August 31, 2002

Battery Acid Blues: Solving the Vexing Percussion Problem

Keir DuBois, the Mojo Wire and their friends crash a frat party. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 10/9/97).

I was in a rotten mood. It had been two weeks and no one had responded to our ads about looking for drummers. In fact, all the ads I saw were looking for drummers; seems there’s a severe shortage on talent when one is in a town where everyone and their mom is in a band, and we learned that the hard way. Still, something might have come up, but I wasn’t in prime condition to appreciate that.

I’d just read an article in a pop music rag that bent me all out of shape. Seems that the College Music Journal was having its annual hipper-than-thou convention, and some comments made by the keynote speakers were just out and out lies, but the crowd of bitter bohemians cheered like a cult. One of the speakers, techno-guru Moby, said the contemporary music scene was “not courageous” as well as “anemic and soulless.”

The fact that he made this assertion just because the poor bastard couldn’t avoid the Wallflowers or some other Top Forty band on the radio is laughable. He of all people should know that the current scene is very courageous; it’s just not getting the publicity it deserves. He also forgot that the world isn’t perfect.

The next speaker was the ghoulish Marilyn Manson, who said “If you do something that everybody loves, it’s not really worth too much.” Like hell it’s not; that guy and his band have sold oodles of albums, and I’d be surprised if he thought that his own material sucked. Well, maybe he does; he’s already become the ‘90s Alice Cooper.

“Jeez,” I said aloud, “these guys have really gotta lighten up a little. I mean, how rough can it be? Even they didn’t have to deal with a paranoid terrorist roommate for a year.”

“What?” asked Bryn. “Are you griping about music again, you fool?”

“Of course,” I replied. “What else do I do these days but weep and moan?”

“Look,” he reassured me, “we’ll find a damn drummer, okay? Now please play your part!” He was referring to my bass line for a surf instrumental we’d been working on called “El Nido Thunder.” I flipped the power switch, rumbled the rafters awhile, and came up with a low counterpoint for his screeching lead, and suddenly all was right with the world. Rock and roll indeed.

An hour later it was dark, and we were congratulating ourselves for our brilliance when Adam walked in with Ian and our friends Stacy and Harriet. Stacy looked at Bryn and I with a conspiratorial gleam in her eye and said, “Okay boys, get pretty. We’re going to go crash a frat party!”

“What?” we asked, and then realizing their folly, exclaimed “No! No, no, no!” Bryn and I aren’t very fond of the greek system at all, and we don’t care if our disdain is justified or not, we’ll pick on the greeks as much as we pick on everything else.

“Whoa there,” cautioned Adam, “Those of us that hold too much hatred will have no, er, ‘dignity’ to lose. She said we’re crashing it, didn’t she?”

“Yeah,” chimed in Harriet, who unknowingly repeated my own advice, “you guys have really gotta lighten up a little. We need handsome men like you there to protect us from the, um, weird guys that are gonna be there. Yeah, that’s it.” It was a weak argument, but as I’ve said, my brother and I are raving egomaniacs, and flattery will get anyone anywhere with us.

Minutes later, after collecting Stacy’s roommates Rachel and Emily, we arrived at Theta Chi. Of course the girls were let in right away, and the hulk at the door gave us the cold shoulder. “Don’t worry,” called Stacy over the fence a few feet away, “we’re gonna get you four in here!”

In fact it took twenty-five minutes. We had enough time to cruise to Del Playa to see the destruction there and be back in time to find her waiting for us. “Come on, come on, let’s go!” she yelled, grabbing me, the most reluctant soul, by the collar and dragging me through the gate. “You better appreciate this, Mister Rock and Roll. I had to convince four different meatheads that you guys were legit!” I had no choice but to go where I was led, and to make a very long story short, we actually had fun, for a little while. There was a great country-blues band playing, and we all took over the couch behind the drummer.

Soon everyone was loopy. “Hey,” I offered, “I know what we could do to solve all our problems!” In the state of mind I was in, I must have made it sound like a revelation. They all looked at me like I was Moses come down the mountain.

“Let’s steal this drummer! Let’s talk him out of this band, ‘cause we can get better than these guys, and if he won’t go, we’ll just cart him of after they finish the gig! There are a lot of us; we could do it!” Whether or not the guy actually wanted to go was beside the point, because he was good and we needed him, and, well, things would work out eventually, right? “All right,” answered Emily, “you four guys each get an arm and a leg, and we’ll each take a drum!”

“No, we won’t,” said Bryn. “We’ll go over there and chat him up like any sane prospective band would.”

Adam and I reluctantly agreed that this was probably the better thing to do, but I still heard Emily mumbling “...I coulda had that cymbal, easy...” as we sauntered over to talk to the drummer.

Unfortunately, he really liked the group he was with, and even worse, he didn’t know of any other drifting, bandless drummers. Upon rejection, we all drowned our collective sorrows again for another hour or so, but then went back tothe girls’ place in the Fontanbleu, where we wrote and played a new song, a creepy little thing that called “The Shakeup.” It was so good that it gave us that great and powerful feeling of being in a band and creating. “You know,” I said, “it really won’t be that long until we’re ready to go out there and make a living doing this.” I was happy, but a little too excited.

“Sure,” answered Ian. “But you still need a drummer.”

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