Not Just the Ticket — #57, Laibach, July 26 1992

Laibach, Palace

Then-current album: Kapital

Opening act: none

Back of ticket ad: Power Insurance Brokerage, “The Low-Cost Auto Insurance Experts.” I wouldn’t know.

Somehow Laibach just doesn’t even READ right on the color scheme of a typical Ticketmaster ticket of this time. A near antithesis.

As for this show, truly the end of an era, for me at least.

The reasons why can be simply summarized — a few days after this show, I went to the UK for my big summer trip to the UK, my first visit to the country and my gift to myself for having graduated from UCLA. Then I would come back, head south to UC Irvine for grad school…and leave LA. For almost four years straight, aside from summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I had lived either at UCLA or in Westwood, plus the brief July 1992 interregnum at my former apartmentmate Steve’s new place a little to the south of there. But I’d been in LA all that time, it had become home in however fitful a fashion for me, something I was arguably only really finally appreciating and getting used to in that final year of college.

I still wonder what it would have been like had I stayed there, either for grad school or for work in the library system there; my story would I think be a much different one, and I have no idea for the better or worse. At the time, I don’t know exactly what I was thinking in terms of what the move south to Orange County would mean, and I very much doubt I had any conception of the fact that nearly eighteen years later I would still be living within a few miles of UC Irvine. More than anything I would have been thinking about my trip to the UK, wondering what grad school might be like perhaps, otherwise simply getting to grips with the fact that I would soon be leaving a circle of friends I’d made that I wouldn’t be regularly hanging around with anymore, and that in some cases I’ve never seen again to this day, however much we have been able to keep in touch online.

All of which of course explains why I was going to see a bunch of stern faced Slovenian art students working with the trappings of hypertheatrical fascism.

Laibach were one of those bands I had just heard about with time and experience, as my stumbling and somewhat hesitant sense of what ‘industrial’ was supposed to be had codified with time, almost thoroughly in a post-EBM/Wax Trax ‘oh right it’s all overdriven guitars and evil disco beats’ sense. Laibach were on Wax Trax for a bit there so it made sense that I discovered them that way and in that context, but they were something else entirely, and if there was one thing that everyone agreed on, it’s that nobody seemed to agree on them. From a distance the sheer stonefaced hilarity of the group is patently clear — they knew exactly what they were doing (heck, Laibach was just one element of a huge project in a variety of fields as part of the now-legendary Neue Slowenische Kunst), and the humor was always perfectly black, perfectly pointed. It’s something to behold still via their cover versions, videos and looking over all that they’ve done.

At the time it felt a bit different, even more so given that they came from the one part of what was Yugoslavia that was about to escape the patent sorrow and madness of a decade under arms, and that they were doing so after decades of a military regime had been in charge of the country — previous to which they’d been under Nazi control. That Slovenia produced a Zizek doesn’t surprise me, but my sense of the grimly absurd means that I’m even less surprised, and more appreciative, of the fact that it produced a Laibach. The group’s embrace of uniforms and artistic styles, of even the language, of a culture that aestheticized terror and death is on the face of it completely wrenching, but that they did so by means of artistic protest in the regime they’d grown up in then made everything all that much more of a high matter of artistic brinksmanship.

All of which dances around a core fact that I hinted at earlier — Laibach were entertaining, compellingly so. While they were most known to me for their reworking of the entire Let It Be album — minus the title track — as well as a near-contemporary reworking of “Sympathy for the Devil,” and while the entertainment there was as much from the massed chorale vocals and drums and orchestral blasts tweaking ‘good old fashioned rock and roll,’ their original work, often incredibly cryptic, was just as involving. By the time they’d released their album they were touring on this time around, they’d scored operas, staged any number of productions, created vivid tape-heavy collages underscored with inflated pomp and probably had to be secretly having a laugh at just how much they’d done.

I had picked up most of the albums at this point and that included Kapital, so I was all up for this show — no idea who I went with but it was the Palace once more. Things felt a little different from the start — it was a typical enough crowd for an industrial show of the time, plenty of black T-shirts and protorivetheads and whatever else might be found there — but there was no opening act, and we all milled about a bit (I was more or less in the middle of the floor). The lights did go down a bit at some point and a steady drum loop began, sounding — very intentionally — much like the kind of drumming performances one can see in something like Triumph of the Will. You had a sense of a call to arms…or something.

As the band appeared onstage, five in number for this performance at least, there was a sense of that theatricality I mentioned earlier — this wasn’t anything like a ‘typical rock show,’ no acknowledgements of the crowd, not even a glance. They were all painted in gold makeup, wearing severe clothing, two members flanking the stage and playing elaborate, almost comical, massed trumpets that looped around their torsos. Everything was performed in something almost approaching ritual or invocation, and again this had to be exactly what they were aiming at, presented without any tinge of conscious irony. You had to read that all into everything they were doing, or you would have to accept it at face value.

I was very much reading into it, and I remember thinking at the time that it was impressive but also a bit crushing, wearying. Again, perhaps the point. In relistening to Kapital now it’s one of their most controlled, minimal albums, almost parallel to the stripped-down-to-almost-nothing sound that their then labelmates Wire were making under their Wir guise. Only Kapital had even less, nearly all the songs were essentially instrumentals, dark rumblings that were…well, almost as if there was such a thing as microindustrial, a compression of all the bombast into a cool pulse and starkness. While a lot of industrial acts ended up following that kind of vein later, they didn’t do it in quite this way; it’s a forbidding listen still, and translating that live made for a disorienting experience.

