My First Show: Chuck Ragan Snuck Out of His Parents' House to See Sick Of It All.
Welcome to My First Show, where we give bands a chance to talk about the first shows they ever attended -- no matter how uncool and embarrassing those tales may be.
Chuck Ragan may be best known as one of the frontmen of Hot Water Music, but for the past few years, he's toured more and more as a solo act. Armed with his acoustic guitar, Ragan has now released three proper solo LPs, as well as a number of 7-inches and live recordings.
His prolific nature comes as a little bit of a surprise, though: Growing up, his childhood was filled with some parental resistance to rock music. Not music as a whole, though. Through church, he got plenty of that. Nonetheless, his parents only allowed him to listen to Patch the Pirate and the Ghostbusters soundtrack
Still, through the help of his skateboarding friends, he finally got into the rock 'n' roll and punk sounds he employs in his music today. With Ragan coming to town on Sunday night for a solo show at The Loft, we caught up with him to talk about his earliest show experiences -- the first shows he attended, the first he performed with Hot Water Music, and the first he preformed on his own. Plus, he let us know about the current status of Hot Water Music.
Check it out after the jump.
What was the first show you saw? Were your parents with you?
I grew up seeing shows that were more church services with music -- a lot of bluegrass, gospel hymns, preaching, quartet singing and spirit-driven country. So there was quite a bit of influence at a young age from that. My mother toured and performed [as the Christian ventriloquist act, Geraldine and Ricky] and my brother and I, along with my dad when he wasn't working, would tour with her quite a bit. On my mother's side of the family, we have that ol' Cajun blood in us, and grew up with a lot of Cajun or Creole music. I vaguely remember barbecues or yard parties at an early age, but it's mostly church services that I think of when I think of my first impressions of music. I don't really recollect my "official" first concert, though. They all sort of blend together. It was something we grew up with.
When you had your own money, what was the first show that you saw?
After growing up with what I just described, I found skateboarding, the punks, the skins, the metalheads, and a lot of the trouble that came with it. My first official punk show that I recall was at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, Florida. DRI, Sick of It All and Nasty Savage. I lived in Sarasota, and snuck away out of my house without my folks knowing. I knew they wouldn't let me go if I had asked them. If I remember right, I had to be about 12 or 13 years old. It was probably five to seven bucks to get in. Those were some rough days back then, and punk rock was not mainstream at all. Those shows were dangerous, and if you wanted to be a part of it you had to hit the ground running or get crushed -- and we always did a little of both!
The first Hot Water Music show has been documented in other places, but what do you remember about it? It was a frat party, right? The band's originals weren't well received, but your cover of "Summer of '69" was?
Yeah, that's right! We had some originals and, yes, we covered "Summer of '69," which was very well received by the college crowd! We had a good friend that [bassist] Jason Black grew up with in the fraternity. We were just excited to have a show. I think, at the time, we only knew about seven to eight songs, but I think the bar maid let us get through about five before she came on a PA and said, "Alright boys, you can stop playing now, I'm gonna have everybody dance." So we stopped, unplugged and gratefully received our free pints before we were on our way. That was in a place in Gainesville called Durty Nelly's, which has always been one of my favorite pubs in the States and is still around.
What do you remember about your first solo show?
I remember my first solo performance (if you want to call it that) being either in Skagway or Ketchikan, Alaska and I had to be around 16 or 17. My mother was performing on a cruise line, and our families would go along sometimes. We were on an excursion at a fish camp up there and they had a little open mic talent show, and I played whatever I could. Not really a show, I guess. But it certainly sparked something that made me want to keep going with it.
What about the first "official" solo show?
I'd say the first official solo show that I remember playing was at Emphasis Coffee House in Sarasota, Florida when I was about 17. George Rebelo and Jason Black's jazz combos used to play there, which, I guess, is how we ended up hanging out there. When I finally had a shot, I remember being shaky and a little embarrassed of my lack of ability to play the guitar well because there were a lot of older folks and other musicians watching, and my songs weren't that put together, and some of them pretty corny or real sappy. I'm not sure what I expected, but once I was up in front of the people, I realized that I actually needed to really work on the songs before standing up and playing them in front of folks! That fire, though, has never left. I love the intimidation or edginess you can get before walking on stage and going through with it and doing your best. It feels solid and rewarding when you get through the things that shake you up.
Lastly, what's the current status of Hot Water Music? More tours? 7-inches? A new album?
We're going to play a few shows at the end of my tour with Social Distortion. Some more overseas in the summer. We're all super busy in our own way, but aim to have something together in the future. Maybe a 7-inch or something. Not sure to what extent, but we'll give it go. It's hard to balance everything, especially with my own new record coming out and The Revival Tour being our top priority. We'll make something happen sooner or later and it'll be right, organic and fun.