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Confessions of a Music Geek - by Evan Symons
I spent all of my teenage years on a constant search for new music. Most of my teenage years occurred in the 1970ís. I developed a keen interest in progressive rock which inevitably lead me to some of my favourites like Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, King Crimson and finally the Residents and Snakefinger.
I always wanted to have long hair because my step father, who always wore a crew cut, insisted that I keep it short all through elementary and high school. I grew up in the 1970ís, so I was an easy target for childhood ribbing. All of my idols had long hair even though none of them played for 1980ís hair bands.
Once I was living on my own, I used to let my curly locks grow until they were completely unmanageable, and then cut them short. I finally realized that if I cut my bangs and left the rest to grow, I too could have long hair! This realization occurred in about 1985. I didnít realize that this hairstyle would later be labeled either "Hockey Hair" or "Mullet." I just liked how it looked even though by that time I was more likely to be listening to Leonard Cohen than even the freak-rock of my youth and I never liked hockey. I recently realized after looking at the Diamond Dogs album, that perhaps David Bowie actually invented the mullet.
I could grow a moustache by the time I was 15. This helped me get booze. I cut it off in 1985, and my girlfriend at the time told me to grow it back so I did, leaving it until 1998. I didnít realize that this was going to ensure that given my hair, I was going to look like Yanni. I didnít know who Yanni was. However, that didnít stop a friend from calling me "Yanni Nugent".
So here I am, a grown adult just wanting to be me. At work, I was continually chided for having long hair. I couldnít go a day without someone saying "get a hair cut". It was just like being in elementary school again. All of the people I worked with assumed I kept hair long because of my music career. The people at work didnít realize that punk rockers hated long hair and moustaches.
My only real exposure to hair metal occurred in 1987/1988 when I met Jerry who at the time was 17 and could play all of the Randy Rhoads leads on Ozzy Osbourne records. I liked Black Sabbath when I was 14, so I thought it was kinda neat even though I hadnít listened to anything resembling metal in years. I was always kind of a crappy singer, so I thought it would be good practice to sing in Jerryís band. We played lots of teenage parties and peaked at grad 1988 when we borrowed a generator and played until 5 in the morning. This really was a lot of fun, and after years of playing screwed up music to an ever diminishing group of friends, it was just great to perform to people who were really into it even if we did it for free. I used to bug Jerry about his acid wash jeans which were all the rage at the time.
At 25, I moved to Vancouver in the summer of 1988. I had no clue how out of place I was going to be. My girlfriend and her brother bought me this expensive jean jacket that was really nice and had lots of pockets. However, it was ironically acid wash but it have been rude not to wear it. Jerry of course had to get a couple of digs in but I didnít think anything more of it. Jerry had given us a copy of a picture that had been taken of him in Prince George with his long flowing hair and his Steve Vai flame guitar. I put the picture up in my house because he was one of my best friends and weíd had so much fun together. My half-brother who lived in Dawson Creek BC and was now a teenager himself, gave me a Led Zeppelin flag for Christmas. I hadnít really listened to them much since the 70ís but I still liked them, so I put the flag up. By 1989, I thought it would be a good idea to join a prog rock band because they not only wanted a guitar player, but a backup singer and I thought it would be good to work on my harmony singing and it would be cheaper than lessons.
After doing all of this, I went back to playing my not quite as weird music and also started recording bands at my house with Jerryís picture and the Led Zeppelin flag. One guy who was in a Sonic Youth clone band must have felt that it was okay to copy his heroes but not okay for anyone else. He sneered at Jerryís picture. I had to take the Led Zeppelin Flag down for obvious reasons. Grant Lawrence currently on CBC radio and the singer for the Smugglers used to write for Discorder which is the CITR college radio magazine. He described me as the "acid-wash mustachioed Evan Symons." Nardwuar, who I later worked with for 9 years on Thunderbird Radio Hell on CITR (a show I now host) described the prog rock band as a "total loser outfit". However, when I cut off my moustache in 1998, Rob Dayton of Canned Hamm (who also have moustaches), said "How can he change rock without a moustache?"
I was on the bus once, and a female punk rocker who was riding with a number of partying friends handed me her camera and said "Here Billy Ray Cyrus, take our picture" I told her to fuck off, so she asked me "Who do you adore?" I told her Frank Zappa and took their picture.
