My Texas

Thanks to everyone who came out the shows in Houston and San Antonio over the weekend.

As with most of the cities we’ve been visiting here and there over the past couple of years, these were both places we haven’t been in well over a decade. The main difference I notice between then and now is that despite the fact that our previous shows occurred in the “hey day” of east bay pop punk when we were all at our collective putative apex, people seem to care more now, and there are more of them. Of course, a lot of these are in fact the same people, who had been there pre-2004 at age fifteen or whatever and were returning now as their adult selves (several with their kids… the next generation, as it were.)

We last played in Houston on the Yesterday Rules tour in 2004. (At the tried and true Fitzgerald’s. I was amazed the building was still standing even back then, and still more amazed to learn it’s still around now.) Unless I’m mistaken the last time we played in San Antonio was on one of our very first tours, in ’88 or ’89, and it was a memorable show. The way I remember it, most of the audience was made up of Mexican skinheads (a thing I hadn’t realized existed.) It started out pretty well, actually, and I had talked to some of them beforehand and they were friendly. Many of them had these very beautiful crucifix tattoos on their backs that they were showing me, kind of joyfully (or so I imagined.) They liked that I was Catholic. They slapped me on the back and did the cool guy handshake thing that I’ve never been able to do convincingly. However, as with many “tough guy” types there was this kind of unnerving undercurrent to the technically innocuous interaction, the sense that things could really get weird and scary very quickly if you happened to say the wrong thing or make the wrong move. (You’ve seen that scene in the movie Goodfellas, where Joe Pesci baits Ray Liotta about saying he’s funny… it’s that kind of thing.)

And in fact, that is exactly what happened. I have this song “The History of the Concept of the Soul” that is a song version of a paper I wrote in college. I used to introduce it that way from the stage, saying, “I went to college and…” As it happened these guys took that introduction as an insult, like I was saying I went to college so I was “better than them.” This was explained to me after the fact. Never in a million years would I have guessed this reason. But I could tell things were all of a sudden going wrong from the stage. I was used to hostility from the pit, but this was of a different order somehow. After we finished up, the show organizers pulled me aside and said, “look, there are some guys out there who want to kill you, and, you know, they don’t mess around, they will really do it.” They arranged to spirit me out the back way and hid me in this closet while the rest of the band loaded out. And then we got the hell out of there. This really happened, and it wasn’t just some excuse of mine to get out of loading out, I swear.

That’s how I remember it anyway, but over the years with such memories, you start to wonder how much is real. As it turns out, there was a guy at last weekend’s show in San Antonio who had been there, who remembered it too. He described it as “problems with Nazis” and lamented that our quick departure had prevented him from getting his Night Shift LP signed. This we rectified. (It was the original Rough Trade / 6th International version, that he had bought at that show. It now says “Dr. Frank” with an arrow pointing to my little spiky head.) He said that record had meant a lot to him at the time, and quoted some lyrics at me, with feeling. Now there aren’t a lot of lyrical high points on that record to say the least, but then again, you and I haven’t had his childhood. He sold it. I got it. San Antonio, we meet again, under much better circumstances, thank God.

Anyhow, I must have talked to over a hundred people over those two nights, each of whom had their own story of their history seeing the band and account of what particular songs had meant to them growing up, just like this guy, albeit less fraught. It was like being in a receiving line of testimonials, one after the other, kind of, maybe, like how I’d imagine my funeral might be conducted, were I to be alive to hear it. Now, I’ve had a great many of these conversations, at pretty much every show, so it’s nothing new per se. But there was something different about this Texas version. It was more emotional, more intense. I’ve never had my lyrics quoted to me so often and with such… emphasis, I guess. A couple of people choked up while doing it. And, well, I’m a sentimental guy and I got a little misty too.

So thanks again to the folks of Houston and San Antonio, and to Screeching Weasel, 30 Foot Fall, Nobodys, Turnaways, and Capitalist Kids who played with us. (Capitalist Kids: love those guys.) It was fun, and a whole lot better than being murdered by “skins,” or so I assume.

We have some more shows coming up if you want to get in on this action. And, as always, you can buy our new book + album (= “balbum”) at Sounds Radical, if you haven’t already done so. Peace.

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