Malabar spinach soup

I should preface this with a description of malabar spinach, which my friend Y is growing in the garden:

Malabar spinach

As Wikipedia says, it’s a plant that appears under a number of different names; much like the molokhiya which I suggested for the garden this year, it’s heavy with the mucilage so it’s got both sticky leaves and acts as a thickener for soups, as well as being protein-rich. All a good sign!

Meantime, the previous evening I made a standard batch of vegetable stock from a variety of things in my fridge that needed cooking; having frozen most of it I kept one batch fresh for some sort of use. Given I had some of the malabar spinach leaves courtesy of Y I wanted to see if there was a basic soup recipe I could whip up. Turns out there is — in fact there are a ton of basic recipes I was able to find, selecting this one after reading it over a bit, enjoying the story of how the leaves are described and used.

So with that as the guide, some soba noodles to hand and a little prep and cooking:

Malabar spinach soup

Quite delicious, very flavorful, with the stock, noodles and leaves all blending deliciously. Will definitely be trying this one again sometime!

Not Just the Ticket — a ticketless entry on Superchunk/Come/Trumans Water/fluf, Soma, San Diego, spring 1993

Some lineups and shows are perfect microcosms of time and space.

Last week good friend Mackro went and saw Trumans Water play a show up in Seattle, which made me think of this show, which Mackro and I and others went to — the timing is right to talk about it in this whole series, and like the many UC Irvine shows from 1992 to 1993 I mentioned in the previous entry, there’s no ticket or flyer or anything I have to hand for this one. In fact, as I keep looking around for more information about this show there’s nothing out there about it from what I can immediately tell. It’s not too surprising, the whole point of something happening, a scene or a gathering of like-minded bands or an accident of touring history, is often that it’s not some sort of ‘legendary event’ except in retrospect. At the time it’s more ‘well yeah, that show would happen, and this stuff would occur.’

With the Matador 21 fest about to happen over in Vegas, including Superchunk given their first albums were released on the label, with Trumans Water still happily at it, with Thalia Zedek still making music, with fluf still being fluf, this show feels less like something distant and long lost than it does like one step of many for all involved. Soma’s still around, heck, Superchunk are playing there later in the year too. But the story of this show isn’t just of a show, but of a day — a random, wonderful day. I oversimplify it by saying we had lunch with Trumans Water, tea with Superchunk and dinner with Come, but we kinda did.

Some context — I only realized after I had finished up my previous UC Irvine show story that I had left out a band I saw there and around a few times that year, fluf. They were actually the subject of one of my first interviews for the New University and it all served as a reminder to me that while I’d been going to high school and puzzling things out on Coronado, over in San Diego itself all sorts of other things were happening, including the foundation of Cargo Records and an increasingly higher profile homegrown scene, though it really only kicked in further during my UCLA days. O., the affable, friendly fellow who played guitar and sang for fluf, was a hell of an interview; he had stories about production work for other bands, hanging around with J. Mascis, playing pool with Robert Smith, more besides. The early singles and albums still are favorites; they had the gift of creating and performing songs that knew their classic rock and punk rock and all that and weren’t draggy or sludgy — it all felt warm, friendly.

So them I knew about. Come I had read about, thanks to Melody Maker giving them some attention — I’d vaguely heard some Live Skull at that point but that was the extent of it. Trumans Water I knew next to nothing about though they’d apparently played the UCI pub at that point, as well as KUCI — Mackro was a massive fan and I was intrigued and started to listen to them in turn. Then there was Superchunk, who I had first heard of via fIREHOSE covering “Slack Motherfucker” at a noontime show at UCLA in senior year. All I really knew is that a lot of friends were really really REALLY into them, so that made sense.

How exactly it all happened I’m not sure but some combination of myself, Mackro, friend Jen V. and someone else (Eric R.? Steve C.? somebody else entirely? [EDIT: and Steve C. confirmed it was him.]) ended up heading down to San Diego on whatever day of the show this was. I want to say it was a weekend but possibly not — a glorious spring day at the least. It was the usual ride down, one of the last visits I would make to San Diego before my parents moved away in 1994, but instead of going later in the day to the show we were heading down early because of an interview — I can’t remember if it was Mackro interviewing Trumans Water for KUCI or Jen V. interviewing them for something else or just hanging out or something else entirely, but we were all going to the show and nobody minded and off we went in a heap. Which meant going to the Trumans Water house somewhere well inland from the coast in an area of San Diego I’d never been to before.

