The Thirteens keep local punk scene thrashing
Being a member of one of the few punk bands in a town where bluegrass and cowboy chuckwagons reign supreme can have repercussions on one’s sense of identity.
Which may explain why, during a recent interview, local punk rockers The Thirteens declined to use their real names, opting instead to go by their alter egos.
Having seen lead singer/songwriter Erik “Jack Ian Hoffa” unleash his spasmodic fury on a crowded stage, the reporter obliged.
Which is not to say the onstage antics of The Thirteens, which also include lead guitarist/songwriter Bubba “Dook,” bass player/ songwriter Tex “The Ox” and drummer Josh “Damian Lee,” carry over to their everyday lives. In fact, all four are regular, married guys who hold down real jobs. On this particular day, Johnny Cash is playing softly over the stereo at Dook’s day job, Bubba’s Boards. There’s not a Mohawk or safety-pin piercing in the group – at least not upon cursory observation.
There’s just no need; The Thirteens would rather let their stage show and music speak for themselves.
This philosophy was driven home at a recent gig in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the group shared the bill with So Cal punk bands.
“We’re unloading our stuff, and this guy from one of the other bands drives up in a Lexus wearing a new Dead Kennedy’s T-shirt that he probably bought at Wal-Mart and mousse in his hair,” said Hoffa “It’s an image thing; they’re like yuppies trying to be weekend punks. They want to be signed and become Blink 182.”
“…and playing music,” added Dook.
The approach seems to be working.
In addition to a whirlwind R.V. tour of the Western U.S. last spring (where lead singer Hoffa was married in Vegas by an Elvis impersonator), The Thirteens have signed on with Denver indie record label, King Bee Records. Their first full-length CD, “Swallow,” should be out any day.
But The Thirteens, like their harddriving
brand of music, aren’t ones to sit back and relax. After a Saturday
night gig in Durango, they head to Denver for a gig at the 15th Street
Tavern, then into the King Bee studios to record their next CD and
back to Durango for two more
“We’ve got to be the hardest-working band in this county,” said Dook.
In their four years of existence, The Thirteens – which morphed from earlier punk incarnations Smut Vendor and The Magic Johnsons – have not only managed to hang on in a fickle local music scene, but continue to pack shows in Durango.
“There’s not much punk or alternative rock going on,” said Dook. “I think that’s why people come to the shows; it’s always something different because we are offering more than just ourselves.”
Like a big brother of punk, The Thirteens have taken it upon themselves to use their clout to help bolster the local punk scene by billing themselves with other punk bands and helping fledgling bands set up gigs.
“We like to think of ourselves as a core for what’s going on here,” said Dook. “The young bands are starving, so Bubba’s fronts them $150 so they can get a show together.”
And while by these bands’ standards, The Thirteens may have hit the big time, Dook and Hoffa note that in actuality, fame and fortune are still a long way off.
“We’re ‘semi-pro,’” said Dook.
And while they admit going to the show would “be cool,” the band says it could take or leave fame and its trappings.
“That creates the whole scene and being worried about image,” said Hoffa. To him, the most important thing is making music and penning lyrics that capture the imagination of at least a few listeners.
“I try to make some kind of social commentary, to get people to think,” he said. “One person can’t change the world, but if you can open a few eyes and ears, that’s pretty cool.”
But Dook, who admits to an up-state
New York upbringing as a “classic middle-
“It’s all done with
a light-hearted ‘This is a good time’ attitude,”
he said. “We’re just bums who like to have a good time.”