Several months ago, I stopped by one of the Palatine watering holes for their hot wing special.  I planned on getting a dozen to go.

I was wearing a t-shirt bearing the logo of one of my favorite punk bands, The Vandals.  It’s the cover of their first EP, “Peace Thru Vandalism.”

I walked in at about 4 p.m. – I think it was a Wednesday.  There were about five people at various seats around the bar.  As soon as I walked in, a guy at the end of the bar turned and said, “hey, I like that shirt.”

It took me a little by surprise, because even though The Vandals have been around forever and have a dozen or so albums, it seems NOBODY in the Midwest has heard of them.

The guy was sitting with a friend.  I came around the bar, pointed to the shirt, and said, “heard of them?”

He said, “my brother played bass on that album.”

“No way.”

“I’m serious.  Steve Pfauter.  Only album of theirs he ever played on.”

I’m a fairly big fan of the band, but they’ve had so many personnel changes over the years it’s hard to keep track.  But I was definitely intrigued.

He told me his name was Tommy.  He went on to explain that his older brother, Steve, is still in CA (The Vandals are an L.A. band).  After The Vandals EP, he went on to form Detox, then he really DID go into detox, fell out of the music scene, and now does part-time housepainting and is a set dresser for movies.

We talked for a while, mostly about Steve and his post-rehab life.  Tommy was in the bar with his partner for a quick beer before they finished the day on his road construction crew.  The wings I’d ordered were ready, so I bid them adieu and told them it was nice chatting with them.

As I left, Tommy said, “no, really.  Look it up.  Steve Pfauter, played bass on that album.”

I got home and checked it out – everything he said was true.  Not that I doubted him; that would’ve been an elaborate ruse to pull on a complete stranger.  Plus, he was a nice guy.


POINT OF THE STORY:  What are the chances of 1. My choosing that particular shirt that day (I have a dozen or so band shirts), and 2. One of five barflies in suburban Chicago happening to be the brother of the bass player on an obsure EP by a relatively-obscure L.A. punk band?

Rock and roll serendipity, man.  It never ceases to amaze me.


Tommy said something that amused me: “I never liked that kind of music.  That song ‘Anarchy Burger, Hold the Government’?  That’s just a bunch of noise.”

I had to agree.  That song IS just a bunch of noise.