Fan pin of "The Limit" Circa 1981
By: Keith Spera, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
December 26, 2012 at 1:14 PM
The Limit reunite at Jimmy's on Dec. 28-29, 2012
Long before he sported Western shirts and a twang as the frontman of honky-tonk ensemble Ghost Town, Christian Serpas wore an entirely different musical identity. Back in the early 1980s, he wrapped himself in skinny black jeans and British flags as the bassist and singer in a New Wave trio called The Limit.
The Limit might well have remained a footnote in New Orleans music history had the band not recorded a four-song, 10-inch EP in late 1982. Much to Serpas’ surprise, that three-decades-old recording has found fresh life amongst new fans of vintage, and obscure, ’80s power pop.
Original copies of The Limit’s EP sell for more than $100 on eBay. Those songs have now been packaged with other old Limit recordings and re-issued on CD and limited-edition vinyl by a Texas indie label.
This weekend, Serpas and his former bandmates – guitarist Manny Reyes and drummers Justin Newbury and Jeff Oteri – will once again perform as The Limit as part of the New Orleans Punk Rock/New Wave Scene Reunion at the reborn Jimmy’s Music Club. On Friday, Dec. 28, the Limit joins the Models, featuring frontman Johnny Indovina, Stephi & the Whitesox, the Front and the Backstabbers at Jimmy’s. The reunion continues on Saturday, Dec. 29th with Sexdog, the Lenny Zenith Band, Waka Waka and Clockwork Elvis. Admission is free; show time is 8 p.m.
They specialized in curt, adrenalized power pop, all elastic bass, simple guitar hooks, and high kicks; in “Uh Oh” and elsewhere, Serpas seemed to channel the Cars’ Ric Ocasek. They pogoed their way through Jimmy’s, Jed’s, Tupelo's Tavern and The Showboat, a rock venue on Hessmer Avenue at the heart of Fat City. WRNO-FM, then the city’s reigning rock station, selected the Limit’s “Modern Girl” for inclusion on the station’s popular compilation album of local bands. Considerable airplay resulted.
In the spring of 1983, the Limit released its own four-song EP. By then, Newbury had left the band, replaced by Oteri (who is now the drummer in Ghost Town).
The Limit EP failed to generate much interest beyond New Orleans. Momentum stalled, Reyes quit, and by January 1984, the Limit was finished.
Twenty-one years later, Serpas was rummaging through a bathroom closet in his mother’s house in Arabi when he came across a sealed box of the Limit’s EPs. He moved the box to his own house on the north shore. Weeks later, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the contents of her house. Had Serpas not gone in search of towels, the records would have been lost.
Early this year, he received a message from someone wanting to know if he was Christian Paul Serpas from the Limit. Surprised that this ghost from his past had been exhumed, he returned the call.
The caller turned out to be a representative of Cheap Rewards Records in Austin, Tex. He informed Serpas that the Limit’s EP was now a collectors’ item, highly prized amidst a resurgent audience for early-‘80s New Wave power pop. Cheap Rewards wanted to reissue The Limit EP on CD, along with any other vintage recordings Serpas might have.
He dug out a seven-song live recording of a Limit performance at the St. Bernard Civic Auditorium from May 1982. That material, along with the band’s five studio recordings and a demo of “Uh Oh,” comprises the new Limit CD and vinyl LP.
Limit fans in Japan, Germany, France and elsewhere have checked in with the Limit’s new Facebook page. A Chicago indie rock band called the Busy Signals has recorded its own version of “Uh Oh” with a female vocalist.
“It’s weird how we put out a record in the ‘80s, and it’s still alive,” Serpas said recently. “Who knows who it’s going to get passed on to?”
He, Reyes, Oteri and Newbury have remained friends, and are amused by the renewed interest in their long-ago project. “We’re all enjoying it,” Serpas said. “It’s very flattering.”
They’re also looking forward to dusting off the old songs for this weekend’s reunion show. Back in the day, black was the preferred stage attire for The Limit, as it is now for Ghost Town. Might Serpas dig out some of his vintage New Wave skinny jeans for the upcoming show?
“I think I probably have something in the attic,” he said, “but there’s not a chance that I would wear it.”
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