In 1987 I saw Poison Idea play with The Accused in Tacoma. Even at that time P.I. were sort of mythical, at least to me. I’d read an article about them in Thrasher about a year previous, and saw some pictures. The singer and one guitarist were like pro wrestler sized, closer to King Kong Bundy than Jimmy Snuka though. I heard their Kings of Punk album, to me as much of a definitive US hardcore slab as Black Flag’s Damaged-perhaps more so even as it had tastes of musical complexity in the song structure Ginn and company didn’t quite approach with Damaged. Also, the first time I hung out in Tacoma at the Subvert house and got to drool over their bass players record collection, I was introduced to the sounds of the Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes Ep by Poison Idea. Said album had, and has to this day, my favorite Poison Idea song, A.A. I remain firmly convinced that the opening /verse guitar part to that song is the greatest kickoff riff ever written in the history of hardcore punk rock.
So I had heard P.I. was playing the Community World Theater with The Accused, another band I was crazy about. A bunch of my fiends were going. I remember it was like a “big show”, the Accused had recently released More Fun Than an Open Casket Funeral and Poison Idea had just put out their War All The Time lp. I mean, it cost a whole eight bucks to get in, so that alone qualified it as a big show. This was back when hardcore shows were generally under five bucks for local bands, and you could see touring bands from across the country for five to eight bucks. I remember seeing Thatcher on Acid, who were all the way from Britain, when they played with Resist and Subvert in Olympia in 91 for like six bucks even. It was just good cheap fun. Then again, back then a half rack of Animal beer was five bucks and you could get a pack of smokes for a buck fifty. Fuck I’m old.
Anyways, a bunch of us loaded up in this guy Dagley’s VW bus and went to the Community World. The venue was next to a tavern, like the “backstage” entrance was right by the bar’s back door. The parking lot was to the rear of this, sort of around the side of the building. So we parked and everybody unloaded. Somehow I got separated from my friends, I think I went to the back of the parking lot to take a piss and told them I’d meet up inside. At any rate, I’m walking around the building and I see this big shadow the backstage door. It appeared to be someone sitting on something. Someone really fucking huge. I get a little closer. It’s Pig Champion of Poison Idea sitting on a stack of beer cases drinking.
You have to understand. I’m like fifteen years old at the time, just this little punkling kid. I’m standing there looking at the legendary Pig Champion. It was like that old Coke commercial when the kid sees Mean Joe Green coming out of the locker room. Only it’s not Mean Joe Green. It’s fucking Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts. 450 pounds of punk rock guitar fury. He must have noticed my jaw hanging down around my combat boots. He looks at me, raises his beer, and says “Cheers!”
I may as well just have been offered a hot dog by a sasquatch. I was blown away. I think I just said, “Hey dude!” and then floated off into the venue.
The show was the best hardcore show I ever saw. Probably ever will see. Poison Idea opened with A.A., and the place erupted like a volcano spewing molten demon spit laced with methamphetamine and bargain lager. I don’t remember most of the set, I was in the pit flailing for all the world was worth. I remember they seemed so hulking up there, singer Jerry A. and Pig. At one point they finish a song, and Pig Champion walks over and says some something to Jerry who then tells the crowd “And now, for your entertainment…Pig Champion will vomit all over himself.” Everybody goes fucking nuts. There’s a drum roll. Pig Champion is standing there for a few seconds, and then commences to festoon. All over himself, all over his guitar, all over the stage. Everybody goes well beyond fucking nuts. Jerry A, then says “Now. THATS PUNK ROCK.” And without missing a beat, they tear off into Lifestyles off their Kings of Punk lp.
Tom Roberts passed away on January 31st 2006. He was then, and for me always will be larger than life. If you listen to pretty much any Poison Idea song you’ll hear the guitar work of a true genius. Because above all else he wrote great fucking songs. I don’t care about your opinion about hardcore punk lacking musicianship because it wasn’t played with “oodly-oodly” guitar solos and suspended ninth chords or whatever. It is evocative music the likes of which few other styles of rock and roll, or any other genre, can match. And Pig Champion was a master at creating it. Not to mention, from everything I’ve heard from people he was a really decent person. Of all the “band dudes” I ever ran into, my run in with him tops the list for the coolest encounter.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Dave for his second Punk as Fuck column for Rip It Up. Check out his own blog at http://sunburnscold.com/