Punk rock lost a legend last week when Mike Herrera died in his sleep at age 33. No, no, not that one. The other one. The guy from MxPx is still fine. He played bass for Goldfinger over the weekend and according to Instagram took his daughter to a pumpkin patch yesterday. You know, the kinda stuff you'd expect the writer of "Chick Magnet" to have done. 

      The Blackout Pact, the band this Herrera was most commonly known for, were in a lotof ways a lost perfect gem. Their only full-length album, "Hello Sailor" was released in 2005. Less than a year later they'd broken up; victims of their own faults and vices. 

     I can vividly remember the first time I ever became aware of the group, via the music video for "We Drink So You Don't Have To." Living in San Diego, I'd just gotten home from work and it aired probably 3/4 of the way through Steven's Untitled Rock Show, a daily music video show on FUSE that was intended to cater to eyeliner/flat ironed bangs set, but more and more often seemed to be playing the stuff that I assumed no one else but me liked, such as The Explosion, The Bronx or the buried in a drawer video for Jawbreaker's "Fireman." 

        Anyway, without introduction or explanation comes the image of a legitimatelyinebriated derelict who's ages appears to be in his mid 20's but who's health is more accurately in line with a Wino in their 50's, dressed in some sort of soiled lounge attire and a straw hat from a luau sitting in naugahyde bar booth. He then throws his hands in the air, as if to protest something off-screen and then smashes a bottle of CuttySark over his head and slumps over. This starts the song.

    "Dah-nuh," rings a single, sustained guitar chord, as we see a band who appears to be set up in the corner of an all black room with smoking filling the air as if it's the corner of a haunted house that ran out of stuff to put there. We're only one note in and I already know this song kicks ass"What is this?" I immediately ask myself, eyes growing wider. 

       These dudes all look like scumbags; their clothes are filthy. All are unshaven. At least half the group has neck tattoos, which in 2005 was the mark of Cain regarding means of future employment. The singer is tiny with huge sideburns, resembling what Danzig could have ended up looking like if instead of working out he'd taken up drinking PBR and doing drugs. The bass player is the drunk from the opening, who we are then shown being unconsciously drug out of the bar. Despite appearing to be covered in a layer of grime that would need a coin operated pressure washer to remove, he plays a late model Ernie Ball Sting Ray bass, which is odd because he strikes as the kind of guy who'd not really give a shit about his gear at all and would use any money he'd had on inebriants. This leads me to conclude he'd either won the thing in a drawing at the Ernie Ball booth at a Warped Tour he'd snuck into, or stolen it from said booth during load out and doesn't own the case for it. 

     Over the next two and a half minutes we travel with these dudes as they drive around and "Bohemian Rhapsody" to their own song, picking up members along the way; Someone jumps out of a second story window and into the vehicle, apparently being discovered mid coitus as apparent from a girl with antlers tattooed on her clavicle draped in only a sheet pining out from the open window, and some dude in aviators waving a 2x4 on the front porch, symbolizing an angry male relative. Both actors seem to have been recruited by the sole fact that they were both hanging around when the video camera showed up. Someone else hangs out on a street corner with a bunch of guys dressed like Phil Lynott era Thin Lizzie, all playing air guitar. The band appears and he makes his own social jailbreak into the vehicle. I suspect Thin Lizzy are played the band membersthemselves.

      The song itself is incredible, combining the best parts of my favorite bands at the time. The gruffness of Hot Water Music with the humor of the Lawrence Arms mixed with the hooks of Alkaline Trio and the nihilisticdrone of the Murder City Devils. "Broken limbs (ribs?) are all I have to hold me now," laments each chorus, one I'm already singing along with by its second refrain. 

     By the time the song reaches the bridge, we're shown a single masked and cloaked individual in the middle of a black mass, palms out in honor of the dark lord. He answers his flip phone, and then in the greatest jump cut since the blowing of a match/desert sunrise in Lawrence of Arabia he's in the front seat, head banging and shouting along. "LET'S BEGIN! BEGIN AGAIN!"

     The video ends with the whole gang returning to the same bar the bass playing was kicked out of in the beginning. I'm sitting down but I feel like I've been knocked on my ass. I later find out the band is from Colorado and are being svengali'd by Thursday singer Geoff Rickley who's produced and released their album, and because it's 2005, gotten it into regular rotation on basic cable television. 

     I buy the album. It's good overall, but "We Drink..." which opens it, is by far the stand out track. While I love the other aforementionedbands dearly, The Blackout Pact seem so much more relatable, maybe because the others are already legends while these guys are just kids like me who've not so much figured out a way to replicate the formula but use it get across what they need to say. 

   Over the next year, I look forward to seeing this band, but never do. Their legend grows in the pre-Twitter early days of social mediaTheir bass player is profiled in an article in Alternative Press magazine on rock and roll tour injuries, but unlike others in the story who've suffered blown out vocal cords or broken collar bones, he's recounts how he destroyed his stomach lining from drinking too much and had to go to an ER in the middle of nowhere and can now only eat yogurt for the foreseeable future. The piece is accentuated with a photo of him drinking a Sam Adams in the back of a moving van. He prominentlydisplays the outline of a spade tattooed under his left eye. 

      Their Myspace page offers the occasionalpeak into the lives of these maniacs, with a live shot here and there, but mostly pictures of them doing drugs and partying their underwear. Eventually a semi professional "EPK" video emerges in their feed. It mostly contains footage of the band smoking cigarettes, talking about what scumbags they are in front of a venue they just played, recounting how Scarlet Johansen called them bums and briefly features hipster actor and star of Black Hawk Down, Josh Hartnett calling the band "Tight." This is replayed several times, in close up and in slow motion.

     During this time in my life, I find my bored and dissatisfied. I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, yet can't seem to find the type of friend's I'd like to have. Those I've gone to college with are all junior business men, getting into real estate and buying cars, and those I’ve become acquainted with at the bars in my neighborhood seem to just want to out-scene each other, with names to drop and musical taste to one up each other with. I yearn for a gang of dudes to just get drunk and have fun with. To kick in the door of a bar with, and just have a good time. I envy the dudes in the Blackout Pact. They don't care about anything except playing music and having fun with each other. 

       About a month before the band breaks up, they post a "tour journal" on their Myspace page. It consists of about 3 minutes of some band members and I assume road crew sitting in a hotel room in front of someone's Mac book and basicallyrecounting about how hard they've been partying on the Vans Warped Tour. They brandish multiple vials of Vicodin and a 1/2 gallon of Jameson (the amount of both they refer to as "hella"), to which Herrera displays his "talent" of being able to chug a large amount of it in several consecutive gulps. Someone quotes a Pepsi commercial featuring Shaquille O’Neil from the early 90's and then several members put out their genitals. Herrera and the band's drummer are the only people I recognize from the music video, making the possibility that much of the band has left and been replaced. This video is taken down a short while later. 

     Not long after, the band is on tour with (presumably) terrible group Scary Kids Scaring Kids when they announce abruptlythat they are disbanding immediatelyA few days later, Punknews.org publishes an email from someone stating that they're the bands tour manager. He explains that a laptop belonging to another band member on the tour had gone missing, Blackout were suspected of the crime, it was found in the drummer's belongings and the band no longer exists. I had been planning on seeing them in San Diego that weekend with The Lawrence Arms and The Draft. I end up skipping the show, and take my girlfriend to dinner where she talks about wanting to move to Chicago to be closer to her family. 

    Blackout Pact should have been huge. They had the potential to be to Hot Water Music what Blink-182 were to Screeching Weasel. The songs were there, the swagger was there. They really didn't give a fuck, and that's what probably ended them. 

    Herrera would go on to form several other projects and several years later record an EP accredited to the Blackout Pact, of which I was unaware existed until today. I would eventually move to Chicago with said girlfriend and break up with her a year later. In the wake of this, I would find my own group of friends there. Bearded scumbags who'd I'd call my own. We'd ride bikes together, slug Jameson in filthy dive bars, cling onto each other like the brothers I'd dreamt about having in San Diego, and shout together "LET'S BEGIN! BEGIN AGAIN!" while the rest of the bar stared at us in contempt and wondered who the hell put this on the jukebox. We'd glare back, not giving a fuck.

       Before each chorus, "We Drink..." features someone in the background, faintlyshouting, "Was this everything you’d hopedfor?" 

Rest in Peace, Mike. Thanks again. 


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