ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 15, 1990
By Steve Newton
If aliens from another world ever happened to beam down into a nightclub where the Beat Farmers were playing, they’d witness an unusual rock ’n’ roll custom that might be mistaken for a strange religious rite. They’d see a rough-looking biker-type poised at the front of the stage, allowing the crowd to soak him to the skin with mass quantities of beer. The aliens think the lowly concert-goers are sacrificing expensive liquid to appease the Big Bearded One. Yet as Country Dick Montana explains, that’s not too far from the truth.
“It’s meant as a harmless thing on the audience’s part,” says Montana of the beer-flinging frenzy he invokes whenever the Beat Farmers play Vancouver. “They’re not tryin’ to bug me at all, they do it as a display of affection. That’s why I don’t get mad at ’em.
“The thing that’s a bummer is that our guitar players could get electrocuted,” he adds. “And the fact that it stings my eyes, and forces me to wear goggles in some towns.”
The good-hearted beer-slinging that usually accompanies a Beat Farmers gig is only one part of the night’s entertainment when the band hits town, though. All the flying brewskis wouldn’t amount to diddley if it weren’t for the killer roots-rock the band pounds out at the same time. The freshness and unpredictability of a Beat Farmers show—and its effect on the crowd—is what keeps Montana and his mates coming back for more.
“Every gig is different,” claims the drummer. “We structure it differently every night so the fresh side of it is always there. Then there’s the differences in the crowds and the temperament of everybody involved. The spontaneity, the contact with the audience, is always cool.”
The Beat Farmers have been coming to Vancouver for five years now, playing such venues as the Commodore, 86 Street, and the Town Pump (where the band set the club’s all-time beer-selling record) and they’ll return to the Commodore for the Grey Cup weekend (November 23 and 24).
Montana says he can hardly wait. “That’s supposed to be a real big deal up there,” he says of the Grey Cup celebrations. “They’re expecting large crowds of roaming bozos. All we have to do is worry about gettin’ through the border! They give us a lot of trouble going in and give us more trouble comin’ back.”
Don’t expect any surly border guards to dissuade the BFs from bringing their repertoire of more than 100 originals and bizarre covers to town, though. Montana says the latest well-known tune the band’s been giving the raunchy treatment to is “Angel of the Morning”. He even croons a few bars in his rumbling voice: “Just call me angel of the morning…untie my feet before you leave me, baaaby.”
Over the wires from the band’s base in San Diego, Montana sounds like his typically happy self. He hasn’t allowed the serious throat operation he underwent a few months back to lick his sense of humour.
“It’s stiff and sore, but it’s been properly dealt with as far as the cancer goes. They feel confident that they got it out. I’ve got 36 staples in my neck, so it’s pretty damn uncomfortable. But it’s just one of those character-building things you go through.”
Montana’s good buddy Mojo Nixon couldn’t help taking a crack at Montana’s recent life-saving surgery, though. On his latest album, Otis, Nixon gives Montana credit for drums, deep vocals, and “zipperneck”.
“I actually got that nickname in the hospital,” chuckles Montana. “I looked very Frankenstein-y, what I had on there.”
One of the tunes that Montana slammed into place on Nixon’s album was the satirical ditty, “Don Henley Must Die”. Montana agrees with that assertion, and would like to see another bunch of folks bite the dust along with the ex-Eagle.
“I think we could just nuke the entire Hollywood/L.A. area,” says Montana. “Just drop the whole fuckin’ thing into the centre of hell and let it burn there. Start over again using more reasonable people that actually have heart and soul.”
Montana’s resentment towards the financial core of the American music industry is based on a few things—like the fact that the Beat Farmers’ label, Curb Records, always haggles with the band over what songs to release. Then there’s the fact that the group’s latest album, Loud and Plowed and…Live!! isn’t even distributed in Canada, where it’s welcome.
“The lack of respect that we get from Hollywood is a constant downer,” says Montana. “I’m gonna call ’em today about that and see just what cheesy excuse they have for that.”
Record company hassles notwithstanding, the Beat Farmers are one band that pulls out all the stops when it comes to having a good time. Like when guitarist Joey Harris and his betrothed exchanged wedding vows in front of 10,000 people at a street festival in San Diego last September. Montana conducted the service as an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, before taking his place behind the drums for a tune written by the groom: “The Girl I Almost Married”.
At the risk of breaking hearts from here to Kalamazoo, it should be noted that Montana himself is next in line for the wedding dance. “I’m actually engaged right now,” confirms the big guy. “I haven’t set a date or anything; I’m still waitin’ to have my first argument with the gal. I’m waiting till I see just how severe that gets before I take the next step.”
And if he ever does take that long walk down the aisle, will Montana be forced to relinquish his self-imposed title of “King of Sleaze”? Not likely.
“My gal happens to like that part of me,” he says.