Friday January 11th, 2002 at The Pirate House in Lawrence, KS
Chimera, The Syndicate, When Good Robots Go Bad, & The Fall of Rome a.k.a. Dick Chaney's Dick

Chimera The Syndicate When Good Robots Go Bad The Fall of Rome [more]

A Pirate House show that is preceded by me eating an entire pizza at Rudy’s is bound to be memorable. Maybe there will even be vomit! We can only hope. But even if there isn’t bile, there is sure to be loads of chaos, and a fair amount of mess. Touring bands like xbxrx, The Locust, and The Faint all packed the house’s three public rooms and left the too-young-to-know-better-and-too-hip-to-care residents hours of clean-up and repair work. By midnight each of those bands will have been undone by nine kids, few old enough to leave the city without their parents’ consent, none old enough to have a drink in a bar.

Around 8pm the first (and unannounced) band of the night began their three or four song set. This would have been an exceptionally short set if they hadn’t played each of their songs three times -- I believe it was the second time through that had the most heart. In typical Pirate House fashion, this band seems to have formed three weeks ago and was comprised of members of other similarly unknown bands and whatever friends happen to be sitting around. Case in point: I heard drummer Chris Befort tell a converted fan that he didn’t even own a drum kit. It didn’t matter though. It was their energy and the attitude that will carry this band exactly as far as they want it to go (which I’m sure is not much further than the front room at the Pirate House). Talent and musical virtuosity will have nothing to do with it.

I later found out the band is calling itself The Fall of Rome (probably already taken) or Dick Cheney’s Dick (probably more appropriate). Besides Dick Cheney’s Dick has opened up the following reviews that were suggested by the band: "Dick Cheney's Dick spews leftist bullshit and is generally poor in nature." or "Dick Cheney's Dick's performance last night was short, lacked energy and in general was very unsatisfying." Ya gotta like the kids.

The preparation for When Good Robots Go Bad’s set must have begun weeks ago. Moments before the band began, I watched as a Triceratops piñata was loaded with virgin’s blood (well they tried for virgin’s blood but it’s impossible to find in the hardcore scene, so they made their own out of corn syrup, water and red food coloring) and then hung from the ceiling above the band. On the Triceratops was written "Chimera", the night’s headliner and the band’s archrivals.

The quartet (bass/vocals, guitar, vocals, & drums) began their set with a quick hit of noise that seemed to be equal parts punk, hardcore and crust. Dual male/female screams kept everything on a precarious edge while the rest of the band pulsed and rumbled along. When the chaos meter needed an extra push into the red, an evil fighting robot entered the pit to swing at the tethered "chimera".

If the law of entropy needed any further proof, a random wommin wandered into the house and began to scream along with vocalist Flannery Cashill. The audience’s reaction is worth noting. How would a bunch of leftist and anarchists prepared to live and die by their banners of reciprocity, chaos, and egalitarianism handle the introduction of an alien into their midst? It of course varied. No one was immediately at ease, while others seemed to just enjoy the novelty of a drunken black wommin over the age of thirty at the pirate house. My mind wondered back to all the collectives I’ve been a part of and the hours of meetings devoted to community outreach. All the time we spent discussing plans to bring anarchism to those who weren’t 17-28 year old well-educated white kids with suburban roots. I don’t think we were ever happy with the results.

Meanwhile back at the Pirate House, the chimera piñata was ultimately freed of its sticky red contents although [fortunately] the audience wasn’t splattered in quite the way the band had hoped for. In fact the chimera-in-effigy only bled limply down on an electrical power strip. Cashill lapped up the chimera’s blood as it fell and later in the evening went directly to the source, drinking the unholy concoction from plastic bottles that held Hi-C a few days ago in some band member’s mother’s well-stocked refrigerator.

The Chimera crew was passive enough throughout most of the set, taking their punishment only because they knew they’d have their laugh last. Their sole act of defiance came when two masked men stormed the "stage" with a small tin foil and cardboard robot and proceeded to stomp it into its recyclable components. The band ended their set with a flaming robot helmet, small fire risks, and considerable chaos.

