It’s been about 30 years since I saw Naked Raygun. I was a … junior?… in high school and they played a show at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. It was my first (and only) time seeing them. It was also my first time at the Entry; I had no idea that place would become a second home for me in just a few years. Anyway. For a suburban wannabe-punk teenager (and likely for all the dudes in the pit as well), the show was magical and life-changing, though I went home with an EP from one of the opening bands. Sorry, NR.
That was 30 years ago?
This is not Naked Raygun.
Anyway. Here in Urbana-Champaign we have a yearly event called The Great Cover Up. In short: Local bands get 20 minutes to be someone else onstage, people attend in droves, and money is raised for a good cause. Braid were REM one year. Poster Children were the Cars in another. Hum were Led Zeppelin sometime in the mid-90s. And Jim’s band, Sixteen Tons, went out with a literal bang at their second-to-last Cover-Up performance in 1993 when they were Big Black.
[Jim and I began working together a few months after that performance. I had been shocked to find out during the course of our getting to know one another (the way you sort of get to know the people you work with) that he was the drummer for Sixteen Tons (OMHYGODNOWAY) and that they had had this legendary performance as Big Black that everyone in our office was STILL talking about with utter reverence (we worked for an independent music distributor at the time and everyone went to several shows a week, so this was par for the course). I had been a bit of a fan of Sixteen Tons when I’d been living in Minneapolis, and was a HUGE Big Black fan, so hearing about all this, plus Jim’s being such a friendly, cool guy – and handsome to boot – was quite the combo.]
[Sixteen Tons reunited last year for the first time since 1994 (?) and played a bonkers show that our daughter (and Ed’s son) attended. Can you imagine being L & T in that situation? Here are two guys you’ve known your whole life. They’ve read The Giving Tree to you at bedtime, they’ve taught you how to swear properly on the soccer field without getting caught, they’ve made your dinner and driven you places and coached you and given you a good talking-to and hugged you at the right times and sometimes at the awkward times… and then there’s Ed onstage yelling curse words through a bullhorn and there’s Jim beating the living crap out of a drum set, along with three other guys making a most holy racket. I’m sure it was weird.]
Anyway. The upshot of this entire blog entry is this: I just loved it when Sixteen Tons were asked to play this year’s Cover-Up – their absence from playing it is now of legal drinking age – and they agreed, as long as they could pretend to be Naked f*cking Raygun for 20 minutes. And that’s what they did. It was thrilling and noisy and Darin lit an illegal cigarette onstage and Jim tore up his hands hitting the drums and Tony made jokes from his spot and Todd looked serious and Ed had all the NR moves down… but really what it was, at its core, was 5 guys of a certain age just enjoying playing music together again for a room full of people, many of whom were that same certain age, who just wanted to enjoy being there while it happened.
Should have worn earplugs.