Saturday Night at the Bookstore

Gary Floyd: Once a Dick, Always a Dick

Gary Floyd
Gary Floyd (Photo By Marc Geller)

It was the height of spring, mid-May, and already hot. The old Quonset hut at 525 1/2 Barton Springs Rd., formerly a National Guard armory, was just beginning to cool off as Friday turned into Friday night. Like the City Coliseum about half a mile down Riverside, this cavernous hall had a tendency to trap heat. With 8pm bringing a hint of a breeze, things in the beer garden were looking up. Bar manager Dale Watkins, towel tucked firmly in his back pocket as usual, put more Lone Star on ice. The nachos were selling well tonight. Cruising down Congress Avenue in a long Cadillac convertible covered with rust spots, Gary Floyd felt his purple/pink mohawk bristle in the wind. Driven by their friend Manolo Lopez, Floyd and his three buddies savored the ride. One way or another, it would be a night to remember -- no matter what memories remained once the beer wore off.

Turning onto Barton Springs, Lopez hung a left into the badly rutted gravel driveway separating the hall from Doug Scales' Auto Body Shop. Since it was early, there was still plenty of parking (Scales' oft-heard complaints notwithstanding), so cars had not yet begun encroaching on the apartment buildings around Ego's. Floyd gazed up at the painted scenes covering the building as he and his cohorts made their entrance.

Casting a scowl at the ubiquitous naked hippie children crawling over and around the beer garden's plastic folding chairs to their right, Floyd and his comrades instead veered left, entering the back of the vast room, with its sky-high, arched ceiling. Walking on the filthy, besotted carpet toward the front, one couldn't help but marvel at Jim Franklin's enormous mural to the left of the stage over by the always-flooded women's bathroom: blues great Freddie King bloodied by an armadillo exiting his chest cavity. A sight to behold, but nothing compared to what Floyd and his gang had in mind that night. It was almost 9pm.

When Floyd and company took the stage shortly thereafter -- a stage that had hosted punk luminaries the Ramones, the Pretenders, Talking Heads, the Dictators, B-52's, and the Clash, there were maybe a couple hundred people waiting. Most were probably regulars at Raul's, Austin's Dragbound home of punk rock, where Patti Smith once jumped onstage for an impromptu version of "You Light Up My Life." They were here to witness the first-ever Punk Prom. Scheduled to play that evening were homegroan acts Sharon Tate's Baby, the Next, the Reactors, and reigning local punks the Big Boys. Floyd's band was opening with the seven, maybe eight, songs they knew and had rehearsed. They'd been a band less than two weeks.

Whatever the set list that night, whatever the musicians' level of expertise on their instruments -- however loud, violent, or noxious this maiden performance really was -- at least one thing is certain: "Saturday Night at the Bookstore" melted more than a few Birkenstocks out in the beer garden.

"Another Saturday Night out at the bookstore -- huh!" starts Floyd, half singing, half talking -- waiting for the song to stagger to life on Glen Taylor's woozy guitar and a leaden backbeat. "It looks like every fucking piece of trash in town blew in!"

Oh shit.

"Hey man, you got a quarter? I'm gonna watch peepshow No. 3. I think it's a real good one, baby get you turned on."

Get away.

"I don't wanna know your name -- I don't give a fuck WHAT your name is!!!

Saturday Night at the Bookstore

Fuck, let's get outta here before...

"I think I just fucking fell in love with a gloryhole!" yells the sneering, 300-pound babyface singer. "I think I fucking fell in love with a nameless creep."

Then taunting.

"I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore -- you're at the bookstore, too, 'cause I seen you, you fucking pig!!!"

Quick ...

"I seen you and your fat fucking wife coming out of Safeway on a Sunday afternoon and seeing me standing there, but you don't even speak to me. You don't wanna know me, do you? Cause I done sucked your fucking cock through the gloryhole.

"I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore -- you're at the bookstore too!!!"

Someone throws a beer can at Floyd.

"Hey, I want to suck your dick after the show, motherfucker. Throw another beer can at my ass, and I'll ... I seen you at the bookstore! Give good head? I think you do!

"I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore -- you're at the bookstore too!!!

