Sticker Guy's 15th Anniversary: Club Underground, Reno, Nevada By Benke

Jul 17, 2008

“Fifteen years is a long, long time/Fifteen years is a long, long time/Fifteen years is a long, long time/Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh, I can’t wait!”

Yeah, it’s a paraphrase of the Sneaky Pinks instant bubble-smut classic, “I Can’t Wait,” but it sums up perfectly the slobbering anticipation with which punks from across the nation looked forward to the 15th Anniversary Stickerguy! Bash. In March of 1993, the first Stickerguy! sticker was produced and it’s just as likely it was plastered to the inside of a toilet bowl as it was a guitar case or the bottom of a skateboard. Ads for Stickerguy! appeared in a few fanzines over the subsequent months and years, and an empire was born. It’s a safe bet that just about every sticker you’ve ever seen bearing your favorite band’s name stuck to street signs, guitars, windows, sinks, urinals, phone poles, amps, speakers, refrigerators, shoe soles, televisions, crotches, asses, etc. was produced at the Stickerguy! headquarters in Reno/Sparks. Folks in these parts used to joke that defacing public space with his stickers was Pete’s way of announcing his presence in much the same way a dog or moose marks its territory, stinking up the landscape with a continuous spray of sweet-smelling piss. It’s inarguable that his stickers are everywhere. But Stickerguy! has meant more to underground music and independent business than slapping stickers on walls—it has provided a much needed service for independent bands and organizations across the world, and operated with the same fiercely independent spirit as its clients. More importantly, Stickerguy! has allowed Pete to fund two record labels, 702 Records and Slovenly Recordings, and put out some of the greatest musical releases of the last fifteen years. And if that sounds like hyperbole, go throw the 2nd Spits album, Scared of Chaka’s self-titled album, or the Hipshakes 45 on the ol’ Victrola and just try to deny that it ain’t some of the sweetest, stupidest shit you ever heard.

The shows, nay, PARTY took place over two nights in late March in the heart of one of the sleaziest corridors in Reno, Nevada. Fourth Street is known for its strong street prostitute presence and the availability of illicit, pipe-smoke-able drugs; a place where a person can easily find oneself in the most suspect of situations with the slimiest of company. So, it was fitting that Club Underground, located a loogy’s spittable distance from the streetwalkin’ hoes and fleabag motels where they ply their wares, was the venue for a party celebrating a business built on its famously sticky qualities.

The weather was cold, the stack of forty Razorcakes (issue #43, free to anyone who asked!) held in my hand becoming heavy as the line moved glacially towards the entrance. I was joined by my main squeeze, Attila the Hons, and we spoke to the guy and girl behind us in line about whom the night’s mystery band might be. I didn’t get the dude’s name, but I could tell by his inimitable enthusiasm, glowing intellect, and discerning tastes that he was a Razorcake subscriber (…he also mentioned so when he saw Greg Cartwright’s mug on the cover). The line inched forward, we made it inside the club after about twenty minutes and were greeted by the Stickerguy! himself. Wristbands secured, we headed into the Lounge where the familiar sounds of Reno’s favorite local punk rockers were filling the smoky air.

The Juvinals had the daunting task of opening the Friday night festivities and did an excellent job. Mark, the lead singer and snappily dressed punk-about-town, greeted me heartily as I walked into the Lounge, then launched into crowd favorite “1984.” Tim Fink did his best Plastic Man-having-an-epileptic-seizure impression behind the drum kit, and Shane and his bass were a blur of frenzied thrashing. Unfortunately, the ass-dragging line outside the club held us up enough that we missed most of the Juvinals set, so one more song was all we were treated to. Mark suggested a cover of “Teenage Kicks,” much to Tim’s chagrin. “Whatever, it’s your band,” Tim remarked snidely into his mic, no doubt a reflection of the palpable affection these two feel for each other and a result of the two solid weeks they spent sandwiched together in a van immediately preceding this, the final show of their tour. Such an open display of fondness for ones band mates set the tone perfectly for the love visions about to occur on the stage next door.

