I’d been wanting for some time to write about my experience with the Nitro music scene back in West Virginia during the early nineties; that experience has stuck with me throughout the subsequent years and it’s something that I still hold near and dear to me. During this time I made a lot of memories, a lot of friends, and I found out who I really was. Even now, so many years later, I look back at those times and feel very, very fortunate to have been able to be a part of something so cool.
So, for about the past six years I’ve been working sporadically on my autobiography. This entire body of work is probably only about 60-70% complete, but my Nitro scene experiences have been pretty much covered. I decided that I’d make the bulk of the Nitro days text available on the site for others to read.
I’ve included some select photos along with the text. You can view all the photos I have in the photo gallery.
This is my Nitro Music Scene, as experienced by me. Your experiences, if you were there, may vary. Hopefully this work will, if nothing else, remind you of a time you might not have thought of for a while. It may even remind you why those days were so much fun.
My Introduction to the Scene
The Hurricane Show
My introduction to the local music scene began in the spring of 1993 when I got my chance to go to a local show. I went with Steve McConihay and Shaun Fox. Shaun I had met some months earlier at Brian Burdette’s house but this was the first time I had been formally introduced to him. Shaun was several years younger than me but he seemed pretty cool. We all went in Steve’s mom’s car, with Steve behind the wheel. On the way up there Steve got pissed off at somebody and was tailgating them and flashing his lights. I guess that was just Steve.
Anyway, we finally made it to this show. It was held at the Hurricane High School auditorium. I don’t remember a lot about the show but I remember that I loved being there and I had a great time. The show started about twenty minutes late because they had to wait for the cops to show up and chaperone.
I thought a few bands weren’t so good, a few were really good. A band called Freaktent played and I thought they were awesome. I would see more of them in the future. A band called Dead Ant Farm played as well. Both would prove to be bands we would later interact with. There was also a band called Green, I remember. Little did I know at the time that their drummer was dating the girl who would eventually become my wife. Funny how things work out that way.
I remember leaving that show (which became known afterward simply as “The Hurricane Show”) and thinking about how cool it was. I wanted to do what they did; I wanted to play live in front of a crowd. I wanted to write songs that rocked and I wanted to play really loudly. I wanted to be well known within the local music scene. I would have all those things and those things would be just was good as I hoped they would be. These things would provide memories that would last my entire life.
The Okey Parsons “Experience”
Shaun Fox, Steve McConihay, and I placed an ad for a drummer in a local ad publication right around the beginning of the summer of 1993. We received a call from a guy named Okey Parsons who lived in St. Albans and we ended up meeting him at his friend Nathan’s house to discuss forming a band. Both Okey and Nathan lived in St. Albans and right beside the house he lived in there was a vacant house that his parents owned. They hadn’t torn it down yet so that was where Nathan, Okey, and their friends played music.
We ended up practicing with Okey there a couple times. Okey had a couple more friends; a guitar player named Jason Bayes, another guitar player who’s name I can’t remember, and a singer named Shannon Stowers. On only a few occasions did we practice there as a five piece band but when we did we only played cover tunes. It sounded decent given our experience level I guess but looking back on it now we kinda sucked. You’ll have that when you’re just starting out.
One day after we practiced Okey invited us to hang out with he and his friends so we could all get to know each other a little better. They all had this friend-some guy maybe in his late twenties-who knew the guy who had bought the old St. Albans high school. A new school had been built and the city had sold the old building to this guy. The owner lived out of the state I believe so he just let this friend of his use the place. It had no electric hooked up to it so they used a small generator to power some of the rooms.
My parents were out of town so I drove my dad’s Toyota Corolla (I think I was low on gas or something) to St. Albans to meet up with Okey, and Steve McConihay. I think Shaun Fox rode with me. By the time we got there it was dark. It was weird being at that building that used to be a school but was now basically a party pad. They let us in and we met up with Okey. He introduced us to everybody else who was there. Jason Bayes, Nathan, and about ten or fifteen other people. There were a couple girls but mostly it was guys. I remember walking into this one room where they evidently spent most of their time. They had a cooler with beer, and a television playing porno in one corner. I remember seeing the guy who knew the building’s owner sitting on an old couch in that room. This guy was hanging out with people considerably younger than him and doing nothing but drinking beer and watching porn. Maybe this guy had it all figured out.
We spent a while in this room just talking to everybody, then the cops showed up outside. Apparently this was a routine thing from the way everybody talked. The story was that the cops were always harassing them but they couldn’t run them out because the building was not public property. So the cops would yell up at the kids (we were on the second floor) and they would yell back at them. I remember them telling the cops that the building was private property and the owner had given them the keys. Eventually they got tired of us so they gave up and left.
We didn’t explore too much of the building, after all it was a school and there are a lot of rooms in a school. We ended up in another room with Okey. It was a room where they practiced and he had his drum set in there. They flipped on the lights (you couldn’t turn on too many because the generator would only put out so much power) and we took a look around. It was a classroom, complete with desks and everything, and it was huge. Not a bad place to play at all. Hell, they even had the drums set up on a riser.
The evening didn’t consist of much more than that. Once, I believe, the generator went out and somebody went to get gas for it. I remember Okey saying that they had found some kind of apparent satanic ceremony remains in one of the rooms. He took us to the room and we did see a pentagram on the wall. It appeared that they had tried to clean it up some but you could still see it. I can’t remember if Okey said they found some kind of dead animal in there but I think he did. That kinda creeped me out. It was a surreal feeling being in that school. It was completely dark throughout that entire building with the exception of the one room lit by the generator. I wondered what those other rooms must have looked like, what it would have been like to walk through that school at night. It was kind of scary actually, especially with the whole pentagram thing (combined with an over-active imagination).
Finally we left and went back home. It still is a little weird thinking about that night. I wonder if that building is still there or if that guy still owns it. It was an interesting night, that’s for sure; one I’ll never forget.
We ended up only practicing with Okey a couple more times. We loosely called ourselves a band but we had no name, no songs written and no shows lined up. This “band” consisted of Okey Parson, Shannon Stowers, Steve McConihay, Shaun Fox, and me. Shannon only came by once or twice so we never really had a singer during this period. I think we may have played together for a month or two but that might be stretching it. On one occasion we met Okey at his dad’s house. We never really ended up playing, we went to some local show that was going on which ended up being kinda lame. We came back to his house but Steve had to leave. So he left his amp there so he wouldn’t have to carry back there again the next time we went to practice.
A day to two later there was a dispute over picking up Steve’s amp from Okey’s house. That was the first crack in the wall with Shaun and my relationship with Steve. It took only a couple more blow ups like that and Shaun and I never played with Steve McConihay in a band again.
It all pretty much fell apart when Okey told us that he was quitting to go play with this cover band called Bone Dance. It was also a real pain in the ass to get Shannon Stowers to practice because he didn’t have a car and didn’t seem to be too motivated to find one. We would end up auditioning Shannon for another band at a later date. We would also run into Okey Parsons and Jason Bayes again as well. The Charleston music scene was kinda small after all.
The Nitro Flea Market
Shaun and I missed the first Nitro Flea Market show because we couldn’t find the place. However, we made the second one and we went to countless others after that. I had only gone to one local show before and that had been the Hurricane show earlier in 1993. I was extremely excited to be going to this show because I wanted so badly to be in a band and playing live. It was a very cool experience from start to finish, just as I had hoped. I was also able to snag an audio copy of the show from Scott Robinson and Brian Pauley. Freaktent-who had played at the Hurricane show I went to earlier-played at this show and they were great.
