Not Just the Ticket — #33, The Dickies, February 21 1992

Dickies, the Palace

Then-current album: …none, really. Locked and Loaded, I suppose, but that was a live album.

Opening act: Green Jello, still some months away from the inevitable name change.

Back of ticket ad: Hello again KROQ. Once more.

Rather a last minute purchase for me, this one; the code indicates I didn’t pick this one up until eight days to the show. I guess I must not have been chomping at the bit, necessarily.

So, from Suzi Gardner playing through her injury one night to Leonard from the Dickies causing mock injuries by hitting security guards over the head with something Nerflike 24 hours later. Just another whirlwind couple of days in LA.

This is one of those shows where not only the memories are dim but almost everything about it is completely shrouded in some sort of mental mystery. Not sure who I went with, not sure what prompted me to go…all a bit vague. But it’s not because I didn’t like either band — as mentioned some entries back, I’d seen both of them open up for Celebrity Skin the previous year, had already long been a Dickies fan and thought Green Jello were entertaining enough in their own completely ridiculous way. That they would end up playing together seems less like an inspired pairing than an inevitability, and for all I know they already had.

It’s also appropriate that I would see the Dickies the day after L7 if only because both bands were, as mentioned yesterday, classic LA bands, thriving on, reacting against and ultimately tied to the massive entertainment industry around it. I’ve heard so many random stories about the band that I’m never entirely sure what to believe regarding them, the LA punk band that had the biggest early success — and in the UK at that — while seemingly only being a random parody group, and yet not. By this time they’d settled into that groove that seems to happen to certain bands that can essentially coast for a long while on past fumes, a self-nostalgia act by accident if not intent. Arguably any band that relies on what can be unkindly called schtick is able to do that — it’s not so much about the music as the show — but hell, James Brown had his schtick moments up to the end. Then again, James Brown also helped invent modern music as we know it, so you can coast on those fumes pretty much all you want if you’re him.

Anyway, no new album to promote, nothing per se happening beyond existing — and that’s reason enough to play, after all. The cycle of record/release/tour seems like the standard only because it became one, a maximized approach to life that still holds sway but like so much else seems to crack more with time as newer bands find other approaches, different hurdles to clear. If anything it kinda reminds me of what my friends up in Seattle in the Squirrels were doing for the longest while, playing out every so often and recording as they did and taking it from there. Whatever else the Dickies were doing around that time, they had enough hometown appeal to play a venue the size of the Palace, they aimed to put on a show, bring it all on. So however it happened or whatever went down, there I was once more seeing two bands once more, aiming above all else just to have a good night out and enjoy a lot of hopefully hilarious stage craziness.

Which it was, and a lot of it came from Green Jello. Still about half a year away from their extremely random breakthrough courtesy of “The Three Little Pigs,” they had by this time evolved their GWAR-with-less-blood theatrics to an even finer degree, and had thrown in more recent songs and productions to seize the moment as they wanted to. On that front, one song sticks out, precisely because I might well have been one of the few people at that show to have actually seen the incident it referred to.

As I remember it, watching as I was pressed up near the front of the stage (but this time on the opposite side from where I usually lurked), at one point some guy came on stage essentially looking like a clownish version of Oscar Wilde. I have to figure this was entirely intentional too, given what happened next. Anyway, this fellow was on the stockier side, not hugely obese or anything but still heavy, wearing a wig that looked a bit like some of the earlier photos of Wilde extant and some all black outfit somewhere between a unitard and a close-fitting suit. Also pretty sure he had heavy pancake makeup on too, and kept a look on his face somewhere between petulance and arrogance. I’m also pretty sure he was carrying a flower or two.

The explanation for all this became crystal clear when he swanned up to the microphone and said, “Remember…you don’t have to stay in your seats if you don’t want to!”

I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud when I heard that — it was, without question, a direct reference to the line Morrissey had said at the Pauley Pavilion show I’d seen a few months prior which resulted in the stage crush, Morrissey and the band being hustled offstage and the eventually cancelling of the show and resultant riot. All the Wilde references made perfect sense, so clearly somebody in Green Jello knew that while direct parody would have sealed the thing in everyone’s mind, going that route was that much more sly. So credit to them for that still.

The song faux Wilde ended up singing was some very Rocky Horror midtempo cabaret number called, but of course, “Sad Eyed Girlie Boy” — and to his credit, he delivered it less as Morrissey moaning and more as Meat Loaf-as-Eddie-on-downers, which seemed right. I also remember a bunch of other people, all definitely wearing black unitards as well as extended fingernails, prancing about and being deeply strange. God knows what the rest of the crowd thought, I loved the damn thing in all its ridiculousness. All that and later the Cowgod pretty much looming over me with glowing eyes and probably some dry ice fog, so hey.

The Dickies themselves put on a set that I really don’t remember at all — in fact, I remembered absolutely nothing about their set at all when I first looked at this ticket again yesterday, a complete blank. Two things did dimly reemerge from the mists though — one was guitarist Stan Lee adding his “Wagon train, head ‘em out, whoa-oh!” vocals at the end of the chorus to “Wagon Train,” their tribute song to their original keyboard player Chuck Wagon. I remember Lee smiling broadly as he sang, loving the moment, and it makes me smile to think of it in turn, it just seems like a nice moment where music is fun for all there as it happens.

The second thing was the song “Curb Job” and Leonard singing the chorus while careening around the stage and beating the bouncers at the front of the stage with…something. I’d almost say it was the legendary penis puppet from “If Stewart Could Talk” but it wasn’t, more like a submarine sandwich that was, indeed, made out of Nerf-like material. Personally I would be averse to beating people, even those theoretically employed by the band or venue to keep crazed fans away, with such a thing, but I can’t say I recall them reacting much. Perhaps they even enjoyed it, which could say a lot about the places that the Dickies liked to play at.

Couldn’t tell you what else happened that night, but then again after that incident, maybe that’s not necessary…

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