We hit the bar for a beverage and skipped into the Showroom with high positive anticipation for everybody’s favorite bucktoothed, barefoot, and often pantless entertainer, Nobunny. The event MC, Zac Damon (ex-Zoinks, Big In Japan, Screeching Weasel), stepped to the mic and did the honors of the introductions. I’m not sure how many people in the audience were wise to the hip bubble gum sounds and improbable appearance of this greasy rabbit-human hybrid, but it took no time for the crowd to warm to his elegant banter (I read online that he got so high before the set he could barely speak) and asses were shake-a-lakin’ a few bars into the opening number, “Nobunny But Me,” a cleverly retooled cover of the Human Beinz classic. There is a timelessness to Nobunny tunes, their aural aesthetic somewhere between Milk’n’Cookies and Chuck Berry. I cheered for the good-time, sugary, ‘70s keg party sounds of “Mess Me Up,” and Attila and I screamed in abject glee when the guitar rang out the opening notes of the Okmoniks’ cover, “Not That Good.” The band, half of whom were incognito adorning brightly colored Lone Ranger masks, laid back, kicking the appropriate amount of ass, leaving Nobunny to his hopping about. And, goddamn, can that bunny hop! Sadly, no bunny junk was exposed, but rumor has it he’s making his way back through the high desert in May. Perhaps then we’ll be treated to a slutty Nobunny pants-off dance off when he treads the basement concrete at the Red Rock.

Alcoholic fortification was required after Nobunny’s set, so again to the bar we retired, though quickly, as Sacramento’s favorite sons and daughter, The Bananas, were ripe to take the stage in the Lounge. I am embarrassed to say that this was my first exposure of any kind to these purveyors of punk rock rambunctiousness, and I thought to myself, “What the hell have you been doing the past fifteen years that was so important it prevented you from picking up a Bananas CD?” I checked for the answer at the bottom of my beer, but it wasn’t there. Attila was keen to their sounds, a frenetic whirl of furious punk with a nice dose of hard candy pop, like throwing a bag of Jolly Ranchers into a blender for a few seconds and downing the partially liquefied cocktail. Sure, it’s sweet as hell, but there are jagged shards floating around inside that will slice your tongue to ribbons if you’re not careful. I can’t name a single song they played, but I can attest to the fact that, fifteen years on, the Bananas still got the goods.

Putting the three bands that played up to this point on a bill would have made for a fantastic show, but this was no ordinary party. The next band released what most consider to be Slovenly Recordings finest LP, and I’m among that group. The Spits took the stage cloaked in torn bed sheets and four, count ‘em, four Ronald Reagan masks and ratcheted up the energy level exponentially. The tunes came rapid fire with scarcely enough room between them to fit a cigarette paper. “Nuclear Bomb,” “Spit Me Out,” “PTC,” “Let Us Play Your Party,” holy fuck, it seemed the roof would simultaneously come crashing down and be blown off the top of the place. Demolition and rejuvenation in one swing of the wrecking ball. The crowd, crazed from having the Cro-Magnon sector of its collective brain diddled, pulsed with mongoloid electricity. After an hour the Spits were done, leaving everyone with dopey smiles of contentment plastered all over their faces.

Zac was onstage in the Lounge by the time we shifted rooms. He was joined by a three vaguely familiar faces, the night’s mystery band, but there was something slightly askew about their collective appearance. Could the guitarist’s/singer’s massively buffed arms and well defined lats really belong to Steve Pilace? Was the Sunset Strip rocker shag haircut, complete with blond streaks (egads!) really obscuring the face of Fuckin’ Joey Travers (Bon Joey!)? Did the…well, Corky looked exactly the same. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was the next night headliners, the Gain, tuning up to play a short teaser set to get everyone properly lubricated for Saturday. They knocked out four or five songs, Crazy Wayne kicking things off, much to the crazed, visceral pleasure of the audience. But, I’ll save a proper review for their set on Saturday.

When word of the Stickerguy! Bash began worming its way through Reno and, later, the internets, my first and only thought went to one band: Scared Of Chaka. The best memories I have of shows that took place in the early to late ‘90s all include SoC’s best lineup of Yanul, Dameon, and Ron. No matter if it were a basement show, party, a show in a garage, or one in a club, Scared Of Chaka rocked like they were trying to shake boulders loose from the sides of mountains. Could the Stickerguy!, using his legendary charm and finely honed powers of persuasion, produce a reunion show that folks from Sardinia to the ‘Burque would trip violently over themselves to attend? You bet your sweet ass he could!

