Maintenance Fest was a temporarily annual music festival in Denton, TX which exclusively featured bands with members who worked in the University of North Texas housing maintenance department. The job’s ease, lax scheduling and cronyism lent itself to those who needed to take time off at short notice or no notice or quit without notice and somehow return to work like nothing happened. Aside from the low wage, this was pretty much the best job I have ever had and was rife with musicians. At one point I think every member of the River Boat Gamblers worked there.
The festival took place in the vacant lot previously inhabited by the Delta Lodge(hippie fraternity) before it burnt down in 1995. It was entirely free and there was usually free hot dogs. As far as I know there were only 3 of these fests, possibly even 2 but maybe up to 4. It was a confusing time.
In 1998 I was invited to participate in the Good/Bad Art Collective’s annual Rock Lottery curated by Chris Weber and held at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton, Texas. The idea was that at 8:00am the 6 or 7 drummers chosen would then choose 4 other random band-mates names out of a cowboy hat and the 5 of them had to write 3 songs that day before their live performance at 10 that night. Only one cover song per set. I was chosen to be in a band with Nathan Pulley(Cigar, Breadbox, Flood) Glen Reynolds(Chomsky, Liquid 3), Clark Voegler(Toadies, Funland), and Craig Welch(The Banes, Brutal Juice). We decided upon the name Choad Blast And The Chapstick Factory. Possibly the best band name I have ever been a part of. I don’t have any recordings of this but I know that some exist. We “wrote” two songs that seemed like somewhat bland alternative rock and did one cover of a Baboon song we figured the crowd would enjoy. I had been sick with the flu the previous week and was out of it most of the day and the other dudes in the band drank a lot before the show. It went rough but it was mostly for kicks anyway.
Chris Weber still curates Rock Lottery’s yearly now in different cities. This past year’s was in Brooklyn and previous year in Seattle. The one before that was back in Denton for the first time in a while. My brother was in one in 2004. They always sell-out to capacity and are always great no matter what kind of shenanigans go down. Shenanigan always go down.
Recently I “Re-found” an audio cassette recorded by the makers of the infamous “Chicago Sketch Comedy” home video from the same year of 1987. This tape features awesome prank phone calls, shouts out to “the gang”, “trippy” casio sk-1 keyboard playing, bizarre audio sketch comedy and a little Twisted Sister. Available all for free at bandcamp now!
Abashed/Tonight We Die, Tomorrow We Kill consisted of James Lawrence, James Oswald and Dirk Michener. Abashed formed in East Texas in 1994 and recorded some demos with the guys from the Mid-cities band Audrey for their record label Bottlecap. James L. did most of the singing. Oswald drums and I played bass.
Abashed – Exploitation Is Cool!
“Exploitation is Cool” was featured on the 1994 Green Light Go! compilation alongside Cub, Furry Things, Nothing Painted Blue and many other bands from the emerging lo-fi indie-pop scene. We did several shows at house parties and pasture parties in East Texas. The crowds there were so hyped to see any rock band that they very rapidly brought themselves into a state of uncontrollable frenzy the likes of which I have not seen since. This included the brandishing of guns, destruction of cars, fist fights, furniture destruction, etc.
Abashed – One in favor Three opposed
Each of us lived in separate cities for about 2 years which stalled any kind recording/performing progress to a snail’s pace before settling on Denton to get down to business.
About the time we all settled in Denton we decided to change the name from Abashed to Tonight We Die after a convoluted debate about name-relevance which I probably spearheaded. Long band names were new and exciting and yet to be considered “emo” and this particular name had a nice ring to it. Soon after, it proved to be a difficult name for people to remember (see article below)
Mr. Gattis became our most oft played venue besides house parties.
Condo Orgy (from “Style”)
An interesting juxtaposition started occurring between loose improvs and tight mathrock song constructions. It seemed a bit schizo and unfocused in a sense but I believe it portrayed a sense of versatility that many bands at the time lacked.
We began focusing on “soundtrack” style recordings. It suited us well and we recorded two “soundtrack” tapes to the unscripted films “Perish The Everlaster” and “Style”. Both were mostly instrumental and 75% improv exposing our latent Krautrock influences.
Autoshards One (from “Perish The Everlaster”)
The final straw came after a Good/Bad Art Collective benefit show at Rubber Gloves which went so terribly that it got written up in the Fort Worth Weekly. A bass string broke after maybe 3 songs and none of the 3 other bands would lend me a bass. I began berating the bands and Jenni Rotter began dismembering The Passenger and throwing his limbs at us on stage. Some guy on the side of the stage wanted to fight one of us for an unknown reason and I threw my bass on the floor like a brat. This came after a long series of instrument/amp malfunctions at shows since we couldn’t afford new equipment. I stated that either we get some new equipment or stop playing. None of us got new equipment and that was that.
Bats In My Belfry (live 97)