Buzz Bomber and the M-80s know the drill when it comes to blue-collar nights on the highbrow town, pistol-whipping themselves and whoever's left standing with a crass, beer-fueled brand of punk-spirited music and buffoonery. Playing manic sets like fast-order fry cooks, Bomber and the band offer musical grub that's both simple and filling -- like a gooey Denver omelet with extra ham -- with just enough love 'n' grease to cheer up an off-duty cop.
Or, better still, needy kids at Children's Hospital.
The band is the force behind a holly-hocked event that's coming to Cricket on the Hill this Saturday night, the sixth annual "Toys for Tots" fundraiser, where every red-nosed cent and ha'penny generated -- including the bar's cut -- will go for a worthy cause: sick little Yule-tykes with nary a figgy pudding; working families without insurance; kids with cancer; orphans in the burn ward. In short, the seasonal Tiny Tims of Denver.
Sixth Annual "Toys for Tots" Children's Hospital Benefit, featuring Buzz Bomber and the M-80s, Outer Drive, Lords of Saran, Horse With No Band and Colemesis. 8 p.m. Saturday, December 18, Cricket on the Hill, 1209 East 13th Avenue, $4, 303-830-9020
Playing Santa Claus (complete with pink tutu and a farmer's tan) is nothing new to the 33-year-old Bomber, who relocated to Utah a year ago. As frontman/guitarist/screecher for this amusing power trio -- a noisy concoction featuring bassist Mike Mayhem and drummer Jack Shit -- Bomber's annual sleigh ride has become a tradition for the Cricket crowd. Despite any onstage antics that might (read: will) occur during the benefit, the three racketeers regard the evening's charity gig as more than just another reason to slam down copious amounts of liquor, which, more often than not, is precisely what fuels the funny car of their performances.
"My sister and I both spent about half of our early childhood [at Children's Hospital]," says Mayhem, a lifelong asthmatic who still keeps an inhaler handy at all times. "If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be around. My little cousin Michelle now has a brain tumor," he continues, "so I wrote her mom and said I'm playing this show for her." Bomber agrees: "It feels good to do stuff not just for yourself."
Warm and heartfelt cockles aside, the real irony in all of this sweet charity is that this band's vision -- a suds-guzzlin' and comically depraved one -- is definitely not for the kiddies, let alone any field-tripping soccer mom without the good sense to stay away. In other words, if Wilma Webb has the energy to go slumming after an episode of Touched by an Angel, she oughta steer clear of the Cricket and stick with something familiar like a cozy jaunt to the Dress Barn. Bomber and company make music so peppered with expletives and raunchiness that their live act almost begs distinction in the heralded halls of the lowest common denominator. (At the band's most recent Denver performance, Bomber actually stopped the whirling blades of an electric house fan with his tongue.)
"Our songs are so stupid that if you tell people what they're about before you sing them, it's too late. They've missed the point," Bomber says. Original numbers like "Molly" explore a young girl's pain and confusion growing up -- that is, growing up into a lesbian cheerleader prom queen out to gun down the boys who made her miserable. "Squeals Under My Wheels" mows down an unsuspecting puppy or two, and "2000 Man" casts a jaundiced eye toward the "plastic houses" and "vinyl flowers" of futuristic times, a Y2K sing-along that asks, "Why am I so fucking tired?" Parody is big with these galoots, too; imagine the chorus of the Four Non Blondes hit "What's Up?" replaced with "Vi-a-gra!" and sung with such vigor that even the pill-taker's dog would quake with fear. Bomber's signature strip-down song, "Little Dead Surfer Girl," puts a mad spin on Bill Comeau's Broadside Brass Bed Band classic "Little Surfer Girl," and, as the hulking fellow who is Bomber has been known to slowly unpeel layers of clothing -- excepting the pink tutu -- during the tune, it could offend even the daintiest of sensibilities. Sloppy, souped-up cover songs also work their way into the lather: the Banana Splits TV theme song, Devo's "Urge," "Helter Skelter (in the Fallout Shelter)." The group's most requested song, oddly enough, is Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso." Throughout the band's repertoire, every white-trash stereotype gets a day of glamour with the clumsy, buck-toothed beautician: beer muscles, fat-fried greazy cheese dogs, even the host of the stultifying Jerry Springer Show. The M-80s' 1998 debut on Bomber's own FUH-Q imprint features the crowd-pleasing title cut "Beating Up My Best Friend," a spoof of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane." The song is a less-than-lilting tribute to Cincinnati's former mayor.
"We made a special video and sent it to him, too," Bomber notes. "Spared no expense. We couldn't find any girls to be in it, so I just sang to a mop." Whether Springer (the Democratic Party's hopeful to run against wholesome Republican senator Mike DeWine in 2000!) has viewed the tape remains unknown. "Haven't heard from him yet," Bomber concedes. Such shameless self-promotion comes naturally to the affable fellow whose passion for lampoonery dates back to involvement in bands like the Rabid Aardvarks and a San Francisco-based group called Disturbing the Peace, which -- big fat surprise -- set out to do just that. These days, another Bay Area project with electronica pioneer Robomaster, dubbed the Mechanized Killer Bees, keeps the Bomber's creative hive humming as well.
