Resident evil 

The Juveniles take on the VFW with old-school rockers VTO

The Juveniles were originally supposed to play instrumental surf, but songs like “Guy in a Bathrobe” and “California Spam Man” beg for some lyrical visuals. The band’s debut album, Take One, combines creeping bass lines with silly images of Nike shower shoes and beer, punctuated with aptly juvenile “fuck yous” and lots of “heys” and “whoas.” “What’s this shit called love?” Answer: “I don’t know. I don’t care.” Of course.

You gotta love the style if you ever did back in the ’90s. It’s all so nicely stripped down: three-chord lo-fi garage rock and Steve Juvenile yelling out the choruses with the cadence of Minor Threat and the gleefulness of the Angry Samoans.

Like so many bands before them—à la the Ramones—members go by the Juvenile last name. It’s Dave and Rick Juvenile on guitars, Al Juvenile on bass and Derek Juvenile on drums. But it must be noted that Dave once went by his true name, Dave Parsons, in the much beloved ’90s-era Missoula band Humpy. And though they’ve played shows here and there over the past few years, the Juveniles haven’t pushed for much beyond their regular practice nights.

“It’s kind of like men’s bowling night for us,” says Parsons. “We play every Monday and we’re not really ambitious about booking shows.”

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That changed in January. The Juveniles are the first band in hopefully a long line of bands with a month-long residency at the VFW bar on Main Street. The venue recently opened its doors to all kinds of live music nights—and it’s turned into a hub for the downtown music scene. With the residency, a new band each month gets to be in the spotlight and hone their live antics.

It gives The Juveniles the option to play every Thursday of the month, plus curate the free show with whatever other bands they desire. That means they can pick wild lineups made up of bands that might not otherwise end up on show-goers radar—including the show this Thursday, Jan. 19, where longtime musician Shane Hickey shows off his ukulele skills and his Cure cover band.

“We have full license to invite whoever we want and that totally gave way to the ukulele thing,” says Parsons. “I don’t think Shane was ready to say yes to a show before. You’re going to get things down here that you might not normally see. And the sky’s the limit.”

On a recent weekday night, for instance, the band played a show with punk favorites Reptile Dysfunction, the fairly hilarious classic-rock band Spirit Hole (members include Volumen’s Doug Smith and coffee roaster extraordinaire Matt McQuilkin) and Throne of Lies (ex-Four Horseman, Judgment Hammer). It was an interesting mix of young musicians and veterans of the old rock era (i.e. Jay’s Upstairs) and everyone in between.

Charlie Beaton, owner of Big Dipper Ice Cream, met with me to discuss the resurrection of his old ’90s era band VTO, which plays with the Juveniles on Jan. 26. Beaton and Parsons, along with so many others at the bar, seem to represent an emerging trend: 40-something musicians who took a several years’ hiatus to have kids and are now returning to the scene to play some rock and roll. And why not?

Here’s a recap of VTO. Original members Beaton, Yale Kaul and Jeremy Richter decide to start a band called the Ice Cream Makers because at the time, in the early ’90s, they all worked at Goldsmith’s Ice Cream Parlor. But then Kaul came up with Vi Thompson Overdrive, named for a longtime career broadcaster on KECI (then KGVO) named Vi Thompson who was, by that time, almost 80.

“She was really cool to us,” says Beaton. “She thought it was pretty funny. She even invited us to her 80th birthday party, so we all went. But then we put this tape [Hamburger] out and we used her picture on it, and then these lawyers gave us a cease and desist order, so we had to buy all our stuff back.”

Vi Thompson passed away a decade later, and the band was mentioned in her obituary.

VTO played venues all around town through the late 1990s, including the memorable 1997 Slabs pizza show (where Taco Sano is now) where a bunch of bands played while the nearby Roxy Theater burned. They had a reunion show in 2000 at Jay’s Upstairs that showcased the band’s cowpunk style.

Though the band hasn’t played since then, Beaton has been writing songs for the last 12 years, creating a decent back catalogue. The line-up has changed over the last two decades but now it’ll be the same as the 2000 lineup: Greg Twigg on bass, Joe Bates on guitar and Brian Collins on drums. It’s not a reunion show, Beaton says—the band plans to stick together for more shows and album recordings into the future.

“This version of the band has turned out to be more punk rock,” he says. “It’s the hardest version we’ve had. No country this time. But we have all these other country kind of songs, so we were calling it the campfire version of VTO and that will be a whole different set down the road.”

For the VFW show, Beaton says they will play half oldies and half new songs. He’s on the fence about the old fave “How To Get To My House from East Missoula” and you probably won’t hear “Busch Pilot.” But you will hear one of the first VTO songs ever written, “1974,” plus “Astronaut Rock” and “Shitfire.” And the new songs will probably not disappoint VTO fans with names like “Hot Yoga” and “Don’t Poop in Your Space Suit.”

So, theme-wise, not much has changed.

From the days when VTO practiced behind the house where Dave Parsons used to live in the early 1990s, the main evolution for both musicians is in the equipment.

“Now we can afford gear,” says Beaton. “I bought a microphone stand the other day and it’s like, you know, this is pretty cool. I don’t have to use a vacuum cleaner as a microphone stand anymore.”

The Juveniles play the VFW this Thu., Jan. 19, at 10 PM with Shane Hickey’s ukulele project and his Cure cover band Cure Music. The Juveniles play the VFW Thu., Jan. 26, at 10 PM with VTO and Cat Heaven. Free.

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