"Blahhh!! Fuckin' faggot, hanging out at West Lake Hills. You don't want to talk to me at Safeway, do you? A pretty boy like me? Ha, Ha, Ha.

Gary Floyd at the Paradise Lounge, San Francisco
Gary Floyd at the Paradise Lounge, San Francisco (Photo By Marc Geller)

"I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore, I'm at the bookstore -- you're at the bookstore too!!! Sucking on my dick, motherfucker. I'm in love with the goddamn gloryhole, and you're on the other side of it!!! Tell your fat wife, tell your fucking wife. Faggot!!! Tell your wife!!!"

Half a lifetime later, Gary Floyd will chuckle about this.

"This May 16, 2000, will be exactly 20 years ago that we played at the Armadillo World Headquarters," he'll say. "I'm so glad that I was young and had the nerve. That was the first show we ever did, and I was playing a song like 'Saturday Night at the Bookstore.' A nasty, fucking filthy-ass song. I don't know if I'd have the nerve to do that again."

Not at the Armadillo anyway, which finished its storied run by closing that same New Year's Eve. Floyd, Taylor, bassist Buxf Parrott, and drummer Pat Deason had soiled hallowed ground.

"It needed soiling."

The Dicks had cum.

It's the morning after, 20 years later. Not the morning after, the next morning after -- Sunday. And it's not May, it's March -- March 19, to be exact. The day after South by Southwest 2000. As perfect a spring day as Austin will ever see. Must be around 10:30am. Phone rings. An unwelcome sound.

"What happened!?!?!?"

It's Gary Floyd.

"I heard you got kicked out of the club last night and that they were throwing people out left and right. Some kid got knocked out?"


Sister Double Happiness
Sister Double Happiness (Photo By Marc Geller)

"Did you get hurt? Did you see any of the show?? What happened!?!?!?"

FFFFFftmt spppkt. Hehem! Four or five songs.

"And then you got kicked out? They tried kicking out one of the label guys, too!! Alternative Tentacles was supposed to have a party after the show -- that didn't happen ..."

Gary's animated, his nasally exuberance making him sound like Daffy Duck. The question rings in my ear.

"What happened!?!?!?"

Saturday Night at the Atomic Cafe, that's what. Bad scene. Wait, doesn't your plane leave, like, now?

"Like at 1-1:30, something like that."

Mmm. You still want that Valium?

"Well ... if it's not too much trouble," he hesitates. Gary hates flying. "It's too much trouble. Don't worry about it. Go back to sleep."

No, no -- no trouble at all, Gary. Seriously. Where are you?

"I'm at Biscuit's house. Go down South Lamar, take a right at [x], on the corner by the [y], and then a left at [z] ... Can you find it?"

Saturday Night at the Bookstore

No, but my chaperone can, and a half-hour later, Margaret Moser and her escort are standing in Randy "Biscuit" Turner's South Austin back yard. Befitting her hard-fought status as The Austin Chronicle's queen of music scribes, Moser attended that first Punk Prom. It was her birthday, after all; she'd come to see Gary, whom she met at a bookstore on the Drag where she worked (no, a real bookstore -- with books). She remembers Floyd coming into the place wearing a little Mao Tse-Tung button, and though she's a little hazy on the actual show itself ("I was backstage a lot"), she remembers the "sweet-faced fat boy" delivering on the promise of that button.

"It told me he was one of us," she says.

"Us" is sitting at a small, wrought-iron tea-for-two patio table when we arrive: Gary and Biscuit. The lead singer for the Dicks having a cup of coffee with the lead singer for the Big Boys -- 20 years later. Two old friends who'd seen each other around town even before a saintly man named Joseph Gonzales brought them together in the late Seventies by way of Raul's.

When Moser appears, a warm, familial glow settles over the bright, cool morning, the group hug that follows infused with murmurs of affection. Well-shaded, with sunlight streaming through the trees, ivy reaching out from all corners, and a fountain at the end of a little stone walkway, Biscuit's quaint patio suddenly feels like a Mediterranean villa where the days lose track of time.

