Around the block
The Lazy Universe
Back in the ’90s, the punk-country-rockabilly band Gunshot Licker was a cornerstone of the rip-roaring Reno cowpunk scene, right alongside acts like the Boston Wranglers and the Atomiks.
The band included lead singer and rhythm guitarist Stacey Tolle, bassist Bill Goldie, Jon Caggiula on drums, and Johnny Fingers, whose legendary guitar leads many Renoites remember with stars in their eyes and tales of good ol’ days.
Gunshot Licker broke up around 1999, and it’s still common to hear fans reminisce, half-blissful, half-wistful, with a sense of “you had to-be-there” nostalgia. Aside from the memories, the band didn’t leave much of a trace. There’s no trail of MP3s or vinyl records to revel in—save for a YouTube clip of a 2012 reunion show at Davidson’s Distillery—and the only recordings out there are a few cassette tapes.
They’d play at the bars like the long-closed Blue Lamp, the Zephyr—now a craft cocktail bar, formerly a graffiti-scrawled punk bar—and the Metamorphosis, where Carl’s is now.
Longtime fan Nick Ramirez remembers sold-out shows, Tolle’s “very Reno-centric lyrics … which we all loved,” and that she always looked cool on stage.
Tolle, who is about to turn 50, still looks cool on stage—imagine if the Ramones had a classier younger sister whose combined force of warmth, grit and stage-dominating ’tude could make an old T-shirt look glamorous. And she still writes lyrics about the people on the edges.
“When I was in Reno I wrote a bunch of songs about Reno and that 24-hour culture, the transient lifestyle, and the characters that come through—drugs and alcohol and gambling,” Tolle said. Recently, she’s more likely to pen songs that sound like macabre historical fiction about, say, a schizophrenic woman from the 1940s who married a church leader. And also love songs. Nothing pop-like or saccharine though. More along the lines of psychedelic, dark—and “gloomy like Portland.”
Long story short, after her Reno days, Tolle moved to Austin, Texas, and stayed for around a decade. In 2012, while she was briefly back in the Silver State working on the film Nowhere Nevada, she fell in love with Hudson Flanigan, a musician she’d known back in Reno. The two now live in Portland, Oregon, and have a band called the Lazy Universe. Tolle sings and plays lead guitar. Flanigan is the drummer, and they’re looking for a bass player.
Tolle talks about her real-life love story with so much sweetness it almost sounds like there’s a threat of Disney princess music seeping in through the wall boards. “We have coffee and roll downstairs and jam together,” she swooned. But don’t worry, cowpunk fans—the Disney soundtrack never arrives. Tolle’s more about minor keys and lyrics about characters like “a woman who is a pathological liar and a drug addict and just this kind of fantasy that she makes for herself.”
After toying around with the idea of a birthday trip to Tahiti, Tolle decided instead on Reno, where she could see friends and family—and perform a birthday show at The Saint. For that evening, she’ll assemble a version of the Lazy Universe that will include Flanigan, bassist Ramirez—not just a long-ago fan but also a sometimes collaborator—Tolle’s sister, vocalist Terri Snyder, who lives in Carson City, and sound engineer Tom Gordon on tambourine.