Ex-Calibre reunion jam, 8/21/77, Kier's basement.

Bands Kier has been in

I don't mean to wallow in nostalgia, especially for something no one cares about. However, I recently found some artifacts that brought back many memories and I wanted to write down the facts before I forgot them forever. And maybe someone else will also enjoy them. There will be links to details and to more subjective memories. If you want to dispute, clarify, or add your perspective to these, send an email to the author (author@strejcek.net). Check out The Front Lines Mailroom to read what others have sent us.

Kier has been in bands since he was 14. The first was Ex-Calibre, a basement band that played covers, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Proud Mary and the like, with him on guitar, and friends Steve on bass and Terrell on drums and vocals. They played in public at a block party, the local Community Church, and Key and Hardy Elementary schools. At the later shows, Michael sang some of the songs.
 

Kier with Djant in 1976

Djant: Jim, Steve, Glenn, Kier, Max; Palisades (DC) Bicentennial concert, 7/4/76

Click to see a short silent film of Djant

At Wilson High School, Kier met other musicians and they started a 5-piece with himself and Glenn (later to start White Boy) on guitar and Max on vocals, Glenn's father Jim (also to be in White Boy) on drums (eventually replaced by Andy W), and Steve on bass again. They played Stones, Bowie, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, more or less Classic Rock, back when it was current. [see set list] You can see a very short, silent Super 8 film from their July 4, 1976 performance at Palisades Playground on YouTube (probably filmed by Nathan). Kier left the band and started a hard rock power trio called Black Knite, also with Steve on bass, various drummers, and sometimes John C (later of The Slickee Boys) on guitar as well. Kier also performed in STUDD Band & Show with Evan also on guitar, Maury on bass, guitar and synth, and Andy W on drums; their only gigs were the Wilson High School talent show and halftime at a Wilson HS football game.
 

Seth and Phil with The Lines at Rally Against the Draft, NU Admin Center, 5/12/79

Kier with The Lines at Rally Against the Draft, NU Admin Center, 5/12/79

John with The Lines at Rally Against the Draft, NU Admin Center, 5/12/79

Kevin with The Front Lines at WNUR's Marathon for MD, 11/20/80

Then Kier went away to college at Northwestern. In the spring of freshman year he found a guitarist (Phil) in his dorm who happened to room with a drummer (Seth) who shared Kier's birthday. Another roommate (John) decided on the spot to take up the bass. They started rehearsing and called themselves The Lines. Their first gig was the Greek Talent Show (Seth and John had pledged ZBT), playing "Hey Joe" (Seth sang) and Robin Trower's "Sinner's Song" (Phil sang). They also played at Paradise (Shanley Hall) and for Armadillo Day, but their biggest gig with that name and lineup was the Rally Against the Draft outside the NU admin offices. [see gig list]

Sophomore year, Seth transferred and John dropped out. (John later got his PhD from U of Maryland, and now teaches Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.) Steve took over the drums and Evanston Township High-schooler Kevin joined after meeting Steve and Phil at The Sound Post in Evanston. [Kevin says: I was there with Tyrome and my mother. Ty had recently purchased a then crazy, revolutionary Kramer Bass, with the aluminum neck. We were there checking out bass amps, Ty was getting my mom to cosign for him.] Tyrome (another awesome bassist) had to chaperone him for a while since Kevin was only 15. The band changed their name to The Front Lines due to the existence of another band by that name; and because too many people thought The Lines was about cocaine. (The Front Lines' T-shirt showed a row of WWI machine-gunners - see Nathan's T-shirt elsewhere on the page). Steve, who has been involved in the music & entertainment business since, started booking the band, and got a friend to record a demo tape (Rebel Not Home; Just Because; Voice of America) in early 1980 (at the first Studiomedia in Evanston). Kier and Phil wrote and co-wrote most of their original songs, and Phil became the official lead singer. [see song list] The band first conquered the NU campus playing at fraternities, especially during Rush Week. Using NU as a springboard and fan base, TFL played all over Chicago, eventually playing clubs like Wizards, O'Banion's, Jamie's Elsewhere, Tut's, Ruts, Metro, Park West, Exit, On Broadway, Biddy Mulligan's, C.O.D., Misfits, Gaspar's, Avalon, etc. Some remain, many have passed on. [see gig list]
 

The Front Lines 4-song E.P. "Where Do We Go From Here?", front, 1980
The Front Lines 4-song E.P. "Where Do We Go From Here?", back, 1980

Steve, Kevin, Phil, Kier, and Bruce walk the Boston streets, 7/2/81

Kier with The Front Lines, NU Years Eve, Orrington Hotel, Evanston, 1/7/82 (Syllabus 1982)

The Front Lines "Capital Attraction"/"In This Universe", front, 1982
The Front Lines "Capital Attraction"/"In This Universe", back, 1982

Kier and Phil with The Front Lines c. 10/1982

The Front Lines with Ed (drums), Bruce, Phil, Kier, and Kevin, c. 1983 (Photo: Kate)

The Front Lines were featured in The Secret History of Chicago Music in the September 1, 2017 issue of the Chicago Reader.

