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Duty Calls 

by Carey Murphy & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & e all know and love the Shirkers because of what they do -- they play loud and they play fast. It's infectious and spastic. And Saturday's show at the Spread promises to be no different, even though there are some rumors floating around about Brownie-McGhee-via-Oblivians ("Christina") and ESG-via-the Dirtbombs ("My Love For You") covers. Tempting? But this preview is a touch different. It's less about the show and more about the personal lives of quiet contemplation that these musicians lead.

What makes these guys tick? What makes them tock? These questions float in my head as I propose sitting in on a Sunday evening practice session. The band genially agrees, and I'm given a private concert. Lots of working through the new material; lots of starts and stops; lots of Pabst. I'm behind-the-scenes. I think to myself, "Self, wouldn't it be great to get some drinks with these guys? I bet they'd really loosen up." As if on cue, the suggestion comes -- and not even from me, for once -- for some extracurricular activities later in the evening. That's right: I'm invited out for booze. My better judgment impaired by the Pabst, I agree to meet up with the guys in another hour. They want to blister through some of the more polished numbers and finish what remains of the Pabst. As far as I could tell, it was a completely reasonable notion.

I arrived at the Park Inn early and made my way through about six games of pinball, fuming somewhat as the band seems to be about 30 minutes late arriving. "Musicians," I curse as the NASCAR machine screws me again. Well, there I stand, playing poorly, until singer-bassist Tim Lannigan and singer-guitarist Bill Conklin VI walk up, with singer-drummer Dan Johnson just a few steps behind. Apparently, all three had been on the other side of the bar wondering the same thing about my tardiness.

"Stevie Ray Vaughn wouldn't be so bad if it weren't the same three songs played over and over," Tim notes. Finishing beers and cocktails, all agree that it is time to retire elsewhere.

"Smell my wrist," offers some drunken lass from the booth immediately behind me, at the Spread. I keep talking to Dan and Bill about the band's history, assuming one of two things: 1) no one makes such an offer seriously, and 2) no one makes it to me.

Again comes the offer: "Hey, smell my wrist." Tim saves me from the demand by suggesting no one is interested in smelling a complete stranger's wrist, regardless of the olfactory alternative it might offer to the present funk. She's outraged for many reasons, but I'm guessing mainly because no such offer has previously been declined. She questions our sexuality, but Tim does not miss a beat: "Yes, we're all gay. Now go away." Hilarious laughter follows the brief moment of tension.

"Isn't this supposed to be an interview?" Dan asks, trying to right the ship. I concede that since I'm not a real journalist -- just a music critic -- no such formality need exist. I thought it would be best just to have a few drinks and see where things go. He shrugs without dismay and keeps drinking.

"So the last time I was at the Rainbow Tavern, I think someone drugged me," Dan admits. He's holding court at Mootsy's, drinking 7 & amp; 7. At this point in the evening, he just might be the funniest mofo I've ever met. Granted, there have been some cocktails consumed, but I seriously doubt sobriety could make this tragicomic anecdote any more ridiculous. I guess everybody wants to sleep with rock stars.

Like I said, quiet contemplation. I take this wisdom with me wherever I go, and all of you are invited to do the same this weekend. For more fun than two barrels of monkeys, spend your Saturday evening with the Shirkers.

The Shirkers at the Spread with the Original Blood on Saturday, April 29, at 9 pm. Tickets: TBA. Call 624-7638.
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