By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
I haven't been in Jify Trip's rehearsal room for five minutes
before lead singer Justin Monroe whirls around and asks me, "How
do you feel about cottage cheese, man?''
"Why?'' I ask, being too cautious. "Do you use it in your
"No, I just wanted to know how you feel about it,'' he says.
Strap in and secure the knives — it's going to be a woolly
It's December 21, 1995, a cold, murky night on the verge of a
new season, and sleet is pelting the half dozen or so cars that
swarmed like ATF agents on this modest log cabin on the north edge
of Bixby. An hour after sundown, all the technology that gives Jify
Trip its venerable voice has been flung into trucks and "sport
vehicles.'' The four members of the band and a handful of
hangers-on have sought shelter from the cold inside a shed behind
The members of Jify Trip and their entourage look like any
burgeoning rock bunch. There's guitarist Brent Coates, a handsome
everybody with bangs just long enough to confound any idea that he
spends one weekend a month in the Army reserves. There's drummer
Scott Rouse, the oft-but-lovingly picked-on blondie in flannel
shirt and baggy trousers, both easily three sizes too large.
Bassist Tommy Niemeyer is the first to joke about his appearance;
being half German and half Thai, he is used to being mistaken for
every conceivable ethnicity ("I'm the Afro-American-Asian-Arabian-Indian member of the band'').
Then there's Justin. Justin looks like the offspring that
would result from Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland
being caught in baby Bear's bed with Goldilocks. His pink features
are framed by a terribly trendy goatee and two long, wavy, blond
pigtails. "A horse's ass on both sides,'' someone teases.
We're not due at the club for another hour, so time is marked
for killing in the carpeted shed. There's a mock stage in the shed,
bracketed by a leering Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison poster on one
side and a black and white shot of the members of Pearl Jam
striking a Guns N' Roses guitar pose on the other. Seeing these
choices for decor, I quiver at the thought of an evening of Doors-Pearl Jam inspired
music ahead. My fears will soon be allayed.
• • •
Behind the stage is a polished piece of wood in a sun shape,
and mounted on it is a colorful, lacquered puzzle of some kind of
"That's an ancient, medieval Ouija board,'' Tommy says.
Over the door to the shed, the phrase "It's the most...'' is
stenciled on the jamb. It seems one of the groupies, Russell Becker
— the one by the piano with the purple and green court jester hat
on — uses the phrase a lot, as in "It's the most cool place'' or
"It's the most smelly sofa.'' Russell smiles sheepishly, and I get
the impression there's more to it than that.
Upon learning that Good, the band scheduled to play before
them, won't be playing, Justin and Brent sit down on the stage to
add some songs to the set list. Tommy suggests the song "Bite,''
and others in the room call out the name. Justin responds,
Jify trip's manager, Mark McCullough, is loitering with us,
making lots of managerial promises. "I'm gonna do my damnedest to
get you guys signed in '96,'' he resolves. The band mutters things
like, "It's about time.'' Even the mere two years Jify Trip has
been together have wrought a tinge of cynicism on the band.
Finally, someone says, "Let's go to the club,'' and we're
piling into S-10s and Broncos to rumble to Eclipse. Jify Trip is on
a bill at the club tonight before a Kansas City tribal sensation,
Billy Goat. On the ride there, Mark and Tommy reminisce about the
band's humble beginnings. Like Spinal Tap, Jify Trip has been
through a few drummers, but when Scott joined up exactly one year
ago, everything clicked, Tommy says.
"He just fit right in, the best of anybody,'' he says. "And
he's flourished so much in the last year.''
Mark is clearly pumped up about his new progenitors. Mark
formerly managed Tulsa's bastion of ingenious-but-unsigned music,
the Mellowdramatic Wallflowers. After a good part of a decade with
the group and still no success, Mark bowed out and picked up Jify
Trip, which he thinks is much more in-tune with modern rock success.
"These guys have so much going on,'' he says, gesturing for
emphasis. "They are easily the most marketable band in town, and I
think they have a real shot at getting out there.''
We get to Eclipse about 7 p.m. and mill around for a bit
while club-owner K. Rahal devises a game plan for the equipment
set-up. Scott and Tommy clasp each other's hands and waists and
begin waltzing to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill'' playing over
the sound system. I look around the Eclipse and enjoy a rare,
smoke-free glimpse of the legendary club.
The Eclipse is a second home for a band like this. K.'s club
desperately caters to young, original bands like Jify Trip, and the
members laugh about that period — familiar to most young bands
here — when they were playing Eclipse practically every weekend.
