Vic Dicara’s guitar playing was a marginal character in my life for a few months when I was 16, mainly because I was an unfortunate fan of the East Coast based Krishnacore band Shelter. Dicara spent a few months in an early incarnation of Shelter, and at the time, I saw them at least a half dozen times. I don’t even remember too much about the playing of the music, but I vividly remember the conflict that a Krishna-fronted band presented for the youth, the parents and everyone in between that dared to question authority and rallied against the establishment. It spilled out into the parking lots of shows and bled onto every fanzine of the time. It pushed my father to ask me, “You’re not joining a cult, are you?”
At the time, Shelter wanted that, and was actively asking a marginal portion of suburban youth to renounce materialism and pursue their brand of spirituality. I liked the music, but even at that age, I wasn’t buying the mythology. I had finally escaped the clutches of going to church every weekend and wasn’t going back. For a few months, maybe a year, I attended their shows and bought their records, but it ended pretty quick. I found newer bands that played faster, wore skate shoes and didn’t grab people wearing leather jackets and accuse them of killing animals. I was 16 and not looking to create anymore conflict than was naturally occurring at the time.
Dicara didn’t last long in Shelter — he was asked to leave by an elder member of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness and form a newer band. He wrote songs quickly, he called the project 108 and he blew up the band before the first album was even released. My brother bought the first album on cassette. Some of the songs grabbed me but overall, it sounded awful and the mixing caused it to only play through one side of my car speakers. But I got to see them live once or twice and was blown away by their energy despite this weird air that had developed among my friends/roommate at the time — this Krishnacore thing was cool for a year or so and then it was suddenly the silliest thing to have ever happened in our lives as music fans.
I still sometimes take steps back and think that it’s outrageous over 25 years later. But with 108, something was different. They played louder, they were largely dysfunctional (Dicara remains the only original member), and they wore their wounds on their sleeves, both interpersonal and familial. They were a band, but they were also people that embraced their imperfections as they searched for meaning and identity. They were also unknowingly riding out the wave of ‘90s Krishnacore into an area that allowed them to be a heavy hardcore band influenced by Hindu spirituality and Vedic principles.
They were growing, and it was painful, and they embraced their pains. Meanwhile, Shelter was writing rap rock songs called “The Message of the Bhagavat.”
108 lasted maybe three years in the mid ‘90s, and then reached a point where personal growth had pushed them apart as a band. Dicara went to teach at a temple, the others moved on. A sketchy YouTube documentary of their final U.S. tour exists as a testament to their final days as a band, and despite Dicara’s optimism, it’s almost sad to watch as they memorialize their last days together. By then, I wasn’t paying attention.
A decade later, I was. 108 had officially separated from the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, reformed and recorded new material for Deathwish Inc Records. It was not a perfect reunion, but the new material harkened directly back to 108’s past, and sounded more fresh, more alive. Again, there was dysfunction followed by more drummers and it all blew up after two new records.
Last month, again, I had reverted to not paying attention. And suddenly, 108 was playing more shows. Not only that, but Vic Dicara had released a book documenting his path from suburban Long Islander to 108 lead guitarist to a random train wreck in the nowhere hills of India. It’s not in depth by any means. He encapsulates thirty years of his life into 330 pages, but it’s enough of a glimpse into the world he created. He’s imperfect and he’s pursuing meaning in a world that doesn’t understand his search. He’s a little bit lost, as we all are, and he keeps on trying to find his way.
As a musical outfit, 108 continues on that path to this day. It’s probably why I’ve liked them since their start. “Train Wrecks & Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna,” is available in the Amazon store. Dicara says that demand for another book will determine his future, but again, I’ll leave it to chance and stumble back onto 108 in another time, another place.