Monday, May 01, 2006

ANCIENT HISTORY: JUMPING TRAINS (1997-1998)

Jon Shearson: Vocals, Guitar (1990-1998)
Joe Burusco: Vocals, Guitar (1990-1997)
Chris Christian: Bass (1992-1998)
Rob Ruiz: Drums (1992-1997)
Cesareo Garasa: Drums (1997-1998)

RECORDINGS:"When I Was Young" 1993
"Jumping Trains" CD 1996

The first time I saw JUMPING TRAINS was around 1990 while my band, PAPERHOUSE, was auditioning to play at the Kern County fairgrounds. The hall where we auditioned looked like a flea market that was selling bands. The Trains were just two guys at that time: John Shearson and Joe Burusco. My bassist/bandmate Jason Grooms and I were impressed by their music and the balls they showed by trying out as an acoustic duo in an ocean of electric guitars and ROCK!!!! They were definitely out of their element, but they were honestly the best band there.

This is what I remember the most of that time in my life: Andy Noise and Bam-Bam’s.

I remember passing out flyers to the people cruising on Chester Ave, and playing Bam-Bam's (a.k.a.: MARS, a.k.a.:The Oddessey), John Bryants, The Marquee, Mannequins (where Taps and The Masque once was), The Moonlight Lounge, Suds, Narducci's, and Al Polowski’s. I remember The old Coffeehouses: Matches (where Bottoms Up and Rileys eventually resided) and The Olde Coffee shop on Chester Ave next door to the old Goose Loonies. I moved to Bakersfield in 1988 so I missed a big chunk of the genesis of what Bakersfield’s local music scene is today. But my introduction was a great one: my first local show was SPIKE 1000 and THE LONELY at The Harvey Auditorium on the Bakersfield High School campus.

The music scene at that time was beyond ecclectic: it was brilliant. Ferociously learning how to scream while trying to find its voice. From birth, our scene was sleek, dangerous and seductively dark. Like a lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling of a dirty bathroom, painting the walls red and shading its graffitti and band stickers into a familiar shadowed mural. Yes Bam-Bam's, I'm talking to you.

This was the start of EVERYTHING that EVER mattered to me.

Jason and I became acquainted with John and Joe after the audition (If I remember correctly, both of our bands got the fair gig that year). PAPERHOUSE was pretty much the house band at Bam-Bam’s every week and The Trains opened quite a few of those shows. They were also keeping busy playing other local shows with frequent velocity. My friend Chris shared these memories to me:
"John and Joe's first steady gig came in 1991, when Mannequin's had Wednesday acoustic night. A couple of guys named Tom & Eddie played those same Wednesdays- a couple of rockers, good players, nice guys."

"One of the best Trains' stories was December 1991, when it was still just Joe and John. The Mannequins gig was steady for them, and a guy named Damon who worked at Mannequin's got TOAD THE WET SPROCKET to come up to play on a Friday Night.Joe and John opened for them. By the time Toad got on stage, the place was filling up to standing room only, which was just not something that happened at Mannequins. I was among many standing on a chair just to see some glimpse of the stage. Toad got through about 5 or 6 songs, when the show was suddenly stopped by the cops. It was obvious the place was filled well beyond fire code, but somebody must not have been able to resist the cover charges they were collecting. Well, the BPD, staying true to their reputation in Bakersfield, took this as an opportunity to card people as they were ushered out of the place. So there were many youngsters who were being penned off on the sidewalk adjacent to the building, and Glen Philips , who was still 20, was among them. Eventually, they let him go. I know John and Joe were probably a little embarrassed about the whole thing, but it made one hell of a funny story for the rest of us. Definitely the strangest thing I had been close to with them."

Damon was the bartender at that time. He also was the vocalist in a band I also played in called BLOWFISH in 1992-1993.

"By July 1992, Mannequin's was turned into a gay bar- guaranteed to pay the bills. JT's first full-band show was in August '92, in the Albertson's parking lot at White and Gosford- that may have rung in the opening of that store, actually. One of their bigger shows in the winter of that year, December I think, was something at Strongbow, where they opened before RAIN ON JADE (pre-Tim Cartwright with Paul Cierley), THE LONELY, and SPIKE 1000. Good show from all of the acts. The release of the "When I Was Young" cassette (11 songs) came in May 1993, on a Friday Night at CSUB where they opened for the GIN BLOSSOMS. That recording was produced by Todd Thompson, who was a phenomenal guitarist for a local Punk/Rockabilly band THE MUTILATORS"

"There was a big storage space where many bands would practice (the place off 34th. It's like L St, I'm pretty sure), THE MUTILATORS being among the more frequent. Eventually, something very ugly happened with Todd that made Rich Chambers (the guitarist for John shearson’s old band AUGUST RAIN and CHOCOLATE HORSE) kick them out of the studio for good. So, days later, when rich was overseeing THE MUTILATORS' departure with their equipment, a someone backed a vehicle into the place and destroyed the recording area."

