Rob Walsh manages the bar at The Cave, Chapel Hill's famously long-lived dive and venue. Like the dimly lit underground room where he works, Walsh has been an integral part of Franklin Street music for quite a while, whether as an instrumentalist, bandleader or, with his tattooed knuckles and endearingly gruff humor, a character.
Today, he's the bassist of psych-metal trio Bitter Resolve, though he previously played in the much-missed hard rock outfit Dirty Little Heaters. But a trebly, reckless garage-punk band named The Spinns preceded both. This weekend, the trio re-forms for two shows—and, well, lots of drinking.
"It seems like every couple of years our livers are drawn to one another," quips Walsh. Indeed, there have been a few reunions in the seven years since the band split up; together, the members are hard partiers. Singer Todd Colberg has since published a book about his late nights and long drives with the band.
The Spinns formed in 2002, when guitarist Colberg and drummer Josh Johnson brought in Walsh on bass. "Josh and I were hanging around a bunch," Walsh remembers, "so it only seemed natural to play together."
The band soon hit a steady drinking, hard-gigging stride—and found a welcoming niche in what was a garage-friendly Chapel Hill scene.
"It was a rock 'n' roll time back then," explains Walsh. "Todd and I lived in a house behind (Chapel Hill Chinese restaurant) Hunam for three years with no heat or hot water and very little electricity, rent free. So it was easy to quit jobs and go tour."
They shared stages with raucous janglers and genre giants such as The Black Lips and The Detroit Cobras and played Local 506's Sleazefest, a massive garage and rockabilly celebration led by Southern Culture on the Skids. Previous 506 owner Dave Robertson's faithful support of that scene made the 506 a de facto hub for straightforward rock music; Sleazefest was wide open and wild, so much so that Walsh only remembers that The Spinns played a few, not when or how it went. Those lost evenings fueled the breakup.
"The drugs and booze were proving to be too much," Walsh says.
While Walsh remains in Chapel Hill, playing his road-tested Gibson SG bass in area bands, Johnson lives in Los Angeles and Colberg is in New York City. When Johnson's current band, the damaged and delightful Paint Fumes, played New York, he caught up with Colberg. They realized they would be in North Carolina over the same holiday weekend. After Christmas, they'll practice, drink and perhaps record for two days straight. Then The Spinns will play two shows and disband again.
Walsh looks forward to the old, familiar whirlwind: "I miss those wackos."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Two reunions."