Go, Going Gone
In Kansas City, bands appear and vanish more frequently than plans to revitalize the urban core. So why should anyone care when a group that’s not even four years old decides to call it quits? Well, it’s not the quantity of time put in by the Go Generation that counts so much as the quality of the product that resulted from its toil. Most of the songs found on the band’s EP and lone full-length album bring to mind the mod-punk style popularized in Great Britain in the ’70s, which makes the Go Generation’s music unique for this area.
Granted, other local groups do the mod-type thing and do it well (the Go Generation often scores comparisons to garage-gods such as the Hefners and Gadjits), but none of these other acts approaches its craft like Go-ers Jon Cagle, Devin Blair and Pat Bukaty do. While the Hefners and Gadjits blend punk rock and R&B in a fast and furious fashion, the Go Generation shows off its pop sensibilities as much as its chops, which makes some of its tunes sound like Bacharach-penned hits for the Jam. The difference between the music produced by the Go Generation and that of these other bands has less to do with influences than with experience or lack thereof.
“This is my first band, the first time I picked up an instrument, really” says Cagle, the band’s drummer. “So for all this to happen, I consider this band nothing but a success.” And indeed it was. The Go Generation’s road trips went smashingly, and its album (Upturned) was so well regarded that it earned a spot on one of The Kansas City Star‘s lists of the best records of 2001.
The thing is, these accolades and reputations aren’t the only things the members of the Go Generation will take with them after the group’s dissolution. There were also first-band lessons to be learned, some of which help explain the group’s untimely demise. “I think we learned a lot about ourselves and each other,” says Blair, the group’s bassist, about the band’s first tour, reciting this and other clichés (i.e. artistic differences) before digging into some meatier issues. “Everyone sort of melted down and went nuts. Actually, it wasn’t that bad; we just had this other guitarist who ended up leaving right after we got home. Some people didn’t want to do that part of it anymore, and some people did.”
Cagle and Blair, for their part, learned they wanted to continue as a group, which they’ll do soon enough with Tanka Ray drummer Chas handling guitar duties. Cagle also learned that the next time they get off the road, everyone involved should “take some time off from each other and don’t speak for a while.”
Henry Rollins covers all of this band/tour stuff in Get in the Van, the bible for traveling musicians, and young men chasing their muse routinely conquer most of these issues. Unfortunately for their following, the members of the Go Generation aren’t exactly young men anymore, and in the world of rock and roll, where career expectancy rivals that of a high-school cheerleader, issues such as these are much more difficult to deal with at 26 than at 18.
“We’re all in our mid-twenties, but we had never experienced anything like that before,” Cagle says. “The driving and finding a place to sleep and living on the road for a week with minimal money in our pockets and going from town to town,” Cagle says, got to be too much for group members who were already dealing with issues such as real jobs, real kids and houses back at home. Call it the curse of the twentysomething musician.
While that sticky aging issue might have been a hurdle to overcome on the road, the same thing was a very significant, if underlying, topic in the Go Generation’s lyrics. “Some of the songs dealt with societal issues, but a lot dealt with us getting older, people we know getting good jobs, all that stuff,” Blair says. “A lot of what we did in the Go Generation was trying to blend youth with age. We all wanted to be teen-agers, but at the same time we knew we were getting older. I think a lot of the songs reflect that.”
In other words, the very thing that ultimately helped drive the band apart was the driving force that made its songs so great — and made it so popular — in the first place. All the members of the Go Generation will go on, though. Maybe each will experience some sort of artistic success again, maybe not. Either way, Cagle knows he’ll never catch lightning in a bottle like this again.
“This is gonna be hard to top,” he admits. “When the three of us got together, we didn’t know what would happen, but this made us better musicians, songwriters and better people, even through all the bad experiences we had to endure.”