Not Just the Ticket — #27, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, January 17 1992

Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Palace

Then-current album: God Fodder

Opening act: …Dumptruck or Gruntruck or something like that. Too bad it wasn’t Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts.

Back of ticket ad: yes, KROQ, you were always world famous weren’t you. In a strange, unsure world, perhaps.

And ladies and gentlemen, your eyes do not deceive you — a change in the color scheme! It is perhaps representative of Ticketmaster that when they finally decided to change their extremely basic blue/white ticket design in 1992, they did so with a kind of pastel combination that suggested the decade that was already a couple of years behind us at that point. So maybe this was the first example of full eighties revivalism there was. Or maybe they were just plain out of it. I vote the latter.

So, for one last time, as it turned out, the band who I hoped to able to love due to their name. In a way, it was actually a perfect closing of a circle, this third and final time.

As mentioned in previous entries, Ned’s had taken to America with energy and a kind of splash. The first tour the previous summer was a good explosion of energy, their immediate follow-up tour with Jesus Jones saw them pretty readily put on the more energetic show, Mike Edwards’ crew already seeming a bit worn down by their touring work in the wake of “Right Here Right Now.” Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that by this stage, with their third American tour in under a year, Ned’s were now going to find themselves in that spot.

A little stepping back and a bit of reflection isn’t going to hurt at this point — I started this year still unsure of what I would be doing towards the end of it. I’d already mapped out my graduation gift to myself — my first trip to the UK, centered around the massive Tolkien centenary conference in Oxford, where I would be presenting and moderating — but post-graduation was otherwise something of a fog. After a fun holiday season which included a visit up to see our relatives in northern California, I’d returned with only a few things left to really work on at UCLA — my departmental honors thesis (a comparison of John Webster and E. R. Eddison), some last classes to fill out the credits — and had hopes that I might be able to continue on there in grad school, though as anyone can tell you it’s awfully rare, though not unheard of, to be able to do that. So I’d cast my net wider to other UCs as well but I wouldn’t be hearing back for a few more weeks.

Otherwise, I was pretty much wanting to enjoy myself — and as you’ll see from the next swathe of entries, I did that when it came to shows. The roughly six month period between this show and my departure to the UK in late July/early August remains the most concentrated blast of showgoing I’ve ever done, and includes a few shows that I saw but don’t have tickets from, so I’ll try and catch them in these memories as I can. Perhaps inevitably they have a stronger collective glow in the memory as a result — when you’re in a situation where all you can do is wait (and then later, know for sure what you will be doing, but still have plenty of time before you go do it), about all one can do is just try and have a good time. It wasn’t all fun and games but a lot of the more unsettled moments are just that, moments in my head that can stay there.

So this show. No unknown quantity here when it came to the headliner, if anything I was now a very knowing veteran in American terms. If the band’s closest moment to a full American breakthrough had already come and gone they still had some MTV/KROQ support to draw on, though given how strongly ‘alternative’ was starting to solidify — and codify — as a brawling, sprawling and very American thing, it’s almost amazing to realize just how quickly they were eclipsed. (Though they’d actually play to their biggest American crowds the following year — missed those shows so I can’t say anything more than that.) Given how a year later Suede were seen as the alternative to ‘alternative’ it was as if this whole swathe of bands like Jesus Jones, like the Wonder Stuff, like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, like more I would see later in this year simply did not exist (not to mention the shoegazers, and what was left of Madchester as a perceived scene was already collapsing inwardly — turnaround, how quickly it goes).

This is another one where I can’t remember who I went with, but it was off to the Hollywood Palace once more, one of those venues that also was starting to make me feel like a veteran (and I still wasn’t even twenty one years old at this point). I think the first thing that signaled it would be an odd evening was the massive stage backdrop that the Ned’s had put up — spelled out in the God Fodder font, it read:




Which I probably thought was something I would expect to see at a Jello Biafra spoken word show more than anything else.

This wasn’t a show I remember seeing from upfront, tucked away near the monitors as I would often do time and again. I think I was hovering back near the bar, if not at it, and the memories are slightly disoriented for that reason, like I was out of place or out of sync somehow. The prevailing feeling that comes back to me was a kind of enervation, an exhaustion. Just a few months after Ned’s had owned a crowd at a much larger venue, it felt a bit like a Pyrrhic victory here and they hadn’t even hit the stage yet.

Whoever did hit the stage first didn’t help. As mentioned in the note at the start, I honestly can’t remember who these goofs were, except that they were a local band, I’m pretty sure, they had a name like Dumptruck or Gruntruck, both of whom are actual bands or were, but I don’t think it was either of them, honestly. It might have been and maybe that would make more sense than I knew, but it was a classic out-of-place scenario — or maybe it wasn’t. They were maybe hardcore punk in a baseball cap wearing way, or maybe they were a final spewing of whatever could be called punk/funk at that time period, or maybe they were something else, but they feel like irritants in my head, not actively stupid or moronic enough to hate but not pleasing me by their continued presence on stage either. I almost remember back and forths with the audience and general dumb-assery more than anything else.

So that left Ned’s and while the crowd cheered them on, I remember seeing Jonn appear on stage with much longer hair than I’d seen him wear before and walking almost in a lope. If they were pepped up for the show they weren’t exactly showing it, and that sense of exhaustion really came to the fore at this point. For all that I knew the songs by heart now, they weren’t prompting me to cheer much, and again everything seemed squashed flat, like America and all the touring had sat on their head so completely they didn’t know what to expect. There’s a shirt I still have — probably one I picked up at this show — that was a specially made shirt for their end of year UK tour the previous month, which summarized everything they’d done that year in terms of shows and releases and more. It made for a lot of fine print on one’s back, and while there have probably been more punishing tour schedules I’ve noticed since, I wasn’t surprised that they seemed like they were going through the motions more than anything.

Perhaps it was the venue, perhaps they weren’t ready to headline a spot that large (and again, they were headlining bigger spots the following year). Perhaps it was something else, perhaps I was just tired in turn. It was an inadvertant farewell to a band who I did really love for all that this show was a damp fire. After all, I can hardly knock a band who came up with a T-shirt that read “I know the way of Ned.” And you can darn well guess I bought that one as soon as I could.