentarians” at their shows, since it wouldn’t be any different than filming them at the warehouse. I believe it was at the Aardvark with Goodwin on the bill as well when AMC made their “debut,” I didn’t have any cameras since we lost [all of them] on the Brazos [canoe trip] when we tipped over. Rat and I just had a cheap-ass tape recorder with a microphone that kinda looked like Bob Barker’s microphone attached to it and a few disposable cameras. Earlier that week, Marlin had bought us the jumpsuits with the money from their band fund, and Ray designed the logo, which was basically the tiger from the Tiger Balm logo, and ironed it on. After the Me-Thinks’ set, we talked to [Goodwin singer] Tony Diaz at the bar and he was really giddy about the jumpsuits and said that we looked like the Asian dude who rode the tricycle on Revenge of the Nerds.

Chris Lundy:
I remember someone telling me that it was funny that we had Asians running around our shows videotaping everything. And I hadn't even thought about the stereotype before. I mean it was Calvin and Rat, and they were our friends. I don't really think about their race or nationality. But I did think it would be funny to get them jumpsuits and give them a name. It kind of gave them an identity. I think they are more favored by the local denizens than the Me-Thinks are, even though they are an extension of the Me-Thinks. Which is totally cool with me to get trumped by the AMC, because they are so dear to me.

Ratsamy in particular is one of the most beloved characters in the Haltom City-Riverside crew. He’s shown many of them the fundamentals on guitar, and his eclectic musical taste has been as influential on the group as anyone’s.

Calvin Abucejo: Rat’s a great teacher – he’s very patient.

Robert Scheuerman: Rat catches these insane addictions to one particular artist at a time. Back in the day it was Metallica, then Dinosaur Jr., then Chicago (only the Terry Kath days), then Roxy Music, then Jeff Buckley, and now it’s Tim Buckley. When Hasslehorse was together, you always knew Rat was coming down the road because you'd hear the brass of Chicago being blasted in his car stereo. And if you were to go by Rat's on any given night, I guarantee you'd hear Tim Buckley within the hour.

His skills as a cook are admired – particularly his homemade pho and “world famous egg sandwiches” – as is his ability to babysit a dozen nieces and nephews. (There has been talk of shooting a TV pilot for The Uncle Mee Show.) While he might seem a figure of fun on the surface, he’s also struggled with demons and beaten them in his own way, on his own terms.

Justin Jones:
Ratsamy got a crack habit and we didn’t see him for a while. He and his sister both did. At a certain point, they decided they were going to quit together, and they did – cold turkey. When we went to the Lao New Year celebration this year, he saw some of his old crack buddies and asked them, “Why you still doing that? You look like shit!”

Rat’s easygoing manner and devotion to family are at the heart of the Haltom City-Riverside crew’s ethos. In many ways, he is the soul of the crew.


NAPOLEON COMPLEX, INDIAN CASINO, BOYO OUT, THE END OF THE WAREHOUSE

A home-recording side project of Boyo’s, Napoleon Complex -- with instrumental assistance from Marlin and Ray -- yielded the Me-Thinks’ best song, the anthemic celebration of the crew, “God Bless Haltom City” (the source of the lyrics quoted in the epigraph to this story). It was included on their magnum opus, 2007’s The Me-Thinks Present The Make Mine A Double E.P., a full-length’s worth of recordings spread out over two CDs and the first release on Frum’s Indian Casino Records.

“I'm sinking what spare money I have into the label and vodka,” Frum said later that year. “Most labels die a slow anemic financial death and I figure this one will too, but it will be fun while it lasts. I've lost a lot of money dicking around with stock options but the Me-Thinks are the worst investment I've ever made!”

The Make Mine A Double E.P. included another Me-Thinks masterwork, “Burnout Timeline” (containing nostalgic lines about the Loco Gringos, spending all of one’s money on “a thousand beers/Down at the Dog Star” and wishing it was 1997 or 1987 all over again), as well as guest appearances by Richard Hurley (who by this time was touring Europe with ‘70s hard rock throwbacks Blood of the Sun), Shotgun Messenger’s Arthur Autrey and Steven “Steedo” Smith, and Mike Bandy. “Partyboy” (a paean to Ray’s alter ego Ray Mignon) and the re-recorded “Speed Hair” are both propelled by classic riffs. “Permanent Krokus” features lyrics inspired by the true story of a friend of the band who had two fingers bitten off by a tiger. “Fat old, washed-up drunks playing fast garage rock - what's not to like?” wrote the reviewer from Australia’s I-94 Bar webzine, concluding, “Charge your glass often enough and this band could be your life.” (The I-94 has since featured Me-Thinks toonage on its podcast.)