I actually still remember a lot of details about that particular show; even the shorts I had on. It was a pair of black sweat pant shorts and some crappy t-shirt. I probably looked like an ass clown but I was young; I had just turned 19 in February so I guess that’s my excuse. I remember walking through the warehouse and seeing the bands playing to my right. I saw, just in front of the stage, about 25 people or so watching the bands. I remember thinking of how cool this whole thing was and how glad I was to be there, to be a part of something so great. I didn’t know at the time that I was onto something before a lot of other people; it wouldn’t be long until I couldn’t count the number of people in the audience.
Basically Shaun and I just hung around and talked to a few people. Like I said, I think there were maybe twenty five people there, give or take a few. By the time the shows ended in early 1994 there were a couple hundred people at the shows. Most of the details of each show after the first one are muddled together in my head. It’s a shame you can’t remember every little detail but that’s how it goes. Quite a few interesting and funny things went on at the shows. They were a blast and I met a lot of cool people there. The flea market didn’t officially shut down until around the beginning of 1994 so they only lasted about six or eight months but I’ll have memories for years from these events.
The funniest story, at least it’s funny now, from the flea market happened to me. One night we were at a show. I can’t remember who was playing. It might have been the Provos because I remember that Jason Little was there as well. We all had to go to the bathroom but they had been shut down because Shaun Moore and his crew trashed the bathrooms at a previous show. Several of us, Brian Pauley, Steve McConihay, Shaun Fox, a few others, and I all walked around the side of the building in order to take a piss.
We all finished and made our way back to the main door of the flea market. Several people had already made it back to the crowd of thirty or so standing by the door. Steve McConihay was about ten or twenty feet in front of me so I, feeling funny and full of youthful energy, decided to run after Steve and jump on his back. You know, just one of those stupid things people do. Well, I started running after Steve, making this loud yelling noise all the while. People had already started to turn around in order to see what the commotion was.
Unfortunately I was running through a parking lot right by a group of loading docks. The ground sloped downward toward the loading dock but there was a three or four inch step up which I didn’t see. I ran, full force, and tripped on this little step. I instantly flew through the air, unable to stop myself, bracing for the impact on the concrete. I quickly hit the ground like a ton of bricks, scraping my hands and my knees on the concrete. I knew the pain was coming and when it did I yelled. By that time anybody who hadn’t been looking was now looking at the jackass on the ground. Small pebbles were buried in my hands and knees, blood ran freely from the wounds, and I was in excruciating pain.
Somebody asked me if I was okay (they were good people for the most part) and I said yes, despite the fact that I hurt all over. I was definitely not okay. I got up and walked back over to the crowd. By that time people were laughing since they knew I was okay and I laughed at myself despite the pain. I ripped the knees out of my jeans and scraped a good deal of skin off my hands. That fall was a joke for the next year between all of us. It started the next day when Shaun said that I’d cried that night putting alcohol on the wounds at his house. I took it in stride and played along with it; hell it was funny.
The Provos played quite often at the Flea Market. They would normally play once a month (which was the pattern my band would establish as well) so that people wouldn’t get burned out and not come to the shows. The shows were cheap as hell when they played because they would charge only a dollar. That was enough to pay the security guard that the owner hired to be there during the shows.
One night they played with this death metal band. I can’t remember their name but that doesn’t really matter. For some reason they got pissed off because they weren’t getting paid much so they threatened to beat the snot out of Brian Pauley, or so we were told. Luckily it didn’t happen.
John E. Sizemore played for Freaktent, who I’ve mentioned before. We first saw them at the Hurricane Show and then at subsequent Nitro shows. I remember the first time I met him I was overwhelmed. I loved his guitar playing and he was a big influence on me early on in my experiments with a band. He did really cool things with a guitar, had cool hair, and was just…cool. I knew I would never be quite as cool as that but it was a good start. One night I met him and said a few words to him. I still have one of his guitar picks that somebody picked up for me.
Eventually John quit Freaktent and started “The Electric Sex Band” who I thought were pretty good. We went to see them one night at the Flea Market; actually it was their debut show. I believe John E.’s cousin started playing for Freaktent and then they started playing every weekend there. We learned a valuable lesson from that: never play too often at the same place; people don’t come. Their attitude is that they can go see them any time so why go? They can skip one night and go the next. If you play less often, for instance once a month like we did, then people know that if they miss that show it’ll be a month or so before the next one. People make it a point, if they’re fans, not to miss the show. Of course it sucks not being able to play out more than once a month but I guess it’s a trade-off.
I hate to be critical but Freaktent really wasn’t as good without John E, at least in my opinion. He just had a unique sound. Eventually John came back to Freaktent and they played with us on January 27, 1995 (their first show with John E. back in the fold). That was a great show, one I’ll go into in more detail later on.
One night I went to a show with Steve McConihay and his brother Mike. Some other guys were there too; Brian Pauley, Dave Hively, Matt Kennedy, and others. It was a fun show because this band called I.N.R.I. played. It consisted of Shaun Moore, a guy named Ian Shriver, and their friend who I think was a security guard somewhere. I still remember our group heckling them to no end. Seems kinda mean now but I guess at the time we thought it was funny. If they would have charged us we’d have probably scattered.
There was this girl named Wendy who was new at our school and she went to shows in Nitro as well. Wendy was rumored to have been a little crazy or a little sleazy or a little of both. She kept trying to come onto Matt Kennedy and this guy named D.J. Sanders. Most people called her Weird Wendy and we kept telling Matt that he should try to score with her but he wanted no part of it. He even gave her a ride home one night and I think she came onto him but he dissed her. We gave him shit about it but I still wonder why he didn’t move on it. I think he was still not over his old girlfriend.
It’s funny now as I write this just how much I still remember from the Flea Market. Those were some grand days but they were only a precursor to the real fun. Eventually the Flea Market would pale in comparison to the scene we were about to create just down the road in Nitro and then into Charleston and Huntington.
The Charleston Music Fest
The First Annual Charleston Music Fest was actually the first and last music fest. Some guy put it all together around the end of the summer of 1993. It featured local bands, some good, some bad, and it seemed to have all the earmarks of a good time. Shaun and I decided to go because it looked fun and because the Provos were playing on it. Jason Little had already left to join the Navy so Steve McConihay was filling in on guitar. Steve took this very seriously.
Steve used to play with Jason Little, Brian Pauley, and Billy Reynolds a couple years earlier. Tensions flared between them and they fell out of favor with each other. However, when Billy and Brian asked Steve to fill in for Jason on the Charleston Music Fest he was all over it. He didn’t even have to learn the songs; he’d figured them all out beforehand. He had a Fender Telecaster he’d traded for a while back (Steve changed music equipment more than he changed his underwear), the wireless transmitter, the effects pedals, the amps, and the attitude to do this one up right. He was so excited about playing the Music Fest. I understood it because I wanted to play it as well. I wanted to play it as badly as he did. Unfortunately I didn’t have a band at the time but Shaun and I were working on that. Still, I was a bit jealous.
I remember pulling up to Laidley Field, a small stadium in Charleston, in the Timex (what I called my 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier) with Shaun Fox. Quicksand playing on the CD player. I remember listening to their album “Slip” just like it was yesterday.
I have to give Steve credit, he pulled it off pretty much without a hitch. He was all over the place with that wireless and then totally cheesed out by walking into the stands and kissing his girlfriend Toni Hall. He was riding high on an adrenaline rush, I guess. They played a bunch of Provos songs and a Rage Against the Machine song (before they were really, really popular).
The crowd at the Music Fest was rather eclectic. There were metal heads, heavy metal rednecks, punks, goth kids, and Nitro kids. A bunch of people had come from the Flea Market crowd and as soon as the Provos came on they all jumped the retaining wall and started a huge mosh pit. The security guys in yellow shirts were taken aback and they ended up getting trampled in the pit. It was funny to watch. I still remember seeing Shaun Moore-our resident Marilyn Manson type goth guy-plant one hand on the retaining wall and then jump over the wall and onto the field below. Eventually security broke it up.
