Not Just the Ticket — audience question #7

Extremely busy week for me here — I hope to have a further entry up on Friday but we’ll see!

So given that — inspired by PDF’s comment in the previous entry about the Fear/Elvis Hitler/Dwarves lineup he saw once, what was your favorite three-band lineup you’ve ever seen? No festivals or anything — only three bands or musicians on the bill and all of them killed. (I’m not totally sure of my answer! But I’ll think on it…)

Not Just the Ticket — #36, Toy Dolls/Fear, March 13, 1992

Toy Dolls, Hollywood Palladium

Then-current albums: You got me.

Opening act: 7 Seconds

Back of ticket ad: KROQ, once more. And again.

Friday the 13th, and yet I don’t recall anything bad or unlucky happening on the day. Oh superstitions, I tell ya.

Meantime, this show. This was a curious one.

It wasn’t the first punk nostalgia show I’d been to or anything, by any means — the Dickies shows, the Damned show and so forth. But this show was a bit unique for me in that I really didn’t know anything at all about any of the bands involved except by name, if that. I’m not even sure what prompted me to go beyond the fact that it was relatively cheap and all.

I suspect it had something to do with my friend Steve M., who I definitely remember going with along with various friends of his. Steve always had more of a general grasp and knowledge of punk than I did, which I ascribe at least in part to his Orange County upbringing. That so many punk bands (then and now) came from the area was part of it, of course, but there’s also the fact of just growing up in said county to start with. I didn’t, I just live here now due to the random accident of history that gave me not only a spot at grad school at UC Irvine but a four-year fellowship. (I would have found out about that around this time, and I remember my dad telling me it was probably a good idea not to look that gift horse in the mouth; eighteen years later, here I still am, slightly to my surprise, but hey.)

The point is, I arrived here as an independent if still pretty young adult later that year. If I had grown up here during those years beforehand…I’d probably have wanted to bail pretty quickly, and used alternate means of escape in the meantime. Like music, thus Steve, and so forth. Of course Steve was like me in that he liked a lot of different things so it wasn’t the only focus point; still, he knew enough about the bands in question that he must have said something about how it’d be fun, and I think my friends Jason B. and Dave S. might have wanted to come along as well, not sure. Whoever got together for this show, off we went to the Palladium, once again. VERY familiar with it now at this stage of the game.

The actions of punk nostalgia (any nostalgia) is to oversimplify, of course. It’s one reason why it’s so frustratingly boring, the rough edges smoothed out and ignored. For some years now I’ve been delving into the various alternate histories of ‘punk’ and the time immediately afterward thanks to the Net being such an astonishing medium for getting so much else out there that was also part of the time, in different countries, different contexts. Just this weekend — I was up in SF visiting my sis and some friends — I snagged another in the Messthetics series plus the new Minimal Wave Tapes compilation, both of which addressed things that simply didn’t fit in the accepted history I had haphazardly learned by the time of this show. The me of 1992 didn’t really make any distinction in my head between Toy Dolls and Fear and 7 Seconds except that they were all supposed to be punk stalwarts of a sort, that Toy Dolls were English and the other two bands American, that said American bands were supposed to be hardcore, whatever that meant exactly, and that there was a strong probability there would be big beefy shirtless dudes going around in the pit with that look and hand gesture that made them seem like the marshalls of their own individual idiot parades. Such was the case, of course (see also L7’s “Everglade,” which probably ran through my head every time I saw someone like that in this year).

So that’s all I knew and all I really figured to know. I hadn’t seen The Decline of Western Civilization, I didn’t know about “Nellie the Elephant,” I just knew we were off to a show and that things would happen as they did. I still like these shows of random or no expectation; I remember a lot of milling around with Steve and his friends in the crowd, trying (and failing) to hit it off with at least one of his female friends, the usual stuff for somebody just turned twenty-one and with plenty of the bees of confusion in my head (and plenty more years of it to come). Dim, dim memories of the crowd being very much a mixed bag but mostly my age or younger — for all that it was nostalgia, it was of the sort that always seems to draw a certain age in age, a ‘first time’ thing as much as my various earlier experiences were on a number of fronts.

