Although they are inarguably one of the most popular bands in the world today, in 1994 the Slack Magnets were playing their first string of shows in small venues scattered in and around Milwaukee, usually as an opening band for other relatively unknown indie and punk rock groups. Legend had always held these shows were sloppy and erratic, as the members were ‘primarily drinking partners who formed a band when we ran out of things to talk about’ – according to guitarist and vocalist Eric Borders. It may have taken them a few years to get their act together as composers and performers, but as archivists they never missed a beat. From the very first show, and each one since, the Slack Magnets have recorded every performance they have even given.
Last year the band released their career-spanning box set ‘Idle Gimmicks’ which included a vinyl pressing of the third time they ever took the stage, which was in late June at The Chuckaluck in Madison, Wisconsin. The live recording, which was released in its glorious unmastered rawness, confirmed the inebriated swagger of those early outings. While the album is a great time capsule of the mid-nineties underground music scene, and a peek into the early days of rock royalty, the Slack Magnets’ performance is too chaotic and disjointed to be enjoyed as anything more than a historical novelty. In fact the shining moment of the entire half hour performance comes when an audience member inextricably screams “Bro my balls!” in between songs; which has spawned merchandise, memes, parodies and even a number one hit by the band in the wake of the trope’s popularity.
Since then thousands of people have come forward claiming to be the Bro-My-Balls-Guy, but none of them have provided any evidence to support their allegation. Only a few of them have even been verified to be plausible, but the mystery of who said it and why has been one of the great cultural conundrums of the twenty first century.
For her thirteenth birthday, Charlotte Meyers’ father had promised to take her to a concert of her choice, and the eclectic middle-schooler chose Weezer. As luck would have it, Weezer were scheduled to perform three weeks after her birthday in Chicago, and her father agreed to make the two hour drive from Edgerton, Wisconsin so she could attend her first rock concert.
Unfortunately, on the day of the show, Rivers Cuomo had succumbed fully to a nasty case of influenza, and the event was called off eight hours before it would have started. When Charlotte heard the news on the radio it broke her heart. She had anticipated this night for months and now she would have to wait weeks or months for a make-up date, if there would even be one.
Her father promised they would go see her favorite band as soon as it was possible, but also offered another option in the meantime. They could drive up to Madison the next day and catch an all ages show at one of the many dive bar clubs the college town had to offer. He made some calls and confirmed that there was a show featuring bands that neither of them had ever heard of, but which even a thirteen year old could attend.
“On the way to the show I pretended to be excited for my dad’s sake, since he had gone out of his way to give me an experience, but in my mind it seemed like a poor substitute for what was supposed to have been the greatest night of my life. But once we got inside The Chuckaluck, I was completely thrilled. It smelled like smoke and alcohol and danger. I instantly realized how much cooler this was than some giant events center where basketball games were played.”
Charlotte was reluctant to share her story for fear of not being believed, but after finding some photos she took at the show that she thought had been lost years ago, she reached out to The Whirling Pebble to share her memories and solve the mystery of the Bro-My-Balls-Guy once and for all.
note: The Whirling Pebble has confirmed the authenticity of these photos, which clearly show Charlotte and her father, as well as the Slack Magnets. Former employees and patrons have confirmed the venue appears as it did during that time period. The band themselves believe there is no doubt that this picture is from that specific show.
“The Slack Magnets opened up the show that night, becoming the first band I ever saw live, and from then on they were my favorite band. Weezer was out. I saw them two more times that year and many more times over the years to come. But that first show is etched into my memory in the same way some people remember every detail of their wedding day or 9/11.”
Charlotte can remember precisely the events that led up to the now famous mic bomb.
“There was this guy, this very drunk guy, and he was dancing around like an idiot. I don’t think he was even into the music, he just wanted to be part of the spectacle, so he was going out of his way to act flippant and unruly. My dad kept trying to move us further away from him, but no matter where we went he eventually made his way close to us. Not on purpose, but just as a matter of doing his whole wild boy routine. At some point he decided to engage in some situationally inappropriate skanking, flailing his body around like some misplaced rudeboy, and in doing so ended up unintentionally swinging his fist right into my dad’s crotch. That is the point where you can hear him yelling on the record.”
Of all of the theories to emerge in regards to the incident, so far as I can tell, nobody has ever suggested that genre-defying ska dancing played a part. Yet the inebriated absurdity of the entire situation seems retrospectively appropriate, considering where the band itself was at in their lives and career at the time.
“My dad actually pushed the guy to the ground. By the time the dude got back up and started threatening my dad, the lone security guy had arrived to deal with it, and promptly escorted the dancing nuisance out of the show. Afterwards, between sets, he came over and apologized to my dad for letting things go so far before intervening.”
As far as she knows, her father’s testicles were not seriously injured in the making of the infamous incident.
“He had a great time, too. It must not have bothered him because he spent the next several years enthusiastically escorting me to dozens of shows that he seemed to enjoy as much as I did.”
Charlotte’s father passed away in 2016, three years before his exclamation of pain became a legendary footnote in rock and roll history, but she says he would have appreciate the Bro-My-Balls -Guy phenomenon.
“My dad would have gotten a huge kick out of it. It was a great memory for both of us, and he had a better sense of humor than anyone else I have ever met. And knowing how much amusement it brought everyone would have made him incredibly happy. It was one small groin punch for dad, and one giant leap of joy for mankind.”
R.I.P. Arthur Meyers 1958-2016
The Whirling Pebble, Issue 587, December 2020