Man or Astroman? was a huge deal to me. An impetus. A launching pad. Their silver surfer sounds traveled north to my part of Alabama, reaching my hungry ears around 1994. I went to Huntsville to visit friends at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and they got me hip to Man or Astroman? and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” in one swell weekend. (Did you notice I didn’t mention the co-eds of UAH? Yeah. Those guys weren’t much help there.)
The first listen to Man or Astroman? was mind blowing to me. This band was from Alabama?!?! Auburn, Alabama?!? All of a sudden, Auburn was the center of the South’s musical map in my mind.
At the time, I didn’t know squat about surfer, garage and trash rock. I had no idea what The Cramps were about. I had heard Link Wray’s “Rumble,” but couldn’t tell you that he was responsible for conjuring that dangerous-sounding song. I would eventually seek out regional rockers Los Straitjackets from Nashville and Southern Culture on the Skids from North Carolina because they were often mentioned in the same breath as Man or Astroman?. (Yeah, I think the proper punctuation would be to put a period after that question mark since it is part of their name and even though it ends a sentence.)
Man or Astroman? was the atomic blast that would throw me into a chaotic world of better, interesting music.
I nabbed any 7″ record of theirs available at Sunburst Records in Huntsville that I could find. And then I started grabbing other records too. Thee Headcoats. The Mummies. Bikini Kill. Fun Girls From Mt. Pilot. The Slackers (the punk band from Huntsville).
But my attempts to see Man or Astroman? on stage always ended in failure. Because of horrible luck, they were my personal space-age version of George “No Show” Jones. I traveled to Nashville in 1995 (or maybe ’96) to see them at Lucy’s Record Shop near Vanderbilt. The show was canceled. A few months later I tried to see them at the dingy, grimy Tip Top Cafe on the south side of Huntsville. No dice. Show canceled. But this is a horrible representation of them. MOAM? were known to tour this country and others hard and often! (I would eventually see them during an early afternoon show at City Stages around the year 2000 and write a interview/review for The Plainsman. It was not the experience that I had longed for.)
By the time I transferred to Auburn University in 1997, their vapor trail that led to Athens, Ga., was cold. The band was long gone. And all that was left were the stories of Man or Astroman?’s time on the Plains. I heard snippets of tales: trashed houses, bowling alley shows, etc. Sadly, I’d also heard that the band had grown tired of living in Auburn, realized that they could get more attention in Athens, and had moved. Their new HQ was in Athens. Hated Athens! They would never play in Auburn again.
But now comes word that the band (that disbanded in 2001 or … ahem … retired to their “underground cryogenic center”) is reuniting to play a show at The Bottletree in Birmingham on March 6 (at this time, tickets are available). Another show in Georgia the night before (tickets still available). And more shows at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin later in the month.
And now I must pump information from you, dearest reader, to entertain and delight us all. Were any of you living in Auburn during the early-to-mid ’90s? What were some of your favorite MOAM? memories? Do you have any photos? Any illegitimate space children? Are they responsible for the carbon scoring on your droid and you demand restitution in astronaut ice cream?
Let us know! Send us any photos/stories/recordings/slanderous rumors that you might have and we here at The War Eagle Reader will compile them into a sort of “unofficial oral history” of Man or Astroman?’s time in Auburn.
Click here to read Chunklet‘s interview with Birdstuff (drummer Brian Teasley) about the upcoming reunion shows.
Click here for a list of MOAM?’s six (count them … 6!!!) sessions with John Peel at the BBC (includes audio).