7 Seconds might not have been the actual first band on the bill, I seem to remember there being one other band, but that might be my brain on the fritz. Kevin Seconds and company put on the kind of show I expected, I guess, in that I don’t remember anything about it either way besides their “99 Luftballoons” cover, and since that’s one of the greatest songs ever I was fine with it, though I assume they trashed some of the lyrics along the way. Honestly I don’t think I’ve yet heard anything they ever did in studio so it’s a little hard for me to talk more about their show. Pretty sure I was standing near the back of the main floor with Steve and a few others, probably indulging in our favorite habit of snide comments about anything or anyone who deserved them. Not much changes there, really.

The Toy Dolls were another story entirely — in fact I’d have to put that down as one of my favorite shows ever by someone who I never bothered following up with at all. Sounds dismissive, it’s not meant to be — partially it’s that daunting discography, partially it’s the fact that I know I heard a tape or two over the next year or so and thought it was okay enough but it just wasn’t the show. That was, and remains, one of the most fun, crazy shows I’ve ever seen, and for that reason alone I’m so glad I went.

It helped that nearly everyone there (except probably me) knew them and knew their stuff. I didn’t know anything about them beyond the name and a vague reputation, I just recall the drummer bashing away, whoever it was on bass strutting on behind his shades (pretty sure he was wearing shades) and then Olga, the main guy, walking on with a giddy, great smile on his face — and he was definitely wearing shades — playing his guitar and looking like he was the happiest dude not only in the room but on the planet. You got a good sense that he was doing exactly what he loved doing and in a setting that had thousands of people cheering him on. Couldn’t knock that at all!

Pretty much every song was a singalong, the audience full in there. I was standing near the front, to the side, not quite looking at the band in profile but not far off from that, a bit like my usual perch at the front of the Palace but on the other side of the stage. There was a pit but not a mean one, it was all goofy adrenaline and mad pogoing. Couldn’t tell you a song they played but who cared, it was all warmth, cheekily phrased more than once in the lyrics I’m sure.

And there’s one moment that always struck me as the perfect example of dealing with a stage screwup. Somewhere during a song Olga’s guitar completely dropped out, a cable had come loose or something similar. While a roadie went to look at it, Olga kept playing away as if nothing had happened, his smile still broad as hell — and then he leaned up to the mike and said, without a trace of rancor or annoyance in his voice, “KEEP GOING!,” referring not so much to the band, who were doing just that, but the audience, who had slowed up a bit in their dancing. So the crowd poured it on, the cable was soon fixed and it was business as usual. I really like that memory, and that’s a reason why I’ll always tip my hat to them, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.

That left Fear and there’s not much to say there. Lee Ving and company had a good song or two there — a couple of classmates of mine two years beforehand had been especially enamored of “Living in the City” — but again, not really knowing anything about him or Fear or the whole Belushi thing or whatever I can’t say I possessed a sense of the occasion, if indeed this show was an occasion. The pit was at its most aggressive (and most beefy) and I watched it from the same spot I watched the 7 Seconds show, ie well away from any potential damage to my person. I have a feeling loud and rude words were plentiful.

And after that, again, you got me. Went home and studied for finals, I guess. Curious show, as I said.

Not Just the Ticket — #35, Primal Scream, March 7 1992

Primal Scream, Palladium

Then-current album: Screamadelica

Opening band: …don’t think there was one.

Back of ticket ad: 97.1 KLSX, the Classic Rock Station! Which would have made more sense had this been a show from three years later.

I admit I’m starting to be as tired of the color scheme of this run of tickets as I was of the earlier one. Still, there’s something…soothing about the pastels.

Meanwhile, the all over the place show by the all over the place band. I’m sure they would have it no other way.

Weird band, Primal Scream, more in retrospect than anything else. Bobby Gillespie is someone I honestly can’t quite figure out — I don’t think he’s a genius but he’s no slouch either, and if he is as perfect a specimen of record-collector/cultural-recombination rock as anything else, it’s in a way that always feels…off. He’s clearly trying to be the guiding force/focal point of a large organization that keeps mutating a bit, like he really wants to be George Clinton or James Brown — hell, Mark E. Smith — but will never actually be that person, not even close. Yet here it is almost twenty-five years on from the first Primal Scream releases and he’s still around (and the band’s working on a new album), and I’ve seen the band a number of times now over the years, slightly to my surprise, and there are a clutch of songs I’ll always enjoy. He manages aural comfort food brilliantly at his best — it’s stuff you all pretty well already know but he dresses it up nicely with the help of everyone pitching in on the music and then all he has to worry about is singing lyrics that are all random signifiers. Figures.

