We go way back, me and Dead and Gone.
All the way back to a big white house on 1st Street, where the band found themselves booked alongside Humpy at the last minute in one of those glory-days Missoula shows where the least organized and most poorly attended shows were some of the most indelibly memorable.
It was summer of 1995. Dead and Gone had one EP and a crushingly heavy track on the This is Berkeley—Not West Bay comp under their belts at the time, had never been to Missoula before, and were just starting to emerge from a phase which skeptics wrote off as a derivative Neurosis steez that was competent for the style—dark, quasi-metallic hardcore—just not entirely original.
Singer Shane Baker sang his vocals through a borrowed bass amp, using in lieu of a microphone stand (which no one thought to round up for the occasion) a microphone lashed to the handle of an upright vacuum cleaner sitting on a milk crate for added height (The vacuum cleaner, by the way, stayed in the Humpy equipment inventory for three or four years. During its tenure, it was probably the one thing we had that didn’t get lost, stolen or destroyed). The band played on the picture-window end of one long room while most of the sparsish audience sat cross-legged on the floor at the other end of the room or milled around by the kitchen. Exactly the kind of slapdash, indifferent show that bands dread falling into on the road.
Before the show they had been cordial in a biting way, a kind of reserved nihilistic manner that I hadn’t experienced before but have many times since. Their half-hour set was furious: singer Baker staggering around bellowing like a wounded steer, Brian Stern peeling off the wikkid basslines, Rockey Crane hunched over his guitar and torturing the signal with Echoplex, and drummer Joey Perales kicking the other three in the ass with dirty, dirty beats, heavy on the floor tom, the muscular plinth of the whole sound. I’d never seen a show where I got such a strong feeling that the band was taking something out on the audience.
There was a disagreement. A year passed. Then another. Alabama wildman Ken Sanderson launched his new label, Prank Records, with a Dead and Gone 12-inch called TV Baby, a record that fleshed out the creepy, brooding sound that Dead and Gone were just delving into when they played in Missoula. They also released a full-length LP, God Loves Everyone But You (obsidian thunder, menacing and seductive) for Alternative Tentacles and came back to Missoula in early 1997. Their set was tremendous, amends were made for previous pettiness and Dead and Gone hit the road again, only to break up while still on tour in Texas.
Three of them got together again—minus Shane Baker—and formed Creeps on Candy. That was fine. But one day Baker came back, and the raddest punk sound this side of the Ring of Fire was back in business.
Dead and Gone slay Jay’s Upstairs Thursday, July 20 at 10 p.m. Cover TBA.