The Athens music scene circa early 1990s was damned in a way. Though it birthed a few bands -- Five-Eight and the Dashboard Saviors -- that toured outside of their Southern confines, mainstream or even alternative underground press wasn't biting. Well, unless your band was R.E.M. Local rockers like Roosevelt and Daisy played regularly but might as well have had membership cards printed up since they entertained the same fervently loyal crowds show after show.
A similar fate befell Harvey Milk, another such group with a tight union of card-carrying fans, most of whom were music writers, record-store employees, or played in other local bands. This trio specialized in screamed, strangulated vocals and unsettlingly slow outbursts of low-end guitar, both courtesy of frontman Creston Spiers. The addition of Steven Tanner's churning bass and Paul Trudeau's primal-scream therapy drumming resulted in a grimy, muscular brand of noise rock far removed from the relatively calm demeanor shared by the three lifelong music geeks. They accumulated frequent comparisons to the Melvins, but, in retrospect, Harvey Milk was often a more off-putting and schizoid thing. Its most referenced album, Courtesy and Good Will Towards Men, delivered plenty of thudding, sledgehammer stuff juxtaposed with a few softly strummed acoustic surprises. The lull lures you in but a subsequent wave of chaos is always just around the corner.
"They were just a little more twisted, a little more off-center than most of the local bands at that time," says Milk aficionado and Chunklet magazine publisher Henry Owings. "Take Creston. He's such a calm, reserved type of guy -- very much different from the maniac you'd see screaming on stage. If anything, Harvey Milk was a really interesting study in opposites."
Fortunately, time has a way of re-projecting once under-appreciated ideas. Today there's no such thing as the Jesus Lizard, the Chicago whirlwind whose pummeling live shows fueled Harvey Milk's formation. Bands like Tomahawk and Thrones have since pushed the envelope of "challenging listening" even further with the extended use of downtuned guitars, manipulated vocals and droning tempos. Fitting, then, that Harvey Milk's original incarnation (as opposed to the later ZZ Top-indebted version) has reconvened to play a series of shows in Athens and one in Atlanta presented by an obviously enthused Owings.
"I think Harvey Milk reuniting is mostly due to the fact that Steven remains the biggest fan of a band that he actually plays in," says Owings. "When I heard they were getting back together I offered to put on a show and really put some thought and love into it, selecting the opening bands and all that. You have to understand, this was an amazing live band that during their time together was virtually ignored and never really given its due."
The Milk members recently returned from New York (Tanner's current home) where they've been recording new material. Word has it these live dates will feature the public unveiling of the newer digs and perhaps a smattering of the demented old stuff. These days the bellowing Spiers is a junior-high music teacher, Tanner is a chef, and Trudeau's prepping for a move to Boston equipped with his newly obtained degree in artifact preservation. Money has it, though, that the terrible three will still be able to lacerate the hardiest of eardrums and maybe even coax a puzzled look or two from the younger indie hipsters in attendance.
"I was at Room 13 the other day and there at the bar were the same bunch of people that attended Harvey Milk shows back in the day, the people that were in Slumberjack, Daisy and those bands. What a sausage-fest!" says Owings. "That's putting it in an ill light because women did attend Harvey Milk shows, but it was really such an obsessive guy-rock thing. They're a well-kept secret, still, but almost 10 years after they broke up, there remains those people who wanna see 'em play again. So, shit, why disappoint?"
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?