Danny Roman, his girlfriend, and drummer Brad Ducheneaux emerge from the house, blinking back the morning. Having made the trip to SXSW last year as well, the two longtime Floyd sidemen, now members of his new venture Black Kali Ma, are no doubt accustomed to their singer's spontaneous family reunions. As a matter of fact, while the city and greater music industry sleep off their annual spring break -- on this, perhaps the slowest day of Austin's yearly calendar -- even they seem to sense that a long-dormant part of the local music scene has quietly reconvened.

For the next hour, our little group, stretching, yawning, waking up, go back and forth between the patio and house, Biscuit's dazzling monument to DIY artistry -- paid for in full, he proclaims -- demanding tours, explanation, and exploration. Resembling nothing less than a museum dedicated to Christmas trees, every inch of wall, floor, and ceiling seemingly covered with testament to Biscuit's fertile imagination. When the host produces multiple pans of fresh-baked biscuits with butter and jelly, it's hearts, not Birkenstocks, that begin melting. Biscuits at Biscuit's. What could be more apropos?

Two weeks later, Gary Floyd will share the same sense of wonder about this morning as his interviewer.

"Wasn't that fucking incredible? And Margaret Moser being there, too. Yeah, you know, she's in my past heavy-duty. And the thing that makes her heavy-duty in my past is when I see her now, it's just, 'Hey doll!' and we start talking. There's no long, 'Let's be like dogs and sniff each other's asses.' It's just, 'Hey, that's you and this is me, and we're here 20 years later.'

"That's why I wished I could've stayed, because all at once I thought, the show's over now, if I could sort of 'be here,' without shows, this would be the most wonderful beginning. It was very hard to leave. When I got to the airport, they said, 'This plane may be full,' so I immediately volunteered to stay.

"That was a beautiful day, and when he brought that little tray out of hot biscuits and jelly, it was like, 'Wow, I want to stay so bad.'"

It's early spring, April, and it's warm in a city that's never warm. First day of April. The old home of the San Francisco Giants, Candlestick Park, out on a cold peninsula, is tonight giving way to a new downtown stadium. The second night of its first-ever exhibition series. Crossing the Bay Bridge in a '69 Camaro, my driver Steve Stone and I marvel at the lights. The stadium, like the rest of the skyline, is lit up like a Christmas tree.

Saturday Night at the Bookstore

So is the corner of 11th and Harrison, upon which sits the Paradise Lounge, where Black Kali Ma are playing this short-sleeved Saturday night. Police cars and fire engines are everywhere. Set alight with spotlights and sirens, yellow tape cordoning off the street and multiple flares spitting up smoke and phosphorous, the street is a hyperreal blur of chaos. A fire has ravaged the light-fixture store in the alley behind the club, and as we walk toward Paradise, there's some question as to whether it's been extinguished. What is it about Black Kali Ma shows? Trouble.

Casting an anxious look inside the club, we see a few freaks sitting at the bar and are reassured that everything is safe and dry inside. During the course of a drink, Floyd and his comrades appear, seating themselves next to us at the bar.

"We were gonna have one of the security guys throw you out," winks Ducheneaux. "As a joke."

Two decades A.D. (After 'Dillo), the 47-year-old Floyd is no joke, his purple mohawk and babyface replaced by thick, black-rimmed glasses, short sailor's haircut, and a mustache/ goatee combo with gray steadily spreading ("I earned every single one of those gray hairs"). He looks like a man possessed of Gary Floyd's voice: deep, fierce to the point of fury. Feral. One hears Howlin' Wolf mentioned a lot in conjunction with the Dicks' former frontman. As for the man himself, you never met a nicer guy.

"I used to do the door here," he says, a mischievous look on his face. "I used to give the sailors shit."

Okay, so he's no sailor. He was drafted, however, in 1972. Registered as a conscientious objector, Floyd avoided Vietnam by serving two years as a government volunteer. Born in Arkansas, raised in Palestine, Texas, where his family moved when he was four, the drummer-turned-singer ("I couldn't sing, but I thought I'd rather be ridiculed in front than drum in the back") chose Houston over Northern California to serve his country, because he didn't like the job description: pruning redwoods.

"I was like, 'Bwwaaahh!!!' he cries. "'I don't wanna do that! I don't wanna climb any fucking trees!! Pruning redwoods? What does that mean?!? So, I found a job, and I found a job in Houston, and I moved there. I was a janitor in a charity hospital. Quite a learning experience. Then, after a year and a half, I got transferred to Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane."

