Head Full of Beer

The Slobberbone chronicles: An oral history

The Great Slobberbone Mystery

According to legend, the members of Slobberbone woke up one morning in a hotel room after a night of hard rock and roll and even harder drinking. None of them could recall how they got there, who drove, how they got paid or who loaded the equipment. Upon stumbling out to the parking lot to check on their van, they found it unlocked, keys in the ignition and the back doors swinging wide-open in the breeze. How they didn't get robbed is a mystery. How they toured for 10 years without a DWI is an even bigger mystery. --Keith Killoren, Budapest One

Haze of Drink

The band, from left to right: Brian Lane, Brent Best, Tony Harper and Jess Barr
Cheryl Null
The band, from left to right: Brian Lane, Brent Best, Tony Harper and Jess Barr
Top: Brent Best breathes fire--literally. Bottom: And you will know them by the trail of empty beer cans: The tell-tale signs of Slobberbone: Jess Barr with a cigarette dangling from his lips (center), Brent Best singing through a mess of shaggy hair (top left).
Top: Brian Lane
Top: Brent Best breathes fire--literally. Bottom: And you will know them by the trail of empty beer cans: The tell-tale signs of Slobberbone: Jess Barr with a cigarette dangling from his lips (center), Brent Best singing through a mess of shaggy hair (top left).

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Slobberbone performs its final shows Saturday, March 12, and Sunday, March 13, at Dan's Silverleaf.

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In summer 2001, Slobberbone played the Taste of Lincoln, a Chicago street fest that generally books the likes of Edwin McCain and awful local cover bands. We started getting word out about having a little bash after the Slobberbone show, which began as 50 people and swelled to 500, sweating from every last pore, pumping their fists and bumping uglies. At one point, someone wrote a request on a $20 bill and threw it at Brent Best. People were flinging dozens of smokes at Jess Barr, and he smoked every last one. After the $20 request for "Haze of Drink" was fulfilled, a caravan headed to my place, and I spent the next 45 minutes letting people in. Much of the evening was a haze, but I do remember beer and several pizzas and that I blew my speakers trying to bring music to the back deck. Into the wee hours of the morning, we talked music, movies, literature and life. I came in a huge fan of Slobberbone and walked out an admirer not only of their music but of their approach to life. --Lane Campbell, Chicago, Illinois

Life's Rich Pageant

In late '92 or early '93 I used to walk my dog past this house off Oak Street in Denton, and I would hear this guitarist playing along with R.E.M.'s Life's Rich Pageant--one of my favorite albums. The music was loud, and I would stop and wonder, "Who is this person?" and "Should I introduce myself?" It took weeks to summon the courage to knock on the door. Brent Best answered, and we became fast friends. It wasn't long before he joined Matt Pence, Mark Hedman and me in Adam's Farm. Brent played with the band for about a year, but he was always busy with Slobberbone and Gravel Truck. Even after Brent left Adam's Farm, he would show up at our shows, harmonica in hand, and join us for a few foot-stompers. There were lots of memorable times at Brent's place, including a spell when Brent and [former bassist] Lee Pearson were living without electricity, using Coleman lanterns to illuminate the house at night. The guy really lives it, that's for sure. --Jeff Whittington, The Hundred Inevitables, ex-Adam's Farm, producer, The Glenn Mitchell Show, KERA 90.1

Born in a Small Town

When I think back on Slobberbone and the last 10 years or so, it would be easy to focus on the beer, the music or having to explain that Slobberbone wasn't a sexual term. But the older I got and the older they got, the thing that really struck me about Slobberbone was their fierce loyalty to Denton when moving to Dallas or Austin might have been the trendy thing to do and the sacrifices that a band of their ilk made to be at that level. I think of all the barbecues and get-togethers the guys missed and how it was as important to them to hear those stories as it was for us to hear their stories. I am sad for the Denton bands of the future, that they won't have Slobberbone as an example of how to be a real band. --Jon Turner, Denton

Sober Song

The thing to keep in mind with a lot of the old stories is that they tend to get embellished with time. There’s plenty more of the off-the-rails sort of incidents to recount, but the majority of those are from back before the transformation really settled in. That transformation is what gradually happened over several years of putting ourselves out there, all over, both here in the States and in Europe, without much of a plan other than to keep going to as many places as we could and play our music in front of whoever would show up. There was no strategy, no safety net of any kind and, perhaps most significant to me now, no single goal other than to do it. If you spend a lot of time doing something with no reward in mind other than doing it (be it physical labor, reading, fishing, etc.), you’ll find yourself more cognizant of the sublime developments occurring around and in reaction to your endeavor. It’s in this manila envelope where I file the majority of significant events related to my past 13 years with this band. For every “Remember when Tony and Dave Pirner got in a fight and Tony threw his leg at him?” memory, there are quieter ones, like the entire band walking from our motel to the beach just north of San Diego at 4 a.m. after a gig, wading out into the cold surf until it was above our waists and realizing that three and a half weeks prior we had stood and looked upon the Atlantic somewhere in New England. It was walking down a street in Amsterdam and seeing a bicycle with a Slobberbone sticker on it, or driving with the Gourds from the bottom of a medieval fjord-lined valley to the snow-covered top of the highest mountain road. But more significant are the hundreds of people we not only met but became friends with. We were never really part of any one scene. At first, the only unifying factor between the people who ended up at our shows was the band. I came to realize just how meaningful it was to get in the van and play these songs that no one “outside of the club” would ever know. Every friend we made—those who put us up in their houses or who threw parties for us or who caravanned together on entire tour legs—these are the people, had we been from their town, we would’ve already known and been hanging out with anyway. That realization alone has some far-reaching impact whenever I get beaten down by the state of the world, and as such becomes a touchstone for the rest of my life. These are the sorts of rewards the four of us never could have anticipated when we recorded our first $400 disc and bought our first piece-o-crap van. It was a privilege to go and a privilege to come home. It was a privilege to make friends, not only with heroes like Larry Brown, Patterson Hood or Peter Jesperson, but with everyone we crossed paths with and knew we’d see again. I’m sure this all sounds terribly sappy, but I’m not a sappy guy. This is the honest-to-God truth of it, and we can only thank anyone and everyone who ever had the smallest bit to do with any of it and know that it’ll stay with us for the rest of our lives. All this for some guys who got together to try and get some free beer. And you know what? We got a LOT. —Brent Best, future ex-Slobberbone

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