Punk Rock Nuptials Part II

The continuing story of Screeching Weasel guitarist John “Jughead” Pierson, the Wedding Officiant

The bride and groom

REAL MESSENGER CORRESPONDENCE WITH SHANE (Drummer from one of Kody’s many other bands, The Hybrids):

JOHN: Hey Shane, was it you that was telling me short stories of Kody as a kid with a beat box?  I think you and I were drinking together at the reception bar, we were a bit drunk. If so, I’d like to maybe use some of those memories for an article I wrote.  I don’t need anything long, just a couple sentences on some situation that made him unique and charismatic as a kid.

SHANE:Yeah that was me! He used to walk around the second grade playground listening to breakdance music with an old tape recorder with a group of kids following him, like a pied piper! lol He always laughs that I remember that shit but I was observant for some reason!

END OF CORRESPONDENCE

 

On the small stage at the Denver Field House, an even smaller Bridal Party of four, sit left of center behind a table full of flowers. All their guests slowly return to their seats, chatting boisterously while holding their freshly poured drinks. The Moose and his bride, hear a clinking glass that quickly grows into a sea of clinking glasses.  This means they have to kiss. They kiss and everyone applauds. A man of large stature gets up from the bridal party, walks over to a mic stand on the other side of the stage. The right side of the stage is very dark. In the darkness, he taps his finger on the mic to make sure it is live. The room quiets down.

 

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen.. I’m Tim O’Hara, I play drums in one of Kody’s bands.

I want to thank you all for being here tonight, I also want to point out how beautiful Dana looks tonight, isn’t she Gorgeous?  Not only is she Gorgeous but she’s also smart, funny, talented, sweet and caring. She definitely deserves one hell of a husband. Luckily for Kody she agreed to marry him before she found one.”

The Moose’s Best Man is Tim O’Hara.  Tim is the drummer of The Lillingtons. Kody and Tim have known each other twenty-six years.  Most of that time has been spent playing in a band together. Kody may be the moose of the musical outfit but Tim is the cuddle bear.  When he hugs you, you want to take a nap in his arms. It is sometimes hard to believe a man of so much, warmth, passion, wide-eyed bewilderment and innocence could pummel those drums so hard as to beat them into submission. He towers over the instruments of percussion ready to pounce at every moment, accenting the simple, yet brilliantly conceived, chord progressions of Kody’s punk rock repertoire.  

Tim “The Cuddle Bear” lettin’ loose

The wedding photographer moves over towards the speaker and lights his face. Not to help the guests see him, it is just to take a quick snapshot. This photographer has been like this all day, obstructing and altering views for the betterment of posterity. It’s annoying but hopefully justified in the form of good images.  As soon as the shot is complete the photographer moves on, leaving the speaker once again speaking from the darkness?

 

“You see, a couple years ago, our band was asked to play a festival in Las Vegas which we agreed to do. I had been talking to Dana and asked if she was going to the festival, and though she had tickets, didn’t think she would make it because she didn’t know anyone. I explained we were playing and that she should go..she could hang out with us and we would put her on the guest list. A couple days later she told me her friend Amanda convinced her to go and she would be there.”

Tim, and by extension, The Lillingtons, in general, are the same capricious but lovable and surprisingly emotional wise guys I met nineteen years ago.  The whole band is so fucking unassuming as to make me scratch my silvered head in utter bemusement. Whether you catch them in a small conversation or on a huge stage the bulk of them are still the same Wyoming-bred boys who packed groceries in a market or dug deep holes in a mine with a piece of machinery that could easily roll over and flatten a car. Yet now they have become legends in their own right. And the quiet roar of excitement this wedding has generated is an outward sign of this privacy-meets-public dance anyone of notoriety has to deal with. But this is The Lillingtons and they interact with members of other bands of notoriety always with a bit of fanboy excitement in their eyes, yet not hiding this to look cool or equal, but allowing themselves to be both the modest targets of fandom and simultaneously to be unabashed fans themselves.  They are an anomaly of otherwise mundane complexity.

 

The Speaker pauses for a moment, first for dramatic effect, but then it turns real and he thinks of what he is about to read and tears up again and wipes his eyes with his full mammoth fist, like he did in the wedding ceremony earlier in the day.

 

“While in Vegas I found myself sitting at our hotel bar with Kody one night after the rest of band went to bed. We sat there talking about hopes and dreams and life in general. Kody told me how he had come to terms with being alone for the rest of his life. He was convinced there was no one in the world for him. He said he had given up on finding true love. I went to bed that night upset, thinking about my best friend’s pain. It broke my heart to think that Kody felt this way.”