Zac took the stage to introduce the band and straight away mentioned Dameon’s new “bohemian trucker” aesthetic. He couldn’t have stated it better—the high-flying bass player had filled out a bit, covered parts of his body with tattoos (was that a battleship across his chest?), and stylishly wore a mesh trucker cap. The dude looked like he moonlights hauling tomatoes in an 18 wheeler. Ron and Yanul looked much the same as they did back in the ‘90s, a little grey hair around the temples, but no worse for the wear. The lights went down, the band took their places and launched into an unbelievable set that included material from each of their full length albums and most of their 7”s. I’d been waiting to hear “Why Are You Weird” performed live since they released Crossing with Switchblades, and when they played it two songs in my brain spun around inside my head and the electricity that filled the room jolted my legs into action. Yanul banged on his guitar and sang with reckless abandon and wild emotion. Dameon bounced along with his baselines (though the high flying, acrobatic leaps he used to execute were absent) and Ron bashed his kit while providing spot-on backing vocals. The songs sounded fucking incredible, like the band had been playing together non-stop for the ten years since their last show. The opening chords to “Goodsky” rang out and, when I looked around the audience, everyone in the house was shouting along: “Take it like I knew you would/I don’t want to but I should.” Pete climbed onstage 2/3 of the way through the set with shots for the band and said a few heartfelt words about the memories that were flooding his brain of putting out SoC records and being on tour with them. He was feeling the same things that many in the crowd were, experiencing glorious sentiments about what the band meant to each person in attendance. Luckily, the night was free from the nostalgia that could have easily weighed things down. Scared Of Chaka launched into “Toilet Duck” towards the end of the set and, again, it sounded far too good to remain standing still. The band left the stage for a moment and returned to play what the entire place was waiting to hear. “Horshack” finished off one of the best sets I’ve ever seen; the crowd pistol whipped into a magnificent catharsis.

The night was far from over as mysterious and possibly terrorist-linked DJ, Dabib Brustafa, spun excellent ‘60s soul and garage in the Lounge. The show turned into a superb dance party, and Attila and I grooved and shook our asses with delirious fervor, trying our damnedest to twist holes in the bottoms of our Chuck Taylors. We stuck around until past 3:00 AM and headed home to try to get some rest for Night Two, which promised to be every bit as astonishing as the first.

Saturday night started off with two more local bands, the Atomiks and Scurvy Bastards. Zac continued to handle the MC-ing, announcing that he finally went to sleep after Friday night’s show…at 11:00 AM Saturday morning! The Atomiks set was a fine half hour of twanging rock’a’billy tunes. The standup bass player put on a fantastic show, twirling his monstrous instrument and seemingly making it bend to his will. The guitarist/singer, George, bellowed his way through the songs and ripped off fantastic leads effortlessly. The drummer, well, the drummer looked bored out of his mind, like he couldn’t wait to hop off his stool and head home for bed. This didn’t detract at all from the two front men, though, and it was a promising way to start off the evening. The Scurvy Bastards, purveyors of pissed-off pirate punk, took it away next in the Showroom. Growling menacingly, Brooke, the singer, paced the stage like a hungry, irritated zoo animal, the front row of people his possible evening entrée. Yes, the sea was angry this night, and nobody could tame the wild squall of sound blaring from the speakers. The bass churned, the guitar howled, and the violin leant an eerie atmosphere when the songs veered into quieter waters. The locals, again, showed up big to whip everyone into a frothy sea foam of killer rock’n’roll.

The Sacramento tie was held over for the second night with the Troublemakers, celebrating their own 15 year anniversary, bringing their brand of modern ‘60s garage rock to the Lounge. Tim blew harp and sang like a man possessed by the spirit of lustful centaur, the crowd’s sex juices bubbling to the surface and exploding. Two of the guys in the band are a bit older, but their age didn’t stop the guitar player and drummer from popping off orgasmic licks and pounding lascivious beats. The Sonics cover they played went over like a kilo of coke at a narcotics anonymous meeting. Happy anniversary, fellas, here’s to 15 more years!