But tension was growing within the Me-Thinks. Boyo, the gifted songwriter, was becoming disgruntled with Ray’s role as the public face of the band. Another Napoleon Complex song hinted at the distance he was feeling from the crew. On “Backpacking,” he sang:

You invited me camping, but I’m gonna have to pass
Because it’s colder than a buttfucker’s dick in a snowman’s ass
You guys will sit around the campfire drinking whiskey and smoking grass
Littering the campsite with Little Debbie snacks…

You see there’s lots of other things that I’d rather do
Than paddle down a muddy stream in an old canoe
Like sit on my ass at home and pound brew
Thanking God that I’m in the heat, not out there with you.

Within a few months of the double E.P.’s release, Boyo had switched to second guitar, ceding the Me-Thinks drum throne to Trucker Jon. During an appearance on KTCU-FM’s “The Good Show” where a visiting Frum joined the band in the studio, ostensibly to promote the CD, Boyo verbally baited Ray (“Mr. Fort Worth”) and Trucker Jon (intimating that a recent Me-Thinks gig had been cancelled because he “couldn’t cut the mustard”). When Frum disparaged local band The Burning Hotels on-air – something Boyo had been threatening to do for the entire week preceding the radio show -- it caused what Marlin calls “an explosion” within the group.

John Frum: I think Boyo was getting tired of the band about that time. He and I can feed off each other pretty hard when we are together. I shouldn't have done that, since they live there, but this whole stupid ‘80s regurgitation was pissing me off right about then and I saw them on video playing and thought, “Oh boy, another one of those bands.” They just had no sense of purity for what they were doing and that always has irked me. Some people do it ‘cause they love it, some do it ‘cause they wanna get laid or be popular, and some do it to fit in, and some for all of the above. It's only music though, I guess.

Boyo left the Me-Thinks soon after, his place on second guitar taken by Mike Bandy. He remains their friend and “spiritual advisor.”

In April 2007, the crew’s beloved Warehouse #58 was burglarized. The Me-Thinks and Barrel Delux lost all of their equipment, including vintage amps, ancient effects, Trucker Jon’s brand new Tama drum kit, and the battered cornet Ray played with Hasslehorse and Guy 2000. A local music retailer estimated the value of the stolen equipment at around $40,000. Reluctantly, the crew abandoned the warehouse -- although Ray’s still paying rent on it and Frum has threatened to buy the whole complex and turn it into a “Haltom City Rock Museum and Preservation Society” -- and moved to another, secret practice location.

It was the end of an era, but not the end of the crew.

On April 26th, 2008 – a year and change after the warehouse burglary -- the Me-Thinks headlined “Haltom City Nights” at the Aardvark on Berry Street. Also on the bill were Shotgun Messenger, Barrel Delux, and the Texians (with Brandon Martin from Aquila Rose on drums). During the Me-Thinks’ set, Mike Bandy jumped off the drum riser and hit his head on a low-hanging beam, stopping the show while a nurse who was in the audience staunched the flow of blood, bandaged Mike’s head, and checked him for signs of concussion. Bloodied but unbowed, the Haltom City crew begins its third decade of playing and partying together, and of friendship that will not die.

Indian Casino’s 2008 release schedule includes an E.P., Plantation To Your Youth, by Frum’s latest project, Transient Songs, a logical progression from the last recordings he made with Hasslehorse and The Custom Blare; another E.P., Coat Hanger Antenna, by Barrel Delux, with cover art that features exterior and interior shots of the warehouse; and a full-length by Sean French’s solo project Eyes, Wings, and Many Other Things. When it’s time, Frum promises Boyo will have his very own Indian Casino release.


THE INEBRIATED CONCLUSION

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of music as a unifying force between folks since I read (while still a snotnose) about the symbiotic relationships between the early ‘60s U.K. Mod style cult and the Who, the politicized student communities of Detroit and Ann Arbor and the MC5, or the Ladbrooke Grove squatters and “people’s bands” like the Deviants and Pink Fairies (or later, the Clash).

