Monday, January 3, 2011


A few months ago I was asked via email to contribute some "Cheater Slicks memories" for an Australian fanzine (print! a print fanzine!) called NEGATIVE GUEST LIST. I was more than happy to oblige, and in the brief interim, editor Brendon Annesley sent me some back issues of what is a pretty crazed, 80s-style cut-and-paste garage punk magazine. I like how slapdash the thing is, how utterly nonsensical it is in parts, and how it looks even less sophisticated than my own crude fanzine efforts twenty years ago.

Annesley and his crew have a strong taste for the bleeding and noisy edge of garage-oriented punk rocknroll, and thus, their new issue, #19, with a great CHEATER SLICKS overview written by the band's drummer Dana Hatch. It's punctuated with other interviews and recollections from Larry Hardy, Merle Allin and yours truly. Annesley emailed me on "deadline day" and reminded me I promised him I'd write something about the band, so I quickly coughed up this hairball with my morning coffee, a story of the best Cheater Slicks show I ever saw. If you're interested in ordering the magazine, more info can be found here.

There was a particular Cheater Slicks gig in my hometown of San Francisco that stands proudly as one of the most jaw-dropping rock and roll experiences ever witnessed by man or beast. I’d tell you that I’d seared the October 10th, 1995 date of the blessed event into my brain if I thought you’d believe it – but nah, I looked it up on the information superhighway just now. Most transcendent rock experiences are usually recounted as “The First Time I Ever Saw…” (nope, I’d seen the Cheater Slicks play twice before) or “The Day The Band Got Into A Fistfight On Stage, and Then Inexplicably Kicked Out The Jams” (none of that). This was just a show – a show from the era’s most incendiary howling garage cyclone of a band, whom had probably played a dozen such shows on their “Don’t Like You” tours that year and the year before.

The Cheater Slicks told me what the secret sauce of the evening’s magic was when, mouth agape, I asked them what the fuck had just happened. They’d played Portland, Oregon the night before, see, and had left that city at 3 in the morning for the long drive south. No one slept during the entire ten hour drive, despite trying, and once they arrived in San Francisco past lunchtime, no one could find it in themselves to catch even a wink of sleep. So this pissed-off, bedraggled, unshaven and unshowered trio of sleepless rock miscreants suffered through the indignities of the soundcheck; the turgid, crushing hours of the interminable pre-show wait; and of course, the de rigueur hideous opening bands before unloading it all on the stage.

They arrived at their anointed hour angry and a little unsteady, and it showed. Both Shannon brothers slashed at their guitar strings like they deliberately wanted to snap them, and I remember Dave Shannon taking every opportunity to turn his back to the audience and crouch in front of his amp to emit high-decibel squeals, hiss and feedback. Just because it would hurt, is how I read it. A lot of the time he wasn’t even really playing, per se, but was instead just letting the thing feed back at top volume and shaking it violently to vary the tone. And Dana Hatch – good lord. That guy is a Neanderthal skin-basher even on a bad day, but tonight, with eyes bleary and throat raw, he was a friggin’ possessed animal. One crazed, ear-splitting number after another, with no breaks for tuning nor audience banter nor nothing – “Trouble Man”, “Wedding Song”, “Feel Free” and especially, whoa: “Sadie Mae”. It was one of those shows where strangers in the audience turn to each other after a song and laugh in amazement – then share a high-five before buckling up and settling in for the next firebreather.

Something tells me the Cheater Slicks slept well that night, whether on someone’s garage floor, a moldy futon, or in the competitively upscale environs of a Motel 6, three disgustingly unkempt men to a bed. They earned such comforts with their valiant and heroic efforts in San Francisco that night, and it’s one of those live shows I’ll never forget.