By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Details were sketchy, confirmation was impossible, but the rumors still backfired down the streets of Deep Ellum like fiberglass in the muffler of a muscle car. Despite an eight-month leave of absence and reports of a breakup, Glasspack--a local supergroup few have heard of and even fewer have seen--would once again take a Dallas stage in late July. The wave of expectation was almost as great as the constant clamor for a Four Reasons Unknown reunion.
For the uninitiated, the phenomenon known as Glasspack--or glASSpack, with a giant "A-S-S" so people far away will think a band called ASS is playing--sprang into Deep Ellum's collective consciousness, appropriately enough, on a Halloween night at Trees just a scant few years ago. The occasion was a show celebrating the release of One Ton Records' Sandy Does Dallas, a compilation of local talent remaking the Grease soundtrack.
It was a strange night, a power riff on the retro-tribute craze sweeping the music industry--a sort of nasty and noisy '90s throwback to '70s iconography that was itself a throwback to the '50s. Several of the bands that appeared on Sandy Does Dallas were on hand to play their respective covers in short, but not too sweet, sets. The gussied-up Toadies tore down "Beauty School Drop-out"; Ugly Mus-tard, all rosy-cheeked and pig-tailed, bemoaned "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."
There was only one potential bright spot in the lineup, only one possible calm in the relentless high-decibel storm: Spyche--the woman with a Greco-Roman's jackboot, a seraph's voice, and a mysterious origin--delivering her wanton version of "Hopelessly Devoted to You." But instead of Spyche, a four-piece called Glasspack took the stage.
With mini-Marshall amps, Flying V guitars, and nary a single string in tune, Glasspack erupted in a parade of arena-rock anthems that had no connection to '50s doo-wop pop, songs that couldn't be covers because no one would ever record songs like these on purpose. Fish-white bellies bulged between skin-tight KISS Army tees and button-fly jeans. Pelvises were thrust. Hips gyrated. Jim Beam was guzzled. Through the overabundant between-song patter, one mantra was repeated: "Texxas Jam '78," a reference to a long-ago, lost performance after Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush that no one could ever have seen but apparently plenty can imagine.
Teresa Gubbins, The Dallas Morning News' voice of the Pepsi Generation, summed the group up as "an in-crowd collaborative... whose tedious goof-on-you nonperformance charmed no one but the band members themselves." Less loquacious audience members with khaki gimme hats and ankle tats simply waved clenched fists and yelled, "You suck." To this, a taken-aback Glasspack simply replied, "No, you must be confusing us with another band that sucks."
Hindsight being 20/20 and all, this initial audience reaction was predictable. The band--Jimmy McMillions on vocals and lead Flying V, Spyche "from France" on bass, Duncan "C*ckblock" Donut on drums, and Casey "Lunchbox" Masterpiece on other guitar--has unfamiliar names, but familiar faces. Isn't the guy with the stringy goat-beard that James guy who runs sound at the Curtain Club? That's Spyche who tends bar and sometimes plays bass--I didn't know she was from France. And that's Duncan Black, who used to book the Orbit Room and play drums in Dooms U.K. and Slowpoke. And that other guy is either Ian Moore with chest hair or Casey from Secret Goldfish and Valve.
With such a roster, there could be only one question on everybody's mind, and it's the only one that matters in rock and roll: Are they any good?
A year and a half after the fact, sitting in the cool, 78-degree Curtain Club, Duncan dismisses the hoopla with a wide smile. "We can't help that we're so popular. We are who we are and, well, we rock. And people eventually see that."
Jimmy is a bit more modest. "We were told the Sandy Does Dallas show was this '70s revival thing, but all we heard was this '50s music. Well, we're not a '50s band. We're Texxas Jam '78. So we just did our thing. I don't think..." He trails off, snapping his fingers. "Psoriasis, Sorrissa, Torisa, Theresa, Teresa...Yeah, Teresa didn't really understand what was happening to her at first, but since then she's come around. The Texxas Jam is something everyone needs to experience. But the big arena-rock shows are pretty much gone. We keep it alive."
Alive? Well, maybe on life support. Despite a history of solid crowds that boast the likes of such local rock royalty and avatars of good taste as Hagfish's Zach Blair and One Ton Records' Aden Holt, as well as unsuspecting frat boys who wander in hypnotized by the sheen of classic metal, Glasspack played only a handful of billed Dallas gigs last year--the most recent during the first week of November.
The band blames its infrequent gigs on everything from a problem with Jimmy's lymph nodes to an air-drumming injury suffered by Duncan, but the word on the street had co-founder and tuning ear Spyche "from France" quitting the band. When press releases announced that the band Mess had reformed as Darlington, with Spyche on bass, the end of Glasspack seemed definite.