Christian Anderson Smith
Maybe I Can Be Great, One Day
A few years back I had the good fortune of opening for my friend, Cate LeBon at her Cardiff Christmas show. When she and her awesome band finished the show I had just the compliment for her. “You guys made me feel like a teenager. But not in the way you might think.”
Perfume Genius’s drummer (forgive all the name-dropping) knew exactly what I was talking about once I explained:
There is a moment in every young musician’s life where they see a local band that is great. Not good or talented; great. The thought comes into the musician’s mind that, “Oh my gosh. If they can be great, then maybe one day I can be great, too”. And on goes a lifetime of trying to achieve greatness.
I remember the first couple of examples of this very well. The first was when my band, Gorp opened for another local band named, ‘Gleet’ and they were incredible. There were a band in the truest sense of the word. All working together with a drummer that to this day is the steadiest one I’ve ever encountered, a wild, charismatic bass player just as solid as their drummer with a tone that shook you and a guitar player that played guitar that often didn’t sound like guitar, just noise that somehow was in tune. The focal point was their singer named Scott ‘Kivela’ Kish. He was captivating, mesmerising and beautiful. He was confident yet shy, the centre of everyone’s attention yet he was humble, eloquent and simply-spoken. He really was a rock star waiting to be shared with the world and everyone who encountered him knew it.
Gleet were going to be a huge band. It was really obvious to anyone who had seen them. It didn’t matter where they played; they always had a huge crowd of dedicated followers (I was definitely one of them) waiting for them to go on stage and the world would make sense for 45 minutes to an hour. They are still the only band I’ve ever seen that would have people dancing or moshing, even when they played super-slow. This was the first band that I had seen that made me think, “These guys are just local fellas a little older than me and maybe the best band I’ve ever seen. If they can do it, maybe I can be great, someday!” It really was something to behold.
Two weeks later I went to my first Sonic Unyon (local indie label) show to see Gleet. On the bill with them were a band called, “Shallow”.
At this point in my life I didn’t really like heavy music. Especially anything sounding remotely ’metal’. To me, metal was just noisy, fast for the sake of being fast and too loud. Not to mention the screaming. I was really into The Beatles and The Everly Brothers. My opinion changed the first time a saw Shallow.
Their riffs had a groove. You could bop your head to them like a good pop tune but it was sludgy before that was a genre of music. They weren’t super-fast like a lot of heavy bands. They kept a pace and even sometimes seemed like they were going just slow enough that I was on the edge of my seat waiting to take off but never losing the momentum of the lead up. It was intense, surprisingly melodic and beyond heavy.
The were a three-piece band, which was aesthetically pleasing, with a guitar player and bass player on either side in of their ‘front’ man who sat behind a drum stool, screaming, playing and holding it all together (I love singing drummers). They were another fine example of a band in the true sense of the word. They were all in seemingly perfect synchronicity. They sometimes wouldn’t even count in but all knew when to start and at what pace to go. It was insane, exciting and the perfect elixir for my frustrated, broken, teenage soul. I was officially converted. I liked heavy music. Still to this day, I’m not sure that I’ve seen a better, heavier band than Shallow, North Dakota (as they were later deemed).
I knew this was a scene that I had to be a part of and eventually I was let in. When I got to know the guys I was shocked to discover that Shallow’s singer, Tony Jacome was my age! At that point I was considered one of the youngsters of the scene but Tony? He seemed to have a maturity and musical wisdom way, way beyond his years. I just couldn’t believe that he had somehow cracked the ‘greatness formula’ at such a young age. And if he could do it, I thought maybe I could be great one day, too.
We lost Scott Kish on New Year’s Day in 1994. I spent my eighteenth birthday mourning the loss of a friend and hero. Looking back, I didn’t know Scott as well as I would have liked to have but in my teenage heart, it was my first of many, big losses. I spent years after trying to find a place for my grief for a man that I didn’t just want to be like, I wanted to be.
More recently we lost Tony Jacome. Though tragically young I did have the time and good fortune of getting to know him pretty well. My mind holds many memories of times with Tony including my twenty second birthday when Tony came in to sing and join me and a few others on a five-drum jam on my ‘Barfly’ musical. He nailed his vocal take, the first try. I was floored.
I remember spending a very long day at Treble Charger’s video shoot of which we were both a part of. We got to know each other quite well that day and discovered that we liked a lot of the same music which is perhaps why his music had such melodic sensibilities. We ended the day with a Fugazi show. Tony went back to the bar!
I remember the day we snuck away from The Sonic Unyon Fifth anniversary party with our friend, Gavin Dianda to my basement practice space, playing Beatles songs on my collection of rubbish instruments. Tony seemed to know every song I loved. I have a lot of fond memories of that legendary man.
There is a lot more to say about these two heroes of mine and perhaps I will someday. I don’t believe in heaven but in my mind, Tony and Scott have met up and start the super-group that I would have love to see. Perhaps I’ll get to check that show out one day and be blown away and inspired like I was all those years ago.
Until then I’m going to keep trying to be my best in the hopes that I too can be great one day.
both of these bands music can be found on bandcamp: