Insert Foot: Tony Hicks has conditions for joining, and RIFF is the lucky recipient

Tony Hicks, Insert Foot

“This column writes itself, right?” Insert Foot. Rendering: Adam Pardee/STAFF.

I’m not a joiner.


For example, I didn’t join a fraternity in college for various reasons. Probably because they didn’t stock enough alcohol.

That’s a column for another time.

I haven’t joined the PTA, never sought admission to a lodge or secret society, and have an ugly allergy to homeowner’s associations. I once got trapped inside an HOA for five years and learned how parking in the correct spot is vital to a functional society. And that HOAs don’t like explosions.

I’m not sure what they expected me to do on the Fourth of July.

The bigger point here is … I don’t know. But I don’t drift toward groups of people with rules and stuff that focus on things I don’t believe important. For example, I enjoyed playing team sports … until I discovered high school coaches.

But two things of which I’ve always been proud to be a member are bands and publications (they used to call them newspapers and magazines. I’ll ask my 11-year-old what they call them now).

Since we’re here, my name is Tony Hicks. Born in Oakland and raised in the suburbs due east. I’ve spent a couple decades writing for publications, from my college newspaper–which I just didn’t join, but led for a year–to the Bay Area News Group for which I wrote news, features, music and film criticism, and columns.

As a professional (no … really) with various children, I now write freelance for a few publications, including RIFF. I do not do this because the money isn’t incredible (it’s not). But some of the people running this thing are former BANG colleagues I know as professionals and music lovers (RIFF co-founder and former BANG reporter Roman Gokhman used to try sneaking his music stories past me when I was the paper’s music critic and thinks I didn’t see).

RIFF fits my joiner criteria: music and journalism (Musilism? Journalusic?). I’ve written a few things for them since last summer. Now I’m doing this column, which may become regular, depending on how much I’m not being paid each week.

I had a big reminder of the other thing I love joining in January. Some of us gathered at a studio in San Francisco to celebrate the life of a great talent in our Bay Area, then L.A., rock scenes in the 1980s and ’90s (henceforth known as “the good old days when musicians carried all their gear, uphill, to rehearsal, both ways … without GPS”).

Five of us there were in the same band at various times. I had the distinction of being the first and last drummer of said band (which I quit, immediately regretted quitting—a lifelong pattern, I’m afraid—and hung around for three years until I could re-join).

I hadn’t seen some of the people there for 20 years, and it was … amazing. I’m usually not so sentimental, but I was surprised at how happy I was to see everyone. I was also surprised at how much we now look like middle-aged people. Because, you know, we are middle-aged people.

We took a photo, which became hilarious after comparing it to an old band photo. Some guys were in the same spots, with the same general demeanor (minus thousands of dollars in haircare products).

Even all these years later, everybody knows their place in a band photo. Even if they are preoccupied by sucking in their stomachs.

Later, I couldn’t stop looking at the picture. A couple of these guys weren’t even official bandmates of mine. But we all flew the same flag back when we thought it mattered. They were all old friends and seeing them made me remember the ones who couldn’t be there. It sounds cliché, but it was like a brotherhood. I left there wanting to play music again.

I’m writing about music again. So … why not? I mean, other than getting winded fetching the mail and having children about the same age, or older, then when we believed ourselves so important. Maybe I was, and remain, a joiner after all.

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