After a successful fall 1980 Rush Week campaign - playing every night for big fraternity money - the band recorded a 4-song e.p. (Night Napalm; Dying in Fiction; Voice of America; Lips Are Sealed) and used it to help book gigs at the above-mentioned venues. By the summer of 1981, Bruce had joined the band on keyboards, and they were ready to embark on a tour of the east coast. The booking of the 10-day tour was an amazing feat by Steve. The band took along Sam, who had engineered recording sessions and gigs for them, and Mitev, a guitarist who the band met at Jim's Charbroil, as roadie. The seven young men drove the Shalom-mobile (an extended Dodge Sportsman van that Kier and Phil had bought from the Council for Jewish Elderly, which had "Shalom" on the hood, painted over, but visible), with a U-Haul trailer attached. They stayed with family and friends to save money, performing at: Ralph's Chadwick Square Diner, Worcester, MA; The Channel, Boston (opening for The Nighthawks); East Side Club, Philadelphia; The Cellar Door, Georgetown, DC; The Ritz, NYC; The Continental, Buffalo; Nunzio's, Detroit. The band really felt like they had arrived when they played the Ritz. The Buffalo gig, however, may have set the bar for hedonism and rowdiness, partying with members of Rick James' Stone City Band. After all that, Detroit was a distinct letdown.

After another successful fall Rush Week campaign in 1981, the band continued playing at NU and in Chicago and even as far afield as Madison, Iowa City, Detroit, Cleveland, Omaha, and Joliet. They played as the opening act for Robert Gordon, Gary U.S. Bonds, The Grass Roots, Mission of Burma, and Modern English. In March of 1982 the band released a single (Capital Attraction; In This Universe) with even slicker production. After bites from two record companies, they recorded another demo (Don't Look Now; The Crossfire) in June. But by August, Steve had left the band. The band, with a new drummer, Jeff, spent a week "woodshedding" in Reading, PA, at Phil's sister's farmhouse. Unfortunately, Jeff only lasted a few gigs before leaving for a wedding band. Ronny (later with The Daves and then Lisa Loeb) filled in on drums for a while, but left and was replaced by Ed. With Ed, they found not only a drummer, but another talented booking agent. In 1983, they recorded a two-song demo (Hide Your Heart Away; Suicide) with Malcolm Chisolm at Zenith/db studios and performed for a Disney cable show (which we never saw) featuring Northwestern students (though Kier had graduated already). Bruce and Phil were taking music/technology classes at Columbia College and got more recording time for demos (Accept Love). [see gig list]

After Ed left in summer 1983, the band fell apart for a while, but then Ed connected Phil with reggae guitarist Darryl Thompson, who tried to get a song of Phil's published, unsuccessfully. The band reunited briefly with John M as drummer, but never played another gig. Ed later played in the Warmers, started Wink Music Group with Bruce, and is now teaching at Columbia College in Chicago; Bruce played in EQ and Like This, started Wink Music Group with Ed, currently performs as a guitarist/vocalist with The Gomez-Gotler Project and Steelheads, and is now a psychiatric social worker; Phil writes songs, collects guitars, and trades on the Chicago Board Options Exchange; Steve is VP at GMR Marketing in Chicago; Kevin played with Bruce in EQ and Like This, and in From Now On with Michael Gillespie, and is now married in Texas.

The Front Lines were featured in "The Secret History of Chicago Music" in the August 29, 2017 issue of the Chicago Reader.


 

Curt, Kier, Mark and Carmen of Friendly Fire (Photo: Inglehart)

Carmen, Curt, Kier, Mark: Friendly Fire at the Cubby Bear, 1987 (Photo: Suzanne Plunkett)

When it was clear that The Front Lines were history, Kier eventually sought out other musicians in Chicago. In 1985, he teamed up with Carmen (another NU alum) on keyboards, Curt on bass and Mike (yet another NU alum, formerly with The Fingers) on drums, as The Fire Next Time, briefly (another band by that name then popped up). Early in 1986, Mike left, to be replaced by Mark on drums, and a new name, Friendly Fire. (Curt & Carmen were married the next year. They now live in New Orleans with child.) Kier played guitar and wrote and sang a majority of their songs, though Curt and Carmen both wrote their own songs and sang them, as well as co-writing with Kier. [see song list] They recorded demos (at Studiomedia and in St Charles) and played all over Chicago (Metro, Park West, Avalon, Cubby Bear, The West End, Gaspar's, Lounge Ax, Limelight, Clubland at The Vic - courtesy of Steve) [see gig list]. Steve also booked Kier as a guest guitarist during songs at the dance club, Clubland. He would stand atop a speaker stack and wail on the Strat to Echo and the Bunnymen, Eurythmics, Ministry, etc.
 