Lead singer Ivan didn’t seem to sing much, I recall — I didn’t even have a sense that they were inclined to do anything from either Kapital or their earlier albums for that matter. He was at the mike, dressed in a kind of partisan greatcoat and peaked cap or hunter’s cap, occasionally saying or singing things, quite often striking a stern fist in the air pose. Drums rumbled all around him, horn blasts, other technological touches…friends who had seen them previously at the height of their classic rock revamp phase indicated to me they were actually acting a bit more like classic rock types, partying it up on stage at least a bit. That clearly wasn’t the goal with this show.

So it’s hard to pull out a memorable moment when the whole show was what it was, unsettled and strange and at the same time very precisely performed, as if the overwhelming structure and focus of the album was going to dictate everything about the show as well (and why not?). I seem to half remember it ending with the album’s single “Wirtschaft Ist Tot,” but even then that’s not clear in my head, though Ivan was to the fore apparently singing or declaiming away while everyone else, stone faced as ever, moved through the song with specific focus. It might have been an encore, it might have been the end of the show that they were never going to do an encore in the first place.

There was no real significance to the show being my last one I attended as an LA resident beyond the accident of history. There would be more shows at the Palace for me, plenty more shows in LA in general, it wasn’t like I was gone and never returning. But nonetheless this did mark a definite point of closure, where my focus would be on LA as this thing off in the distance rather than all around me, where getting to a show would require a little more effort, luck and good will, given my carless state, and where I would by default be paying more attention to clubs and spots nearer to hand.

But what I hadn’t realized was that I was actually coming to UCI at just the right moment for a lot of things musically, not all of which would require tickets.

What to do with shiso aka perilla

About a year back I accidentally wrote what’s become the most popular post in this blog’s history — What to do with carrot tops aka carrot greens. I wouldn’t call this a sequel to that — and I will thank everyone who’s swung by that post and hope they found it of interest! — but the title of this post is a tip of the hat to that.

And what is shiso? As Wikipedia briefly notes, it’s something that’s long been common in a variety of Asian cultures and serves many different uses. To quote the start of the entry on the plants the name refers to, grouped and listed under its Latin genus name Perilla:

Perilla is a genus of annual herb that is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. In mild climates the plant reseeds itself. There are both green-leafed and purple-leafed varieties which are generally recognized as separate species by botanists. The leaves resemble stinging nettle leaves, being slightly rounder in shape. It is also widely known as the Beefsteak plant. Its essential oils provide for a strong taste whose intensity might be compared to that of mint or fennel. It is considered rich in minerals and vitamins, has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to help preserve and sterilize other foods.

Now speaking as one who loves both mint and fennel, I was all about this — but I came across the idea of exploring shiso by chance. Earlier this year as we planned for our garden, I read through a catalog that friend Stripey had provided and noted an entry for shiso (I believe spelled shisho but I could be wrong), describing both its strong taste and the fact that it apparently had a bit of natural salt taste to it. Intrigued, I made it one of my choices for ordering.

We ended up with purple shiso, or akajiso, which was probably all that was listed in the catalog to start with. I planted several seeds at the end of one of our beds and waited to see what would happen. Initially I thought it would be a bit of a disappointment — the seeds took some weeks to sprout, and when they did the plants looked fairly tame still after a couple more weeks, thus this photo from just before my June vacation:

Baby shiso, June 2010

As you can see, taken at something of a very close angle! So I was wondering if we would just get a few small leaves per plant.

Well, anything but — here’s the shiso from a month later:

Shiso, July 2010

And from just last Friday:

Shiso, late July 2010

So an unqualified success, really!

It was obviously time for me to harvest a few leaves and determine what to do with them. Purple shiso, it turns out, is less commonly used than green shiso in various recipes I’ve discovered so far, at least in terms of immediate preparation — but again, it all depends on what kind of dishes. It’s often used for coloring, as you might guess; the Chow site provides a brief description of possibilities. Often it can be used in drinks — this akajiso soda recipe at Jan Can Cook looks like a definite winner and I’ll probably try it out. Its strong flavor definitely suggests spicing and flavor options in general; experimentation will I think be key for me and my garden compatriots.

Shiso is apparently meant to be used when as fresh as possible, so I decided this should be done with something in a salad style. Besides the shiso I had also taken away many excellent tomatoes, so I searched to see if there was a way to combine the two. In doing so I discovered what looks to be an excellent blog in general, White on Rice Couple, cowritten by a couple as noted who describe their goal as:

We cook, consume and create from childhood comforts that our forefathers passed on through our heritage. But, we are not bound by it. Open to feeding both inside and outside our cultural comfort zones, we believe food holds few boundaries; so long as we understand and give respect/recognition to its origins. After many frustrations, failures and success, we continue to evolve at the stove and in our personal lives.

Couldn’t ask for a finer goal! So with that as a prompt, I chose to try their heirloom tomato and shiso salad recipe, which as they readily note in the entry actually comes from Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie feature.

In studying this recipe I realized I would have to make a couple of changes — first, while the tomatoes I had were of different varieties, they were all red and so would result in an inevitably monochromatic meal. Meanwhile, the recipe also clearly calls for the green shiso and not the red, so in a way I had to make the most of my random decision from some time previously.

However, I had tentatively tasted some of the raw leaf by this point, and while some comments on line had thought that akajiso was too bitter for them, I found it very flavorful, with the hints of salt I had heard mentioned for the plant as well. So I thought I might as well go for it — along the way making the shallot dressing recipe which had been recommended, since I had some fresh shallots around for such a purpose.

A little prep and marinading and more and the result:

Tomato and akajiso salad

A simple enough creation! But the combination of tastes was quite marvellous, and with a little bread made for a filling dinner.

I’ll yet try some more with the now thriving plants here — all suggestions welcomed of course. I’d definitely say you should give this a whirl for planting and cooking purposes, it’s a great little plant and I’m intrigued with where I can go with it now.

Summer AMG reviews to share…

Another batch from the past few weeks:

Not Just the Ticket — #56, The Medicine Show, July 25, 1992

The Medicine Show, Hollywood Palladium

Apparent festival line-up, in general order from openers to headliners: Terri Nunn, Dogs D’Amour (?), Circle of Power, Low Pop Suicide (?), Blind Melon, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Porno For Pyros, Ogre of Skinny Puppy, Alice in Chains

Then-current albums: …naming them all would take a while

Back of ticket ad: “The Academy of Radio Broadcasting — FREE Voice/Talent Test and Career Seminar.” It’s a change, at least.

I need to start by noting that this is not in fact a show by the band Medicine — I’d already seen them the previous year and would again later this same year — at the same venue in fact, and also as part of a multiband lineup. But I’ll get to that later.

As for this very odd little festival show…nobody can seem to agree on it.

My memory banks don’t turn up all the bands. There are definitely some bands I remember, others I don’t — but when trying to find more information on who was there online, things get fragmented. A seemingly definitive review by Pleasant Gehman for SPIN indicates that the Dogs D’Amour and Low Pop Suicide both played there, but I honestly don’t remember either of them. A concert tracking site removes Dogs D’Amour from the lineup but also removes Circus of Power, who definitely played, and adds My Sister’s Machine, who I don’t remember at all. I don’t remember Blind Melon being there either but a recording of the band from the show is available. No general reminiscences seem to be around, no flyers for the show have been scanned to my knowledge.

It’s a little weird, this lack of commentary or agreement, given the reputation of some of the bands involved already to that point, weirder given those reputations that were about to go sky-high (and which have remained there). Shows like this weren’t new of course, the idea of benefit festivals having been long since established. The whole idea behind this show was to raise money to protest against animal testing and vivisection, a sound cause. I had to have heard about it through a combination of friends, ads, reports somewhere. The timing was also good because I was just a couple of weeks away at that point from my trip to the UK for August, after which time I would head south for grad school in Irvine. So either I bought a ticket in advance or got one at the door, who knows, but I do know that there were a slew of people excited about it; I went with about three, maybe four other people piled into the car.

I had heard as well that it would be an acoustic show or at least partially so, so I was intrigued by the idea of Ogre from Skinny Puppy doing a show like that alone. At the same time, nearly everyone in the car were talking about one band in particular. Rage Against the Machine were a group I’d only just heard of or had never heard of and apparently they were utterly amazing — they only had a demo tape out and it either wasn’t in the car on the way over or we were listening to something else. I think the latter because I do remember seeing the cover of the demo for the first time that evening, a match taped onto a photocopy of a stock market report. Pretty sure I thought something like “Pretty obvious” but at the same time the folks I was with spoke so highly of the band that I was pretty well prepared to have my socks knocked off.

It was another lovely summer day and we got to the Palladium, parked, went into the darkened theater and…I’m not sure what happened next. I almost think we walked in on Terri Nunn’s set, but it could be that she started first and I’m conflating events. I have no sense of the crowd at this show other than the fact that it was pretty well packed if not sold out, though it would only grow more so as the evening progressed. If there was a benefit T-shirt sold at the show I don’t have it — would almost be the only way to track who really was actually there, it seems — and I spent most of my time on the floor about two thirds of the way back. So with that as a set-up, let me go through what I can recall…

Terri Nunn’s set was, um, curious. So she did the acoustic/unplugged thing (and keep in mind this was still in the relatively first flush of the whole MTV-driven idea, the show was just a couple of years old at that point), but at the same time nearly everyone there, myself included, probably thought “Well wait, why is she on this bill anyway?” Which is a little rude to think, perhaps, but given that her work with Berlin was seen as this already distant sampling from another time/place where most everyone else on the bill was in-the-moment, I couldn’t but think there was a little opportunism in her being here. That was probably the case with a lot of the bands on the bill, though, but there was an air of strange, ragged desperation in her case. She did versions of “Sex (I’m a…)” and “Take My Breath Away,” perhaps inevitably, along with a new song that she said was inspired by the Rodney King verdict and its aftermath a couple of months beforehand. I can’t say it was deathless.

Circus of Power or Tool might have been next though I almost think that Blind Melon must have gone even earlier, even though, as noted, I don’t remember them being there at all. “No Rain” would at least have been played without anyone thinking of bee girls, given that video was a year off. Let’s say that Tool were next, if only because I seem to remember them being a first-half-of-the-show thing. I had the Opiate EP by this point and had heard they were a pretty good bunch, but I otherwise didn’t know what to expect, though I was amused to see Henry Rollins joining them on stage. In fact, I was just amused by them period — for all that it was a short, weird set, or because of it, it perfectly captured their blend of seriousness and humor. They did do an acoustic setup, all five of them counting Rollins in line, though I can’t remember what if anything he was playing. Maynard in the center filled in some dead time as they set up by announcing, “Okay, this is a little song called “Maynard’s Dick,”” and then did some random singing of said phrase — that it actually was released as a song years later seems appropriate. The whole feeling was initially pretty goofy, which is why I was a little startled when they launched into a song that I would discover a year later (when it appeared on their first album Undertow) was “Disgustipated,” a steady percussion punch with Maynard singing a couple of phrases over and again like an endless command. It lasted something like ten minutes here, Maynard going into the “LIFE FEEDS ON LIFE!” bit while everyone else played and then systematically destroyed their instruments as they played. And that was it, when they finally wound down and finished the song they left the stage. It wasn’t Mr. Bungle’s amazing art-terrorism earlier that year but it got my attention, and I definitely became a fan of theirs from that point until this very day.

