Getting jiggy wit' it 

Burning up and going national with the Fireballs

The Millennium's coming early, and this country will be caught with its trousers askew. The USA's post-Waco separatists and neo-groovy back-to-landers think they have a whole year to redecorate the compound and hit CheapCo to stock up for Helter Skelter. There's a surprise in the mail for these fools.

In some greaseball Missoula basement, four boys from the blasted, damned plains of North Dakota are winding up the Doomsday Clock with mischief in their minds and molten lava in their veins. In six months, mark my words, your children will be their slaves, murmuring their name over and over with dead-eyed looks: "Fireballs... Fireballs... Fireballs..."

Even as you read this, the Fireballs of Freedom-Sam Adams, Troy Warling, Paul Von Wenner, Kelly Gately-are in Seattle recording that rarest of monuments to Missoula rock, a full-length album, set for an October debut.

The Fireballs have done Missoula, they say, and they're pretty much out of here, planning an autumn move to Portland. A burning pillar of the Missoula rock scene since 1993, the band that taught hundreds of yokels how to party Fargo-style is ready to give birth to a terrible new America.

The record will be called The New Professionals, a confident statement coming from a blue-collar quartet whose shattering brand of rock conjures the MC5, Black Flag, AC/DC and Rasaan Roland Kirk. The magnum opus will be recorded at Egg Studios in Seattle, where Conrad Uno runs mojo-soaked vintage equipment rescued from the old Stax/Volt shop years ago.

In their act of off-brand midwifery, the Fireballs' guitars will be forceps, their star-spangled amps will deliver sledgehammer anesthetic. A four-song seven-inch appears at the end of the month on Empty Records, a Washington state imprint of great renown in the national underground, the same label set to release New Pros.

"I wouldn't ever want to cut on Missoula," says guitarist Gately from the front room of the band's cluttered pleasure palace. "We love it here, but it's time. Duty calls. If we stay here too long, something will happen to bog us down. Someone will get too drunk, fall down the stairs and break their arm."

Drummer Adams concurs, breaking his focus on a TV documentary on poltergeists to mutter darkly about kickstarting the "young lions conspiracy" out on the West Coast.

Of course, to really get the job done, the Fireballs have to bid our fair city farewell-hopefully not before reducing it to a graveyard of cinders and broken dreams with one of their trademark shows, the aptly dubbed "rock-and-roll blackouts" that have scarred so many souls.

Anyone who's seen the Fireballs in full flight will likely never forget. The first time I ever saw them, they played a Northside party into the ground. Gately spun out solos the like of which I've never seen, a radical deconstruction of the rules of guitar playing that splintered the band's walloping cock rock into free jazz. Adams rode his kit like a maniacal Pinocchio, his horn-rimmed glasses slipping down his sweat-slicked face. Warling practically strutted behind his bass, slamming down lines laced with funk and metal.

They were blistering fast, loud as hell and they played with wild abandon, an animalistic liberty that made you think they'd blow apart at the seams at any second. And that was before Von Wenner made his way to G-City, toting a raw scream and a guitar style that complements Gately's perfectly.

Half a decade on, they've changed their name (the original moniker, Honky Sausage, will not be explained in the pages of this family newspaper) and gotten better. Way better. They're scary-good, and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world finds out.

If the forthcoming seven-inch is any indication, the world is in for it big-time. With a full-test studio at their disposal, the Fireballs have been unleashed. The band's brimming with sauce and ready to smash the Man. Their songs report back from the wild, dark side of life with no holds barred, and basically make you want to pump your fist and get crazy.

"The album's going to be bigger, dirtier," Gately promises. "Just more of that rock."

Oh yeah. Missoula may be about to lose some of its rock heroes, but we'll still be able to pick up The New Professionals soon, slap it on the hi-fi, crack a beer and watch the mushroom clouds rising to the west.

Photo by Marcy James
The Fireballs of Freedom prepare to take the world—or Portland, at least—by storm.

