There's something about a local or regional band, one that was at least as good, if not better than, the stuff that was on the radio at the time. For a lot of people around my age who grew up in the Northwest, one of those bands was Black Happy.
Black Happy is a band that is frequently mis-categorized, which is very likely a part of the reason they never hit outside of this region. They're a kind of rock/metal band backed with horns. So ... are they ska? Nope. Punk? Not really. Skunk (again, a term that only existed for a very specific time period)? Nope.
They're just Black Happy, this goofy little band from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho who most people couldn't help put love once they actually heard them.
Because of a Facebook fanpage titled "Black Happy should reunite," the 8 original members came together this month for a five-show reunion tour through Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. Yes, apparently, change can come from the internet. And, thus, the mini-reunion tour begins.
I had the opportunity to catch the last show of their tour last night at The Knitting Factory in Spokane, WA (a venue that I do NOT love). I haven't attended a show since I broke my leg last summer and I wasn't certain I could handle the front of the show - I'm still pretty brittle and re-breaking my leg was not the way I wanted to enjoy the show. I did, however, and I'm really glad I did.
I didn't get into Black Happy while they were still together - 1992-1995, I was still in Kalispell, MT. I had heard of them and, I think, I'd listened to Friendly Dog Salad at one point, probably in my friends Nate and Cody's apartment (do you remember your first friends to get their own place? That was Nate and Cody). My musical taste was all over the map in the mid-90s - Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, TONS of ska, Nine Inch Nails, Leonard Cohen, Bad Religion, The Ramones - and I'm actually not sure that I would have appreciated Black Happy as much then as I did later.
I really got into Black Happy a few years after their breakup - 1997 or so - after I'd moved to this area. One of the things that I found most intriguing was the way people talked about this band, like they were their friends, their family, THEIR band. And, in a lot of ways, that's what you're allowed to be when you're a small-town band that is dearly loved in your region but unheard of outside of it.
For a short period of time, Black Happy was our band. And, for a few days this month, they were again. The show was fast, it was high-energy, and it was exactly what I'd always imagined seeing them live would be like.
Sure, we were all a little older. Sure, the punks in the crowd were, like me, mostly normal-hair colored and had dug our old chucks out of the pile of work shoes and running shoes for the gym. But there was no shame in being an aged punk - we were all in it together.
And it was fun as hell.
If you've ever wondered if you should go to see your old favorites, worried that it might be ruined? Take a chance. It was worth it this time.
Krista Benson is a 30-year old living in Eastern Washington State. She is, at times, a career advisor, a group facilitation consultant, an academic, and an activist.
She lives in Spokane, WA and has had some pretty major life changes. She is still figuring out what that means, sometimes while writing in the 3rd person.