Tuesday, February 14, 2012
NEW FNU... Saddle Up
FNU RONNIES first crawled out of the muck during the cold winter of 2006. I think that they used an apostrophe at the time and spelled it F'NU. At any rate, I've never received a straight answer as to the meaning of the moniker. The closest I've gotten to the truth has to do with a run-in with John Law and the name "Ronnie" being scrawled into the arrest book beside the phrase "Full Name Unknown". Maybe that's true. Who the hell knows?
An unlikely trio if I've ever seen one, they were brought together by manual labor & an interest in cold beer & late nights. One was a rather accomplished guitarist, another had a bass clef tattoo, and the other had just acquired a drum kit. I had trekked out to see an early version of the band at a miserable backyard party, but the first time anybody saw 'em as FNU Ronnies-- with Mike "Greaser" Reaser on bass --, they were set up on the floor of a basement dive in Center City. Now closed down to make room for an old-timey cocktail joint for the type of person who likes to purchase both drinks and atmosphere from a barkeep with a waxed stache, it was then the type of place drown yourself in dim lighting with shots of bourbon and big cans of beer. Most patrons wore dark glasses to obscure darting eyes. The night in question was hosted by a third tier gossip columnist in one of the local rags. The guys in the band, each a hustler of a different shade, had for some reason desired this platform and improbably gotten it. I imagine it was negotiated over the hushed exchange of illicit substances and in coded slang.
It was freezing cold that night. Windy and Icy. A Monday night, if I remember correctly. The room could hold about a dozen people comfortably. I had to hunch down to keep my head from the ceiling. There couldn't have been more than six of us, but the drums and amps and all that were spread over most of the floor. We were all corralled against the wall waiting for something to happen while amps buzzed and and the drummer smacked his snare and cymbals and made adjustment. The bass player tuned up and stood rigid & patiently. Jim's amp, a hefty combo job, sat on the floor, and he just turned it up and up and up until the parking garage across the street erupted in a chorus of car alarms. Piercing reverb & delay from both sides. Then they got going.
I'm sure it all started with guitar, as the other guys looked to Jim for direction. The drummer first struggled to keep up & then cocked his head to hear what was happening. There was a lotta reverb on that guitar, really filled the room and probably the apartments upstairs. Had the sound of a bad-time Tromo spy movie. There was probably a microphone, but the puny PA was as ineffective as the warning on a pack of smokes. Jim shouted into it a few times. It was knocked over, picked up a few times, and eventually abandoned all together. Jim and Kyle exchanged tense looks and gritted their teeth. Reaser, ever the straight man, kept his back straight and his glasses on his nose and let his instrument display his enthusiasm. On a tiled floor, Street Kyle's drums crawled away with each beat. He chased them between beats, and eventually he was in front of the other guys. I don't remember if the electric shorted out or if the guitar amp started spewing smoke or if the bartender unplugged them or if an intra-band shouting match broke out. Maybe they just ran out of songs. Either way, the set ended. If it had gone on any longer, Kyle would have been playing outside on the sidewalk.
FNU RONNIES' long-anticipated album, called Saddle Up, is available now from Load Records.
Saddle Up is for those who have asked "Jello was always tinkering around with other acts; why couldn't East Bay Ray link up with Chrome or the Buttholes? Or at least Crust?"