As respectful as the covers and odes are, nothing beats pure, undistilled, shambolic Fred Cole. So, when Pierced Arrows play a show on a night in early June this year, the faithful cram into Worksound, an art gallery and concert space in the dregs of Southeast Portland. The crowd is a motley mix of iodine-haired teenagers who never got a chance to see Dead Moon, bearded 20-somethings in western shirts who were raised on the bands’ songs, and old-school punks in tattoos and leather who still remember Cole’s older bands, like the Rats and Zipper.
Four songs in, the band begins churning out a new one called “Let It Rain.” It’s one of Cole’s patented moves, a pick-yourself-up-by-your-shitkickers magnum opus. A minute in and the audience, which had previously seemed more concerned with the IV bag art installation in the corner, rouses to attention. Heads bob, necks crane to better hear the lyrics. Even through the sludgy PA, the song is something special. Something archetypal, something transcending all fads and styles. Something for the cult of Fred Cole.
“Don’t waste your thoughts on failure,” Cole bleats as Toody and Kelly beat the song into submission. “That’s a nowhere scene. Go for what you want the most, it’s the only way you’re free.”
The music swells and the crowd begins pumping PBRs in the air and singing along to the chorus: Let it rain! Let it rain! Wash away the pain!
YOUR MARRIAGE IS GOING TO FIZZLE. Your band will break up. Your body will break down. And you will live out your life as an increasing series of compromises, saddled with things you have to do instead of things you want to do.
This is reality, we’re told. And we accept it. It’s normal.
But then you find yourself in the middle of Clackamas, drunk on sweet Canadian whiskey and rethinking the whole thing, because, by simply sitting here—half in the bag, ripping cigs, listening to a battered boom box—Fred and Toody are proving that it doesn’t have to be this way. Old age is not a death sentence. You can follow your muse—no matter how difficult the path. You don’t have to give up your guitar for a BlackBerry. You don’t have to trade in Pearl Jam for Perry Como. And above everything else, you can still be in love.