Then-current album: Seamonsters/Hit Parade 1
Opening act: Poster Children
Back of ticket ad: trying to imagine the alternate world were KLSX would have played the Wedding Present is rather hard to do.
And back after some time off for EMP and recuperation thereafter and general work stuff and and and. I actually think I needed the extended break a bit!
Meanwhile, the Weddoes. Was there ever a band so hated by its target press audience?
Which sounds extreme. But at the time, reading through the various mentions in Melody Maker, it seemed that nobody there liked the Wedding Present. NOBODY. Not a goddamn soul, except for Dave Jennings, who I think wrote in a cover story about them in early 1992 about how he seemed like he was alone against a horde. David Gedge and company had then just started their own version of a blog project, one single for every month of the year, an original on the A-side and a cover on the flip. They were just a couple of years shy of having been around for a decade’s worth of recording and everyone’s reaction to them at that point in the press seemed to be a combination of frustration, annoyance and ‘oh god why are you doing that and why are you even trying.’ It was an interesting lesson in…I hate to say groupthink, but even so.
Even Everett True’s review of the first Hit Parade collection that appeared later in June, drawing together the first set of singles, was ambivalent at best, though it seemed like he was mostly annoyed with the band sounding like…well, themselves. Which is kinda weird. But a slightly more telling note could be found in the fact that he also grudgingly admitted that the band had been astoundingly ahead of the curve at one point — when they first worked with Steve Albini a couple of years previously on the Brassneck EP, they’d recorded a song that their then-guitarist Peter Solowka had brought to them via an obscure EP he’d picked up. The result: a cover of “Box Elder MO,” one of the earliest songs by Pavement, well before their own sudden explosion into popularity in 1992.
Writing about this now, in a year where there’s the Pavement reunion and the Wedding Present touring America doing the album-straight-through tour gambit (in this case Bizarro), makes everything feel timely enough, I suppose, but I’m placing myself back a bit more in time thinking about how I heard about the Wedding Present and early impressions and context, if any. Nothing sticks, to be honest — there had to have been a ‘oh that’s a pretty cool name’ reaction on my part somewhere (and it is a cool name, still is — it suggests something very un-rock, still), and somehow I pieced together a sense about how they were this really fast (a lot of the time) and very prolific band and they seemed to have a ton of releases and so forth. Also, that the lead singer had a pretty gruff voice.
Where I think something clicked had to do with a review at KLA by my friend Eric J. — who I’ve mentioned before, and who I should say is the mighty Eric J. Lawrence, KCRW stalwart for many years now. Eric had worked a music director and manager and the like at KLA — I think he was the general manager that year, pretty sure — and he had a very good gift for reviews for fellow DJs to refer to. I remember he was the guy who called all our of attention to Ween when their first album came out, he had figured out early on that Blur were going to thrive beyond the demi-baggy/shoegaze associations they were first associated with, and in the thick of Nirvana’s impact he wrote up a review on our copy of the American release of Seamonsters, also produced by Albini, basically saying that this had all that Nevermind could offer sonically, but better. So that definitely caught my eye, by default.
Seamonsters ended up being one of my favorite albums of the whole decade — I haven’t listened to it in about a decade, unsurprisingly, but I locked into it early and often (and it’s one reason why the current tour isn’t totally firing me up — above and beyond my whole problem with the tour-an-album conceit, it’s not the album I like best anyway!). But as with so many of the shows at that time, it wasn’t a case of breathless anticipation, more like “Well here we go!” and off we went — and that feeling was further heightened by the fact that this was one of three shows in a row I was attending that week. More than anything I’m sure I was questioning my stamina (but only slightly — when you’re 21, this is not something you spend that much reflection on).
So the Whisky once more, and once more I’m not sure who I was with but two to one says that Eric had to be among that number. I do know that when we came in another band who I had just gotten to know about, and who also had an Albini connection, was kicking up things entertainingly on stage. The Poster Children also became definite favorites of mine throughout the rest of the decade, not least because, like the computer geeks they so happily identified themselves as, they took to the Internet early, had tour diaries and fan comments and more going through their websites, designed their own various games and programs and basically held true to themselves as much as they could during their stint on a major label.
Of course, nobility in purpose isn’t always the sign of good music (would that it were so), but that wasn’t a worry here, and more than anything I remember bright lights, big smiles and just having a blast. They were there to entertain us, themselves, whoever was around, and they were doing so with their own alternately thick-and-blasting and crisp-and-spiky and more arrangements (more often than not in the space of any one individual song) — still kills me that they weren’t more famous in the end, they were too good for the world, I suppose, and it wasn’t because they didn’t try to break through. They did, they just didn’t want to sell their souls while they were at it. (And they’re still kicking around doing what they do — really, go say hi.)
The Wedding Present’s main set is even more dim in the memory, I know it happened but I don’t remember much about it at all aside from where I was in the audience facing the stage…not quite dead center twenty feet away, but not that far removed from that spot either. I seem to remember Gedge was off to my left a bit. Pretty positive they started with “Dalliance,” could be wrong, but if they did it’s a hell of an opener — it starts Seamonsters on a dramatic, angry note and would have started the show similarly, a rough burn of a song.
And from there into various things, “Brassneck” was played, “Kennedy,” more from Seamonsters, they had to have dipped into at least some of the new singles, possibly “California” even though it hadn’t been released yet just because, well, it was called “California” after all. I do remember one thing that didn’t surprise me but that did make me happy — Gedge announcing before the final song something like “Just a quick note, as some of you know — we don’t do encores.” I’d heard about this before and frankly was already plenty tired of the ‘leave-then-come-back’ rote response of encores in general at shows — I’m even more tired of it now. So seeing a band happily trash this was completely fine by me.
Of course, I’m sure hoping they still don’t do encores — that would be a bad thing to backtrack on.