Though his current digs in Salt Lake City may seem an unlikely nesting place, Bomber's life in Utah has its moments: Restoring "Old Nightmare," a custom flame-airbrushed hearse, and exercising his liver on home-brewed beer is time well-spent. (Bomber's tasty belly washes have names straight out of The Book of Mormon: Moroni's Trumpet, LDS or Lovely Damn Shit, Captain Nephi's Wheat and a full-bodied stout called The Curse of Lehi). Best of all, there's life around the family hearth with baby Zak and Mrs. Bomber, a regional manager for Victoria's Secret. "They wear regulation underwear here," Bomber notes.
Bomber's bandmates, the M-80s, share his penchants for music and mischief. Mayhem, who christened his bass in "an awful Boulder hippie band" called Social Intercourse, often sports a kilt on stage and claims he can blow bagpipes out of his arse, "like Shite Shillinghan of the McFarland clan." His rousing "Tom Shane" -- a tribute to the local, bland gemologist who claims to be "your friend in the diamond business" -- is a spirited mockery of a zillion too many radio ads he's had the displeasure of sitting through. "I hate him," Mayhem says. "I've been listening to his fuckin' voice since I was a kid." Despite a blossoming side project with buddy Rex Moser called Buck Wild ("a pretty straightforward Stray Cats meets Johnny Cash kinda thing") and his involvement writing music for James McElwee's experimental play Ignomoney, Mayhem's heart belongs to Bomber and Shit. "I'd marry them if I could," he says.
Shit -- already hitched to Mrs. Shit -- distinguishes himself as the third and final M-80, the self-described "missing link" adopted into the band nearly four years ago. An accomplished guitarist as well as a drummer, Shit's stint in a band called Bitch Magnet later led to his own ferocious three-piece, Godrifle, a much-lauded local punk effort which he fronted on vocals and ax duties. Bassist Tom Henderson and drummer Orestes de la Torre rounded out the trio, which issued an impressive and blistering self-titled CD in '93 on the Caustic Fish label. The elder brainiac of the M-80s (whose plastic bike helmet, when worn on stage, gives him the aura of a retarded person out to avoid a concussion), Shit holds a degree as Doctor of Philosophy from the Oberlin College Department of Physics; his thesis, titled "Dielectric Properties of Thin Film Sr TIO3 at Microwave Frequencies," sails entirely over most humans' addled pates, but it landed Dr. Shit a job that he currently despises: designing gigabit transmitters for the Start Up Communications company's research and development department. Among other high-tech multi-tasks, that department designs semiconductor lasers for DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Association. "They should be shut fucking down," Dr. Shit contends. "You can quote me on that. I hope you do."
Such gusto from a day-jobber makes life in the thrash lane all the more appealing. It also helps good-time, rockin' folks like Bomber and the M-80s see their music for what it is. "So many bands worry about doing it right," Shit points out. "I'm not interested in getting signed and going national. This band is interested in playing the Cricket, and that's, like...that's it. It's about pure entertainment. It's not about an artistic statement. It's about what you want to hear when you want to get fucked up Friday night."
Refreshing punch-drunk sentiments like these (never mind that the charity benefit falls on a Saturday night) led to over two hours of music, interviews and debauchery in 1998, as audio from a rather infamous LoDo warehouse keg party found its way onto the now-defunct airwaves of KRRF-AM (Ralph). A live segment of the station's weekend series called Soundcheck -- hosted by unctuous jock Brian Pavlich and featuring Buzz and the band -- coincidentally aired from a warehouse the same evening as the Westword-sponsored Music Awards Showcase. Originally intended as a one-time "love letter" to then-Backbeat editor Michael Roberts, the muddy and rough-sounding Westturd '98 is a recording of the Ralph broadcast, which soundly razzes the citywide event and finds Bomber and friends relishing their own self-appointed status as the worst band in town. Reissued for diehard Bomber fans, the CD now comes professionally packaged in a sandwich bag with cover art that apes the Westword masthead, which, according to Bomber, approximates "Third Reich boldface."
"It was supposed to be fun," he says. "Everything's a joke to me."
The pranks continue on the band's forthcoming disk, The Pink Album, its most polished and intriguing batch of songs to date. Assisted by the United States Postal Service, the CD was created by mailing material back and forth between computerized studios with the same software configurations -- one in Salt Lake City, the other in Shit's Denver basement. The band also offers a nifty MP3 site (www.buzzbomber.amp3.net) to keep fans up on its latest efforts. And like the proceeds from Saturday night's impending shenanigans, sales of Pink will likewise go to charity.
So what makes a guy like Bomber do all of this? Consider driving eight hours in the December cold from America's cultural crater, Salt Lake City, just to jangle on a guitar and screech at a bunch of drunks. Consider slouching back toward Utah afterward -- another eight hours on the road -- and what that place has to offer: dry counties, beehives, the Latter-day Saints.
Is it love? Bomber doesn't really think so. "I like to stand up in front of people and yank my pants off," he says. "I'm big on free drinks, too, man. That's the best part."
Even if the "Toys for Tots" event never matches the pyrotechnical Christmas billing of say, Gwar, Slayer and Mahler, Bomber does promise one thing: "If you come you pay four dollars and we put on a five-dollar show. It's money in your pocket. You're making money."
Hopefully, so are all the Tiny Tims at Children's Hospital.
Merry Payload. See you under the mistle-silo.
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