There was a time, a lifetime or two ago, when I used to spend a lot of time in dark clubs and sleazy bars, listening to bands give it all up for audiences that only sometimes got it.
Some of these bands today are names you know; CDs you have in your collection, if sometimes under different names than I knew them.
I used to roadie – hump amps, drive gear to gigs, sometimes help sound guys. I tried and tried to play, but found my musical gifts tended to the listening and lifting, not the creation.
Of all the bands I loved, one above all stood out. They were my friends, people I know and love still today. But before they were my friends, they were one of the greatest live bands I’ve ever seen.
Dot 3, they were called, a name I always thought had to do with the elipsis (the final dot on the end, meaning, what comes after). Years later, I found out the origin was more mundane; that there was a can of break fluid on the windowsill in the room where the practiced, and they kept looking at DOT 3 on the label and took a liking to the name.
They called themselves “Tribal Funk”; I to describe them as ‘one part old XTC (‘white music’ era), one part new King Crimson (‘discipline’ era), and one part James Brown. This didn’t really cover it, but it gives one a very vague idea.
This was a band that were doing that thrash-funk thing before Primus or the Limbomaniacs or the Chili Peppers did it; in fact they inspired all three of those bands. Primus opened for them all the time, as did the RHCP.
Dot 3 worked that same territory, yet there was something more intensely primal in what they did.
The night I first saw them, the drummer played a stange, stand-up drum kit, pounding and whipping his head, dancing as he played. The singer played Chapman Stick. They had a horn section – something none of the bands playing the san jose scene at the time had.
They opened the show with two of them – Mark, the bass/stick player and lead singer, and Ken (yes, that Ken, my dear friend still) pounding out complex drum parts while wearing empty budweiser cartons on their heads. The rest of them band entered from the back of the club – also in beer cartons – playing other drum parts on various small portable drums.
I knew from the first tune I’d love this band; I just didn’t know how much.
As with so many brilliant local bands, they never really left a record of what they were. The few studio recordings never sounded like them; and the bizarre, hard-to-classify style made them generally un-interesting to record companies. They were a band without a pretty front man, without a hit song, without a hook record labels would understand. Yet, they were ahead of a great wave of funk-rock bands to come, and with only some luck and timing, they might have been a band we’d all know of.
Such is the story of so many brilliant bands.
What little record we have is rough, recorded live, with hand-held video cameras. It doesn’t really capture it; you can’t hear the collective scream of an entire audience yelling the words, you can’t catch a room throbbing with the beat on hot, sweaty nights. You can’t get the primal beat everything they did was based on. You can’t hear the incredibly energy, the incredible talent.
I remember though, and so, if you’re lucky enough ever to have seen them, do you.
This is a clip made by my friend Eric Predoehl, a long time ago. I keep begging for more; I know he has it. But this one, for all the rough sound and un-edited form, reminds me of a band that made a permenent impression on me, both musically and personally.