True Stories From Tacoland
The Trouble With Chicken
by Leighton Mann
When: July 4th, 1997
Who's Playing: Chapstik + Boxcar Satan
Ram Factor: Pretty Fuckin' Funny
It was Chapstik's homecoming show, for the home base venue: TaCoLaNd. This club is a Texas punk landmark (see the Dead Milkmen song "Tacoland" for more details). We had to make it a good show, especially on the 4th of July!
At the obligatory BBQ on the 3rd, we were throwing out ideas on how to make the performance worthy of Ram's (Tacoland proprietor) expectations. He'd fucking kill us if we didn't make the place the required freakshow...
Before reading on, keep in mind that San Antonio's scene is an odd mixture of Texan absurdity and Mexican traditions...
Good ideas weren't coming. After rehashing the outfits, the smoke-machine debacle and the multimedia presentation problems (gross slide shows), someone (unnamed) blurted out, "A cockfight in front of the band!" After the anglos in the crowd recoiled slightly, everyone cheered. Ten minutes later, as usual, we all forgot about it and decided to practice instead.
The next morning, after being awakened for the last time by the roaches trying to drag race across my chest, I was freaked by some awful screeching outside. Someone had acquired two odd-looking chickens and tied them up to the front of the apartment. Somehow we knew that these drag-queens of the bird world weren't for eating.
First Clue: They were separated. Whoever tied them up knew these birds didn't like each other and were bred to be antisocial.
Second Clue: They looked too good to eat. These animals had elaborate, colored plumes and weren't the usual obese human-chow. They were tall, thin, and apparently strong.
Third Clue: When we tried to let them roam free, instead of running away they attacked each other.
Fourth Clue: We remembered that one of the people at the BBQ the day before was proud of the fact that he could get "anything for anyone". Shit.
The preparation for show went on as usual, until the last things to be loaded were the "Props". I thought, "Oh, we'll just parade them around on their cute leashes, and that'll be enough to appease the bloodthirsty". The PA, the loading, the costumes, the BBQ, the weather, and the songs were enough, but loading two insane chickens was really starting to freak me out. But they got there alright, after a friend who had handled the monsters in Mexico drove them in his truck. (Bet that was a fun 5 blocks.)
TaCoLaNd is a small one-room club overlooking the open sewer called the San Antonio River. The show had the expected dense-as-Hell's-locker-room look, feel and smell. I was constantly leaving to get some air, and we were the last band. So, I found myself regularly checking the bird to see if they were OK, or if anyone was fucking with them.
Sure enough, just as Boxcar Satan went on before us, one of the birds turned up missing. Word had gotten 'round to the PETA wannabes and bloodthirsty in the crowd that there might be a "cockfight" during the Chapstik set. But I couldn't figure out if the thieves were just uptight hippies acting on a rumor and a chance to look like "heroes". Or was it one of the hoards of insane carnivores churning inside? (Or did Ram suddenly decide to start serving Chicken Tacos again?)
I made the call, "Fuck it! It isn't worth a vegan riot or a carnivorous frenzy just to use these birds."
Even though our amps are really loud, and our drummer likes to surprise us with extra loud hits; I wasn't prepared for the noise and confusion that exploded midway through the Chapstik set. First, the fireworks went off all around us and the crowd. (Keep in mind that the stage and the audience area at Tacoland are basically the same thing.) People are all around us. Smoke bombs and firecrackers are belching under my feet. Out of the corner of my eye I see "the" monitor fly towards the back. Then I look down to see an unnamed member of Boxcar Satan (the hint is that he is well hung) strumming my guitar with his penis.
"OK," Chapstik all think together,"this is a great show, but how do the songs go again?"
Just as I was remembering the chords to the bridge of our last song, the screaming started. People finally backed away from me and the microphone. I felt a brushing on my back, but assumed it was a straggler left behind during the screaming. The lingerer wasn't human, but it was pissed. I looked quickly behind and remembered the face behind the new cloud of feathers as the freak who said he could get us "anything".
The bird was even more freaked out than the crowd in seconds. The animal was trying to fly. Have you ever watched a roach try to fly? This was more scary, because this thing had claws, and was trained to use them. The temporarily sober crowd could do nothing but make momentary holes for the bird's crack-induced impression of "Flashdance".
It was beautiful. Vegans and carnivores, equally scared for their thin skins, around this whirling dervish of feathers and claws sharpened by professionals in the SouthSide.
The terror and camaraderie only lasted for a few bars of a hectic song. Soon, the cock was hanging out by my feet just looking up at me for the duration of the song. It looked like he was saying, "When are you bastards going to let me kick that other chicken's ass instead of all these hippies' ankles?!"
The next day: I wasn't feeling well (surprise!). The BBQ, organizing the show, the fireworks, the demonic bird trying to climb up my jumpsuit... it all made me thirsty. Pulling up to the "Crack 'n Go" convenience mecca, my stomach notified me that I was never to eat chicken again. I told Mr. Stomach, "Fine, I'll puke as soon as I pull into the parking lot!" (Scary bastard)
Unfortunately, the lot was filled with cop cars and motorcycles - apparently for the daily donut roundup. Cops everywhere and I was in a rental car. Before I could think, I was emptying my borrowed lunch (gallons of it) into my favorite stagewear: the white jumpsuit. Cops in the patrol car next to me had no idea as I laid white sack of vomit next to them and slowly pulled away.
I drove to a cop-free store and got the required Gatorade (passing on the Menudo). Just for kicks, I drove back by the first, cop-infested store, in my inconspicuous rented Neon. There was no trace of the beautiful jumpsuit, or the vomit, or even the ringer shirt I used to wipe my mouth/spigot. For this theft, I initially suspected the homeless guys in the park, but then I remembered the look on that chicken's face as he was staring up at me the night before. Was he looking at me? ...or my jumpsuit? We never found either bird after the show.
Thanks to Joe Barfield for the Chapstik link.