Assuming it was Circus of Power next — and in fact assuming it was them at the show to start with — the guest starring continued. It actually became a bit of a theme of the evening — Grace Slick appeared at one point between sets to encourage donations and activism — so I was a little surprised but maybe not overtly so that Ian Astbury ended up sitting in with the band. Circus of Power themselves though — pretty anonymous. They were one of those clutch of bands from around that time that weren’t LA glam, hadn’t figured on being alternative, didn’t bill themselves as straight up metal…it was as if the space opened by groups like Jane’s Addiction just didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. There was a bit of dramatic gothiness in their performance, again all acoustic from what I remember, and given Astbury’s presence the inclusion of a cover of the Cult’s “Brother Wolf Sister Moon” seemed about right. (To Astbury’s credit, though, he didn’t take the lead vocal — he seems pretty good about this sort of thing, consider that new EP with Boris where a member of that band actually sings the one Cult cover on it.) The set ended, that was that.

I’m guessing, I think, that Rage Against the Machine would have been next. I do remember that the crowd was definitely getting a little more fired up at this point, the floor more packed. Cool, I would have thought, there’s a sense of catching something big before it goes big. I honestly can’t remember if they had acoustic instruments for this one but I think they did, though they weren’t coming out looking ready to play easygoing folk jams. Cheers were going up, I was psyching myself up a bit — okay, bring it on! And they started in with a wallop and shout and the place exploded.

Except me.

I’ve rarely, maybe never, been left SO immediately cold by a band, so immediately turned off. Perhaps, with retrospection, part of this was driven by the fact that being in the middle of a swathe of people really getting into it was just pissing me off even more. But they just did NOT work — and keep in mind again that I only knew their name and nothing else about them, nothing else about what they sounded like or were standing for or talking about, what bands they’d performed in before, none of it. I was taking them without any preconceptions on that front and…they failed for me. Hating them in general from that point forward was pretty simple because if you’re not making me happy then I really don’t want to hear you go on.

Of course, as mentioned, in that crowd I was in a decidedly minority opinion. The rest of their set is a trudging blur to me, but at some point they wrapped up and then somewhere along the line a band I had a lot more potential interest in played their set. It wasn’t the debut show of Porno for Pyros — that had happened in the same venue a couple of months beforehand for another benefit concert — but the Jane’s Addiction fan that I was really, really wanted to see Perry Farrell’s new thing, hopeful as I was that this new band, which also had the earlier group’s great drummer Stephen Perkins, would hopefully be equally great. Well, we all know how that turned out, but on the evidence of the set I was still kinda hopeful, I suppose — Perry didn’t too much in the way of his random lectures and rants, the songs sounded okay…but it wasn’t surprising at all that the song that got the biggest response, understandably so for an acoustic themed show, was “My Time,” which had surfaced in similar form on the band’s initial live album. Who knows, maybe the endless reunions were already in place in his head.

Up until this point I don’t recall any of the bands or performers saying or doing much with regard to the general theme of the show, supporting anti-vivisection activities. That definitely changed with Ogre’s appearance, given Skinny Puppy’s own core interest in the horrors of the subject and corollary examples of the human animal at its worst having driven any number of their songs. I had been looking forward to his spot the most, really — I had, annoyingly, just missed Skinny Puppy playing the Palladium a couple of weeks beforehand (with Godflesh opening! still kicking myself a bit over not seeing that combination, especially since I think Robert Hampson might have been touring with them at that point) and still had never seen Skinny Puppy live at all. And as it turned out, I never did in that lineup, given Dwayne Goettel’s death a couple of years later. Point being, this was kind of it for me, and I was admittedly curious and intrigued at what an Ogre acoustic set would be like.

He came out with a friend on guitar and ended up only doing two songs, to my disappointment. The first, either titled “Ode to Groovy” or “Groovy’s License to Kill,” was low key and straightforward enough, a steadier reflection and, I’d guess, condemnation. After some brief remarks, he then launched into the song I kinda knew he would end up doing, “Testure,” his lyrical delivery being this obsessive spiral downward, done just to the accompaniment of his friend’s guitar. If it lacked the full arrangement impact of the song as most well known it was no less harrowing in the end, and if I had to take away any one song from that night as truly representative of what it was supposed to be standing for, it would be that.

That pretty much left Alice in Chains, just a couple of months away from the release of Dirt, to close it out — they’d already released their first acoustic EP Sap the previous year, so the idea that the group could do the unplugged thing was already a familiar one, and along with their weird, compelling way around harmonies is what lets the band be such a strong one still in the memory, however distant now, however much there were questions of them supposedly being ‘fake grunge’ swirling around them at the time. I think it was Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers who said the following year that the band was a lot greater and more individual than anyone realized, and while I wouldn’t go completely as far, I was closer to that than some, still am, even if I haven’t listened in a while. It was definitely a change to see Jerry Cantrell playing under what I remember were very low lights, when a month before he had been having ridiculous fun doing the guitar soloing on a song with Spinal Tap.

The whole band was very quiet, almost still, even as the floor had filled up again and there were many cheers. It too was a short set, two songs I seem to remember, with Ann Wilson from Heart, who had appeared on that earlier EP, joining them for a song. Layne Staley did a pretty solid job, I seem to remember, but any assumptions you could make about who in the band was or wasn’t on something at that point might well have been true. It was murky but not imprecise, something that was a definitely theatrical performance without them moving at all. A hint of a real darkness that somehow suited the show’s stated purpose, however indirectly.

