by Mike Corrigan

The Creeps -- lead vocalist Jon Coker, drummer Al Guest, guitarist Kory Kissell and bassist Larry Reiner -- specialize in something mighty elusive out there on the Spokane music scene these days: Fierce, elemental punk rock played balls-out with little pretense, a lot of beer and more than a little love. Their songs are brief and direct in the best punk tradition. Coker's autobiographical lyrics are deceptively simple in their construction, belying a level of sophistication -- and yes, an aptitude for poetic verse -- reminiscent of the Minutemen. They play this Friday at Mootsy's with Portland's SK and the Punk Ass Bitches.

Some might also accuse the Creeps of harboring "traditional" punk values regarding the concept of success (in essence: if it comes, it comes). They don't seem, like so many of their peers, obsessed with self-promotion, glittery stardom, making a ton of dough or even getting that fat major label deal. Damn. Guys, that attitude's never gonna get your silly mugs on MTV.

"I think the reason we're all in a punk band is because we totally say f-- all that," responds Coker. "I mean, sure, we'd like to get thrown on a bill that actually helps us with gas money. But why are we doing this? We really are in it to get to play with the other punk bands we've always liked and have a great time with the crowd. It seems like a lot of the bands we play with worry a lot about their shows. We just want something cool to happen when we get there."

The band formed in 1999 and released its first full album (the excellent Knuckle Sandwich) in early 2002. Their following in Spokane has grown steadily over the past year. Quality rock or effective marketing? After a few minutes talking to Coker, it becomes pretty clear it has almost nothing to do with the latter.

"We're actually not very good marketers at all," he laughs. "But we push each other because nobody's going to help us with it. Everybody wants money, but we'd rather use the money we make on things that our fans want -- the best recordings we can make, T-shirts and stickers -- we just keep dumping money into that."

Though the band members all have day jobs, their weekends this summer are fully booked. Among other gigs, the band is part of the opening lineup of the Unleash the Freaks 2002 tour with Zebrahead and fellow local groups Five Foot Thick and Flyreal. The Creeps are scheduled to perform on all the stops except one.

"We're missing that one Unleash the Freaks date because we had the show booked with the P.A.Bs -- and I wouldn't miss that for the world."

Friday night, the Creeps are sharing the Mootsy's bill with Portland's SK and the Punk Ass Bitches, a thunderous bass-guitar-drums outfit led by a man who requires no introduction in Spokane (oh, what the hell, it's former Motherload guitarist and former local lad, Scott Kellogg). While stylistically compatible, the two bands share a bond that transcends their shared musical tastes.

"When the P.A.Bs and the Creeps play together," says Coker, "it's just as good as it gets in Spokane as far as two bands that are friends and can take that friendship up on the stage and go nuts. In my opinion, anyone who wants to see the Creeps should see us with them. It's the best way, really. We're both right in our environment."

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