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Noisey

We Talk to Squirrel Bait’s David Grubbs About the Only Known Footage of the Band

And it just happens to be them opening for US punk icons in 1985.

by Tim Scott
Jul 22 2014, 1:06am

Drag City just posted the only live footage of Louisville, Kentucky's Squirrel Bait - and it's of them opening for Husker Du!

Recorded on May 8, 1985 at the Jockey Club in Newport, Kentucky, the footage is of the band playing "Sun God", a track that appeared on their debut self-titled album on Homestead records.

Forming in 1983, as a hardcore punk band, Squirrel Bait soon developed their own style and sound based around the melodic rasp of Pete Searcy and the odd timing and rhythms of guitarist Brian McMahan and drummer Britt Walford who both went on to form the influential Slint.

Maybe it was because they were teenagers from Kentucky but even in a time before the Internet and camera phones there always seemed to be a mystique surrounding Squirrel Bait. The lack of video footage up until only added to that mystery.

Though they received high praise from the likes of Bob Mould and Big Black and landed on Homestead (whose roster at the time included Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr) the band split in 1988. But that didn't stop them becoming one of the most influential bands of the 80s US punk scene.

I spoke to Squirrel Bait's guitarist David Grubbs about the footage and the Jockey Club show.

Noisey: Is this really the only live footage of the band?

David Grubbs: It really is the only footage of the group that I know of. Isn't that incredible? We played a couple of dozen shows, and did some touring yet this is the only show from which I've ever seen video.

Do you remember much of this show?

It was one of the most incredible nights of my life - Squirrel Bait opening for Husker Du, who were one of my very favourite bands at the time. It was a full house -500 or 600 people - and Bob and Grant from Husker Du offered to put out a record of ours on their label Reflex, although at that point it already looked like Homestead would do our first album.

What was the Jockey Club like? Did you play there often? In the video it is mentioned you would be playing with Big Black.

The Jockey Club was just across the river from Cincinnati, and close enough that people would come from Louisville, Lexington, Indianapolis, and even Columbus, Ohio. We played there four times, once also with the Meat Puppets.

What were your audiences like back then? You started as a punk band but had kind of indie melodic leanings. The crowd in the video looks pretty tame but then that drunk guy yells out some shit-ha!

It was a pretty wild crowd. The guy who took the mic and berated the "assholes who think they're full of shit and they are" was a punk guy from Lexington who had just gotten roughed up in the mosh pit allegedly by guys who were later in Guided by Voices.

Lance Bangs who restored the video has a new Slint documentary coming out. Is there much other Squirrel Bait footage on that?

All of the other Squirrel Bait material in the Slint film are still photographs.

Finally how much did Nirvana's endorsement result in Squirrel Bait record sales do you think?

Husker Du and Big Black raving about Squirrel Bait was hugely important. Kurt Cobain dug the first Squirrel Bait record, but I never read him talking about it -- I only know this through word of mouth. But the Husker Du endorsement was major!

An excerpt of the footage will appear on 'Breadcumb Trail' Lance Bang's upcoming documentary on Slint and the Louisville music scene.