Five years have passed since Kick the Future last played together. But when the band met recently to run through material from the record they made in 1986, guitarist Terry McInturff thought it immediately sounded great. The proto-punk of the Stooges and the young Pete Townshend that had moved the members as relative kids hadn't lost its power to inspire them. "There's still an angry young man inside that needs to come out," McInturff admits.
If there's an angry young man inside McInturff—now a convivial adult who moved to Siler City years ago and became a renowned luthier—he keeps it well hidden. But he will do his best to unleash him this Friday at The Pour House, which will host eight bands that made their bones, moved audiences and earned lifelong fans at Raleigh's since-bulldozed The Brewery.
An area institution for almost 30 years, The Brewery offered some of the best live music in the state, within a vibe that was warm, loose and participatory. It had an unquantifiable X factor, too: Why else would those who spent time there hold its memory in such high regard?
A New York transplant, I came along too late for The Brewery, but I can relate. The same year that Kick the Future recorded that LP, I was frequenting my own personal Brewery, Maxwell's, the legendary rock club in Hoboken, N.J., whose impending closure made national headlines a few weeks ago.
Although I get the sense Maxwell's smelled better than The Brewery, it too was a small, hot, odd-shaped room that featured the best bands from all over, as well as those from a vibrant local scene. Ask, and I'll tell you quickly about seeing the Replacements or Iggy or the Minutemen there, of buying Syd Straw a shot of tequila before a Golden Palominos gig, or telling Tommy Stinson after a show that the Mats had "rocked my world" (and feeling like a complete doofus about it for the next several years). And it wasn't just the big names: I recall a great gig by the Primitons, for instance, in 1986.
No doubt, everyone involved in this weekend's Brewery show could match the depth of my memories and go deeper, thanks to the perspective of performing. This tribute appropriately came together in low-key fashion.
"I wanted to hang out with a bunch of my old rock 'n' roll buddies," says Jac Cain, who ran sound at the club for years and played there with several bands of his own, including Slurpeeeee! and the Poonhounds. Now performing a similar sound function at The Pour House, Cain says the idea for the event came to him recently after he discussed getting Slurpeeeee! back together with Sandy Jarrell. He soon learned that Insurgence leader Roberto Morales had done a rehearsal with his old band, too. "Then I ran into Gerald [Duncan], the singer from the Accelerators, at my father-in-law's funeral, and I said, 'Hey, why not get a bunch of the old Brewery bands together and make a weekend of it?'"
Cain nabbed eight acts, only two of which were still active. "It's kinda cool," he says with a laugh. "I brought some of 'em outta mothballs."
While his motivation was personal, Cain's convocation taps into a larger idea: Listeners want to reconnect with the bands that defined their youth. And as the big genres have splintered into countless divisions, there are hordes of bands that have gained small but loyal followings. Critically, the Internet makes it easy to reach the 50,000 people who, for example, still really love New Zealand's The Bats.
NYC Popfest features well-below-the-radar bands from the college rock '80s, many of which play sporadically or not at all. Over the last seven years, the festival has proven that people are willing to fly across an ocean to catch a gig by, say, the Close Lobsters, an English band that broke up in the early '90s and had only a modest profile stateside.
To call these shows a nostalgia trip or an example of overzealous fanhood would miss at least part of the point: People simply want to hear the bands that moved them, and a lot of these bands want to get out there and play for the sheer fun of it.
One of Friday's key attractions is Kick the Future, led by Robert Kirkland. A mainstay of the North Carolina music scene, Kirkland co-founded the seminal Winston-Salem-derived outfit Arrogance with Don Dixon in 1969. Dixon went on to produce groundbreaking albums for R.E.M. and launch a solo career, and he was a tunesmith with a deep appreciation of classic songwriting. Kirkland, on the other hand, "was the aggressive guy," says McInturff. Their sound was analogous to the good-times pub rock happening in the U.K. at the time: a return to rootsy approaches as an antidote to the overwrought art-rock of the day.
"Now you'd call it alt-rock or alt- something," says McInturff. "All we knew was it was original and it wasn't trying to sound like the hit parade."
Jeff Hart, who played at The Brewery with his band The Ruins in the '80s and '90s and will be on the Friday night bill, calls Kirkland "a mentor of mine and a big hero of N.C. music. They pretty much paved the way for the whole Southeastern club scene and made it possible for R.E.M. to have places to play."
A drummer or a producer vaguely interconnects several bands on the bill. Hart, for example, has ties to Kirkland: "When my band The Hanks were playing a lot in the late '80s, we were Robert's band and played a lot of his Kick the Future and Arrogance songs," he offers. "We felt like The Band to his Dylan."
Before moving out of the Triangle, McInturff reckons he played some 75 gigs at The Brewery. One of the best, he says, was Kick the Future's first show.
"Robert had been writing some songs that were a little too edgy for Arrogance. A little bit out there. Everybody was waiting with anticipation to see what Robert would do next. Then I got a phone call from him: 'I want you to be the lead guitarist in my new band,'" he remembers. "It clicked really fast and we went in the studio, recorded a record and did our first show at The Brewery. It was one of those Brewery moments I'll never forget."
Talking to those who will share the stage this weekend, many of those Brewery moments bubble back to the surface. "We all had good times there," Cain says with understatement. Like many, he says, he started at The Brewery as a fan of the bands and ended up a friend. "And by coincidence it would have been the 30th anniversary this year. So the timing was good. Everything fell into place."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Our love will last."