After the Provos show was over I remember thinking how cool it was. They had played in front of a ton of people and they had gone over so well. Steve was riding high on adrenaline and excitement and I wanted to have played so badly I could taste it. I caught up with Steve after they finished and told him they did a great job. I remember speaking briefly with Billy Reynolds and thinking how cool that was. Billy was almost like a rock star to me, as stupid as that sounds now, and it was cool just to meet him. Billy is now a dentist and he remembers the Nitro days well.
All in all it was a good time; the sun was hot, the music was loud, and the future lay ahead of me for the grasping. I was going to have a band and we were going to be great, I just knew it. I was prepared to work hard to make it a reality. It was a small pond but I think we achieved some measure of success at least.
Building The Scene
Shaun and I had been looking for a drummer for a while. One day Shaun told me he’d met this drummer at a party. They were playing some Alice In Chains’ songs and he said this kid was really good so I asked Shaun if he was available. Shaun said he was playing in a band currently but probably wouldn’t mind getting out of it. So we ended up going to his house shortly after that and playing a little practice session with him.
I liked Jeremy as soon as I met him. He was big, really big, and he looked five years older than he really was. He was fourteen years old when we met him but he turned fifteen right after that. Still really young. I was the oldest at eighteen and Shaun was sixteen. Jeremy had only been playing drums for about a year but his skill level was phenomenal. He played like he’d been playing for twice as long. And the scary thing was that he kept getting better and better. By the time Flood disbanded Jeremy had been playing for about three years and he was incredible. This was even more amazing because he was so lazy (no offense Jeremy). He never practiced at home but he just kept getting better and better. He was born for drums.
I don’t remember many details about the first practice. I think we played some cover tunes to feel each other out but we didn’t try to play any original stuff first off. We all had a positive experience after the first practice and by the next weekend we were practicing once or twice a week. We started to put together original stuff first off; we never intended to be a cover band. Of course the original stuff sucked but it got a lot better as time went on. We practiced in Jeremy’s attic which was a small, hot, cramped place that barely had enough room for movement. I just could stand up with about an inch to spare above my head. It wasn’t until Brian Pauley came to hear us play and offered to let us play in his garage that we had a decent practice area.
Brian Pauley, and the rest of the Provos, were pretty well known in the local area. We looked up to them because they were good and they put on a good live show. They had actually recorded and written a bunch of songs which was a lot more than I had ever done. I guess I kind of looked up to them and, as funny as it sounds now. I wanted to be friends with them because it would make mean that I was actually part of a cool group for a change. I hadn’t really talked to Brian very often so when I found out that Brian wanted to come and hear some of our music I was excited.
So Brian came over and we played the stuff we had and he actually liked it. Now, this stuff we were playing really sucked ass but I guess he could either see through it or he was completely deaf. Either way, he offered us the use of his garage for practicing which was incredible to us at the time. The attic that we practiced in at Jeremy’s house maintained a temperature of about 120 degrees. So to have the opportunity to practice in Brian’s garage was wonderful. Plus it meant that we were closer into getting into that “cool” crowd of talented bands and cool people where things could happen, at least on the local level.
Practicing at Brian’s was nice. He had a one car garage that had been converted into a practice room and there was plenty of room for everything. It wasn’t heated though which sucked in the winter. We started to get to know Brian during this time and we would hang out there with him a lot. There was always somebody there at his house so it was pretty much our central hang out place besides local shows.
We started auditioning singers as soon as we felt we had enough material to actually start a band. We tried out four singers, one being Shannon Stowers with whom we played during the summer at Okey’s, and the others were local guys that Shaun and Jeremy went to school with. Actually one of them was D.J. Sanders, the guy that Weird Wendy had been going out with. The last guy we tried was Carl Lucas who had played with Brian Pauley and Billy Reynolds in Last Rites, a thrash metal band that existed before The Provos were formed. Carl was willing to do it and he would actually show up. So, after a little bit of discussion, Carl joined our band.
The Great Big World
We searched for a band name that would be different and we came up with The Great Big World. It as different but we were split on the approval of the name. Carl and Jeremy didn’t like it, Shaun and I did. We eventually went with it and we played throughout the year as The Great Big World. We wouldn’t play a live show, however, until May of 1994 and we would never play a show as The Great Big World.
We met Andy for the first time in the fall of 1993, or at least that was the first time we ever talked to him. We actually had an encounter with him earlier, during the summer of 1993 during a show at the flea market. During this show Andy was playing with his band, Buddhashrooms, and was having some real problems. Evidently he was having issues with his guitar sound or something and was bitching up a storm.
Of course Steve and I took this opportunity to make fun of him (we were young and silly). He was bitching and saying things like ‘the fucking sound sucks in here’ and ‘this guitar sucks’ and more. Steve and I were yelling all kinds of stuff like ‘play the fucking song’ and ‘buy a new guitar’ in response to his bitching. He would hear us and tell us to ‘shut the fuck up’ but he had no idea who was yelling at him. I remember him yelling ‘who said that?’ and Steve and I were almost rolling out of our chairs. My sides felt like they were going to split. Sounds silly now but it was funny at the time.
Later on after we got to know Andy he said he was having a bad night and he wasn’t normally like that. He was right; Andy turned out to be a great guy and we would play a lot of shows with him over the next couple years. Steve and I told him about what we did and I remember him laughing and saying ‘so that’s who was yelling at me’.
Halloween Havoc is a memory I’ll treasure forever. Actually the show in and of itself wasn’t a real standout but the memories I took away were actually very good. Obviously the show occurred in October (hence the name “Halloween Havoc”). I can’t remember whose idea it was to go but Steve McConihay, Dave Hively, and I rode in Dave’s car. Billy Reynolds, Brian Pauley, and Andy Masker drove up in Andy’s car. We all drove the hour-long drive to Huntington and ended up driving through some pretty crappy areas of the city until we found the place (with the help of directions from a helpful cop).
We parked along the street beside a derelict, run-down warehouse in the “forgotten” area of Huntington. We almost missed it since it was such a hole in the wall. The windows were busted out it looked as if the place had been deserted for some time. But when we got to the door somebody was there to take our money and stamp our hands. We walked into the main area and saw a handful of people in there, probably less than forty. There was a huge flat bed delivery truck parked inside the warehouse and the bed of the truck was being used as the stage. There was a band playing and they sounded awful. I’m not sure if it was the sound in there or the band. I can’t even remember their names now.
I do remember a little bit about one of the bands. I remember this singer introducing a song with ‘this next song is about serial killers, from their point of view’. Coincidentally we wound up seeing them again at Gumby’s a few months later.
I think the main reason we went was because we knew this kid who was a really good guitar player and had practiced with Brian Pauley once or twice after the Provos broke up. They all played thrash metal so it wasn’t that entertaining for me at the time. I remember a guy with a “skullet” trying to start a mosh pit with his girlfriend. It didn’t really take off. Probably too cold.
The coolest thing really about the show was this guy who was firing a flame thrower every so often into the air. He would stand up, set down his beer, and fire up the flame thrower. I could feel the heat radiating off this thing when he would fire it. Every time he did Billy Reynolds would stand up and cheer. The guy started firing that flame thrower more and more as the night went on. I don’t know if it was a result of the beer or Billy’s cheering or maybe a little of both.
The only other thing I remember about the show was driving back home in Dave’s car and trying to find a way to get a Les Paul. They were expensive and I didn’t have much money. I would eventually get one, then trade it in for another, a couple years later.