I personally remember that wrecked studio. I remember seeing it just after it happened. I used to jam with Micah Lindley and members of his old band GRASSHOUSE back then. Back to Chris, though:

"I forgot that the Trains were regulars at John Bryant's in 92-93, mostly with the full band, usually Thursday or Friday nights. I remember hearing about when Todd got his ass kicked (there). He was egging on Tim Gardea (A long-time Bakersfield promoter), saying he was a fag, and he would not let it go. Just kept saying it into the mike. I guess the bouncers took him outside and gave him a good beating Then, for some reason, the place went under in about 94 or 95. Just like that. That place had been standing about 15 years, and the restaurant did well. I could never figure that one out. Jerry's Pizza happened a lot for them in 93 and 94."

Actually, I played that show where Todd got trounced. There is a lesson here: Don't dare bouncers to fight you when you shouldn't be fighting at all.

There's a great nostalgia on my part for those foregone days. There were plenty of venues to play and I had a wide-eyed "Gee whiz, this is COOL" point of view of just being part of the burgeoning scene. I miss being 18 sometimes.

In 1993 my father died, I quit college, quit my band (MENTO BURU at that time), quit playing drums, moved from Bakersfield to Fruitland Idaho, watched the birth of my daughter and I got married. One year.All in that order. Just writing that floors me.


My divorce was finalized in October of 1995, a month after I moved back to Bakersfield. I had just gotten off a tour with a cover band named THE PRAIRIE DUDES that was based out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was anxious to start another band so I co-formed B.o.B. with Terrence Fisher whom I worked with in MENTO BURU and BLOWFISH and one of the best guitarists to ever emerge in this town. That lasted for a few months and then I joined a band called CRUSHING VIOLET.

My time in that band ended soon after that. Badly. Needless to say, I've learned different lessons from the majority of the bands I've worked with. My lesson from CRUSHING VIOLET? When you've been replaced behind your back, and you don't find out about it until the DAY OF THE GIG that " Don't bother bringing your drum set, 'your replacement's' drums are already set up at Jerry's" be the first one to go up them and say "How are you? Everything's cool?" Because if they act like asses, I can just go " you know, I was trying to be cool but I guess I'll just let you be petty."Either way, they look bad. The lessons I learned from PAPERHOUSE also applied to this situation: Have a key to the studio and get your shit out of the studio as FAST as you can.

Just water under the bridge, I guess.

The Trains were still plugging away. Somewhere along the way Joe left the group, and soon after the band recorded a full length CD ( with Nick Forcillo, of course. Man, that guy got around) and John moved to Ventura. In 1997 I was contacted by their drummer Rob Ruiz who let me know that he was leaving the Trains to devote his energy to his new band DIM and asked if I was available to replace him in the Trains (just as he did with me back in 1992 with THE SUBTERRANEANS). I accepted and, to be honest, I'd had daydreams of playing with that band since I first heard them. I originally envisioned Jason Grooms and myself playing with the original duo way back in 1991. When I was on the road in 1995 I would listen to their song "Forgotten Flowers" (from their original demo tape)over and over agian. I haven't heard it in years, but it sounds so good in my head. I think in the entire time I played with the Trains, we only played that song live once. Twice? No more than four times even counting rehearsals. John was hesitent of playing that song live so the only reason we ever played that song in the first place is because he caved-in to my relentless request to FUCKING PLAY THAT SONG. Or, maybe he secretly wanted to. I doubt that. In all the years I've known that guy, John could hardly be called "secretive." Opinionated? Oh yeah.

We rehearsed in the basement of The Trade Center where we shared that concrete pit of a thousand stairs with many diverse bands. The first incarnation of LANGO was there (with Jeremiah Lauria and Johnny Wall on drums, Chet on bass and Micah Lindley and Judd on keyboards) as was VIDEODRONE (formelly CRADLE OF THORNS, the patriarchs/architects of Bakersfield's dark music scene), BPD (the band which eventually became the original ADEMA), SISTERS OF THE RED DEATH (Greg Looney on drums, Erica"Chata" on vocals.....) and, of course, da Trains.