Still, for a while there — if you were young and impressionable and not quite aware of what he’d already done beyond knowing he was in the Jesus and Mary Chain once, a description that summed me up nicely at the time — he seemed to be some sort of avatar of the future, if only because he was apparently loving the present, at least in a UK context. When I first heard “Loaded” in 1990, I didn’t know a damn thing about his earlier releases and the trebly garage rock love and the paisley and the leather trousers and whatever. Didn’t even know that was him on the back of the single that was eventually released over here with that and “Come Together” and a few other songs and remixes kicking around, certainly didn’t realize that was him singing for a grand total of two seconds on “Loaded.” “Loaded” was its own universe, “Loaded” was something else.

Which of course was Andy Weatherall. The lesson of Primal Scream and the eventual release of Screamadelica was hardly a new one for me by this time, but it was one of the first conscious examples of it that I had been aware of — and that lesson was that it was less about the band or musician and what they sung and performed, but how the end result was eventually put out there, or what someone did with that end product, that mattered. Remixes, edits, airplay versions, all had been something I hadn’t merely noticed but by default had grown up on and with, being a member of a populace that encountered music in this fashion without being aware I was, unless I ended up with an album or a single or whatever and noticed that something was different somehow. In this case, something was, contextually, more radical — the remix was the song, the original song “I’m Losing More Than I Ever Had” a mere curio and irrelevance, Weatherall’s work essentially creating a nonexistent identity for Primal Scream that they suddenly were expected to fill. To my mind, Primal Scream were, for that brief moment, always just a primarily instrumental band, and always sounded like that, and always used movie dialogue samples and half-heard vocal lines and big, slow beats.

The following run of singles are still fun to think about, really, because you can pretty well audibly hear a band thinking that the neo-garage/psych/biker rock revival was surely just around the corner think “Well, maybe we were going about this a bit dully before, and it should be something a little…more…this?” Gillespie started singing all over the place — no more disappearing acts for him — but he started singing over things that he hadn’t really done before, culminating with the still wondrously blissed out “Higher Than the Sun,” where the Orb did the music/production business and introduced a huge, sweeping stomp and hush that frankly the band could never have come close to on their own. Still wonder a bit what it would have been like if he and the rest of the band said “Fuck it, let’s just go from here” — Gillespie would have been the weak link in the chain in the end, maybe, but I think they could have found a way to be as truly distinct as their heroes instead of retreating to recombine and recombine them again endlessly.

All of which is prologue because honestly I really don’t remember much about the run-up to this show. I had (and had played to death) Screamadelica from the previous fall and it was little surprise that this was going to be a big production at the Palladium; they had already built up enough of a reputation that a club show wasn’t going to be enough. Further, all the coalescing rave strains from the previous couple of years in the area understandably regarded the band as fellow travellers at the least, full inspirations at the most — I can name at least a couple of friends that were pretty much first introduced to techno, however unusually or to the side, due to “Loaded” — and there were rumors that the show was going to be less of a show and more of an actual rave, just with a band playing somewhere in the middle of it.

Not too surprising that this didn’t really pan out as advertised — Gillespie and company apparently were thinking more that it should be something like an old soul revue, a full hint at the slow retreat already starting to play out even on Screamadelica, what with the Jimmy Miller production jobs and all, plus the Dixie-Narco EP from earlier that year, with Dennis Wilson covers, recording in Ardent Studios, the whole kind of strained reverence that still makes me think of Rattle and Hum aka the album that utterly destroyed my U2 fandom. (And I did have it.) But unlike that misbegotten album Dixie-Narco works as a gentle treat and if it had been a part of their approach instead of the signpost to the next album through and through then who knows how I might feel.

And yet I’m still talking around the show than about it — partially because, the memories really are pretty dim. I think I was up in the balcony for at least part of it though not all, and it was a packed out house and everything, and “Loaded” and “Come Together” and “Higher Than the Sun” and “Don’t Fight It Feel It” and “Movin’ On Up” and etc. etc. all went down well enough. I have vague memories of Bobby Gillespie’s utterly stick-like and ass-less frame not exactly dancing on stage, but then again my own moves as such aren’t much better so I can’t hate the guy for it. I think we all left — whoever we all were at that show, again, dim memories here — when they were still on stage for the encore doing some endless jam/medley which might have been amusing at the time. Or not, thus the reason we left.

