They're Not Wimps
"We really don't want people having to take their time figuring out whether they're going to like us or not," says Bradly Wayne Shaver, singer and frontman for the Weaklings, from Portland, Oregon. "We don't want to stand there and look pretty. We want to put on a good fucking rock-and-roll show."
And they do. On a good night, Shaver and his merry band of agitators (guitarist Mark Rhemrev, bassist Casey J. Maxwell and drummer Steve "The Kid" Mickelson) kick up a dirty, bare-knuckled ruckus that even the sainted Jesus Lizard would envy. Averaging a whopping thirty minutes in length, most Weaklings performances are akin to a musical hit-and-run wherein audience members are knocked unconscious by an inebriated juggernaut only to awaken in a state of shock moments later, ears ringing and genitals throbbing.
Shaver admits to being the man behind a lion's share of the bedlam. When the wiry, ivory-skinned singer isn't writhing on the floor and smashing gear, he can usually be found carving his chest with a broken beer bottle and, as he so poetically puts it, "bleeding on pretty girls." Naturally, fans revel in the singer's nihilistic antics, especially when he's baptizing them with beer or dowsing them with pitchers of water. Club owners haven't been quite so receptive. One proprietor in Chico, California, even went so far as to call the cops, claiming that a Weaklings gig had incited a riot--a charge based at least partly in truth. "We got pulled over by six police officers that night," Shaver notes in a deadpan voice. "We lit our drums on fire in the club, and they evacuated. It was one of those situations where I was in there just doing my thing. There was broken glass all over the floor, and I'm bleeding and guitars are flying everywhere. And then, toward the end of the set, I had the drums burning. I think she got a little freaked out by the whole thing.
"But once we had explained to the cops what had happened--that we had just ruined our own shit--they wrote the whole thing off," he continues. "They just sort of politely explained to us that what we do apparently doesn't fly in their town."
Plenty of musicians have been unable to take the heat as well. Since its inception five years ago, the band has seen more personnel changes than the House of Representatives' leadership, due in large part to its rigorous touring schedule. According to Shaver, the first batch of Weaklings kicked off their initial U.S. assault only six months after picking up their instruments, and since then, they've left more than their share of roadkill along the way. "For a while there, everything just slowly started to fall apart," Shaver says. "People just kept quitting for whatever reason. Either they had jobs, or they lost interest, or they'd get tired of breaking down on the road all the time and coming home owing shitloads of money. It just became a real burden, you know what I mean?"
Miraculously, Shaver managed to keep the group duct-taped together long enough to record a handful of singles and a self-titled LP for Los Angeles's Junk Records, an imprint best known for its association with such renowned rowdies as Electric Frankenstein, Zeke, and the Bulemics. Most of the music on these offerings qualifies as straight-up steak-and-spuds punk: powerful, lewd, but ultimately fleeting. Far more convincing is the group's newer material, which finds Shaver and his mates injecting a traditional rock groove into their high-octane mix. Recent singles on Shrunken Head and Spain's Safety Pin display a sloppy, hip-shaking spirit that recalls the Candy Snatchers (today's premier drunk-and-roll hooligans) and the late, lamented Humpers.
The Weaklings' full-length followup for Junk should up the ante further. Scheduled for a May release, the as-yet-untitled disc was produced by Conrad Uno at Seattle's Egg Studios and features a batch of baby-fresh efforts that have Shaver brimming with enthusiasm. "We wanted to record a really amazing rock record," he says. "We wanted to create some of that magic that I remember from when I was a kid, when I would go down to the record store and try to find every single and record by a band and then put them on tapes for my friends. I'd get excited about bands.
"Right now, I just don't see that," he goes on. "We played in Virginia Beach in January, and it was a Saturday night, and about eight people showed up for the show. After it was over, I went around the corner to get a pack of cigarettes, and there was this club across the street that was just packed full of people listening to rave-up dance music. And I couldn't help but think, 'Man, we're in the wrong fucking business.'"
Nevertheless, Shaver isn't quite ready to trade in his current lifestyle for strobe lights and smart drinks. The Weaklings are already making plans to tour the U.S. and Japan, and a jaunt through Europe is on the books for later in the year. If these efforts are successful, Shaver hopes to make music his full-time career. Until then, though, he's holding on to his day job--which, strangely enough, is at a crisis center in downtown Portland. "I like taking care of these people who would otherwise die," Shaver reveals. "It feels good. I get a chance to do something nice for somebody without expecting anything in return."
And what do his co-workers at the center think about his maniacal--some would say pathological--behavior on stage? "They give me a hard time about it," he concedes, laughing. "They really don't understand it. Some of them think I'm on some kind of downward spiral or something. But what they don't understand is that for the thirty or forty minutes I'm up there playing, I'm not really being me. Like this one friend of mine said when he was sticking up for me, 'After a concert, Gene Simmons doesn't come home and spit blood all over his kids.' This is rock and roll. This is what we do."
The Weaklings, with the LaDonnas and Hemi Cuda. 9 p.m. Thursday, March 11, 15th Street Tavern, 623 15th Street, $5, 303-572-0822.
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