Not Just the Ticket — #2, New Order, April 27, 1989

New Order ticket, 1989

Then-current album: Technique

Opening act: Throwing Muses

Back of ticket ad: just a little message saying “TICKETMASTER. CHARGE BY PHONE.” And then two numbers. Rather stark, it must be said.

Clearer printing on this one, otherwise the same texturing and punched-into-the-coating quality. Kind of unremarkable given the non-ad on the back, sadly.

Things I only just realized today while thinking about this, number 1: I have a recording of this show. It was released as a bootleg called Decadance, featuring the entire show plus some other track recorded elsewhere that year, and somewhere along the line I got a basic enough lower-quality rip of it, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually listened to it. Maybe after I write this, but not quite now, that might make the memories too clear. As it is, looking over the tracklisting I’m almost disappointed to even get that verification — not so much for the tracks I remember as the ones I had forgotten. (Then again, perhaps I forgot those performances for a reason?)

Things I only just realized today while thinking about this, number 2: out of nowhere, a clear memory of an out of nowhere moment:

I was walking near Sproul Hall, my dorm residence that freshman year. I get the impression it was late January somehow, don’t ask me why that should stick but it does, maybe a little afterward. It would have been on the lower road whose name I’ve completely forgotten (sure, I could look it up as I could so many other things, but why?). Pretty sure I was alone, coming back from Westwood Village, probably having gone down there to shop for some CDs, unsurprisingly.

I passed by a group of other students walking in the opposite direction, perhaps out for a night on the town, all male and Asian or Asian-American I’m pretty sure. We didn’t notice each other beyond the fact that we were passing by, and they were all in casual conversation with each other, a bunch of guys out and about. I just remember as we passed each other that one of them, looking ahead and clearly not directing at me, but at the world at large or just for the hell of it, suddenly spoke-drawled-sang these words:

“You’re much too yooooung…”

I remember walking away thinking “Huh, wonder what that was.” It was only a little while later I mentally smacked my forehead and went “DUH.” It might well have been because I was listening to the very album it was from later that night, for all I know — the release date’s about right — but I’d already heard the song it was from anyway. Plenty of times.

New Order in high school were another pop band experience for me. “Bizarre Love Triangle” on regular pop radio rotation, then “Blue Monday” cropping up on one of those station’s ‘club night’ on Saturdays, then “True Faith” during my senior year and on MTV, Substance being played on friends’ Walkmen in between classes. This wasn’t through listening to stations like KROQ or 91X, I didn’t listen to those stations — that’s what my sister did. She was the one with the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, I was the one wondering what the heck I kept hearing over and over again through the closed door — like “Shellshock.” Eventually I fell hard and then Joy Division soon after and I starting piecing together the story and the progression of twelve years or so up to that point.

And so like I said I already knew what “Fine Time” was when I heard that guy sing that and the album followed hot on its heels and so when I heard they were playing I wanted to go. But therein another problem — I didn’t have anyone to go with, and I wasn’t too sure how to find them because I needed a ride and all.

Which in retrospect feels completely ridiculous to me — it had to have been at the time, because I definitely remember others in my dorm (hell, others on my dorm floor) talking about the show after it had happened and how great it was. Which it was but I’ll get to that — the point is that somehow I was still too clueless or too shy or too something to figure out who else was going or to get a ride. It’s a classic blank spot there, not something I think I’ve specifically wished out of existence, just something, again, ridiculous, utterly crazy. The more so because I do remember getting very, very antsy about something I would completely shrug off now, but at the time seemed like a foreign world to me:

If I was going to get to the show, well, I’d have to take a bus.

Looking back over twenty years plus of slow accumulation of figuring out public transportation, to the point where I’m not only utterly comfortable with it but can’t figure out why more people don’t take advantage of it, I have to keep in mind the still pretty insular, kind of unsure person I was having to take what seemed to me like a big step. It wasn’t like I could call up the Internet to figure out the MTA routes or anything. So with whatever resources I called on I determined that there were two lines I would need to take there and two back, and that they seemed to run late enough.