Where the state of Texas relieved Roky Erickson, founder of Texas' first great punk band the 13th Floor Elevators, of his mind.

"It certainly was. I worked there the last six months of my stint. And the day my two years were up, I moved to Austin."

Austin, 1974, a small, sleepy town.

"It was great -- better than Houston," says Floyd. "Houston had that big-city edge where you always have to be careful. Of course it was the people I was hanging out with, too, because I came out in a very odd crowd -- hustlers, pimps. The shit that I was really not used to. I thought, 'This is what it is to be gay. So, this is just what I'm gonna do.' I didn't realize you didn't have to do that.

Saturday Night at the Bookstore
Photo By Ken Hoge

"Austin I found much more -- as everybody probably does in every genre -- laid back. And pretty soon after that, I ran into a guy that I ended up living with for three years. I came to terms with myself -- being gay -- and not some stereotype that I'd been fed through bad media and my own affiliations with seedy dolls. And it was great! The wild days when I first moved there, me and my friend, who was also from Palestine, were out every night, dancing, getting to know everybody -- cruising all day."

On 1990's Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, former Austin Sun scribe Bill Bentley's unparalleled tribute to Erickson, nestled among stellar contributions from ZZ Top, Doug Sahm & Sons, Lou Ann Barton, and the Butthole Surfers, lies what just might be Gary Floyd's ultimate provenance. Recorded by Sister Double Happiness, the Bay Area proto-alt.rock band that formed a year after the Dicks' 1986 demise, "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)" is a rabid, snarling testament to Texas punk. If the Dicks' immortal first single "Dicks Hate the Police" put Floyd's first band into the Lone Star Hall of Fame, "Two Headed Dog" alone should qualify Sister Double Happiness for the same honors. Somewhere in there, Texas punk rock comes full circle.

"There's a portion of that song, in the middle, where he's almost singing in tongues," agrees Bentley, now a Warner Bros./Reprise VP of publicity. "It's not words, it's these weird things you hear in the state hospital -- a schizo rant. It's buried in there pretty deep, but it's there."

It's there on the Dicks' "Saturday Night at the Bookstore," the live version from the Armadillo preserved on Alternative Tentacles' hits summation Dicks 1980-1986, and it's there in Black Kali Ma's 60-minute set at the Paradise: uncompromising relentlessness. As on Kali's recent full-length debut You Ride the Pony (I'll Be the Bunny), Floyd & company pull no punches live, their jackhammer hard-rock assault full-on and without mercy.

Opening with the one-two combo of "I'm O" and "Angel Face," two standouts on an album without a bad song, Kali stomps through most of the Pony & Bunny material like stormtroopers targeting a rabbit ranch. The modest crowd rocks with abandon. Later, Floyd considers whether Black Kali Ma somehow brings him full circle to the Dicks.

"I've thought about that," he says. "I listen to Pony & Bunny, and it's a lot more like I was doing a long time ago -- more a mixture of the Dicks and later Sister Double Happiness. It's not me grasping for roots or anything, but somehow, subconsciously or naturally, I've started to do music that's more like the beginning of my career. It's a little more refined, though, because I am. And refined isn't necessarily a good thing. Refined sugar will still rot your teeth."

Hearing a story about Mudhoney closing their years of Liberty Lunch dates with a riotous version of "Dicks Hate the Police," Floyd accepts the proposition that perhaps he, Buxf, Pat, and Glen left a lasting imprint on punk rock.

"Yeah. I was talking to Buxf about that. He said, 'Yeah man, people come up to me and go, "God, you're Buxf from the Dicks." Yeah, but I'm also Buxf from about five other bands.'"

"It's the Dicks," Floyd smiles.

"You know, I sang 'Dicks Hate Police' with Mudhoney the last time they played at Slim's," he offers. "It was wonderful!"

Seeing as he all but snubbed Mudhoney's Mark Arm when the singer approached him backstage at a huge European festival and asked him to join the Seattle garage band for the song, Floyd (who blames the incident on jet lag) was only mildly surprised to find himself slagged in Flipside over the failed summit.

