Illuminated by red and blue lights in a packed hall at Fort George Brewery, a group of five men grabbed guitars, drumsticks and microphones and launched a setlist of covers that everyone liked.
The concert was quite different from what they do under flashing lights of the same colors at their daytime job. Each of them works in the police in Astoria.
Singer Jason Hoover works in the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office, while Kevin Berry, Chris McNeary and Andrew Randall work for the Astoria Police Department and bassist Keith Warren works as an Astoria Port Security Officer.
Getting together to play music is an escape from the stress of their job.
“You don’t think of police work when you play the guitar, sing along and listen to the drums,” said McNeary, guitarist and singer. “It definitely puts you out of that area where you do police work, which as a lot of people know is pretty stressful right now. “
The men formed the unlikely group on a whim. Berry had been playing guitar since college and was invited to perform at the Clatsop County Fair in 2019 after posting a few covers on YouTube. He agreed on the condition that he could play with law enforcement friends who were also inclined to music. The group formed plans to put on a one-off show under the ironic group name Public Nuisance.
The county fair performance was a fundraiser for the Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, which supports families of officers killed in the line of duty. The guys noticed the group’s work in action in 2016 when Seaside Police Sgt. Jason Goodding was shot dead while attempting to serve an arrest warrant.
“We kind of wanted to support this organization because they had done a lot for this officer,” McNeary added.
The performance at the fairground was a success, and the group yearned for more opportunities to perform.
“We were like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever; it’s better than work, ”McNeary said.
But just after Public Nuisance established a regular concert schedule in Astoria, the coronavirus pandemic forced closures and cancellations.
Now that the halls are opening for live shows, the officers are relaunching their musical outlet. However, they are making some logistical changes due to difficulties in aligning their enforcement schedules.
Public Nuisance will continue to book shows whenever the five law enforcement officers are available. Still, the three Astoria cops have formed a splinter group called Yard Dogs, with the ability to book concerts more often. Yard Dogs’ next performance is Friday night on New Years Eve at the Worker’s Tavern, and the band will perform from 10 p.m. until after midnight.
The group is excited to join the fun in a whole new way.
“It’s definitely a nice way to show people that not all cops are jerks,” McNeary said.
“It helped being a human factor that you can relate to to see that we’re not just super tight and rigid people outside of work,” Berry added.
Public Nuisance and Yard Dogs play country, rock and pop music from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and modern.
“You name it, we’re going to play it,” McNeary said. “If people want to hear it, we’ll find out.”
The trio aim to create a safe and fun way for people to go out and celebrate the holidays at the Worker’s Tavern.
“You know, if you come into a room where cops are playing – there’s a good chance nothing crazy will happen because the people in the audience are cops,” McNeary said with a chuckle.