The Night I joined the Peace Core

It was a dark school night of March when Dorin the Cougar showed me the full extent of her groupiness (in the spiritual sense, not Pamela De Barres way – which would make this post much juicier but even cougars have morals nowadays. sigh.) I had had hints of her fierce rock ‘n roll  attitude in the past but had never really had the pleasure to witness it first hand.

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For her birthday week-end, Dorin had driven more than 200 miles to Oklahoma City on Friday to catch a concert of Roger Clyne and the Peacemaker (RCPM for the initiated – and I will consider you initiated for the rest of this story), then had come back to Dallas on Saturday to attend The Old 97’s gig, and on Sunday night, she picked me up and drove another 40 miles to go see… RCPM play AGAIN! Thank goodness for the environment it’s not her birthday very often!

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After duly plugging my ears and breathing a set of second hand smoke from The Drams (good but hellbent on destroying lung tissue), I saw Dorin head to the bar and order tequila shots in anticipation of the main event – the shots, not for her… but for front man Roger Clyne.  Along the edge of the stage, tiny glasses began to appear from all directions. A tradition. A bit like buying beer for the sushi chef in a mark of appreciation. But beforehand. The atmosphere was quite friendly. People seemed to recognize each other from previous shows, and were exchanging hellos and knowing smiles. Dude, love was in the air.

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Then… there was Tim. Young blond Tim with the huge sombrero. Tim who was celebrating his birthday. Tim who knew no one  at the beginning of the show and was everybody’s best friend at the end (but I doubt he remembers any of this very clearly.)

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Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers were born out of the ashes of the Refreshments (think “Banditos” or the King of the Hill’s theme song.) The band split in 98 not through lack of talent, but unsupported by new management at Mercury records, and plagued by various personal problems of band members (think rock ‘n roll: drugs and nervous breakdowns.)

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When offers from other record companies did not pile up in the mail, freshly unRefreshed Roger Clyne, a ranger’s son who majored in anthropology and psychology at Arizona State, and P.H. Naffah, the quiet drummer with the pre-med degree, packed backpacks and guitars and set out to the desert near Tucson in search of a new direction. The soul searching venture was to last the biblical 40 days… but it got hot and they ended up in a bar after 17 days (which Roger deemed plenty.) They took the resulting songs to Phoenix bars for happy hours, and fairly rapidly received an enthusiastic response from the audience. The band with the name of a Colt bringing out peace was created.

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Three other musicians joined the Peacemakers through natural circumstances, almost by accident.  Gin Blossoms’ clean-cut Scotty Johnson on guitar, consummate rebel guitarist “Dirty” Steve Larson from the defunct Dead Hot Workshop, and a walking music encyclopedia, bassist Danny White who brought his country sensibility to the Peacemakers. The odd quintet boarded a van (dubbed rolling germ tube by P.H.) and hit the road with Jamie Lee, the road manager.