It was a typical enough spot, I guess; the band were all there renting it, though I think Glen Galloway, soon to depart to form Soul-Junk and create his own inspired pathway, was out elsewhere. Kirk and Kevin Branstetter were there, though, and I remember we all got along pretty well. They were originally from Yorba Linda up in OC as it turned out, and both friendly fellows, Kirk taller and slightly more energized and Kevin a little more laid back. I can’t remember what we all did at the place but we were there for a bit — they pointed out their cat who had just had kittens, and who appeared via a drawing on one of their tour shirts. The subject of their newfound love from England came up — famously, John Peel had been so excited by hearing them that he ended up calling them live on the air — and we all eventually went to go get lunch at a Mexican spot nearby, as well as visiting a Guitar Center, presumably so the band could get strings or something for the show that night. Again, no real specifics about any of this stick in the brain, but the whole feeling of enjoyable, casual talk.

Our little group then went over to Coronado briefly to relax a bit and so I could introduce Jen and Brian and whoever else it was to my folks; later I remember both of my parents saying how cool everyone was. Hey, I pick my friends well. We then crossed back over the bridge to go to Soma, down near the shoreline not far from Horton Plaza. The latter I’d been to many times but this was the first time I think I’d ever been in that exact part of the city near it, so as before I was getting a new perspective on a city I thought I knew well. Better late than never.

It was still some time before the show itself would start and there might have been more interviews or other things happening. I really don’t know how it happened but somehow I ended up standing in a circle in the parking lot of the club around back (or to the side?) with Mac and Laura of Superchunk, possibly John Reis of Rocket from the Crypt/Drive Like Jehu but I’m not positive (he had produced On the Mouth but he could well have been on tour elsewhere at that point) and at least a couple of other folks. I really didn’t say much — I didn’t have much to say! — but it was a low-key chat in general and I remembered thinking both Mac and Laura seemed pretty chill and friendly. Given that they were either breaking up or about to right at that time, that might explain the relative restraint; then again I think the story was that they’d decided to break up before the tour. Not that I knew a thing about any of it!

After a little more time our bunch, possibly with O. around, ended up chatting with some of the members of Come. Again, it could well have been that there was another interview or similar talk that had been arranged, I’m not positive at all, but it was Thalia, Chris Brokaw and Thalia’s girlfriend (not a band member, maybe she was the road manager, or along for the ride or the like) and possibly one or two others in the group. At my vague suggestion — this is before I knew better on where to scrounge for food in San Diego in general — we ended up walking the short distance to Horton Plaza to get dinner at a 50s retro place that was there, which was about what you might expect. I remember Chris being quietly talkative but Thalia being almost totally uncommunicative — very withdrawn, wide-eyed, who knows what else. Her girlfriend was a kick, though, very chatty and forthright, and seemed unfazed by Thalia’s mood. Some couples’ dynamics just are what they are.

So after all that and a little more waiting around, the show. Soma’s location reminded me in terms of size of somewhere like the Great American Music Hall up in San Francisco, not as big as the Wiltern or even the Palace but a good sized spot with an open floor space in front of the stage. I remember thinking that it was the kind of place where I could easily wander around and not worry about not being able to find people later on, always handy. fluf started the show and given my past times of seeing and hearing them there were no surprises — it was just another good, quality show from a solid band, O. singing and playing with his usual easygoing but high volume approach.

Trumans Water were next — I remember the club owner or manager, who apparently was not entirely well thought of by various members of bands on the bill, coming on and introducing them while clearly not really knowing much about their music or the way they did things, though he did mention about how ‘they’re getting big in England now’ or something like that. This turned out to be the only Trumans Water show I saw with Glen in the band so for that reason alone I’m glad I caught it, but even though they were clearly befuddling a number of folks in the audience a lot of us were just as into it. Fractured, turn on a dime arrangements, weird half-shouted rants, but nothing angry per se, more just wild energy — one moment I loved was when Glen, Kirk and Kevin all started a song a capella, singing nothing but a ragged “AaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” that rose in pitch and volume. There needs to be more of that.