The Haltom City-Riverside crew exists on a smaller and much less “socially significant” scale than that, but they’ve endured a lot longer. In their insular way, their tribe provides a working model for creative people who want to maintain sustainable careers throughout their lives. In a time when the “music industry” has made itself increasingly irrelevant (any advantages it has to offer in marketing and promotion being offset by the “indentured-servitude-with-colossal-debt” aspects of the typical business arrangement) and the Internet is offering unprecedented opportunities for musicians who’re willing to do the legwork to self-promote and market on the cheap, they’ve managed to integrate their creative activities into useful, productive lives with jobs and families, a shared practice space to minimize expenses, an in-house promotional organ (Pussyhouse Propaganda), and even a record label (Indian Casino). That all of the above exist seemingly as an excuse for a bunch of high school friends to continue having laughs and good times well into “adulthood” is the icing on the cake.

None of that would matter, of course, and I wouldn’t be writing this if I thought what they were doing was shite -- I’m thinking of bands with names like “Mydlyfe Krysys” whose members talk about “doing the music thing.” When I first met the Me-Thinks, I was impressed by the way they seemed to have swallowed whole the entire history of the Rawk starting before they were born and were able to draw on all those referents at will, with self-aware humor and a great sense of style. This impression was reinforced as I encountered their “brother bands” and investigated their earlier history. Early ‘70s hard rock, metal, punk, new wave, alt-country, and indie rock influences are all part of the stew, along with the crew’s on colorful characters and self-referential mythology.

Ultimately, though, the glue that holds it all together is friendship. As a group, the members of the H.C.-Riverside crew are some of the most good-natured folks you could want to meet. When conflicts arise between them, the people involved generally seem able to agree to disagree and still remain friends. Watching the Asian Media Crew’s video of the Me-Thinks’ 2007 Good Show appearance where Frum – egged on by Boyo -- shit-talked the Burning Hotels, I was struck by the exchange between Ray and Frum the camera caught as they walked back to the studio after a very heated discussion in the parking lot.

“I guess I kind of overreacted back there,” Ray said.

“No you didn’t,” John replied.

“And that,” I thought, “is why they’re still friends after 20 years.”

Mike Brown: When you know people so well, there’s not a lot that has to be said for a joke to get started. You go through good and bad times with people, and there are always little dramas, but they’re all really superficial. When it really comes down, your friends are all you’ve got.


EPILOGUE: THE REAL END OF AN ERA


Mike Brown got married up in West Virginia at the end of July 2008. A bunch of the crew flew up for the wedding. Frum, Ray, and Rat got up and played a few songs on the wedding band’s equipment – almost a Hasslehorse reunion (“Half-a-horse,” Rat quipped) – and Boyo brought his best dance moves. In August, Frum and Ray recorded their long-threatened E.P. as The Pungent Sound. Then the stock market crashed, so Frum elected to make it a digital-only release. As Pussyhouse Propaganda, Ray and Calvin won an award from the Fort Worth Weekly for “best graphic/web designer.” Richard Hurley, who’d been slung out of Blood of the Sun after a European tour, bounced back with two new bands: the ‘80s synth-pop outfit Transistor Tramps, with his wife Elle Chaos, and Stoogeaphilia, where the space between him and Ray became known as “the Guy 2000 side of the stage.”

The night of October 21st brought an unexpected event. Richard arrived at Trusty Storage to practice with the Transistor Tramps and noticed smoke coming from the vicinity of Warehouse #58. He called 911 and opened the security gate for the fire trucks, but to no avail. Ray wrote, “Apparently it was pretty damn hot because the only things left were about a thousand beer bottle caps, some crusty cymbal stands…and our sound proofing….As of right now we no longer have a warehouse at Trusty Storage and Vince and I can stop paying rent.” Calvin added, “It felt really weird being there….All the character and personality of #58 was gone.”



(Photo from the Ray Liberio collection. All videos by the Asian Media Crew.)

7 Comments:

Blogger Grubbermeister said...

Good job! Now to convince myself that I'm really not smelling stale beer and cigarettes...

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Curtis Glenn Heath said...

That was really great. Haltom City has always held a special place in my heart... not good or bad... just "special."

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Damn. I almost forgot about Inch Man...

11:06 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

A fitting tribute and very honest. Nice job, Ken. Now, if we can just get you to quit using the phrase "in the fullness of time"... ;-)

4:12 PM  
Blogger FAKE DADA said...

growing up, i kinda hated haltom city. but i liked holiday skating rink. also i apparently liked the alternative school for fuck-ups & bad kids that the old haltom high school turned into. i grew up right off baker blvd, just past haltom border on the richland hills side. i think daron told me you know chris pool. my wife & i worked with him for yrs.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous charles said...

this is really an amazing piece of work. And a fascinating & wonderful story as well!

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Robert S. said...

Awesome memories...awesome people.

5:10 PM  

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