Through the Past, Darkly
Reflections on Murder City Devils
Calvin Johnson (K Records) In the mid-'90s, two local Olympia rock icons, Jon Quittner and Larry Rickett, teamed up to form a punk-rock colossus; it promised to be civilization's ultimate monument to bad vibes. But, things being as they are in the world of creative demigods, [the band] imploded before a single discordant note was struck. Some emo kid from Seattle heard about the collapse of this unfinished noise temple and asked Jon and Larry if he could "borrow" their unused band name for his own new Spruce Goose of a combo. Jon and Larry replied that the name "Murder City Devils" could be skinned alive and eaten raw for all they cared.
I knew Dann Gallucci before he had tattoos. He was in his last year of high school when I came to town, and he was part of the founding band pool that got shows at the OFH off the ground. I think MCD played their first "real" show there; they'd maybe played one house show before that. Contrary to their image, the Devils are the nicest guys around.
[MCD] were playing at the OFH back in the corner, when that was the only stage they were using. We were all dancing and having a blast until these jock assholes started fucking around, ramming into people, pushing girls, stupid shit. Dann lit up a cigarette onstage and burned one of those pricks with the cig still in his mouth. I thought Dann was one of the toughest guys I'd ever seen.
They were the only band in Seattle at the time that didn't seem like normal people playing in a band. They didn't step into character. They lived that band all the time, and the kids (myself included) were scared into loving them.
In the autumn of 1999 I saw them play a "secret" show that completely packed the Hi*Score Arcade (R.I.P.). There was maybe a foot between the smiling, drunken audience and the band, and Spencer spent most of the show on top of both of them. At one triumphant moment, while standing on the bass drum, he pumped his fist straight through one of the ceiling tiles, screaming "rock-and-roll justice!" It stayed shattered, a testament to the gusto of youth, until the day the building was torn down.
When I was 15 years old, the sight of Gabe Kerbrat frightened me. Few things in my teenage life gave me more enjoyment than a Murder City Devils show, and for that I am deeply thankful.
In 2000 the Devils played EndFest, and Derek had a broken leg from their European tour. He suggested I stage dive. Beer was involved. I said yes. You have not experienced pain until you've stage dived only to have a circle pit open up where you're about to land. I broke my rotator cuff that day and had to cancel my band's tour.
I was in the UK on tour and had a night off, so I was roaming around the city on my own looking for places that I had seen in old pictures of the Damned. I come across this bar front that I easily recognized. I peep in the window and who do I see, Derek and Dann. I run inside and the whole gang is there. Halfway across the world and friends' paths were crossed. It made me miss home that night.
Harvey Danger played EndFest in 2000. Spencer Moody was there, and he and I agreed that it would be funny to have him come out and pretend to be me and then have me wrestle the mic away from him before the set started. But then we had technical glitches that killed the timing of the joke and a small sea of teenagers who had no awareness of our pseudo-feud, which by then was pretty dead anyway, just stood there totally not laughing, totally not getting the joke, totally bored, totally waiting for Korn. You can hardly blame them.