I don’t remember much after that, it all wrapped up, there might have been some complaints about the shortness of the final sets but it had been a long evening already. I kinda wish there were more clear memories around about this show on the net, there are gaps in my head about it all still as noted.

Not about Rage Against the Machine, though. Alas.

The garden on July 23, 2010

And after a two week break, back for a visit — most of my fellow gardening crew were either away on their own vacations or in town but busy with family visits so it was all up to me this time. We’ve had some cool mornings but warm afternoons — a nice balance! — but it did mean some needed watering. Didn’t have a chance to do some proper cleanup and trimming but there were a slew of tomatoes to take, so I’ll make a cold soup of some sort, I figure!

But first, the latest video:

Next, a selection from the rolling photo set of some of the photos from today — and I’d like to feature what’s become one of the hits, the shisho, also known as perilla. After a slow start it’s completely exploded — took a number of leaves and am going to see what I can do with them over the weekend, as apparently they are best used when fresh.


Some other photos here — good growing days all around:

Not Just the Ticket — #55, My Bloody Valentine, July 5 1992

My Bloody Valentine, the Palace

Then-current album: Loveless

Opening acts: Buffalo Tom, Yo La Tengo

Back of ticket ad: Fox Photo, so nice to see you again

I remember this ticket went missing for a while, turns out I had it stored with a couple of other tickets from this month in a separate box due to my move from Los Angeles to Irvine. I admit I would have been bummed if this had disappeared entirely.

Because, well, for obvious reasons, it’s My Bloody Valentine.

As with the previous time I saw them, I’ve already talked about this show via the Marooned essay I wrote so I’ll be reproducing the text from that one. But a little more context to start with:

Seeing MBV the once that year had already been something of a goal achieved, and I was duly thankful for the experience. Hearing that they would be coming through again was therefore icing on the cake but one I was happy to have. I was also pretty thrilled that it would be during a time when I was still going to be around — all of August was pretty much out when it came to shows simply because I was going to be over the UK, so had they performed a month later then maybe I wouldn’t have had as many stories to tell over the years. Luckily enough, though…

I had to have come with the usual crew of shoegaze-friendly sorts from KLA like Lauren A. and others. At this point in the year we probably had a sense of relative vindication — My Bloody Valentine now playing a much bigger venue than before, a general feeling that people were starting to recognize that this band had a definite something and couldn’t be written off. The point of view of a committed fan, of course, rather than a larger perspective, but the initial evidence was there. Since none of us knew what was or rather wasn’t going to happen after this tour, we just thought it would probably be one last chance to see them this go around while waiting for the next EP or whatever to surface. Also, it was a glorious summer in July as mentioned in recent entries. So hurrah the good moods.

I remember a couple of friends of mine from the library I worked at at UCLA came as well — one friend, in a description I have always remembered, described the album as like looking at an antique photograph through an equally old frame and glass pane, something murky and not quite understood. He was a total eighties shred guitar geek in the best way, and that’s as good a description as any.

Yo La Tengo opened the show, the second time I’d seen them that year and the last time I would see them…well, I would say ever, but who knows about the future. My sense of unsatisfaction with their last show — moments of brilliance mixed with things I wasn’t all that into — continued here; I recall them starting with some scraggly number that was kinda entertaining and after that it’s a big blank. I was positive I was sitting up in the balcony of the Palace for this set, I have an impression on looking down on the stage, and once again my favorite song of theirs was this quiet one focused around a guitar loop Ira Kaplan played and then set to repeat while the rest of the song went on from there. I know they’re important and special for a lot of folks and supposedly they got really interesting after this very tour precisely because of the experience playing with MBV but…well, whatever. Other interests, other times.

That said at least they were interesting to me at spots. Buffalo Tom, no. I had never been an active fan or even a passive one, they were just there, and they did a lot of heartfelt demi-anthems of the sort that didn’t move me, a meat-and-potatoes rock that I think takes different forms over time when someone somewhere gets all antsy that real music’s being lost, man. I was on the floor for this one, reasonably near the front, though I don’t really know why, and I certainly don’t remember much about the show aside from being kinda bored. There was one song that stood out, though — the performance was kinda annoyingly Springsteenish but it turned out, as they announced at the song’s end, it was a Tom Waits cover (and it wasn’t “Jersey Girl,” I’m pretty sure). But the fact that their one song I remember from the show wasn’t even theirs tells me all I need to know.

And of course I was just kinda impatient because I just wanted MBV out there on the stage to rip my head off again. Reading the excerpt below reminds me again of the unusual timing of it — I wrote it back in 2005/2006 at a point when the band seemed long gone forever, my anticipation for any sort of return transformed into a sigh of regret and eventual acceptance. In a way I was just trying to write up a valedictory take on the band, on something that was long gone.

So it got published in the summer of 2007…and almost immediately afterward, following a lot of ‘yes/no/maybe’ rumors that I kept ignoring for the most part because they never seemed to come true, they actually announced the reunion tour for the following year. Talk about a bit of a cosmic joke, in a pretty good way. The best possible way would have actually been some new songs and new releases but that didn’t happen, the reunion was essentially the third leg of the Loveless tour as I experienced it, not that I minded too much. Still, I wish it could have been otherwise, somehow.

The full essay can be read, as always, via the USA Today Pop Candy site — the interview I refer to that took place with Shields has been transcribed and hosted a few spots, including one of the big fan sites.

