They grew from the ashes of an ultra-political prog-hardcore band, they performed in suits, they gave away free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, in 1997, they won the title of "Best Punk Band" from this very paper. Say the word "Siren" to a certain generation of Sonoma County residents, and the jubilant, melodic, D.C.-inspired band comes rushing back vividly, a band with equal amounts accessibility and confidence who loudly provided an eye-opening gateway to new ways of living.
But in 1997, Siren played their last show, quietly, in Richmond, Va. Singer Brian Zero and guitarist Adam Glidewell had tried to keep the band going after bassist and drummer Joe Carr and Kevin McCracken left, but the blow was hard to take—especially when it came to light that McCracken, hooked on heroin, had burned through $1,200 saved for a local startup collective called the Independent Arts Coalition.
"I want to make this really clear," emphasizes McCracken, sitting behind a drum kit last week at one of the first Siren practices in 14 years. "I don't make any excuses for what I did. None. Not for any of the people I fucked with or stole from. And I've made serious reparations for that."
In the practice space—and out of it, for that matter—the consensus is clear: Kevin's OK now. He's since cofounded Social Imprints, a printing company that hires former addicts whose clients include Metallica, Wikipedia, JetBlue and others. In 2009, he even entertained the idea of reforming Siren for a reunion show, but something wasn't right. "I just thought it was silly for us to get back together," says Glidewell, the lone holdout. "What this band always meant to me was being able to do positive things with it, and to benefit others."
That opportunity comes this weekend, when Siren play their first show in 14 years to help pay the medical bills of McCracken's wife, Nicole, who's been diagnosed with breast cancer. Siren fans are flying in from all over the country for it, and today, the band's making sure they won't let them down.
Someone shouts "One-two-three-four!" and Siren launch into "Die Cast Mottos," an appropriate anthem for a benefit show. "It's what you take, not what you give, is this our motto?" Zero sings, as powerfully as he did 14 years ago. "How much you make, not how you live, is this our motto?"
Siren, the Velvet Teen, Cropduster and others play on Saturday, June 25, at the Phoenix Theater. 201 E. Washington St., Petaluma. 7:30pm. $10. 707.762.3565.