The were born in the winter of 1987 in the musty basement of Joe Schneider, Chris Cline, Rae Cline, and Jamie DePolo's house on Harrison Road in East Lansing, Michigan, home of Michigan State University. (Some other Gene Loves Jezebel-type kid lived there too with his girlfriend, but Joe and Jamie disliked him and I don't remember his name.)
(pictured right), guitarist and principal songwriter, had moved to East Lansing from Mt. Pleasant in 1986. He was a moody, madcap fellow who had played in many Guns'N'Roses-like cover bands. Prior to the Lime Giants, Cline's guitar style was very speed-metal, but it was apparent that he was readily influenced by the college-rock scene to which he was exposed by his scenester sister, Rae Cline, editor of the fanzine, .
I think Chris was looking for a new way of living when he moved to East Lansing. He had just suffered a very painful marital crack-up in some very small town somewhere else (Hastings? Rose City? Nope, it was Ithaca - I remember now!) in Michigan, and at Rae's urging, he moved to East Lansing. I think he was ready to lose himself in the party atmosphere and relative open-mindedness of a college town. His early songs reflected his unease, but later he wrote more frequently and expansively about his enthuses, such as fishing, junk collecting, and Saturday morning cartoons.
When I first met Chris, he was very shy, edgily hilarious, and nervous. He wouldn't look you in the eye, but he had his musical talents, his ability on the guitar and to write great songs, to use as an icebreaker. I met him at a party -- there were lots of house parties in East Lansing then -- and I had brought my guitar. I remember sitting on the roof with him and a few others, and we were trying to find some common musical ground on our guitars. Then he started playing those great first chords to the Replacements' "I Will Dare," and next thing I know, we're playing and we're not strangers anymore. I think Mark Deming, who eventually was the Lime Giants' lead vocalist and front man, was with us.
Outspoken had been the entertainment section editor at the Michigan State News, the college paper, and thus was pretty connected with the music scene. Mark, whom I called "Li'l Vi," as in Sam Phillips' words of encouragement to young Elvis Presley, "That's a pop song now, Li'l Vi, that's gooooood!", was a talented and prolific writer with a plentiful appreciation and feel for music, but no instrumental abilities.
A few years earlier, when we lived together, we formed a funny little two-man outfit we called The Kokobutts. I played my lefty Fender acoustic, and Mark played drum brushes on a (I think) Thin Lizzy double album jacket. We played for our own amusement and at house parties such numbers as Marshall Crenshaw's "Someday, Someway," The Gun Club's "Sex Beat," and The Church's "Volumes." Our showstopper by far, however, was "Tequila," the saxophone melody to which we sang, full throated. Mark would end the song spazzing out on the carpeting, drawing out the last strains of the melody to apoplectic proportions. I can still see him lying down there among the partygoers' Chuck Taylor hightops and Doc Martens, his face turning tomato-red, until he finally ran out of breath, and I knew it was time to shout the final "Tequila!" and strum the last chord.
To add to it, he had actually had minor roles in Hollywood movies (such as Robert Altman's "A Wedding") and upon request would whip out his Screen Actors Guild membership card.
Looking back, I don't know why I didn't see it, but Mark Deming was a born front man.
Even shier than Chris was our drummer, . There would almost always be some sort of party or two on the weekends in that period, and I just remember Pat, pale and small and in a cardigan sweater, sitting tilted on a chair in the corner in the dark somewhere. I think it was only after half-dozen parties that I even talked to Pat. He stood out because he didn't drink in those days. I think I really noticed him only after it was rumored that he was Jamie's new boyfriend. I'm not even sure he and Jamie ever did hook up.
Other than that, I'm not sure how Pat entered the picture. But he was always very polite and wore a very pleasant and shy smile on his face. At the end of the night, Pat was usually the last one standing, so I remember his cleaning up the empty beer cans and putting the plants back in their vases and that sort of thing. I had no idea that he played the drums, but later outsiders were almost unanimous in their opinion that his drumming was the key force in the Lime Giants' sound.
Bassist (me) was absorbed into the band last. I had recently been married to my first wife, Julie, and had been friends with Mark Deming and Jamie DePolo. I had never played bass guitar before, and it certainly sounded that way. I had minimal skill on the guitar, as piano had been my primary instrument. But it sounded like fun to be in a band, although I didn't take it too seriously, especially at first.
: My favorite Lime Giants memory was when you all played at the bar up [10 O'Clock Charlies] in Marquette with [Mark Nowlin's] brother's band [Trout Revenge]. I remember saying to Mark Deming all the way up there, "We're not stoppin'." :) And the show was tons of fun -- I remember just dancing all night. And that weird little motel we stayed in -- I don't recall the name but I seem to remember someone took pictures. And I remember Tracey Hankins
: My biggest memory [of the Marquette gig] is that while we were playing "Gloria," in between the "yelling out the letters" portion of the song ("And her name is Gee! Ell! Oh! ..."), I was holding out the mike over my head to encourage the audience to sing along, and some HUGE guy grabbed it from my hands and wasn't too interested in giving it back. A bouncer came over and said something like, "Come on, Chuck, give him the mike back," and "Chuck" did so, with an embarassed, wounded-puppy look on his face.
I also remember it as one of our most age-diverse performances ... everything from youngish college kids probably armed with fake ID's to fifty-somethings, and that they all seemed to be having a good time. And they were all really, really drunk! I seem to recall that it was 50 cent schnapps night at 10 O'Clock Charlies (with the schnapps in little plastic condiment cups), and the audience was taking to it with great abandon. (No great surprise, this being the U.P.)
