Invaders from Sears

From Bob's Bedroom to Anthrax

The first real band I was ever in was called Invaders from Sears. The name was a play on the movie Invaders from Mars, and was the brainchild of my boyfriend at the time, Bob. Bob had long hair and wore a combination of '80s punk fashion mixed with thrift store trash (loud plaid jackets, polyester dresses, etc.). The first time I ever saw Bob he was walking across campus in a long white dress and I thought he was the coolest boy ever.

Bob was the embodiment of '80s DIY. He recorded his music in his bedroom on a four-track, layering each instrument himself. Occasionally, someone else would be allowed to contribute to one of his lo-fi opuses. I was one of these people, although I soon discovered that most of my contributions were erased as soon as I left his house and re-recorded by him.

Invaders from Sears actually did make it out of his bedroom. We had friends in several local hardcore bands, and we were able to get IFS some shows. For a live show, of course, Bob could not appear alone. The ruse of an actual "band" that he had created through a never-ending series of flyers, stickers, would be discovered. So I was drafted to become a performing member. Our first live performance was at our college, opening up for another campus band called Jane His Wife.

IFS's sound was low-grade industrial. Our live set-up included a keyboard with sampler, effects pedals, a bass guitar and metal objects, including chairs and an oil drum. My role as "percussionist" consisted of hitting the metal objects with drumsticks and jumping around. This was somewhat petrifying for me, as I was a rather reticent person at that time. I soon realized however, that being on a stage was unlike anything else in real life, and making a huge sound was incredibly empowering and a whole lot of fun.

The show went OK. A few people clung to the walls and corners, but we mostly cleared the place out. When we finished, the majority of the audience walked back into the room. And when the other band mocked us from the stage during their set, we vowed revenge. We knew we sucked, but this did not deter us.

Our third show was the real deal. Bob and I spent many weekends hanging out at The Anthrax, an all-ages punk club in a warehouse in Norwalk. It was a poorly lit open space, with walls that were covered with graffiti, zebra stripes and flyers from past shows. The large refrigerator behind the desk held an infinite variety of supermarket brand sodas. It was a dive, but a comfortable one, and the audience changed very little from week to week. I saw some of the best and worst punk and hardcore shows there, never paying more than $6. Although there were never any problems at The Anthrax, aside from the occasional fight, the powers that be eventually got the club shut down so that local condo owners could live without fear of seeing unwashed kids in ripped pants walk through their parking lot late at night.

We were able to convince one of the owners, a pair of punk rock brothers, that we should play at The Anthrax, and after talking with us a few times, he gave us the opening spot for Sonic Youth, who were just beginning their Sister tour. Yep, those were the days when you could get an opening spot for a really famous (in the underground) band without so much as a blink of an eye because your band was "arty."

Since we figured this would be our big break, we decided to get more members to flesh out our stage act. This wasn't hard, as we had a bunch of friends in other bands. Since there wasn't much time until the actual show, there was not chance to practice with these new add-on band members. No problem. Bob just gave our friends Brad and Kevin (who played drums and guitar in the band Thalidomide and the One-Armed Mongoloids) a tape to listen to. The other draftees were dancers and they really didn't need to know anything about the music. They just needed to wriggle and gesticulate while we played.

The night of the show we loaded my sticker-covered 1975 Dodge Dart with all our equipment and drove to Norwalk. When we unloaded our metal chair, everyone laughed. After Sonic Youth did their sound check, we started to set up on stage, and when Kevin plugged in his amplifier nothing happened. The plug was broken, with the metal casing hanging off. The sound guy came up and yelled at Bob, accusing us of breaking the plug. He yelled for several minutes, until Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth came over and told him that he had broken the plug. The sound guy immediately shut up and walked away, as if nothing had happened. Stars can break anything they want, I realized, and never have to say they're sorry.

The club opened and we started our set. I was dressed in a cut up, cut off T-shirt, a very short paint-splattered skirt, and fishnet tights. The dancers wore similarly brief outfits. Bob's hair was purple and teased out to the max. We turned on a strobe light and began to play, and since no one knew what was going on, a mass of noise rose from the stage. Occasionally Brad's drums would be in time with the song. Kevin's guitar was a frenzy of feedback. The keyboard played a semblance of a tune, and Bob sang. I banged my chair and oil drum with all I had, and jumped up and down to the beat. The dancers undulated and wiggled. It was a huge, horrible racket that rose and fell with the beginning and end of each song. We are great, I thought mid-leap, just like Einsterzende Neubauten! This was the face of the new industrial scene!

Then I looked into the audience; some people clapped, but most just stared in disbelief and bemusement. I looked over at everyone else on stage, and realized that we sounded like a vacuum cleaner, and that nothing was in time, and that the dancers were really ridiculous. After about 25 minutes of this chaos we stopped as abruptly as we had begun. Drenched in sweat, we watched the audience quickly walk away to go smoke in the parking lot and drink more Shop Rite grape soda

- Elisa Flynn

(reprinted from The Fairfield County Weekly Nightlife Guide 2001)

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