It’s a little hard to be dismissive about the show, but I think the reason was slightly alluded to already — they were touring something that they were no longer believing in fully, or perhaps never did believe in to start with. It’s another old story — not just that the breakthrough album cast such a long shadow, but that said album turned out to be the most creative they ever got. Later releases and tours allowed them to be ‘themselves’ more, maybe — and I’ll yet talk about those shows I saw, and all of them were indeed more immediately memorable than this Palladium show turned out to be in the end. But they essentially gave up on a chancier situation to be their own internalized ‘we’re more THIS now’ kaleidoscope, and I still think it was a retreat. Ah well.

Not Just the Ticket — #34, Nitzer Ebb, February 27, 1992

Nitzer Ebb, Variety Arts Theatre

Then-current album: Ebbhead

Opening act: Ethyl Meatplow

Back of ticket ad: “50% off developing and printing at Fox Photo 1-hr Labs.” I am guessing this isn’t a popular business model these days.

Once again there are some unusual details here courtesy of the sponsorship. “So supporting a concert with a bunch of topless muscle-bound men in tight shorts will break us big in the LA market?” “Yeah, we’re not sure who has heard of Coke out there.” *strained silence*

So, more of what was considered industrial music at the time. If you squinted a bit.

The thing about Nitzer Ebb, who I only fully learned about back in 1990 with the Showtime album, was that they were in fact pretty much clones of another band entirely, but as with so many acts, it’s often less about who started something than who got the attention at the right time. When I first heard “Lightning Man” courtesy of 120 Minutes or whatever late night MTV show showed it that year for a bit I was pretty quickly taken with the immediacy of the whole approach — Douglas McCarthy’s shout/singing voice and his ear for slogans-as-choruses, Bon Harris’s beat-centered arrangements where basslines and drum hits were just as apt to provide a melody as anything else — and while I more heard than saw their performance opening for Depeche Mode in 1990 at Dodger Stadium I do regret not being near the speaker stacks for that one, must have sounded utterly massive. So I picked up their albums, became a fan, was amused at some of the strained lyrics, never complained about the sonics, looked forward to whatever would be next.

Flash ahead a year and Ebbhead ended up at KLA, getting a review for fellow DJs from resident Wax Trax freak Steve C. — who proceeded to make fun of it quite a bit, beginning, “These guys have sure gotten far completely ripping off DAF.” First time I’d heard of them so when I did finally listen to some of their stuff…I had to admit that Steve was completely right. A song like “Der Mussolini” was essentially the full sonic template for Nitzer Ebb years before the fact, while their shirtless-and-sweaty look wasn’t too far removed from that visually. A classic case of learning a lesson maybe a little too late, but better late than never.

But weirdly enough by this time Nitzer Ebb was actually find their own sound more than ever — the hints of more conventional melodies and orchestration that were starting to creep in at points, perhaps an influence from their early supporters and regular producers Alan Wilder and Flood (a team that knows from arranging, of course, as any relisten to Violator will prove), made Ebbhead their most varied album to date, with the literally wind-and-storm-swept imagery of “I Give to You” matched by a string arrangement that made it sound like McCarthy was singing from a mountaintop and the ‘bring in the guitars’ move of “Godhead” two standouts among many. Also, industrial was still not quite yet perceived as being Trent Reznor’s sandbox first and foremost — though the time was rapidly approaching — and while Nitzer Ebb were much more that than, say, Coil, it was still something different, possessed of its own (borrowed) character.

So I was all up for a show with them and I forget exactly who I went with — a group of about four people all told, but only one I do remember because she was a new station DJ, a big fan of the band and a generally sweet and cute person. Reason enough to go with them, I admit! I actually just recall being picked up outside my apartment and having to squeeze in next to her in the car. Oh darn.