Saturday Night at the Bookstore

"They said, 'Yeah, we asked that fucking asshole Gary Floyd to sing it with us one time, and I don't know if he had a big head or what, but he said no, he didn't want to,'" relates Floyd.

Later, when AT started putting together its Dicks compilation, a label manager asked Arm to write an essay on the Dicks, to which the Mudhoney singer responded with a "stunning, wonderful thing." When Floyd heard Mudhoney were coming to town, he e-mailed Arm and told him Black Kali Ma would love to play on the bill, which the frontman arranged.

"And I knew he was gonna ask me to sing it, I knew. And my band is going, 'Alright fucker, you better [cooperate]...'

"I said, 'I will, if he asks me to sing it. Believe me, I feel so bad.'

"So we played and had a great show, and I'm backstage getting tipsy while the other bands are playing, and he comes back and says, 'Great show, man.'

"I said, 'Oh, thanks a lot,' and all my bandmates are back there glaring at me.

"'Well, I was, uh, wondering if we do 'Dicks Hate Police' tonight for an encore, would you like to do it?'

"And I go, 'Nah, I got jet lag. I don't wanna do it.'"

It's the morning after, three days later. As perfectly overcast a morning as San Francisco will ever see. Must be around 10:30am. Behold the queen.

Comfortably ensconced in the bedroom of his cavernous, rent-controlled apartment, which has a tendency to trap numbing drafts, she demands attention and respect just by her presence. The shrine dedicated to her multi-faceted greatness takes up most of the spare room; a nondescript desk, armchair, and futon mattress thrown on the floor offer no protest. A pillow in front of the home altar is presented as a seat, despite its obvious designation as an instrument of supplication. We decide to sit in the living room instead.

She is Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction. Though represented with a garland of skulls around her waist and scimitars in her many arms, she is worshiped as the Divine Mother. That's what Floyd calls her, "Mother." On Pony & Bunny, she opens the disc with "Kali" ("'cause we boys, you know we love our mother"), a hard-pounding uptempo declaration of faith and devotion. Her once-Catholic disciple says he came within her sphere of influence around the time Sister Double Happiness was starting. This was also the period where Floyd's biological mother was diagnosed with cancer. A tender subject, both parents were always supportive of their son.

Saturday Night at the Bookstore
Photo By Marc Geller

"One time in Austin, my mother stood by the side of the stage, when we played with Black Flag at the Ritz," he says. "She was staying with me for a while then. She said, 'Oh, I'm so glad you put together this Sister Double Happiness. I can play it for my friends, and every other word isn't "fuck."'

"My father was a railroad worker, a hardworking, redneck sort of guy, but very accepting of me. Like in one band I was in, we had a black drummer. That doesn't seem like anything now, but in a small Texas town in 1968, that was a big deal. And Anthony, one time, was going to come to the house, but he didn't want to come in. My father made it very plain and very quickly: 'I don't care what the neighbors think, you're my son's friend and you're welcome here.'"

Later, during lunch, Floyd reveals it was his father, a WWII veteran killed in a 1979 car wreck, who wrote his son's draft board to confirm the younger Floyd was sincere in his conscientious objector declaration.

"I wish I had that letter," says Floyd sadly.

His mother passed away the same year Sister Double Happiness released its self-titled debut on seminal punk indie SST; the 1988 effort is a fearsome fire-and-brimstone epic similar to Pony & Bunny in its straightforward (albeit less "refined") post-punk hard-rock approach. Shortly after the album came out, Floyd disbanded the group and went in search of some much-needed spiritual peace. Finding it in an Indian monastery just north of San Francisco, he quit music. Had "Mother" become the surrogate parent?

"Kali and different mother images have," he nods. "Yes, yes. Nobody can take the place of my mother, because the mother is the first guru, and 'guru' just means teacher. She's the one that teaches you everything, and every guru -- every teacher -- should be respected."

A 1990 reunion gig resulted in Sister Double Happiness cutting a single for Sub Pop, and in 1991, the group's stillborn Reprise Records debut, Heart and Mind. A production botch executed by SDH's A&R man, Heart and Mind is a mess, thudding like late-Eighties Heart crossed with .38 Special, and absolutely no clue where in the mix to position Floyd, who seems to be singing outside in the hallway.

