Passing the Torch of Rock

Tonight I took a big leap of faith and resigned myself to several days of nervousness. Sid left with a dufflebag full of clothes and a backpack full of graphic novels, headed over to his friend Dustin’s to spend the night, as he and his band, JUDGMENT HAMMER, are embarking on their first long road trip for a rock show. We aren’t talking about a trip to someplace like Bozeman, or even Seattle. No, they are on their way to Albuquerque, NM. They were invited to play a big thrash metal festival there called THRASHAGEDDON II!

When all the other parents said yes, I couldn’t say no. I made some rules that he needed to abide by over the last couple months, and he held up his end of the bargain. It was still tough to say yes, because he is only 16 (for only just over another month), but I just put myself in his shoes. If I’d had an opportunity like that when I was his age, and my folks said no (they wouldn’t have, I don’t think), I would have been crushed. I know the two main guys in his band — they are older by several years, and I’ve done shows with them in the past, and I feel good enough about it. Good enough, actually, but it’s kind of scary.

I can’t help but reflect on the boy’s musical career to date. He’s come a long way. His first show ever as a drummer was in our family band, Tater Pig. It was Sid, Julia and me. We played the Crazy Daisy, a now-defunct clothing store in Missoula, on March 3rd, 2006. His big debut was on the washboard.

We only played a handful of songs, and he did rock the kit — tentatively — as well.

Some time later (you can measure elapsed time based on both Sid, and my, hair growth; the show was 12/01/2006), the mighty Pig played our second show. Also in a clothing store — this time it was Betty’s Divine.

Like everything else Betty’s-related, it was a blast. Next up, in January ’07, we played the infamous “Vomit Show” at Higgins Hall in Missoula. This was Sid’s one and only experimentation with using hair straightener. He also started feeling sick — really sick — but delivered the goods. As soon as our set was over, though, he bolted for the bathroom and hurled.

In April, Betty’s invited us to play their “Promtana” event, at Crystal Theater. Sid and his buddy Will were dressed to the 9s again in thrift store polyester. The show was a blast, with a large, enthusiastic crowd . . . and we played pretty damn well too!

Tater Pig had a short but glorious run. We did some great shows — like the historic Club Congress in Tucson.

We played a fun show at Mississippi Pizza in Portland.

As well as return engagements in Missoula, like Higgins Hall and The Badlander.

By this point Sid was getting eager to get in a band with kids his own age and play some METAL. We wanted to document what we’d done, and went into the studio to record some songs.

Here is the recording of our cover of “Wicked Annabella” by The Kinks.

And this is our version of the old Son House classic, “Death Letter.”

We recorded some of our own stuff too, but I really like these two songs. We never did anything with these recordings, though maybe some day we will. I love how odd these songs sound; ragged and jangly, a little out of tune, and unique. I haven’t listened to any of this stuff in quite a long time.

Our last show was at the Missoula Public Library, in 2008, I guess. I don’t have any pictures, but I have the entire thing on video. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll do a reunion.

About this time Sid was just getting started playing with some kids his age, when he was called into service to drum for my band, LAZERWOLFS, for a tour we had booked. I’ve told that story here before, of course, but it mainly hinged on our regular drummer getting crossways with the law about two weeks before tour and not being able to go. So we drafted Sid and made him learn about a set’s worth of our songs just so that we wouldn’t have to cancel. The first show he did with us was this outdoor flop of an event called the Snakepit Rally.

Here are a couple songs recorded live, right off the sound board. They’re pretty raw, but keep in mind he’d only had about a week to prepare. I love that straight off the board stuff — it’s so flat and weird sounding!

This is a cover of “Living Backwards” by Saint Vitus.

And this is the Lazerwolfs classic, “Prowl.”

Immediately thereafter we were on the road. He learned what it’s like to play every night, sweat like crazy, and earn some battle scars.

I’d sort of hoped the long drives and interminable boredom of the road would sour him on Rock, but it had the opposite effect. He loved it.

Next up was his career in HELLIANA.

These guys didn’t start out so good, but by the end of their run they were pretty damn solid . . . as long as their guitar player was showing up regularly for band practice.

Here they are playing the Missoula Library in January of 2009.

Look, I know that if you don’t like thrash metal you probably don’t get it, and these horrible digital camera videos don’t help. But when I watch Sid’s bands play, I don’t like them just because it’s my kid in the band, it’s because I appreciate their music and the effort they exert to make it happen. I’m there as a fan, headbanging with the kids up front, and I love it. I’m not alone — obviously someone in New Mexico appreciates them enough to be putting up a decent chunk of money to have them come play. No one ever asked, and paid for, Lazerwolfs to go anywhere particularly cool to play, that’s for sure.

What’s a bummer is this band will probably exist only until about July or so, as one of the guitar players is moving away for school. Sid and Dustin are bummed, but already making plans for what they will do next.

That’s a worry for another day, though. Tomorrow Sid heads out with his band on his first real rock journey and back, without his old man. I thought about driving them down there, as did Dustin’s dad, but ultimately we both realized this was their time. I see it as “Rite of Passage” in a sense. Yeah, I’m damn nervous, but I’m also pretty proud. I realize music will break his heart as often as not, but I also know how euphoric it will make him feel at times. And I know he is feeling that euphoria right now.

Be careful, fellas. Come home safe.

5 thoughts on “Passing the Torch of Rock”

  1. >Congrats on your son making it to a festival.Sometimes as a parent of a multi talented childe, it's hard to recognize when you have to let them learn on their own.I hope when my daughter hits that age with her performing (dance and skating), I can be as confident in her as you are with yours.

  2. >the New Mexico thrash gods are with your son and his band…this was a really great column, Chris. Such balance between overprotecting and appreciation, because you have lived it! He's immensely blessed to have a mom & dado who understand his needs a separate person. And the heart to allow it.

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