Like snowflakes, but nowhere near as delicate or pristinely beautiful, no two Flipper shows were ever the same. Some, as drummer Steve DePace remembers, would devolve into 45 minutes of inner band fighting — he recalls guitarist Ted Falconi and bassist Bruce Loose wrestling on stage on one particular night — and 10 minutes of the group riffing off its best-known song, "Sex Bomb."
Then, there was the time that a woman walked up onstage while singer Bruce Loose had his back turned and kicked him square between the legs, setting off a huge fight that reminded DePace of a saloon melee in a Western movie. Stranger still, there was another show where two punks had sex right in front of DePace's drum kit as Flipper played on. It was just all part of the Flipper experience for DePace.
"A lot of people would complain, and I'd hear them say, 'Flipper sucks,' and then they'd be back the next night," laughs DePace.
Made up of ex-Negative Trend members DePace and bassist/vocalist Will Shatter, plus bassist/vocalist Bruce Loose and guitar phenomenon Ted Falconi, Flipper existed from the late '70s to 1993. In between, the band lost the enigmatic Shatter to a heroin overdose but now, it has gained ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, as Flipper is back up and running with a new DVD and a flood of unreleased material just waiting to see the light of day.
The DVD set, from MVD Visual, is called "Flipper Live: Target Video 77 1980-81" and it contains two distinctly different shows that reveal, in graphic detail, just how distinct each Flipper show was from every other show the band ever put on. The first took place at Berkeley Square in 1980 and was a sloppy, drunken hootenanny that, purportedly, proudly boasts the only footage of Flipper playing its classic "The Wheel."
The second sees Flipper opening for industrial giants Throbbing Gristle at San Francisco's Kezar Pavillion, where the NBA's San Francisco Warriors once played, and here, Flipper rumbles its way, in nihilistic fashion, through a doom-laden concert that is both ugly and beautiful, and utterly hypnotic to witness.
DePace recalls it being "a very chaotic show" and credits Joe Rees of Target Video and Klaus Flouride for cleaning up the video and what was initially terrible audio quality from it in order to make this DVD.
Notorious for its false starts, wrong notes and surreal shows, Flipper was the punk band "everybody loved to hate," says DePace. And yet Flipper had some famous fans. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain cited them as an influence, and DePace says that Henry Rollins once told him that Negative Trend impacted him as a youth growing up in Washington, D.C. And Moby once joined a reconstituted Flipper for a rendition of "Sex Bomb" at a Paper magazine party.
Watch for a story on the band in Goldmine magazine and on www.goldminemag.com in the coming weeks. Believe me, you don't want to miss it. DePace and company have some great stories.
To learn more about Flipper, visit www.myspace.com/flipper, or go to www.mvdb2b.com to get the DVD set, which is due out Feb. 19. The day before the release, on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m., the band will play an in-store at the legendary Amoeba Records in San Francisco. Visit www.amoeba.com to get the lowdown.