Financially, it was the only gig I can recall here we got MORE money than we were promised ... if memory serves, we had a $250 guarantee, and we were given $320 because they'd had a good night. And we were given dinner and beer, too! God bless Mr. Ten O'Clock Charlies, wherever he may be.
And finally, after the gig, we stayed at some Motel 6-ish place, where the management thought it was pretty funny that they were playing host to a rock band (especially one who had driven all the way from Lansing for a one-nighter). We couldn't find anyplace to get a post-show snack, so Pat went to an all-night market, where he bought milk and breakfast cereal, which we ate with no small enthusiasm before crashing out.
I also recall reading "Bright Lights, Big City" by Jay McInerney in the car on the way back. Didn't think much of it. :): I'd forgotten we even covered "Gloria." We needed a lot of material for that show, because we were on stage for HOURS. I think we played "Something Better" and "Amy Carter" like three times and "Who Stole the Keeshka?" twice.
I just remember everyone on the dance floor just careening to "Who Stole the Keeshka?" -- into bar stools, into one another, into the monitors. And peering through the madness to see Jamie and Julie and Tracey and my ex-sister-in-law Lynn polka-ing with these big Yoopers, men AND women, and laughing hysterically. Would you say they were hungry for some Lime Giants up there? I would.
I remember too how tiny that little stage was, especially when my brother Michael got up there to sit in with us. I was afraid Pat was going to tumble backwards through the storefront window onto the sidewalk.
I regret that I missed a lot of the pre- and post-gig shenanigans, because Julie and I stayed at my brothers' out in the boonies. I remember that Chris shook off what must have been a terrible hangover to "pursue the elusive large-mouth bass." "That's 4-1/2 pounds of pure fightin' fish, boys."
Our funnest gig by far, and it turned out way better than I expected. When I played with my band Blanket Party in Marquette in '96, they were still talking about the Lime Giants!
The Lime Giants had been invited to play at Joe's All-Star Lounge in Ann Arbor, warming up for the Mekons. Wow, what a gig! This would have been in early 1989. Inexplicably, however, the bookers of the show wanted us to let the Mekons use our amps and microphones and stuff. "The legendary Mekons don't have their own stage equipment?" we wondered. The answer back was something along the lines of "It would cost too much to transport the legendary Mekons AND their gear across America." I remember thinking, well, shouldn't we be indemnified if something happens to our gear while the legendary Mekons are using it? I mean, it made sense, but what did I know. None of the other Lime Giants thought so; they were just awestruck that the Mekons would even consider using our equipment. We got into a big argument about it, me against them, and I lost.
There was a big crowd there, and the Lime Giants rose to the occasion, playing one of their top three performances of all time. We were great, and the crowd loved us. But the show was on a week night, and I had a wife, mortgage, and day job, and Ann Arbor was about an hour away, so I played our set and didn't hang around for the Mekons' set.
Anyway, the next day when I went to get my bass cabinet, I asked the other Lime Giants how the Mekons show went. They said "great," but they each had a funny look on their face. I asked, "How'd they like playing through our equipment?" And I remember Pat saying, "They said it sucked!" I just laughed and laughed. Here we were, being oh so careful not to offend the conquering British punk heroes and letting them use our stuff for free, and then they leave town not only not thanking us but blasting us.
The Mekons gig was at the Blind Pig, not the much-missed Joe's Star Lounge. Don't think we ever played there, sad to say. In the post-you (Mark Nowlin) era
: The Mekons were (are) great. Our stuff was poop and they made it sound like honey. I don't recall the snobbery mentioned and I WAS there.
now is the brains behind an artistically successful "alternative country" band called Evangeline out in Seattle. Amazon.com just sent me their newest CD, "Big Choice." Chris's style has not changed significantly since his Lime Giants days. It was genuinely great to hear his voice and guitar again. I wish he sang all the songs, and I wish he'd lose the band. He's got a voice, and his uncomplicated songs stand up better with a stripped down arrangment, just him and his guitar, maybe bass and drums. I see now that his band's earlier CD, "Felt Like Home," appears to have nicked an old Lime Giants' war horse, a tune called "Train Never Came," which to my knowledge the Limeys never recorded. So I had to order the older CD just to find out. If you like latter-day country music, I think you'll like Evangeline.
is still a writer - he's the music and movie critic for the All-Movie Guide or All-Music Guide, or some such. He gave a shout out the other day. Oh, and in my post-Lime Giants days, I sang with Mark Lansing and his Board of Water and Light and The Clutters, the latter of whom featured Mr. Pat Bills on drums on several occasions (mostly when Steve Simonson, aka "The Steve," was busy)., who had a computer a long time before anyone else did, is now a network technician with Michigan State University..I think! He's also the beloved drummer in at least two bands, the Weepers ( alternative country band! What the!) and the Saltines.
, the original bassist, continued to write songs and for a while was the front man in a tavern band called Blanket Party in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He is a technical writer, remarried with one son, living still in the Lansing, Mich. area.
, who for a time allowed the Lime Giants to call her their manager, is also a writer with Michigan State University. However, she and her husband live in New Jersey, outside of Philadelphia. She was for years the very popular host of "Progressive Torch 'n' Twang," and alternative country (!) radio show on WDBM, 88.9 the Impact, Michigan State University's student radio station. I have exchanged emails with Jamie, and it's been great catching up with her.
, Chris's sister, according to Jamie is a record label executive out in Los Angeles. I remember walking into the kitchen once, and Rae was cooking something that looked like rice with red peppers and other colorful condiments. I said, "Rae, what are you making?", and she said, "Rice Jubilee." She had made the recipe up, but more importantly, she made up the name. Rice Jubilee.