Over the years, Chris Cook has considered more than once putting together a new version of his 1990s college-rock band Mustard. It just never seemed right, he says—the band broke up after bassist Nathan Mitchell's death in 2001, and just replacing him with someone else never seemed appropriate.
"We had always wanted to get back together and play some, but it never felt right, just sticking somebody in his place and going back and playing," Cook says.
Until now. It's taken the loss of another close friend for Cook to finally bring Mustard back. A new lineup—Cook, original drummer Paul Turpin, and a rotating cast of three different bass players—will perform on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Shed at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson in Maryville as part of a tribute to Dave Walker. Walker, a founding member of the High Score and a long-time friend of dozens of local musicians and scenesters, died in December after an accident. He was 44.
"It's a great opportunity to get back and play and have a reason to do it," Cook says. "Dave was a huge part of the band, even though he wasn't in the band. He was always videoing us, doing graphic design, fliers—he was always really involved in that band."
The reunited Mustard will play alongside the High Score; the French; and Punken Stupor, a new punk tribute project featuring Kevin Abernathy, Derek Senter of WUTK's Funhouse, Manning Jenkins of Finkelsteen, and current High Score members Brad Henderson and Vance Hillard.
Cook and Walker became friends in the 1980s at McMinn County High School in Athens, Tenn. "Dave and I were best friends for 27 years," Cook says. "He was the best man at my wedding. We lived together for several years in Fourth and Gill. Before we even moved to Knoxville, we worked a job together traveling the country."
When Cook started Mustard in the mid-'90s, Walker did the band's artwork and attended almost every show and practice. He was nearly as enthusiastic about the rest of the band's in Knoxville at the time.
"He was the bass player in the High Score, but even before that, he was just a guy who was part of the scene," says Robbie Trosper of the High Score, who helped organize the benefit show next weekend. "Every time you'd go to a show, there was Dave, taking photos. He was just part of the scene for so long—it's sad that he's not going to be around."
After the demise of Mustard, Cook and Walker joined Trosper in the High Score, which eventually also became Mic Harrison's backing band. It was Walker's first and only music gig; after he left the band in 2006, he sold his bass and equipment and started building motorcycles.
"I don't know how I'm going to be able to get through the show, in a way," Cook says. "It's pretty close to my heart, the whole thing. Every single musician in every single one of the bands we're playing with, I hold a special place in my heart for them. … I don't know how I'm going to get through the show without being a big crybaby all the way through it."
Admission to the show is $5. All proceeds will be donated to Walker's family to help pay his medical bills.