A good set from Dead Moon is like a visit from your spirit guide: rock N roll tearing straight out of the long, dark, guitar/bass/drums as both folk way and primal howl (and either way, you get the feeling the Sasquatch—who's from the same Pacific Northwest backwoods as this Oregon band—might approve). See, nobody does it the way Dead Moon does—they couldn't. Because like the whiskey they've got a soft spot for, this kind of taste takes years of chemistry and concentration (the band has been going for 15; guitarist Fred Cole and his bassist wife, Toody, were married with grandkids for years before that).
They record—”A necessary evil,” sighs Toody—above their Clackamas, Oregon, music store, Tombstone Music, and they make their own vinyl masters on a 1954 Presto-99 mono record cutter, a dusty old monster that has been cranking out rock N roll since the Kingsmen put out the “Louie Louie” single. Yeah, it's the exact same machine—when it was built, Fred and Toody were both about six (drummer Andrew Loomis is the baby of the band by 13 years). And then when they get the records—in middle-finger-to-the-world mono—they go to Europe, where everyone loves them (listen to those Slavs roar on Hardwired in Llubjiana, one of Dead Moon's definite career-highlight albums), or they tour frat bars and hipster clubs in America, where not everyone loves them. But it's okay—they get enough.
“I wouldn't change it for a minute,” Toody says over the phone. “I love our history; I love the fact that we've lived through this much shit. I know we're envied by a lot of people, and we should be.”
“Come see a fat old man sometime!” adds Fred, somewhere in the background.
“No matter how long it takes, it's just as sweet on the other side,” says Toody. “The dream ain't gonna go away. If you don't let it go, the dream will come and find you.”
So they've been playing together for more than 25 years, married for more than 35. When you can't keep your band or your booty call together for more than a few months, think of Fred and Toody, side-by-side onstage, sharing a duet on “It's OK” (somberly covered in concert by no less than Pearl Jam, as a memorial to fans killed at a concert in Rosskilde), sliding each other hurried but knowing little looks decades longer than you or the oldest records in your collection have even existed. Fucking true love: it would spit on your emo, but it doesn't need to. Instead, it beams out from Dead Moon in glorious lo-fi mono.
“Oh, it's awesome,” says Toody, resolutely. “It's like winning the lottery. We're lucky as hell we met at 18, and it worked from day one. It's nothing either of us thought would ever happen in this lifetime. You wanna pick two people off this planet that wouldn't work, and then they work so well it's amazing.”
To tell the story of how they met—Toody doesn't mind if you ask her—you've got to invoke a quarter-century of pop culture and psychohistory. Like the Nuggets box set, where the band Fred was in later ended up: see the Lollipop Shoppe doing the oft-covered “You Must Be a Witch.” And the Yardbirds: Fred's band was supposed to open for them. It turned out to be all hype, and they were stuck in 1966 San Francisco with nowhere to go. And Vietnam: with the draft chuffing down their necks, Fred and company decided to run for the Canadian border. And finally, good old rock N roll kismet: out of gas money in Portland (can we blame Johnsonian economic policy for that one?), they ended up playing a desperate last-minute gig at a coffeehouse where a certain girl—of course—happened to work. It wasn't love at first sight, but, says Toody, it was fate.
“They were crazy times!” she says and laughs. “You had to take it as it goes!”
And those times, well, they naturally stayed pretty crazy. Fred's discography—from the Lollipop Shoppe to Led Zep-like classic rock to punk band the Rats to cow-punk band Western Front and a million side projects since lost to seven-inch singles—represents a powerful and inspiringly iconoclastic life encoded in pressing numbers and secret notes in the dead wax. History leaves out so much, but at least with Fred and Toody, you can still dance to it (and they still have copies of all but one of their records, Toody says; collectors, commence drooling now). And when—and if—they ever get social security checks, it'll probably just go toward a new set of strings.
“Yeah, well, we're just assholes,” says Toody. “We're always gonna be around and in your face. Given the scenario, we should've given up a long time ago. But we're survivors—that's just the way it is.”
Dead Moon perform with the Pattern and the Rattlesnakes at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-0377. Thurs., Feb. 27. Call for time. $8. All ages.