Stickin' around

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Since hanging it up in 1994, Ugly Stick has acquired legendary status as one of the defining bands of that era's "Columbus sound," a rough-and-tumble blend of jangly college rock, ragged hillbilly twang and booze-fueled garage punk.

Though they didn't achieve much notoriety at the time, now Ugly Stick and their 1993 classic, Absinthe, command respect -- "certainly more so than in 1992, when we were playing to four people in Bernie's," guitarist David Holm joked.

Like many bands that went underappreciated before splitting up, the foursome of Holm, Jeff Clowdus, Ed Mann and Al Huckabee is reuniting, complete with a tour and a new record, Still Glistening.

But unlike many reconvened bands, these lifelong friends from Delaware never stopped making music together, even after Huckabee left Columbus for New York.

"We tried to put this band to bed 14 years ago, and it just sort of didn't work," Holm said. "Every time we'd be together we'd end up writing songs. I think because we all played in the band at such a young age, we just easily write together and it just gelled in a way. It was almost like the music was just happening, so what are we going to do about it?"

Since the breakup, Ugly Stick has played several one-off gigs, including shows around ComFest the past two summers. But as bassist Mann put it, "It was starting to get ridiculous that every year we were having a reunion show, so it's like, why don't we just be a band again?"

So for a few weeks at least, they've set aside other bands like The Townsmen, The Beatdowns and Good Company and hit the road, a step they never took in the early '90s, save for one weeklong couch-surfing stint in Minneapolis.

They left last week for a tour in support of Still Glistening. The record, a worthy sequel to Absinthe, maintains Ugly Stick's "cowpunk" identity while incorporating new flavors like surf instrumental "Candy Corvette Arrangement" and glam tribute "Rock & Roll Party Weekend."

What really resonates, though, is the classic Ugly Stick stuff like the equally rambunctious and downhearted "Left to Lay" and the steam-train harmonizing of "Tammie's Landing." Whatever new tricks they've picked up, these are the same old dogs.

The tour winds back to Columbus on Friday, where Ugly Stick will celebrate Still Glistening with buddies Earwig and Vespin at The Summit, and finishes Saturday with a show in Delaware, where the quartet began banging out rock songs as teens in the late '80s.

After that, the band has no definite long-term plans. Huckabee still lives in New York, but Ugly Stick intends to keep playing shows and recording, even if it's just in small doses.

"As long as we are friends," guitarist Huckabee said, "we're always going to be doing something."

Ugly Stick