Brian Pauley and The Buddhashrooms
Right after the break up of the Provos Jason Little went into the Navy and Billy Reynolds went to school in Nashville. It seemed like the end of an era; we had seen a lot of Provos shows in 1993 and it was a real shame to see them go away. Provos shows were cool because they were cheap ($1.00 at the door) and they were a good band. You always had fun at their shows. Now it was over and we had no idea what kind of replacement we would have, if any.
Enter Buddhashrooms. The Buddhashrooms had reformed and had gotten a new singer named Chris Klinger. They needed a drummer and Brian Pauley stepped in to take that spot since he had nothing else to do now. The Dills brothers, Brian & John, made up the rest of the band. Brian played bass and John played guitar. They weren’t really too bad actually and Brian played with them for several months. We went to see a couple show where they played and it was cool.
The Dills boys were good guys as I found out later when I met them. I mostly talked to Brian Dills because John was kind of touch and go with the scene. Sometimes he was around sometimes he wasn’t. I only met Chris Klinger once or twice. He had a shaved head with this little tuft of hair left up front. Shaun called it a “shrub”. He seemed okay though and he was actually kind of funny. One night they were playing and there was a female security guard working. She came up and made a request of him for something I don’t remember and then as she was walking John or Brian Dills did something to fuck with him. He yelled ‘bitch’ just as the security guard was walking away. She turned around, pissed off, and said asked him what he said. He immediately told her it was a misunderstanding and that he was talking to somebody else. He apologized and I think she believed him because she smiled. I think she knew but she was just fucking with him.
At one of these shows Billy Reynolds was in from college and came to the show. It hadn’t been too long since The Provos’ breakup and people were still hungry for more. So Billy started playing some Provos stuff and then it turned into an improv session. Shaun Moore was sweeping the floor and Billy noticed this. He starts singing ‘Shaun Moore, sweeping the floor…his brother’s gay, his brother’s gay’ or something like that. Suddenly this kid stands up and says ‘Hey, I’m his brother!’. We all started laughing and Billy apologized to the guy. The guy’s name was Jimmy, Jimmy Moore, and-much to Billy’s surprise-Shaun Moore really did have a brother. Except it appeared that he wasn’t gay. Billy was a little embarrassed but it was a funny, funny experience.
It wasn’t long before Brian quit Buddhashrooms. Brian changed bands more than Steve McConihay changed guitar equipment and he was then out on his own again with no band. By that time we had already snagged Jeremy Spears and were playing as The Great Big World. That’s about the time Dirt Bear came into existence.
The Formation of Dirt Bear
Dirt Bear came about as a joke band at first. With a name like Dirt Bear that was pretty much obvious. Billy was coming back into West Virginia about every other week and he decided that maybe he and Brian Pauley could still play in a band of some kind. Andy Masker, who used to play with Buddhashrooms, got into the picture and Dirt Bear was formed. They got the name from a bear Andy had once had. The story went something like this: Andy was a little kid at church with his bear. Somebody stole and then threw it in the trash. I guess somebody threw trash and dirt on top of it and by the time Andy found it it was covered with trash and dirt. People started making fun of him and talking about his “dirt bear” and the rest is history. At least that’s the story I heard. They decided that Dirt Bear would be the perfect name for their joke band and they started writing joke songs like “Making Out With a Fetter” and “Sykodelic”. Dirt Bear would go from a joke band to a full-fledged legitimate band in the scene within six months. They debuted on the same show as my band the following year, but there’s more on that later.
Building the Band
Locating a New Venue
In early 1994 Shaun, Jeremy, Carl, and I were starting to get better as a band. We wanted to play very badly at the flea market but that would prove to be impossible. I believe it was sometime in January or February that the flea market shows shut down for good. The owner had decided to rent out both halves, including the half we played in, of the building and we were suddenly without a place to play. It was a big blow to the local all-ages music scene and we were very worried that another place would not be available for us to play. Brian Pauley and others searched for new venues and finally found one in Nitro, West Virginia. It was a place called Jar Bugs. Brian set us up to play there in March of 1994. We as a band didnt feel we were really ready but we knew we couldn’t wait forever to play live. We had to pick a point and dive in. So, we decided to practice hard and hope for the best.
Turned out we didn’t have to worry about that because Jar Bugs closed down shortly before our show was scheduled. It was a blessing and a curse; it bought us more time to practice but we still did not have a place to play. It was very depressing actually. I’d had so much fun at the flea market shows and it now appeared that we would never have a place to play a local show ourselves.
Well, often times things aren’t as bad as they seem. Shortly after Jar Bugs shut down Brian Pauley got in touch with a place called the LKM Auditorium. The LKM specialized in bingo, square dancing but they opened up their building to us on Friday and Saturday nights for shows. It came at a price though; gone were the days of $1.00 and $2.00 shows. Admission was now $5.00 and the LKM kept two-thirds of the door money. That deal sucked for the bands and fans in a lot of ways but it was the only deal in town so we took it. However, it wasn’t all bad; the LKM was an extremely nice place to play. It had a three foot tall stage, lights, and a hall that would hold 480 people. For Christ’s sake it had a disco ball! We hoped that people would pay the $5.00 and still come to the shows. That proved to be a non-issue; more people would come to the LKM than ever did to the flea market.
Recording our first E.P.
In March of 1994 we were still calling ourselves The Great Big World and we had four original songs finished. We recorded those four songs on Steve McConihay’s four track recorder in Brian Pauley’s garage in March of 1994. The songs sucked but we worked really hard on them and they were really only good for helping us to learn how to play together in a band and how to write songs.
The other good thing that came out of recording that little E.P. was that we got some experience recording. It was difficult because every time you fucked up you had to start over again. We finally got all the songs recorded and mixed and, at the time, we were quite proud of it. We’d tried to set up a show at The Nitro Flea Market on March 18, 1994 but that show never went down. As I said the flea market was shut down shortly before our show would have happened.
Why Playing Birthday Parties Sucks
Also in the spring of 1994, after I bought the Peavey Deuce 2×12 combo amp I believe, Jeremy got us a gig to play this birthday show. It was for some friend of his and they were having it at the grade school in Quick, West Virginia. The rest of us didn’t really want to do it but we did it for Jeremy and we figured it would be good practice. Jeremy was all excited about it, despite the fact that we told him that playing parties sucked. He changed his tune after the party when he discovered how lame it was to play to only 10 or 20 people.
I don’t remember much about the show itself. We showed up, set up our equipment, and started playing. Carl ended up talking some kind of gibberish and throwing a bible across the room. I found out about that later but, not being too religious, I guess I didnt think much of it. Ultimately I thought it was funny, mostly funny that people were shocked. Despite the fact that the kids who were there gave us a good response it was still a pretty lame show for me. Birthday parties are a lame gig in general. After we packed our stuff up Jeremy said he never wanted to play a party again. We all said ‘I told you so’ and we never played another party again. Of course, we played some shows that were even worse but at least they weren’t parties.
We saw several good bands in the spring of 1994. One of these bands was a local band called Chum. Chum was extremely heavy and very tight; I mean they were dead on. They sounded professional and it wasnt until later that I found out they were local. Ultimately they never went anywhere and that was a shame. I guess they didn’t have the initiative or maybe the backing from the record label; I don’t really know the details. The show was awesome and I bought their tape that night. I still have both of their tapes and they are still excellent. We would later meet up with Chum and even play a show with them. Also, almost five years after the demise of Chum I bought their two E.P.s on CD which I’d wanted to do for a very long time.