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The Peacemakers never benefited from the support of a major label. As an independent band, they had to gain their audience the hard way: “Get in the van and pour your heart out for two hours everysingleshow” Clyne commented in the documentary “Long ride Home.” Fans began to follow the band from town to town. This first vague of traveling adulators called themselves the Texas Troublemakers. They are the reason why, to this day, the musicians select a different set list for every show and make sure to pack enough clothes never to have to wear the same outfit two days on the row. They’d, like, totally get called on it.
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Not just anyone could join the troublemakers. Oh no siree! You first had to be initiated to belong (which basically meant you hung out with these folks for a few days, and if they liked you, you were in.) They used to wear nametags at RCPM concerts. They even gave Roger his own: “Hello, my name is Roger” that he stuck on his guitar, and a “Roger for President” bumper sticker that he put on the back of the instrument. There always was a genuine connection between the band and its fans.
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The current second vague of rabid fans constitutes the Peace Core. The prevailing attitude is largely that the band makes music for them and the fans give back in their own way. Their faithful following always propels the band instantly to the top ten internet sale chart when they release a new CD… Quite the accomplishment for an independent band.
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It’s not rare to see a Peace Core member come to a concert bearing gifts. The boys like their sweets! I have it under good authority that P.H. likes anything butterscotch and I surmise Roger likes Tequila – 100% Blue Agave – more than anything else in the “things that you ingest” world. Home-cooked meals are a hit for guys who spend most of the year on the road: Dorin even has a friend who brings spaghetti at their concerts!
After studying the band for the sake of this story, I suggest gifts of fireworks (you would not believe the excitation provoked by the sight of Evil Warlock or Monkey Car exploding devices!)
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Talking about fireworks, twice a year, the Peacemakers stage a big concert (4 hour set – 50 songs) in Puerto Penasco in Mexico, a three-day Circus Mexicus Extravaganza where the musicians mix in casually with the audience at functions such as the Mananathon, formerly known as “hangover brunch” on Sunday. Over the years, the almost intimate gathering which started in 2000 has become a huge deal where thousands descend for a week-end of music, tequila, and the sea (oh, of course, the boys detonate a shitload of fireworks too!)  Some old fans long for the days where only a few hundreds of them made the trip down to the Sea of Cortez and the accent was a little less on the partying aspect. But for now, let’s just hope that the swine flu scare does not affect attendance too much this year – the next Extravaganza is scheduled to take place from June 5th through June 7th, 2009.
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The Peace Core most definitely possesses a sense of ownership. It’s their band. The attachment appears almost cultish in nature. The current line-up includes only two members of the original band: Roger and P.H., and every time the band sheds one of its own, you’d think it’s the frigging end of the world! The new musician has big shoes to fill. Pressure… The same sinking feeling happens when, with the band’s increasing success, the old fans have to fight their way to the front of the stage. It did not use to be that way. They are “losing” their band to strangers… and young’uns too! How dare they?!
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brcpm_0941Guitarist Jim Dalton who replaced “Dirty” Steve Larson, the newest addition
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rcpm_070Nick Scropos on bass
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rcpm_074P.H. Naffah on drums
I’m no rock critic. I count strings before being able to tell the difference between the bass player and the guitarist. In other words, I’m the least qualified individual to speak in knowing terms about music. All I know is when these guys hit the stage, they deliver with crazy energy and conviction. The Clyne dude has the charisma of two Obamas and he is funny too. It’s bandido rock at its best!
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Audience response? The attendants freakishly know all the lyrics and sing along like it’s gospel except what’s lauded here is the love of tequila amidst other southwestern themes. In 2007, Clyne even produced his own 1,000 bottles of Tequila, Mexican Moonshine.
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tequila_001Clyne meditating amongst the pinas destined to be chopped, roasted, shredded and fermented into tequila
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What is also cool about this band is that their independence gives them the opportunity to explore uncharted territories and relate the experience to their fans. In January 08, the band rented a small seaside house in Mexico, and produced 8 songs in 8 days, “from creative impetus to final mix.” J. boots, the official videographer (self-taught guitarist at 27, former roomate of American Pie’s Steve Stiffler, and compelled occasional trumpet player) filmed the experience which was then shared every day on the RCPM site. The end result was the CD “Turbo Ocho.”
This year, breaking grounds once again, they are unveiling their new musical endeavor “Glow in the Dark”, one song at the time, on their website… Website which is currently kaput but no one is perfect and they sent out a nice note to all their fans to acknowledge the problem.
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brcpm_0641J Boots (a hottie in his own right)

In the end, I understand better now why my buddy Dorin shows so much interest in this band. I’m converted (in a non-practicing sort of way.) More than anything, these are lovable good guys that play intelligent organic rock (I mean organic in the sense that they don’t rely on any fancy shmancy clicktracks or samplings – it’s just the four dudes with vocals, guitars, bass and drums… and J Boots being thrown on stage with a trumpet occasionally.) They do it the hard way, trying to ride a very fine line between art and being able to pay their bills, and it’s in my nature to root for the underdogs (especially quality mutts.)

After the show, they hang out a bit, talking to the fans and letting them take pictures.

rcpm2_014Dorin and P.H.

rcpm2_011Dorin and Roger

scan0003Roger and Dorin in 1996! They haven’t changed a bit! Hee! Hee!

After the photo op, it was time to go home, but then our good friend Tim showed up, walking what seemed to be a winding sidewalk, and crushing his sombrero on the wall for balance while his poor loyal pal tried to put some sense into him: “Tim, man, you’ll be plastered all over the net tomorrow!” Well it took a little longer than that… but to prove your friend right, here it is:

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Just time to take another one of Tim with fans who were lining up to have their picture taken with the infamous birthday boy…

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For the people who regularily read my blog, you’re probably wondering about my subject matter this time. Not exactly my usual stuff. I just had so much fun at their concert I felt it would be a good thing to spread the love. Their next gig in Dallas is on May 9th, 2009, at House of Blues… but a word of caution to the newbies out there, I have first dibs on front row. I would not want the love to come back and bite me in the bottom either.

I have pillaged many many sources to write this sprawling piece of more or less random facts: the brain of Dorin and her Troublemaker friends, the Canadian documentary “Long Ride Home”, The article “Tequila-Fueled Tunes” from High Country News, the interview of Roger Clyne by Keith Howardson from Americana Music Times, fan posts, and other articles I failed to bookmark because I’m imperfect.  Alas.

See y’all at House of Blues!

27 responses to “The Night I joined the Peace Core

  1. head to El Reno, OK this weekend to see RCPM in a free, outdoor show. No tequila but there is a beer garden!

