Not Just the Ticket — #18, Jesus Jones, Sept. 6, 1991

Jesus Jones, Palladium

Then-current album: Doubt

Opening act: Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Back of ticket ad: oh 97.1 KLSX, you and your classic rock ways, because it was ‘real’ music and because it would last, and it wasn’t like you were ever going to play any new stuff that might come out from bands from, say, Seattle any time soon. Not at all.

Sometimes the thing that surprises me the most about the individual tickets are the prices of the shows on them. For the life of me, this far away from it, I can’t tell if $19.50 was too cheap, too expensive or just right for the time.

Meantime, the show of repeat performances, but on different — arguably brutally different — arcs.

This could I suppose be considered a sequel to both the earlier entries on these bands, on both Jesus Jones and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. The time of the show tells me that this was *that* month — something with both preordained returns to the charts and the unexpected first time appearances soon to follow. Released that month: Guns’n’Roses’ Use Your Illusion, Nirvana’s Nevermind. Released just before it: Pearl Jam’s Ten (with Metallica’s Metallica not far behind). Released just after it: Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. RAWK, the month of RAWK, lots and lots of RAWK, etc. etc. etc. Etc.

The presumption that history has now forced on the time is that of the great readjustment, the perceived recognition of ‘oh wait, there’s also this going on too.’ That said the real shock that month came courtesy of what happened at the end of it, when Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind crashed in at number one; following NWA’s Efil4zaggin earlier that year also topping the charts — and lest we not forget, Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind similarly going straight to number one soon afterwards — it was the clearest success of Soundscan as some sort of barometer of measuring taste via immediate fan reaction and ‘actual’ sales, as well as the first full validation of what is now considered clear orthodoxy in some corners: that American popular music (English language division) can be essentially defined by shifting hierarchies within country, hip-hop and metal/hard rock, plus the mutable category of pop as the overarching field that draws on all three, its own open sense of what a hook can be, and goes to town. An exaggeration, hyperbolic, but not too far removed from a perceived truth.

Not that I cared about that at the time. I was just a college student who DJed on campus radio and read Melody Maker. What was I supposed to take away from all that, beyond judgments from thousands of miles away?

I think I had suggested to Angela — my date at past shows like the Kitchens of Distinction and Tin Machine — the idea of seeing Jesus Jones a while beforehand, having enjoyed that first go-round that year very much. She knew who they were and was up for it; not sure if she knew about Ned’s Atomic Dustbin but they were only just starting to get a little more traction. And that is indeed exactly what they were getting; “Grey Cell Green” was — just — mentioned in similar contexts as songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at times that month because it was starting to get KROQ and MTV attention to a larger degree. Within a couple of weeks the comparison would seem ridiculously absurd and from the vantage point of history completely unbelievable and yet, there it was.

I was all jazzed up, no question — both bands had put on great shows that year, Ned’s not just six weeks before this date, and by this time I knew the drill with the Hollywood Palladium as a venue, so with whatever else I had on my plate at that time — the start of my senior year at UCLA, planning my applications to grad school, much more besides — I think I treated this show with less overt anticipation and more ‘hey, bring it as it comes’ attitude. So the time swirls by and a couple of weeks after Tin Machine’s promo show here it was back to the salt mines of long waits outside, getting frisked by security and making sure not to trip on the sunken step on the way down to the main floor.

The first sign I knew something was up was the appearance of a slew of people wearing Ned’s shirts around me — more, in fact, than I recall seeing of Jesus Jones. Perhaps not too shocking but I think at one point I asked myself if everyone who had attended their previous show had come to this one, because it sure seemed like it — the memory of three guys moving their way up to the front of the crowd, hands on each other’s shoulders in a line so they could keep together, all wearing individual Ned’s shirts, sticks with me. Bromance before its time or at least the coining of the word, though I’m sure the three in question would have reacted badly to any term applied, even if it was as simple as ‘male bonding.’

They were there to mosh, though, that much was clear as soon as Ned’s took the stage. Arms and legs and bodies once again, and if it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it it was definitely one of the most frenetic. Something tells me that enough people had might have already seen the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, but I’m not sure — it had just been released to radio a week beforehand — and something might have carried over from that. Might — again, it wasn’t like everything was suddenly invented right around that time, but things were about to be codified and presented to a much wider audience, and such behaviors were going to be not merely expected but somehow required.

That all said, though, the other thing that was apparent was that Ned’s were on fire — they absolutely KILLED. I’d seen plenty of good opening bands before but this was the first demonstration of the principle that the opening band should go out there and win people over as if they were the headliners, to not take the job of opener lying down or too politely. It wasn’t like they were trashing Jesus Jones over the mike or anything, but it clicked — they had a friendly crowd, it always helped, but they played damn well, put on a show, “Grey Cell Green” had the place going completely nuts. Angela and I were watching from the center of the floor at a safe distance from the flailing limbs and had a great time with the show, all the thunderous applause and cheers at the end well deserved. We wondered if Jesus Jones were going to be able to top that, but I had to have said something about that killer show they did at UCLA — we decided to watch from the public balcony and decamped there.

But Jesus Jones never quite got it going. It was a good enough show, but something of the unhinged, of the moment edge when they had performed earlier in the year, riding the wave of the number one song placement and all, had perhaps understandably dissipated. It was a little too slick perhaps or, more likely, the band were just a little too tired. The punishing nature of touring — especially if you’re either still scrabbling on the way up or just trying to maintain at a certain level — may be its own cliche several thousand times over but it’s still no joke when you’re trying to get from one side of a big country to another and back again, and maybe Ned’s were able to combine being the new if temporary chart wonders with an inevitable freshness to their advantage — something that came to mind at a later time when I saw Ned’s yet again, but that’s for the future.

So in the end the show wasn’t either a splendid success nor a washout, however much it was biased more to one group’s advantage in the end. It was ‘just’ a show of the time, one of the many I’d attended and yet attend, taking place during the month when the musical world changed or seemed to but which didn’t seem that way to me. I couldn’t be surprised by either band’s set any more except in terms of energy or intensity or whatever it could be called, but I could at least say it was an okay night out with someone I liked. Talk of musical revolutions and all that aside, that’s all that one really needs.

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