THE GOODBYE NOTE was simple, short, and delivered unpretentiously on the band's website: "After 20 years, Dead Moon is retiring. It has been a journey we will always treasure and feel that a worldwide family has emerged in its place. Dead Moon became much bigger than the band itself, it became a DIY underground hopeful for a lot of people. The candle is still burning!—Fred Cole." And like that, Dead Moon was over. No final shows; no more words said.
Dead Moon played punk rock for longer than some of you have been alive, but I first came into contact with them a couple years ago when Punk Planet asked me to interview bassist/singer Toody Cole. The story I turned in was rejected because, as my editor chided, it didn't say anything about the music. Instead Toody and I talked family, homesteading, law—the sorts of things that make up a real conversation.
That was what stuck with me about the band; that above any kind of "NW legacy" or talk of cultural importance, they were decidedly real. This is the big, unknowable (and unfakeable) human element that wins you real fans, the kind that stick with you to the end and beyond. I talked to a few of those fans and got their testimonies:
I lived in a tiny town called Naselle in the southwest corner of Washington State for the first few years of my life. My family then moved to Olympia right before kindergarten, where I remained until just last December when I moved to Portland (AKA "big Olympia," as it's known back home). I state these things because being from the Northwest is deeply ingrained in my bones. Dead Moon are as integral to my sense of the NW as are log trucks, deep green forests, the sound of windshield wipers, and living in the shadow of volcanoes; I am not sure they would exist anywhere else in the world. The NW was the final frontier for the pioneers. This is where the wild west ended up, and Dead Moon in their black outfits with their fierce independence have always seemed to me to be part of that.
I can't even remember how many times I have seen Dead Moon and it seems unimaginable that I won't again. Every time was a revelation and an inspiration. They were huge in Olympia—whenever they would play, even the most jaded scenesters I knew would get wasted and dance like crazy. Everyone would pump their fists and shout "54-40 or Fight." We'd stumble home with smiles on our faces proclaiming we wanted to be that cool when/if we were grandparents.
The first time I met them was in 1998 when my band was on our very first US tour. We were playing Chapel Hill, NC that night and saw a flier for Dead Moon. We cut our own set short and our roadie snuck in and talked to Fred—explaining that we were a broke NW band on tour and huge fans. They got us in for free and played an amazing set. Sarah [Utter, Bangs bandmate] and I danced in front as we would at any Dead Moon show, singing along—everyone else stayed in the back tapping their feet—as it turns out this was their first East Coast tour as well. At one point Fred said, "It's May 18, does anyone know what that means?" and pointed at us. We shouted "Mt. St. Helens!" It was the kind of camaraderie we needed that night after playing to five or 10 people a show for days.
Dead Moon were the real deal, more than anyone I have ever met. They lived their dream; they never abandoned it to get "real" jobs. They knew there was another way, and thank fucking god for that. I will forever be inspired by their guts and their independence. MAGGIE VAIL, ROMANCING, LETI ANGEL
I wrote the following haiku in 1998 shortly after seeing Dead Moon for the first time. Their performance just about knocked me unconscious. Rock 'n' roll would never be the same.
dead but still killing
proving punk is form and not
the absence of form
CHAD DEITCHLEY, DRATS!!!
This is how good Dead Moon was: They made Pearl Jam sound like a band that could save the world. PJ lead singer/guitarist Ed Vedder, as part of a completely kick ass three-piece that featured C Average as his backing band, had covered Dead Moon's "Running out of Time" and "Diamonds in the Rough" at a small handful of club shows that stretched from June to November in 1999. Vedder and C Average tore through the songs, throwing out blistering, end-of-the-world versions that captured the darker side of the buzz that had built around the upcoming new millennium.
A year later, in June of 2000, as PJ was touring Europe in support of their just-released Binaural, nine of their fans were tragically trampled and killed at a festival concert in Roskilde, Denmark.