The Variety Arts Theatre had hosted some good shows and would host more in the near future — I still regret missing both Curve and Verve there (separate dates but imagine the combination! LA would still be a wreck after the sonic overload) — and this ended up being the one time I went, at least so far. (I have this dim sense that the building might not exist any more, but am too lazy to check right now. Typical, I know.) All seated venue, at least on the floor, but I had a guess that it wouldn’t exactly be a crowd that would stay in their seats, proven plenty of times throughout the evening but also to some extent with the opening band — and little surprise, given that Ethyl Meatplow were local heroes.

I had heard about Ethyl Meatplow from an article or two already, knowing that they were apparently the LA response to things like Wax Trax and otherwise, and had become firm favorites at the legendary Kontrol Faktory club night. What I didn’t know at the time — who could, until the years had passed — was that it was only the earliest of many musical incarnations for co-lead singer Carla Bozulich, one of LA’s most inspired and creative performers, not to mention varied. I’ve seen and heard her do everything from high-and-lonesome country to aggressive art rock to murky demi-ambient explorations — often but not always with another local legend, Nels Cline — so her own take on percussive-heavy chantalongs was just part of the portrait. Bozulich and the rest of the trio had their own fun onstage and she pretty readily demonstrated her ability to get not merely the crowd going but especially female fans — something that would grow stronger during further shows I saw of theirs over the next couple of years. It was another strong female voice in a year that was proving full of them, in LA and in general, and while only having one studio album and some singles to their name in the end didn’t fully help Ethyl Meatplow’s profile, I do wonder a bit if they’ve been written out of history given their musical approach, where a band like L7 never had to worry about that. C’est la vie.

Next thing I recall is the slow drawing back of the stage curtain to reveal Nitzer Ebb already fully at it, their new live drummer pounding away, Harris doing whatever with a percussion/keyboard setup and McCarthy almost bouncing with energy, ready to let fly. This all became a little more amusing in retrospect when a friend of mine in later years who had done tons of work with bands over the years mentioned dealing with them briefly at a show, concluding they were a bunch of rich-kid poseurs and laughing at their habit of psyching themselves up with screams and attitude before going on stage. Gotta admit that’s not how I would do things — male bonding, truly one of the most outre concepts — but the crowd was happy and screaming and McCarthy and Harris to their credit earned their topless/tight shorts physiques rather than making you wish they would stay fully dressed.

This is another show of fleeting details than specifics — pretty sure they started with “Hearts and Minds,” after that it was about what you would expect such a set to be from that time, Ebbhead-heavy with earlier songs like “Control I’m Here” and “Lightning Man” and “Getting Closer” and “Join in the Chant” and others all making expected bows. In retrospect that would have been a near-greatest hits performance right there so I’m glad I caught it for that reason alone — the band were bigger than ever in the States, charged up for whatever was next, where the next time I would see them the focus was definitely elsewhere and the atmosphere quite different.

I do remember the final song of the encore pretty well though — it was one of those moments where everything came together, helped by the year. Again, keep in mind the early 1992 election campaign undercurrents bubbling under this whole time, plus my bout of environmental paranoia, my still unsure choices after graduation — a classic case of seeing things big and small through a particular lens. “Fun to Be Had,” the final song from Showtime, might be my favorite song of theirs in the end, with McCarthy’s sloganeering finding, at points, a sudden profundity in context. A line like “You are young, they are old/Control is all they’ve got to GIVE!” is standard enough post-“My Generation” lyrical hoohah but in the time, in the moment, it was an almighty punch that summed up a lot in my head. I don’t think age has per se changed my sentiments entirely; my thoughts on the nature of the evolving social contract in American terms have adapted but my sense that there’s always going to be a cadre of people who only think in terms of “I’ve got mine” hasn’t really been changed. (As I write, a variety of GOP fools are proving the point in the House of Representatives, but I think I’ll save that for a separate post.)

It ended with McCarthy taking the core chant a capella — “Whether you be BAD, SAD or GLAD/You’ve got to know that there’s FUN TO BE HAD!” — as everyone chanted and clapped along. It was a nice twist on the utterly tech heavy approach otherwise, just words and claps and nothing more, and it worked — he kept it going for a few rounds, I think even stopping so the crowd could do it on their own, and he ended it with one almighty yell. Sure, it was probably his own particular shtick, but damn if it didn’t work well.

