Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Me First & The Gang's All Here - Dag Nabbit !

Went to one of my most dreaded rock venues in the city last night. I won't even speak the name of the club, mainly because it's booked by some fat old crone, who I have no interest in hyping any further. She's the type of person who makes working around live music such an abhorrent pasttime. Not just for me, but countless others over the years. I try not to frequent the joint, but ocasionally I go where the party is. I don't think I'd been there since 2003, which was likely the last time Me First & The Gimme Gimmes performed there.

Check Out Me First & The Gimme Gimme's take on Yusef Islam's 70's AM Radio hit Wild World

Wild World was originally recorded under the name Cat Stevens back in the day...
.


I gotta admit a fondness for Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, the sorta punk band even your Mom might like. The last time I saw them there, even the venue couldn't diminish the grand time was had by all that early December Eve 2003.

Indeed it seemed our fair city was perhaps on the verge of a paradigm shift. The gig was a benefit for the mayoral run of upstart politico Matt Gonzalez, and the whole town seemed hinging on the contest. Even the youth seemed turned onto the political process by the radical lawyer candidate who claimed the Clash as an early influence. It was a unique show of energy surrounding a mayoral election for the first time in any one's memory. The battle so silly on the surface, a rich connected Marina guy in a thouand dollar suit running against the scrappy intellectual in wrinkled thrift store clothes.

Here is a look at
a
poster from that Matt Gonzalez benefit
designed by the debonair Chuck Sperry, the original print really stood out with day-glo metallic inks that don't really show in this scan. Click it and see the big ol' version via hosting on
the way cool website Gigposters.com...



Anyhow, needless to say, as for Gonzalez, the endorsement from former losing mayoral contender Jello Biafra did not put him over the top. In fact the guy recently gave up his post as prez of the SF Board of Supervisors , and went back into private law practice. Less public scrutiny of his every thought will probably do the guy some good.

Meanwhile the Gimme Gimmes rock & roll on, and they don't need no stinkin' politics.
During a post show conversation last night, bassist Fat Mike could barely recall the politician's name he'd raised a few thousand for a year or so back. His bands aren't exactly PC, and make doltish gay jokes onstage, but then head with their suburban corn fed posse over to the Eagle afterwards to suck 'em down at everyone's fave leather bear bar.

It was here I ran into Brian Baker, a guy I hadn't talked with in well over a decade. He was a guy I first met at a community center in Vienna VA over 20 years ago at a "battle of the bands". We were both smart assess and sorta hit it off.
Brian was kinda like the token wannabe rock star kid in town, where everyone else in the D.C scene pretended they were serious and uninterested in such things. But, we all kinda knew Brian really was gonna be a rock star dammit, so it goes. He drove a bitching red hatchback, a CRX, not quite as cool as a Camaro, but it worked & got better mileage. He had Marshall stacks and knew how to get the tones just right and was in the best bands. We even joked in one of my goofy punk bands songs we were just "Brain Baker's Army!"...

Brian in A VOID T-shirt



He had just finished a stint playing guitar in Minor Threat, and before that had been in G.I. and was now starting a new band with two of my fave musical pals Roger & Colin of Bloddy Mannequin Orchestra. He asked me outside of D.C Space once to try out as a singer for his new project, but the rehearsals were gonna be in Colin's basement in Maryland. I had no car, I was basically a screwed up teenage runaway living out of a box in the woods near my girlfriends house. I wasn't able to commit, had to decline, and sorta felt like a real loser. My friend Sean Brown got the gig, he was straight edge, and he was possibly an even worse singer than me.

Hear Evidence From A 1985 Demo Recording
I Wouldn't Cry

Sean recorded a demo with the guys, and everyone I knew was psyched for the band at the time. Their first big show was opening for the Dead Kennedy's at WUST RADIO HALL ( now the 9:30 Club).
Hear a rare mp3 excerpt of that show in August 1985. This is just an intro, as Brian was basically wailing away trying to get the attention of late arrivals milling about, drinking outside and being too cool to come in and see the unknown opening band.

Despite Sean's cool guy look, awesome energy onstage, I think he was outta the group shortly. Brian even had new vocals over dubbed for some of the same tunes with a guy from Boston with a bigger rep on the scene.

A year or two later I had fled to SF on a Greyhound, and ran into Brian when that band now known as Dag Nasty was playing at The Mab.

They were on their third singer, and 2nd bassist. Brian seemed genuinely worried that I was hanging out in SF, where the streets were littered with needles and lost souls and invited me to move back to DC and stay at the Dag house. I was broke but loved SF and had no intention of deserting. It seemed people always seemed to doubt my survival skills. Often they've assumed just cuz I'm hyper energetic, talked fast & looked nuts that I must be on some kinda drugs. Truth was, despite my refugee status, I was less a rock n roll casualty than most of the guys touring around in bands that I met.

Brian has gone on to record and perform with lotsa groups over the years including the Meatmen, Sam Hain, Junkyard, Doggy Style & Joan Jett, and eventually joined Bad Religion in the mid nineties. Last night he was onstage in a Hawaiian shirt with Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, doing John Denver covers and whatnot and having lotsa fun as a 40 year old man.

Chris Rest, Lil Mike Martzke, Brian Baker, Fat Mike Burkitt @ Eagle




It was good to see him, even though he was kinda in a job that used to belong to my friend Barry, one of the original Me First & The Gimme Gimme guitarists. I once put together one of the Gimme Gimmes early gigs in SF at a nutty bar I worked at. People I Knew were mad at Mike as usual at the time, this time because he was using the name "Me First", since another local band also had a similar moniker. The guy can't win, but actually always does.

I remember once hanging out at his old apartment across from the scary Sutter St projects, when he busted out a new 7" he had just pressed on his new lable Fat Wreck Chords. It was called "(My Girlfriend's) On The Rag". He played it for me while she bopped about the apartment drunk and i visibly winced, wished him well and hoped he wouldn't lose money on it. Well needless to say , he's doing quite well, and is one of the handful of Punk Rock Millionaires I know.



I consider him to be the Rodney Dangerfield of Punk Rock. No Respect, but it's sorta like he doesn't need it. Last night Mike was telling how the other bands hate Me First & The Gimmes Gimmes because it's just too easy, they never practice, and can drink for three hours before the show instead of the usual two... and still please the crowd.


Back in the day, we had no metallic inks and the color silkscreen printing like Chuck Sperry does was a far fetched fantasy. I was in the "toner underground" and designed lots of xerox copy
flyers , mainly for shows that I also booked...


Me First & The Gimme Gimmes were just
getting started and only had one or two 7 " singles floating around when I put
this gig together at the late Chameleon on Valencia. Somehow we even got the
name of the opening band wrong and it was spelled Nerf Driver instead of Nerf
Herder...


click and see the big bad version





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