Garbage Truck were tearing up Interstate 5 in their rented Ford Econoline on the way to San Francisco to play their first club show with their new drummer, Fritz-Franz Klein. FF Klein was a typical Boyle Heights boy, German name but Latino as they come, dark skin and a thick Hispanic accent. He was a lot less punk rock than the other guys but had his arena rock moves down, twirling his drumsticks and striking other “rock” poses. It was the best the guys could do after their long-time drummer Ricardo quit two weeks before their national tour.
“If you listen to some Priest it almost sounds like punker stuff”, Fritz said, laying back on some guitar cases and a bulky amp.
“The fast stuff, maybe”, Griff said, trying to get comfortable lying on a pair of hard suitcases digging into his back. “Punk’s a little more athletic, though. It’s all about stamina, you start fast and stay fast. There’s no Thunder God crescendos in punk, it’s like a 500K run set to music”.
“Awesome!” Fritz cried, then lowered his voice. “If you guys are punk, why are you jamming Neil Young tapes?”
“Bobby!” Griff yelled at Bobby, who was driving the van, “Why are we listening to Neil Young hippie shit?”
Bobby turned his head sideways, bugged. “We’ve been through this before, dude, Drivers Choice. When you get the wheel you can play whatever the fuck you want”.
“When do I get the wheel?”
“When I say so”.
“Fascist!” yelled Fritz.
“Yeah fascist”, Griff yelled. “And hippie pothead music shit lover”.
“He’s been playing that crying Neil Young for an hour, man. Don’t you have any Maiden?”
“No, we’re fresh out of Maiden. We have Neil Young and a terrible band called The Pixies. When The Pixies tape starts playing that should be your cue to take a good, long nap”.
“I have an extra pair of ear plugs. I’ll be happy to share”.
When the boys in the band finished their sound check they were still cracking their backs and revolving their stiff necks around to ease the strain.
“Shit, I’m tired”, Bradley, the third guitarist, slumped into a sofa, lighting up a cigarette.
“You’re tired? I drove all the way up the coast”, Bobby groused.
“You wouldn’t let anybody else drive. You and Neil Young held the van captive for six hours”, Trev, the bassist argued.
Fritz, sitting on the floor, drummed his fingers nervously on the coffee table by the sofa.
“What are you doing?” Bert griped, “Don’t you get enough of that on stage? You have to drum even off the stage?”
“What?” Fritz asked, oblivious.
“SHHH”, Griff quieted them down, stepping towards the club entrance, “What the fuck? What’s that douchebag Nelson Tweed doing here?”
“Who’s Nelson Tweed?” Fritz asked.
“Nelson Tweed. Shit!” Bradley cussed, crushing out his smoke.
“Nelson Tweed, That dickhead plays guitar in Stacey Gash’s band, Spin Psycho. He’s also her total slave, he drives her around, scores her drugs and does whatever the fuck else she wants”.
“I repeat”, Griff griped, “What the fuck is that cock licker doing here?”
“I take it we don’t like him”.
“Nobody likes that asshole except for those idiots at Java The Hut, who’ll rim anybody in a band, anyway”.
Nelson Tweed strode up to the band, either piled on the sofa or standing around, with an absolutely condescending look on his face.
“Hey, Bert”, Tweed sneered, ignoring the rest of the band. “What’s up?”
“Not much, Tweed”.
“Are you guys here to see a show?”
“Not hardly, man, we’re playing tonight.”
“What? You guys actually got a gig outside of Hollywood? No way!”
“What are you doing out of town, Tweed?” Griff cornered this tall, lanky nerd, “Buying maxi-pads for Miss Gash?”
“You guys make me laugh!”
“Well, you make us sick”.
“Like I was saying…BERT”, he pushed past Griff. “There’s this girl, Poppy McPoppy, going around town talking to everybody about Stacey, see? She’s writing some unauthorized book on her. We don’t want you talking to her, she’s setting up a hatchet job”.
“Check out the messenger boy”, Griff shoved Tweed, “He ran all the way up here to make threats about some stupid book”.
Bert looked up at Tweed, “We haven’t spoken to anyone about Stacey”.
“Well, good! It better stay that way”.
Griff pushed Tweed aside. “Okay, errand boy, leave. Go score some junk for Chuck and Stacey. G’wan, beat it”.
Tweed walked away, shooting dirty looks at Griff. As soon as he walked out the front door, Griff turned to his band and glared at them. “Why the fuck did you guys get so quiet all of a sudden?”
“Stacey’s a big star. We don’t want to get on her bad side”, Bobby snapped back.
“Oh, pucker up while I back up!”
Garbage Truck hit the stage first as this was their first appearance in a big city like San Fran, so they kept their set short and sweet. The audience was fairly somnambulant until Griff piped up between songs, “It’s awesome to be here in San Francisco tonight!” Then the audience perked up from their communal coma and cheered the band. Point One. Then they did a cover, “Thursday” by Morphine with a dynamic trumpet solo that brought the house down. Point Two.
