Tales from Suburban Bohemia: H.O.G. Rally
This post originally appeared on Stumpy Moose on 23 June, 2002, and was migrated to PraguePig.com on 3 November, 2019.
Can you hold a wet T-shirt competition in the rain?
It’s something I’d never considered before but we were going to find out.
The Harley Owners Group’s Prague chapter holds a rally close by our flat every year, but we’d never been before. In an effort to seek out new experiences and spice up our weekend we’d decided to spend some time with the bikers.
We paid a relatively expensive 150 crowns (around three pounds) and entered a rain-sodden field, dotted with a few dismal-looking tents, an empty stage and less than a hundred people. It was hard not to feel disappointed.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation, we decided to check out the bikes, but we weren’t allowed into the camping area where the Harley Davidsons were parked. The day was starting to look like a disaster already, and we were only 15 minutes in.
Checking out the merchandise killed another couple of minutes, then we retreated to the refreshment tent and started drinking, working up the courage to go back and buy nasty American-themed biker/trucker/redneck T-shirts.
Things brightened up when the DeBill Heads took the stage dressed as prisoners, drawing a crowd of around a dozen people. The lead singer cheerily informed the crowd that they’d played to five people at their last concert, so they were pretty excited.
In any other circumstances, the DeBill Heads and their idiotic pub rock (sample song title: “Frantisek is Gay”) would have been awful, but here they were perfect.
A couple of beers later we stepped up to the T-shirt tent. I came away with a T-shirt depicting a wolf against a Confederate flag above the legend “Survivors!”
My friend Brian selected a slightly classier effort, featuring a cartoon blonde rubbing up against a giant spark plug. The slogan: “Bigger Spark, Better Bang.”
(I later added to my collection with a shirt showing an ugly yellow custom car under the slogan “Born to Perform.”)
We obviously looked out of place, but the atmosphere around the whole event was never less than friendly. Disappointing, almost.
Next up on stage was a surf guitar band, Mefisto, whose technical excellence was undermined by a dubious selection of covers. Their version of the Benny Hill theme was pretty cool, though.
By now we were surrounded by two other chapters: the wonderfully named Pelican Chapter from Zurich, Switzerland, and the Rhein Valley Chapter from Germany. Both groups consisted mainly of Americans with a wide range of entertaining patches sewn onto their leather jackets.
Nostalgia seems to be a big part of H.O.G. life. The Vietnam war ended in 1973 but it’s still being fought on the jackets of many H.O.G. members. They’ll never forgive “Jane Fonda, American Traitor Bitch” and want to send troops back into Vietnam to rescue U.S. prisoners of war, regardless of the fact that there’s a Ford plant there now.
Similarly, the music at the Prague rally is mostly retro ’50s and ’60s — none of it better than The Apples, the only group I saw that I’d be tempted to see again. It’s hard to resist a cute female four-piece in matching pink dresses playing Kinks and Beatles covers, but what were nice girls like them doing in a place like this?
By now it was dark, and time for the wet T-shirt competition. Despite the bad weather there were several participants. Trying (successfully) to sway the crowd, the first contestant concluded by taking her shirt off, throwing down the gauntlet to the competition. At the front, meanwhile, a man watched with his wife, carrying his young daughter on his shoulders. The whole thing was disturbingly wholesome.
How do you follow that? The answer appeared to be a ZZ Top cover band, but a couple of minutes into the first song they stripped off their coats and fake beards and revealed themselves to be lingerie-clad strippers. It was somebody’s sexual fantasy, but not mine — but it was a definite show-stopper.
It could only go downhill from there so we went home.