Jify Trip's first gig, though, was at the late Windjammer club in
"I was scared to play there,'' Justin says, and the
recollection of the event illicits laughter from the other members,
but it's a proud, survivalist laughter. "The band before us
actually did the hair-swinging thing as they played.''
"And don't forget the girl in white playing pool all
night,'' Brent adds.
Once Scott's drums are set up and other amps and gear has
been tucked out of Billy Goat's way, the entire entourage crams
into a weathered, white Ford Bronco in search of sustenance. I have
no idea whose Bronco it is, or who is driving, and white Broncos
have macabre connotations for me now.
We wind up at the Hideaway pizza place on 15th Street,
flustering the waitstaff about a table for 10. Brian Hartman — the
wide-eyed friend and "fifth member of the band,'' Justin proclaims
— is delighted that the restaurant has Pente board games. He
seizes one at once and threatens everyone with a game. Once seated
and orders taken, the band begins to talk about its illustrious and
Jify Trip has played the gamut of Tulsa nightspots — the
Dugout, the Rhythm Room, Xenophon, TU frat parties — as well as
Norman, Oklahoma City and Stillwater clubs. Promotion involves
photocopied fliers stuck on phone poles and handed out at shopping
malls, and lots of word of mouth.
Justin proceeds to illustrate the tireless promotion of a
local rock band. He catches the waitress as she begins to walk away
with the orders: "Hey, what are you doing about 9:30 tonight?''
She promptly ignores him.
He wasn't trying to ask her for a date. It's just another way
to spread the word about the band, and it's worked before.
Waitresses (and waiters, Brent is a bit too quick to add) from the
evening's supper have been known to show up at gigs. Brent works at
Chili's and has convinced several of his cohorts to attend.
"We just basically play our music,'' Tommy says. "That in
itself has gotten people to come back and spread the word.
That's how it works, just like the old shampoo commercial:
they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so
"Basically, Jify Trip is a cult,'' Justin says. "Everyone
"But nobody comes,'' Brent adds. He assures me it's a joke
and promises a substantial core following.
"When we started, we had no idea what we were doing,''
Justin says. "It's really funny, man, the growing process we've
"We grew, then we got stale for a while,'' Tommy says. "We
didn't change our underwear for, like, three months.''
"But now we rock!'' Justin says. "We create from nothing,''
he adds, mystically.
"We're absolute music,'' Brent says.
Justin, who earlier failed to sell the band on calling the
music "hydraulic music,'' says, "I don't get that.''
"We play music for the sake of music,'' Brent explains.
Justin laughs. "You caught us on a good night. We're usually
at each other's throats. We're all dicks.''
"That's not true,'' says the stong-silent Scott. "Tommy's a
The waitress returns, diverting his attention. Justin tries
to make up for the previous misunderstanding.
"I wasn't trying to ask you out,'' he says. "I just wanted
to know if you'd be interested in seeing a band tonight called Jify
"I heard they sucked,'' the waitress says. Tips are reclaimed from
the money pile.
• • •
Back at Eclipse, clubbers are starting to drift in, and the
Marlboro haze already has defined the spotlights and slide
Justin paces through the tables and chairs with heavy sighs
and clenching fists, denying that he's nervous. By 9 p.m., Mark is
equally nervous as he scans the sparse room.
"I just can't figure out where all the people are,'' he
says. "I guess people aren't used to seeing bands here on
Thursdays.'' Eclipse usually schedules open mic nights on Thursdays.
He's not worrying from his wallet, though. The band, I find
out from Mark, is playing tonight's show for free. My jaw drops.
"This is your idea of the Christmas spirit?'' I ask.
"This is my idea of getting good exposure,'' McCullough
says. "I wanted to open for Billy Goat, a strong, popular regional
act. It's always good to get a tape in their hands, find out who
books their shows, etc.''
Tommy is crouching behind his amp to smoke a cigarette in
peace. Brent kneels on the stage tuning his two guitars. Brian sets
up the retail arm of this project with a box of Jify Trip CDs at a
table near the bar. The crowd has picked up by 9:30 p.m. — the
usual Eclipse throng of shaved-head and flannel-laden hipsters
dressed like they just came in from the fields around Poznon,
Poland circa 1908. All the seats and tables are filled, anyway, and
a chummy bunch of high school (at most) girls with braces and bobs
sit cross-legged on the floor before the stage.