The other band we saw was Glory Journal, a local band from Morgantown, WV. Steve had encouraged me to buy their CD some time back and when we heard they were coming to Gumby’s we thought we should go see them. So Steve McConihay, Andy Masker, Travis Walker, and I went to see them. They werent Gumby’s material and I dont know why they were booked there but they played anyway. They were relatively well-received by the crowd, despite the fact that they weren’t heavy. The crowd was actually quite respectful. I bought their newest CD there and talked to the singer for a bit. According to Buckie Davis (see comments below) their original singer quit and moved to Washington D.C. to further his art. If memory serves the new singer told me he’d stepped in to fill the vacant spot on vocals. It was a nice night and I really did have a lot of fun.
Promoting Our First Show
So the way to do it was the old-fashioned way; a bunch of flyers and a staple gun. One night Andy Masker, Shaun Fox, and I went out to put up flyers for our show in May. We started putting them up all over Nitro since that was where we were going to have the show and a few other places as well. Finally, later on that night, we ended up at South Charleston High School. Andy had gone to school there and he thought it would be a good idea to put up some flyers around the campus. So after we got there we got out of the car and started posting flyers around the school. We had some tape with us as well and I had my dad’s staple gun. We stapled them to trees and taped them to doors, basically put them anywhere they’d stick.
As we were taping a flyer to the front door of the school we saw the janitor walk up to the door. We knew we were going to get kicked out and I figured he’d talk some shit and then we’d just get back into the car. Then he would tear down everything we’d just put up, making it all wasted effort. However, when the guy came to the door and asked us what was going on we told him we were posting flyers for a show we were playing. He then said ‘do you guys want to put some up inside?’
I was completely surprised. We said we would and he let the three of us in. We went through the halls and taped up fliers to lockers, on walls, etc. and then we went to the front for the janitor to let us out. I remember him telling us he used to play in a band so I’m sure thats why he let us in; he could emphathize with us. We thanked him for letting us put the flyers up and for basically being cool about the whole thing. It was a nice experience; I still remember walking through that school in the dark, and taping up flyers onto strangers’ lockers. For some reason that part is really vivid. The rest is just an old memory. Its weird how my memories become almost surreal the older I get.
Stick at Gumbys
Sometime in April of 1994, I believe it was, we went to Gumby’s in Huntington, West Virginia and saw a band called Stick. Steve McConihay, Shaun Fox, and I went. Somehow we were able to get Shaun into the club even though he was underage. It must have been good luck or just a bad doorman. Shaun’s mom called Gumby’s and asked if they would let him in with a note from her. They agreed. When we got there Shaun presented the note and the doorman said he didnt know anything about it. Then he said he guessed it was okay and Shaun was in.
Stick was heavy as hell and they really had an impact on us. We had seen one of their videos on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball (when they still played music videos) and we really liked them. At one point Steve bumped into the singer and spilled beer on him. It was funny as hell. Steve was partially drunk and after they collided he looked up and said ‘hey, you’re in Stick!’ They guy laughed and he was cool as hell about the whole thing. We talked to him for five minutes or so and then he had to split.
After the Stick show Shaun and I decided that was the direction we wanted to take the band. We talked it over with Carl and Jeremy and then decided on a new band name to replace The Great Big World. We went with Flood, an idea Shaun and I got from looking over our CD collections. We looked at some Nine Inch Nails CDs and found that they were produced by a guy called Flood. We thought the name was cool so we used it for our band name.
Our First Live Show
Brian got a show set up with Dirt Bear, Noise Box, The Electric Sex Band, and Flood for May 23, 1994 at the LKM Auditorium. Dirt Bear had become a decent band and was becoming less and less the joke band they started out as. This would be Dirt Bear’s first live show as well as Flood’s first live show. Noise Box had been around for a while though and we hoped they would help to bring in some people.
We had been playing for a while with Carl and we were all into our new songs. We had four new songs that were very heavy and sounded much different than the lighter songs we wrote as The Great Big World. We didn’t have enough new songs to play an entire set but it turned out that we didn’t have to.
In April of 1994, singer and songwriter for Nirvana Kurt Cobain killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head. It was a pretty unbelievable thing and it hit everybody harder than I thought it would. Cobain had been the major reason that cheese metal went by the wayside and real rock music came back. It was a shame because he was so talented but so fucked up at the same time. He wasn’t much of a guitar player but he could write songs like nobody else.
So we decided to do the LKM show as a tribute show to Cobain and Nirvana. We all decided to play a few Nirvana songs at this show. Since the newly created Flood only had four new original songs we used the Nirvana songs to add to our set list and this allowed us to play the show in May. We played three Nirvana songs, Come As You Are, Pennyroyal Tea, & Even In His Youth. All the bands decided which Nirvana songs they were going to cover beforehand so that no two bands covered the same song.
On May 23, 1994 I played my first live show at the LKM. I had been very unsure of how it would be and how well we would do. We practiced very hard and we had the Nirvana songs as well as our originals pretty much down pat. I had been worried that I might freeze up or really make some huge, embarrassing mistake while playing live. It’s weird now to think back to how important is was to me. It seems more in perspective now because I guess I see how small of an event a local live show is. But to me at that time it was the world. It was imperative that we did well; our reputation counted on it.
It turned out that I really had nothing to worry about. I don’t remember in what order we all played but I do remember that everybody sounded great. All the Nirvana covers went off well and it was a fitting tribute really. Dirt Bear didn’t seem to go over extremely well for some odd reason but that would all change after the next few shows. Flood played all of our originals and only screwed up the first song we played. We were very nervous and we played the song about ten times faster than it should have been. Toward the end of the first song I ended up screwing up but we finished the song and nobody seemed to notice.
It was weird the first time that I played live in front of a crowd. Im guessing there were maybe 150 to 200 people at that first show we played and that was a pretty good turnout for a local show. We would soon find out that the turnout would be even higher later on. I was very nervous as we waited to play. We’d practiced a zillion times but we’d never played live so I didnt know what would happen. We started our first song and the butterflies that had been flying around in my stomach for the previous hour went away by the end of the song. Once the nervousness was gone it was a blast just playing the songs.
The crowd really seemed to like us. People were cheering, screaming, moshing, and having an all-around good time. I remember some guy in the audience apparently memorized. He kept staring up at me and it gave a weird feeling. Nobody had ever really paid that kind of attention to me and it was somewhat unnerving. It gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to be a rock star. Or at least what I think it would be like to be a rock star.
I remember after the show I stayed the night at Steve McConihay’s house. Andy Masker was there as well. Steve was living in Dunbar at the time since his mom’s cancer had resurfaced. She grew up in Dunbar and wanted to move back there after she got sick again. She knew it was terminal and that this was her last chance. So, they moved into a house in Dunbar but kept the old house in Big Chimney, renting it out to pay the bills. We stayed up for a while just talking about playing music, playing live shows, religion, the possibility of an afterlife and other things that young adults grapple with. I remember Andy-whose father was a preacher-said that he believed in life after death because the idea of nothing coming after this life was completely frightening to him. He said he’d have no hope if he didn’t believe. I guess that’s a pretty strong reason for belief; its scary as hell to think about your own death. Steve didn’t have much belief in it and neither did I. I think we were both agnostics, even at that age.
We also talked about the show and the reaction of the fans. As I said, there had been this guy in the audience who had been watching me intently during the entire show. I guess it kinda creeped me out at the time; I kinda felt like I had experienced a miniature version of fame and had some idea of what real rock stars go through. I was also young and didn’t understand things quite as well back then; it wouldn’t freak me out at all now. Im not saying it was a big deal, just a little weird. I remember lying there on the floor trying to go to sleep with visions of the show running through my head. It was a like a movie; the crowd was in front of me, my band was beside me, and the exhilaration of the whole experience was still vivid and powerful. Reluctantly I did finally fall asleep.
