Renegade Ape Is Still Missing!

Renegade Ape

Puerto Rican punk band vanishes without a trace. Police sift clues.

It was 20 years ago today that Renegade Ape and two other bands were scheduled to play a free show at O’Neill Park on the campus of CSU Fresno. A crowd of curious people showed up, but the bands didn’t. What really happened that night has been the subject of speculation ever since.

I think someone made a mistake when they printed the flyers. The show was billed as “Horror Rock,” but Renegade Ape was clearly a hardcore punk band. Looking back at the flyer, I get a bit nostalgic. This was back in a day when bands from all over the place toured the country in a van Minutemen style. I’m sure they probably still do, but it couldn’t possibly be like it was back then.

This was around the time the Dead Kennedys played a gig in a dairy barn out in Clovis. There were no less than 27 opening bands that night. Everyone and his mohawk wanted to open for Jello and Co. That show was broken up by the Clovis PD about 10 seconds into the DK’s second song. Good thing they booked so many opening bands.

Anyway, back to Renegade Ape. I never imagined the band did not exist. In fact, those were my exact words – I’m quoted in the Fresno Bee. If the Bee says it, it must be true!

One clear memory I have of that evening is Bee reporter Colleen Fitzpatrick asking me if I was embarrassed that KFSR had promoted a show for a band that did not exist. In response, I asked her if she was embarrassed to write for a newspaper that printed a photo of a band that did not exist. Somehow my response didn’t make it into the final story.

To be fair, KFSR hadn’t actually “promoted” the show. They merely announced the free event during regularly scheduled public service announcements. I suppose you could argue the Bee was just doing the same. Except they did print a photo, so it was kind of strange that one of their reporters was pointing fingers at another media outlet.

Now that 20 years have passed, I feel it’s time to reveal the truth about Renegade Ape, so here it is: Renegade Ape was a real band. They were from Puerto Rico. They really wanted to play in Fresno that night, but things just didn’t work out as planned.

I know Renegade Ape existed because they sent me a personal note of apology shortly after the show that didn’t happen. They also sent a tape, which was dubbed to a cart and put in KFSR’s cart rack with songs from local bands. The song received a surprising amount of airplay over the rest of that summer, and the band became a staple of Johnny Heathen’s hardcore show.

Do you think Johnny Heathen would be fooled by the old “fake band hoax?” Johnny was hardcore. There’s no way he’d be fooled.

There’s one other weird vivid memory I have of that evening: Dale Stewart arguing on behalf of the missing band. He was explaining to anyone who would listen how difficult it was to be in a band — and not just any kind of band, a hardcore band. He came up with a number of possible scenarios for what might have happened (“The lead singer might be in jail.” “They might have been deported,” “The van broke down”).

Now that I think about it, the whole thing might have been concocted by Dale as some kind of meta-commentary on the hardcore scene.

Nah. I know for a fact that Mike Huffman was behind the whole thing. He told me so himself. I promised to keep it a secret, but it’s been 20 years. The statute of limitations must surely have expired by now.

Still, I’d like to believe Renegade Ape was real. And whatever happened to Death Trap and Diet Food Terror?

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