Then-current albums: Gala/Nowhere
Opening act: well, none per se, it was a coheadlining tour, but this night Lush went on first.
Back of ticket ad: a return to the sanity of…75 cents off a NEW Old Fashioned Patty Melt from Jack in the Box. “An American favorite.” Debatable.
This run of tickets shows up where the thumbtack held it to the bulletin board pretty clearly – a pale blue circle surrounded by browning paper. The impermanence of time, etc.
This show, meanwhile, marks the first time that I went to the Sunset Strip that I can think of. Into the chasm, gaping — whee?
I didn’t have any sense of romance as such for the Strip as this legendary place to be in the sixties — how could I, really, I was born in 1971, and by the time I got to college what full classic rock hangover I’d had was done and gone. As with so much else that music and culture in general had established, I often felt like I was in an already comfortable space, which the lazy part of me tends to appreciate highly. So ending up here at last wasn’t out of a sense of ‘AT LAST!’ as it was ‘oh, so the show’s there?’
I’m a little surprised in retrospect that I hadn’t been to either the Roxy or the Whisky by this point, though, if only because of the place of both venues as the regular stopping points for out of town, usually major-label connected bands — especially UK ones — on their introductory tour through America, even if said tour was only a clutch of New York and LA dates. So I’m sure I’d missed a few shows in the previous couple of years that I’m kicking myself a bit for now but hey, miss some things, catch others.
At the same time, most of what those two venues — and perhaps more notably, Gazzari’s — were showcasing was something I wasn’t exactly following at all. Now I really wish I had seen Pretty Boy Floyd in their pomp, still amazed as I am by the ridiculous pure pop insanity of their one major label album, and other examples could be made, but at the time LA glam metal was creating a ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ situation — there was so much useless bunk, as with any style that gets established and sells well enough to either inspire untalented dreamers or spark up dull careerists, that the whole thing was seen as an endless dull wash of ‘let’s see who can clone the Crue/G’n'R/Poison more.’ (I was amused when LA Guns later tried to rectify the goth/glam split, I admit. But Christian Death it wasn’t.)
I have no first memory of arriving in the Strip or anything, but I’m sure our group all did the same thing most people do when getting there — look for parking, and fail. I should restate: FREE parking. Sure you can pay to park at various lots — and the parking lot owners know it. The old story but I think rates sometimes fluctuated depending on who the bands were, perhaps. So we probably ended up somewhere and walked a bit and behold, the Roxy. It was the smallest place to see a band I’d been to yet, an actual club, and the whole ‘get through the lobby into the main area with the wedge-shaped floor and the two seated areas’ drill had yet to be dulled by familiarity. That would come soon enough. As would my realization that the bathrooms were kinda best avoided when possible.
As for the show, no guesses as to what was riding high on CMJ import hype fumes at the moment. Shoegazing, the in-thing. At this point I was really starting to mainline whatever I could — it helped as well that I had just discovered the whole Spacemen 3 family tree thanks to Sonic Boom’s debut album Spectrum — so Creation was starting to ring more bells as a label name to note. Lush, who opened on this night as noted, were on 4AD and that led to more of a Cocteaus association, as noted in the entry on that show from the previous December. Seeing them again in the Roxy was much more intimate by default but I also remember the band being a little more…I don’t want to say staid, but a touch less exuberant perhaps. I have visions of their stagelighting playing behind them, lots of silhouettes, as well as the silhouettes of everyone watching them in turn. It was an appreciative but not a hyperactive show, and perhaps the most memorable thing about it in the end was that it was the last time I saw them with their original bassist Steve Rippon. Wouldn’t be the last time I saw the band by any means, though.
And then there was Ride. I think the audience excitement had to be more for them anyway since Lush had already been through once — two to one says that nearly everyone in the club was at that Cocteaus show to start with — whereas Ride, having made their initial splash with what was already becoming a common ‘release three EPs and then an album’ pattern, were visiting LA for the first time. I certainly wasn’t alone in playing the American-only Smile compilation (mastered from vinyl! what the hell was that all about, anyway?) and the Nowhere album to death by that time — hooks, feedback, noise, harmonies, it’s almost a stereotype of what a shoegazing album was except, well, they helped invent it by default, so you couldn’t exactly accuse them of bandwagoneering too much.
Not that they weren’t formed out of nowhere and hadn’t played their own Jesus and Mary Chain and House of Love and etc. albums to death. And of course they had a huge ace-in-the-hole courtesy of Mark Gardener, co-lead vocalist/guitarist and the man with The Fringe and The Lips. More than one female friend has confessed, then or now, that they were crushing out over him big time. He definitely photographed well, as smudgy memories of Melody Makers past come inevitably to mind.
So things were pretty pumped up in the audience waiting for them and unlike Lush’s relative calm on stage, I remember Ride being more ragged, loose. Their own bassist Steve Queralt — wait, were all shoegazing bassists named Steve or something? — took the role of quietly anchoring things down but everyone else danced or moved or otherwise couldn’t quite keep still, even if it wasn’t hyperactive jumping around — though I’d soon see a few bands for whom that was their raison d’etre. It helped that the audience was swaying, dancing, cheering, in a calmer rock and roll way perhaps but there was definitely a charge one could sense, a slightly heightened experience.
Most of the night is in this kind of blurry state for me but I do remember a really monstrous version of “Nowhere” — hearing when the guitars fully cut loose in that spot was wonderful — and “Vapour Trail,” still the song of theirs that comes back to me the most (smart of them to name a song after something one can see in the air around here every day of the year, admittedly). It was just a really fun night from a band I thought were the bee’s knees, and would for a while yet.
One other point of the evening stands out, going back to Lush a bit, though it’s more to do with the audience and one person in it. At a certain point if you start going to enough shows featuring bands of a type, real or imagined (more often the latter), you inevitably start encountering or at least noticing people where you go “hey I’ve seen him/her before” — friends of mine have already noted various shows that we were all collectively at before we knew each other and more examples are to come, but when it came to anything UK/indie and especially shoegazing there was one person in particular I’ll always remember.
Don’t know his name, but what I remember was his age — he couldn’t've been more than twelve or so, surely still in middle school. Either his parents were very indulgent or he was persistent because god love him, there he was in the thick of this show and yet other shows in the future. Somebody I knew knew his deal and told me the story but it’s slipped my mind. I admit to being more than a little envious — he was barely older than I was when I first got really dedicated to pop and music in general, and to have these kind of shows as your own ‘first concerts’ to talk about seemed pretty cool to me.
Anyway, after the show a few of us noticed that Miki from Lush was sitting at one of the tables and was chatting with fans and signing an autograph or two. I think I urged whoever I was with go over with me to say hi, but he chickened out, I believe. (Indie guys getting tongue-tied around a female musician? Perish the thought.) So I went over, eventually got the chance to say hi, chatted for a bit and had her sign a flyer for an upcoming appearance at Hyde Park Records down in OC (she was rather amused by the name of the store). Just a brief fan encounter, nothing more.
Sitting with her the whole time as all the fan signings and chatting was going on…was that twelve-year-old or whatever age he was.
I think a LOT of guys there that night were mad at/supremely jealous of him.
(I admit, I was.)