Sep 06, 2023, 06:28AM

Death Funk Gods

The funky death metal of Special Sauce.

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As great as National Wrecking Company was, when it comes to unbridled outsider rock awkwardness they were almost conventional when compared to Special Sauce.

The first national music tour I worked on featured the Maryland-based lo-fi hardcore quartet Charm City Suicides. I was the group’s lead singer/songwriter/(mis-)manager. For a month in the summer of 2000 Charm City Suicides (CCS) played in every major region of the U.S. Despite being exposed to our homeland’s biggest cultural hubs, the wildest iconoclasts we encountered weren’t from any urban center. Instead, the most visionary act we played with was the Idaho-based teen death metal-funk duo Special Sauce.

One clarification: This “Special Sauce” has absolutely no relation to the cult 1990s/2000s group G. Love & Special Sauce. The Idaho guitar/drums duo was just called Special Sauce; there was no “G. Love” in their name.

Circumstances surrounding CCS’ Idaho gig were odd when compared those of other 2000 tour dates. Instead of being bookended by other concerts, the Idaho show came in the middle of a scheduled break from gigs taken while we drove our two small cars through the desolate far-western states, places where we couldn’t find venues who catered to our style of music.

The drive began in Minneapolis shortly after we’d played a house show there. By the time we got to Idaho we’d been traveling for 24-48 hours. CCS guitarist Josh and bassist Walker were in Josh’s Toyota Corolla. My Geo Metro was the other tour vehicle; CCS’ fourth drummer Damir drove the Geo for one mega leg of the trip and I drove the other. Traversing parched sprawling landscapes covered in buttes and bluffs, it felt as if we’d landed on some mystery planet.

As the trip dragged on it got more perilous as the two of us had trouble staying awake while driving. By the time we got to my close friend/former Towson roommate April’s apartment in Moscow, Idaho we were exhausted.

Meanwhile Josh and Walker were rested and wired. They’d left mid-America a little earlier than us and had slept somewhere at a rest stop or motel before we all reunited at April’s place. While Damir and I crashed, Josh and Walker wandered around Moscow. During their wandering, through random luck, they managed to secure a last-minute gig for CCS at a local punk rock bar.

Gig time arrived early the next evening. The venue’s booking agent got a local band to open up. This act consisted of two young teenagers—one on guitar, the other on drums. They wore matching blue vinyl aprons on top of street clothes. Both aprons were covered in images of what looked like hundreds of cartoon sperms. The lead singer/guitarist stepped up to the mic: “Hi everyone, we’re called Special Sauce! We wanna thank (insert name of venue) and Charm City Suicides for having us tonight. Please stick around for them… they came from a long way, uh, Massachusetts, right?” One of us responded, “No, Maryland!” We laughed, the singer corrected himself, then the drummer counted off, cueing the death funk onslaught.

For those unfamiliar with funky death metal, the concept is difficult to summarize (especially while trying not to laugh). I’ve never before or since seen or heard another funk-death metal band other than Special Sauce. Death metal-funk can only bring a confusing, but nonetheless incredibly euphoric state. Making things more anomalous was Special Sauce’s lyrical focus. About halfway through their set, their singer exclaimed, “So, in case you’re wondering, all of our songs are about true life occurrences. You know, we’re both teenagers, so we’re going through puberty, so all these songs are about those special moments late at night when we get a little a surprise in bed…” The sparse audience burst into laughter. The singer continued: “It’s that time in our lives when hair begins growing in new places! We’re going through changes! You never know what’s gonna happen in the special moments when boys turn to men!”

Special Sauce’s set of pulsating hormonally-charged grunt lasted about 20 minutes. Normally, after witnessing such baffling awesomeness I’d make a beeline to the artists with compliments and questions. Unfortunately, more bizarre circumstances put a stop to this. Before I could pay my respects, the bar’s bouncer began cussing out the kids. Special Sauce were kicked out. The bouncer became so brutally intimidating that the club manager had to physically force this snarling meathead to walk away. Soon afterward, Special Sauce disappeared into the night without a trace.

Was it all a dream? Was there really a teen death metal funk band who roared about puberty? Or had I been driving so long that I hallucinated this event? Maybe Special Sauce will discover this article and clarify everything. And, if iconoclasm’s power smiles in my direction, they’ll come forth with some great lost demos or practice tapes so that music lovers everywhere can bask in the glory of the world’s best and only(?) death funk gods. Viva la Special Sauce!


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