On balance, Come were probably my band of the evening, though the whole night was generally pretty good. I don’t think I had actually heard Eleven:Eleven at that point even though it had been out a bit; I actually knew Brokaw’s work in Codeine more. But it was a damn great set — whatever mood Thalia Zedek was in, and whether it drove the performance, I wouldn’t presume to say, but she was on fire and the rest of the band weren’t slacking. “Car” was my standout but there was one part where she and Brokaw traded guitar lines while the rest of the band paused — near Neil Young levels of feedback-as-melancholic-bummer, all while not letting up.

Which left Superchunk and…I was deflated. Honestly it wasn’t a bad performance, but I felt a bit like I had the previous year when I saw Rage Against the Machine and everybody around me was going nuts and I was all “…huh.” Not quite as bad as all that, really, because three songs do stick as standouts — “Tower,” which opened the set, “The Question is How Fast,” probably around the middle, and their cover of the Magnetic Fields “100,000 Fireflies” which either closed the set or was near there or the encore. “Slack Motherfucker” was in there somewhere too, I’d guess. But something about what they were doing left me a little unsatisfied — even bored, to be honest. It might have been what seemed like the endless non-variety of the set after such a good start, one quick hooky number after another — and given some of the bands I’d seen by then or was into who pretty much did the same thing it wasn’t like I could pretend I was done with the form. Still, it just didn’t quite fly and while my grouchiness about their set and work has subsided a long time back, I’ve never really thought much about their work since — I’m happy Merge is the success it is, Mac and Laura are now legendary for being good people made good, but Superchunk excel at scratching a nonexistent itch for me.

Then we all piled in the car and went home. Long day.

Not Just the Ticket — a ticketless entry on Green Day and UC Irvine shows, 1992/1993

Time for a break from the run of stories about shows I have tickets for to talk about ones I wish I had tickets or flyers or photos or something more for — in fact there’s probably an archive of sorts around that I don’t know about, maybe I should do some investigating. It would be typical of me to ignore something that’s probably just a couple of buildings away which has all this stuff.

I’ve written and mentioned off and on — here a bit but also elsewhere on the Net — that UC Irvine has had a renaissance when it comes to excellent shows appearing here on a regular basis. This is down to the efforts of the incredible Acrobatics Everyday team, who have increasingly made the campus a spot on the map for a lot of independent touring acts once more — scroll down to the bottom of their page there to see who they’ve had through in the past couple of years. It’s been wonderful to see and my hopes that this will become a regular effort which will last over time continue to increase — it’s one thing to be inspired to create something like this, quite another to fully maintain it, especially when dealing with a populace that by default mostly changes year by year as new people arrive and older students depart or graduate.

I say ‘renaissance’ and I mention the possibility of things falling apart precisely because I’ve lived through this cycle before thanks to arriving on campus in fall 1992 in what turned out to be right about the middle of a golden age there. Thanks to a combination of well-inclined permanent staffers at ASUCI, a reasonable booking budget and input from a variety of people who wanted good shows in — not least of whom was my friend Jen V., who as far as I could tell either booked or arranged for most of these shows to happen — the campus had a regular run of everything from big auditorium/gymnasium shows (and more about those soon in this series) to smaller shows booked in student center rooms or for noontime performances on the student center plaza. If there’s a lot of well-intentioned if somewhat oppressive nostalgia now about the early nineties and music — and hey, I am helping to feed it all a bit with these stories, I realize — then there’s still no denying that there seemed to be something happening all the time right around this period.

The first I’d heard that UC Irvine was the potential home for anything good like that was when Sonic Youth played there in 1990, followed by the Cocteau Twins with Galaxie 500 the following year, a now notorious show (thanks a spotlight incident involving Dean Wareham) that I really wish I’d seen. Arriving on campus and working with both the student newspaper and the radio station meant I was in the mix of this all almost immediately, especially as I’d swiftly befriended Jen V. and heard her talk about the many upcoming shows pretty quickly after that point.

