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Dave Roepke, Published May 29 2008

Am I really so bad?

For a conflict-avoiding Midwesterner raised on a diet of upbeat emotional repression, asking someone why they are mocking you is a high-level nightmare – better than endless freefall, worse than showing up at the first day of school in nothing but undies.

The sheer directness of it is enough to make my stomach quiver with dread. I’d rather assume bad-mouthing is warranted than be told why it is.

Yet some claims are so bogus you have to set cultural conditioning aside and get an answer. That’s how I found myself asking Addison Shark last week why the local punk band in which he plays guitar and sings, Gumbi, has named a song “Dave Roepke is a Bad Trip.”

I’ve been a bad citizen, a bad friend, a bad employee, a bad student, a bad lover, a bad brother, a bad son and, given the space, I could keep going.

But a bad trip? I think not. I have never been an unenjoyable psychedelic high or, to take a more literal reading, a disagreeable journey.

Shark wasn’t the first guy I asked. The first call went to Gumbi bassist Bill Rohla, who promptly apologized and offered to take my name off the song. It was originally called “Wah Wah,” he said, due to its repeating bass line drenched in a droning effect.

“I don’t even know what it means,” Rohla said of the title of the song, which will appear on a 7-inch the band is releasing in June – the same month it heads out on its longest tour ever. Shark names the songs, but the bass player was not sure if I was being name-checked on purpose. “I think he picked a random name from the newspaper,” he said.

That struck me as an implausible coincidence. I write about rock and pop music for The Forum. Any local band that randomly manages to deride me in a song title should buy lottery tickets.

The next day, I talked to Shark. He was polite, even going out of his way to explain what the term “bad trip” means – an unneeded aside, as I’m 29 years old, not 92.

“Well, when I read ‘Punk Rock Problems,’ that was kind of what it was like,” Shark said, referring to a story I wrote in late April about a spat of vandalism and other troubles at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor – a coffee-house venue for all-ages shows. “I guess it just kind of hit me the wrong way.”

Fair enough. I might not have liked that story either if I was Shark, a 19-year-old punk rocker immersed in the scene. “I’m at the angry place in my life right now,” he said, either displaying an uncommon self-awareness or, more likely, a flair for lip service.

Either way, he’s over it now, he says. He invited me to come see Gumbi at the Red Raven, which I did on Friday. It’s the sort of loud-loving band in which chutzpah matters more than chops. The one time I’d seen the group before, Shark took off his sock to use as a microphone cover.

When they played “Dave Roepke,” there were precisely 26 people present – including myself, the band and the four dudes who walked into the Raven’s back-room dungeon halfway through it.

So I’d have to disagree with Shark’s suggestion that having my name attached to a Gumbi tune has made me a celebrity. But on this point, he’s spot on:

“This is all part of our grand scheme to get more press,” he said. “I guess our plan worked.”

If you go

- What: Gumbi and others

- When: 6 p.m. Friday

- Where: Red Raven Espresso Parlor

- Info: $5; all ages. (701) 478-7337

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535