lazyhome         reviews         hype         webboard                interviews


The Filter Kings

Filter Kings: Electric Cowboys

story by tim mcmahan
photos by mark fountain



Lazy-i: Sept. 25, 2008

Filter Kings
w/ Black Squirrels, Wagon Blasters
Friday, Sept. 26, 9 p.m.
The Waiting Room
6212 Maple St.

The decision to wear a cowboy hat is never made lightly.

It's not like slapping on a seed cap or ball cap with a logo just above the brim. A cowboy hat carries an even louder message; it makes an undeniable statement about the person wearing it, where he comes from and where he wants to go. It's showy. It stands out. It means something. And it almost always has a story behind it. 

Two years ago before stepping foot on stage at The Saddle Creek Bar for the very first Filter Kings gig, frontman Gerald Lee Meyerpeter, Jr., decided it was time to wear a cowboy hat. He knew he was crossing a threshold and there was no turning back. "I was a bit nervous," he said. "I was jumping in with both feet. It was like having my first lap dance."



Meyerpeter was never a country music fan growing up in Council Bluffs, though his dad, Gerald Lee Sr., was. "He was full-on country, that's all he liked," Meyerpeter said, standing a few yards from the Central Park slides where his own son, 7-year-old Logan, was playing with the other kids. "The only rock 'n' roll song my dad liked was 'House of the Rising Sun.'"

God only knows what Sr. thought of the edgy, angry, psychedelic punk that his then 22-year-old son was making as a member of seminal Omaha band Cactus Nerve Thang back in the early '90s. "We played music that fit in down in the dark dungeon parties where people were doing psychotropic things," Meyerpeter said.

With the support of Omaha record store owner Dave Sink, Cactus Nerve Thang signed to Grass Records -- the same label that signed fellow Omaha punk band Mousetrap. Grass released their debut, Sloth, in 1993, but Cactus Nerve Thang never took off, and two years later the band broke up. Meyerpeter eventually resurfaced as a member of punk band Bad Luck Charm, well on his way to what looked like a long career playing loud, hard rock.

Then four years ago Meyerpeter's life took a turn when his father suffered a massive heart attack. "He died before he hit the ground," Meyerpeter said. "We didn't get along very good for the longest time, and then we did. We started seeing eye-to-eye more often, and then he died."

To help cope, Meyerpeter began writing songs about his father and his life in Council Bluffs, influenced by the kind of music Jerry Sr. loved by artists like Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and George Jones. Shortly after playing a solo acoustic set at Mick's, upright bass player Todd Dickey of The Mercurys, asked Meyerpeter if he'd like to collaborate. The duo gigged together over the next two years, most notably at booze-drenched barbecue hootenannies held at The 49'r. Before long, they were joined by drummer Chris Siebken, who had played with Meyerpeter in the Social Distortion tribute band Lude Boys. With the addition of guitarist, pedal-steel player and fiddler Josh Dunwoody, the Filter Kings were born.

Their dirt-grit country rock combined Meyerpeter's new-found love for traditional C&W with his ingrained punk background and Dickey's flair for rockabilly. Pour on a few shots of 100 proof anything, and you had the perfect soundtrack for a beer-drenched, white-knuckled bar fight, the kind of red-dirt honky-tonk music best played behind a chicken-wire fence, wearing a beat-up cowboy hat.

The Filter King's brash brand of country is captured on their debut album, Finer Things, released on legendary local label Speed! Nebraska Records (The Monroes, Ideal Cleaners). The CD's 14 tracks consist of Meyerpeter's broken-bottle love songs with lines like "I bet my money on a sure-fire honey and I lost every thing I had," and " I’m gonna get f**ked up if I can / I'm a hundred proof man" sung in his craggy, brassy growl framed in glowing pedal steel. Their sound recalls bands like The Silos and Uncle Tupelo who balanced the twang with something a little harder, a little darker. Lighting things up are two more-upbeat ramblers by Dickey and a cover written by Dunwoody's father, Mark.

Meyerpeter said playing country requires a different swagger than playing punk. "There's a purer sound to your amp and acoustic guitar, fewer effects, and a lot less screaming," he said. "It's just as intense, it's just a different kind of intensity."

Or maybe it's just the hat.

Back to  huge.gif (2200 bytes)

Published in The Omaha Reader Sept. 25, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Photos by Mark Fountain. Copyright © 2008 Mark Fountain. Used with permission.















"I was a bit nervous. I was jumping in with both feet. It was like having my first lap dance."