Ms. Jones in her own words

Getting the scoop on entertainment in Missoula

Many people in Missoula have come to regard reading Sherry Jones' weekly nightlife round-up in the Missoulian's "Entertainer" as a Friday ritual. One staff member here at the Independent can hardly face the weekend without reading her peppy previews. But the diehards will have noticed that the column has been absent from the paper in recent weeks.

In an interview last week, Jones explained that's because she's newly divorced, and single motherhood doesn't necessarily facilitate hitting the bars on a weekly basis. She adds that she's rethinking the decision, in part, because she feels it's her responsibility to alert the town to the presence of bands she considers up-and-coming.

Read on to find out more about the woman behind the cocktail sippin', booty shakin' guide to Missoula nightlife.

Independent: Where were you born?

Sherry Jones: I was born in Amarillo, Texas, but my dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up all over the place. My family is from Kinston, North Carolina, so I feel like I'm from there.

Where did you go to college?

I did two years at Lenoir Community College in Kinston. I've taken classes at UM, but I have yet to finish my degree.

Have you taken any journalism classes?

Nope, never have.

That's not too uncommon.

Yeah, I know. I got my first newspaper job when I was 18.

Where?

The Kinston Daily Free Press.

Were you writing about music?

No, there wasn't any music there. I did everything, I was general assignment, I did sports, I covered meetings nobody else wanted to go to, I was a police reporter on Saturdays. I did an investigative series I was very proud of.

Where did you go from there?

I worked in Philadelphia for about six years at different newspapers. That's where I first worked in entertainment writing. We had a different features section every day, and our Friday section was entertainment.

It was a very exciting time, because the New Wave scene was really happening there. My husband was very into music, so I got to see a lot of really great concerts and the radio was really terrific. They were playing a lot of cutting edge music.

My hair was bleached blond, I had the full make up, I wore high-heeled shoes everywhere I went.

How did you end up in Montana?

I moved here in 1987. My husband wanted to come out here, he was a fly fisherman. We lived in Seattle for seven months and saved our money to take the summer off and hike through Montana. I had never even been hiking before.

We spent three weeks at Glacier Park and got rained on the whole time. I finally said, "Let's just move here and do this stuff on the weekends."

Eventually they had two openings at the Helena Independent Record, and we applied for them and got them. I was the entertainment editor there.

Is this what you pictured yourself doing in life?

I always dreamed of working at The New York Times.

Really?

I still do. My goal is to work there by the time I'm 50.

How's the music scene here compared to Helena?

It's funny, the year I was entertainment editor, there was a lot going on. Right around the time I stopped doing the beat, the music scene really dropped off, but I'm sure it had nothing to do with me! (Laughs)

When did you start at the Missoulian?

July of 1995.

What's your favorite local bar?

The Union Club.

What's your favorite drink?

Pyramid DPA, although I can't find it anywhere. My second favorite is Bombay and tonic.

Do you have a signature dance move?

No, I guess not.

What's the worst or most difficult interview you've ever done for the Entertainer?

The story that was most difficult to do was the one I did about Severt Philleo a year ago. But he wasn't a difficult interview, he was very open. He particularly didn't like the story I wrote because I published some things he would have rather not seen in print.

I think the hardest thing about my beat is that I cover theater, visual arts, dance, music of all kinds; and it's difficult to be knowledgeable about all these different disciplines, so I have to ask a lot of really stupid questions.

What are some of your favorite bands?

I find myself listening to more techno music. I'm listening to A3 right now, which is techno that has some country influences too. I've always liked Madonna. I like Beck. I really like a lot of different kinds of music.

OK, once and for all: who's cuter, Cory Heydon or Colin Meloy from Tarkio?

You know, I've gotta say I think Cory Heydon is the cutest musician in Missoula. He's just so darn cute! And I've told him that. He's very polite.

Photo by Lise Thompson
Sherry Jones, born in Texas, dreams of one day writing for The New York Times


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