So when they toured again later that year, playing a larger venue this time, I wasn’t going to say no. It was a different experience, though, less claustrophobic since there was more room, but also because this time around I stood back from the stage and just watched carefully, drifting instead of getting fully caught up, no bad thing, but a change of pace. The set list was the same, and I admit I had been hoping for more surprises, but what the hey.

Then “You Made Me Realize” started, and I thought to myself, “OK, I am going to take an exact measure of the time here as soon as they start the chord.” They began, I noted my watch, and then waited to see what would happen.

They kept playing, of course. From my perspective it was quite fun, guessing who knew what was forthcoming and who had no idea. I could see the clumps at the foot of the stage, people all crammed in, but they were starting to fray a bit towards the edge as the chord kept hammering out. I just watched and nodded and let my mind drift.

They kept playing at fifteen minutes. I was exhausted already, sure, but not completely trashed, so I was happily into the feeling being generated, the combination of repetition and minisecond strum and maximum volume. (Shields again, from our interview: “The [show] in Los Angeles, it was a shame, because it wasn’t loud. . . . Loud in a caustic way, but not in a low-frequency way, not in the stomach way. In the ears, yeah. I think we definitely tried to push that as far as we could ever push it. But I think in the future I want to make it a lot more physical, in a body way.”)

They kept playing at twenty-five minutes. I swear I saw people literally staggering towards the exit, just having to leave, not being able to stand another second of it. But then I also saw people moving forward, almost as if they couldn’t be controlled-moths to the flame.

They kept playing at thirty minutes. I really have no idea what I was thinking at that point, beyond wondering how or when it would end. Would it end at all? It seemed like they were aiming for something impossible-it would match with their music and with Loveless and the dream and vision and new reality I had encountered. In later years I described “Soon” as the sense of a fragment that had fallen out of the sky from somewhere, that the ‘real’ song was continuing to play out there endlessly, on all frequencies, in full measure. Here, now, with another song, they were aiming to recreate that, to actually create that in full-to see what would happen.

They kept playing at thirty-five minutes . . . and then, back to the final verse, a last slam through it, and it was over.

Completely-the band never played another show. Without planning on it, without knowing it, likely the band didn’t know it then either, I had seen the end of the live incarnation of the musicians that had created the most stunning moment I’d experienced, matching that with something equally distinct, unique, bizarre.

Not Just the Ticket — #54, Peter Murphy, July 3 1992

Peter Murphy, Greek Theatre

Then-current album: Holy Smoke

Opening act: Machines of Loving Grace

Back of ticket ad: KLSX, once and forever

I am really wondering what a July 4 Peter Murphy would be like (or for that matter is like). I can’t quite see him doing the state/county fair circuit, though…

Anyway, seeing someone for a third time and seeing another band not at all, and more besides. And goths.

But I’ll get to the goths. Which may sound a little counterintuitive because we’re talking about Peter Murphy, but at this stage I was now something of a small-scale Murphy veteran, this being my third overall show, and I couldn’t say everyone was gothed out in the audience, least of all myself. Backtracking a bit, when Murphy’s follow-up to Deep was announced and came out, there was at least a general sense of expectation that he might get somewhere further than he even had before thanks to the success of Deep and “Cuts You Up.” He was duly booked on a late night show — Dennis Miller, as it happened — and there was a bit more promo attention paid this time around. I was all for it in any event — while my musical horizons were rapidly expanding throughout the early nineties, I had made the shift from being new to Murphy’s work, solo and with Bauhaus, to being an enthusiastic fan to starting to feel like I would be a bit of a lifer with him, as proved to be the case.

However, Holy Smoke — with its rather ‘what the huh’ album cover showing him scruffed up with a black eye — fell a bit flat on a follow-up hit level, not helped by the fact that the lead single “The Sweetest Drop” was a clunky, strident song with some lyrics that were kinda embarrassing, to be frank. Nothing further really caught after that, which is a pity given those excellent songs that are on the album, even and perhaps especially “Hit Song,” the completely over the top in the best possible way ballad that ended it and that should really have lived up to its title. It was almost a simultaneous embrace of the big leagues and a knowing farewell to it, though that mostly came to mind in retrospection.

Amid all the other busy things going on in my life in early 1992 I wasn’t completely obsessing over the album and its fate, but I knew that Murphy could definitely put on a good show and so when the tour was announced getting tickets was a no-brainer, especially when it was announced that the Nymphs were going to be opening. I had become a huge fan of theirs, as previous entries indicate, and figured seeing them at their biggest venue they’d yet played to my knowledge would be a treat; Inger Lorre surely could fill and take over a stage just as easily as Murphy could and did. Steve M. and I therefore found ourselves heading over on another warm early summer evening to Hollywood, waiting to see what would happen.

Except one thing had already changed by the time of the show — no Nymphs appearance. No Nymphs at all, in fact — earlier on the tour the band had collapsed, prompted by Lorre up and quitting the band after what had been apparently one too many fights with her bandmates. I had heard that there was a show or two after that with one of the guitarists singing the vocals instead, but I can’t imagine he did anywhere near as a good a job, and shortly after that the band completely fragmented and that was that. Knowing that a classically LA band had splintered before at least one last hometown show was a bit of a bummer but there’s life — the end result was that the Machines of Loving Grace took over the opening slot. It was actually not too bad a change for me, since I’d enjoyed the group’s self-titled debut — industrial-rock that was constantly compared to Nine Inch Nails but had its own elegantly moody thing going at its best, especially since the singer didn’t sound like Trent Reznor at all.

