Monday, August 13, 2012

Action Patrol - Work Ethic

When I was 10 or so, I enrolled in a karate class.  I don't remember much from it, but one lesson stuck with me.  The instructor told us that no matter how good we ever got at martial arts - or anything for that matter - there would ALWAYS be someone out there that was going to be better.  I can forgive his mistake in saying this, because it was a good decade before the band Action Patrol formed.
Fast forward to 1993, maybe late summer?  My friend Eve played me a practice tape of his new band, tentatively titled "Sleestack".  Now, Eve was a bassist first and a guitarist second.  I'd never heard him play drums, but they might as well have been his first instrument.  The guitarist's name was Chris Taggart, and I think the bassist was Josh Brown (later to be replaced by some girl named either Kelly or Kathy or Tommi) Tom Baisden)?  The singer's name was Nappy for some reason that was not known to me at the time.  The practice tape couldn't have been higher quality than boombox, but they definitely seemed ready to play shows.  They were practicing at least twice a week and Eve said that they had enough songs for a set, but "weren't ready."  This was baffling to me.
Legend has it that Action Patrol existed for a full year before ever playing out.  This - like most things about the band - was very... thought out.  That may have a negative connotation, but I'm not saying that it was contrived.  It's just that they seemed to like to plan.  Most bands would (and I'm sure still do) get together, write some songs, play some shows, record some demos, put out some records, maybe tour, etc. etc.  I remember when they recorded for their album, they didn't let anyone hear the recordings before the official release.  Again, baffling (though I get it now).
The music was propelled by Chris Taggart's lightning-fast staccato riffs (which were in MAJOR keys, keeping the sound from veering into heavy metal territory), Eve's almost jazzy drumming, and Nappy's frantic-sounding vocals.  Tom held the whole thing together with his melodic basslines - often playing counterpoint to the guitar parts.  Their sound was described as "a deep fusion of east coast hardcore and west coast punk rock" in an interview by someone that didn't know what he was talking about (me).  Their first show was (I think?) New Years 1994 at a house party, and they played in their screenprinted orange shirts (later to become full jumpsuits).  The atmosphere was absolutely electric.  I don't know if Nappy had ever been in a band before, but he was easily one of the most energetic frontmen I've ever seen.  Totally insane, but also charismatic and non-threatening.  Chris Taggart, on the other hand, stayed completely still; somehow giving off the impression that despite his calm demeanor, he was orchestrating the entire event.  Overnight, they became one of the most popular punk bands in Richmond.

By June, they had become established enough to put out their first 7" record.  EVERYONE had a copy.  In fact, somebody stole mine (if you're reading this and it was you, send it back.  No questions asked).  By winter, they released a full-length album on Whirled Records.  Have I ever mentioned that I play it pretty loose regarding dates and other trivia?  This stuff was a long time ago.  Eventually they toured, and I think Eve either quit or got kicked out soon after that.  He was replaced by Rich Green (previously of hardcore band Grip).  Rich was a solid drummer, but for me it just wasn't the same, and I only saw them a couple of times after the personnel change.  Their popularity only grew though, and they ended up putting out a total of three records.  Some time in 1997, they broke up.  I don't know why.
One of their shows with Rich on drums was videotaped.
This show was at a house party on Dick Street in Greensboro, NC.  Shows there used to be nuts, and this was probably one of the best examples.  50 or so kids crammed into a living room to sing along to one of their favorite bands.
Their discography also can be found here.
In a private conversation with Nappy, he said the following.  I am reposting it without permission:
the years we were playing and the experiences we had pretty much made up some of the best moments of my life so far. it was a really special thing to be a part of punk back then. i'm sure all young people feel the same way about their particular scene in each subcultural micro-generation...but i just really had a great time.

1 comment:

  1. separate show but alabama thunderpussy and still life at dick street. one of the greatest shows of all time. up there w/ kilara playing in my living room in blacksburg.