The first big shows I knew about that happened — big as in mentions on KROQ big — were separate dates by Fishbone and Alice in Chains, both of which I missed. The first small show I missed, though, was apparently one by Drive Like Jehu in fall of 1992 at the student pub. (Thankfully I caught them later on but I’ll yet get to that.) The student pub was one of the key show locales, unsurprisingly enough, though it was a bit of a curious place — vaguely okay beer selections, notoriously bland food, located on the upper level of the old student center complex over the food court, also complete with a balcony area. Like the main building itself it all felt a bit like an eighties hangover.

One thing I did remember hearing about was that the manager of the place apparently — due to liability or maybe due to other reasons — accepted show bookings but didn’t want people to dance or move much. Remember, this is 1992 — moshpits and floaters and all that — but even vaguely pogoing was beyond the pale, as I understood it and later experienced it. Keep all that in mind.

Eventually I got my act and brain together and started making sure I went over to these shows, happening just about ten minutes walk away from my on-campus housing. Who exactly I saw that year and when is a touch of mystery but some memories are clear — the first ever pub show I saw was supposed to be the Breeders, touring for the Safari EP, but they had to cancel, leaving us with the opening band, none other than Unrest. A small but spirited crowd, a great performance, I really only knew the most recent releases but I loved what they were playing and the whole deal, Mark E. Robinson seemed like a pretty happy and confident performer but so was everyone.

Other pub shows crowd up in the memory, and some might be from my second academic year there so I have to be a bit careful. I got to be aware of a number of upcoming shows thanks to my newspaper work, so quite often a preview story served as my own reminder that someone was coming through. Tiger Trap definitely played a lovely afternoon set there, maybe only to ten people but we all adored it. Mecca Normal kicked major butt with their nighttime show, and I loved how the whole crowd busted out into the “I Walk Alone” chorus when Jean Smith did her walk-through-the-audience part. Naked Soul headlined a set as well — quite possibly headlining over Refrigerator or Diskothi-Q or maybe that was separate. I do definitely remember Nothing Painted Blue playing a set at some point, and also Franklin Bruno and Peter Hughes fake-charging the stage in between sets one night, I just can’t remember which night. But getting back to Naked Soul — Mike Conley asked me to introduce them, something I was both surprised and touched by, and I know someone taped the show because there’s this YouTube clip:

I’m not in that but I’m around there in the audience, somewhere.

And then there were the noontime shows, though again I’m trying to recall who did play that year and who played the following. fIREHOSE played a set, the second time in as many years (and on as many UC campuses) I’d seen them do a noontime show — this would have been spring 1993. Xtra Large did a show, even if that’s mostly of local Costa Mesa interest (but hey, they were signed to Irving Azoff’s label, to my eternal surprise). I absolutely remember the Melvins noontime show — how could I miss they were coming through, after the Mr. Bungle show the previous year — though I couldn’t actually watch it, as I was stuck in a seminar. The windows were open, though — it was a beautiful spring afternoon — and I remember that day going like this:

“And as we study Nadine Gordimer’s work in more detail –“

*BOOMBOOMBOOMYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGH*

“–the damage of apartheid–“

*SCREEEEEEEEEEEWHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAA*

“–comments? Mr. Raggett?”

“Could you repeat the question?”

It wasn’t quite like that but it was close. Later I passed Lori Black on what looked like a pretty bad trip sitting outside on the steps next to the radio station’s home building and then walked up into the station to find King Buzzo joking around on the air. Fun day, really.

However, the absolutely most legendary show of all these ones I saw or attended (or just heard) was one that didn’t actually happen. Shortly after I arrived at KUCI I started hearing about this band called Green Day, who I didn’t know about at all. Either whoever was at KLA who was into them didn’t run into me or they just weren’t big there at all, but KUCI had a happy fanbase and then some. One thing led to another and sometime in midwinter 1993 I was deep in conversation with Tre Cool for an interview for the student paper about a forthcoming show. (I have a variety of Tre Cool memories around this time as he was around campus for a couple of stretches — long story.)

