If you are a reasonably well-adjusted human being, there is no earthly reason why you should find yourself at Club Metronome on Sunday, April 20. That evening falls on both the holiest day of the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, and — in a twist of sacri-licious coincidence — the noted stoner holiday 4/20. And that night Burlington's Touchpants will take the stage. And, like most of their infrequent Queen City appearances, this one will likely draw a large crowd.
Some will come because they are friends of the band's gravel-voiced front man, Chris Friday, a well-liked and longtime fixture behind the scenes at the South Burlington nightclub Higher Ground. Others might drop in because they're fans of bassist Aram Bedrosian or guitarist Colby Dix, two exceptional and highly regarded local players. Still others might come to catch a glimpse of the famous man behind the drum kit, Phish's Jon Fishman. And then, some 7D readers might see the "musical comedy" tag in the show's listing and think something along the lines of, Hey, I like Weird Al and Tenacious D!
But all who attend the show no doubt will leave with a dark stain upon their souls.
(As will, it must be noted, anyone who proceeds to read this article. If your delicate sensibilities render you easily offended, just stop now and go read your Free Will Astrology horoscope. Please.)
Despite the toilets on which cofounders Dix and Friday sit during performances, to call the band's juvenile brand of musical comedy "bathroom humor" is an injustice to the term. Witness the word "cump." That's a Friday-devised term for having an orgasm while taking a shit. (We warned you.) And that's one of the milder words the singer has coined in his innumerable writings for the band. The man could publish his own dictionary of foul phrases — though it would likely only be available for sale in the darkest corners of the internet.
Going to see Touchpants is like a last-call bar hookup. Somewhere deep down in your booze-battered psyche, you know it's bad idea. You know you'll wake up in the morning smelling of equal parts whiskey, cigarettes and shame. You also know you're gonna do it anyway because, hey, it's been a while, right? A person has needs. And sometimes those needs supersede your moral code, negligible as that may be in a bar at 2 a.m. Sometimes you need a cheap thrill.
Sometimes, you just gotta go home with Touchpants.
Touchpants are almost certainly the most offensive, disgusting and morally irredeemable band ever to call Burlington home. And precisely for those reasons, they are fascinating and, in their own repulsive way, kind of awesome.
"I've always said Touchpants play musical comedy that is not very funny and not very musical," says Dix, seated with Friday recently at a local coffee shop. "I'm not sure I'd advise anyone to listen to us, ever."
And yet people do.
Since forming in the early 2000s, Touchpants have gigged as steadily as its members' numerous other projects — and perhaps decency laws in certain states — allow. The band's lone album, Poopenis Poetry, has earned a sort of mythical aura since its limited release in 2006. It's like the lost Death recordings for perverts.
They've developed a cult-like following that packs their local shows. Several of those shows have included some notable onstage guests, including keyboardist Marco Benevento and members of the Slip, all of whom have lent their prodigious talents to songs with titles such as "Mushroom Tattoo," "Jesus Had a Baby" and "A Burp Autistic."
Touchpants have also drawn criticism, bordering on outrage, from certain factions who don't find anything funny about the band. Friday recalls a dustup with a professor from the University of Vermont women's studies program who he says actively lobbied Nectar's to cancel a recent show at the club.
"They didn't like the fact that we had a poster with a girl giving a blow job to a guy sitting on a toilet taking a dump, which is called a 'blumpie,' Friday says matter-of-factly. "And that, of course, would lead to a cump."
(Are you seriously still reading this?)
Touchpants' songs have been accused of being sexist, misogynistic and obscene. And they are. There's really no other way to describe music that gleefully incorporates themes of incest, bodily fluids and degrading sex acts — often in a single song. But the Berklee College of Music-trained Dix is quick to point out the band's shtick is just that: shtick.
"This is the kind of comedy musicians and comedians like," he says. "It's not for everyone."
"Or anyone," says Friday.
Still, there is no denying the band's strange appeal. Everyone, Dix points out, has a dark side. And through Friday's filthy, sub-grade-school-level poetics, Touchpants have tapped into a vein that delivers a particularly dirty fix.
"I actually think it's all pretty funny," says Bedrosian in a recent phone interview, although even he admits to moments of revulsion.
"When Friday explained to me what a pink sock is, that was pretty rough," he says. (Google that one yourself.)
Bedrosian adds that while boorish profanity is the band's stock-in-trade, their work does have a certain musicality, which helps explain why high-caliber players such as Dix, Bedrosian and Fishman are drawn to the project.
"The music is important, too," he says. "It can be deceiving, but we really do rock out."
Touchpants are planning a second album for release later this year. Compared to their debut, which offered mainly demo-quality ramblings, it will be slickly produced. Though still, as Friday puts it, "absolutely disgusting."
And then comes the long con.
"I want to make the best kids' album we can," says Dix, suggesting a children's album on par with those by They Might Be Giants. "I want soccer moms to be like, 'Hey, have you heard that kids' record by Touchpants? It's so great!'" he continues.
"Then I want those soccer moms to go to the store and buy the wrong Touchpants album."
The original print version of this article was headlined "On the Offensive"