Lincoln Lounge302 E. Fourth St.
Reno, NV 89512
Miracle Drugs performs pop-punk as it should be performed: ecstatically. Lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Damon is formerly of Reno pop-punk institutions Big in Japan and Zoinks!, and the style carries through to Miracle Drugs, recalling Jawbreaker and Screeching Weasel, in which Damon played guitar for two releases, 1998’s Television City Dream and Major Label Debut. In this tradition, Damon scores furious and broken scenarios to composed, catchy arrangements, lending sense to the fundamentally senseless.
“With this band, I’ve been trying to go for something pretty straightforward,” says Damon. “It’s rock ’n’ roll, but it’s got a pop-punk element in there. I like hooky rock music that’s not too complex. That’s pretty much how I write. I couldn’t write a complex song to save my life.”
Miracle Drugs also features bassist Shane Forster, formerly of the Juvinals, and drummer Preston Duhon.
“When I finally decided I wanted to do a band again, I hit them up,” says Damon. “No crazy story—just, ‘I want to start a band. You guys want to play?’”
“It came together really easily,” says Duhon. “[There was] a lot of drama with the last couple bands I’ve been in. It seemed to be really hectic. This came together nicely.”
Miracle Drugs formed last spring. Since then they’ve played a few shows and attempted to carve out a space in a scene not necessarily conducive to pop-punk. Their scheduled show at The Zephyr on June 30, due to competition from other local shows, complications with promotion, and problems with the touring band on the bill, was so sparsely attended that performing seemed an empty gesture.
“We showed up with our gear, and nobody was there,” says Damon. “The out-of-town band broke down, so they didn’t make it. … It’s a lot of energy to unload the van, put your gear up and play to them, if they stick around.”
“It was us, the bartender, two locals who’ve been going there since I’ve been going to Zephyr and our buddy Mark Norris of the Juvinals,” says Forster. “I felt bad not playing because Mark wanted to see us, so we just bought him beers instead.”
While the show collapsed for reasons specific to it, it seems indicative of wider problems in the Reno music scene concerning low attendance and the swift disappearance of former scene staples. These observations depend on where you focus your attention, and summer is always a time of great exodus from Reno, but Forster has observed a definite shift.
“I think there’s a lot of difference … from when the Juvinals were playing when they’d actually have people coming out to the shows,” says Forster. “It had nothing to do with us as a band other than the fact that there were other bands that had energy and drive that wanted to play for themselves and their friends—that made people want to come to the shows. I feel right now that there’s a lack of that to some degree.”
Meanwhile, Damon, regardless of the local ebb and flow, retains a sense of solidarity, at least within himself.
“I’ve just taken on the attitude of ‘I’m doing this for myself,’” says Damon. “I want to write songs and play them and record them and make records strictly for me. If people appreciate it, great.”