Don't miss the first five minutes of the Little Dinks reunion show, in fact, no matter how terribly they play and sing, you better stay until the end, too.
Part performance art and musical something, the Little Dinks got their start in those mid-1980s downtown years, when rows of abandoned buildings on Congress Street were being transformed into gallery spaces. This gave the Little Dinks a place to play, and eventually it gave the three-man group (Daniel Buckley, Craig Zingg and Imo Baird) a place in our gravel-lot downtown art scene consciousness.
As part of the 30th Club Congress birthday band reunions going on during HOCO Fest this weekend, the Little Dinks perform Sunday, Sept. 6.
Disbanded since 1996, Buckley says he still wonders why people came to see the Little Dinks. We sat down with Buckley at Time Market last week to talk all things Little Dinks and what we can expect at this moment of '80s downtown nostalgia.
What was the Little Dinks all about to you?
The Little Dinks was about convincing people to do stupid shit and have fun. It started was with Craig Zingg and I when we were musicians and part of an improvisational music workshop at Pima Community College ... We were also part of the Central Arts Collective and for gallery openings we'd play in the rafters where no one could see us. We were called the Out of Sight Orchestra and we'd improvise and invite friends. Whatever happened, happened.
Imo was a performance artist, painter and sculptor and a member of the Dinnerware in those days, but he was a regular of the Central Arts Collective. Imo and I used to perform together and did some video work. The first performance was an Imo piece and we called ourselves Captain Imo and the Little Dinks and then after that it just became the Little Dinks. We performed at galleries and dance theater companies, museums and all kinds of weird things.
Overtime we actually improved. We started so terribly awful and it was so embarrassing. It was an improvement, but not much and we had great times and we sort of decided early on we were never going to be great singers ... On Christmas Eve, Imo happened to be at my house and we went to the Fry's at the end of the street to get beer, and we were at least drunk. We happened to run into an isle of kids toys and these plastic guitars that were thouroughly untunable. We started fiddling with them and laughing our heads off ... and then went back at 3 in the morning because we hadn't bought one for Craig. We started going to Toys rRUs and found these Muppet Babies instruments.
Do you think in this downtown climate, something like the Little Dinks could happen again?
Oh absolutely. Completely. But it happened because of people who started the Downtown Saturday Night at the new art spaces that started to fill up the once abandoned buildings. That's really why we got our start. Eventually we had a regular gig one summer at Cushing Street Bar and that was hilarious. The waitresses loved us. Between songs we'd remind everyone how important it was to drink if you're going to listen to us. "It's the only way you're going to enjoy us. Your waitress is your best friend at a Dinks concert." Well they made good tips. Made more any other shows all week. Arts are still the connector bringing people downtown. We're the ones who created the opportunity. The Dinks are definitely part of that.
How do you expect the reunion show to go?
Every other band that will perform at HOCO Fest will be greater than us, but the joy of playing with those guys, we don't see each other very often. It will be wonderful. ... Also this is the first time we're doing solo numbers. We've always just been three horrible voices on everything. It's been great to see these guys again at rehearsal. We are such close friends.
Will there be a return of Velvis?
Yes. At the end of the show.
So we want to make sure people are there early and stay until the end. Where did the Velvis idea come from? (Difficult to explain. There's a video out there, but trust us, you want to stay for the end, especially if you're in your 20s and 30s)
Craig was dating this woman and we were over at her house having beers and in her living room hung a giant velvet Elvis. The whole time we were there, I kept staring at it. I noticed my pants were the same color as Elvis' pants in the painting and that the painting ended at mid-thigh. We debuted Velvis at a show at El Casino. (Arizona Daily Star's) Kathy Allen's sister was at the show and told Kathy about it. I worked with Kathy back then at the Tucson Citizen and she came up to me at the office and asked if she could talk to Velvis. I thought she was kidding or knew, so I gave her my number and told her he'd be home at 6 that night. The phone rings and she asks for Velvis. I say (Elvis accent), "Yes ma'am, you're speaking to him. Thank you very much." I told her, "I'm married for 15 years to Velvita and we have two kids, Velcro and Velour." The interview went on like that. The following week it was in Kathy's society column. The following Monday she comes in and pops me on the head. "I didn't know, you didn't know," I said.