"We loved all those songs," he contends, "but the production, the recording process, the money spent -- which was fucking out the window -- the pictures that were taken ... There was no aspect of it that was good all at, except we learned a lot. Not to get into that situation again."

Touring with Nirvana as the Seattle trio's Nevermind was changing the musical trajectory of the Nineties (a bill that almost demolished Liberty Lunch 10 years before its time), then with Soundgarden on another commercial breakout, Badmotorfinger, SDH balked when it came time to record a second album for Reprise. Faced with the choice of working with their A&R rep or being dropped by the label, the group, including latter-day Dicks drummer/future Imperial Teen-ager Lynn Perko, put thumb to nose and gave Reprise a five-finger salute.

SDH made two more albums, '93's Uncut on Dutch East and '94's Horsey Water on Sub Pop's European imprint, and it was Floyd's affiliation with the latter label that led to his first solo album, 1995's World of Trouble. Dedicated to his mother, the mostly acoustic effort grasps for roots and comes up with a fistful.

"I thought that would be the only solo record I ever did," he says candidly. "Like 'Wayfaring Stranger' is one of my mother's favorite songs. 'From the Darkness (To the Light)' was sort of a country song -- a Carter Family-type song."

Saturday Night at the Bookstore

He pauses and laughs merrily.

"I compliment myself by saying that."

Not only wasn't World of Trouble his only solo album, the Gary Floyd Band was also no mere concession to what many have perceived as a career downturn; the singer cut a total of five European-only albums, built an audience, and toured the continent frequently. A domestic best-of culled from those LPs, Back Door Preacher Man, came out on S.F. micro-indie Innerstate, which also snuck out perhaps the final word on SDH last year, A Stone's Throw for Love: Live & Acoustic at the Great American Music Hall 6/17/92. When Floyd began losing creative control to another band member/producer, he broke up the group and took another extended hiatus from music.

"Then one day, I was cleaning some friend's house, because I needed money," remembers Floyd, whose intermittent housework helps him scrape by. "And I had the radio on, some college radio station, KUSF, and I was cleaning out the garbage can -- had my head in the garbage can -- when [SDH song] 'Sweet Talker' came on the goddamn radio.

"I pulled my head out of the garbage can and said, 'You know what? It's time to get a fucking band together again. My head's in a garbage can and I'm on the goddamn radio.' This was an awakening. 'You need to get a band together, I don't care if you're tap-dancing down at the cable car turnaround. You gotta do something, because this is not your life. My life is music.'"

It's spring, March, the evening cold and getting colder. The Austin Country, the biggest of the city's three gay bars when Floyd first moved to town, is now the Atomic Cafe. Saturday evening is quickly turning into Sunday morning as the dungeonous nightclub awaits its midnight showcase. A barman, towel tucked firmly in his back pocket, barks at the waitresses. They need more ice. Liquor sales are slow.

Cruising down Red River on foot, KLBJ jock Johnny Walker, his friend Gary Jerome, and myself are primed for Black Kali Ma; it will most definitely be a night to remember. Entering the venue, we veer right toward the bar, where Floyd is holding court. As Biscuit talks to ex-Scratch Acid guitarist Brett Bradford, and Butthole Surfer King Coffey mills about in the background, Floyd talks to Pat Deason and Buxf Parrott. On the other side of the wall, Dead Kennedys mouthpiece/Alternative Tentacles founder Jello Biafra sits unbothered on the long row bench. They're all waiting for Black Kali Ma, and at the appointed hour, they band takes the stage amid a squall of feedback.

Trying in vain to get something other than a high-pitched squealing out of the stage monitors, Floyd finally just backs from the malfunction equipment, makes eye contact with the band, and counts off into "I'm O," which marches to life like an army of anvils.

"My name is O!!" howls Floyd, "I'm O, I'm O!!!"

The small crowd in front of the stage starts kicking up tension, and suddenly there's something in the air not found at most punk shows these days: danger. When the band segues straight into "Angel Face," some unseen needle pushes into the red. The energy coming is white hot.

