Around 1993, me (Gary) and my friend Patrick, met up with a guy named Matt, and decided to try and play a middle school talent show. Also playing with us, was our friend, Duncan. We never rehearsed before the talent show, so obviously it was horrible, basically all of us playing solo performances, simultaneously, but it sparked an interest in making music together. Matt mentioned he would be down to do something, but that he would want to bring his friend Langdon to play guitar too. So we started playing, and writing songs, together. Patrick had the name ‘Golden Llamas’, just something he and his friends had come up with, so we ran with it. The first music we wrote was us trying to play grunge music, but it was so fucked up, that it came out more like garage rock. After we recorded a very basic demo, we took it to a local record store, Soundhole records, where the staff took pity on us, and one of the employees, Bo Dillard (Guitarist and singer of Uphill Down), offered to record a proper demo for us on his four-track. While we were there, we saw all this independent music all over the store shelves, and were mesmerized.
Incidentally, the store owner, Greg Stefan took to calling us all ‘something-llama’, with llama as last name. So Matt Llama, Patrick Llama, etc. This ended up sticking, for Gary, but it wasn’t so much of a term of endearment. He could be overheard uttering things like ‘Don’t give this to the llama’s’, about random store promos, or you would see things marked ‘not for llamas’ around the store, things which he thought the band might end up using to create a mess or crime Things like the promotional spray-paint stencil board that the band Rancid released as a promo, were such of the items banned from being obtained by a llama, as it would have easily ended up used on the shopping complex the store was located in.
After Bo recorded our demo, we began playing shows locally at St Edward’s church, where a local youth group leader had arranged to have punk bands be able to hold shows. We also got hooked up with playing at local clubs like Twisters, and playing usually teenage things like ‘Battle of the bands’ etc, where we would generally lose, to much better bands.
In 1995, the City of Richmond enacted a curfew law with $500 fine imposed on anyone under the age of 18 who was out past 11pm. The curfew was heavily enforced. Dozens of police would show up at Punk shows around 10:45pm with multiple transport vans to arrest anyone out at 11pm, if they even waited that long, sometimes cuffing kids before the actual curfew. To us, it seemed like an assault on the music clubs, whom the City had a history of harassing over any violation of code they could. It was clear, punk rock, and the crowds it drew, were under attack.
Accordingly, we renamed overselves after the fine. It was meant as a sign of protest, and we made every effort to champion the idea of minors being able to play music, and go to shows, in the city. In the summer of 95, we recorded a six-song demo with engineer Mark Miley (who ran glasshand studios, and had recorded other bands from the city), self-titled, and released it on cassette under the name 500$Fine.
For the rest of 1995, and through 1996, we played a fury of shows with bands such as Hot Water Music, Code 13, The Pink Lincolns, as well as local bands like Cloud 13, Pre-Skool, and Knuckle hed. Near the end of 1995, Langdon ended up leaving the band, making us a three piece. But before long, we asked our friend Andrew Clarke to join us on our reggae songs, playing Trumpet.
That March, we got contacted to do an interview in the local newspaper, as part of a series on local music. We were told it would just be little sections about each band. But when it came out, the majority of the article ended up being about us, and featuring us on the cover of the issue.
That following summer, wy went to two studios and recorded material, recording around 13 songs. One studio, Glasshand again, we paid for with the money we had earned from playing shows. The studio rate of $25 per hour allowed us to do that, but we had to rush. The second studio, was with an engineer completeing an internship project, so we paid nothing, recorded 4-songs, and actually got to play around a little in the studio. The idea was to release some of it as a 7″ if we could, or at worst, another cassette.
However, in late 1996, our bassist Patrick Daly was killed in a car accident. We were destroyed emotionally, and as a three piece, functionally. Patrick’s death, at only 16 years old, a musician whom had so much talent, and had such a bright future ahead of him, came as such a tragedy to all of us. It made carrying on very difficult to imagine, yet also, impossible to not do, if not just for a little while.
After a few months of thought, we decided we would try and release the music recorded that summer, as a CD. St Edwards provided us a night to hold a benefit show to raise money to finance the release. Working closely with Patrick’s family, we put the CD together, and it was decided that the CD would be sold as a benefit for the RVA Punk Nation, a local group working to establish an all-ages punk club in the city. Something Patrick had supported, and would have been a big benefit to folks like him and us, if it had existed when we started.
During the next year, we played shows with friends filling in on bass to play events to raise awareness about the upcoming benefit show, and then played the CD release show a year later. The night of the benefit show, large donations were made by individual donors, netting the band around $3k in funds from which to release their CD. It was humbling.
The ‘Forward’ CD ended up being the first release under the label name OVOLR!, a name I had to choose in the moment, as the pressing plant wouldn’t press a disc without a label name.
In 2016, Matt and I met with Patrick’s family and agreed to release the 95 demo cassette on OVOLR!. As the RVA Punk Nation folded, all money gained from the sale of 500$Fine music, is donated to the Central Virginia Food Bank.
But in 2019, I began talking with Michael Adams, the singer for Broken Chains of Segregation, a band whom had played a bunch of shows at St Edwards during its heyday. I had recently seen that my high school reunion was happening, and it spurred a thought: what if we had a reunion for St Eds, rent a bar, and have a bunch of people who played shows, and attended shows, show up, catch up with each other, maybe while listening to music from the time.
But, Michael thought I meant reunion SHOW, and so suggested a few bands to play. As we began helping each other book this show, someone asked if 500$Fine would play. I hit up Matthew about it, and Matthew was into it. For bass, we asked our friend Bradley Lyle, who we had known as the bassist for Cloud 13, and whom had filled in once or twice back when Patrick couldn’t make a show due to school or extracurricular engagements.
The show occured on Nov 30 2019, booked around the Thanksgiving holiday to facilitate ease for bands that had members now living out of town, but whom would be back to see family for the holiday. Fun Size, Broken Chains of Segregation, Kuckle Hed, 500$Fine, and Phelics played to a sold out crowd at the Richmond Music Hall.
So now, having now been practicing for over 9 months, and acquired all the necessary equipment needed, in preparation for this reunion show, Matthew and I talked, and decided to keep playing together. We asked Bradley to continue with us, but he was in one too many bands already. In 2021, we found bassist Jason, and asked him to play bass permanently.
In 2021, we recorded our first new songs together at our practice space, to be released as a self-titled 7″, 500$Fine’s first time on vinyl!