Not Just the Ticket — #48, The Nymphs, May 26, 1992

Nymphs, Whisky

Then-current album: The Nymphs

Opening act: complete blank here — but more on that below

Back of ticket ad: probably KLSX…again.

First off, yes, as the date shows this is actually out of order from what’s gone before; rather than being after the two Ride shows this was a couple of days before them. Didn’t realize that until I looked at the scan again the other day! Oh well, chronological funnies and all.

As for this show, once again time to be an unpaid extra for a video. Only the timing was all, all off.

As with everything-well-not-really-everything-but-supposedly-everything these days, the video is online, thanks to YouTube:

Let all the instant flashbacks kick in in terms of cinematography, editing, lighting — none of it will surprise anyone who was either there at the time or has gone back and looked at plenty of the evidence. Assuming the director’s name is correctly spelled, about the only other notable thing he’s done over twenty years’ time appears to be camerawork for a Cher in Vegas concert, which I suppose sounds about right.

Anyway, the live audience footage was from this show — and time to talk about it and the Nymphs again. I’ve mentioned them earlier in the series as I’d seen them now a couple of times this year already, and had met Inger Lorre and thought she was friendly and pretty funny. There had been enough of a buzz going around after the album’s release the previous fall that things looked promising for the future, and by this time they probably had been announced as the opening act for Peter Murphy’s upcoming tour for Holy Smoke. So catching them headlining a small club show seemed like a good idea as who knew what might be next, and they’d already shown that they were a great live band, loud and messy in the best way.

This is another one where I’m not sure who I went with — might have been Kris C. and Steve M., might not have been — and I’m even more unsure if there was an opening act. For all that there always seems like there should be one, it’s not always the case — sometimes a band is big enough not to need or want one, sometimes an opener drops out, other times who can say. But if I can digress a bit, here’s a chance to talk about an opening band or two I would have seen up to that point where I don’t remember who they opened for.

A show the previous year I’d seen (and really enjoyed) but that I lack a ticket stub for because it was a guest-list situation was for the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, an absolutely fantastic Manchester band that were caught almost exactly midway between early eighties art/dance like A Certain Ratio, Liquid Liquid and the like and this past decade’s massive revival/reinterpretation of said sound. They killed live — one of the only times I’ve seen an LA crowd dance at a show from start to finish — but their opening act was something else, I think some ridiculous bunch called Ionescu after, presumably, the playwright. Pirandello might have been a better choice of name, as they were a bunch of people in search of a reason to exist as a band, but it failed to materialize. I do remember applauding vigorously when they announced their last song, but that’s because I am hateful and all.

Dim memories of other kinda useless groups crop up, literally disassociated from memories of the headliners because they were either that anonymous or the headliners were that great, or both. What sticks in the brain about most of them is how they tended to vacillate between being ‘of the moment’ to a fault — I don’t think I saw any LA band in 1992 in such a spot go grunge completely or anything but I’m sure there were examples of it coming close — or else were distinctly aiming to be something else than that, carving out their own niche by visual style or something similar. But again, they didn’t stand out enough, or their music wasn’t strong enough to carry them through, and some might have gone on to bigger and better bands without me realizing it while others just jacked it in and have nothing more to show from it but maybe old flyers in a box and perhaps last copies of a demo tape or two, possibly all scanned and digitized and shared on a site, possibly not.

The Nymphs, at least, had gotten to the stage where they had more to leave behind them no matter what happened, major label debut and videos and all, a quote generating machine in the form of Lorre — the other guys in the band were definitely just that in the public eye, ‘the other guys.’ I don’t say this to be dismissive, I literally would have to look up their names because I just don’t remember them.

Which does them a distinct disservice. I can’t recall if I talked about it in detail in the previous entries but the great thing about the Nymphs was how effortlessly they made a certain LA combination work — and it IS definitely an LA combination, something that crops up again and again over time, though in recent years it seems to have smoothed out into something else, or maybe just irrevocably changed. But — at the risk of lumping a bunch of disconnected bands together — I sense a through line connecting X, the Gun Club, Jane’s Addiction, Concrete Blonde, the Nymphs, back to acts like the Doors, forward to…well, other things perhaps that I might be missing. Something that thrives on a self-consciously darker and moodier energy, something that reacts and interacts to being in a fragmented community where the Day of the Dead is more than just a holiday.

I say ‘self-consciously’ with the knowledge that one person’s dimly-lit romanticism is another’s goofy joke. (Just ask Oingo Boingo, which used all the imagery and went somewhere else entirely.) But the Nymphs, while not reinventing the wheel by any stretch, were a really good loud metal/goth/whatever act, they had the riffs at their best, they had the performances and they could turn it on. At this show, things were complicated by the fact of the video filming, certainly — the crews weren’t everywhere but they were scattered around, as the footage shows, and that’s a smallish stage there in the Whiskey. Also, as can so often be the case, they had to play the song twice in order to get enough covering footage to be on the safe side, though at least the second performance was at the end of the show.

Here’s the thing, though — “Imitating Angels” is a wonderful song, easily their best. It’s the one that’s stuck with me all these years, it seems to sum up that kind of feeling I mentioned in that group of bands earlier, the setting of the celebrity machine combined with the individual will-to-power sweep of Romanticism as handed down, aiming high but knowing there’s, indeed, a long long way to go. Sure, from a different angle it’s not all that far removed from, say, Pretty Boy Floyd’s utterly ridiculous/perfect “Wild Angels” or Poison’s “Fallen Angel” or whatever other song one can think of that’s all too appropriate for a city called, after all, Los Angeles. The crucial differences are two — the dark growl of the arrangement here, not a huge happily sung anthem or a power ballad but something that kicks and on the verses has this unsettling undertow, like the huge wash of watery effluvia on the album cover come to life, and Lorre’s performance and lyrics, not something about triumphalism but unsettled desperation — it’s not a metaphor about being an angel, it’s about the failure of actually ever being one. It’s not the prom anthem or the long distance dedication, it’s something else.

I remember seeing Lorre singing this with all the focused poise and drama that you see in the video — sure, the smooth closeups are obviously from a separate studio run-through of the song but it wasn’t too different in the end. Killer song, killer performance both times, the band were seemingly in a perfect groove and things surely had to be promising for the future. I couldn’t wait to see them with Peter Murphy in what would have been their biggest venue in the area to date, in front of a crowd that presumably would be perfect for them, goth and yet not.

As it turned out that was the band’s farewell to it all, their last LA show. They did start the tour with Murphy but some dates in there was a spectacular breakup, if not quite onstage then something close to it. Lorre was out, I forget the reasons as to why, and the rest of the band carried on for at least a show or two with one of the guitarists handling the singing — I actually wouldn’t mind hearing a bootleg of that, just to see what it was like. But that didn’t last, and a different band took their place, as I’ll say more about when I get to that show.

Yet somehow that makes that final LA show all the more appropriate — image and artifice triumphing over the reality, as clearly things had to be already pretty bad in the band to reach that state. But there on the stage, under the camera and stage lights, they all came together and put on a show, Lorre the central star. If it was an imitation — an intimation, really — of what was supposed to be the path upwards, it was still a wonderful one.

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