At the time there was major interest in the group from various labels — the bidding war was on and of course we know how it all turned out and what happened with them, so no need to belabor that point. In 1993, it was all up for grabs, and so Sony, Geffen and Warner Bros. were all anxious to secure the band’s services (there might have been others, not sure). Therefore, the show that they were scheduled to play at the UC Irvine pub was something of a showcase performance, as reps — and allegedly David Geffen himself — were due to make an appearance. I remember Jen V. being way anxious about the show for that reason, as well as for the fact that the pub manager was getting pretty antsy about having a bunch of punk fans at his place. This was all compounded by the fact that the other two bands on the bill had their own following — the Women, a great Costa Mesa act that never quite broke through, were going to open, while Face to Face, a couple of years away from their own major label leap, were in the middle.

And to top that off, Green Day had to cancel a show the previous night in the Inland Empire but apparently told the crowd to go to the UC Irvine show instead as it was cheap and/or free, I forget which. So there were going to be even more people there that night than before.

And to top THAT off there were a lot of police and security folks on campus that very evening because one building over was a huge presentation and speech by recently defeated independent candidate for president H. Ross Perot.

I got over there early and remembered thinking ‘this is not going to be a normal evening’ when I was out on the balcony looking at the HUGE line of people waiting on the student center terrace to go up the narrow staircase into the venue. Do keep in mind, Green Day were not yet famous in the all-over-radio/MTV sense; Dookie wasn’t even recorded yet. But I pretty much assumed there and then that they were going to be famous by default if they could pull in that kind of a crowd.

All was increasingly packed and somewhat chaotic inside — Jen V. was running around like mad making sure everything was okay, the pub manager was already looking like this was the last thing he wanted. The Women played a sharp set — I was actually right near the front for it, to my slight surprise but everyone was more or less behaving themselves, since again, no slamming, no pogoing, no dancing, nothing. This while the line of people continued to slowly file in and make everything more cramped.

I remember stepping away from the stage when Face to Face got ready — and after that it’s ALL a blur. I wasn’t caught up in anything, in fact I really don’t know how I missed it, but things went ridiculous pretty swiftly. I think Face to Face lasted about a song, half a song, before the pub manager figured that the crowd was not going to stay still (in a word, duh) and called the evening over. So, no rest of the Face to Face set, no Green Day set…nothing.

I’ve heard various stories about what exactly did happen — apparently Geffen or his rep was reached by phone in the big limousine heading down to OC so they turned back around and went home, while the Sony rep was apparently maced. (Or was that an Interscope rep after all?) The police and security people who happened to be around took great delight in the fact that they were needed and while this wasn’t Black Flag being assaulted by the LAPD in the slightest, there was all sorts of squabbling, nonsense, annoyed punks, happy to be annoyed policemen and so forth. I just remember walking away home past the nearby ATMs, or maybe I went up to the student newspaper offices to type something out.

To top it all off, Mike Dirnt then broke his ankle when the band were going over to where they were staying for the evening. Apparently a Dookie song obliquely references that incident but I can’t remember which.

So again, it wasn’t a Green Day show but a nonshow, and it wasn’t like they didn’t show, they just couldn’t play. A year later “Basket Case” was in permanent rotation and the band haven’t needed to look back since but I do wish I could have at least seen them then along with all those other, retrospectively amazing pub and noontime shows.

And taken photos and kept any flyers or SOMETHING.

Molokhiya — an experiment in gardening and cooking

Molokhiya

So besides shiso, which you can see to the right of that photo above, my other experiment in the garden this year was molokhiya, which is one of a variety of spellings for the plant above. I’d read the description of it in the seed catalogue back in February or so and was intrigued by the description of it as a kind of Egyptian spinach, concluding it would grow well out here as a result. Of course, I’d never actually had it so I didn’t know what to expect.

And what is it, exactly? Wikipedia provides a page with a little more information as well as a slew of alternate spellings — important given how transliteration works, as well as in terms of searching for more information on the net. As a more random but also good starting point I’ll also refer you to “Popeye Did Not Know Egyptian Spinach Called Molokhiya”, which I would love for the title alone. As discussed there:

One may encounter many different transliterations for the Arabic word molokhiya, such as mulukhiya and molokhia. It is also called jute, Egyptian spinach, Jews mallow, Jute mallow, or saluyot, with a scientific name of Corchorus olitorius.

