Monday, January 16, 2012

The Champs

In the autumn of 1991, I was completely unaware that there was a punk rock scene on the East Coast.  I knew about bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat, but they seemed like legends from a distant past.  For the hell of it, I went to a show at William and Mary University in my hometown of Williamsburg to see bands with strange names like Jettison Charlie (or Hassan Chop, I don't remember), the Reverend Horton Heat, and Nation of Ulysses.  The Nation was the first actual noise band I'd ever seen, and one of the things I recall most clearly was that it didn't sound like a damn thing.  Anyway, this is not their story.
Seven or so years after that, I heard that one of the NOU's guitarists moved to Santa Cruz or San Diego or somewhere and was in a band that sounded like Iron Maiden or something.  This band was scheduled to play in the upstairs of my friend's house at 1208-A West Franklin in Richmond - very close to where I lived.
The Champs were a two guitar/drums trio that played victorious-sounding metal without enormous gobs of distortion.  This was at a time when it wasn't really that cool to be into metal.  Everyone there was way into it, and the Champs became something of a flagship for a new kind of... well... I guess the term "hipster metal" is derogatory, but what else can it be called?  People that were hip and played metal.  As opposed to people that were unhip and played metal?  They immediately became one of my favorite bands.  I bought a tape:
This is not its story.

Anyway, after seeing them a few times, I developed something of an acquaintanceship with the guys in the Champs.  To be clear, it was probably more that way than them developing an acquaintanceship with me - but I digress.  At the legendary club King's in Raleigh, NC, they let me open up for the Champs by playing a guitar solo for like 20 minutes.  And I used to wonder why I never got to be famous?  My friend Mike Marunde came with me to the show with some recording equipment, and we set up a couple of microphones and recorded the Champs' set some time in early 2000?  Here it is:

Champs Youtube Playlist

Last I heard of the Champs, Josh Smith quit (I refuse to use wikipedia - that's cheating) and joined a band with the word Horse in it.  I thought this would be the end of the band because Josh was one of the original guitarist, but Tim Green and Tim Soete got a guy from Trans Am and they made another solid album or two.  Or three.

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