Battery Acid Blues: Shameful Disintegration On Tour

Keir DuBois is back after a failed solo attempt. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 6/5/97).

Sometimes sabbaticals can be anything but vacations. I apologize to the few readers of this column for missing last week, but it just couldn’t be helped, and evidently, more serious things have gone on within the Clap in the last two weeks. There were several things that piled up on the members of the band that caused a collective identity crisis on their part, and they decided that the best way to ride out the problems was to spend time away from each other for a while.

We’d just finished a small four-date tour of the Bay Area, and that was, to put it euphemistically, rather interesting. We had one show on the street in San Francisco, opening for a street bluesman whose major claim to fame was his ability to converse with the passer-s by in various languages. These people were duly impressed, but that was only because they didn’t stop long enough to notice that this guy’s language skills were sixty percent genuine and forty percent pure bullshit; half of what he said in any language other than English were nonsense syllables that sounded somewhat like the rest of the legitimate syntax.

We were impressed at first as well, but we also decided to have a little fun with the old guy, since he only let us play a three-song set and continually interrupted our songs to promote his own. When we objected he chastised us, saying we spoiled white kids had no idea how rough it was on the street and that it’s not all for one.

Naturally, we decided to show him the sense of humor that the suburbs breed; we got someone in the crowd to ask the bluesman to speak Latin. The polymath’s Latin was almost nonexistent, and it didn’t help that the interrogator we found was a Berkeley classics professor. Our bluesman benefactor was so angry with us by then that we had to hotfoot it across the wharf just to avoid the random garbage he began throwing at us.
Our other shows were a little more successful. Catering to our growing (and previously unknown) fan base in sunny Pleasanton, we played at the Amador High prom, which would have been a great show if our drummer Kevin hadn’t pulled the fire alarm.

This was our major problem. Kevin’s two main goals in life were (a) to be a drummer, and if that didn’t work, well, there was always plan (b) terrorism, which he seemed to have a perverse attraction to. At first we thought it was cool that he could create small plastic explosives in the eraser heads on pencils, but this whole fire alarm thing was a bit much- I mean, it’s one thing to talk about blowing up one’s school, but Kev took this a little too seriously, especially since we were far from his school, and since the dance was held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Club, we weren’t at a school at all, so there was absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior, which would have otherwise been more understandable, however perverse.

The last two shows were in Modesto. These went well, but that was only because the support we were able to drum up was about thirty friends and friends of friends, since our promoter had unfortunately been on a serious bender the night before, and so was completely blotto when he was supposed to be booking the tour. The result was the crowd in the audience for the two shows were exactly the same people. I’ve never dropped acid before, the resulting heavy dose of deja vu that we got the second night was pretty damn trippy.

The sticky points between the band came to a head while we ate at the In-n-Out in Kettleman City, quite possibly one of the most desolate places in this great state of ours. We were all in favor of dumping poor deranged Kevin, but we also knew that if he had no drumming outlet he’d probably defect to the Michigan Militia and turn that movement on its ear for his own nefarious purposes.

Another issue was Adam’s singing, as in he didn’t want to, despite constant praise from a never-ending stream of beautiful young women. We recruited our friend Laurel for vocals, which she is damn good at, and she’s very talented, but she immediately took issue with the band’s name. That was no surprise; almost every woman who heard our name despised it. The real shocker was when Laurel refused to sing our only hit, the song that we simply must play at every show, because it’s the only famous Clap song, and since she wouldn’t sing “Your Mama’s a Ho,” then we were out of luck again.

She did have a good point, though. Our name is a public relations albatross, and so we immediately decided to brainstorm a new one. This proved difficult, though, since every name that passed our criteria of “good” (meaning the mere speaking of the word or phrase made us convulse in laughter) was just as dirty as the Clap. Still, talking about this stuff wasn’t getting us anywhere, since by that point all of our egos were way too big to accommodate each other, so we all decided to part ways for a while.

My brother Bryn and I woke up at 3 AM that morning, hijacked our tattered van, and drove back to ‘Frisco with all of our road money. Sure, this was a horrible thing to do, but he’d just seen “Trainspotting” and I’d just read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and because both of us were ridiculously inebriated, so we had no qualms at all about ditching Kev and Adam.

We were crossing the Bay Bridge into Oakland when Bryn suddenly pulled a .357 Magnum on me and demanded all of the money and to be let off the van right now. “Now?” I said, eying the gun. “We’re on the bridge, you dolt!”

“I don’t care!” he screamed, his face flushed with drink and lack of sleep. “Stop the van and let me off, or I swear to Elvis I’ll shoot!”

At this point I didn’t care if he was my brother or Kevin’s terrorist prodigy. I let him off right there, which just happened to be in the middle of the bridge on Treasure Island. Two weeks later he arrived home in I.V. in a crate stamped “U.S. NAVY.”

Adam and Kevin hitch-hiked their way back here in a car full of gorgeous girls, who dumped Kev in Isla Vista (after he stole their bikinis) and drove Adam, singing all the way, to Cabo San Lucas. I bet he was singing all the way, but I didn’t hear from him for a month.

I ended up back in P-town at a friend’s house, putting the finishing touches on a batch of new Clap songs I’d stolen, preparing them for my impending solo career, which took two rather un-noteworthy months to fizzle and die, after which I pleaded with the others to revive the band (jump-started now for a second time), and when they finally agreed, we began planning our next major assault on the world, which we knew would make us superstars again.