What is one of your favorite albums? It doesn’t have to be your favorite album of all time, just a favorite. One you listen to all the time incessantly waiting for something new to catch your ear. Learning all the guitar parts, every drum fill, every word, every melody and focusing so intently on these things that the album becomes part of you. That’s how Shiner’s The Egg is for me. Not particularly my favorite album ever but definitely one of the most important in regards to its importance in developing my musical vocabulary. Shiner as a band influenced almost everything I listened to for the five years following the release of their album Starless and cemented themselves as Rock Gods, at least in this reviewer’s mind, with the release of their magnum opus The Egg.
Shiner as a band is something of a force. I have always viewed them that way. A finely tuned machine built for one thing, to bring unbridled rock to its onlookers. I remember the first time I saw them live. I had just bought Starless in 2000 and saw that they were playing a show at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS. I had turned 18 about a year earlier, so I could finally go to some of the “adult” shows and see, what I viewed, as important rock and roll. What ensued that night was nothing short of a religious experience. It was monumental for me.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Shiner were soul consumingly loud but never hurt my ears. Their stage presence demanded that you watch, it’s almost as if they were going to bring the building down but the sheer force of their presence and music was actually maintaining the stability of the structure. Allen Epley’s voice soared above the music, hitting every note perfectly. His guitar playing was unlike anything I had heard before. Paul Malinowski’s bass tone could be likened to what God punching the Earth would sound like. Jason Gerken’s drumming was almost indescribable. It seemed as though he was apart of the drum kit and they did what he commanded. Each hit punishing, precise, perfect and the sound he could conjure from them was nothing short of monolithic. Josh Newton’s guitar playing was laser guided and crushing all at once. Finding the nooks and crannies of every song and filling them with melody, discord or power, whatever the song may call for and while watching Shiner scorch the Earth for the first time in nearly a decade, I saw all these things happening all at once right in front of me all over again. There I was watching Shiner play songs I thought I would never get to hear live again and playing them with passion, grace and the reckless abandon you’d expect when seeing your friends band play live for the first time. A smile inducing rock fest happening right before my very eyes.
When their final show was announced in 2003 I was beside myself because I would never get to hear their “next” album. Never get to hear exactly where this band would be taking me next but alas the end was near and I had to accept it. The final show yielding a performance by a band that was clearly ready to break apart and move on to other things. Most in the band had plans already and wasted no time getting something else started. Allen would start The Life and Times, Josh and Paul would start The Great Fire of 1666 which only lasted for a short time before they eventually parted ways with one another and pursued other musical ventures. Josh hooking up with the likes of From Autumn to Ashes, Every Time I Die, and The Damned Things all of which were more than a surprise for those who peered into Josh’s past endeavors. Paul pursued being a producer which he had done in the past and showed a knack for. Producing albums for The Life and Times, Open Hand, and the Republic Tigers among others. Jason was the quiet one but did play drums for a few bands here and there and then took up full time drum responsibilities for Open Hand, for a short time.
So, there I was, waiting to hear Shiner plow through some tried a trues and it finally hits me, I’m about to see these guys live again. All the sudden, I was a young boy waiting to see Batman, circa 1989, in theaters for the first time. A bag of popcorn, my Batman action figure and some Coca-Cola to wash it down. Elation and excitement overwhelm me and then the opening of“The Truth About Cows” roars out of the PA. We were off and running and there was no lookin’ back now. “Surgery” followed and I felt the band finding their footing about midway through the song. I thought it couldn’t get much better when they open with two of my favorites from The Egg. Soon they had muscled their way into getting things dialed in properly and really hit their stride and unleashed “Kevin Is Gone.” “Kevin awakes without his clothes,” Allen Epley sang in a high melodious falsetto, and while Kevin was awaking, so was Shiner. Once the band was firing on all cylinders they never once faltered, not even for a moment. Amazing song after amazing song hit us, “Lula”,”Third Gear Scratch”, “Bells and Whistles”, “Unglued”, “Christ Sized Shoes”, “The Egg”, “The Situationist”, “Cake”, “Semper Fi”, “Giants Chair”, “Dirty Jazz”, and the list goes on. Also, there was a special guest appearance by former bass player Shawn Sherrill playing a couple tracks from Splay, Shiner’s first full length.
As the band grooved, rocked, punished, smiled, laughed and led us through a perfectly executed, best of song collection. They were thankful, excited and seemed to be invigorated musically. It was exciting to watch a group of guys that had reached the end of their musical journey together, reunite and find they may have called it quits a little early, I hope. Every band member seemed to be at the top of their game. Some time away had sharpened their skills and matured them a bit as players. Whatever complacency had been there in 2003 was nowhere to be seen in the reunited rock titans of old. They seemed as giddy as young twenty somethings on their first tour together. Let out of the house to go peruse the US and play rock songs for the masses. That energy flooded out to rest of us and I would venture a guess that everyone there felt the same way I did, twenty without a care in the world.
That may be the last time I see them live but it won’t be the last time I obsess over the legacy they have left behind. Shiner has made their mark, no matter how small it appears on the map of musical history, it stands large in this fans mind. Thank you Shiner, I hope to see you again soon.
By Brandon Bray