Rootbeer and Mermentau, pt. 1:
The Thunderdome

By Warren Bujol | 12/18/2014

From left to right: Rootbeer and Mermentau

From left to right: Rootbeer and Mermentau

Passion is a fascinating thing. I’d argue that it is the most important emotion we can possess. Passion can be difficult to control, even reckless at times; but without it, we are nothing. Collectively, our passion led us to the moon; it brought you this magazine; it compelled T.V. to kill the radio-star; it painted the Fluer De Lis in every imaginable style...even if it meant beating a few horses to death in the process. Passions are what keep us from stagnating, they give us purpose. Passion inspires more passion, like a perpetual emotion machine. You think that sensei at your local karate dojo (or whatever they call it) got to where he/she is without a whole lot of passion? They don’t hand those black belts out for free, buddy. There’s just something about a fist smashing through three layers of Balsa wood that gets people all fired up. The point is, you can be passionate about anything, whatever you want; it is one of the few things in this life that supersedes validation.

I make every attempt to surround myself with passionate people. What better place to do so than in the music world? I have always been passionate about music. Most of my childhood friends are in fairly successful bands…some are in regular bands; but regardless of relative success-levels, they are all passionate and interesting people. I never played an instrument, I was pretty much just interesting-by-association. No ragrets.

I bought some drums not too long ago. It was a toss-up between that or the jeans with rhinestone crosses bedazzled on the back pockets; I think I made the right decision. I’m not a very good drummer, but like my father always said, “There are two types of people in this world: Mermentaus, and the people who go to their shows and try to interview them when they start a magazine…” He is an incredibly insightful man. Maybe I should get a pair of those pants; just in case this drum thing doesn't work out...

I first heard about Rootbeer and Mermentau through my bass player, Sloane Biessenberger. He described them in great detail, saying, “I love Rootbeer and Mermentau, they are so great, and super handsome…blah, blah, blah… I wish they would have slumber parties at my house, and we could have pillow fights and wrestle...blah, blah”* I spent several hours nodding and saying, “uh huh”, it seemed as if it would never end, but it did.

A few weeks later, I saw that Rootbeer and Mermentau would be playing at My Place American Pub, a great little establishment with nice and forgiving people. I had a clear schedule and figured I’d go see what all the fuss is about. I was blissfully ignorant to the significance that decision would hold.

Their equipment was already set up on stage when I got there; the first thing I noticed was the drum set. To be fair, drums are usually the only thing I notice, but these drums were different. It was a minimalist set up; a three-piece. For those of you unfamiliar with drums and such…that’s not a lot. Most drummers these days build a small fort of maple and bronze, from which to bring the thunder. Mr. Mermentau chose the path less traveled. My hat was tipped.

I won’t be going into great detail about their sound; you've had plenty of opportunities to go see it for yourself. But I will say, from the first very first song, the little dynamic-duo, two-man band from Lake Charles, Louisiana blew my mind. Their passion for making music is undeniable; you can see it when they pick up or sit behind their instruments. From start to finish, they own the stage; it is their Thunderdome…and they are the BDSM Tina Turner of the 1980’s. Just a couple of Road Warriors keepin’ it real in a post-apocalyptic music scene.

The next time they came on my radar, I heard they were hosting a CD release party at Luna Live (another great music venue). I was unable to attend, but gave all my money to the Bandcamp website in exchange for a digital copy. Sadly, I am not well-versed in the ways of the computer, and was unable to download the album. I had all but given up on having my own Rootbeer and Mermentau record, until I heard they were going to be playing at the, what would prove to be wildly successful, Chuck Fest. It was exactly what this city needed.

Rootbeer and Mermentau performing at Chuck Fest 2014.

Rootbeer and Mermentau performing at Chuck Fest 2014.

Again, it was the Thunderdome…just like I had hoped. Only this time, a middle-aged woman decided to join them on stage. Being the gentlemen they are, they kept playing. Over the course of an hour or so, the kind lady played the tambourine, danced, and made sure we were all aware that there were only two men in this band. Was she drunk? Probably not, she just couldn’t resist Mr. Rootbeer’s charm…who can? 

After the show, I told Mr. Rootbeer that I had been unsuccessful in acquiring my digital copy of the album. He said, “I’m sorry man, I’ll go get you one right now.” There were still a few million people lingering around the stage hoping to speak with the band, and Sloane, in a fit of jealous rage, said, “He’s not coming back, and he’ll never be your friend!” I didn’t believe him. Sure enough, about an hour later, I saw Mr. Rootbeer’s Cruella DeVille, lightning striped hair making its way towards us. He hadn’t forgotten. He even brought a copy for Sloane.

If You Love Something, Let It Go

"I'm not crying." -Sloane***

"I'm not crying." -Sloane***

The good times were short lived. I was informed that Rootbeer and Mermentau would soon be packing up the Thunderdome, and moving out west to the snow-capped mountains of Colorado. The CD fell from my hand in slow-motion; I was crushed. Sloane took the news even harder - disappearing into the night, never to be heard from again**- it was a devastating revelation; I guess that's what they meant by "Revelator".

Beneath all the tragedy, there is hope. Yea, we are all going to miss them, but I take pride in knowing that there are still people out there that are so passionate about something, they are willing to risk everything in hopes of fulfilling their dream.  Not to mention, we still have some damn good bands here to keep our minds off the heart-ache: Large Marge, Choke, The Von Dukes, Fema Region Six, The Yams, Juxtapose (I heard those guys are classy), etc…

Godspeed, you magnificent bastards, we believe in you.

*Sloane wanted me to make sure everyone knew he didn’t say all of that stuff word-for-word…

**He only disappeared for the night. We had practice soon after and he seems to be recovering well.

***Sloane really was crying.

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