Since the band did well, everyone hung back by the beer to enjoy The Silver Apple’s micro-brewery beer, all except guitarist Bobby Callahan. Bobby hit the pay phone down in the basement to call his new friend, Moish Wilson from Varmint Booking.
“Hey! What’s up, Pally?” Wilson blurted.
“Just played The Silver Apple down on Broadway and Powell-“
“What the fuck are you hicks doing playing North Beach? Who booked that gig?”
“Griff did, and he-“
“Didn’t I tell you to play it like you’re The Big Kahuna, Sport? Give that Griff faggot the gate!”
“Well, dude, he already booked the show, and you know-“
“Fuck!!!! Well!!!! I don’t know if you’re Varmit material. I can always get Toolkit to tour with Kitten Claws if you brainiacs think you can do a better job than I can!!! After all, I used to book Shangri-La, you know. I can do well without you bums!!!” Wilson threatened.
Callahan’s face turned pale. Shangri-La was his favorite band, the one he was trying to steer Garbage Truck to sound like the most.
“Okay, okay, okay, I’ll let him have this one, but after this I guarantee I’ll take over the reins of the band”, Callahan broke out into a sweat.
“Not just THE BAND, Pally…YOUR BAND!”
Bobby Callahan laughed at Moish Wilson’s inherent pushiness and obnoxiousness.
Wilson’s assertiveness felt liberating to him, because by hearing this he felt he was being handed complete control over a band he didn’t create or write material for. He felt blessed.
Moish Wilson parted with, “Now go and sin no more…Pally!”
The next band on was a Stooges imitation band called Dog Sandwich. The lead singer, Mutt, bare-chested, jigged around the tiny stage with a huge pink dildo, flipping it around and tucking it into his tight black jeans. They opened up with “Sunday Punch”, Mutt crawling around the floor and knocking over mike stands and disconnecting speaker cabinets. The sound man was frantically running up to the stage to correct the problem.
“Lame”, Trev scratched his chin, a new soul patch sprouting from the end of it.
“Lame squared”, chuckled Bert, scratching his long, curly hair.
Then they did their big hit, “Courtesy Flush”, Mutt pulling down his pants, pink dildo falling into some girl’s martini glass, while the guitarist pulled out a swastika emblem, kissing it and rubbing it all over himself. The drummer wore a tee that said "RAPE" in big, red letters. Mutt spotted Bert laughing and jumped off the stage, pulling at Bert’s hair as hard as he can.
Fritz-Franz jumped on Mutt and grabbed his microphone from his grasp and smashed Mutt in the face repeatedly with it until he was bloodied and let go of Bert. Bouncers intervened in the fight with the sound man jumping on top of the bouncers, screaming, “That’s my mike! Hands off my equipment!!!”
Dog Sandwich’s set was cut short, a real big deal with the locals. The fans all yelled for more, “DOG! SANDWICH!!” “DOG! SANDWICH!!” “DOG! SANDWICH!!” The screaming was deafening.
“Well, there goes my hearing”, Griff complained.
“There goes my hair”, Bert shook his head.
The next band up was The Giggles, fronted by yet another Iggy imitator, SKID, who hopped around the stage with a big jar of peanut butter in his hand. He was skinny but wore an industrial girdle. They tore into their biggest Frisco fave, “Sausage Fest”.
“Sausage Fest, sausage fest
Some folks like wieners but I dig titties the best….OWWW!”
SKID jumped around and eyed Griff with creepy opportunity. Griff cut him off by picking up a bar stool and throwing it at SKID’s face, making him drop the jar of peanut butter, shattering on the floor and spraying his band with the slimy stuff. SKID, furious with anger, dove off the stage. Fritz-Franz jumped in between, flashing an un-opened switchblade. Trev moved next to him, flashing his own unopened switchblade. Griff smiled, flashing HIS own unopened switchblade.
“Get your stupid ass back on stage”, Griff chuckled.
SKID skulked back up and did a fake blow-job on his bass player, who was done up like Herman Munster on a bender. The guitar player was naked except for wearing a wrestling mask.
“If I had a dick that small I wouldn’t be rockin’ that gherkin around the club”, Bradley groaned.
“Fuck no”, Griff yelled over the band.
The Giggles ended their set with “It’s Not Raining Men”, their rant against the disco classic, “It’s Raining Men”. The San Fran kids were choking each other just like they saw on some lame British punk documentary on television. The naked guitarist was jealous of all the attention he and his shriveled dick weren’t getting, so he, too, dove off the stage with his guitar. The audience parted at the sight of him sailing off the stage, to which he fell flat on his head, emitting a dull crack. The guitar suddenly stopped and the nude musician was out cold. End of set.“Another great Giggles set!” some stupid girl in a crop top that exposeed a distended, hairy belly, yelled.
Griff polished off his beer and threw the rest of his drink tickets to the floor, watching the band pack up and the bouncers try to revive the unconscious guitarist off the floor. He looked across the room and saw SKID crying in the arms of his boyfriend, who was also dressed like him. Lights turned up brightly around the once-dark club, meaning Last Call, End of Show, and Pay Day for Garbage Truck. And Griff’s ears would ring for the next three days, so now was a good time as any to brush up on his lip-reading skills.