….

Molokhiya is known as the king of vegetables. Its carotene contents are 4.6 times more than spinach, which Popeye loved, and 19 times more than broccoli. Its calcium contents are 9 times more than spinach and 10 times more than broccoli. Even vitamins B1 and B2 are five times more compared to spinach. It contains much more Vitamin E, C, potassium, iron, and other vegetable fibers than any other vegetables.

So on balance it’s one of those handy little leaves that people figured were edible and then used accordingly. Why not investigate, after all?

I took a little care when collecting a slew of leaves to work with since they have a reputation for stickiness — it wasn’t anything drastic but I was glad I had my gloves. As the links note, the leaves can easily be dried for later use and I figure I’ll do something with a lot of them like that as the season continues — the idea of using them as a green tea catches my eye and I can see this going down well closer to winter.

For fresh leaves, I consulted a variety of recipe possibilities, noting that it’s Egypt that uses the plant the most and has the most common recipes as a result. There are apparently two chief dishes when it comes to molokhiya — a chicken preparation and a soup, both of which have no one standard recipe but a variety of general approaches done to taste. This version of the chicken dish provides both explanatory context and a nice personal story if you’d like to give it a go; since I don’t cook with meat at home I vaguely considered trying a substitution then figured it would be simpler to do the soup version instead. This version of the recipe — from a vegetarian recipe site in Greece, whose author learned the recipe from an Egyptian acquaintance — was the one I worked with, though as noted in the comments there are a number of possible variations.

In all cases the sense of general preparation is the same — fresh leaves are never used raw but are chopped up and cooked. It was when I was chopping them up that I really noticed the sticky, slimy texture of the leaves — it doesn’t irritate the skin, but be prepared to wash up once more after the initial work. For broth, I used a batch of vegetable broth I’d created and stored some time back, noticing that the molokhiya turned it much darker in quick fashion. This slightly out of focus shot gives a quick sense of it:

Molokhiya in broth

The garlic/onion/spice preparation that was made and then added to the soup was easy enough, though instead of soy sauce I added tomato paste, often talked about as a common ingredient. I also included tofu as well for protein, and to soak up some more of the flavors. One thing I did notice, though, is that I’d underestimated the amount of broth needed; close to the conclusion of cooking there was very little left. However, the soup itself is meant to be served over rice, and I’d been prepping up a small batch of brown rice separately for that reason. After some quick thought, I decided to shift from a soup to a sauce or more properly a reduction, to be poured over the rice.

The end result:

Molokhiya rice

This turned out pretty nicely, I thought! It wasn’t what I planned but it was still plenty tasty — cooked molokhiya definitely has a viscous touch to it, and some of the comparisons I’ve read on line say that okra resembles it in feel if not entirely flavor. But it wasn’t gross to my mind, and it blended together well with all the other spices and textures, a sense of richness that wasn’t overpowering.

So we’ll see what else I try with the plant! Any and all suggestions welcomed, of course.

The garden on August 20, 2010

And back to the garden we go — or at least I go. Another lovely Friday afternoon:

Plus, of course, more photos:

Roses

Molokhiya

Marigolds

Malabar spinach

Not Just the Ticket — #62, The Jesus and Mary Chain, November 21, 1992

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Palladium

Then-current album: Honey’s Dead

Opening bands: Curve, Spiritualized, Medicine

Back of ticket ad: Perfect synergy for once — KROQ sponsored the show and they had the back of ticket ad too. Of course, they weren’t actually playing much of anyone on this bill…

I wonder a bit about the smudge at the bottom of the ticket there, it almost looks like a burn mark more than anything else, though I don’t recall any circumstances involving me wanting to set it on fire.

And this show, the Lollapalooza for the UK that was taken over to the US where the band headlining it had already been on the real Lollapalooza. Allow me to explain.

