The Points, Always On
Wednesday, August 1, 2007; 11:50 AM
Travis Jackson is pounding the drums. His hair is drenched in sweat and probably Pabst Blue Ribbon, which he swigs from a can and occasionally spews at audience members in an affectionate mist. To his left is Rebecca Dye, standing in front of a keyboard, her back to the audience, black bob bouncing up and down at the same rate as her checkered Vans sneakers hit the floor with the drumbeat. Geo White is playing the guitar and slobbering on the microphone, and all three of them are wearing matching white undershirts with grey pentagrams spray painted on the fronts.
Imagine if you found the three most hyperactive kids in school, locked them in a closet for ten years where all they could do was play video games, then let them out and told them to start a band. It looks like something that might happen if you locked the school's three most hyperactive kids in a closet to play video games for five years then unleashed them and said, "Start a band."
And so you have the Points.
But wait, then there's Dr. Mayhem. He stands at the back of the stage, bald, glassy-eyed, wearing a white lab coat, waving his right hand in the motions necessary to play the theremin, a sound-conducting pole that was a favorite tool of '50s b-movie directors trying to create the sound of alien spacecraft. It may be difficult to reconcile all the pieces of this performance together -- from a certain angle it looks like Dr. Mayhem is the mad scientist behind the show -- but the sound is rockin', and the audience is loving it.
In any other town than D.C., would the Points still be quite so unusual?
"In other cities, people don't show up wearing backpacks and with their hands in their pockets," says Dye, 28, who works as a counselor for abused and neglected children. (White, 26, and Jackson, 27, are currently unemployed.) It is for this reason that the Points spend much of their time on tour, far away from the nation's capital.
"We're not very business-oriented, but booking shows is what we do," says Jackson.
The bandmates grew up together around Fredericksburg, Va., and each had been in several other outfits before joining the Points. They met Dr. Mayhem, (real name Stu Gordon) a few years ago in North Carolina when he was playing theremin for another band, the Spins.
Is it at all strange having a softspoken 37 year-old -- an accountant, no less -- in a band of 20-somethings known for their drunken antics?
"Not really," says Gordon. "We're all just big kids. We all act like we're 16."
Gordon may be a big kid at heart, but one of the band's biggest fans and advocates, Dan Zeman, 39, is a really big kid. Zeman owns the space where the Points practice. It's a former skate park, known among regulars as Fight Club, in Blagden Alley -- a steadily gentrifying historic slum in Northwest D.C. Before Fight Club was a skate park, says Zeman, it was a hangout for crack dealers and prostitutes, and before that it was a house, which the crack dealers burned down. Zeman has plans to turn the place into a private skate club. "Like a golf club," he says proudly.
Rusty furniture is set up in a living room arrangement outdoors. A blonde mannequin peeks out ominously from a hole in one wall. Rats scuttle across plywood on the ground. For now, Fight Club looks more like London after the blitz than a members-only club, but such realities are no match for Zeman's enthusiasm. And besides, in this alternate universe of skating, punk rock and theremins, perhaps this is actually paradise?
"It was the most surreal place in all of D.C.," said Gordon, of the space's heyday.
Zeman, a large man with a grey ponytail, wears no shoes at the Fight Club and later he takes his shirt off. Considering the circumstances, it seems like he's actually trying to catch the plague.
White first met Zeman nearly a decade ago when he was just a gangly skateboarder whose truck had broken down. Like many stories the Points tell, the circumstances and precise chain of events is somewhat fuzzy, but one thing was clear -- Zeman showed up, shirtless and totally wasted, and began pulling hoses out of the Mazda.
"I thought this guy had totally destroyed my truck, but he came back and actually fixed it," said White. "That's how we met Dan."
After a few more beers, Zeman begins to engage a friend in a kick fight. He'll do the same thing a week later when the Points play at Adams Morgan's Asylum, a favorite haunt of the city's bike messengers. This time he's wearing a shirt and shoes, and he looks like an over-enthusiastic, pothead uncle, not an alcoholic father, as he does now. Having never seen a grown man fight in public before, I can't stop staring, filled with a wimpy Washingtonian combination of fear and disgust.
"That's normal," Rebecca says, nonchalantly, adding, "I was weirded out by it the first time, too."