It’s taken a year to write the eulogy, even though the casket’s not been made.
The Dicks are my favourite band. It all began as love affair in the mid-80s, with a seedy, tawdry, hilarious, offensive, soulful band. A friend bought the Dicks (SF) album, “These People” in high school — it was the sort of thing punks did back then, just bought records based on the name- from the amazing Blackist Distribution. We got together on a weeknight in his apartment on Hamilton’s east mountain, and played those tunes (and Christ on Parade, and Neurosis — every thing in those packages saved our lives). That record cemented the fact that punk didn’t have to be full blast rage, it could be angry and have soul as well. I didn’t know that the Dicks (SF) were different than the Dicks, that only Gary Floyd was the common thread between the two bands. That voice, holy shit, that voice stuck in my head for years.
Fast forward to 1997, I was living in Austin, Texas, and my love of early Texas punk — cemented in the trinity of Big Boys, Dicks and Really Red (although you could substitute Butthole Surfers, DRI, Scratch Acid, AK-47, SNOT, The Stains, The Offenders…. take your pick really, they’re all great) was at a fever pitch. I had recently scored Kill From The Heart for $15 at the Austin Record Fair, and was excited to see that The Dicks were getting a proper reissue through Alternative Tentacles on CD. Hate The Police, the band’s first 7″ EP, which is honestly a song that I could hear every day for the rest of my life and never tire of, was as elusive as it had ever been. I’ve still never seen one in person despite years of chasing the white whale.
I was pretty certain in 1997 that I would never see The Dicks play — I had discovered there was some issues between the original Dicks and the ones from San Francisco albeit not fatal blows, but simmering tensions. Besides, there was no reason to reunite. The records were scarce and relatively unknown beyond Mudhoney turning in an excellent cover of “Hate The Police” and Jesus Lizard covering “Wheelchair Epidemic”. Gary Floyd, the singer, had gone on to sing for Sister Double Happiness. Buxf Parrott, bass, and Pat Deacon, drums, played around in other Austin bands (the excellent rootsy Shootin’ Pains being one of them). Glen Taylor, guitars, had just died. That was it, in my mind. While I had heard rumours of one-off nights happening around SXSW or other venues around town, I thought, well, with Glen gone, they wouldn’t actually play again, would they? None of those older punk guys thought getting back together to play again was worth it — the prevailing attitude was that if you missed it, you missed it and you should create your own thing. In my mind, even though I was in the right place, often, within spitting distance of The Dicks playing, I was never in the right place at the right time.
Of course, I did end up in the right place at the right time. Seven or eight years later. Along the east coast of the US, in Hoboken, New Jersey of all places. By then my home was Hamilton again, returning to the city with grit, winter and, well, not much else. Hamilton wasn’t Austin, that’s for sure. Then again, neither was Hoboken. I absolutely couldn’t miss it.
Now, whenever you see bands that were good at one point in their lives, come back for a reunion or a victory lap, it tends to be lacklustre. Never quite the same emotion, never quite the same fire. Time is often not your friend. I had low expectations; I had heard the stories of drunken Dicks shows where they could barely stand, or were more concerned with freaking people out. I had stayed away from reunion shows. I had mixed feelings about this. What if this sucked? We ended up eating at Maxwell’s before the gig, and in walks Gary, Pat and Buxf. They’re eating; I’m starstruck. I don’t want to be rude. We leave.
I wonder if that was stupid? We wander around Hoboken. We head back to the show. Buy some merchandise. I see Gary again, I ask him if I can show him something. I try to roll up my sleeve to show him the Kill From The Heart tattoo I have on my bicep, but end up having to take off my shirt. Gary said, “ooo titties”, to which I responded , “No this” and point at the tattoo. Seconds later, I’m meeting Buxf and Pat, and then taking pictures — and then meeting Carlos the artist who did the cover art that’s part of my arm now. Chatting to Buxf outside he told us stories about the band playing better now than they did back in the day. Twenty or so years as musicians certainly didn’t hurt.
The show was all I could’ve hoped for as a fan. Hypnotic drumming, dirty, raw bass, swirling guitars and, yes, that voice. Bluesy, soulful. I was on a high after that show for a month. In fact I didn’t go see anyone else play for a while.
So when I heard about a “final” show, I had mixed emotions. I want the band to live in the present, and not constantly feel like they have to relive the past. On the ticket release date, I didn’t end up getting tickets. I missed the whole thing. By the time I figured out that tickets were on sale, they were sold out. I figured it wasn’t meant to be, but deep down I was disappointed in myself. A couple weeks later a second show was added, and I took full advantage of the opportunity. The last show was on Hallowe’en. That, we (Kate, my partner-in-crime and I) could do. In fact, I nearly missed it; missed the last stand, but for the sheer luck, and being in the right place at the right time, I made it.
Now, a decade later from the last time I saw them, and nearly thirty years since I first heard them, they were playing for the last time. I am not the sort of person to be up front at concerts anymore; I’m too old for that shit. Exceptions can be made. I was up front. They played every song. The last song, was “Dicks Hate The Police”, re-christened as “Love Song” on the set list. I got a little misty. I’m not sure why, but it was like a sense of grief, heavy in my chest. I’ll always have those songs on physical formats, but seeing them played live is always better. More visceral.
The denouement consisted of us sort of stunned, wandering around the emptying venue, debating whether it was worth saying “hi” and “bye” to the band again. We decided to stay. We informally lined up to say a quick good-bye to Gary, who came out to thank people for coming. As we neared the front of the line, Gary looked at us, and shouted “You! You came all this way!” to which we responded, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!”