One of Alabama Greatest Bands: The Dexateens are still kickin’, just not in the original lineup since 2000.
It’s been a whopping 23 years since Craig Gates (guitar), Elliott McPherson (guitar, vocals), Matt Patton (bass), Craig Pickering (drums), and John Smith (guitar) jammed together.
Come Saturday, they’re diving back in, no practice after all these years. McPherson’s hoping for magic, but even if it’s a trainwreck, it’ll be a magical one. He just wants it to sound good, giving folks a blast.
While not MIA, the Dexateens haven’t been lounging. Seven years post their last album “Teenage Hallelujah,” they occasionally rock out, like last May at Mom’s Basement in Birmingham.
This Saturday, post 11 p.m., the OG five reunite at Druid City Brewing Company’s Moon Room stage. They’re closing The Chukker Weekender, honoring Tuscaloosa’s fave bars, shuttered 20 years ago on Halloween.
Matt Patton, Dexateens’ bassist and also rocking with Drive-By Truckers, organized the event. He gathered over a dozen bands, poets, and comics to celebrate the bar that birthed this Southern punk rock gem.
Formed in ’98, they often jammed at The Chukker downtown and Egan’s on the Strip near the University of Alabama. McPherson, Gates, and Smith hailed from Montgomery, Patton from Jasper, and Pickering from Laurel, Mississippi. They dropped their first two albums, “The Dexateens” (2004) and “Red Dust Rising” (2005) with Estrus Records in Washington before rocking with Birmingham’s Skybucket Records on “Hardwire Healing,” co-produced by Patterson Hood and David Barbe in Athens, Georgia.
After a while, Pickering, aka “Sweet Dog,” left, replaced by Brian Gosdin. The departure caused a rift. “It wasn’t pleasant,” Patton said. By 2010, after the fourth record “Singlewide” (also with Skybucket), John Smith and Craig Gates also exited.
With Patton juggling between Dexateens and Truckers, McPherson picked up the pieces, recruiting new talents like Lee Bains, Brad Armstrong, and Taylor Hollingsworth. In 2016, they recorded “Teenage Hallelujah” with Cornelius Chapel Records.
Time healed any drama scars, making a reunion feel less weird. Organizing The Chukker Weekender was a breeze for Patton. Everyone was on board with the idea. McPherson recalls Patton laying down the plan without much room for objections. “It was a good idea,” he said. Excitement is buzzing; they’re texting non-stop about it.
Piecing the original five back is more than special for the group and fans. Missing The Chukker’s final show in 2003, they prioritize this reunion, making it a heartfelt tribute. Druid City Brewing’s Bo Hicks, a fan since McPherson’s previous band, The Phoebes, is stoked for the reunion. He reminisces about hearing Dexateens’ first album in Tuscaloosa, blown away that such rocking vibes could come from there.
Bo Hicks, also a musician, can’t wait to witness the reunion. After 23 years, they haven’t practiced, but there’s a plan. Patton reveals they have a set of songs that rarely see the light, and they’re giving those a shot. McPherson laughs when asked what fans might hear, as if he can’t believe people are excited for the reunion.
The plan was initially to play Craig Gates’ stuff, but they realized it’s not realistic. They’ll mix the classics with some lesser-known gems, creating a nostalgic blast.
As life took them on different paths—McPherson with cabinetry, Patton with the Truckers, Gates in graphic design, Pickering driving trucks, and Smith teaching in Nashville—this reunion is more than a rock show. It’s a reconnecting moment, a journey back to where it all began. The core fellowship and brotherhood are set to shine again, and they just can’t wait to see one another. It’s a real-life ‘Cheers for the Weird,’ a fraternity of freaks, and it’s gonna be awesome.