In the aftermath, the band nearly broke up. Music felt meaningless. But with a 60-date US tour scheduled to begin in August, Pearl Jam pulled it together and hit the road. The first leg of shows that followed were eulogistic, fire-and-brimstone displays of raw emotion and the drive to carry on. And on some nights, during the improv that followed "Daughter," Vedder kept tossing out the line, "Hey, hey, it's okay." Simple words, an even simpler melody. But the message they conveyed: life. Soon, the band's fans tracked down the words to their source: Dead Moon. By the time Pearl Jam hit New York City in late August, the choral refrain of Dead Moon's "It's okay" had become a mantra. And on the 24th of that month at Jones Beach, when Vedder and his bandmates delivered a chills-inducing, soul-raising improv version of the song that Fred and Toody had originally duetted on, Dead Moon spoke to both the dead and the living: "It's okay, it's okay/you know I love you anyway/it's okay, it's okay/you don't have to run and hide away/it's okay..." BRIAN T. SMITH, MERCURY FREELANCER
After drinking beer and throwing back shots of Yukon Jack with Fred and Toody, I left their house in Clackamas at about 8 pm. I'd taken a sixer of Mirror Pond Pale Ale as a gift since they opened up their home to me, and Toody was kind enough to make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, sliced kiwi, and noodle salad for lunch. I remember that at 11:30 that morning I offered Fred one of my beers. "You can drink the foo-foo stuff," he said, yanking a Bud Light from the fridge. "I'll stick with the cheap shit. Me and Toody ain't fancy." After our drunken, seven-hour interview, I pulled on to the 5 as the sun was sinking in the west, and called my wife. "How the hell am I gonna tell their story?" I said. "It's too much." I drove home, listening to Dead Moon, sketching out my thoughts, worrying myself sick over how I would ever do justice to a band that was so fucking legendary, so raw and intense that words could never do them right. When I got back, laboring over the story, my editors kept saying, "Just tell us why we should care about Dead Moon." So, I asked myself that question. I'd spin "40 Miles of Bad Road," "Psychodelic Nightmare," "Fire in the Western World," some of the greatest American songs ever written, and think, "Well, this is the Pacific Northwest's folk music. This shit should be preserved in every Northwest history museum like the Appalachian field recordings are back East. When this civilization is dead and gone and they want to know what was happening in this region before software and espresso, they should listen to Dead Fucking Moon." Aside from asking myself, I asked Calvin Johnson, members of Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, the A Frames, and the Spits, and none of them could truly answer the question of why we should care about Dead Moon and their music. Finally, I asked my buddy Jed Maheu, who was semi-responsible for the Dead Moon anthology on Sub Pop. He must be Zen because he snapped back: "You shouldn't care! You shouldn't care about Dead Moon at all. They don't fucking care. Why should you?" I suppose that's why their breakup hurts as much as it does. BRIAN J. BARR, MUSIC EDITOR OF SEATTLE WEEKLY
Interviewing Dead Moon two years ago, I was struck by how playful all three members were. Toody especially absolutely glowed with love for her husband, her band, their audience. I can't imagine Portland without Dead Moon's existential wail. The ominous heartbeat of Andrew's drums anchors the most beautiful sound I know: the voices of true lovers Fred and Toody, howling into the darkness, edifying the faithful, steeling us all for life-on-Earth. VIVA LAS VEGAS, MERCURY FREELANCER, EXOTIC DANCER
I got into Dead Moon when I lived in Seattle. My friends and I would be there pretty much every time they hit town. It was always an event. In late 1999 I was working as a bartender at a club in Seattle and had gotten myself on the schedule to bartend the Dead Moon show that was slated for November 1st—the night after Halloween. Dead Moon's Halloween shows were infamous blowouts and they had played Portland the night before. I wondered if they would even show up. They showed up all right, on time and everything! They were looking more haggard than I had ever seen them, except Fred, who always looked sort of the same. Andrew looked especially ghastly. As they were setting up, Fred and Toodie cashed in their meal tickets, and casually prepared for the show.
Not Andrew. He approached the bar with shaking hands and solemnly inquired "Can I use these drink tickets for milk?" That made me laugh.
"Sure." I said and got him a pint of milk.
He came back twice more, for a total of three pints, and by the third, he had gotten some of his color back. Dead Moon went on shortly afterward and rocked like it was the end of the world; there was no sign or mention of a hangover within miles. Hell, they even stuck around to visit after the show, as a matronly Dead Moon hanger-on handed out tablets of Valium.
They took off back to Portland shortly thereafter and left us with the distinct impression that when it came to pure integrity and tenacity, Dead Moon might've well been the best band in the world. They were that night anyway. LANCE CHESS, MERCURY CIRCULATION DIRECTOR
The first time I saw Dead Moon, it was three days after September 11th. They headlined the Empty Bottle that night, with Easy Action and Bible of the Devil. It was a perfect show: Every band better than the one before, $1 Huber Bocks, and a club packed to the gills with a sweaty, nicotine- and gin-soaked crowd still too wound-up from that week. Dead Moon provided the release, channeling several days' worth of emotion into massive ear-damaging volume and climaxing with the band shredding through 'Communication Breakdown' for the encore. All the shit everyone had gone through that week (the National Memorial service was broadcast live that morning) seemed to abate for just a moment. I was close enough to get splattered with candle wax and it was fuckin' great. Life in America would get politically worse from that week on, but that night Dead Moon provided a much needed respite for me and a couple hundred other drunks in a small, cramped dive bar somewhere deep in the Midwest. Here's hoping we can give them a proper send-off. JEREMY SALMON, FAN