"...featuring Brian Lemert..."
"You know who that is, don't you?" I said.
"Who?" He asked.
Now go back in time with us some 18 years. Alternative rock had just finally washed ashore on the mindscape of Ft Wayne, and a radio station called The Edge was born. Part of its birth was focused on the burgeoning alt scene in town, and they had decided to put together a CD of the best that that scene had to offer. It would be called Edge Essentials, and it contained some pretty awesome talent.
It was headed off by one of the more popular alt bands- or bands, period- at the time in town, Angie Ueber's Rushville Whig. This was one of the first bands of the genre I saw, and one of the first I introduced the kids to at an all-ages show (KC was ten and Shenan six). Angie was a real, charismatic vocal talent. I almost reached groupie status for a time. Their drummer went on for a time (maybe still) to play with Spike and the Bulldogs, an uber-popular local oldies band. Angie had followed her dream to LA the last I heard.
Next up was Chad Beck's Senator Dillwilly, which later went by another name that no one remembers. They were the fun kids, passing out "Dillwilly Dollars" (Monopoly type money with a "portrait" of the "Senator"). Chad was a force in Fort Wayne music for a long time.
Next came the Red Ball Jets. They were a "Stray Cats" type trio with the big bass, lead guitar, and drum. They would later be overshadowed in the genre by the Blue Moon Boys led by local legend Kenny Taylor.
That first show I took the kids to, KC was a bit unsure. "I don't know any of their songs," he said. After I explained that there was a time that he hadn't heard any of the songs he liked, he was good. RW went on first, and they were more my taste than theirs. But then SD came up, and Shenan enjoyed it so much, she wandered up onto the stage after the last song and gave Chad a hug. She fell asleep (a common thread with her) when the RBJs came up. KC fell in love, and when they offered a sequined RBJ tee to the best dancer during a certain song, KC danced what passed for his butt off. In the end, a bra was thrown on stage, and the owner of it received the shirt. KC was crushed. "If you were a big rock and roll star, who would you rather give the shirt to- a girl who threw her bra at you, or some little kid?"
"I don't know", he choked out.
"You will someday," I smiled.
But that was a different day and the Onionhead story was a little later. The station hosted an all-ages at Swinney Park with all the bands on the CD. It was close to 100 degrees. Chad Beck took the stage painted green with a crown of duct tape. He sweat the tape off before the first song was over. During a horn-led band called Struttrain's set, Shenan climbed up on my back (in 100 degrees) and FELL ASLEEP. We heard a ska band which quickly became the most famous band in town Skavossas for the first time. KC fell in love immediately; it took me a hair longer to get used to them. They were perhaps the best musicians of the lot- an eight piece ensemble of pure energy, that eventually succumbed to internal pressures. The guy who actually introduced me to them was a foreman's son where I worked who I last saw on Jerry Springer (no lie).
But then came Onionhead, aka Brian Lemert. He had concocted the name- and the song, which he had already played enough that he was sick of it- expressly to get on the CD, and it got the most radio play, both on the Edge and Rock104, led by DJ Doc West. (In fact, you can actually hear it still on Last.fm and the Apple store, if you do such things.) It was a tune about rising to and falling from stardom, and here at this concert he had announced he was retiring the song. When it reached its cynical crescendo in the final verse, he smiled a sly smile, laid down his guitar in the middle of the song and walked off the stage with the song still playing- he was lip-synching the whole time, but you could not tell.
I knew Brian was still doing oldies around town the whole time, after all these years. So we went to the concert, and he was the first act. I suspected that he wouldn't play Supersonic, but he was great on such covers as Rocket Man, I'm Your Captain, and Ohio. Near the end of his set, somebody in the crowd yelled, "SUPERSONIC!" and was echoed by others, including me and KC. With a smile, he said, "I'm going to do two more songs- one because I like it, and one because I wrote it." One song later, he did Supersonic to loud applause. Doc West, who was hosting the event (yes, he's still around too) came out and told the story I just told you, just as we had told Jessica the story on the way there.
It was a real moment for us. For KC it was a fond childhood moment. For me, it was one time I did something right for the kids. As stupid as it sounds, I almost cried in front of all those people.
We stayed for the next set too, which was a band called Black Door, with a girl who did some pretty good Black Crowes, Led Zep, and Jefferson Airplane.
|Best I could do with my phone.|
Afterwards, we all sought out and shook hands with Doc, the girl from Black Door, but especially Brian Lemert- and shared with him the memory and what it meant. The Onionhead had come full circle.