Costa Mesa (16/Mar/18)
FEAR has always been regarded as a vital element of the early Los Angeles, California, United States punk scene by those who witnessed their fury firsthand. Formed by the mysterious Lee Ving (b. Lee James Jude Capallero) and his friend Derf Scratch (b. Fred Milner) in 1978 after the former attended a Black Randy concert, the two quickly recruited scene regulars Burt Good and Johnny Backbeat to play guitar and drums, respectively, in their new project. Their early lyrics delivered a humorous and often negative look at urban life, the middle class, homosexuality (especially in the punk rock scene), and women - by the time they released their first album years later, they had a song to offend everybody.
The group released their first single, the iconic “Now Your Dead b/w I Love Livin’ In The City”, in mid 1978, around the same time they started playing live, opening for well-known acts such as The Plugz and The Bags. Backbeat was ditched in favor of newcomer Spit Stix (b. Tim Leitch) in late ‘78, and Good was ejected around this time and replaced by the eclectic but extremely talented Philo Cramer, as Lee took up rhythm guitar in addition to his lead vocal duties. This personnel change signaled the beginning of FEAR’s unique sound - crunching guitars with bent notes, tappa-tappa tight drums, and a bass that utilized power chords in many songs.
The foursome played multiple gigs a week, often headlining shows at the Masque and the Hong Kong Café as early as April of 1979. Their song repertoire slowly grew, and crowd favorites such as “No More Nothing” and “Strangulation” were introduced into the setlist. In late ‘79, FEAR was filmed performing a vicious set at the Fleetwood, the footage being used in the famous punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. This exposure, in addition to several exploitive television news reports detailing the dangers of the band and their negative impact on America’s youth, greatly increased their growing popularity even further, and they embarked on their first proper tour in early 1981.
Arguably the pinnacle of FEAR’s existence came in late ‘81, when longtime fan John Belushi had the band booked to play on Saturday Night Live that Halloween night. Friends Penelope Spheeris and Henry Rollins arranged a group of punker kids (including Minor Threat frontman Ian Mackaye) to make the trip from Washington, DC to New York to slam-dance while FEAR played. As expected, utter pandemonium occurred, with FEAR playing a medley of arguably their most offensive songs while the punk kids screamed obscenities and eventually began throwing rotten pumpkins at the production staff. The group was banned for life from the show, further boosting their presence in the national punk rock circuit.
Bassist Scratch was either ejected from the band or quit (depending on who you ask) in late 1982, following the release of their now critically acclaimed debut album “The Record”; he was replaced by friend of the band Eric Feldman, who played on the cheeky “Fuck Christmas” single. FEAR’s popularity began to slowly decrease over time as they introduced elements of hard blues and heavy metal into their songs, climaxing with a 1984 show at the Olympic Auditorium of which Al Flipside wrote: “FEAR, in one word, sucked.” Following a brief touring break to record their follow-up LP, the band toured once again in 1985 to promote the release of their new album, “More Beer”, featuring Lorenzo Buhne of The Dickies on bass.
The band crumbled shortly thereafter as the members focused on their solo efforts, including Ving’s country band Range War and Cramer’s psychedelic King M’Butu. Following a brief reunion of the three longstanding members in 1992, the band once again disintegrated a year later and, soon after recording a demo of original material, Ving began playing songs written with FEAR but never recorded under the name Lee Ving’s Army in 1995. They soon added FEAR classics to the setlist and retitled themselves with the FEAR moniker. Two albums of new material interspersed with early live staples that never saw the professional polish of a studio were recorded: “Have Another Beer With FEAR” in 1995, and “American Beer” in 2000. Scratch, Cramer and Stix have kept busy with other musical projects since the split, while Lee continues to play occasional shows with the new FEAR. Wide ThumbClearartFanartBanner User Comments