We seemed to have a lot in common as people. John's very articulate and Chris is extraordinarily friendly. Some of the most diverse conversations were observed at those rehearsals.And what did we do when we were done? Walk up the thousand stairs to Bottoms Up (you try lifting a bass cabinet up those fuckers and you'll see why it feels like a thousand stairs) where we continued talking over more beer and many games of pool. Those guys were no slouches at the table. At this time John was still living in Ventura, so he had to drive from there to Bakersfield to rehearse and usually have to drive back on the same night. He had tenacious conviction in his music and herculean resolve to do whatever it took to play it. We eventually moved from the basement to an office on the top floor of the Trade Center (elevator!) where we shared it with, coincidently, THE SUBTERRANEANS. Our friend Slim The Drifter stayed a few nights there. I remember that studio was very...sunny. As sunny as Saturday afternoon band rehearsals in an office building.

We gigged mainly in Bakersfield and Ventura. I only recall a few in detail, one was at Bottoms Up where Nick Forcillo saved our ass by manning the sound board abd John's insistance of having a drum riser at this show. Maybe it wasn't John's idea, maybe it was mine, I'm not entirely sure. I faintly remember John saying " you gotta have a drum riser" with utter conviction like this was a given and it was foolish to think otherwise. Not only foolish- insane. Another show was in Ventura where a few friends from Bakersfield did the migration to support their boys. And, I think this is accurate, we were the first secular band to ever play The Gate when it started doing shows.

After a few months I had the feeling that the band was running furiously in place. John had boxes filled with hundreds of their CD's but there was hardly ever anyone at the shows. Futility was our fourth member. John had a lot to say and every song took at least five minutes to say all of it. Chris was cooking at The Bistro (yet another coincedence: that restaurant is now where the old Al Polowski's was. That restaurant was employed by co-founding ex Train Joe Burusco) and was steadilly becoming domestically grounded. By 1998 I knew the end was coming. Inevitability has its own distinct chill.

The last show we played was opening for BB CHUNG KING at a venue in Ventura that I remember having to ride up a lift to get to. At least they weren't stairs. We killed time before the show playing pool and talking (I miss those guys). There was no feeling of "this is it." It was just three guys playing a gig for the bartenders and an almost empty house. One of the songs in our set had a drum solo. This was the only gig I ever played a good one over it. Maybe, that was the sign: good drum solo=end of band. There was no fanfare, just a phone call from John a few weeks later saying Chris could't commit to music anymore. Life got him, the band was done.

Whenever a band dies, there's always speculation. "Was there another reason?""Was it me?""Was it them?" In any form of death you have to stop asking yourself the impossible questions that can't, and sometimes shouldn't be answered. It's emotional suicide.

I haven't talked to Chris in years. I heard he has two kids with his lovely wife and changed careers by getting into real estate. John's a teacher (figures) and after the Trains were done he started a band named WHEELER which continued in the same vein that JUMPING TRAINS cut. I haven't heard of him doing anything recently, though.

I know for some of you reading this, you might not recognize most (if not all) of the bands, musicians and venues that I sprinkle throughout my various recollections, I’m sure if I was reading a blog written by a complete stranger writing about the bands he was in I’d be tempted to not give it a chance. My memories (vague or not) are one sided: I can see them in my mind, and my words are the only way I can show them to you. But I know that there was a small- but fierce- group of fans that really enjoyed the Trains’ music. I was a fan before I joined, but (like CRUSHING VIOLET before them) JUMPING TRAINS was never fully my gig. Ironically, I just kept jumping from one train before it derailed right onto another that would never, ever make it back to the station.

8 Comments:

Blogger Bake Town said...

I could have sworn that JT was a four peice at the Toad show. I was there.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Bake Town said...

Okay. You were right. I just asked John and he confirmed it was just him & Joey.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Bako Condors said...

Nice trip down memory lane, Cesario. I remember many of those bands from my old KBCC days (pre-Groovy & Nobody) and from just hanging around the fringes.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C,
I miss those days soooo bad I wanna puke!

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow--you just brought me back. anything about the times i may have forgotten, you reminded me--my haunts, mannequins and the moonlight, friends and the bands the were in--it was a tremendous time for music in bake-town--at least it seemed like it, noah, ty, tamara, jeremy--i can barely believe it has been so many years

1:06 PM  
Blogger Smiling Primate said...

I remember being in Lily Cigar and rehearsing in a studio around the corner from Mannequins- Truckin for Jesus rehearsed upstairs. The cockroaches there were huge, and there were weird tunnels down below.

One of the JT guys would spend the night at my house with my roommate, he used to sneak in through the window and share her bed.

One night Lily played a MD all night telethon, and we went on at 7am- so we had one hour to drink beer. One of my fave shows ever.

Some of my favorite bands were Joni's Butterfly, Cradle and Spike of course and Slim the Drifter.

Our first year as a band Lily played 266 shows in a year- some definitely better than others.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Frances said...

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10:44 PM  
Blogger Cesareo said...

Go Fuck yourself, Frances.

8:25 PM  

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