VTO might be the oldest surviving Missoula punk band from the Jay's Upstairs era (and before), though the lineup has changed and the members took some breaks to start families and local businesses. The band just released a new EP, Is It Ok?, but it's worth rehashing its past for entertainment's sake. Charlie Beaton, founder of Big Dipper Ice Cream, started VTO in 1992, and for a while the band was known as Vi Thompson Overdrive, after local television personality Vi Thomson (with no "p"). According to Beaton, Thomson was always cordial to the band members, but her lawyers didn't like the association, and eventually the band was sent a cease and desist notice and asked to recall all copies of its 1994 cassette, Hamburger Time, after which the band shortened its name to just plain VTO.image-1]
Listening to the new EP, it's clear VTO's music hasn't changed much. On the title track Beaton asks the kind of questions people apparently type into Google, including, "Is it ok to drink before noon" and "Is it ok to shave your cat" and, in true VTO style, questions about peeing and farting. That's how VTO has always rolled—lighthearted, immature and fun—and the Beach Boys-flavored punk of "Nuts about Hi-Fi" and the surfy garage instrumental "New Wave Inferno" help fulfill that promise.
The band's upcoming 25th anniversary show promises cameos from former band members and a slate of songs from the early years. I'm hoping to hear "How to Get to My House from East Missoula," which is composed entirely of directions to former drummer Yale Kaul's now-former house, and "Stairway to Frenchtown" in which Beaton sings, "We rode our ten-speeds to Frenchtown Pond/Hugged and kissed until dawn/You said you had a hysterectomy/I thought that was a kind of camera." That's some true romance right there.
VTO plays the Top Hat Fri., May 26, at 10 PM, along with Protest Kids and Magpies. Free.