Now if I could only remember that one DJ’s name…

Reboot, reboot, reboot

As they say. End of the quarter, prepping for further work, various writing obligations, time change, other stuff…am surprised I’m coherent. More Not Just the Ticket entries and things next week, but for now I’m just making it through today and sleeping in for a long while tomorrow! Hope everyone’s good!

Not Just the Ticket — #33, The Dickies, February 21 1992

Dickies, the Palace

Then-current album: …none, really. Locked and Loaded, I suppose, but that was a live album.

Opening act: Green Jello, still some months away from the inevitable name change.

Back of ticket ad: Hello again KROQ. Once more.

Rather a last minute purchase for me, this one; the code indicates I didn’t pick this one up until eight days to the show. I guess I must not have been chomping at the bit, necessarily.

So, from Suzi Gardner playing through her injury one night to Leonard from the Dickies causing mock injuries by hitting security guards over the head with something Nerflike 24 hours later. Just another whirlwind couple of days in LA.

This is one of those shows where not only the memories are dim but almost everything about it is completely shrouded in some sort of mental mystery. Not sure who I went with, not sure what prompted me to go…all a bit vague. But it’s not because I didn’t like either band — as mentioned some entries back, I’d seen both of them open up for Celebrity Skin the previous year, had already long been a Dickies fan and thought Green Jello were entertaining enough in their own completely ridiculous way. That they would end up playing together seems less like an inspired pairing than an inevitability, and for all I know they already had.

It’s also appropriate that I would see the Dickies the day after L7 if only because both bands were, as mentioned yesterday, classic LA bands, thriving on, reacting against and ultimately tied to the massive entertainment industry around it. I’ve heard so many random stories about the band that I’m never entirely sure what to believe regarding them, the LA punk band that had the biggest early success — and in the UK at that — while seemingly only being a random parody group, and yet not. By this time they’d settled into that groove that seems to happen to certain bands that can essentially coast for a long while on past fumes, a self-nostalgia act by accident if not intent. Arguably any band that relies on what can be unkindly called schtick is able to do that — it’s not so much about the music as the show — but hell, James Brown had his schtick moments up to the end. Then again, James Brown also helped invent modern music as we know it, so you can coast on those fumes pretty much all you want if you’re him.

Anyway, no new album to promote, nothing per se happening beyond existing — and that’s reason enough to play, after all. The cycle of record/release/tour seems like the standard only because it became one, a maximized approach to life that still holds sway but like so much else seems to crack more with time as newer bands find other approaches, different hurdles to clear. If anything it kinda reminds me of what my friends up in Seattle in the Squirrels were doing for the longest while, playing out every so often and recording as they did and taking it from there. Whatever else the Dickies were doing around that time, they had enough hometown appeal to play a venue the size of the Palace, they aimed to put on a show, bring it all on. So however it happened or whatever went down, there I was once more seeing two bands once more, aiming above all else just to have a good night out and enjoy a lot of hopefully hilarious stage craziness.

Which it was, and a lot of it came from Green Jello. Still about half a year away from their extremely random breakthrough courtesy of “The Three Little Pigs,” they had by this time evolved their GWAR-with-less-blood theatrics to an even finer degree, and had thrown in more recent songs and productions to seize the moment as they wanted to. On that front, one song sticks out, precisely because I might well have been one of the few people at that show to have actually seen the incident it referred to.

As I remember it, watching as I was pressed up near the front of the stage (but this time on the opposite side from where I usually lurked), at one point some guy came on stage essentially looking like a clownish version of Oscar Wilde. I have to figure this was entirely intentional too, given what happened next. Anyway, this fellow was on the stockier side, not hugely obese or anything but still heavy, wearing a wig that looked a bit like some of the earlier photos of Wilde extant and some all black outfit somewhere between a unitard and a close-fitting suit. Also pretty sure he had heavy pancake makeup on too, and kept a look on his face somewhere between petulance and arrogance. I’m also pretty sure he was carrying a flower or two.

The explanation for all this became crystal clear when he swanned up to the microphone and said, “Remember…you don’t have to stay in your seats if you don’t want to!”

I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud when I heard that — it was, without question, a direct reference to the line Morrissey had said at the Pauley Pavilion show I’d seen a few months prior which resulted in the stage crush, Morrissey and the band being hustled offstage and the eventually cancelling of the show and resultant riot. All the Wilde references made perfect sense, so clearly somebody in Green Jello knew that while direct parody would have sealed the thing in everyone’s mind, going that route was that much more sly. So credit to them for that still.