Getting to the show is all something of a blur, I just know I did, and this time around I was on the floor of the Universal, looking more or less directly at the stage. I don’t recall the Throwing Muses at all so I must have arrived after they’d performed — pity, but I ended up catching them some years later after Tanya had left, so I won’t complain too much; even one Kristin Hersh performance, solo or with a band, is much better than none. I ended up chatting a bit with the people sitting next to me — I think I was right on the aisle, which I remember thinking was convenient for getting out quickly, since I knew I’d have to make the proper connections back and I wasn’t into the idea of being stranded…somewhere, someplace.

I felt a gentle but seething energy in the room that was unlike what I’d felt at the Robert Plant show, something perhaps dictated by location (floor vs. balcony) and a different kind of anticipation. It’s hard to say, I don’t want to read too much into it through my own lens; then again New Order were that big for a lot of people then and there — their previous tour with Echo and the Bunnymen had been huge in the area, and only Depeche’s 101 show seemed to rival it in terms of people I knew who said they were there, so that had to be part of it. The eighties KROQ aesthetic via the UK was in some respected validated and perfected that year — Love and Rockets were about score a massive pop hit, the Cure were about to break huge, “Personal Jesus” came out that autumn — and New Order were part and parcel of it all.

The show is mostly colors in my mind, perhaps influenced by that amazing cover for Technique, perhaps simply a sense of how the songs should be (I can’t say I have synesthesia but it would be wondrous if so). Gillian had a purple shirt or blouse on, I recall — and I remember being surprised when they started up that she was on guitar, that in fact they were ripping into Technique‘s closing song “Dream Attack” as a rough, feedback-heavy blast, quite unlike the much more measured version on the album aside from that spindly guitar line, here given a much more prominent spot. Some very snobby (or snotty?) part of me was perversely amused and wondering how many people realized the band had ultimately started as a punk act. As if everyone there had to know something like “Warsaw” or the earlier demos, as if everyone had to care, as if it really mattered — still, not surprising I thought that way.

“Temptation” is what really still feels immediate and there from that show, the way the crowd reacted to it, the dancing, the singing along — everything really connected there, something bigger than oneself. If there’s a key vision, almost a stereotype, of New Order as the awkward voice amidst the slickness and the crowd while trying to be part of it as well, and how this tension plays out constantly — while it’s a different song under discussion I commend herjazz’s recent thoughts on the band to your attention — then perhaps I romantically thought of myself as the stereotype of the stereotype, if not in those terms, alone in a huge crowd. But I don’t remember feeling ‘alone’ then in that sense, I was just really, really loving this performance by this band I’d come to adore, the way the lights changed appropriately as Bernard sang “Oh you’ve got green eyes” and more.

I remember the encore, then I remember later asking the bus driver as I got on to see if he could announce the intersection I needed to get off at to make my connection, which he did. I remember sitting at a bus stop in a bright enough light, looking around whatever intersection with Sunset in the Hollywood area it was, probably wide-eyed, feeling a touch nervous. Sure I was sheltered, I’ve never denied that, after all. But it was definitely more than that, a sense of being out of a very specific comfort zone — at the same time, again, I can’t overdramatize it, but then again, I was alone and it was late at night, so hey. And I made the connection and got back to my dorm room and life continued on. Though I sure hope I didn’t have an early class the next morning, I would have been a wreck…actually, was that the quarter I took four classes? Including the one on Russian science fiction? Maybe?

Now to see if this recording I have matches the memories at all. (Later: Turns out “Dream Attack” isn’t all that much different from the album version. Is it the mix, is it the recording, or is it just me?)

5 Responses to “Not Just the Ticket — #2, New Order, April 27, 1989”

  1. Austin Says:

    As this is my favorite New Order album and I was only eight at the time of its release, I can only romanticize to the point of near fetishism how great this show must have been.

    Fantastic stuff. I couldn’t read it fast enough.

    Only to re-read two more times.

    ~Austin

  2. Simon Says:

    I was 14 when Technique came out. Even now, most days it’s not just my favourite NO album but possibly my favourite album of all time.

    Ned: this post wasn’t what I expected, and is all the more wonderful for it … rather like the album itself. Thank you.

  3. Simon Says:

    I’m not sure. I’m really not. But whatever it was, I didn’t expect it to capture the essence of them so perfectly.


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