The Dicks, the first American hardcore band to feature an openly gay singer, have announced that they will be playing their last show this year, on the day before Halloween.
Started by the burly, outspoken Gary Floyd in his hometown of Austin, Texas, the band would go on to contribute some crucial entries to the punk canon, including "Wheelchair Epidemic," "Saturday Night at the Bookstore," "Kill From the Heart," and their anti-police anthem, "Dicks Hate the Police."
Floyd says he started the Dicks initially as a "poster band," which existed only in the fake concert flyers he created and put up all over the city.
"I had decided I wanted to be in a band but I didn't want the lack of band members to hold me back," Floyd said. "With the help of a few friends, I used to make posters about the Dicks playing. I'd make up addresses and say the Dicks were playing with real bands, and put them up all over Austin."
Then in 1980, Floyd was asked by a friend if the Dicks wanted to play a "punk rock prom" at the Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin's influential equivalent to San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium. Floyd and the band he cobbled together -- bassist Buxf Parrott, drummer Pat Deason and guitarist Glen Taylor -- practiced for two weeks before taking a stage once graced by stars such as Willie Nelson, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles and the Clash.
"We felt like we were way prepared," Floyd says.
The group's signature sound was there from the start: noisy guitar riffs, pounding drums, and Floyd's deep, graveled-throated singing style, which allowed him to seamlessly switch from belting melodies to screaming at the top of his lungs. It's the same sound that can be heard on their earliest releases, including their first single and their landmark album, 1983's Kill From the Heart.
"Right off the bat, we were going to be different than your regular punk band. We also said we were communists, we were drag queens... we were twisting some heads, for sure," Floyd says.
From that first set, Floyd would also make an impact with his appearance, taking the stage while sporting a large purple mohawk during a time when that just wasn't seen in Texas. But as the band became a popular fixture in the local punk scene, Floyd became more outrageous with his appearance, fearlessly dressing in outfits that would give drag legend Divine a run for her money.
"I figured my reputation would be safe no matter what I did," Floyd said. "It was always fun. I was always pretty adventurous with coming up with ways to look shocking, and shoving liver in my panties to throw on people, though I'd use vegan liver now."
After hearing how great the Bay Area was from fellow Texan hardcore punks MDC, Floyd and the Dicks drove cross country in 1983 and played a show with the Dead Kennedys when they arrived in San Francisco. After staying a bit, everyone in the band wanted to head back to Texas, except Floyd. He's been a San Francisco resident ever since.
"I had lived in Texas all my life and I found San Francisco to be wonderful," Floyd said. "The weather had something to do with it."
Floyd brought together a new lineup of the Dicks in San Francisco, who played for three years and released the band's second studio album, These People, before calling it quits in 1986. Floyd continued to sing in bands such as the roots rock-influenced Sister Double Happiness and grunge rockers Black Kali Ma before reuniting the Dicks in 2004 with original bassist Parrott and drummer Deason; Taylor died of liver and kidney failure in 1997.
"It was a little rough for a while, but we were always close. They're my brothers," Floyd said about the original Dicks. (Floyd and Parrott have a recording project together outside of the Dicks.)
Since the reunion, the Dicks have been playing occasionally, but Floyd, who still sings with the Gary Floyd Band and the Buddha Brothers, is ready to put the Dicks to rest. And as much as he loves the city by the bay, Floyd wanted the last show to be in Austin, a city that continues to show a fervent appreciation for his work after so many years. For example, in 2013, after Floyd underwent multiple knee surgeries he was kicked out of his longtime San Francisco home. Upon hearing the news, his friends in Austin held a fundraiser for him that featured a version of the Dicks with David Yow (Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid) singing. Floyd says the benefit raised thousands of dollars.
"I've never been able to go on stage there since then and say 'thank you,'" Floyd says. "I love Austin and instead of fading away, let's say 'Thank You' and 'Goodbye.'"
The final Dicks show will be at Grizzly Hall in Austin on Oct. 30, 2016.