The song faux Wilde ended up singing was some very Rocky Horror midtempo cabaret number called, but of course, “Sad Eyed Girlie Boy” — and to his credit, he delivered it less as Morrissey moaning and more as Meat Loaf-as-Eddie-on-downers, which seemed right. I also remember a bunch of other people, all definitely wearing black unitards as well as extended fingernails, prancing about and being deeply strange. God knows what the rest of the crowd thought, I loved the damn thing in all its ridiculousness. All that and later the Cowgod pretty much looming over me with glowing eyes and probably some dry ice fog, so hey.

The Dickies themselves put on a set that I really don’t remember at all — in fact, I remembered absolutely nothing about their set at all when I first looked at this ticket again yesterday, a complete blank. Two things did dimly reemerge from the mists though — one was guitarist Stan Lee adding his “Wagon train, head ’em out, whoa-oh!” vocals at the end of the chorus to “Wagon Train,” their tribute song to their original keyboard player Chuck Wagon. I remember Lee smiling broadly as he sang, loving the moment, and it makes me smile to think of it in turn, it just seems like a nice moment where music is fun for all there as it happens.

The second thing was the song “Curb Job” and Leonard singing the chorus while careening around the stage and beating the bouncers at the front of the stage with…something. I’d almost say it was the legendary penis puppet from “If Stewart Could Talk” but it wasn’t, more like a submarine sandwich that was, indeed, made out of Nerf-like material. Personally I would be averse to beating people, even those theoretically employed by the band or venue to keep crazed fans away, with such a thing, but I can’t say I recall them reacting much. Perhaps they even enjoyed it, which could say a lot about the places that the Dickies liked to play at.

Couldn’t tell you what else happened that night, but then again after that incident, maybe that’s not necessary…

Angel hair pasta with gremolata

Angel hair pasta with gremolata

Gremolata being a lemon/parsley/garlic sauce. This grew out of the fact I had both some lemons and parsley left over from my latest basket and was unsure what to do with them. A quick scrounge on the Net turned up this recipe and it was a simple enough matter to whip this up from scratch. A light taste that’s not so light as to be nonexistent, a good balance all around and the parmesan just rightly sends it over the top.

Not Just the Ticket — #32, L7, February 20, 1992

L7, Whisky

Then-current album: Bricks Are Heavy, but not quite yet (the album was formally released two months later)

Opening act: the Lazy Cowgirls

Back of ticket ad: the California Lottery is, once more, my ticket to fun. And I don’t care.

Once more back to the blue design, I guess they were still working through the old stock here and there.

Meantime, a show that featured the most sedate appearance I ever saw of guitarist Suzi Gardner. But you’d be sedate too if a huge professional camera crane had just fallen on your head.

I’ve mentioned L7 a few times now in these recaps, as well as my initial encounter with their work — living in a city where touring bands were pretty much alway guaranteed to play is handy, but equally handy and arguably more important is being able to catch local bands out doing their job. L7 were of course very much an LA band in the best possible way, and given that we’re all about to be drowned in Runaways movie hype, if not already so, personally I’m all about spending some more time talking about their partial spiritual descendants.

But only partially (as both acts would be the first to say). It’s always a temptation to lump bands or performers together for reasons that don’t hold water, and I prefer to think of bands like the Runaways and L7 and many more besides more as LA bands than anything else, because that’s a reason that DOES hold water. As complex and multilingual as this city is, call it something about the atmosphere and the star industry and so much besides that can shape a band, a performer. L7 were classic outside-looking-in types that thought, “Man, FUCK it. We’ll do our own thing and make it work.” And that’s a common thing that shapes a lot of bands around here too.

