photos by Keith McGrath of Crucial Changes
[Editor's note: Cordial Spew plays Shiddyfest this Friday at The Hideout, 320 S. 72nd St. in Omaha. The Shidiots, Idle Minds, DSM-5 and Subject To Authority also play. Show starts at 9 p.m., and cover is $5 for 21+ and $7 for 18-20.]
by Jay NeSmith
Jay Bacon is the father you wish you had. He drives an awesome car. Listens to great music. Plays in a punk band. Fixes electronics. And that’s just the beginning.
From his years of shredding in Omaha's Cordial Spew to his vast practical knowledge, Bacon has garnered a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most well-rounded and experienced people in the DIY music scene and beyond.
Much of the band's current fanbase wasn't even born when they initially formed. Starting off in 1986, Cordial's lineup has changed throughout the years, but has always been led by Bacon on vocals and Kevin McClay on guitar. There were a number of influences that brought them together to play music, but Bacon says that his biggest personal motivator was seeing Black Flag in 1985 during their now-legendary "Slip It In" tour. After talking with McClay at the long-gone Bob's Big Boy Burger restaurant on Farnam Street, they decided to get a band together that sounded like everything they were listening to at the time.
Taking musical cues from the likes of Black Flag, Hüsker Dü and other bands involved in the rapidly expanding DIY scene of the mid-'80s, Cordial Spew made a name for themselves with their intense live performances and raucous, hardcore sound. Without the ease of the internet, they employed traditional methods of promoting, like putting up flyers everywhere they could, and often times relying solely by word-of-mouth. Bacon says it worked every bit as effectively as today's promoting, but with some added benefits.
Because not everyone knew about the shows, it was easier to connect with fans — real fans — who would make every effort they possibly could to come out to the shows. With the internet, Bacon says, you might get a better turnout at some shows, but the chances are 50/50 as to whether or not you can really expect these faces to still be dedicated listeners in a few months.
In the '80s, Cordial played countless shows and recorded a full-length album, which came out shortly before the end of 1987, when Cordial started to fall apart. There were a number of different reasons for the initial breakup.
"Life changes people," Bacon says. "It changes the situations. People eventually moved on or away, and we got tired of it."
Cordial Spew went on an extended hiatus, up until roughly four and a half years ago, when Jay decided to reform the group, swapping out a few members in the process to complete the new lineup that includes Jeff Decker on lead guitar, Jason Rice on bass and Doug Decker on drums. Bacon sought the thrill of playing shows again.
While many people eventually “grow out” of the DIY ethic they once held dear, Bacon, along with the rest of the band, has avoided this at all costs. Despite taking on the responsibilities of adulthood, Cordial Spew still embraces a youthful energy on stage. Often calling other people up on stage to play along with them for a song or two, they find a way to engage the audience and get them directly involved with the show.
Take a look around at any Cordial Spew show, and you’re sure to see much more than your typical punk-show crowd. Many of their original fans still make the effort to come out to the shows, and because they play lots of all-ages venues, they also have a solid younger fanbase that identifies with their sound from the anger and frustration of growing up.
It’s the music brings them all together.
Jay NeSmith is a Hear Nebraska intern. Rancid's "And Out Come the Wolves" and ska-tinged guitar lines helped him through high school. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.