Photo by Rob McGregor
Friday, April 2, 2004. Roach Motel, the granddaddies of Gainesville's now thriving punk rock scene put on a reunion show at Eddie C's. It was only the second time that the band has reunited to perform since the early '80s. This show was a part of a short tour, though perhaps the most significant, since this is where it all began for them.
For reasons beyond my control, I arrived pretty late to the show. The fourth band of the five-band bill was onstage as I walked through the doorway, past the frat boys playing pool, and up to the bar to order a whiskey and ginger (easy on the ginger). At first glance, I recognized no one at the poolroom bar. With my stupid social insecurities, I quickly downed my drink, figuring that if I was going to rock out in a room full of strangers, I'd better pack away some liquid courage.
While I waited for what seemed like a year to order a beer, I noticed a few familiar faces at the opposite end of the bar. I walked down and exchanged hellos and hugs with a few friends that I rarely see, coercing one of them to take a few pictures for me, despite the fact that he was already visibly intoxicated. Feeling more at ease, I grabbed my bottle of Sam Adams and made my way through the crowd to the other room of the club where the band had just finished.
It was impossible not to notice the strange dynamic of the show's patrons. The majority of the crowd consisted of Gainesville punk veterans; the over-thirty bunch who regularly attends shows, many of whom play in active local bands. There was also a large number of older people present who seemed to be up way later than they were comfortable with, but probably remembered Roach Motel during their heyday and came out of rock retirement for one night. The remainder of the audience was a colorful potpourri of drunk college girls in stiletto heels and young punks ready to thrash. I felt like Jan Brady, but like everyone else, I was ready for some rock.
As Roach Motel took the stage, I had no idea what to expect. Despite the fact that they looked punk as fuck, clad in leather and studs with the bass player sporting a mohawk, they appeared a bit weathered.
With only a short introduction, they launched into "Creep," with the enthusiasm of a high school garage band. The crowd started to come to life, a forked river delta of bobbing heads and gyrating torsos, intertwined with those who stood still, seemingly waiting for something.
The set progressed with tunes like "Heart Attack" and "More Beer." With each song, the audience got more and more into it. Thanks in part to the lyrical simplicity of their songs, everyone had relatively equal opportunity to shout along. By the time they played "Shut Up," deep into the set list, practically everyone was screaming with the band. There were a few points throughout their set where frontman Bob Fetz chose to growl out his vocals perched on the edge of the stage, and despite the change in position, the vocal quality wasn't hindered.
Some half-assed mosh pits began, only to diminish after a few minutes each time, due to the advanced age of the audience and the remarkable pace with which the band tore through each song. Midway through "Now You're Gonna Die," I caught an elbow in the head, which was attached to some kid who decided to start a one-person circle pit in the back.
Overall, it was a good set. Roach Motel's brand of short, fast, and loud will always have a place in our little universe of punk rock debauchery. Despite my throbbing head, it was an opportunity for me to close my eyes, open my ears, and allow myself to be transported back to a time that I have thus far only guessed at.