Lots of memories stick out about this whole night, for a variety of reasons — it was both a fun evening and a funny one. Bizarrely the first thing I remember is that on the way over to the show we stopped in Hollywood to grab a quick bite to eat at the Arby’s on Sunset near the 101. I have NO idea why we choose Arby’s and why I remember that otherwise generic meal beyond the fact that I know I haven’t set foot in one since — so there’s Arby’s and Peter Murphy, forever associated in my mind. A vision, I guess.

It was the first time I had ever been to the Greek Theatre and I’ve only been a few times since, but each time’s actually been a really good show. The setting is lovely, it’s a large venue without being monstrously so, and the time of year was perfect, so I remember settling down in our seats, about halfway back or so near stage center, thinking this would be a pretty great night. Machines of Loving Grace kicked it off well enough though I don’t think they quite connected with the crowd — “Burn Like Brilliant Trash” was probably their most well known song at that point, and the performance as a whole was fair if not really remarkable. Pretty sure they did what remains my favorite song of theirs, “Cicciolina,” but they were a year off from their biggest hit “Butterfly Wings” and by default a good chunk of the crowd hadn’t bought a ticket to see them in particular. Never saw them again and mostly I remember stylized demi-capering on stage, so hey.

Peter Murphy, on the other hand, was in his element from the first song. If the album was a washout on the commercial level of expectations, the performance was not, and it definitely helped cement the vision in my head that Murphy simply will not aim to put on a bad show whatever the circumstance, that or LA in general means he won’t, or both. Some years later I learned more about the sense of general tension among himself and his backing band in the early nineties, but in a way it might have slightly resolved by events — at one point Murphy noted that one of them (the drummer, perhaps? definitely not Paul Statham) was wrapping up his time with the band with this tour, and possibly even that very show if it was the tour-ender, introducing him to the audience and calling for a cheer. I remember this all being done very warmly, not with irony or a pointed edge; Murphy asked the musician to join him stage center for a hug and salute.

Another reason I liked the show was that two of my favorite all time songs of his got performed then, both of which hadn’t been on the previous tour. Both are big, slow, sweeping songs that appear on Love Hysteria — “Time Has Got Nothing To Do With It” and “My Last Two Weeks,” dramatic, beautiful, elegant, pile on the superlatives. I had fallen for both them pretty hard when I first discovered Murphy’s work in 1989 and so finally hearing them when I’d missed out the tour for that album was a bit of a dream come true. The former seemed made for the Greek Theatre too, something that suited the mood of the setting, the general atmosphere of a big performance in the open air. Great show, simply put.

And the goths? Well, it went like this — so before either of the bands even started Steve M. and I were sitting around just relaxing and two dudes settled in behind us in their seats, and they were TOTALLY gothed out, you couldn’t put it any other way. Both Steve and I were probably initially thinking, “Ah well, of course,” but we ended up chatting with them and rapidly discovered that they had senses of humor as completely scabrous as our own. I’ve run into enough self-serious goths — self-serious hyperfans of any genre, for that matter — to have grown rapidly tired of anyone who lacks a sense of being able to laugh at themselves as much as the rest of the world.

These guys not only knew how to do that, they were as down on ridiculous hyperposeurs as we were in general — which made their story they shared with us pretty hilarious. It’s really best told in person (as I’ve told it to many people over time) but without getting into detail it was about a locally notorious performer in what was LA’s goth/industrial scene as such at the time who had put on an air that he was not only playing a vampire, he WAS a vampire, only appearing in public at night and all that, and that he kept this up constantly onstage, offstage, any time. I had only heard of him and his band but these guys had seen them and weren’t all that impressed.

So when they found out that said performer had a day job working in a Wherehouse in the San Fernando Valley, they took great pleasure in showing up at the Wherehouse in question, tracking him down in the store and going “A real vampire! Quick, exorcise him, fling holy water at him!” while the dude in question apparently muttered under his breath, looked around nervously and tried to escape.

So that’s why you should chat with random people at shows sometimes. You never know what stories you’ll hear.

Not Just the Ticket — #53, The Cure, June 27, 1992

The Cure, The Rose Bowl

Then-current album: Wish

Opening acts: Cranes, Dinosaur Jr.

Back of ticket ad: at the time I would have laughed at the KLSX ad as being inappropriate and now…

Those hole punches in the ticket amuse me a bit, really. Not one but two of them, doubtless applied when I was going into the stadium or via some sort of gate setup outside. Anything to be absolutely sure I was legitimately there.

And this show, and this band at long last, and a transition.

Following the burst of shows at the start of June I was hunkering down and wrapping things up — final shows at KLA, final weeks at the apartment I’d lived in nonstop for three years just outside of campus, graduation. (As you can see here if you’d like.) This was all leading into a period of about a month — more like six weeks, probably — of an interregnum, in between UCLA as a student and moving down to UCI to start grad work. But I was still in LA, and shortly after this show I ended up with roommate Steve and some friends in a spot somewhere else in LA — I honestly don’t remember where, on the Westside near the 405 some miles south of Westwood, Culver Cityish, I think.

I still have fond memories of this period for a variety of reasons — in a weird way it was one of the most carefree of times, for all that it was also one of my busiest. The apartment was a really nice one, there was a huge amount of music either coming out or about to be released, the larger sense of ‘alternative’ being this thing, however randomly defined or ill-defined, taking hold with newer bands to explore all the time. There was also the building excitement for what would be my first trip outside America, a three week or so visit to the UK to attend a conference at Oxford about J. R. R. Tolkien, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of his birth as well as to explore a bit of the UK in general. I remember a lot of randomly good meals, conversations with friends, many other personal things — the whole feeling was of a warm glow, a happy bounce.