Although the show was billed as a benefit for the planning and execution of the North American Anarchist Gathering this summer in Lawrence, no band specifically mentioned the "reason for the season" as it would be. Each band did however execute their vision of anarchy: three of the bands with a healthy dose of chaos, the fourth with a call to wits and rebellion. The Syndicate brought the message of the struggle.

The Syndicate has been around for probably two years and in that time it has played few venues other than The Pirate House. Certainly the band’s metallic leads over herky-jerky song structures and screamed vocals could pass at nearly any other club in town, but it’s the other half of the band’s set that may not translate to the bigger stages. When at The Pirate House, singer/bassist Tyler Galloway is able to look his audience in the eye while he explains what each song is about. There is a definite connection being made that can’t be made with bright stage lights in your eyes. Without that connection, without the audience buying into this process, the band seems trite.

On this night, though, the band was able to speak to most of the audience and its political songs calling for social justice were heard. True to the genre, many of the song topics are covered again and again, but The Syndicate does present others that seem very fresh. In "Hogwash" Tyler sings about factory farming organizations’ ability to move to any farmland they want, any that they feel is profitable, use that land until they no longer need it, then move on. This leaves the local landowning farmers stuck with the farmland for better or worse -- usually worse after Archer Daniels Midland has been there.

While the band continues to explore new topical frontiers, musically the band hasn’t strayed from its heads-up hardcore mission. It felt as though the newer songs might be more involved, more constructed, which, if true, can only mean better things for the band. The Syndicate’s road isn’t easy as it’s destined to fight fiercely for a reward of dozens (not more) fans the band will know by name.

As Syndicate drummer Kurt Lane pulled his kick drum from the rug in the corner of the room, Chimera’s drummer reprised the drum kit used by the first two bands of the evening. Although I heartily endorse sharing, I was worried when he later asked to borrow drumsticks as well. Additionally Chimera set up as two guitarists, a bassist and a vocalist. I noted the quality and even style of equipment (bassist Ben Kauffman was playing nylon strings on an amplified acoustic!) varied greatly and, again, this had all the makings of a band created a week ago and destined to fold a week from now. Luckily, this isn’t the case.

Like their namesake, Chimera is shrouded in mystery and legend making it impossible to know all the specifics of its inception. I know they broke up for a while in June of ’01, meaning have been together for sometime before that. I also know the reunion show happened in December of ‘01. With whatever time the band has had, they have used it to create a sound that blends many genres smoothly. Although early work seemed rapid-fire and obvious, their musical maturing has produced a slow and heavy moan that brings to mind the gloomiest moments in metal. Like Sabbath, the band is able to bring all of the theatrics and none of the pretense that other current purveyors, such as Type O-Negative, are plagued with. Additionally, I was terribly impressed that the band was able to move easily through the changes (however plodding at times) despite the incredible chaos that flowed from "stage" to audience and back.

Explaining the energy the band and the audience shared is nearly impossible — the line distinguishing the two nearly invisible. Everyone in attendance created this show, and conversely if you weren’t contributing, it could only be a strange and silly spectacle. I was quickly swept up in the spirit of things and helped devour several robots sending their detached limbs drifting back over the frenzied crowed. Another piñata of sorts (an obligatory robot) was released into the crowd. Robots may use sticks on chimeras though it seems Chimeras use their bare hands (paws?) to rip into their Robot enemies. Instead of virgin’s blood this effigy contained candy and condoms (wasn’t that a Marcy Playground song?) which spilled onto the floor, quickly forgotten and stepped on by the shifting and falling mass that was the band and the audience.

Much quicker than how it started, it was over and the band was told to remove their gear from the room …for the pillow fight. Cushions were gathered from the nearby couches and a no-holds-barred, knock down, push-out pillow fight that pitted the five members of Chimera against the four members of When Good Robots and their one alternate (chosen as the singer from Dick Chaney’s Dick) quickly ensued. More chaos, although this time with teeth. Eventually one man was left standing, Johnny Eggerman of Chimera. Word is that this newest member of Chimera fought dirty, but from where I was cowering, it all looked very dirty, and very fun, to me.