The Cat Box
Right about the time the LKM starting putting on shows in early 1994 another place, literally a block away from the LKM, starting doing the same thing. This place was called the Cat Box and was located in the same place that Jar Bugs had been. The same exact building, actually. Right beside the Cat Box was a little music store called Cat’s Back Records. It was ran by some fat woman who could be a real bitch at times. We found that out one night in a big way.
Anyway, after our show at the LKM we agreed to play a show at the Cat Box on June 3, 1994. Admission was cheaper there than it was at the LKM; only $3.00 at the door and she kept 50% of the door instead of the 66% the LKM took. We played that show with Dirt Bear, Who Cares, and Slip. Who Cares was a band that we saw at the Charleston music festival that previous summer. I had gotten in touch with them and set them up on the show. Slip was Ronnie Stricklen’s band.
That show, in contrast to the LKM show, was a fucking disaster. It really brought us down from our proverbial high horses and showed us that we had a long way to go as a band. First off I had problems with my guitar. I had replaced the pickups in it and some of my soldering had some loose. Luckily I had a backup with me but it was a cheap guitar that I bought at a pawn shop and it came out of tune VERY easily. I found that out after we played our first song.
Since we were all very green we didn’t really know too much about playing live. It really is a skill in and of itself. Instead of checking my tuning before starting the song I just started, then found out my guitar was out of tune. I tried to tune it by ear but there was too much noise and natural reverb and I couldn’t really hear it. So I had to then go get my tuner out of my guitar case, bend down, plug it in, and then get that piece of shit tuned up. It felt like an eternity; the whole time my face was red, hot, and burning from embarrassment. I vowed at that point that I would never let that happen again. It was a great learning experience and it never happened to us again.
After ten minutes of embarrassing tuning we started playing again. As I said before we only had four original Flood songs. We still had four original Great Big World songs. Since we stupidly agreed to do the show before we were ready we had to play a few of those songs and, let me tell you, that was the first and last time those songs were ever played live.
We made it through the show but the crowd response wasn’t what it had been at the LKM a few weeks ago. That would prove to be a recurring theme at our live shows throughout 1994. Although some people were moshing and applauding it was a very different atmosphere than our debut show. We had bitten off more than we could chew and had paid the embarrassing price for it. We decided to wait for a while before playing again, at least until we had an entire set of originals. No more Great Big World songs-period.
Buying a P.A. System
After playing several shows and saving all the money we finally had a few hundred dollars. We decided to buy a P.A. system since we didnt have one ourselves and we had to borrow Brian Pauley’s all the time. We scraped up enough money (with $80.00 that I threw in myself) and we bought a P.A. system from a church. We were tipped off to the sale by a guy named Shawn we used to go to school with.
Anyway, he set up the meeting with us and somebody from the church. We got there and waited on them to show and when they did it was like something out of Deliverance. This guy was about five feet tall with a four foot tall wife and two mutant kids running around. I wondered not so jokingly if he was going to pull out a burlap sack with snakes and start holding them into the air while speaking in tongues. It was the damndest thing. We gave them the money, packed up the P.A. and got the hell out of there. They were nice enough to give us a few microphones and the stands they built for the speakers. The stands were black and made out of two by fours and plywood. They read Gospel Dwellers across the front. The speakers were labeled Gospel Dwellers as well. We decided to leave it just the way it was; it was funny and reminded us of our meeting with the church people. I thought it was a funny sight in April when we were playing a live show with our P.A. (Brian had been out of town so we couldn’t use his) and we were playing on stage with the Gospel Dwellers equipment in front of us. Nice irony.
Finding a New Place to Practice
We had been practicing at Brian Pauley’s house for some time now and we didn’t want to wear out our welcome so we wanted to find a place to play. We had played in Jeremy’s attic for a while but it was so cramped that it made practicing difficult. It was also very hot in the summer as there was no air conditioning. Now that we had our own P.A. system we could practice on our own and not have to use Brian’s anymore. It was important to us to become independent if we wanted to become contemporaries.
Our seach halted briefly when Jeremy’s dad, Jerry, decided to clean out a storage shed behind his house. He said he’d turn it into a room for us to practice in. He did, and we moved our stuff into it in August of 1994. Right around that time (August 13,14,15) we recorded our first album as Flood. We called the album Spate, which was Carl’s idea. Now if you’re not familiar with the word spate its a synonym for Flood. We thought it was clever at the time.
Anyway, we had written four more new songs since the show in May and we were really wanting to get them recorded. Overall the tape isn’t too bad and we were quite proud of our effort. We also needed some tapes to sell at our shows because we needed some cash. We hadn’t played that many shows so our band fund was pretty low, especially after we bought the P.A. system. Shaun and I designed the album cover, an image from an old sci-fi movie. I typed up all the words, since I’d written virtually all the lyrics on the album, and I reduced the size, arranged everything, and made photocopies where I worked. It looked pretty shitty by today’s standards (no one had a computer that I could have prepared all this on) but it worked. We actually sold a bunch of tapes over the next few months.
The shed behind Jeremy’s house turned out to be a pretty decent place to play. At least for a while. It didn’t take the good people of Clendenin long to start calling the cops on us. After only a few practice sessions we were forced to abandon the practice room due to a few compaints. The cops were cool about it and one of them even played in a band himself when he was young. He knew what we were going through but he still had to tell us to stop playing. They never wrote us any tickets which was a good thing but we were screwed nonetheless.
In response to this problem we started practicing at Shaun Fox’s house. That’s where we practiced until the end. It was nice because we practiced in his family room so we had nothing to worry about as far as weather and neighbors were concerned. They lived so far out away from everything that no one could even hear. Plus she cooked for us every time we were there; that’s always cool.
Our Last Show with Carl Lucas
On September 23, 1994 we played our last show with Carl Lucas. We played at the LKM Auditorium with a band called Malicious Intent and I believe Freaktent might have played. Or maybe it was Noisebox, I’m not sure. Regardless, it was a painful experience. I thought we played well and we even played a couple new songs. However, for some reason the crowd just wasn’t digging us that night. They just sat there and watched, not getting up to mosh or anything. Maybe we sucked that night, who knows?
Well, Carl wasn’t used to that I guess and he got severely pissed. He started yelling at the crowd, telling them they were a bunch of pussies, get up and mosh, stuff like that. After the show he didn’t show up to practice for about a month. By that time it was almost October. Jeremy went driving around with Carl one night around this time and he told Carl that we were practicing that following day. Carl said he’d be there but he never showed. We practiced for a while and then when we took a break we discussed the situation with Carl. It was Jeremy actually who brought up the prospect of kicking him out of the band. I hadn’t expected that from Jeremy since he was closer to Carl than any of us. I also hadn’t considered kicking him out until Jeremy brought up the possibility but immediately it seemed like the only solution, given the circumstances.
I agreed with Jeremy and so did Shaun so the decision had been made. Then came the hard part; telling him. Nobody wanted that job and, being the young kids that we were, we didn’t tell him until a month later when he called us about practicing. By then he’d waited two months to call us and ask us when we were going to practice. We told him in a round about way that he was out of the band and he was extremely pissed. It was basically Jeremy who broke the news; Shaun and I were a little afraid to. I guess we were young and that kind of thing was difficult for us; we just weren’t used to it.
Eventually Carl got over it and even admitted that he would have kicked himself out of the band if the shoe had been on the other foot. Of course that took a long time, probably a year. He even came to one of our shows at the Coffee House and I spoke with him for a while there. It was unfortunate that it had to happen the way it did but I guess life’s like that.
