A Meme of One: The UFCK Family

An Almost Total Recollection of the State Champion Show in Chicago

by Spilled Milk and Aram with Meisenhower

[Backstory, to a degree: Boarder Bradford stumbled into a Jeff the Brotherhood show in Chicago in July of 2010, only to fall in love with the opening band: a ramshackle group of Kentucky misfits performing under the name of State Champion. So, since he had a good time, he wanted to share the band with his Internet friends. He created a thread.

What ensued was one of UFCK’s quickest and rowdiest love affairs with any musical act. State Champion’s fan base exploded nearly overnight because of the UFCK crowd, and posts about basement concerts, street beer, and the strange, odd beauty of the words and music grew the thread to 2,000 posts in a few months.

The following text is a combination of conversations, one in-person, one electronic, that recount the one fateful night boarders Aram, Spilled Milk, and Bradford had a few too many and experienced - or didn’t experience - State Champion in Chicago in March, 2011.

Postscript: UFCK has its place in the official State Champion canon with its inclusion in the “thanks” section of the band’s new album (already sold out), to be released on vinyl October 25, 2011.]

[Meisenhower] How does the story about Chicago go?

[Aram] The State Champion thing?

[Meisenhower] Yeah.

[Spilled Milk] When we found out State Champion was making a return engagement in the same basement where Bradford blacked out and hung from utility pipes and which I believe gave me a brief bout of mesothelioma or whatever asbestos ingestion causes, we had some mixed feelings.  A big part of me almost didn’t want to go - I really thought about just catching them the next week in Austin at SXSW.  But where the hell is the fun in that? 

So we decided to go.  And this wasn’t like our first trip to that basement show rodeo.  We knew these types of shows, their crowds, their occasional lack of restroom facilities. 

[Aram] They private message me: “hey, we’re gonna go to this show. You’re gonna go with us.” Ok.

I had hung out with Spilled Milk once. So I go out there and we go to Bradford’s apartment, and it’s me and Bradford and Milk, and Milk shows up late with pizza.

[Milk] When Aram said he wanted to go, we made the overture that he should go with us.  We’d hung out with Aram before and he’s always been a really good sport.  Bradford and I tend to get into these situations that can’t really be defined - shit just kinda happens.  Usually, it’s really awesome shit.  But if you aren’t used to occasionally playing a game of street beer or occasionally finding a case of beer on a sidewalk, it can be a bit alarming. 

The show was on a Friday night and we made the decision to meet at Bradford’s since he lives closest to the three flat where the show was taking place.  My day was particularly shitty so I went to the Chili’s by my job with a coworker.  We got there at about five, so I had about two hours before I needed to be home in order to get to Bradford’s place on time.  And man, we went hard.  Chili’s sells these 22 oz Coors Light drafts and these never ending bowls of chips and salsa and I think I had roughly a six pack of Silver Bullets and we definitely went through at least four bowls of chips.  I got home pretty quickly, changed my clothes, filled up a flask of Kessler and headed out.  Twelve minutes later I’m at Bradford’s. 

Here’s where some of the details get a little foggy.  I definitely know that certain things happened, but some of the minutiae has been lost to time.  I definitely recall eating some slices of pizza;  I think they were from Santullo’s.  I also definitely know that Bradford and I were both already drunk at this point.  Me from the aforementioned Bullets, him from a work happy hour.  At this point, Aram’s still really sober.

[Aram] I get there and Bradford and I are talking. And Spilled Milk shows up and Bradford says, “ok, let’s get out Four Loko.” I’m like “okaaaaaay.” I’m intrigued by this.

[Milk] We bust out the Loko.  Two cans total.  A lemonade and I think a watermelon. Bradford and I, knowing full well we’ll consume more Loko as the night goes on, do a pro move and split a can.  Might have even put it in a glass, not sure.  Aram had a can to himself and took it down like a fucking champ.  We were both really proud of him at that point.  That shit’s not for the faint of heart and he took it down like a warrior.

[Meisenhower] (to Aram) You had never had it before?

[Aram] No. And Bradford had been stockpiling the original, so - it was really funny - and literally there is nothing in his fridge except for a gallon of soy milk, a pyramid of MGD cans, and a pyramid of Four Lokos. Nothing else. I think he had about ten or eleven [Four Loko] at that point.

So they open up two of them of what they think is the best flavor, and we kind of rotate the two of them amongst us. And Spilled Milk also has a flask full of whiskey called Uncle Julius. So we’re going to town on that too. I down probably a full Four Loko.

