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The songs played by most Colorado punk bands are apolitical; they're about everyday life, not the great issues of the day. But although the Messy Hairs (guitarist/vocalist Dave Paco, bassist Josh Posh and drummer Haroldo) have their share of such tunes, they're not afraid to take a stand when one is demanded. The grinding but melodic "Tolerance," for instance, is a passionate anthem that touts animal liberation, a cause near and dear to the musicians, who are all practicing vegetarians. "It's like slavery--taking a bunch of animals and putting them in cages until they're ready to kill them," Paco explains. "That's not something I want to support."
That doesn't mean, however, that the musicians would rather lecture fans than provide a good time. Witness a recent show at CU-Boulder's Club 156 that was shut down when the bandmates dared to set off smoke bombs and a firecracker.
"I wanted to play rock and roll when I was a kid," Paco says. "I wanted to play on a big stage with explosions, like Kiss and Van Halen did. So we decided to have a pyrotechnic show--but then some guy tried to put out our fireworks, and Haroldo spit on him."
"I paid three bucks for that fountain, and he just stepped on it," notes self-described "heavy-metal head" Haroldo. "We wanted to bring the threat back into punk, and we did--and they got really mad when we did. It was like we'd ruined the whole punk scene."
"It was the last punk venue you could play at, and we single-handedly ruined it," Posh says. "People were saying, 'They're ruining everything.'"
That's an exaggeration, of course: Although the show didn't go on that night (Electric Summer was scheduled to perform afterward but never did), there were no hard feelings between the Messy Hairs and staffers at Club 156, who later booked the band again. No doubt they understood that the musicians were only reflecting the emotion that powers the music they love. "Punk is an attitude," Haroldo says. "It's our lives, the way we feel, how we express ourselves."
The threesome's musical tastes were established early. "The first punk-rock tape I ever got was Suicidal Tendencies," Paco recalls. "A friend gave it to me in the sixth grade, and then I totally got into it, I started listening to all these punk bands, and it made my life better. I was excited about things. It gave me something to do, and I wanted to share it with other people."
A few years later, Paco became a member of Four, an outfit previously profiled in these pages ("Be Four," August 8, 1996). When Four broke up, Paco hooked up with Posh, a longtime member of the local punk community; Haroldo joined the fold later, after a previous drummer quit. Since then, they've let their ideals influence their sound rather than allowing the music to determine their status as members of a thriving underground movement. According to Posh, "It's never like we say, 'We've got to write this song so it sounds punk.' We don't try to make a certain kind of music. We just play, and that's how it comes out."
Thus far, the band's biggest release is Alien Nation, an EP highlighted by the aforementioned "Tolerance" and "The Crossbones," a shout-along about skateboarding that initially appeared on a split seven-inch with the Ginders. But the Messy Hairs recently re-recorded "Crossbones" and eleven other tunes for inclusion on a long-player that should be available in the near future. (They took a typically punk approach to getting the songs down on tape, bashing them out in just eight hours.) The album will come out on Paco Garden Records, an imprint founded by Paco. He started the label, he says, because "I was trying to do things to take up my time and my money so I wouldn't buy drugs. Rather than doing drugs, I started to put out records."
Today Paco is drug-free and the Messy Hairs sound better than ever, whether they're playing at house parties or fundraisers for organizations such as San Francisco-based Food Not Bombs, which serves vegetarian fare to the hungry and homeless. But despite their endorsement of unity in the community--a punk hallmark--they've still found it difficult to gain the acceptance of Colorado punks. "I don't think we fit in here," Haroldo says. "There's all these punk bands, but they never call us to play any shows or anything."
"But that's cool in a way," Paco points out. "We have to get our own shows, and it makes us work harder. We don't really owe anybody anything." He adds, "Playing here, we kind of make our own scene, when our friends come to the shows."
Paco and company learned to appreciate having people they know in the audience after completing a summertime tour that took them to California and various cities in the Southwest. While on the road, they were often paired with acts that had little in common with them, including metal men or pop-punkers. "Every now and then, we found bands that played in the same style we do, and that's exciting," Paco says. "But if they were everywhere we went, it wouldn't have been so cool."
"Our best shows are in Colorado," Haroldo adds. "When we're here, we're not playing for other bands. We're playing for ourselves.