The following clipping was found in the Fat Riker notebook. Written in the margins was the note “Valley Music eXaminer – 1984”. I did a few google searches for that publication, but couldn’t find anything I believed relevant. I’m sort of thinking it was a local ‘zine; just a small, photocopied magazine with a print run of probably a dozen or so.
Fat Riker Curdles Milk, Bores Ears
When I saw the poorly written flyer stapled to the power pole advertising a show for Fat Riker, I knew I had to go. Not because I was any great fan of the band, indeed, I had attended their show two years ago at the Ten Mile Lounge and found their music little more than sufferable. I knew I had to go because of her – a raven haired vixen whose name I never caught as she flitted between groups of uninterested musical patrons at that same show.
It was infatuation at first sight and I’m not too proud to admit it. While Fat Riker ground through their set like they were chewing a gristly bit of sausage, I tried without success to strike up a conversation with this girl. It was like we were opposite ends of a magnet – our very natures produced a powerful attraction, yet somehow we were never going to touch. Unless the magnet broke or something. That’s probably not the best analogy.
Good imagery or not, I was dead set on trying my best to break that magnet, so I made plans on being at the upcoming show. Despite my possibly creepy, but definitely passive, search that lasted nearly two years, I had never managed to lay eyes on that beauty again. Maybe she was a Fat Riker fan? It seemed unlikely. I couldn’t imagine anyone being a Fat Riker fan, but maybe she’d be there.
On the night of the concert, I parked the AMC at the edge of the World’s Fair grounds because I felt it was a little safer there than outside of the venue, a joint called Patrick Sullivan’s. It was a bit of a walk, but my excitement at the thought of finally meeting this mystery woman left me with energy to spare.
Big Mick was hanging around out front of the place, bouncing the skeezes. Big Mick was big and his name was Mick, but that didn’t mean he was dumb. He knew I was a skeeze, but I knew something about him too. Micky had an old lady that liked to go out and eat places besides Bob’s Burgers from time to time, and bouncing didn’t pay so well. I flipped the giant a folded-up five spot and cruised on in.
Fat Riker was playing on the third floor, but I didn’t jet up there immediately. I took my time, ordered a Guiness at the bar, and took myself a good look around. A smoky haze hung in the air, and it seemed like a decent crowd for a Thursday night. Some punks were being loud over by the restrooms, yodelin’ their best “oys” and slapping the cigarette machine around. Girls were sprinkled around here and there with the rest of the crowd, but none of them the one I was looking for.
I got tired of the racket and hit the third floor. The room was long and thin with a little stage at the far end and groups of people clustered here and there. A band was playing, but it wasn’t Fat Riker. A few inquiries later I found out they were some local group called Bronze Falcon that nobody had ever heard of. I never discovered if they were the planned opening act, or just took the stage guerilla style when no one was looking. In any case, they cleared out soon enough and that was the best thing you could say about them.
I took a stool at the bar, choosing a cheap can of suds this time. The best thing about drinking cans of beer at a concert is nobody can tell when you’re empty, so you can still hold onto it to give you something to do with your hands. The Pabst tasted like piss but I had other things to occupy my mind.
Fat Riker finally climbed on stage, a motley rock quartet if I had ever seen one. The drummer’s kit was patched together with duct tape and I think he might have been blind. The rest of the band blinked at the meager stage lights like they had never seen the sun. One of them dressed kind of like a cowboy. I honestly didn’t recognize any of them from the other show. Had they had a complete line-up change? Was this seriously the same band?
Without warning, and there should have been one, they launched into a song called “Wind-Up Beaver” that mostly consisted of screechy yelling and flat bass beats. The guitarist didn’t play and he might have cried a little.
One song in and the crowd was already turning hostile. The bartender moved fast, somehow yelling over the band for half-priced drinks. The crowd took the hint and proceeded to inebriate themselves in a speedier manner. I moved to the side of the room to avoid the crush at the bar, all the while keeping my eyes open for the girl. Nothing yet.
“Wind-Up Beaver” ended, if anything, more abruptly than it had begun, but the soft sobbing of the guitarist lingered an uncomfortable few moments more. Maybe his guitar was powered by tears? I don’t know.
Another unfamiliar number started, seemingly in the middle of the song instead of the more traditional beginning. Marks for originality, but the crowd did not like this at all. I didn’t catch the name of this song and I’m not sure it had a chorus.
The probably-blind drummer kept missing the heads of his kit, sending his arms flailing in impressive arcs similar to erratic asteroids making irregular orbits around a far distant sun. Anytime he wouldn’t connect, he’d simply rocket it back around in a full circle, crashing into whatever happened to get in his way. I think he considered a beat that was twice as loud but a few seconds late to be just as good as a regular note played on time. I can assure you this was not the case.
Anyway, I missed a lot of this song as I asked around about the raven haired girl, if anyone had seen her. No one had. I was beginning to think the night might be a bust, when the singer yelled out that the next song was called “Backwards Song” and then proceeded to chant in some unknown language.
This caught the crowd’s attention briefly, and the music started with a crash of sound. The tune sounded vaguely familiar, and I abandoned my search for the moment to pay attention. I don’t know how but I somehow pieced together that this was a backward version of one of the songs I had heard two years ago. The band warbled along hesitantly, acting like aliens come to Earth, so totally ignorant of our society that they did things they did not understand just to please us. The crowd started to file out halfway through and I couldn’t help but imagine being the only one left in the room with these musical madmen, trying to act like I cared.
My heart pounded madly, nowhere close to in rhythm with Fat Riker, as I scanned the departing mob for any sign of my dream girl. When I realized that she simply wasn’t there, the bottom fell out of my soul. I turned around and stared dumbfounded at the stage. Fat Riker crashed on with their song; barreling forward with all of the blind intensity of a force of nature. My search was over, and all I had to show for it were ears that would ring from this dreadful noise for two days.
Disgusted, I crunched the PBR can and tossed it in the floor. I shuffled down the stairs with the rest of the dissidents, and exited via the front. I burned a cig with Big Mick while trying to work myself up for the hike back to my car. Clamorous sounds echoed down from the room above while we smoked, the group seemingly oblivious to their dwindling audience.
I couldn’t fault their energy, but I sure as hell wasn’t going back up.