I’m kind of a small guy. I don’t drink a lot. I mean, I do, but not that much. This is a ridiculous amount of alcohol. We finish and we decide ok, it’s time to walk to the show. So we walk to the show. And we get there ridiculously early.

[Milk] It was a quick walk and when we arrived, there were a few people already there, but nothing was gonna happen for at least an hour.  Sabrina of State Champ talked up me and Bradford and we paid and got some stuff drawn on our hands.  We had to look pretty skeevy at this point.  There were definitely cans of Four Loko hanging out of coat pockets.  Aram’s jacket was really fucking tough though.

[Aram] We walk in and there’s nobody in there except for Sabrina, who’s taking money at the door, who knows Bradford and Spilled Milk and thinks I’m there to see Life Partner and not State Champion. She writes “LP” on my hand because she doesn’t know I’m with them.

[Milk] With no real reason to hang at the basement, we went to this place called Handlebar for a beer or three.  I definitely recall them not wanting to seat us for some reason. 

[Meisenhower] What time is this?

[Aram] This is like 10 o’clock. Spilled Milk says later that the people at the restaurant were ticked because he had Four Loko in his pocket, and they thought we were gonna pull them out.

[Milk] And then they let us sit at this dingy corner of the bar where they kept the dirty glasses, but we moved when some seats opened up.  I think we had a round or two, and I definitely remember doing rips off the flask in the can.  Aram got super excited over this hanging wall banner thing that said “Detroit.”

We left after what could have been twenty minutes or two hours and headed back to the basement.  This band Life Partner was playing and Bradford and I spotted Ryan [Davis] from State Champ and we chatted for awhile.  Cash was exchanged and a Loko presented (blue raspberry).  Ryan was drinking some real rot gut type whiskey.  Like 750 ml for eight bucks. 

[Aram] So I’m now a full Four Loko, a bunch of hits off the Uncle Julius, a full beer, two full beers at the bar into this...

[Meisenhower] In a couple of hours?

[Aram] Yeah, about two, two and a half hours.

[Meisenhower] Spilled Milk and Bradford are fine?

[Aram] Yeah, they’re seasoned veterans. [Laughing.] So it’s literally a basement of an apartment building. Like the dingiest basement you’ll ever see in your life. So we go upstairs into the backyard, and we’re talking to some people and I can’t remember who we talked too... Just people that were at the show. Kind of random. At this point another Four Loko is opened and is passed amongst us. Some guy offers us cocaine, which is weird. And of course we say no.

[Milk]We took some more rips off the flask of Uncle Julius and we decided we needed air. But first, I had to make a pit stop at the bathroom.  Now this place is just someone’s three flat.  The bathroom is the same place where the tenants bathed every morning.  Toothbrushes were visible.  And it’s right off this kitchen and there’s a big plate of brownies on the table.  And all of these cool photos on the wall.  There are about seven of us in line for the bathroom and the gal at the head of the line says “let’s play telephone.”  And we did.  And I bumped into one of those photos.  And the frame cracked and I scratched my finger on the corner cleaning it up.  I probably owe someone money for a frame.

I piss and try not to break anything else and I find Bradford and Aram back in the backyard chatting up some folks.  First there was this couple from Portland.  They had no idea why they were there, but their friend told them to go to this house and that they’d get to see a pretty great show.  All they wanted to do was go see Grant Park or Blue Man Group, but instead, they’re in the backyard of a Wicker Park three flat drinking Four Loko with three intoxicated strangers and this other dude who’s telling me about his film projects and offering me cocaine which he later does off lawn furniture.  If they read this, we still owe you a trip to Rainbo to use the photo booth.

Around now is when all hell breaks loose.  I told Bradford and Aram about the bathroom scene, so they decide on an alley piss.  Bradford zigs left, Aram zags right.   Bradford comes back and I decide I want to piss again.  As I’m walking out to the alley, Aram bolts.  He’s heading straight west down this alley at a rapid pace.  I turn the corner and see him chasing a rat!  A real live Chicago alley rat has drawn Aram’s ire or attention or maybe it talked shit about Simon and Garfunkel--I have no clue, but Aram’s chasing this thing and almost keeping up with it. 

[Aram] We’re just hanging out there and we go into the alley to take a piss. And that’s really just about the last coherent memory I have. Because apparently, as Spilled Milk and Bradford tell me later, which they don't tell me for a very long time, I had chased after a rat. Which is very unlike me, because I’m scared of rats.

