Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big Drill Car: A Driving Force of Melody

Big Drill Car's Frank Daly and fan in Chicago. (Andy photo)

By Cat and Andy

Andy's celebrated winter/spring/summer of Big Drill Car gigs took place in 1990. He went to six shows in the Los Angeles area and all of them featured the Newport Beach-based jack-of-all-trades (punk/pop/rock/whatever) band that has stuck with us over the years. From gigs in LA to San Jose to Chicago, they never failed to keep us singing, smiling and stompin'.

Highlights of those hot LA nights, were driving to Cal State Irvine to watch BDC open for Dread Zeppelin, leaving before the headliner played; and sweating it out at Al's Bar, the Anti-Club, Raji's and the Rat Trap in Costa Mesa. After moving to San Jose the day after one of those Raji's gigs, Andy caught the band at Marsugi's in SJ and then Gilman Street in Berkeley with G-Whiz (whose van broke down and who stayed with Andy and roommate, Phil, for about a week).

One San Jose gig stood out:

For some reason, which would happen quite often in San Jose back in the '90s, out-of-town bands like Big Drill Car would just not get a good draw. One night at the Cactus Club, about eight of us made up most of the crowd. We didn't care, we got in a line and banged our heads -- Andy's sister, Kristin, even threw her scrunchie on stage, and smirking singer Frank Daly picked it up, twirled it on one finger and tossed it back at us. The band was on fire that night and seemed to enjoy themselves just as much as our crew.

Bob Thomson does Chicago. (Cat photo)

After the band broke up in 1995 -- leaving us with one of its best, powerhouse tunes, "Friend of Mine," on the "No Worse for the Wear" LP -- Daly and guitarist Mark Arnold hooked up with John Kastner of the Doughboys to form All Systems Go! ... Big Drill Car-Doughboys -- you can't go wrong with that one!

So, 13 years after the breakup, Big Drill Car reformed with Daly, Arnold and original bassist Bob Thomson and drummer Danny Marcroft for some shows in southern California and then at the Riot Fest in Chicago in October of 2008. (They also played two SoCal gigs in 2009.)

We attended those Chicago gigs at the Double Door and the Congress Theater and they gave us a jolt of energy that we shared with the band all those years ago. We knew it was a good sign when old pal Arnold spotted us in front of the Double Door and we talked it up like not a day had passed.

Old-school Drill Car.

Inside the club, we just hoped that our travels to Chicago would translate into another fine gig. However, we would not be without a snag in this endeavor:

As opening band the Pavers blared away, Cat had a comfortable spot at the bar with the perfect view of the band. Then came along "Princess Cowboy Hat" (PCH), who tried to squirm her way in front of Cat -- where there was absolutely no room. Cat refused to budge and PCH continued to push. By the time Andy came over, it was close to blows. Andy was distraught, afraid that Cat would get us kicked out of the club before Big Drill Car even started. Luckily, "Cowboy Hat's" boyfriend was cool and asked the "Princess" to calm down. By the end of it all, Cat and the boyfriend gave each other a hug, while PCH scoffed and looked away. 

Before Big Drill Car took the stage, a younger guy with spectacles had a discerning look on his face and asked us what they were about. During the set, as he pogoed and became extremely sweaty, he turned to us and blurted out, "How did I not know about this band!?"

Well, he does now, and hopefully he's a happier man because of it.

We haven't seen Big Drill Car since, but we ran into Arnold again at an X gig in Seattle about a year later. He was doing sound for X, and beforehand, grabbed Andy by the shirt, saying, "What the hell are you doing here?" Andy asked him the same thing. He offered to put us on the guest list for the second night, but we had a wedding to attend. 

But we've got a feeling the Big Drill Car stories are not through (we hope anyway!).  


  1. WHOOHOOO! How much fun was that?!!!! Good times & more to come -- rock on!!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing, I have similar great memories of witnessing Big Drill car live a bunch of times... Always one of the best!

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