Beat on the Farmers

CD release party opens old wounds

Even those of us who recorded homemade cowpunk tapes back in the early eighties, through partial use of borrowed Beat Farmers vinyls, found the band's August 2003 reunion show at the Coach House a revelation. Jerry Raney, Joey Harris, Rolle Love, Buddy Blue and Joel Kmak—subbing on the drums for baritone-voiced band/spiritual leader Country Dick Montana, who went up to that Great Watering Hole in the Sky in 1995—were tighter than could be expected, boozily hilarious and all-out rawking. They left nothing on the stage—although Blue, who writes on these same pages as Buddy Seigal, seemed as if he might after about his fourth or fifth shot of sour mash. When fellow San Diegan and always colorful Mojo Nixon ambled up to provide the vocal parts on longtime pal Country Dick's novelty hits, it was as if a long-dead scene had been reborn, if just for a few raucous hours. All that was missing was Dick dancing on the San Juan Capistrano nightspot's stage-high table tops. Perhaps he was.

So imagine the utter shock—shock!—in later learning that all was not well in Beat Farmersville that night. Old wounds reopened. New slights were perceived. Dirty looks were exchanged. Band wives nearly came to blows backstage. And a bunch of people awoke to monster hangovers.

As the original Beat Farmers—minus Dick; that'd be creepy—get together this Saturday at the Coach House to celebrate the release of Tales of the New West, Expanded Edition, the re-issue of songs recorded from 1983-85, that bad blood still flows.

First, more about the CD. A labor of love by Gary Stewart, who originally signed the Beat Farmers to Rhino and is the producer of the re-issue on Rhino's Handmade collectors' label, Tales of the New West, Expanded Editionis available as an individually numbered, limited edition of 5,000 copies. It contains the band's first two albums (Tales of the New West and Glad & Greasy, which were originally produced by Blasters/Los Lobos saxophonist Steve Berlin); highlights from Beat Farmers Live at the Spring Valley Inn, 1983, which the band self-released at last year's Coach House show; four previously unreleased demos Berlin produced for the 1986 album Van Goon Curb Records; and a new song by Raney, Love, Blue and Kmak's current band, the Flying Putos.

Performing at the CD release party as Beat Farmers A.D. (After Dick), it did not occur to Raney, Love and Blue to have Harris join them onstage for Tales of the New West tunes because the singer/songwriter/guitarist was not in the band until Blue left shortly after Van Go hit the shelves. So they invited Harris, who penned some of the band's later, most-popular songs, to come up after the Tales set to perform tunes from his Beat Farmers era. He declined.

Word of a Joey Harris "rebuff" somehow got out to San Diego Reader music columnist Ken Leighton, who blasted Raney, Love and Blue in print for snubbing Harris, who offered no comment. That drew the wrath of Nixon, who recently announced the end of his 20-year music career at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, after having performed with everyone from Jello Biafra to Jerry Lee Lewis. Nixon told the original Beat Farmers he'd not participate in any more reunions.

You get the sense that were it up to Blue, the CD release show would be headlined by the Flying Putos instead of Beat Farmers A.D. to lessen the perceived slight against Harris. But that wouldn't help move as much product for Rhino, which, oddly, is not supplying CDs to the CD-release party.

Blue's just sick of the whole thing: "I don't give a shit if there's another reunion show again."

Hey, who's ready to party?

The Beat Farmers CD release party for Tales Of The New West, Expanded Edition at The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Sat., 8 p.m. $15.
 
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