Ah, gawd! Another Girl Trouble article? Another Girl Trouble anniversary? The regularity with which I’ve written stories such as this prove two undeniable facts.
Number one: Girl Trouble — the iconic, quirky, punk band that’s about as Tacoma as Tacoma gets — has left an indelible and important mark on this gritty city of ours. People have memories built around this band — even memories of things that never actually happened. (That goes out to you, guy who claims they’ve played Clapton’s “Cocaine.”) Girl Trouble represents an innocent part of our past and a resilient and rough knuckled part of our fabric as a town. In more ways than one, Girl Trouble IS Tacoma.
Number two: I’m getting fucking old and the years are going by too fucking fast.
But it’s true. On Friday, March 13, Girl Trouble — that is, mouthpiece and shirtless man candy Kurt Kendall, the guitarist known as Kahuna, bassist Dale Phillips and the band’s glue, drummer Bon Von Wheelie — will be celebrating 25 years of action.
“We never really thought we were going to make it,” says Kendall. “We’ve done everything that we ever wanted to do.”
Is it just me, or does Girl Trouble’s 20th anniversary seem like it wasn’t that long ago?
Nevertheless, the band wants to celebrate — and who can blame them. I know I’ll gladly join in. Girl Trouble has secured The New Frontier Lounge, and on this month’s version of Friday the 13th they’ll be offering fans in Tacoma what they didn’t get with the 20th anniversary party — a celebratory show in Tacoma.
And it’s free. That’s a Tacoma-centric stimulus plan that’s easy to get behind.
It’ll be all Girl Trouble, all night long. No opening bands. No holds barred.
According to the band, while (in true Girl Trouble fashion) there remains a lot to be sketched out and determined, the plan at this point is for the band to start Friday the 13th’s show by performing the very first set Girl Trouble ever played, at a battle of the bands, circa 1983. The set was made up entirely of covers, heavy on the Cramps, and should offer those old enough to remember such things a well-earned trip down Tacoma rock memory lane.
I recently visited the place myself, during a sit-down with Girl Trouble at the Swiss. Even though I was three in 1983, Kurt and company made me feel right at home. Instead of recapping the band’s lengthy and Tacomillustrious history for the eight billionth time in this article (I’ll save that for the 30 year anniversary), I’ll take the same route our conversation took, which was an hour-long jaunt through Tacoma then and now.
“We started at a good time,” says Kendall, of the early ’80s and the bands genesis. “These days it would be very difficult to stake your claim trying to do something different. Back when we were doing it, it was real easy to do something different.”
Like dress like punks, which — believe it or not, kiddos — in the mid ’80s in Tacoma was enough to get you pummeled.
“I love Tacoma. It’s a blue collar, working class town. It was a tough town,” says Kahuna. “We started out as punk rock kids. There was a punk rock house on 56th where we’d all hang out. Sometimes a baseball team or something would come over in their trucks looking for a fight. One time we got a socket set thrown at us.”
“If you looked like that, you had to watch out,” adds Bon Von Wheelie.
Things are easier now — for better or worse.
One aspect of life in early and mid ’80s Tacoma each member of Girl Trouble seems to remember fondly was the difficulty of finding good records, which was a day’s work in a time like 1983.
“Finding a record you wanted was tough,” says Kahuna.
“You’d have enough to buy a bus ticket to the mall and buy the record, and then you’d have to walk home. But it was a big deal. Word got around about who just got what record, and everyone would come over and listen to it,” adds Kendall. “You’d listen to it over and over and over. Today that doesn’t happen.”
“That’s one fear I have about the youth. They get stuff so easy,” says Kahuna.
So how does Tacoma of today stack up to Tacoma of Girl Trouble’s youth?
“It seems better than ever. There are a lot of really good young kid bands, dressing cool and breaking the rules,” says Von Wheelie. “It’s like it used to be.”
Well, not exactly — but perhaps that’s for the best. Girl Trouble is 25, and Tacoma’s music scene is as strong as it’s ever been.
Help celebrate a big reason why on Friday, March 13 at The New Frontier.
[The New Frontier Lounge, 9 p.m., free, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020]