Problem Dogg are not to be trusted. Besides their red flag of a name, with its suspicious, ass-backwards letter "R," the Denton noise band are the musical equivalent of a train wreck waiting to happen. Last year they put out a 49-song album, because why the hell not? Basically every one of their shows gets billed as their last, which is believable once you see them.
If only someone had told that to the folks at The Abbey Underground.
Last week, the Denton watering hole booked Problem Dogg to play a Thursday night gig. Just a perfectly ordinary weeknight in a college town bar, right? Well, no. The 17-piece band proved so infuriating that after only four minutes the sound guy attempted to cut them off, first by switching off the lights and then by cutting power to their mics. Finally, after only 14 minutes, the show came to an unexpected end.
Knowing the way this band thinks, this debacle may well be the peak achievement for the folks in Problem Dogg. So it's especially fortunate that the whole episode was captured on video for the rest of the world to see and re-see forever — recorded by, who else, Michael Briggs.
"We were never really fans of The Abbey. It's just a big smoke dungeon," says Problem Dogg keyboardist Matthew Burgess, dismissively. "We saw it as an intriguing opportunity to do what we always do." This is a band that doesn't often play in bars and clubs, save for places like Crown & Harp or Rubber Gloves, with "five people playing a core song and the rest doing what they want." In fact, this was their first show in over six months, thanks to the band members' busy schedules.
"I don't want to say it's a protest of anything. We have structured songs," Burgess explains. "But it's almost a metaphysical thing to question what you're seeing — like, 'Is this music? Is this art?'"
Needless to say, The Abbey likely hadn't realized what they were in for — a fact that could in part be attributed to Richard Haskins, who had booked Problem Dogg to play. "We were advertised on the Facebook event page as an 18-piece jazz band, which couldn't be further from the truth," says Burgess with a joyous laugh. Still, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary at first: "Everything seemed kosher up until the time we were playing. But we only asked for four mics, even though we had 17 or 18 members."
As the video shows, despite starting off with a Miles Davis "cover," things quickly went off the rails, prompting the front of house to shut the lights off. "I thought it was just mood lighting," Burgess says. The band continued on unabated, launching into their next song, "Thrift Store Blowjob," and the house lights went back up. "The sound guy knew he had no control and it drove him crazy. There were no drums to turn down, no guitars to turn down — no control over the situation besides the mics."
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Finally, after someone in the crowd walked up and flipped off the band and the sound guy tried in vain to get their attention by waving his arms, the message got through. "A bartender came up, who was very nice and very kind, and said, 'Hey, this guy is going to quit if you don't stop playing,'" Burgess says. Guitarist Rick Eye tried pushing for one more song, but to no avail. Gradually the show petered off as the rest of the band realized what was going on, leaving only the hilarious blasts of an airhorn to further aggravate onlookers.
Yet the band considered the show to be a success, all things considered. "Multiple people in the band thought it was the best show they'd ever played," Burgess says proudly. "I'd prefer a harsh reaction to our [music] rather than no reaction at all. That's the basis for any band I'm in ... Somebody not knowing how to feel about your band is the ultimate sign you're not doing your job."
(Haskins, whose band the Unmarked Graves also played that night, says he's since been banned from playing the venue.)
Not surprisingly, Burgess doesn't ever see Problem Dogg returning to The Abbey, even if they were for some reason invited back. "It would probably be a terrible idea. We've already burned that bridge 10 times over," he says with another laugh. "I might go on a karaoke night though," Burgess adds, "but only to sing ABBA."