Reverie With The Silos

Character Sunday

Today’s character isn’t the usual scumbag or fringe society freak that I favor.  No, today’s character is a man who’s music I admire and who’s circular career has gotten me thinking about exactly what I am doing with both my life and writing.

Back in December of 1987, my neighbor at NYU’s Brittany Hall, Howard Sauertieg and I went to see John Cale at the Bottom Line.  Howie and I were excited to see one of our idols play live.  Cale was the Tanglewood trained ex-classical musician turned viola player/bassist/keyboard/guitar player in the Velvet Underground.  Since he left that legendary group back in 1968, John had made a career of mixing stunningly beautiful ballads with white noise experiments and what could only be called violent assault rock.  In 1972, he decapitated a chicken on stage in France.  His whole band quit in protest and a member of the ASPCA who was in the audience demanded an apology for hurting the chicken.  “Ma’am, I didn’t hurt it, I killed it,” Cale is said to have told her in his most polite Welsh accent.  We were looking forward to seeing this mad man on stage, not quite knowing what to expect but hoping it would be weird.

The set was good, straightforward rock and roll – no more no less.  Aside from guitar player Chris Spedding’s Frankenstein monster impression when soloing and a drop dead perfect rendition the VU standard ‘Waiting For the Man,’ I was happy but unimpressed.  The real surprise the opening act: the Silos.

Their sound was Country/Roots rock mixed with the same VU drone Cale had made infamous on the first two Velvet Underground records.  At the time, this sound was fresh, new and exciting.  The leader of the Silos, Walter Silas-Humara, was an excellent impassioned songwriter and junior partner Bob Rupe wrote several memorable tunes.  The opener ‘Tennessee Fire’ with its final screams of Ohio left such an impression on me I didn’t bother to put on my contact lenses, just holding my battered John Lennon glasses on my face as I ran the six blocks down Broadway to Tower Records to by the Silos latest LP Cuba.

However, as the next four years past, I couldn’t find this New York based band playing anywhere.  Their records were harder to come by, although they signed to a major label.  Finally, I heard Rupe had left the band and they had effectively broken up.  About a year ago, I found Cuba on CD at the Virgin Megastore and ran home with it.  Maybe it was just the good memories of that night at the Bottom Line with an old friend or being taken back in time to a place when all the possibilities of my life were in front of me but I kept those songs in heavy rotation for over a month.

Thursday, while walking by the Rodeo Bar on 3rd and 27th Street in a nostalgic reverie of women I had known past and how I had fucked up those fledgling relationships, I saw the proud name of The Silos in smeared white chalk.  At first, I checked the window to make sure that it was indeed Walter Salas-Humara fronting the band.  After I had made the proper ID, in I went.

The Rodeo has been a mainstay for roots and country rock for nearly 30 years. Although not quite the Mecca of the alt country scene it aspired to be back in the early 1990’s the place still has a certain cache, with the faux double wide bar and ‘Minnesota’ Doug yawping in his comical accent from the Iron Ore fields near Duluth.  However, it doesn’t seem the kind of place you’d find a critically acclaimed band like the Silos.  Yet, here they were, Silas-Humara and his new band pounding out great music.

At the end of the set, I went up to buy a CD and chatted with Walter Silas-Humara, exchanging cards and telling him about that magical night back in December of 1987.  But I wondered, what happened to the band, so seemingly set on achieving stardom when their genre was just becoming the next big musical niche?

Maybe it’s their major label debut The Silos maintained the same edgy feel as their earlier indie releases.  Or, perhaps, when Rupe left after recording the RCA LP, it was for the traditional rock and roll reasons: personality conflicts and whatever abuse.  Trouser Press, the bands’ website and All Music weren’t much help and I couldn’t find any good gossip in Spin or Rolling Stone.

However, I find it heartening that Walter Silas-Humara is still around writing, recording and playing.  It’s more than simply once a musician always a musician, it’s about a man who has something to say and is continuing to put it out there for the public, if they want to listen.  I intend to find out where the next Silos gig is and see what he has to say.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Every Friday, get 2 for 1 movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

Recent Comments