"He's got a face like an angel, but something went wrong," sings Floyd, pacing the stage. "Hey, mister ... what went wrong? You got your kids in school now, they won't follow no rules now. Maybe it's the preacher, maybe it's the teacher ...

Saturday Night at the Bookstore
Photo By Ken Hoge

"Hey, look out!!" he cries at the chorus. "He's got a gun!! You better run -- he's having fun!!"

By the time the quintet launches into "Kali," one thing is certain: The Dicks are in the house. Whatever the set list this night, whatever the level of the musicians' expertise on their instruments -- however loud, violent, or noxious their live set becomes -- Black Kali Ma rages like the god of destruction. And Floyd means every word. So intense is the energy in the room, in fact, that club security starts tossing audience members out onto the sidewalk. Me included. Maybe trying to light that joint was a bad idea.

Standing outside, pleading with the doorman to readmit me to Austin punk-rock history in the making, I'm outside long enough to witness a bouncer ramrodding two patrons out the door. Somewhere in the six-foot-four, 300-pound vicinity, he pushes one out onto the sidewalk; the other, in the crook of his arm, he picks up and body-slams to the sidewalk. Hitting his head with a sickening, ripe-melon thud, the guy's out cold, eyes open, pupils dilated. EMS is on the scene within minutes, as are the police, and unbelievably the guy is up walking around 15 minutes later.

As the band plays on inside, for me, the show is over. There are still 1am showcases happening, but this evening is finis, the conference done. Getting thrown out of a punk-rock phenomenon seems like an appropriate place to cut one's losses and go home.

"What happened!?!?!?"

"The uniqueness and soul of the Dicks really penetrated to me when the Dead Kennedys came through Austin and played the Ritz in 1982," says Biafra later, recalling his first live encounter with Floyd. "I was a little late for the show, and walked in and there was Gary in full drag (with eye shadow that made his eyes a lot bigger to us down on the dance floor), a long, long wig, cut-off shorts, and a tight white wifebeater shirt with a great big white bomber bra underneath.

"Believe me, Gary took on a whole new dimension in drag that was more alarming than anything I've seen him do since. My God, a 300-pound communist drag queen who can sing like Janis Joplin."

King Coffey, via e-mail, calls a Dicks gig at the Ritz his "first real Austin punk-rock show," one for which the Fort Worth high-schooler made the road trip with a friend.

"When the Dicks hit the stage, it changed my life," writes Coffey. "They came out and played classics like 'Wheelchair Epidemic,' 'Dead in a Motel Room,' and 'Little Boys' Feet' one after another. I was amazed and knew I was watching the best band ever. For an encore they came out and launched into their anti-New Wave anthem, 'Fake Bands.'

"People began leaping from the stage, the slammers behind me began making double-time, and the rest of the crowd as deliriously happy as I. Right then and there, in the middle of 'Fake Bands,' I had my first major rock & roll epiphany. I knew then I wanted to move to Austin, be a punk rocker, be in a band, and try to relive this moment for the rest of my life.

"I therefore credit Gary Floyd for me being in a band called the Butthole Surfers for 17 years now instead of, say, pushing papers for Dell all this time."

For his part, the ever-genial doll known as Gary Floyd shrugs when asked what made the Dicks so punk -- what's kept this 47-year-old diabetic with no real steady income so hardcore?

"Most people, when they think of the Dicks, they think of me, Buxf, Pat, and Glen, rather than the later S.F. version of the band. And I don't know why that left such an impression -- we were just a big bunch of drunks," he says modestly.

"But we did that very honestly. We never had a big pretense about anything. We were a political band, and we weren't afraid to say what we wanted to say. I wasn't afraid to get in drag, like big, fucking, chocolate-panty drag, and throw shit at people; I used to have rubbers pinned on me filled with mayonnaise and water, and throw them on people. People didn't want that shit to happen. They didn't want it to happen."

In this for life, aren't you?

"You know what? I guess I am. I heard Grace Slick, who I always loved -- ol' mean-ass, weird Grace Slick with her shotguns and burning houses in Marin. She said the most pathetic thing is an old person onstage playing rock music, herself included. Fine.

"At the same time, Grace, honey, what else are you doing? Somehow you're satisfied not doing that. I'm not." end story

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