I’d just seen L7 last time the previous month at the Rock for Choice show headlined by Fugazi, and in between that show and this one they were undergoing the usual ritual for any band newly on a major label with their first release on said label in the offing — the big lead video. In this case it was for what still remains for a lot of folks THE L7 song, “Pretend We’re Dead,” and great it is, though on that album alone I can think of a slew of others that rival or better it — as with any good band, there can always be a lot to pick from. Eleven years back, for instance, I said this:

But if there’s one big reason why this is still held close to my heart, it’s “Shitlist.” Trent Reznor knew as much when he made it a recurrent theme in the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, playing right when Juliette Lewis was…getting…pissed…OFF. When you’re stomping around, annoyed at the world and realizing that maybe just maybe things would be a lot better if a few people could be gathered in the right place and then forcibly removed from existence, “Shitlist” is the soundtrack. Donita Sparks gargles her words and snarls her hate and you just feel so cleansed as the crunch hits you and hits you again.

And again. But in Gardner’s case, it wasn’t a crunch that hit her but, as mentioned, a crane, as the camera was hovering over the band for a shot or two for the video. The beaning meant a concussion and being banged up, which led to a lot of worried stories in the local press (and elsewhere — while L7 had been mentioned here and there in Melody Maker, this was the year that coverage hit overdrive, and I still remember being bemused at reading news stories about them after they’d already been reported here a couple of weeks beforehand). Shows were postponed but others went forward, and this show at the Whisky was one of them.

Bricks Are Heavy still wasn’t out in full but the promos were starting to circulate, and I remember cranking a four-song promo CD I’d received via KLA for a few friends at my apartment (“Wargasm” and “Everglade” were the two immediate favorites, I think), so pretty much that swathe of us who were hyperfans were primed, ready, you name it, and while they had to have busted out a slew of the new songs at the Rock for Choice benefit, by default this would be the real winner because it was their show through and through, and the first time I’d actually see them headlining. Whatever usual whirlwind happened in the buildup to the show happened and next thing I knew I was at the Whisky again, looking down and over at the stage from the balcony seeing the appearance of…the Lazy Cowgirls?

Who I ended up liking. I wasn’t fully aware of the group’s already somewhat legendary/vaguely notorious history of garage-punk revival hellraising — not to mention being the catalyst for the founding of the Sympathy for the Record Industry label — so I just saw a bunch of guys onstage in leather blasting their way through a set of songs while their lead singer Pat Todd had at it. Todd’s the reason why I still remember their set so well, partially because he was one of those people who took the promise of punk that anyone could do it to heart. It wasn’t because Todd wasn’t a great stage performer — he very much was — but his short, stocky, balding looks were a seeming antithesis to the usual rock star perfections that had been dominating LA for some years, and it’s no surprise to me that they and L7 would be kindred spirits, even if in the simple terms of the booking agent at the venue. A crazy version of Little Richard’s “Lucille” sticks in the mind, which I remember Todd singing while sharing the microphone with a hyperfan in the audience. I don’t think many of my crew were totally up on the experience but hell, I had a good time — think I probably would if I ever saw them again.

And then of course L7. Now I’d seen some packed shows at the Whisky by this point but I think the energy of this one was top-notch, it was practically people on top of other people or hanging off the balcony. I stayed up in the balcony — not sure if I was on my own or if a few of us had congregated there for a better view — and had a pretty good view of the stage as the fearsome foursome rocked, mouthed off (and I mean that very much as praise) and, well, inspired. Somehow 1992 ended up being their moment, the luck of the draw being Butch Vig’s next high level production effort release after the one-two of Nevermind and Gish, and that show was a testament to it, and wouldn’t be the last show that year by any means. It’s a big blur in general, this night, beyond the crowds and the craziness but you could feel an energy that was starting to carry the band to greater heights.

While it was all happening on stage, Donita charging the mike and Dee slamming the drums and Jennifer throwing herself into it as she did…Suzi stood to the side, head down, and patiently played. It was the weirdest contrast and I think you could pretty easily tell that Suzi would much rather have been going nuts with the rest of them, but just couldn’t risk it, had to play it cool by default. We were all plenty happy to see her there and her playing remained top notch, but we were all going “Aw man” to ourselves at the same time. It wasn’t like she had been hurt forever or anything, but still, you know — walking wounded and all!

But that made her being there all that much cooler. L7, still there to rock no matter what. Great goddamn feeling it was, and, at a remove, still is.

Another batch of 2010 AMG reviews

From the last few weeks here! I feel I could and should have done more with a lot of these reviews, but I’m liking the next batch I’m working on.

Just waiting on early spring here…

From the balcony

…and loving it. Photo is looking out over my balcony, might sit out here later and just enjoy a book or something similar.