From the Vault

Historical Reporter (image)

Mother Knows Best (image)

Sports Reporter (image)

Surfing is Surfing:
an essay on Grant Shilling

by Clayton Webb

We Don't Care What You Say

Growth Rings

Babes in the Woods

Exile off Main Street

Kids & Play & Adults

Squeegee People, Vulture Culture & Cars

Survival of the Fittest

True Crimes

Copper Ann

Bodysurfing, Travel & the Dead

Haunted Houses

Rock & Roll Road Kill, Kill, Kill!

Storage Locker


Rock & Roll Road Kill, Kill, Kill!

by Grant Shilling

“Most people our age are taking their kids to Disneyland,” says Ralph. “We are driving 1,000 miles to see a rock band from Sweden. Weird.”

Weirder yet we’ve rented a Buick Regal – the type of car you drive the kids to Disneyland in. Ralph is used to his chopper or pick up and I’m used to my thumb.

“We’re going all the way till the wheels fall off and burn,” I say to the Don Knotts looking car rental agent after he gives us the keys. “You did say unlimited mileage didn’t you?”

Twisting in our seats as we approach the border we try to look Citizen Sane, little did we know the Buick would take care of this for us. A Buick Regal makes border crossings for big bearded guys easier ( trust us ).

We eat junk; our hormones have been released from Main St., Tofino. Every car offers possibility. We know about appearance, we comb our beards.

The band from Stockholm is The Nomads. They are playing in Sacramento and San Francisco on the last two nights of their American tour. The last time The Nomads played North America they didn’t even have work visas – they left their guitars at home and borrowed the instruments of their opening acts. This time they brought their own guitars and equipment.

Ralph’s brother Jack just put out the latest Nomads CD on his Lance Rock Records out of Nanaimo. Ralph put up the bucks for them to record. This is not the sort of thing that makes money.
The other band we are going to see is The Mermen. It is a trio of virtuoso players who play surf music that sounds like it crawled out of the sea like the rest of us.

Like the Nomads, The Mermen are in their late thirties and early 40s. Ralph saw them play, bought a couple hundred dollars worth of their CDs and began to sell them or give them away in Tofino, sent CDs to radio stations and the newspapers. The Mermen are huge in San Francisco and Tofino – and few other places. They have five phenomenal CDs out on Mesa.

Ralph got to know Jim, the lead guitarist of The Mermen, through letters, phone calls and faxes. He does this with rock bands, women and friends. Jim and he talk about surfing longboards on the phone.

Ralph, 38 spent much of his life crab fishing in Tofino, and is totally up on the ‘alternative’ music scene. One of the things Ralph likes about the alternative scene is its access. The people are friendly. For Ralph, alternative rock is like being a part of a community of people – not unlike the community of Tofino. Currently Ralph is running for Mayor of Tofino.

You can’t hear The Mermen or The Nomads on the radio. On the radio on our drive it’s either classic rock (lots), country ( or not-country, country as I call it ) or grunge noise Soundgarden and Pearl Jam mixed with Aerosmith and Ozzy Osborne. My favourite radio ad on the way down suggests: “Take the kids bowling, it’s the only place you can smoke and drink in front of them.”

Ralph and I talk about being stuck in time and how rock and roll can do that. I play devil’s advocate to whether that is our case. I don’t really think so, I don’t need to hear the old stuff that much and the new stuff gives me joy.

I like the way Ralph differentiates between garage rock and punk rock. The Nomads – all of whom have day jobs – play garage rock. Garage rock, suggests Ralph, is a primal sound that through its noise celebrates love, women and cars – it’s noisy and user friendly. The music is not particularly punk in that it’s not angry about anything.

Along the road we pass a sign that has an image of Bill Clinton as Uncle Sam offering to make a ‘two for one deal’:’My lies and promises for your votes.’ I suggest to Ralph that he makes this part of his platform.

Terminal City
October 18 – 24, 1996