90s in 90 Days #12: The End of Fig Dish
Fig Dish was the type of band you just expected to hear on the radio in the 90s. They had melodies, swagger, and singles that were as good as any mid-to-upper-rotation song that one would hear on America’s largest alternative stations.
They put out two albums under the wide-rimmed Polygram umbrella. Despite all that, it never “happened” for them. They said back then that they were a cursed band, and there was some evidence to support that (though I’m still looking for proof that their rehearsal space was built atop a Native American burial ground).
Someday, one of those guys (likely Blake Smith) will probably write a book about those days. In the meantime, he’ll have to settle for some mentions in mine. Here’s one story he recounted for me that is typical Fig Dish, that of their final show. This may be one of my favorite local music stories ever:
“The very last show we ever played, we played Metro with Local H. We hadn’t told anybody it was going to be our last show, we thought we’d just be really cryptic.
We had decided to close with ‘School’s Out.’ It was in May, and school was getting out for students, and it was an all-ages show so there were a ton of kids there. But really we meant it for Fig Dish, like ‘School’s out forever.’ So we got up, and we’re thinking, ‘sold-out show, we’re in a good mood, we’re playing with Local H, who are our friends.’
We had a friend that was a magician, and he had been doing some really gory magician-y stuff. We were out at some party one night, and he was going on about how he can make it look like he was stabbed, and squirt blood out of his neck. We’re just like, ‘Oh, awesome.’ For the previous year, Wes from Triple Fast Action had been touring with us as ‘the bunny.’ He’d just get up, and he’d do whatever song we’d close with, like ‘Baba O’Riley’ or something. And he’d stay in the bunny suit all night long. He would just go out and get shitfaced drunk. So after a year of this, the bunny suit was just disgusting; just matted, bodily fluids, and God knows what. So we decided we were going to kill the bunny during ‘School’s Out.’ So this magician guy rigs all this stuff up, and we’re like, ‘Just don’t tell us, we don’t want to know.’ So we’re playing ‘School’s Out,’ the bunny comes out on stage and he’s singing ‘School’s Out,’ and he’s running around, and then our friend the magician comes out with a pretty real-looking gun and shoots the bunny. The bunny had been rigged with what we subsequently discovered, the magician had gone to a butcher shop and had gotten gallons of pig’s blood and random pig and cow parts. So the bunny’s chest starts exploding outward with blood and animal parts, which looked like human parts at the time. It was on a motorized pump, so it was a giant stream of actual animal blood squirting out into the crowd like twenty feet. I’m standing there on stage, we have no idea of what’s going on behind us, and all of a sudden I see this jet of what looks like, I’m like, ‘Wow, our friend did a really good job, that really looks like blood,’ squirting by me. And I’m looking at the faces in front of us, the first twenty rows of kids, everybody’s like smiling, their hands are in the air, like, ‘Yea!,’ and I see that look turn to horror. It was like the prom scene in ‘Carrie’ all of a sudden. People are shrieking. Everybody’s running towards the exit, people are slipping in it, ‘cause it’s just gallons of the stuff. We finish the song, we run out, and I’m like, ‘Oh, God, I hope (Metro owner) Joe Shanahan’s not here.’ And Joe Shanahan walks up, and he’s like, ‘If you ever pull something like that again, you’ll never play my club ever again.’
Probably twenty gallons of blood, all in all. It probably took the staff two weeks to clean it up. But we figured after that, really that has to be the last show. There were just kids standing there for Local H, covered in animal blood.”
90s in 90 Days
Over the course of 90 days (not consecutive, though I’ll try), I’ll be offering up a capsule look at something about Chicago music from the 90s. It could be a radio memory. Thoughts on a song, show, band, or album. Maybe a review aided by hindsight. Whatever it is, it’ll be original content just for this site, and not found in my book.