Scared of Chaka is responsible for me cutting off my hippie hair.
Hyperbole perhaps, but after years of raising kids and acres of vegetables (and yes—full disclosure—going to Grateful Dead shows), it was time for a change. I’d pack the family off to bed and slip into the Burque night for loud, obnoxious music. Of course punk wasn’t new by then, but I had tons of catching up to do.
Summer 1995: The Golden West Saloon was the most vital punk venue in town. Two-year-old Scared of Chaka opened for Chicago’s Pegboy but stole the show. Frontman Dave Hernandez (late of The Shins) was trying to crash into the ceiling heater hanging over the stage while chopping out barely in-tune riffs as bassist Dameon Waggoner (now Dameon Lee of Lowlights) pulled his signature flying scissor leaps. Frenetic but on-the-beat drummer Jeffrey Jones (future ex- Gracchi) did his best to keep seated, not always successfully. All I could think of was Saturday morning ADD kids chowing down bowl after bowl of Froot Loops with an inch of sugar sludge at the bottom, their Ritalin powerless.
Soon a wheat-pasted flyer on the campus announced Chaka at somebody’s driveway in a Student Ghetto alley. There were maybe eight people there including Jeremy June (June Kilz), me and my 13-year-old stepson, Jonah. In a way, Jonah was my cover. I looked out of place with hair and beard down to here, but bringing him gave the appearance I was there for his sake. But I wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all myself. Even with that small crowd, a mini-mosh pit managed to erupt. Fast and furious retardo punk with good hooks; it just couldn’t get any better.
Next stop: record store Mind Over Matter for Chaka’s just-released 12-inch vinyl Hutch Brown Sayngwich (702 Records), where I was told by counter girl Tasha Riggins (Nitre Pit, Gary Coleman Hot Tub Party), “They’re flying off the shelf!”
If you’ve never heard Scared of Chaka, some may say to start with the 2000 singles compilation Seven Stories Tall—but for puro Chaka, Hutch Brown is the way to go, particularly “Horshack” on side one. Hearing that most-requested song again at the band’s triumphant 2008 reunion (in honor of Pete the Sticker Guy/702 Records’ 15th anniversary) made me and everyone else in the bar stupidly happy. I felt like a kid of, um, 37 again.