[Milk] Once they hit the street, I don’t see Aram again, so I piss real fast and go back to find Bradford.  We wait outside for a few minutes figuring Aram will come back.  He doesn’t.

[Aram] I have these random scattered memories of sitting against a fence trying to call them, accidentally calling my dad, and I have all of the text messages back and forth between all of us, because they were in contact with me but they couldn’t find me. I was in the alley right outside the door, all they had to do was go upstairs.

Finally I get this text from Bradford that says, “they’re playing. They’re playing. Come downstairs.” I have this memory of staggering down the stairs. I have this memory of being on this couch. And I have a memory of Spilled Milk and Bradford waking me up and then this kind of image of walking down the hallway towards the door to get upstairs. Apparently we took a cab.

[Milk] Somehow at this point, Bradford and I became separated.  I have no idea how or why, but I definitely remember being in the backyard waiting for Aram to come back and talking to Portland some more.  At that point, I start to get texts from Bradford to the effect that the band is about to play.  I run downstairs and find Bradford just as the opening notes of “The Years” ring out.  Bradford and I embrace and scream and are basically standing on top of the bass drum.  The band’s killing it and themselves by drinking that nasty ass blue raspberry Loko we gave them earlier.  After that, I have no clue what was played.  I definitely remember Bradford and I singing along to “Just an Answer,” but I really couldn’t tell you if they were actually playing the song at the time.  The band’s set seemed to fly by.  Loko consumption really messes with the space/time continuum, so you never have any idea how long something actually lasts. 

The show ends and Bradford and I are talking to Ryan some more.  Ryan leaves to get us some cds or some sort of swag, at which point Bradford and I start to huddle up and realize we haven’t seen Aram since he darted down the alley (and Bradford didn’t even see that I don’t think).  The basement’s thinning and I stop to talk to Portland again.  Bradford starts to tug at my coat and seems really insistent that we look for Aram.  At just that second, I see this huddled mass sleeping on a rank couch in the corner.

“Hey, look at that dude passed out on the couch!” I exclaimed.

“Uhhh, that’s...Aram...”

We both exchanged a look similar to that of Kevin McAllister when he realizes the family’s left him Home Alone.  We go and try to wake him and for some reason I snapped a pic of him sleeping on the couch.  We sent the pic to Funk and that’s how it wound up getting out, but that moment’s Aram’s and he sorta owned that night, so there’s no reason he should be ashamed of it.

And that’s basically the story.  We took a cab back to Bradford’s place, which is all of like three blocks away, but there was no way any of us could navigate home.  Aram crashed at Bradford’s and I went home. 

[Aram] I mean, whatever. It was fun. They took care of me. It was a good thing I was wearing that orange shirt, or else I would have disappeared underneath that pile of clothes and they would have never found me and I would’ve woken up in the basement of hallowed grounds, the venue which is I guess now closed. Because the girl who ran it moved. That’s how seat-in-the-pants this was.

The thing about Bradford, Bradford’s a great guy. If you’re in a band, you want him to be your fan. Because he will legitimately just start handing you money for gas, and I’ve been to a couple of shows with him, and he’s just handing out cash to the band. Just the most generous dude ever.

That was, uh, yeah. That was the State Champion show. I was really pissed because I wanted to see it, you know?

[Meisenhower] You haven’t seen them again?

[Aram] No. They’re coming [to Michigan] in October [2011] and I offered them my place if they want to stay. Ryan said that they might. That’s cool. They’re trying to fit it into their tour. So I said, “yeah, if you need somewhere to stay you can crash at my parents’ house.” Which will be hilarious.

Yeah. Four Loko will kill you. Come to find out, we’ve found a bunch of news stories that have people that drink Four Loko have the tendency to run after stuff. Like there’s a kid that was killed because he ran into the street randomly and got hit by a car. For some reason it makes you do that. And so, I did. And I ended up in the alley and they lost me.

And it took me like four days to recover from that. I felt like crap for four days. It was funny because it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and I took CTA back and it was the day that they were dying the river green. Everybody goes downtown and watches them dye the river green. So I’m sitting on the CTA feeling like ass, looking out the window at all these people in full out St. Patrick’s Day gear, drinking on the train platforms, and I’m burping and tasting metallic Four Loko, and I’m like “kill me kill me kill me.”

I just got home and I didn’t leave my bed for two days. I think it was a Friday night.

That’s the story there. And that was not one of my finer moments. That’s one of those reevaluate-your-life moments. Like one of those “ok, I can’t do this again” moments.