When I started writing this piece to talk about how many bands I was in, more for me than anything else. It quickly became something bigger. So while there is a lot of self-serving stories about the bands I was in, this has become more about the Tri-Cities music scene as a whole.
Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was up late thinking about my teen years and into my mid-twenties when I spent a lot of my time in bands. Recently, a gentleman named David Jones hit me up on Facebook. Back in the day, this guy was the top of the Tri-cities punk rock scene (we’ll get into that later). He sang for the Vicious K’nids and was a dude who I was on-again, off-again friends with. We tended to butt heads a lot. Regardless, we’re friendly now and on our own paths. He asked me if I had any demo tapes or CDs for bands I used to be in. Surprisingly, I have most of my terrible music career on my iPod. I’m a sucker for my old music, I guess. Dave mentioned he was putting together a website devoted to just that, the music scene from way back when. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many bands I was in and how the VAST majority of the were awful.
Back in the mid to late 90s, there was this explosion of music in the far west suburbs of Chicago, mainly in the Tri-Cities: Batavia, Geneva, and St Charles. Most of the music being played was punk rock, with a solid selection of metal, and a few hippie jam bands as well. The scene was insanely DIY, and right now, as I write this, I’m super pissed I threw out a bunch of old fliers for shows when I visited my parent’s place last year. There weren’t a lot of places to play aside from the music store Kiss The Sky, in Batavia, and a skateshop in downtown St Charles called Smalltown Skates, which eventually opened a warehouse for shows on the far west side of the city. Most shows were played in people’s backyards, garages, and basements.
I’ll always remember the first local show I saw. Here comes the self-serving part. I just joined a band with my buddy Tim called “The NoToNes,” which later was called “Not Total Shit.” Tim played guitar and I sang. We had no drummer and no bassist. After a band practice in Tim’s basement, where we record our first couple of songs over a Guns N Roses cassette, we walked to our friend Riley’s house. In her basement, a bunch of bands were playing. Tim was high on something or other and I had been drinking. I was probably 16 at the time. We get down to Riley’s basement, which has a bunch of teenagers sitting around, with all the lights on, and I see an extremely tall man with a ton of eye make-up on. Tim and I sit on a couple bean bag chairs, and I believe Tim was tripping. The giant man came closer and started singing at us. It wasn’t a punk song or anything. It was just oddly creepy. Creepy enough to make us leave.
The man in question was Eric Hutchins and the band was the Vicious K’nids, who were essentially the biggest band in the area. Also appearing that night was TTFN. That night, I met their extremely young bassist, Blair and we smoked a bunch of cigarettes together. I believe he was 13 at the time.
It was a different experience for me, since I didn’t know this scene existed. I was new to listening to punk rock, and I had no clue this was all essentially in my backyard. I quickly learned that the music scene in St Charles was diverse to say the least. I kept hearing from kids at school about different bands playing so I went to as many shows as I could. The thing was that all the St Charles shows were jam band shows or odd hippie-rock. Geneva was the essential mecha for local punk rock bands with both the Vicious K’nids and the Toxic Crusaders, whose cover of “House of the Rising Son” still plays in my head.
Shortly after, somehow, the band I was in, NoTones, got a show… kinda. We were at a friend’s house named Critter and his brother, who was in his early 20s, was throwing a part. Cue two dudes who knew a few Green Day songs and one Rancid song. We played them, poorly. And at one point, I started freestyle rapping, which was most likely also the worst thing ever.
In the next couple months, I spent as much time as possible finding local bands to go to shows. I found myself loving The Vicious K’nids and at this point, Eric was playing guitar and Dave Jones was singing. They played some Misfits songs, but I actually remember a lot of their songs like “I wanna stick my dick in the bug zapper” and “Cigarettes are good for you.” There was also one about Nachos. Maybe I just came in the nachos? Regardless, it’s something I remember almost two decades later. Good lord, I’m old.
When it came to my high school, at old St Charles High School, I was one of three dudes into the punk rock scene. Blair was still in middle school, and the few other people that liked punk rock were more into Dave Matthew’s Band than anything else, which was a plague that seemed to be incurable. The other two guys where Dan, whose last name completely escapes me and Jason LaIacona. We didn’t get along. I ended up hanging out with the goth/metal kids. Then, I ended up playing bass in a metal band. I fucking hated metal.
I joined DnR, which stood for Dr Nick Rivera, from the Simpsons, but we told no one that. We had Andy on drums, Jeremy playing guitar, and Ben and T singing. We had two singers and one of them, T, was the one punk rock guy from Batavia. I wrote a solid chunk of the riffs for the songs and Jeremy wrote the other solid chunk. However, when it came to playing a few punk tunes, Jeremy was a heavy no go. The only thing I got everyone to agree on was playing a punk rock version of “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” which Ben and T refused to be a part of. So I sang it. We played shows and whatnot, including the Warehouse, but during my high school graduation party, after our set, Jeremy, Ben, and T left the band, on stage. Andy and I had no idea.
Andy and I quickly got a new guitarist and I sang while playing bass. We sucked. We had really awful songs like “Slutty Brought us Pizza” and “The Same,” my love song to my then girlfriend, who is now my wife, who didn’t tell her parents we were dating. For the sake of science, and my own utter embarrassment, here’s the chorus to the song, which I still remember.
Why can’t you just tell them we’re the same
All this running and hiding has got so fucking lame
Why can’t you just tell them we’re together
I know that our love will last forever.
Note: If you’d like to play that song, the chord progression for the verse is the same as “Skulls” by the Misfits. Make up the chorus to relive some terrible song writing!
We sucked and the didn’t last long, but I found more people from St Charles into punk rock, mainly Justin Flanagan, the singer for the band The Rhythm Twits, which will eventually become my all-time favorite band in the Tri-Cities, The Diuretics. I was at this point without a band and I wasn’t close enough with any other musicians to get into another band.
One day, I was working at the Imaginarium, a toy store, and we got a new employee… Blair. That 13 year old cigarette smoker. Now, he was 16 and I was his boss because I was too punk rock for college. I don’t remember how it happened, but Blair heard me singing along to a NoFX song and said he needed a singer for his band, Unauthorized Criticism.
This is the end of part one…. We pick up later, when I feel like writing more.