But as the group discovered early recordings of Devo, the B-52s, and Television, they began to shift their goals. They quickly found willing bandmates in Gilbert and Travis, settling on MacLachlan a bit later, and the rest was history. Their first show was at the Birdcage, a rock bar in the Combat Zone that doubled as a strip club.
Clint Conley, a founding member of Mission of Burma, who launched soon after the Humans began playing, remembers their rise. “The prevailing aesthetic at the time was all about reductionism, ripped T-shirts, and proudly reckless technique,” he says. “But here was this strange theatrical collective with elaborate costumes and ensemble vocal arrangements. They were one of those bands that come around so rarely that make their listeners feel part of a select club.”
The band happily alternated between shows at rock venues like the Paradise and gay clubs like the defunct 1270, and they do link a good portion of their momentum to the growing Gay Pride movement at the time, but Lamot says part of the appeal for them was inclusivity. “Our crowd was so totally mixed,” he says. “You’d have hard biker guys standing next to drag queens standing next to hippies standing next to beatniks and strippers from the Zone.”
Gilbert says their punk roots were not to be taken lightly. “In those days, aligning yourself with punk music was still a risky move,” he says. “Clubs like the Spit would actually close early so kids would have time to get out before people getting out of the discos got out and started fights.”
By 1980, they were touring the country. Their first album was all over college radio and the band bought a checker cab to tour in (“We could fit seven of us in it because, in those days, we didn’t have seat belts,” says Cameron). They found themselves playing with the Talking Heads, the Ramones, and Public Image Ltd. KROQ picked up “Jackie Onassis” and the Go-Go’s came to watch them in Los Angeles. They met Andy Warhol at a show with the Knack in New York.
But not long after the release of their second album, the band imploded. No one can cite one clear factor — some think they were feeling stagnant about the stage show, some felt Bangor and Gilbert were getting tired of writing for seven people.
Lamot and Davis moved to Key West soon after and began renovating houses (Lamot also began a new cabaret career as Musty Chiffon). They now run a bed and breakfast in Hudson, N.Y. Cameron got married, had a daughter, and moved to the Bay Area to work for Sun Microsystems — her daughter, Cameron Mesirow, performs as the acclaimed indie act Glasser. Bangor, Gilbert, and Travis went on to form the Zulus in Boston. Travis later played in Sugar; and Gilbert has found a lasting career as a guitarist, backing up Pixies singer Frank Black for a while and eventually moving to Nashville, where he lives now and gigs four to five nights a week. Crocker himself had turned to a long career of interactive media installations at museums around the world — everything from the Basketball Hall of Fame to the Carnegie Institute.
Time’s been flying since ’82, so it still feels like yesterday for Crocker when, in 2002, he decided to finally transfer his archive of band footage off of his piles of three-quarter-inch tape onto a digital drive before it all wasted away. Watching some of his old footage of the Humans, he thought, “Wait a second, this is really good. It looks fresh, it feels good, and it sounds terrific.” He cut a couple of songs and put them up on his own archival website and on YouTube and approached the band about doing a DVD.
The result feels like a lifetime in the making, and for many young, late-arriving fans who will be at the show in Boston, it will literally be even longer. Nevertheless, it will be a worthy document of a particularly vibrant era in Boston rock history when weird bands ruled, punk hardly had any idea what it was doing, and you couldn’t see any of it happening unless you were there.
Bangor remembers those days as being not so different from his days now. “I still write songs and stories and poems,” he says of his current life in New York. “It’s nothing like a career, but it’s basically why the band got together in the first place. It’s just what we did to entertain ourselves.”
Matt Parish can be reached at email@example.com.