By Noah Hubbell
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Let's get this out of the way right at the top: The father of Evan, Paige and Preston O'Meara, who constitute three-fifths of Denver's 8-Bucks Experiment, owns Northglenn-based O'Meara Ford Center and O'Meara Isuzu, two of the metro area's largest and most heavily promoted car dealerships. But while Pop is reportedly supportive of this musical project (he lets the band practice in his house), the boys are reluctant to make too much of the connection. When asked how O'Meara customers might respond upon hearing some of the band's tunes, Preston replies, "They'd go to John Elway."
If they did, it would be their loss, because the Experiment (singer Evan, bassist Paige, drummer Preston, rhythm guitarist Bart Dahl and lead guitarist Daniel Epstein) is among the most entertaining acts currently traveling local highways. A recent performance at the Raven, for example, began with several of the group's members sporting gas masks and quickly descended into an ear-splitting orgy of fist pumping, floor writhing and body bashing--and that was just on stage.
"We're all about having fun," Paige says, but these guys' idea of a good time is not for the timid. A typical 8-Bucks set kicks off with Evan shrieking lines like "God knows I'm fucking trying" in a voice that suggests Black Flag-era Henry Rollins passing a kidney stone the size of Guatemala. As for his stage patter, it's currently limited to statements such as "This next song's a dance song, so all you people standing still out there are fuckheads." Fortu-nately, the Bucks needn't worry about wallflowers. When Dahl performs his buzzsaw-style slide-guitar solos (assisted by a limbless mannequin who's a staple at Bucks gigs), the all-ages crowds the combo attracts mutate into frenetic whirlpools of safety pins and deliberately botched bleach jobs.
The in-concert aggressiveness of the players may come as a surprise to anyone who encounters them in another setting. Dahl admits, "We're not very intimidating when you meet us in person." Concurs Paige, "We're really just wussies."
He's joking, of course--but it's true that when Paige, Preston, Dahl and Epstein formed the group that became the 8-Bucks Experiment eighteen months ago, musical combativeness wasn't at the top of their agenda. In fact, the Experiment's first incarnation was as a U2 cover band. Evan, whom the others had enlisted to produce a debut recording, quickly put a stop to that. "He came in and decided that he didn't like any of our stuff," Paige says. "But he asked us if we wanted to try something different. And we did--so we just started over from scratch."
From there the road was all uphill. Evan had been mulling over the 8-Bucks Experiment moniker prior to the outfit's first gig, but it was the performance itself (at Aurora's Wooden Nickel) that convinced him of the name's appropriateness. "We made eight bucks," he says.
"Four bikers paid two bucks apiece," Dahl elaborates.
Paige says, "We figured it was destiny."
The audience at a Raven show last November was larger--and considerably more unpleasant. Because the band's songs at the time were too long and too slow, Evan explains, "we got booed off the stage. So we made some serious adjustments." These alterations were further fueled by a brief tour that left them in even fouler humor than the Raven date produced. According to Evan, "We came back to play a show in Fort Collins, and we were all drunk and angry. And through the combination of alcohol and anger, we changed the way we sound."
That's not entirely accurate; Preston says that he doesn't drink. It's true, however, that "long" and "slow" are not terms often used to describe the Experiment anymore. These days the unit is more commonly compared to the Sex Pistols, Fugazi and Rage Against the Machine--and the list of artists who inspire the musicians is even more varied. For example, Epstein, a onetime jazz pianist who converted to guitar after discovering "that I wasn't really so good," is partial to techno, while Preston confesses to a fondness for classic rock. But, he adds, "our biggest influence is the Jerky Boys." More seriously, Paige says that the music is "all over the map. It's like uncharted territory."
Listeners who travel to the Experiment's domain should do so at their own risk. Epstein reveals, "We've had the police called on us frequently." Such complaints usually concern noise, but not always: At a recent rave in Grand Junction, a ruckus resulted when over-enthusiastic moshers incited a fistfight. "We're never the cause of the problem," Dahl says. "We're good, law-abiding citizens." But, Evan says, "we make good riot music, apparently." Blue Moon Records, a company formed by the O'Meara boys, is dedicated to preserving such material for posterity; the label's most recent release is an 8-Bucks EP titled Blood, Sweat and Beers.
The recording is promising, but Preston, a senior at Denver Academy who still has his first set of drums (a timeworn Tama kit he received while in third grade), isn't pinning his entire future on it. Upon graduation, he says, he may take a position at their father's store, where, like his siblings, he's logged more than his share of hours over the years. Paige, too, is interested in business; he's pursuing a degree in that subject at the University of Denver. But Evan, a photography major at the University of Colorado at Denver, is more committed to rock and roll--or, at the very least, rebellion. His answer to a question about the possibility of him following in his father's footsteps? "Fuck, no." For his sake, let's hope the Experiment is successful.