On nights when he addresses his flock, the uniform that “Father” Tim Lannigan wears is simple, and never deviates. Polyester pants (brown), a white short-sleeved shirt (made shorter-sleeved by a roll of the cuff) and a tie. If Lannigan were anywhere near a bike helmet, he would look the very model of a modern Mormon missionary.
The only things in front of Lannigan at the moment, though, are a microphone and a pair of monitors. He stands, splay-legged, screaming and stomping and cooing in front of a convulsing throng of hipsters, gen-Xers, hippies and aging punks. Stage right, “Reverend” Ryan Coleman does much the same, but from behind an organ adorned with a print of “The Last Supper.”
Sweaty, spastic, shaking as though in the orgiastic swell of holy release, the crowd arrayed at nYne feels more like the congregants of a sweaty, dustbowl tent revival. But of course, these people are not drunk on the Holy Spirit. They — like Lannigan’s band, Whiskey Dick Mountain — are drunk on drinking.
“Well water comes from the bottom of a weh-yell,” Coleman calls out, over the slow drone of his organ.
“That’s why I chose whiskey over wah-tuh,” Lannigan responds.
“Yes and whiskey burns like from the pits of hey-yell,” Coleman steps it up, inching over the top.
“That’s why I chose whiskey over wah-ah-ahhhh-taaahh,” Lannigan and Coleman wail together, joined by “Youth Pastor” (and drummer) Shawn Cox, guitarist Daniel Burns “For All Eternity,” and the sloppier half of the assembled audience.
Five years ago, give or take, Father Tim and Reverend Ryan decided to start playing around with garage rock, punk, blues and gospel. Whiskey Dick Mountain is the result — a sultry, cacophonous, profane music-worshipping debauchery.
This is no mere schtick. Whiskey Dick Mountain lives this life every day. Well, at least one evening a week.
It’s pushing 10 pm on a Thursday — band practice night. The kids are in bed, Mommy is at work and Lannigan’s living room is starting to look like a kegger. (Lannigan and his partner, Patty Tully, own Neato Burrito and Baby Bar.)
On the ground at the men’s feet are a six-pack of Hamm’s, a sixer of Rainier, the dregs of a fifth of Jim Beam and a half-gallon of Jameson. A flask appears every few minutes from Lannigan’s hip pocket. I ask him what’s in there, if not whiskey of one stripe or another. He looks a little sheepish. “White Russian,” he says.
In the course of gaining popularity, they’ve also gained chops and become, by turns, more professional. They built a soundproof room in Lannigan’s garage and recorded an album, BYOB, which they released a couple weeks ago. They plan to do little weekend tours around the region in support of it.
To the question of their half-decade progression as a band, Lannigan responds, “We can handle our alcohol a little better.”
Burns says, “We can play our instruments a lot better.”
“I dunno,” Coleman cuts in, the voice of reason, “I think we drank a lot more [at the beginning], is the issue.”
“Just because we’re older,” Burns agrees, “and can’t drink as much.”
So the secret is playing more and drinking less?
Lannigan (“Well, no … no”) and Coleman (“Whoa, whoa, whoa”) protest simultaneously.
“We just drink a little less when we play,” Burns says.
“Practice,” Father Tim continues, “is still the same.”
“We practice 2 hours, one day, every week,” Burns says.
“And we drink about 2 hours, one day, really hard,” Lannigan says.
They wouldn’t want to get too good anyway. “The whole point of garage rock,” Lannigan concludes, between flask tugs of White Russian, “is that you’re just slightly better than the people in the audience.”
The difference between Whiskey Dick and their seething mass of faithful, it seems, is taking a hobby and making it a ritual.
The men head out the back door, swaying a little, sixers and flasks and that half-gallon in hand, toward Lannigan’s garage.
It’s Thursday night. They have some practicing to do.