Tim has such a boyish nature for a man of his age and height.  At every moment of planning and engaging in the activities of best man it could be seen that he was bubbling with excitement, and also bubbling with fright of fucking up Kody’s wedding.  From organizing and herding the bachelor party from a taco joint to a black metal brewery called Black Sky Brewery, to fielding calls from the guests sending messages and questions at a high rate, he maintained his calm, even though he easily sweat through his clothes and his face went from pale white to beat red to pale white over and over again. He drove the van from place to place, picking up and returning belts for Kody and his father’s pants, having underestimated the bulk of their waists. He even held his composure in front of a couple of his childhood idols, Joey Cape of Lagwagon and Erin Kelly-Burkett, who is one of the main masterminds behind the longevity of Fat Wreck Chords. I couldn’t help but feel proud of him for holding up his composure and getting shit done. I even told him so:

 

REAL MESSENGER CORRESPONDENCE WITH TIM FROM THE LILLINGTONS:

JOHN: Tim, you are very special to me.  You did a great job for your friend. I’m proud of you.

TIM: Thank you John. You are very special to me also. This weekend couldn’t of been better. I’m glad we all got to be together to share Kody’s special day.

END OF CORRESPONDENCE

 

Tim had pulled it off.  We all had pulled it off.  The wedding was a punk rock success.  Everyone got sufficiently smashed at the reception and we all got to witness Kody prance around with his bride, showing off how lucky he was, smiling more than I have ever seen him express anything.  He was a bulky moose slow dancing with his bride taking half the first dance as seriously as they could, but then allowing the irony of the overly serious romantic moment to make them then spontaneously act goofy with complete social abandon, laughing together, flailing their body parts in unrhythmic convulsive ways, twirling one another around, getting dizzy and then just holding each other tight and barely moving, as the song played on. It was both hilarious and beautiful to see Kody so vulnerable.  It always makes me feel giddy to see punks who forge aggressive music which makes crowds pound their fists in the air and run around in vicious circle pits be all sentimental crying when reflecting on the good deeds of friends and the overwhelming events of the day. And with enough alcohol and euphoria created by the night itself planted in Tim and his wife Lori, they too whirled around each other on the dance floor at moments looking like Tim would accidentally crush his petite wife, and at other moments seeing how delicate he twisted her around.  Lori maneuvered well knowing her husbands moves and tendencies. Occasionally Tim would softly touch Lori’s shoulders and face with his large calloused hands.

 

The Speaker pauses once again, this time a bit too contrived, but the overt intention is somewhat lovable and excusable given the occasion.

 

“The next day the band was in our hotel room writing out set lists when I had an ‘a-ha!’ moment. I remembered that Dana would be at the show…and she was single. I pulled up her Facebook picture on my phone and showed it to Kody. I asked, ‘What do you think of this girl?’ And he said, ‘She’s hot!’”

 

The Speaker does such a good imitation of the moose’s voice that the whole room erupts into laughter, recognizing the nuances that only friends who are very close pick up on and can imitate to perfection.

 

“‘Do you want me to introduce you to her?’ I asked..Kody replied ‘yes!’” More laughter.  “I then said, ‘I will introduce her to you but only if you act like a gentleman.’  I told him Dana was a nice woman and he needed to respect her.”

The worries of the day had been released and everyone was getting smashed.  Yet it was inevitable the exhaustion would soon take its toll. Rest was imminent, and that stress held in the body would have to be released.  And it was released, near the end things severely slowed down, if it hadn’t that poor cuddle bear would have exploded. I could feel for Tim, and may have even empathized completely with his plight.  He did such a good job. His Best Man speech was much more collected than my officiant speech. Even though this was my 11th wedding ceremony as officiant, I still felt the anxiety rushing through my body which made my hands shake through the entire ceremony.  It is two days later and I still feel emotionally exhausted and physically drained.

The classic groom spinaround. It’s a must!

But I was pretty proud of the work I had put into it and Dana and Kody committed completely to filling out a questionnaire that I created for them based on our one primary informative wedding meeting in the Indian Restaurant.  My friend Bob and I, my officiant friend, share ideas about how to begin and end a good service. There are certain opening and closings that best work relying on the traditional sounding narratives. It gives the older generations, and the parents, and the more traditional younger folk, something to hold on to.  The “I do” and welcoming the guests, and acknowledging those who couldn’t make it; telling the groom he can now kiss the bride, and introducing the couple, BUT deciding beforehand with the couple whether they are taking a unified last name or not. THIS is important. In this case they WERE to be announced as Mr. and Mrs. Templeman.  The uniqueness of the service comes in the bulk of the middle section of the ceremony. And this is the part I agonize over for months. I want it to be particular to the couple. I want it to be something they will remember, something that might surprise them. And since this wedding had such a strong emphasis on punk music and songwriting, I couldn’t leave that out.  That would be disingenuous and also not very punk rock. Kody is one of the best songwriters and singers in pop punk. All these elements had to fit together without feeling forced. I struggled with the contemplating and writing of this section. It took me a little over a month just to start underlining passages I found interesting in their responses. It ultimately took the whole two months, from meeting with them to flying back out to Denver, for me to get it done.  As I have said, this was my 11th time officiating, and yet my hand still shook like a novice throughout the entire ceremony. Kody even said later:

“At first when I walked down the aisle I saw your hands shaking and I said, ‘Shit this is going to be a train wreck.’ But then you spoke so clearly and said some great things…”  

A tear came to the corner of Kody’s eye. LITERALLY, that is not just a cliche statement.  He ACTUALLY had a single tear that fell from his left eye and stayed on his cheek as we talked.  He stopped speaking mid sentence and I just hugged him. Aggressive writers of punk being all emotional and shit.  Fuck Yeah!