The ticket doesn’t show it at all but earlier that year when the Jesus and Mary Chain had been gearing up for a tour based around their album that year Honey’s Dead, either they or their booking agents or somebody took notice of the fact that the previous year Lollapalooza had been a thing and all in America and that it might be good to replicate over in their own neck of the woods. Which, considering Perry Farrell got the idea for Lollapalooza from Reading anyway, strikes me as a bit circular in more ways than one. Melody Maker got on board with this big time via a sponsorship, which is how I heard about it, and I admit to being more than a little jealous of UK audiences.

That first Rollercoaster tour, headlined by JAMC, also featured Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and Blur — bands I all ended up seeing one way or another that same year but to have them all in the same place at the same time, well, I can only imagine how I would have reacted, and I probably would be talking about the show to this day if so. If you swapped out Blur for, say, Spacemen 3 (if they were still going at that point) and put me at one of the shows I would have been able to pretty readily say in retrospection “Oh right, ground zero for so much stuff that followed it wasn’t even funny.” It still got close — Blur were a bit of a sore thumb there but had their own last laugh soon enough — but the point being, I read about this tour and these shows and went “ARGH why not bring it here” or something similar.

So…they did. They would have already booked this one at some point after the Mary Chain’s own Lollapalooza joint was either about to start or was under way and based on how they were dealing with the crowds at that tour happily abandoning them following Pearl Jam’s stage departure I suspect they couldn’t wait to get into smaller venues and headlining status quickly enough. By that point they had essentially found where their natural headlining level in LA would be at at its height — they’d played the Palladium before, as I said near the start of this series, and they’d play there again. But while they’d be bringing Rollercoaster as a concept or at least an ad campaign over — and Melody Maker sponsored that as well — the band lineup was a different thing altogether, but in retrospect a really wonderful one.

More on that in a second — by this time in that opening quarter of grad school I would have been at least finding my initial feet on campus and in the program and would have recognized something pretty clearly: I was in over my head. I wasn’t drowning but for the first time ever — or so it seemed — I was being challenged in my ability to keep up in classes. Probably a necessary thing to have happen on balance, it helped knock the general drifting sense of ‘oh I can read a bit here and there and write a random paper and whatever’ that I must have figured grad school might be like based on how else I’d been getting along in my school work up until that point. Pretty rapidly I was realizing that most of my classmates knew a heck of a lot more than I did or had been thinking about issues in more cohesive detail or more than likely both — compounded by the fact that I’d ended up at a school that heavily emphasized theory, something I admit I didn’t have much grounding in at all, I felt more like sinking than swimming in that first quarter, which probably continued for the next few years on balance.

But that in turn made all that I did love as an escape valve all that much more important — my newspaper writing work, my radio station work, the new friends I was making and much more besides. Who exactly I went with to this show isn’t clear to me — I think it would have been a couple of the more goth minded KUCI crew, possibly my friend Rich A. and his roommate but I’m not positive. Whatever happened, all I remember is that after another long haul up to LA there I was in the Palladium once more, observing a crowd in black mostly from the back and making sure not to trip over the slightly hidden step down to the dancefloor.

Medicine were opening on this date of the tour — a logical enough choice given the vague shoegaze/psych theme of the whole bill combined with their increasing profile — but by the time we arrived they were mostly finishing up, and I just remember a bunch of seemingly random noise on stage and shadowy figures being shadowy. If Brad Laner reads this he can say more, I’m sure — I was still in my ‘oh yeah, them’ phase and probably tried to find and chat with people at the top of my lungs.

Next up was a band I’d been anxiously waiting to see for a while, though — Spiritualized proved to be the first time I’d see either of the two main guys behind the previously mentioned Spacemen 3, who had pretty swiftly become one of my major musical lodestones over the preceding years. Lazer Guided Melodies had come out some months before the show and I had that thing plastered in my CD player, a know-every-note disc if I ever had one, so I was pretty hyped, to understate. As it turned out, this show ended up being released as a limited edition live album, Fucked Up Inside, so if you want to hear and judge for yourself feel free — like everything else, it seems, it’s out there somewhere online. My impression is more visual, the band standing fairly still, Jason Pierce to the side singing in his usual there/not-there way but still pretty keyed into everything, a controlled chaos at the band’s most raging. I remember the start of “Walking With Jesus” pretty clearly because I didn’t expect him to do that, and I couldn’t not remember that high-pitched tone cycle that I will forever associate with any performance of the group.

