Band: The Vomit Spots 30th Anniversary Reunion, featuring Black Irish Texas, Post-Mortem Delirium and Sazerac Band
Date: Saturday, June 6 at 9 p.m.
Venue: Alchemy Tavern, 7 S. Joachim St., www.alchemytavernmobile.com
Tickets: $12 at the door
When it comes to a local underground music scene, Mobile has always been feast or famine: The Azalea City can be teeming with underground bands and venues catering to them, or be virtually devoid of both. Over the years, one beloved local band has served as a sonic time capsule, taking fans back to the glory days of the ‘90s when underground bands such as Loppybogymi, La Brea Stompers and The Rigid Kittens graced local stages at Vincent Van Go-Go and Four Strong Winds Coffee House.
The Vomit Spots have spent the past 30 years performing before crowds of adoring fans, and front man Keith Hammett loves every minute of it. Almost every year, Hammett, guitarist Al de Lorge, bassist Robbie Turpin and drummer Anton Garriz revive the Azalea City’s ‘90s underground scene by performing furious Spots’ cuts such as “Axl Rose,” “Beano” and “Talking to Al.” According to Hammett, the band, along with friends and fans, use these shows as de facto high school or college reunions. While scenesters from the past make up a large portion of the audience, the band’s reputation also brings out new-schoolers.
“It’s kind of cool and kind of scary,” Hammett said. “I know sometimes people haven’t seen us before, and they come and see a bunch of old guys jumping around on stage. I wonder why people talk such good things about us. We’re bigger now than we were back in the day, so that’s cool.”
The Vomit Spots began in a place where many other great ‘90s bands formed: college. The members were students at Spring Hill College and the University of South Alabama and in different bands when they met. Defunct Spring Hill College radio station WTOH was at the center of their social circle. With a radius barely reaching a couple of miles, WTOH brought the Azalea City its first taste of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Jane’s Addiction.
The Vomit Spots emerged from the ooze as what Hammett would describe as “a joke band.” The band took its name from the aftermath of a hurricane party at which too many hurricanes were consumed and then regurgitated on a white dorm room carpet. Even though the band was formed as a joke, they quickly gained popularity with songs such as “Booger Snot” and “Nina Haagen Dazs” at local venues promoting the ‘90s alt. rock movement.
“As far as the bar scene goes, at first it was Poor Richard’s and George’s,” Hammett said. “Poor Richard’s had alternative nights on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, so we would stay up late on a school night and play over there. Even Thirsties and Boogies on Old Shell Road had shows, but we pretty much took off at the Vincent Van Go-Go.”
The band also became synonymous with artist Lindsey Kuhn, who is known for his memorable show prints. In the band’s early days, Hillsdale was the epicenter of the local scene. Bands such as Buffalo Roam and Loppybogymi lived alongside The Vomit Spots and Lindsey Kuhn. Hammett explained that Kuhn was instrumental in creating The Vomit Spots’ T-shirts, which were a major moneymaker for the band at live shows. Kuhn’s handiwork can still be seen at the Spots’ reunion shows.
“We tried to make new T-shirts every time we went on a little tour or had something new coming up,” Hammett said. “I’ve got shirts this time, but they’re leftovers. I need to call Lindsey today. Lindsey is doing very well for himself. He’s living in Denver, Colorado, now, so it’s hard to get him to do little favors.”
Eventually, The Vomit Spots grew beyond Mobile. The band began to tour across the Southeast on mini-tours that usually were scheduled for holiday weekends and summers. Even California received a taste of Mobile’s underground music scene when the band toured the West Coast. The Vomit Spots developed one of their largest out-of-town followings in Birmingham, and this popularity led to an unfortunate episode in the band’s history. It was there that an HBO documentary crew shooting “Skinheads U.S.A.: Soldiers of Hate” showed up at a Vomit Spots show. The documentary profiled neo-Nazi Bill Riccio and his group of young white-power skinhead followers. They informed the band that Riccio and his group planned to attend the show.
“They came to the show, because that’s where all the other young people were going that night,” Hammett said. “HBO asked us if they could film under the idea that any publicity is good publicity. Then, it was like, ‘Oh no!’”
After the documentary aired, the band found themselves associated with the skinhead movement. The nature of the underground music scene at that time also did not help in distancing The Vomit Spots from this false perception of the band. Hammett said that in those days in Mobile, anyone on the social fringe gravitated to the underground scene. These subcultures included punks, hippies, metal heads and even skinheads. It was not uncommon to see skinheads at their shows. This inadvertent association with the white power movement became serious when federal authorities began to monitor the band.
“After that show, the FBI came to a show to see if we were involved in all that stuff,” Hammett said. “There were a lot of police there and undercover people. The promoter was like, ‘You know, if I were you, I wouldn’t curse too much or take your shirt off on stage or anything that could be misconstrued as breaking a law.’ Everybody thought we were skinheads, and we were like, ‘No, we’re not skinheads.’”
The band’s rich and varied history is played out on stage with each reunion show. In addition to The Vomit Spots, Black Irish Texas will be joining the band with their Celtic punk sounds. Post-Mortem Delirium will deliver an injection of brutal horror punk laced with metal overtones. Newcomers the Sazerac Band completes the lineup with a fresh batch of homegrown underground sounds.
Hammett warns it will be “a late night,” which will be a good thing for their audience.