The next band’s inclusion on the bill caught me completely by surprise. When word of the Stickerguy! Bash began worming its way through…damn, used that one already. The Gain were as synonymous with fantastic 702 recordings and brilliant Reno shows as Scared Of Chaka. They even split sides on a 7” back in the day. But, I was completely unprepared to hear that they were reuniting to give their walloping dose of Kinks-inspired punk to the masses ten years after their last show. Steve’s quirkiness was still evident underneath all the musculature and it was astonishing to hear how tight they were. They played all the fan favorites—“Go Today,” “Told You So,” “Crazy Wayne,” “You Should Know”—and even pried Corky from his drum stool to come up front to sing a rousing rendition of “Song for Saturday.” I was blown away by the sheer volume of the set. Goddamn, were they loud! And the guy they had playing with them on second guitar, the 4th Gain member, if you will, was hopped up on jumping beans. The guy had on some tight assed pants that revealed a fat slice of butt crack every time he turned his back to the audience, and he spent at least half of his stage time airborne, the antidote to Dameon’s missing high flying act the night before. The one complaint I had about the entire two days worth of shows was the number of annoying folks who were shooting video and taking pictures of the Gain. They must’ve brought a bunch of people with them to document the event for posterity’s sake, and the videographer and photographers quickly made nuisances of themselves, standing in the middle of the stage right in front of the band, obscuring the view for anyone standing in the crowd. It bummed me out slightly, but not enough to detract from the overall insanity of seeing the Gain.

As if things could get any better at this point, the Rippers, all the way from Italy, began playing in the Lounge. The room throbbed like a heart pumping teenage grease through the arteries of a pimpled, sex-crazed, irresponsible adolescent, and three of the four guys in the band looked like they fit that description themselves. The singer, the only one who looked like he might have been alive when the amphetamine-based style of ‘60s rock’n’roll which the Rippers practice was originally popular, was a tightly wound ball of manic energy, shaking his sunglasses right off his face at one point, leaning on the mic stand to stabilize himself when it looked he was on the verge of collapse. The youngsters, dressed to the nines in impeccably hip attire, blistered their instruments to a bubbling pustule of sonic infection that burst all over the crowd. Needless to say, we ate it up, happy to contract whatever super virus the Rippers had to spread. They played both songs from the Slovenly 7” and laid waste to everything and everyone in the room. Their U.S. tour is over, but, with any luck, they’ll be back before too long to re-infect us with their sex-drenched raunch.

The legend of Dragonfire preceded the Stickerguy! Bash and for good reason. This band of fucked-up misfits and weirdos have a reputation for the kind of goodtime mayhem, replete with New Year’s Eve poppers and tons upon tons of silly string, that isn’t seen enough these days. The two front men, Norman and Justin, are each a few cards shy of a full deck in the brains department, but they bring the rock with a conviction and flair that few bands with ten times the collective intellect can muster. Attila and I took our spots as close to the front of the stage as we could get and within seconds of beginning his introduction, Zac was covered head to toe in silly string. Norman “the Sexecutioner” appeared on stage in an executioners mask and Justin walked out dressed in a suit looking like a dapper, heavier version of Clark Kent. Before they could get to their microphones, they, too, were covered in flurries of silly string and the pop-pop-pop of poppers filled the Showroom. Steve Pilace was on drums, the 4th Gain member on guitar, a guy named Timbecile on bass, and a wacked-out glam punk on 2nd guitar. The first song began and Justin promptly stripped off his suit to reveal a Superman costume distending over his enormous belly. The rock came raining down like the unholy wrath of god himself. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Rock’n’Roll All Night,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” all the while the guitarists feeding lyric lines into the singers’ ears. Ladies were invited to join them onstage, and as they danced, I thought, “And now we get to witness a retarded person sexually assault one of the crowd members.” It was like your most insane dream/nightmare come to life and entertaining the fuck out of you for half an hour. The Showroom looked like the streets of Kabul when they were done.

This should have been the end of the show, but those who stuck around were treated to a second set from Scared Of Chaka before DJette Dulcinea took over the turntables with more danceable hits to keep the party going. Attila and me? We had taken in all that we could and headed home for the weekend. It was, without question, one of the best parties I’d ever been to, and word is spreading that there’s another in the works for sometime later this summer. So, book your plane tickets. It’s bound to be a good ‘un.