ADC from Grand Rapids. Better than Amway.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been archiving some cassette tapes and among them is one of the best noise bands in history, and it came out of Michigan.  Grand Rapids was hardly known for its alt culture; unless you were with the program, it was a genuinely unfriendly place and backwards to boot. More than one band in the 80s drove home to the east vowing to never return.
But recently I’ve seen sites pop up mentioning a unit called ADC, some even posting some of the wicked sounds the three-piece delivered.
I’m lucky enough to have shared a few bills with them when I played guitar in a band called Strange Fruit in the summer and fall of 1983. For a few shows in 1984, I filled in on bass when ADC bassist Toxic Scott was in no shape to play.
But the one specific memory I have that lingers is from a warm afternoon in August 1983, when ADC opened for Strange Fruit in the courtyard outside WIDR, Western Michigan University’s excellent radio station.
As an aside, a few of us in the small boho/whatever community there pulled late night shifts on the station, for no money and driven only by the urge to inflict musical torture on anyone listening. I did it and fondly recall more than once slapping on Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” and taking advantage of the 10-minute song to grab a 40 ouncer from the party store across the street before it the 2 a.m. deadline. The shift ended at 6 a.m. Sometimes it took two.
On this day of the show, the young lady in charge of booking bands for the weekly outdoor WIDR show greeted us all when we showed up. There was no sound check and people who were just out enjoying the day were stopping and hoping to hear some fine music on a fine day. Band crews and fans were there too. The two didn’t mix, at all.
ADC got up there. Charlie Wallace was the singer, armed with a mic plugged into a small guitar amp, which was mic’ed. Scott played a bass that ran through a Rat and into a beefy head and a 2 x 12 speaker cabinet, giving it a rabid high-end squeal. And Melissa – is that name right? – pounded a no cymbal drum set.
ADC wailed from the start, and the feedback from Charlie’s amp sailed through the courtyard, over the small hill to the rest of the campus, and, most crucially, right into the heart of the Lady in Charge. She was mortified, and stood there at first watching, jaw agape.
We were all in awe of this terrific spectacle, watching a band that was both visually arresting and aurally off the hook.
Song after song of this soulful noise was starting to piss some people off. They were leaving, and we were left with the Strange Fruit and ADC faithful. Fine with us. But finally, the booking girl had her fill. She looked angry then distraught.
She approached me, and as she walked toward me, the band screamed in feedback set to a big fat thudding beat. And this girl looked at me and pleaded, as if for her life: “Can’t you make them stop?”
If I were armed, I might have shot her in the knee. It was time to step up – this was the most challenging music she had ever heard – and she wasn’t up to it.
Instead, I just shook my head no, straight faced.
ADC were the best noise band I ever heard. The material is around the Web. Dig in, 28 years late.

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