But Federation of Horsepower did -- and lived to regret it.
With several thousand motorcycle enthusiasts and a lineup that included Ted Nugent, Warrant and -- well, need I say more? -- the North Texas Rock Rally held the weekend of July 15 didn't sound like a Sunday at the park. But for a largely tattooed hard-rock band that believes, in drummer Kriss Ward's words, that rock is all about "trying to bring as much power and energy as you can," the rally shouldn't have been terribly daunting, either.
"We come over the hill, and it's like pulling into Colonel Kurtz's compound but without the heads on the sticks," says Federation leader Gregg Todt, comparing the chaotic scene at the 193-acre Coyote, Texas, facility to Apocalypse Now.
Todt is pretty savvy when it comes to motorcycle culture, partly owing to his ten-year stint as producer of The Johnny Dare Show. So when he pulled up the band's rental van to unload into the gargantuan, air-conditioned tent called the Full Throttle Saloon, Todt knew that no matter what, the bikers had the right of way. It wasn't the bikers, however, that turned out to be the problem -- even if they probably were responsible for the "tragic wet T-shirt contest" that was transpiring in the near-100-degree Texas heat. ("Good lord, I want to pay them 20 bucks to keep that shit on," Todt says.)
Instead, it was poor organization and, to a lesser extent, a shitty performance by the legendary David "Take This Job" Allan "And Shove It" Coe that spoiled the day for Todt and his bandmates.
Having made their way to the big-ass tent the requisite two hours early, Federation of Horsepower's members were greeted with warm welcomes that quickly faded to cold absence on the part of the organizers, whose festival was running hopelessly behind schedule. Fortunately, Federation discovered a buffet stocked with hot wings. The hungry Kansas Citians feasted, discovering only later that the food was meant for Coe, who was scheduled to play immediately before them.
They didn't feel too bad for stealing hors d'oeuvres from the long-bearded and tattooed Country Music Hall of Famer, though, when Coe took the stage and launched into a set made up mostly of monologues in which the gnarly old dude bragged about how many famous people he knew.
Granted, none of this was really too much for any hard-riding band to handle, but the afternoon came to a shattering climax when Federation finally did take the stage -- after the Coe crowd (which was the crowd) had cleared out of the tent.
Without a line check, Federation began, only to have a stage manager suddenly appear and bitch out the group for playing too loud. Pretty lame complaint at a biker rally -- one with a Memorial Hall-sized PA, to boot.
The band was even less thrilled when the stage manager returned 10 minutes into what was supposed to be an hourlong set to inform Federation that it had 15 minutes left.
"We play, like, three more songs," Todt says. "By this point, we're pissed off and all the songs came out angry and loud, and we ended by saying, 'We're Federation of Horsepower. We're from Kansas City. Fuck you. Thanks for nothing.'"
Todt then turned, gripped the sides of his Washburn Delta King and snapped the guitar's neck on top of his amp. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied the "pencil dick stage manager" hustling across the foot of the stage. Todt chucked the body of his broken guitar at the scampering foe, but the cord wasn't long enough, and the projectile fell short.
"He needs to write a letter to Monster Cables, because they fuckin' saved his ass," Todt says of the lucky killjoy.
Pent-up rage released, Todt and company loaded up the van lickety-split, figuring pencil dick had called the cops. As they pulled out, the last thing they saw was the lead singer from a Janis Joplin tribute band flipping off David Allan Coe. Maybe Coe had eaten her hot wings.
The trip wasn't a total loss, however. The band acquired a mascot -- a bobble-head armadillo, which they named Kirk Nagstrom, a perversion of the name of the famous Split Lip Rayfield frontman that also alludes to a slang term Federation bassist John Ferguson invented: naga, a safe word for white people who envy gangsta rappers to call each other.
Also, Federation got a taste of the Austin music scene, having played a gig at the Red-Eyed Fly the night before the rally. "They have a diamond lane for bands to unload -- it's beautiful," Todt says about the city's rock-and-roll infrastructure. "Looking at all those clubs, tattoo parlors -- this is what Westport could be if it wasn't chasing off perfectly good businesses like Natural Wear and putting in shitty burrito joints."
But now that life is back to normal for this federation of disgruntled Kansas City rockers, they'll be in top rockin' shape Tuesday at Mike's Tavern (alongside Bacon Shoe) to kick off the new Boozeday Tuesdays early-show experiment the newly remodeled Troost bar is testing. Shows will start at 8 and end at 10. David Allan Coe is welcome to come and treat everyone to tater tots. Don¹t Mess With Federation of Horsepower A Kansas City band gets more than it bargained for at a North Texas motorcycle rally and rock concert.