In the early 90s, following the lead of groups like Wichita’s Doe A Deer, and Jacksonville’s Rhymes With P, Phil Hatcher assembled a band that fused the punk and metal posturing of his angst-ridden and sexually-tormented adolescence with Broadway showtunes from the heyday of musical theater. The result, the Insane Fosse Posse, tried to reconnect a new generation with a rich chapter of America’s cultural past. “I’d like to bring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein to a younger, hipper audience,” he’d say at the start of each show, just before turning a fire hose on three cockney flower girls dancing in a steel cage. Eventually, however, label interest in the Showcore genre began to wane and, in July of ‘95 at Fireside Bowl, the Insane Fosse Posse played their famous encore medley, "Rock n’ Roll All Night/Surrey With The Fringe On Top," for the final time.

The following summer Phil let me stay with him in Lakeview while I looked for an apartment that would take cats. By that time, he was back in the clubs with a BoDeans tribute band called Milwaukee’s Best. They played to enthusiastic college crowds all over Chicago’s North side, and it appeared that Phil had finally discovered a lasting niche suited to his talents. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. One night, the real Sammy “BoDean” Llanas confronted Phil right before Milwaukee’s Best opened their set at Empty Bottle — The BoDeans, it seemed, had wanted that particular gig for themselves. Phil tried to explain, insisting that Milwaukee’s Best was a celebration of the BoDeans’ art, and that they should be flattered by the effort. Sammy replied by calling Phil an idiot and yelling, loud enough for Phil’s girlfriend to hear, that the BoDeans weren’t even from Milwaukee — they were from Waukesha. Too embarrassed to continue, Phil fled through the alley exit, and he broke up the band the next day. Sammy must have felt bad about it later, because he wrote Phil a letter to apologize. He even suggested that Milwaukee’s Best would be a good name for a Violent Femmes tribute band. I thought that was a pretty good idea, and I said so, but Phil was just sort of soured on the whole thing.

Now Phil’s put together an Offspring tribute called the Offshootz. He doesn’t expect to have the same trouble this time because, while the Offspring are very popular, they aren’t local. One problem Phil does have is that he hasn’t been able to find all of the Offspring’s older CDs. Right now, he has only the newest one, so the sets tend to be kind of short. Phil tries to get around this by playing “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” six times each show; he does an acoustic version and a Esperanto version and he also does it like the BoDeans. During a memorable performance at the U.S. Beer Company last month, the Offshootz played “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” nine times in a row and “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” four times. Recently, Phil’s been on the phone trying to put together a gig sponsored by Q101, a local radio station which, just last Tuesday, played “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” 37 times between noon and 7 p.m.

Phil went to see the real Offspring a few weeks ago at the New World Music Theater and they did a few of their old tunes. At rehearsal the next day, Phil tried to play them on his guitar, but he couldn’t remember all the words. He’s really mad at himself for not bringing a piece of paper to the concert so, if you see him, don’t bring it up. Also, don’t ask, “How come nobody else in the band wanted to go to the concert with you, even though you offered to give everyone a ride?” He’d never come right out and say that he questions their commitment, but you can read between the lines.

With any luck, the Offshootz will stay together long enough for the Offspring to release their next CD. If they break up before then, fans of tribute rock will feel the loss, and not a few of them will wonder, given more songs, what the Offshootz might have been.