Drinking, Fighting, Fucking and Crying Title

Drinking, Fighting, F*&king, and Crying

Roadhouse Bar Brawl edit1999. Schlitz Family Robinson had died at least a year before, and Mr. Brown and I were trying to make it work with new people. I did a brief stint in Grez and Sonny’s follow-up project, The Harlem Circus (later The Harlem Circuit), but I wasn’t feeling it. I played one show with those guys and went back to recording odd 4-track music with Brown. Then an old friend, Jason Wayne Sneed, called me up out of the blue. He’d started a project with Mike Pearson of the Blue Meanies and a drummer named Dave. Pearson had left, and they needed a guitar player and a singer. Brown. Baker. Sneed. Dave. Universal Product was born.

UP went by quick, but we played quite a few shows and packed quite a punch. Dave eventually left to tour the world with Tub Ring, Jason began playing with other, more-like minded musicians, and I ended up in Brown and Grez’s next project, The Yellow House. However, before all that, The Product was a solid year or so of my life, and it was fun. JWS’ stuff is an on-going anthropomorphic series of projects sometimes under his three-tier moniker, sometimes under Universal Product, sometimes under other, stranger and more wonderful aliases. We haven’t spoken in years, but I’m always glad to see he’s still doing his thing.

But, I digress.

At some point, before Dave left UP, we started playing a Southside bar called The Matrix. This place had been McDuffy’s dance club up until about six months before Dave found it. There was a pretty standard bar up front, and a small corridor leading back to what had once been a dance club that inspired a line out the door every weekend. I’d never gone in, had openly scoffed at it whenever passing, but it was legendary on the Southside. Legendary, until a super-bar called Bourbon Street opened and killed McDuffy’s dead. A kind of catch-all bar/club/beer garden/restaurant/whatever else you could think of, Bourbon Street inspired even more scoffing, but that’s neither here nor there for our story. Let it just be known that because of this new place, McDuffy’s fell on hard times, changed their name, and desperately needed something new to bring people in through its doors. When Dave found the place, that something to attract clientele was buy-one-get-one-free specials every weekend. Did this work? No. We began hanging out there, and The Matrix was always dead. You know a bar is in trouble if they’re giving away booze and still no one is showing up.

So we go in a couple of times, then I realize the manager knows my Dad. We start talking, he finds out we’re in a band, and his eyes light up. Would we want to play there, in the back room? Of course, we say, and start to promote the hell out of the forthcoming show. A few weeks later Universal Product is the first band to play The Matrix, and somehow we pack the place. I mean, our shows usually did okay, but this was insane. I saw people I hadn’t seen since Junior High (not a good thing). Moreover, we’re talking before social media, so somehow word got around. Most of the PR was due to JWS and his group of friends, who followed us wherever we played and went above and beyond spreading the word whenever they could. Great bunch of guys. However, when they drank – and they drank – they liked to fight. So you can see how this is now going to finally tie into this week’s theme of fighting, right?

The show is a hit, and immediately The Matrix wants us back. We book another Saturday the following month. We write some new material, hone the old stuff and even work out a spot-on cover of Jessie’s Girl. Most of our stuff was a sort of death metal-jazz hybrid, so you can imagine how this 80s pop classic woke people the fuck up in the middle of the set.

The second show comes. Everyone’s feeling good. We play, we rock, and in the middle, right after that cover, we play one of our standards, a slow, rotted doom number we called Junkie. I had this old imitation Les Paul – my first guitar – that I used to joke I tuned down to “R” for retarded to get the sound for this song. I mean, this was sonic vomit; that was the point. We’d taken to playing Junkie, and because it’s so painfully slow, launching directly into a full-out assault, 180 BPM thrash fest called Farm immediately afterward. This is where things happen.

As soon as Junkie climaxes and we start Farm, I’m staring down at the strings, playing through some run of like a dozen notes on the sixth string – still tuned to “R” – and suddenly there’s this BOOM! I look up, and all I see is chaos all around me. You may remember when I used that cartoon cloud analogy in a previous edition of this column; this was bigger. It looked like… like madness, like some extra-dimensional being forcing its way, Hieronymus Bosch-style, into our world. There were walls of people slamming into other people; feet kicking up high and upside down in the air; someone right in front of me punched someone else in the face. All this, and we’re still playing. There wasn’t a stage at this place, so all of this pushes up against us. A mob of fisticuffs knocks me over at one point, and then right as I get up and start into the frets again, here comes the owner, this Hulk Hogan looking mother fucker, and he grabs the neck of my guitar and stops me cold with the electric guitar equivalent of a needle flying off a record. Hogan starts screaming into the mic and all of a sudden the music stops, and there’s, well a fight. The biggest fight I ever saw. And it was awesome to think we inspired it.

I don’t have Farm, but over on Jason’s Bandcamp – which you should check out – he’s got the original 4-song demo of Junkie that we cut on 1-inch tape and never mastered properly, in all its two minutes and thirty-nine-second glory.

Next week – there’s one more F*&king, followed by one more Crying, and then I’m done here and turning DFFC over to anyone who wants to take a shot at it.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Drinking, Fighting, F*&king, and Crying
  1. Chester Whelks Reply

    Love this column, can’t wait to take a stab at it.

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