Steve Suggests a Singer for Flood
Steve McConihay went to West Virginia State College for several years and, while he was there, he met a guy name Adam Triplett. Adam was a singer looking for a band. Steve was a guitar player looking for a singer. I can’t remember the exact details but Steve talked to Adam about singing in a band. When Steve eventually brought up my band, Flood, Adam became interested. Steve then put him in touch with us. We found out that Adam had wanted to sing for us for a while. He had actually been at the show where Carl blew up and had remarked to a friend that he would sing for our band some day.
Steve introduced us to Adam sometime during November of 1994. Adam was living with a guy named Billy Lewis in an apartment in Cross Lanes, West Virginia. He was working as a cook at Shoney’s and worked some really fucked up hours. Getting time to practice with him was a problem at first but he eventually quit that job and got one with more tolerable hours. He was also a student of WV State College studying art.
We met with Adam for the first time at his apartment. Billy Lewis was there and little did I know at that time how close my connection to him would be. He was my future wife’s ex-boyfriend. Small world. I hadn’t even met her at that point. We stayed the night at Adam and Billy’s apartment, talking until early in the morning about music, art, and other things. Sometime during the night there was a storm and the gutter fell off or the shutters slamming scaring the shit out of everybody sleeping. All except me who could sleep through a war. Adam agreed that night that he would try out for our band. It took one tryout to get him into the band. He was awesome and he was exactly what we needed to get back on the good side of our fans.
Things progressed well with Adam. Often he had to work at Shoney’s on the weekends so we practiced with him about every other weekend. That was fine because we wrote all the music and then Adam added the lyrics or made suggestions afterward. We practiced our asses off and Shaun and I wrote some killer new songs, in my opinion at least. Some of the best songs we ever wrote were written during that time period. We knew that the new music was so much better we hoped that the crowd would be responsive to Adam. We worked hard to tighten up our songs and get everything as perfect as possible.
We were ready; we’d locked in the new line up and songs and we’d polished them to near perfection. Now that we’d had some performance experience behind us we felt solid and relatively experienced. We felt that if anything was going to happen for us as Flood in the local scene now was the time.
1995: When It All Came Together
1995 started out with a bang. We had just kicked Carl Lucas out of the band the previous November and we were starting to make progress with Adam Triplett as our new singer. By the beginning of January we had almost completely replaced our old set list with new, better written, songs. This was perfect for us to bring in a new singer since we weren’t trying to get Adam to learn old stuff. All the lyrics for our older songs had been written by me but Adam wrote lyrics and we wanted him to write his own lyrics to our new songs. The problem with Adam was, I found out later, that he wrote his own lyrics but he ad-libbed them each time we performed. It was never the same thing twice. I know it irked Shaun a little but a lot of things irked Shaun. It wasn’t a major issue with me though; he pretty much always came through with something when we played live so I just took care of the guitar parts.
Our first show with Adam Triplett
We knew that if we were to succeed we’d have to find someone who could sing well and had a good rapport with the crowd. We thought we’d found that in Adam so we practiced with him for some time, gave him copies of the music, and we wrote a ton of new stuff. We planned on blowing the crowd away this time since their last impression of us was a little sour. That wasn’t good and we knew it. We had to come back better than ever with new songs and a new singer. Ultimately we hoped we’d walk away with a bigger fan base when it was all said and done.
We practiced and practiced, fine-tuned the songs, played them until we were sick of them, and then finally we thought we were ready to play again. We set the date for the show to January 27, 1995; about four months after the LKM show when Carl went off on the audience. We hoped that a four month hiatus would help to generate interest in the “new” Flood. People were excited and were anticipating the show, at least from what I understood. We also set the show up with Dirt Bear, Freak Tent, and the Buddhashrooms, all of which we knew would help bring people in. We knew the show would go over well because of this; we just weren’t sure what the reaction to the new Flood would be like. The audience had liked us before and then they appeared to lose interest. We hoped that this trend was about to change.
It did. When January 27th rolled around we were pumped. The weather was shitty; rainy and cold, but despite this, we were still excited. Luckily the rain stopped long enough for us to get our instruments to the LKM without having to cover them with a tarp. After we got there we unpacked our stuff and carried it inside. Unpacking musical equipment is hard work; there’s so much stuff and it’s so heavy. No wonder professional musicians have roadies.
I remember vividly the process of unloading the equipment. I pulled my truck behind the building and began carrying things in. I remember seeing people from other bands carrying their stuff, as well as other people’s equipment sitting around. All this was very surreal; I realized then that I was actually a part of all this. I was actually on stage myself now, not watching someone else do it. When you find something you like it’s not just one aspect of that thing you like; I liked everything about playing in a band including the act of carrying my stuff inside. I know it sounds strange but it’s true. It was an awesome feeling to be walking inside that building from the back-not the front-carrying equipment I would use on stage. After everything was unloaded it was just a matter of waiting for people to arrive.
And arrive they did. By the time the people had been counted through the door we found out there were about 380 paying customers. That didn’t include the bands, the people who got in free with the bands, etc. So my estimate is that there were maybe 400 people there altogether. It was packed. We were very excited but we didn’t want to be the first band. Going first sucks because the crowd sometimes isn’t warmed up and some people don’t show up until late. Also it was Adam’s first show with us and we wanted to try to ease him in as much as possible.
So we asked Freak Tent if they would play first but Chris Allen (their bass player) wouldn’t budge. Since they had gone first four months earlier when Carl had to leave early they weren’t going to do it again. ‘Fair is fair’ he said and I couldn’t really argue with him despite the how I felt about it. So we just decided to go out there, play the hell out of our new songs and see what happened. We had really spent some time cleaning them up and getting them polished for the show. Overall we sounded better than we ever had. We were only playing two old songs that we had written with Carl; the rest were new songs written after we kicked Carl out. The crowd was going to see that the new Flood was something to keep their eye on, hopefully. We were determined to make sure of that.
I’m glad now that I had enough foresight to document this period in my life. I had our first and second show on video tape (even if the first show only showed Jeremy’s drum set in the frame throughout the entire show) and I knew that I needed this one on tape as well. I hoped it would be good and on that assumption I had asked Brian Pauley to bring his parents’ video camera along. Therefore I now have virtually the entire set on tape (watch the video). Several people took turns filming our set and somebody turned the camera off for one or two songs but we have most of it on tape. I requested the video camera at several other shows as well. In hindsight I wish I would have recorded every show. I also wish I would have had someone snapping photographs while we played. I have lots of pictures though, mostly just of the people we hung around with and places we went.
There was something funny that happened before the show. About a month earlier we had Dana White make some T-shirts for us that we thought were great. The caption on the front of the shirt stated ‘I Hate Flood’. On the back was a statement made in the form of a critic’s review that stated:
“This band sucks.” – Rolling Stone Magazine
Now, the whole idea was to poke fun at ourselves. If I remember correctly I came up with the Rolling Stone quote on the back of the shirt; I think Adam had the ‘I Hate Flood’ idea. Our hope was that everyone would go around with a shirt saying ‘I Hate Flood’ and it would be hilarious. The shirts actually sold out and I saw several people wearing them later on. Adam Triplett decided to wear one on stage that night. I thought that was pretty funny and was also good advertising.
Well, before the show Adam was walking around and Jimmy Moore stopped him. Jimmy was Shaun Moore’s brother; Shaun Moore from I.N.R.I.. Apparently Jimmy was a big fan of ours from when Carl still sang for the band. He had no clue that Adam was our new singer. What he did know was that he was pissed off that somebody was wearing a shirt that said ‘I Hate Flood’. He confronted Adam and asked him why he was wearing a shirt like that. Adam explained to him that he sang for Flood and that we had made the shirts ourselves as a joke. Jimmy then found the humor in the whole thing. That’s just how Jimmy was. I admired him for standing up for us, as strange as that might sound.