  2. Thanks for the shout out for the Texas Troublemakers!

  3. “Not exactly my usual stuff”

    I enjoy your photo essays about what you’ve been up to more than the records of work photo shoots.

    I think it’s great that you’re making a record of your time in the place you live. In years to come these posts will be a valuable historical record (no, I’m not joking).

  4. your wonderful post just makes me relive the Denton show all over again. Viva La Peacemakers! House of Blues — I am SO there!
    (in the front — newbies back off!)

  5. surfed over here when your pal posted a link on the RCPM board. Awesome entry and photos. Thanks!!

  6. Awesome photo’s. I came here because of the link on the Peacemakers board but I actually love all over your other photography! I just wanted to give you kudos on the great pictures on your blog 🙂

  7. Geoff, Mark, and Elysia: thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment. This post was way out of my comfort zone… so it’s nice to feel appreciated! 🙂

    Razz: right now, I really don’t have much of a life… I’m home-bound with a sick dog and it friggin’ rains all the time which makes renditions of dramatic events spotty at best… Plus I have discovered Facebook and spend whole days writing to crushes I had when I was 16. It’s very time-consuming, you know. 🙂
    If my posts became valuable historical records, would that make me a heroin of sorts? I dig the thought, dude! Thanks!

    Dorin
    : Thanks chouchou! Do you think Tim will be there? I hope he reads this post… and leaves a comment… and has trouble recognizing me at House of Blues… 🙂

    Mark/Fax: Very nice of you to make that comment! I hope you’ll come back… although I think my rock ‘n roll days are over for now. I’m waiting for someone to come out and say I totally screwed up. So far so good!!! 🙂

  8. I love it. Absolutely beautiful. I am going to send this link to all my friends who don’t yet understand why I love RCPM so much. By the way, I was standing right next to you guys at the Denton show. Dorin even took my picture with Roger after the show when my camera died. Looks like I’ll be seeing you up front again in Dallas!

  9. Raquel (who rocks!): thank you! Please do send it to all your friends… I always welcome the attention! Hee! Hee! Plus, if it helps your friends get a better grasp on why you joined the cult, that added bonus, right?
    I remember you! Also you have great pictures of Tim. Poor Tim. 🙂
    See you on the 9th! Up front!

  10. The Refreshments were AWESOME! I wondered whatever happened to them! Now I know. Thanks for the lesson and if the band is ever anywhere near Cincinnati, I’m going!

  11. Alan — their website is http://www.azpeacemakers.com. I know they will be in Cleveland May 17th.

  12. Tim the Birthday Boy

    I survived! And ya know, I actually like those pictures a lot. It was a rough day the next day, but hey, RCPM in town on your birthday may only happen once in my life.

    I will see everyone on Saturday at HoB, and I’ll still be everyone’s best friend, with 100% more sobriety!

  13. Though I’m not a big music person, I learned to appreciate the difference between the bands whose music is more for the records and those who really rock at concerts. I got intrigued by this great post and checked them on youtube and these guys are to be seen live. And preferably,a s you did, on more occasions.
    Don’t suppose they’ll be doing their European tour anytime soon though 🙂

  14. Pinaleno Princess

    Awesome photos!

  15. I love these type of series from you, but the thing I noticed was your copyright year in the watermarks 😀 You better make up your mind Nathalie, 2008 or 2009!

    And I just checked their Myspace site to listen to some of their music, nice indeed.

    • Dude, the year does not matter, does it? With old age settling in, the years follow and resemble each other… so 2008 or 2009, same thing. Do you want to be my daddy or something?

  16. Your photos always make your life look like SO MUCH FUN! I’m totally lovin’ that boy Tim:) The crushed sombrero pic is my favorite – lol.

    • Hey girl! Tim is alive and well! I really was not going to be sure until I saw him in the flesh (even though he left a comment.) He was sober last time I saw him. What a difference!

  17. Spectacular photos….See Y’all in Omaha…5/29

  18. Nico the Dinosaur

    I’m a big fan (oh, very much my own way indeed) of your blog… Love your pillage comment!
    As I can’t send you a tequilla shot, I will drink it instead….keep going with new stories, I ‘m addicted….

    • My dinosaur friend, you drinking the shot of tequila which is destined to me is not doing me a lick of good. I’m sure you’re feeling quite happy though. So… That’s how it’s going to be, eh?

      Perhaps, I’d get a whole lot more motivated to write if certain people started getting me drinks instead of selfishly boozing in their little corner, don’t you think? 🙂

  19. i’m new to wordpress, was searching around for RCPM related stuff, and stumbled across your post. what an awesome, awesome story! it’s hard to explain the RCPM experience to people, but i thought it really came through in your words. i always tell people that if they go, they will ‘get it’ … hoping your words inspire more people to go out and give them a try! great post – thanks for sharing! (and the photos are INCREDIBLE!)

  20. It is very good info. Thank you for posting.

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