 

PERSONAL SECTION OF THE OFFICIANT SPEECH

It took Dana a second meeting to realize Kody wasn’t an asshole, it took Kody a second meeting to realize a woman such as Dana would even be interested in him.  But the amazing part is, the story could have ended there. But it didn’t. They are the type of people that don’t let the first impression prevent them from learning more, from seeing through the veil that often hides who we really are.  Dana on the second meeting perceived that Kody was shy, and she began to realize how sweet he was, she was already enamored with his talent as a singer and songwriter but now she could see the real guy, the sentimental moose, she could could easily fall in love with.  

Dana has said, quote “I feel completely happy.  We don’t have a lot, we don’t want a lot, we are grateful for the love we have.  That sounds very simple, but that is different for me, and I thank him constantly.” unquote.  This is a beautiful sentiment.  In this world that so easily gets complicated, simplicity is well needed.   Like Kody’s incredible ability to turn simple words and sounds into songs we all can’t help but sing along to, I feel this couple has taken that complex simplicity and transformed it into how to experience wholly, the person they love and want to be with.  The joy to be found in just how precisely Dana will put her leg over Kody when they are resting on the couch, or how he can’t help himself but to so say to her, everyday, that she is pretty, nothing more complicated needed, the word “pretty” just falls from his lips without needless complexity, to say it to her for the simple reason that, it is true. These acts are as simple as a well constructed three chord song.  And we can’t help but be moved by their power.

Kody has said, it was the darkness of her humor that surprised him.  He liked that. Don’t underestimate the humor and laughter in their lives, Kody said Dana approached him with such attitude and sarcasm and it just clicked for them.  Dana talked of a story where the two of them were trying to park the car and Kody was having difficulty parallel parking, at first it was tense because he wouldn’t give up, but then he just belted out “I’m so fucked!”  They cracked up, laughed, and all tension was gone. Dana loves Kody’s laugh, every time she hears it her heart swells. The appreciation of humor allows us to embrace the unexpected rather than fear it. And we can only learn deeper truths about each other if we don’t fear the unexpected.  And together we learn to balance the unexpected with the beauty of the mundane. Yes they laugh but like the joy of the effortless act of Dana’s leg over Kody when they are on the couch, or how Kody will while sleeping put his arm under the pillow to find Dana’s hand and simply hold it, these little things are how we balance and soothe the chaos of the world, and allow togetherness to rule superior.

END OF PERSONAL SECTION OF THE OFFICIANT SPEECH

 

“Now Ladies and Gentlemen please raise your glass for a toast to the bride and groom.”

The Speaker raises his glass.  The guests all grab their glasses and raise them too. A sea of raised glasses of alcohol.

“Kody..you once said ‘no one is getting in because I’ve got a heart of stone, and I don’t mind being alone, the lines disconnected so hang up the phone…I’m done with love.’

Well Kody I’m here to tell you, you’re not done with love..it’s only the beautiful beginning.”

All the guests hesitate a bit… moving their glasses slightly towards their mouths, thinking that this is the end of his speech… but the Speaker has more to say.  So everyone moves their arms andglasses back to raised position, except for a few people at the bar who can’t go very long without sipping something alcoholic.

“Dana, when Kody says… ‘Timmy likes to smoke his cigarettes and Cory he likes to chew..but baby, baby, baby I’m hooked on you.’ He means it with every breath.  May your love be the melody that fills your home with joy and happiness and may your hearts beat together a rhythm that outlast the test of time….here’s to you Mr. and Mrs. Templeman.”

The Speaker sips his drink.  He wipes his brow with the cuff of his rented coat sleeve.  He walks out of the shadowy part of the stage and sits back down.  The Moose and the Cuddle Bear hug for a very long time and then hold each other’s heads in their hands.  They put their foreheads together just for a moment, then face forward towards their guests and move on.

 

REAL MESSENGER CORRESPONDENCE WITH SHANE (Drummer from one of Kody’s many other bands, The Hybrids):

JOHN: Shane!  I need one more very short story about Kody for the end of my article. if you have one.  I thought you said something about him being in a barrel, but that might have been me misinterpreting what you said…because we were… you know…unbelievably drunk.  I like the breakdance story, so another one like that would be great if you have it.

SHANE: Yeah! In second grade they did this like play thing where they were in barrels and came out dressed like mimes doing breakdance moves.  He must of been into the break dancing thing. I know I use to watch all the break dancing movies back then. lol Looking back, you can see he was going to be somebody!

END OF CORRESPONDENCE

 

 

John Jughead Pierson

John 'Jughead' Pierson and Ben Weasel co-founded the seminal punk band Screeching Weasel in 1986. Pierson is the founder of acoustic pop-punk band Even in Blackouts, and he is also a playwright and novelist, having performed with the Neo-Futurists in the long-running show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. He hosts the podcast Jughead's Basement.

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