At 9:35 p.m., the band gets the word to get onstage. K.'s
cheeky announcement booms out of the speakers: "We have for you
tonight, Billy Goat! And first, a great Tulsa band, we love them --
The beat and strums fall at the same instant, and the sound
slams forward. Justin grabs the mic and shakes and wails as if he'd
just caught hold of a wire pulsing several thousand volts. From
this moment through to the encore, Justin is no longer with us. He
stares forward with glazed eyes in an eerie trance, like a deranged
sleepwalker. He shrieks like a 12-year-old Billy Corgan being
choked and moves around the stage like Riff Raff doing "The Time
Warp.'' The crowd watches with a nonchalance that would ruin bands
of lesser conviction.
The first song is "Help the Mustard.'' Since there is no
sound check before showtime, this is it. When the sound finally
dies away, Justin calls to K., "Can I have some monitor? I don't
have any.'' During the second song, "Wool,'' which involves a lot
of screaming, his vocals cut out several times from the sound
system. It's a learning experience for everyone, every single night.
Brent gnashes a wad of gum while he slashes his guitar, a
stream of flawless chords punctuated with the occasional sharp
fill. Tommy's deft dancing up and down the frets of his bass
suffers from an unjust mix. Scott's drumming is fervent and
pristine; he sometimes even smiles.
Jify Trip plays carefully wrought guitar-pop, excellent
melodies and rhythms supporting Justin's banshee wails. The girls
in front of the stage are up and dancing right away, but they are
the only ones moving to the music. A few people against the Van
Gogh wall are mouthing the words, but most simply stare.
Justin is unfazed; in fact, he approaches them. Pulling on
his mic cable, he wanders into the crowd, sometimes getting a good
20 feet from the stage — about halfway across the club. Drifting
among frat boys standing near the bar and neohippies flopped on the
couches, he takes his shtick to the masses, convulsing and
conjuring things from his mic while those near him try to act
casual. He's almost oblivious to the crowd — drawn to them, but
still off in another dimension of higher sonic beings.
During "Nothing Artificial,'' Justin is on top of the
speaker stacks. K. comes to the edge of the stage wearing worry
under the bill of his Triple X Records cap. Justin hangs upside
down off the stack, then stands and spreads his arms out like a
plane (or a Christ figure, heaven forbid). While the band takes off
on one lick, he dangles the mic and cord from his crotch and
swings. When the song ends, Justin chants as if hypnotized, "Us.
Us. Us. Us.'' The crowd dares him to jump.
"Isn't this great?'' McCullough says behind me. He looks
like he's just seen his first snowfall. "Now do you see why I
wanted to push these guys?''
The last song is an Adorable cover, "Homeboy.'' When Justin
teeters toward the edge of the stage in preparation to leave it,
the crowd, to my delighted surprise, begins shouting, "One more!
One more!'' Justin looks up, as if the voices of adoration have
pierced a pinhole in his trance. K.'s voice again booms from the
darkness: "C'mon guys, they want one more song. How 'bout it?''
Justin hardly moves and says, "This song is called 'Ides of
January.' It sucks because we suck. Thank you. Yes, we suck. Thank
you.'' Tommy straps his bass back on and they dish out one more
• • •
When Jify Trip makes its hasty exodus from the stage and
Billy Goat members begin setting up their gear around 10:30 p.m.,
the band members scatter through the crowd in search of
girlfriends. Justin can't seem to find his, and he natters
unconvincing assurances that this was a good show. He snatches a
handful of the band's CDs and begins passing them out to the crowd
— giving them away.
When asked if this was a good show, Brian, our Pente champ,
turns thumbs down. He's not slagging the band; he's slagging the
"Nobody did anything,'' he says. "Usually we've got people
jumping around, going crazy. Everybody's lazy here tonight.''
They weren't lazy when Billy Goat came on. Jify Trip
regrouped outside to cool off, then filed back in once Billy Goat's
beats started shaking the walls. Billy Goat, a funk-a-go-go band
now out of Kansas City, keeps the crowd on its feet during its
Jify Trip stays for most of the show, as enthralled by the
band as anyone — likely moreso. When Billy Goat leader Mike Dillon
really started going on his hand drums, Justin scans the club.
"Where's Scott? He's gotta see this!''
During Billy Goat's "Old School, Jam 23,'' Justin is up on
someone's shoulders, waving his arms like he's at a Dokken show.
Scott was, indeed, there, staring typically calmly at the two
drummers' precision timing.
An hour into Billy Goat's set, Jify Trip files out to the
sidewalk and huddles in the cold. Tommy's eyes are still wide from
the Billy Goat experience.
"Jeez, did we even play?'' Justin asks.
"They are the only band that's ever played after us that
just completely kicked our ass,'' Tommy says.
With everyone screaming in the cold, it's decided to return
to Tommy's to consume mass quantities.
"So this is Jify Trip,'' Justin said. "Hope you liked it.
See you at the top.''
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These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.