An event not likely to be recorded in any history of the miserable year 1994—a year that saw the "Republican Revolution" in Congress, the suicide of Kurt Cobain and the Northridge earthquake—is the punk show at UC Irvine one winter evening that featured NOFX, the Muffs and D.I. "Hey, do you guys know why all the gay people got out of Northridge before the earthquake?" D.I. singer Casey Royer asked. "Cuz they all got their shitpacked early!" It was the first time I had to face the questions that every rock fan must ask sooner or later: Who is this team of idiots, and by what means do they roll their tongues up off the floor and into their slavering mouths long enough to write—much less perform—music I enjoy? Given that I speak and dress like Oscar Wilde, what assurances have I that these gentlemen and their fans will not crumple my pink boutonniere and force it down my youthful throat? Which Agnew brother is that onstage? Did the French theorist Jacques Derrida—UCI's major academic celebrity—hear about the show? And can you spare three cents for beer?
Ancient Artifacts, D.I.'s second album, was one of the first punk records I owned. Its cover, a painting by Art Morales, depicted white archaeologists excavating a site in Egypt near the pyramids. One in a pith helmet is holding aloft a discovery that seems to amaze his colleagues and the African natives standing nearby in loincloths, carrying shields and spears: a primitive totem in the likeness of a dog, D.I.'s logo. It is still the weirdest album cover I have ever seen. I could never figure out if it was intended to be a racist joke; what, if anything, the title and cover of the album had to do with a collection of songs about Orange County, surfing, nuclear war and religion; and above all, why this was the cover of a punk record? It looked more like the mural a community youth group would paint outside the La Brea tar pits.
"O.C. Life," D.I.'s best song (though not their most famous—that's "Richard Hung Himself," which the band performs in the movie Suburbia), and the album's other real gem, "Falling Out," both appeared in superior versions on guitarist Rikk Agnew's solo album All By Myself, and Ancient Artifacts no longer held the same luster for me once I found that out. But the real choice tracks on the Ancient ArtifactsCD were the bonus songs, live versions of "Imminent War," "Reagan's Der Fuhrer," the Adolescents classic "Kids of the Black Hole" (singer Royer had been the Adolescents' drummer, and the prolific Agnew the Adolescents' formidable guitarist), but most of all "Pervert Nurse," the introduction to which is priceless: "This next song's about—one time, I overdosed, right? On every drug in the book. I thought I was God. Jumped off a 15-story building, fucked my arms—no bueno, big guy! Didn't do it. I went straight to the hospital. When I was in intensive care, this one nurse came up to me. She looked me in the eyes, you know? That kinda look you get?" Mere moments later, the mournful voice of another member is heard to plead, "Hey, why are you guys picking on my bass player? Hey, guys?"
HAW, HAW! "No bueno, big guy"? On the contrary, sir, it is bueno—y que bueno! How I rolled on the floor when I first heard that particular locution. Alas, the pleasures of casual fag-baiting ("I work at the Laguna Nursery and we have a new gang together," Royer told Flipside in '85. "We're called the L.B.F.B., the Laguna Beach Fag Bashers. And we like to beat fags up, like, it's cool") were not similarly open to me to enjoy, not because of sexual preference as much as because in my own experience, it tended to accompany the act or threat of getting the holy snot beaten out of my flabby person. While D.I.'s homo jokes probably had no more malice or seriousness in them than Fear's, it was not comfortable to be young and foppish in their presence.
Then again, I did see D.I. play the Garage in Hollywood a couple of years ago, and it was one of the best shows I saw that year. The guitars harmonized gloriously, and the bonehead nihilism of the nuke songs in particular—which expressed a vague anti-war sentiment at the same time they seemed driven by a powerful fantasy of seeing the world reduced to a pile of bones and slabs—was comforting in perhaps the same way a lobotomy would be. That night they played a new song, a sequel to "O.C. Life" called "O.C. Burning," about how much they would like to torch all of Orange County, especially John Wayne Airport. One member lit a match (you know, like burning?). I was reminded of one of the famous lines from Repo Man: "John Wayne was a fag . . ."
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D.I. PERFORMS WITH THE SKULLS, THE HAVE-NOTS, TIPPER GORE AND THE DYSFUNCTIONALS AT THE GALAXY CONCERT THEATRE, 3503. S. HARBOR BLVD., SANTA ANA, (714) 957-0600; WWW.GALAXYTHEATRE.COM. FRI., 8 P.M. $12.50. ALL AGES.