In terms of underground rock, the Dayton, Ohio scene mainly specialized in producing a single kind of alternative animal - the hardcore punk band. And as well they should have - the Dayton cats were good at it. From Dayton came D.O.A, Toxic Reasons and The Obvious, to cite only the city's three best-known punk groups, but there were many others worth remembering, including a group known as The Oxymorons. Although they would ultimately tour widely, The Oxymorons were commonly seen in through-the-week gigs at the Folk venue the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton between 1989 and 1994. The Oxymorons featured the talents of singer/guitarist Ben Schelker, the "other" singer and guitarist Patric Jones, the tall, lanky bassist known as "Grog" and drummer Nick Atkinson. The Oxymorons always played a tremendously fun show, even when the venue at which they were appearing was virtually empty. Their sets were high energy and sound was pop, however they did do a few numbers that were quiet and reflective.
What makes The Oxymorons stand out from their peers is the sincerity of the lyrics and their particular blend of the pop-punk sound. While The Oxymorons' live performances may have been a free-for-all, in the studio they were almost like a different band and committed to delivering serious, no-nonsense recorded renditions of their numbers. The Oxymorons were not a group devoted to taking on political subjects like their friends Toxic Reasons - most of their songs were about people and situations they knew of on a first-hand basis, for example as in the song "Born So Blessed" which is a about a girl from a background of privilege who is involved in a constant struggle against depression and suicidal tendencies.
Ben Schelker was an animated and funny front-man who nonetheless had an element of vulnerability that extended beyond some of the bittersweet sentiments expressed in his lyrics. Ben Schelker's inherent klutziness is sadly one of the reasons he is no longer with us - in 1997 Schelker was staying with friends in Columbus, and using the phone on a second floor balcony that was in the process of being remodeled. He wandered off the edge and fell two stories into the backyard. His roommates were already in bed for the night, and Ben's body wasn't found until the next morning - by his father, who had come to Columbus to pick Schelker up and take him back to Dayton for a family outing. The label that handles The Oxymorons material, Mutant Renegade Records, is still quite active, and there is a CD compilation of their work entitled "Dancing on Billy's Grave". The Oxymorons broke up in 1994 when they decided to "quit before we started to suck;" nonetheless they were a little group that "could", and their recordings well repay your listening attention.