Real Time promo, fall 1989 (photo: F22/MB Cregier)

 

By 1989, Curt left Friendly Fire and was replaced by Bob, who appears on the second demo. But soon Carmen left as well, and a new, short-lived band called Real Time was born, with Tom on keyboards. After Tom got married, he left and was replaced by Marcos, and a new band name, Pop Filter. Before Pop Filter's first gig, in May 1990, Mark left the band. Kier, Bob and Marcos auditioned a dozen drummers and after two rehearsals, their choice quit. With days until a gig at the Cubby Bear, they called the only other drummer who qualified, but he already had another gig. The three decided to perform with Bob's drum machine as their drummer. They had most of their songs programmed anyway for their demos already.
 

New Century Schoolbook 1990 (photo: Brian Stocker)

 

The band continued as a threesome (plus drum machine), renamed New Century Schoolbook. All three wrote songs and sang, creating a three-headed monster from 1990 to 1991. They played at Lounge Ax, At the Tracks, Avalon, etc, but couldn't get into the Metro. [see gig list] They recorded a demo in Bob's cousin Billy's basement, but gave up when it brought no better gigs. Kier decided against auditioning a new batch of strangers and instead entered the bliss of family life. Mark is now a VP at a Chicago bank. Bob moved to Toronto and played in Gone Hazel, then moved to Denmark, got married, and had a son there. In February 2015, after a long and valiant struggle with cancer, Bob passed away peacefully. When last heard from, Marcos was in New York, still playing music as well as engineering recordings and working as Senior Archivist at WNYC Radio.

In 1998, Kier joined dot-com start-up Radiowave.com (actually a spin-off of Motorola), which re-energized Kier's musical sensibility. The company was chock full of musicians, so there were some fun jam sessions. But Radiowave.com didn't make it beyond 2001. Since 2010, when Kier became a Christian, he has played guitar regularly at church. His wife, Cathleen also played guitar at church, and now they write Christian songs together. In 2016, Kier and Cath started recording some of their songs, which you can listen to on YouTube or Facebook.
 

Conor Strejcek: Laughing Lightbulbs

Conor Strejcek: Pyretic

 

Kier and Cathleen's children took up music with gusto. Conor played snare in the Naperville North High School Marching Band, percussion in Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and piano for the high school production of Elton John's Aida. He studied music theory and composition in college. With a digital piano and MIDI software he has recorded two CDs and then some. You can hear some of his work on his Facebook Fan Page, but his best work is on his CDs, Laughing Lightbulbs and Pyretic, available at CDbaby.com. You should also be able to find it on iTunes.

Liam, now in college, played trumpet in junior high Symphonic Band and Jazz Band, and trumpet in the high school Symphonic Winds. He used to play trumpet at church on Sundays, and can also play guitar. Conor (keyboard and cornet), Liam (trumpet) and Kier (guitar) all jammed with brother-in-law Rich (guitar) on Thanksgiving 2008 on the Chicago tune "25 or 6 to 4." In 2009, we all jammed in Nashville, adding Donna and Cathleen into the mix.
 
 

Teen Idles perform at Psyche Deli April 18, 1980

Teen Idles EP

Youth Brigade: Tom, Berto, Nathan, Danny (Touch 'n' Go, July 1981)

Youth Brigade performs

Youth Brigade EP

Bands Nathan has been in

Kier's younger brother, Nathan, achieved much more fame than Kier ever did. Nathan was a founding member of and singer for the seminal D.C. punk bands Teen Idles, with Ian, Jeff, and Geordie (1979-80); and Youth Brigade, with Danny, Bert, and Tom (1981-82). Note in the Touch 'n' Go interview photo, Nathan is wearing a T-shirt from Kier's band, The Front Lines.

More recently, Nathan sang for Mister Id from spring to fall 1987, as well as Mercy Bucket in 1988. He was bassist for Land of the Lost, in several different incarnations, from 1992 to 1993. Jeff and Ian went on to form Minor Threat. Danny went on to drum in Madhouse, Strange Boutique, Swervedriver and Dot Dash. Nathan recently played bass with The Vague Rants and Dear Season. Youth Brigade played a reunion gig (for the punk documentary film Salad Days) at the Black Cat in DC in December 2012. They would also have a punk-funk show with Trouble Funk on February 24, 2013.