First part of a continuing series.
It all started with a Flaming Lips T-shirt.
It was September 1989, and I knew absolutely nobody. It was my freshman year at Auburn, and all of my Decatur friends were either back home or at other schools. Hence, I was on my own when it came to building up a crew of “homies.” Bear in mind that this was initially an exciting prospect, my new found cipher-dom: I knew nobody, but, more important, nobody knew me. They would be unfamiliar with my history as a loudmouthed, overbearing malcontent who tried way too hard to “be” a particular label. I mean, I had gone from Ducky to Ian MacKaye to Rudi Protrudi to Hardy Ramone to Johnny Indie-Prep in the span of 24 months, but they didn’t have to know that. Well, they wouldn’t have to know that once I found them.
I loved music, and at this particular stage in life I was still heavy on the whole Sub Pop scene as well as feeding my requisite addiction to garage punk bands. The bedroom in my Burton Street apartment was crammed with vinyl, and I was chomping at the bit to show off my musical tastes and limited, colored-vinyl singles oh-so-carefully stacked. And this particular September Saturday was going to offer me the perfect opportunity. Bone Dali was playing.
More will be said of Bone Dali in the future, but it needs be noted that, at his juncture, Bone Dali was more than an Auburn institution; they were an Alabama fixation. Sure, our fair state had its share of local bands of worth. Skeletal Earth and the always-possibly-defunct Monster Dog ruled the Huntsville scene, and the name Vacation Bible School seemed to waft out of Birmingham on occasion, but Bone Dali … EVERYBODY knew Bone Dali. This was the time of the slap bass, when all white punks still listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and copped to it. And Auburn was the home of Alabama’s funk-noise extravaganza. From Dothan to Decatur, everyone in every scene knew Bone Dali, and, like me, were probably fans even though they had never actually heard the band (please note that this was a recurring trait of mine — I was a HUGE fan of certain bands who I thought looked cool but had never listened to). This night I was finally going to hear them when the show started at 8 o’clock.
I showed up at 6 o’clock.
The show was being held in the backyard of the infamous “Bone Dali House,” a duplex(?) on the corner of West Glenn and Toomer Street. It was called the “Bone Dali House” because, as legend had it, at one time or another all the members had lived there. I wanted to get there early so I could ingratiate myself into their favour and become their new best friend and toady. Instead, I had to stand outside the garage and chain smoke. For a long time.
And that’s when I first met Stuart E.
As I lit yet another Camel, I noticed a tall, lanky, and, yes, TALL guy milling about like myself, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Desperate to have someone to talk to, my mind raced to come up with a pithy conversation starter. All I could say was:
“Hey, man, cool shirt.”
And that’s how it started.
Stuart was wearing a Flaming Lips T-shirt, and we immediately started talking about their recent Sub Pop single, “Drug Machine.” Specifically, we both praised the B-side, a cover of The Sonics’ “Strychnine” that segued seamlessly into “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding.”
So we stood and talked and smoked as the Autumn sun set, waiting for the band to set up and the garage doors (which led to the sealed-off backyard) to open. As people began to show up and the crackle of amps started to be heard, I came to the realization that the roller coaster ride was about to begin.
Little did I know I was in the kiddie park …
Hardy Gilbert was double-bred to be an Auburn Tiger. His parents met while attending Auburn, insuring a childhood of Autumn afternoon tailgating. Both he and his sister went to school, met their spouses, and now raise their families in the Loveliest Village on the Plains, although Hardy still insists he was hoodwinked by a red-headed devil of a woman. Write to him at [email protected]