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Local Band Column: The Stabones

This story was published September 29, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

Hi, reader! How was your day? Mine was good. A funny thing happened. I was walking with a guy I have a crush on (you know who you are… Larry J. Sabato) and a bird shat on his shoulder. (Just kidding, I dig TAs, not professors.)

Due to a lack of inspiration for this column, today I decided to be funny by squeezing in as many references to Larry J. Sabato as I can. So, if Larry J. Sabato listened to music, what local band would he prefer? The Stabones!

Comprised of vocalist Bartley McGowan, guitarist Tom O’Halloran, bassist Erik Larson and a drummer named Dirge, The Stabones’ style is a self-described brand of “drunk punk.”

Drunk punk includes all the necessary features of regular punk, like a quick drum beat, choppy, chunky guitar work and smart-ass lyrics. The Stabones’ only unique contribution to the genreis in jiggers and liters.

To the layperson, punk is usually associated with the pop-punk of Blink-182 and Simple Plan or the heavy-handed political rock of Anti-Flag. The Stabones — and their drunk punk — fall somewhere in between.

“We play loud, fun, nonsensical music. It’s not angry or bitter or anything,” Dirge said.

The band’s Web site says “The Stabones are a bunch of dorks that play punk rock because they love the music. They’re not trying to overthrow the government or change the world and they don’t give a sh*t if you think they are cool.”

In like manner, the lyrics to one of my (and Larry J. Sabato’s) favorite tunes, “Bite Out of Crime,” say, “I’ve been to jail/It wasn’t fun/Cops get a kick out of wearing a gun/’They’re not all bad, just doing their job’/F**k that, they can suck my knob/Got locked up for pissing on my van/No way to treat an honest man/If society is so f***king free/Why arrest a drunk man who’s gotta pee?”

“There are enough people talking about [politics and current events] without us doing it,” McGowan said. “This isn’t 1969. Besides, who wants to get their opinions from a rock band?”

The Stabones have played every local venue that’s known for music, according to McGowan. They’ve had five shows at Starr Hill since their formation in 2004, but O’Halloran’s fondest memories are of Outback Lodge.

“It’s a dirty local dive,” he said. “It’s the kind of place where you’re gonna get heckled no matter who you are. We love it there.”

The band toured from Charlottesville to New Or-leans a few months ago and came out $50 in the hole.

“It was a huge success!” McGowan said.

After I laughed at his enthusiasm, I realized that a band breaking even after touring where they don’t have a fan base is quite an accomplishment. I mean, think of the gas prices! That sh*t is crazy.

But I digress. As did the interview… at one memorable moment two members of the band who shall remain nameless (Larry J. Sabato! No, just kidding. He’s not in the band) burst into an argument about the difference between removing grape skins via squishing or peeling. Later, conversation veered towards the possibility of an environmentally-friendly tour van.

“That’s right. We talk about wine-making and bio-diesel. We’re punk as hell,” laughed O’Halloran.

Perhaps that’s the most important aspect of The Stabones -– they don’t care much about much.

The Stabones acknowledge they’re older than the average punk band (three members graduated from U.Va., the most recent in 2004) and that they “kind of like to drink.”

Still, McGowan said, “In ten years, our goal is to be the next big band out of Charlottesville. We’ll do whatever it takes.” So far, that’s included a gig at the Hong Kong Buffet in Culpeper (”It was awesome!” Larson said) and 53 shows in a little over a year.

“Although we use the term ’show’ loosely,” McGowan said. “Some of them were only for barmen and door guys.”

Ultimately, if you’re on a search for an action-packed live show, a band named after a character on “Growing Pains” and a good time, look no further than Larry J. Sabato.

I mean, The Stabones.

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