Curve were also on my ‘must see ASAP’ list though I’d liked them more for the singles than the Doppelganger album in full. What singles, though — the Horror Head EP was similarly stuck in my CD player that previous summer — and while my impressions of their set are a little more scattershot on balance it was also clear a good chunk of the crowd were there to see them, and they delivered. From the back of the venue and given the Palladium’s sound it was a bit of a muffle but “Sandpit” delivered, “Ten Little Girls” similarly, and they all looked like they were having a blast on stage. It would take a later show for everything to really kick in for me when it came to them live but that will be some time away in this series.

Which left the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I do remember thinking that they were bound to be playing a better — or at least a not as short tempered — set in front of their crowd rather than in front of empty seats in the Irvine sun. I had heard something about how they’d been starting out their headlining sets that year with a pretty extreme audiovisual collage and so it was: with a completely overpowering and seemingly shapeless build of feedback and drums and more (not quite their version of Ascension but one never knows) a frenetic, high-speed kaleidoscope of quick-cut imagery rolled across a screen at the back of the stage as the lights went down. It was a lot of the leather jacket/rock and roll/babe/etc. visual signifier stock in trade they’d happily made their own but at one point it suddenly cut to Malcolm McDowell staring directly into the camera, wearing a hat and some eyeliner as the camera pulled slightly away. The crowd didn’t need to think twice about that one and the calls of “ALEX!” were pretty loud. (Still hadn’t seen A Clockwork Orange at that point myself but I knew who it was — the power of visual icons for you.)

The band came out to play “Catchfire” and it was good enough but I admit after that opening everything becomes a bit of a vague fog for me — aside from “Teenage Lust,” thanks to a rather raunchy tour film, it was just more Reid Brothers and associates making a lot of well-received and pretty familiar noise on stage. No regrets or anything but it’s hard to say there was anything more to come to mind than that.

That is, aside from the visual in the lobby area of seeing stacks of Melody Makers with Wiz from Mega City Four on the cover sticking his tongue out, and seeing said papers being tossed about and trashed with wild abandon. They probably could have done that better.

Quick midweek post — including today’s radio appearance!

A combination of vacation, being under the weather and other things has meant a little less attention on Not Just the Ticket but the next one is coming — in the meantime, a few things to note:

* Later today, at 5 pm Pacific Daylight Time, I’ll be appearing on Ziba Z’s KUCI talk show Our Digital Future. The show will be archived there but you can tune in to the livestream via the station’s main site.

* Thanks to my co-worker Anis and friends Paul and Vahan, I have a rather amusing new Twitter icon which I might start using more widely:

Hi there

* And finally, dawn this morning. Pity me.

Dawn

Kale, brown rice and tofu soup

Soup once more!

So I came back from my quick break home to Carmel suffering from a cold. (Classic plane journey situation I’m sure — so no thanks to whatever person on the flight up passed it along.) Given the warm weather, soup may seem counter-intuitive but given the cold, it was also just what I needed.

I adapted this recipe to create the end result — brown rice rather than wild, tofu instead of white beans, etc., but the whole was a treat. The stock was a homemade batch that had been in the freezer while I added some shiso from the garden to the kale. All that plus a second helping saved for later in the week to help burn out the remainder of the bug, if needed!

And the final part of Scott Woods’s interview series is up — with music!

Quite a bit of it — it’s the ‘bonus beats’ section, as he termed it. It was a chance to talk about ten songs, but instead of it being ten favorite songs ever or from this year or the like, I dreamed up the idea of ‘signposts,’ something that marked where I was as a listener in a general but easily approachable sense. Of all the segments this is my favorite, in that it’s a nice balance between personal autobiography and the sonics of the ten songs and more besides. Knowing that Scott did it all running on little sleep and with a computer that was being fussy is even more inspiring! As said before, much thanks to him for coming up with the whole idea of the series and running with it — it really was a treat!

The third part of Scott Woods’s interview series with me is now up

And you can find it here. The shortest of the segments, it covers my Marooned essay on My Bloody Valentine, the Not Just the Ticket series and, but of course, cooking!

The final section is tomorrow — and there’s a LOT of music!

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