500$Fine was a political punk band of 15-16 year olds from the southside of Richmond, Virginia, circa 1994-1996.
The band started in 1993 as ‘Golden Llamas’ and renamed themselves 500$fine in 1995. A few demos were recorded.
In 1997, they released a CD, ‘Forward’, of two of these demo tapes following the death of their bass player. The CD was a benefit for the RVA Punk Nation, a group working to open an all ages club in RVA.
The band orginally formed in late 1993 as 'Golden Llamas' playing what they thought was alternative music, but it was so fucked up, that it came out more like garage rock. The band, looking to sell their Demo tape, went to a local record store, Soundhole records, where the staff took pity on them, and one of the employees, Bo Dillard (Guitarist and singer of Uphill Down), offered to record a proper demo for them on his four-track. Perusing the store shelves, they also discovered more independent music, and ultimately, the punk rock they would love and play.
Incidentally, the store owner, Greg Stefan took to calling the 'llamas' by each of their names, with llama as last name. This ended up sticking, for Gary, but it wasn't so much of a term of endearment. He could be overheard uttering things like 'Don't give this to the llama's', about random store promos, or you would see things marked 'not for llamas' around the store, things which he thought the band might end up using to create a mess or monstosity. Things like the promotional spray-paint stencil board that the band Rancid released as a promo, were such of the items banned from being obtained by llama, as it would have ended up used on the shopping complex the store was located in.
Following the Demo, the band began playing shows locally at St Edward's church, where a local youth group leader had arranged to have punk bands be able to hold shows. They also began playing at local clubs like Twisters, and playing usually teenage things like 'Battle of the bands' etc, where they would generally lose.
In 1995, the City of Richmond enacted a curfew law with $500 fine imposed on anyone under the age of 18 who was out past 11pm. The curefew was heavily enforced. Dozens of police would show up at Punk shows around 10:45pm with multiple transport vans to arrest anyone out at 11pm, if they even waited that long, sometimes cuffing kids before the actual curfew. To the band, it seemed like an assault on the music clubs, whom the City had a history of harrasing over any violation of code they could. It was clear, punk rock, and the crowds it drew, were under attack.
Accordingly, the band renamed themselves after the fine. The band took it as a sign of protest, and made every effort to champion the idea of minors being able to play music, and go to shows, in the city. In the summer of 95, the band recorded a six-song demo with engineer Mark Miley (who ran glasshand studios, and had recorded other bands from the city), self-titled, and released it on cassette under the name 500$Fine.
In 1996, a flury of shows were played with bands such as Hot Water Music, Code 13, The Pink Lincolns, as well as local bands like Cloud 13, Pre-Skool, and Knucklhed. Guitarist Langdon ended up leaving the band in the earlier part of the year, leaving the band as a three piece, before adding friend Andrew Clarke on Trumpet, to accompany the band on their ska-influenced songs. That March, the band was given an interview in the local newspaper, as part of a series on local music. Unbenkonst to the band, the majority of the article ended up being about them, giving them the cover of the issue.
In that following summer, they went to two studios and recorded material, recording around 13 songs. The idea was to release some of it as a 7" if they could, or atleast another cassette.
However, in late 1996, bassist Patrick Daly was died in a car accident. The band was destroyed emotionally, and as a three piece, functionally. Patrick's death, at only 16 years old, a musician whom had so much talent, and had such a bright future ahead of him, came as such a tragedy. After a few months of thought, the Band decided they would try and release the music recorded that summer, as a CD. St Edwards provided them a night to hold a benefit show, and there were many generous donations. Working closely with Patrick's family, a CD was put together, and it was decided that the CD would be sold as a benefit for the RVA Punk Nation, a local group working to establish an all-ages punk club in the city. Something Patrick had supported, and would have made life for, and of folks like him, easier as young musicians.
The 'Forward' CD ended up being the first release under the label name OVOLR!, as Gary had to choose a label name for the pressing plant to complete it.
In 2016, Matt and Gary met with Patrick's family and agreed to release the 95 demo cassette on OVOLR!. As the RVA Punk Nation folded, all money gained from the sale of 500$Fine music, is donated to the Central Virginia Food Bank.