Isnít it funny how in vegan land, the vegetarian is the outcast. I was on tour in 2001 and had a couple days off, so I thought Iíd head from Hamilton to Stratford Ontario and meet Nick from Lungbutter who had booked me there and maybe put up a few posters. It turned out that there was a big show that night and one of the main bands "Da Bloody Gashes" turned up at Nickís shortly after me. I had been on tour a couple of weeks at that point and had been finding it difficult to find vegetarian food. Given that Da Bloody Gashes were Vegan, they were having an even harder time. Mentioning that I had taken to eating Seven Layer Burritos at Taco Bell because it was easy pretty much put a "goof" label on my forehead in the eyes of the Da Bloody Gashes.
Later, they were describing to Nick about how Nardwuar essentially got them a distribution deal with Scratch Records in Vancouver. I donít think they actually wanted to hear me when I mentioned I knew both Nardwuar and Keith the owner of Scratch. After they played, I bought their record and suggested that if they were Vancouver they could play my radio show. They didnít seem to want to play my show at all.
When we got back from the show, a couple of members of the band noticed my poster on Nickís coffee table. They immediately started making jokes about it and my moustache. "Is he from Stratford?", "Is he the guy who kept hugging us", "He should lose the moustache!" I replied "actually that is me, but you can keep slagging the poster if you want to."
After I listened to them talk for another hour or so, I finally I had enough of them even though they reminded me of me when I was their age. I went out and slept in the van. The next morning I almost went back in the house to use the toilet, but decided against it because I didnít want to endure Da Bloody Gashes for another second. I was on my way to the Maritimes and headed east. I pulled into a gas station just west of Kingston (at least 200 kilometres from Stratford). I phoned my girlfriend and started making jokes about Da Bloody Gashes. Next thing I look over and there they were. I think they heard me. My girlfriend and I both agreed that it was definitely time to split - fast.
I phoned Nardwuar later in Ottawa while doing my laundry to see what the real story was on Da Bloody Gashes. He said that they had just sent Scratch their record, and when they got no response, they emailed him to see if he could help. Nardwuar told them to try again, which they did successfully. He didnít feel that heíd gotten them on Scratch, just that he told them to keep trying.
You know, I really enjoyed Da Bloody Gashes setÖ
A friend of mine told me once when something is so out of fashion that it is parodied, it is about to become in fashion again. The next year when I went on tour, a woman in Sudbury saw the same poster and said "grow the moustache back!" For a while in 2002, with the exception of the drummer (I keep wondering if she sometimes painted one on for a joke?) everyone in the Vancouver band "Black Rice" had a moustache. Even Keith, owner of Scratch distribution grew a moustache he actually waxed his!
Anyways, two years later, I was booking tour, and looking for a show in Montreal which I never got. Chloe, who was my first pick of who I wanted to contact on the Book Your Own Fucking Life site (http://www.byofl.org) wrote "I book only art rock/experimental indie, hxc, noise and punk. Not straight up hxc- just arty, envelope pushing' stuff." Her email address didnít work, but later when I was looking on www.montrealshows.com, I found someone with the name Chloe who was only answering email at email@example.com hmmmÖ.
In 2002, when I was booking my fall tour, I really wanted to get all ages shows and sent a pile of stuff to people doing punk shows etc on the Book Your Own Fucking Life site. I didnít really get a lot of responses except in Belleville where I did play (the person who booked me was actually only 16). I got this email from a guy in Winnipeg who said that when he got the "Dance With The Geeks" cd, he was really mad at me but he didnít say why. Then he listened to it and thought it was quite funny and agreed an all-ages crowd would likely like me. I guess he must have thought that some metal guy with a mullet was making fun of geeks or something. Anyways, "Dance With The Geeks" is a joke song in 3 different time signatures where I spout dance song cliches (sortaÖ). It is also a tribute to John Geek who is now in the Fleshies (on Alternative Tentacles). I met him through Nardwuar and played one of his "Geek Fests" at 924 Gilman in Berkeley (a relatively famous all-ages venue). I really liked how they were once the outcasts of Gilman during its grindcore era but kept at it until they became staples there. He used to sing back up in a band named "Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits". I thought it was totally cool when I first met them and they picked me up in a car that was blaring "Weíre Only In It For the Money" by the Mothers of Invention even though the record was considerably older than they were.
I must apologize to Da Bloody Gashes and wish Chloe the best of luck in the future. Shortly after meeting them, while postering in Montreal, I noticed they were practically the only band who had posters up. I also totally respect that theyíve continued to tour in other bands.