At around seven or eight o’clock everything was ready to go. The P.A. system was set up, our equipment was set up, and we were on stage, ready to go. It’s an incredible feeling to play in a band in front of 400 people. I can only imagine what it’s like to play for thousands. We’d played several shows (plus the birthday party) and most of our pre-show jitters had been overcome through experience. But this show was a little different. Since it had been four months since we last played live there was a little feeling of nervousness for all of us. When I watch the tape I still think that I can see Adam’s nervousness on his face. This was, after all, his first show with Flood and his first real live performance. Jeremy, Shaun, and I were pretty solid though and we told him not to worry. We’d all be on, all he had to do was sing.
I still remember how we started the show off. The lights dimmed, people gathered around, and I saw the biggest crowd that I had ever played for standing in front of me. It was awesome. People were pumped, yelling, and ready to rock. I turned my volume up (this was my first show with my Les Paul studio guitar), turned on all my pedals, and let the feedback flow forth. Jeremy made some noise on the drums and Shaun created some noise with his bass. We let that ring for several seconds, getting the crowd anxious and restless. Adam had this cool echo on his voice and he just started making some noises with that big echo. We had planned the whole thing from the beginning and we were waiting on a four count from Jeremy on the high-hat symbol. Finally, amidst the flood of noise I heard the count on the high-hat.
Jeremy hit the hi-hat cymbal, then snare, and then we all started playing. The song was called “Accident”, named after the method I’d used to write the main riff of the song. One night I was just sitting around playing and accidentally came up with the main riff for the song. The sound was loud, the adrenaline was flowing, and the people were going nuts! They reacted immediately, moshing, jumping, dancing, yelling, and crowd surfing. The nervousness went away within a minute or so and then it was just a matter of having fun and remembering to pay attention to what I was doing. Playing live requires a good deal of mental work; one has to pay attention to what’s going on or a wrong note is played or a change is out of sync and the show suffers.
We played the whole set pretty much without a hitch. We slowed down in the middle of the set with “Palomar”, a song named after a mountain with a telescope on it. We then picked things up and ended the set with “Lungfish”, a fast, choppy, and catchy song that people instantly loved. Our stops were precise, our timing was on, our songs had gotten much better, and people never stopped moving through the whole set. It was probably the most memorable show I’ve ever played in my life.
When we got off the stage after that set I was buzzing with excitement. I knew we had played well; all our hard work had paid off. We went to the Nitro McDonald’s to grab something to eat right after our set, during Freaktent’s set actually. While there, Travis Walker, Andy Masker’s friend, congratulated us on the show and told us how good it was. His comments on our improvement stuck with me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was still buzzing about the show and about how well we did. I hoped that show was indicative of how things would go for us in the future and, for the most part, it was.
After we ate we went back to the show and watched Dirt Bear. They were great, as usual, and they got the crowd into the show even more. The local scene in 1994 and 1995 really belonged to Dirt Bear. Eventually it would be shared by Flood and Sevin but, even then, Dirt Bear would still remain a slightly bigger crowd attraction. That was fine because we all used that to our advantage later on by riding their coattails a bit. Not to mention they were our friends and we were very happy to see them succeed.
After the show something else happened. It’s funny how things work out, how destiny is unfolding before you but you don’t even realize it. I remember seeing Scott Robinson in the back of the room. He had been running sound for all of us that night. He was talking to this pretty girl so I decided to walk back there and see what was going on. As I approached I saw the girl had her pants unbuttoned and was showing Scott a tattoo that she had. She showed it to me and then she buttoned up, wrapped up the conversation, and walked away. I figured I’d never see her again so I tried not to think much of it right afterward and we packed our stuff up and we prepared to leave.
After the show Jeremy and Adam went home and Shaun stayed with me at my house. We watched the videotape of the show and we were very impressed with it. We identified the things we could have done better and the things we did right. We were impressed with Adam’s performance; he’d done a great job and we felt we were off to a great start with him as our singer. We did what we’d set out to do: put on the best show we possibly could.
As I lay there that night trying to fall asleep I thought about how wonderful my life was. I remembered all the details of the show and I wondered how life could get any better. For some reason I remembered the girl with the tattoo that night and her image seemed to be lodged in my brain somehow. I thought it would be a shame that I’d never see her again but I was used to it; I figured I’d get over it. I didn’t know it then but I would most definitely see her again. In fact, she would become my wife.
Common Grounds Coffee House
During February we played a show at Common Grounds. Common Grounds was an underage club that was ran by this guy named Bob Webb. In order to pay the rent for the new place that he’d moved the club to he had what he called “rent parties”. Bands would play for free so that Bob could use the money to pay the rent on the place. Now keep in mind that this place was a haven for modern-day hippies, tree-huggers, vegans, and that sort of crew. They would sit around, listen to poetry, drink iced coffee, and listen to acoustic guitars and spoken word poetry. That place was their kind of scene.
The old place would only accommodate acoustic music, nothing loud. Well, when it came down to it that didn’t pay the rent so Bob contacted the electric bands (Flood, Sevin, Dirt Bear, etc.) from the Nitro area and asked us all to play. We agreed because it was good publicity for us and we needed more practice anyway. We played the show but I honestly can’t remember exactly how it went. I almost don’t remember playing it. It went well but I think we played last and we had to really cut our set down if I remember correctly.
I do remember meeting the girl with the tattoo that I met at the show the previous month. I remember she was with a girl named Mia Ross and that she was taller than I remembered from our first meeting. I noticed her and remembered her, but at that point I still had no clue as to what would happen later on. I don’t think we even exchanged words at that point.
Recording our First Album with Adam
Since we had a lot of new songs and a new singer we decided to record again in February. We put together a new album with all new songs and Adam called it Halo Arrangements and Alternate Wall Fixtures. I really don’t know where he came up with that name but it sounded cool so we went with it. We recorded again on the four-track recorder and it sounded pretty good, for a four-track recorder at least. We went with a different approach this time and recorded each instrument on a different track instead of recording everything on one track. It was impossible to add any other tracks but our songs were pretty much straight-forward and didn’t require a bunch of layering. The main benefit was that if one of us messed up we could just record our own track over again.
Scott had stolen a compressor from a local music store operated by a bunch of assholes we couldn’t stand and he used it on Adam’s voice in the studio when we played live and recorded later on during the summer. It evened out the high and low volume of Adam’s voice and made the recordings sound better. Unfortunately at the time we recorded Halo Arrangements we didn’t have that so there are points in the song where his voice is louder than everything else and places where you can hardly hear him. The recording is good overall and I’m still pretty proud of it, all things considered.
Adam designed the artwork for the front cover and we made a trip to Kinko’s to have them print off color copies. We all decided it was better to spend the money on color copies; it looked much better than black and white. We sold a shitload of those tapes when we brought them to shows. I think we sold them for five bucks and we sold out at every show. That was a pretty good feeling to know people would not only pay to come to our shows but would also buy our music. We sold those tapes for months and probably altogether sold 150 or 200. The tapes were costing us about $2.00 to make so it was a pretty decent profit to put back into the band fund.
I always wonder where those tapes are now, what those people did with them years after the scene fell apart and all the bands broke up. I can imagine those tapes stuffed in a box somewhere, thrown away, or saved as a treasured reminder of someone’s youth. I’m sure I’ll never know what happened to all those tapes but I’d like to think that someone out there, when they’re feeling nostalgic, pops that tape in and re-experiences those days, at least for a short while. I think that would be a very cool legacy to leave behind.
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