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FIRE ROCK WITH ME: The Nixons reunite in OKC for first time in 15 years

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Nixons singer Zac Maloy squirts lighter fluid on the Chevy Bricktown Events stage on Friday night for a reunion show.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – With their vintage band T-shirts straining across widening guts, the hardest of the hardcore fans of the grunge-pop act The Nixons, whooped and hollered and held their smartphones in the air (just like they didn’t care) as the reunited band, formed in Norman in the early 1990’s, helped the crowd relive the glory days of Nineties alt-rock gone by.

For those familiar with The Nixons’ rock biography, they toured like mad most of that decade, and in 1995 recorded a breakout album on MCA titled Foma. That album, in turn, resulted in the band’s one-and-only hit “Sister.”

Right before they blew-up nationally, The Nixons released an independent album titled Halo, and on April 15, 1994, The Oklahoman interviewed guitarist Jesse Davis who said: “We’re underdogs because we come from Oklahoma, and most people consider it a country and western state,” adding, “Oklahoma has been good to us … it’s been a steady uphill battle, but we like being the underdog.”

And their underdog status would remain, more or less, even after Foma, but it cemented the band as one of the state’s successful acts during the 1990’s, something that Norman’s Chainsaw Kittens, Wakeland and, of course, The Flaming Lips (who are arguably as big as they have ever been) also basked in when guitars, big drums and plenty of onstage attitude were still de rigueur.

That time may seem like a million years ago to those aging, former college kids (many of who were club-going students from the University of Oklahoma, when The Nixons – ever so briefly – were a household name in towns like Shawnee and Chickasha) who were at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center Friday night to catch the four reunited bandmates (had it already been 15 years?!?!) set fire to the stage, not just figuratively, but literally!

Yes, Jesse Davis, Zac Maloy, drummer John Humphrey (now with Seether) and bassist Ricky Brooks were reunited in full for the first time since 2002, when they officially called it quits on The Nixons. 

But from the look of the crowd - mostly 30-50-somethings, some with small children, even, were excited about a Friday night out, hearing the sounds froma  band that were part of their younger years.

The Nixons' Ricky Brooks, Zac Maloy and Jesse Davis. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

First, as I had missed The Nixons when they came through Fayetteville (having confused them back then with another band of that era – The Milhous Nixons), this was my first show. My old buddy Scott Rains, a reporter for The Lawton Constitution, had come up to photograph and review the show and kept me in the loop about some Nixons lore and how he caught them in Norman back in the old days when nobody really knew who they were.

Rains, who I worked with at the Constitution back in 2005-06, is also a big music fan, trending towards harder and heavier rock music. In fact, in Rains’ recent Constitution interview with Jesse Davis, the guitarist (who lives in the Oklahoma City area) said the idea of getting back together started to really gel after he and Maloy and Humphrey reunited last year for the Oklahoma Songwriter’s Festival (which Red Dirt Report noted here).

“It’s something we kicked around the past couple of years,” Davis told Rains. “During breaks, we’ve all thought about it, we’ve stayed somewhat in contact. This brings back memories, good memories.”

And for those on stage and in the audience, it seemed pretty clear that memories were swirling like dust devils in the minds of many.

Frontman Zac Maloy, now a successful Nashville songwriter, still looked handsome and in control as he helped lead the band through much of the Foma material, even reminding the audience that “Foma” was a word he learned from author Kurt Vonnegut featured in 1963’s Cat’s Cradle where “Foma” is a “harmless untruth intended to comfort simple souls,” or, essentially, “lies.”

That Generation X attitude, that suspicion of authority, comes through loud and clear onstage as the excellent and eerie visuals projected onto a screen behind the band, images of fire, tornadic storms, atomic explosions, mid-20th century, black-and-white folk music footage, rocket tests – and most importantly, scenes from the cryptic, creepy final episode of Twin Peaks, after Agent Dale Cooper enters the Black Lodge. Fire rock with me, indeed! - especially when Maloy set a section of the stage on fire, safely, of course. 

Under the "watchful" eyes of Twin Peaks' Laura Palmer - trapped in the Black Lodge. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

As for the songs, there was not a single weak number in the solid set, drawing heavily from Foma.

But there were some pleasant surprises, including their excellent cover of Elton John's 1972 masterpiece "Rocket Man," which The Nixons featured on their 1999 release Scrapbook. That song had been in my head all week prior to seeing the band rip through it as vintage footage of rocket launches were screened behind them.

Songs like "Blind," "the aforementioned smash "Sister" and "Happy Song" were also among the strongest of the set. And most people sang along with every word.

I should note that the opening bands, Life Lessons and NICNOS, clearly have an appreciation for 1990's-era rock and grunge music, even down to the hairstyles, and proved to be a good fit in terms of openers for The Nixons. I picked up the two NICNOS albums and hope to have an article on this Oklahoma City-based band very soon.

And tonight, The Nixons play their second of two shows - this one in Frisco, Texas as part of Edgefest where they will share a stage with The Offspring, 311, The Toadies, Chevelle and Blink-182.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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