The Blivets became a favorite on the Wichita band scene in the mid 1980s with hook-laden, high-energy songs such as “Caroline,” “Chainsaw” and “Nothing To Wear.”
The quartet added a dose of Kansas flavor to the style of pop and punk inspired music played by the leading bands of that generation, including REM and The Replacements. In that way The Blivets picked up where one of Wichita’s best-loved and best-known bands, The Embarrassment, left off.
The band was founded by childhood friends Shawn Nichols and Charlie Maxton, who served as the group’s main songwriters. They were joined by bassist Mark Munzinger and, in the classic Blivets configuration, drummer Britt Rosencutter.
When the band formed in 1985 it became part of a small but closely-knit group of musicians who were writing, recording and performing original music. Charlie Maxton remembers those early days.
“It was a small scene at least as far as people who were doing original music,” he says, “I guess you’d call it indie rock now. We didn’t really know what to call it back then."
Maxton points to former KMUW deejays such as Teri Mott and Jake Euker and the long-defunct After Midnight program, which Rosencutter calls “a catalyst” for the scene.
Another important crossroads for local music then, as now, was Kirby’s Beer Store. The tiny bar at the corner of Holyoke and 17th Street has been one of the city’s most important venues for emerging talent since the 1980s.
Shawn Nichols says that when he and the others auditioned for then-owner Richard Davies, there hadn’t yet been a band with electric guitars on the stage.
“We had to play from 9:00 until midnight,” he recalls. “Kirby’s was a tavern at that time. So, we had to have three hours worth of music after we’d been together less than a year.”
At one point the band had more than 250 songs to draw from for shows at venues such as the Y Not, the Coyote Club and Woody’s Back Door, venues that were prominent in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Many nights the group brought more than music to the venues.
There was the issue of celery.
Britt Rosencutter explains.
“We had a large group of dancers at our shows and we just felt that nutrition was an important thing. And, you know,” he says, “celery’s good.”
Well, sometimes, as Shawn Nichols says.
“It always takes a while for the first person to come up and dance," he says. "And nobody would come up and dance and we said, ‘We have celery here. Why don’t you come up and get some?’ Pretty soon you’d see one person come up and grab some celery. Pretty soon it was just stream after stream of person grabbing celery. And, then, pretty soon, it’s flying back at the stage. I guess we hadn’t thought that one all the way through.”
“Don’t give the audience anything they can throw,” adds Rosencutter.
The band came to an end in 1992 when Maxton moved to San Francisco, then Oregon. Munzinger made his way to Virginia while Rosencutter and Nichols remained in Wichita. Maxton has released music as a solo artist in recent years, Rosencutter and Nichols are members of the Wichita band IIIs (eye eye eyes).
Munzinger had barely touched his bass in the last 18 years but happily agreed to join in for the reunion show this weekend.
The show will also unite the band with several other former members. There’s also talk that maybe the quartet will reissues its two beloved but long out-of-print cassettes Margaret and Golly Damn!.
But, Charlie Maxton says, plans don’t stretch far beyond that.
“We’ll make the next record at the next 20 year reunion, I guess. he says.”
Event: The Blivets at Kirby’s Beer Store, Friday, August 2. Time: TBD but most likely 10 p.m.
Music, in order heard:
“Cut and Dried”