Which also included shows, and that meant this show, which I had been wanting to see for what seemed like — what was — years.

I had fallen for it back in 1989, I had thought Robert Smith wasn’t kidding when he said the Cure would be wrapping up as a going concern after the Disintegration tour, which due to bad timing I had completely missed. I had spent months kicking myself over that, walking around UCLA in my second year seeing endless numbers of tour shirts from folks who had been to the Dodger Stadium show. Time led me to realize that Smith was, perhaps, not being fully truthful with his statement, but it was a good reminder that tours are, after all, pretty grueling if you’re the person on tour rather the person waiting for the show to arrive.

And I’d been waiting, waiting, waiting. While 1989 was all about the big rush of getting lost inside Disintegration — and why yes I’ve been indulging in the reissue this year — as well as exploring Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, the following years was when I started going backwards, listening to everything else, making sense of everything a bit more in my head about their story, about Smith, about moving beyond the initial iconographic rush. “He played with Siouxsie? There was this Glove band? This song references this book? Hmm…” It helped that I also adored the Mixed Up collection (still do, can’t wait for that reissue either) and so when the word started going around that there was a full new album to come I was beyond excited, because that had to mean a tour — they were finally coming back.

I frame the Cure and Los Angeles around this time the same way I do Depeche Mode, their own ‘imperial phases’ — to borrow a term that Neil Tennant aptly used to describe his own band’s seemingly do-no-chart-wrong moment — almost totally overlapping. In a way, this show felt like the sequel to — and from a longer distance, the ending moment in contrast to — Depeche Mode’s Rose Bowl concert in 1988, the arcing upward towards breakthrough and utter triumph on the level of pop. But not quite there for them yet, that followed in 1990, with the Cure cresting in 1989 as noted. When Wish came out in 1992 it debuted at number two, the band had a big hit single with “Friday I’m in Love,” but in a way it felt obvious that this would be the case, rather than the big shock. To play the Rose Bowl wasn’t as retrospectively surprising as Depeche four years previously, it was logical. Of COURSE they would play the Rose Bowl, they’re the goddamn Cure! When one of the KROQ DJs introducing them this night said something about how one of the local Top 40 stations had called up asking if the Cure had any other albums before Disintegration, the sense of superior mockery of sad ignorance wasn’t just in the DJ’s tone of voice, it was in all of our heads to start with.

The album, in a way, summarizes, extends and elaborates on that sense of stardom, of new attention and focus, while finding a happy fragmentation that’s not quite as radical as Kiss Me but isn’t the sheer, wonderful monolith of Disintegration. It was a great album to listen to driving around LA with friends, and that sense of summer glow I indicated earlier still suffuses the album for me — further heightened, of course, by the show.

It was a beautiful day, it was late June in Los Angeles and the Rose Bowl’s setting is a perfect spot to be enclosed within something still broad and widespread, an isolation under the endless sky with thousands and thousands, part of a huge sprawling metropolis and yet feeling like it was all miles away, hundreds of miles. I went with a friend of my friend Steve M.’s; he didn’t want to go but he knew a friend of Arkansas who did — she was a kick, hilarious, and to top it all off she helped me move from the old apartment to the new one the following week. Gotta love people like that.

Most of the big shows I’ve been to since this one had crowds that were a bit…rowdier, let’s say. Lollapaloozas were for moshing, doncha know. I couldn’t tell you what Coachella shows were like but I have a feeling they follow that line of general descent. This show was one of feverish activity but not regular displays of blatant stupidity, though I doubtless am overlooking them in my head. It was almost like this calm swirl of happiness and conversation and anticipation, multiplied many, many times over. The sun burned down but didn’t FEEL like it was burning down, I’m sure, and though 5:00 pm was the start time — rightly so, given how long the Cure’s set turned out to be — it wasn’t middle of the day exhaustion crawling into evening torpor.

We were on the floor, not stage center but not too far off from the line of it, I think; unlike the stage setup familiar from Depeche’s 101 film they weren’t set up in an end zone but along one of the sidelines, a wonderful sprawl of a set in ways. Everything felt closer as a result, a nice touch. Cranes kicked it off first and I was pretty excited to see them; they had supposed to play with Slowdive earlier that year before it was cancelled so even though this was hardly going to be an intimate club show I was all for it. They had been handpicked by the Cure and I’m willing to bet I was probably one of maybe a hundred or so people who even knew who they were slightly in that crowd, but I liked the fact that they went ahead and did their thing — dramatic, starkly beautiful, isolated, strange, downright out of place with their surroundings throughout, Swans as post-goth/4AD prettiness, Einsturzende with hooks and a ‘conventional’ instrument lineup — without apology. Still a fan, and more to say about them later in the series.

Dinosaur Jr., meanwhile, were hilarious, and great. I think I actually first heard of them when I heard the “Just Like Heaven” cover back in 1989, so I had to wonder if their addition to the bill was some kind of strange joke on someone’s part. But Smith loved them without reservation and at the time I hadn’t realized that J. Mascis had started out as a bit of a goth himself, if in the Birthday Party vein more than anything else, so there was more rather than less sense to be found here. Like Cranes they just went ahead and did it, their own commercial breakout as such didn’t fully kick in until later that year and following, and mostly I remember Mascis’s hair flying in the wind, Mike Johnson on bass playing away and, of course, the fact that they did indeed do their cover of “Just Like Heaven,” with no abrupt ending this time. A lot of people around me were a bit confused.

Then, at last, the Cure. It’s a little hard to talk about just the memories of this show for the simple reason that a date in Detroit on the same tour was filmed and released on video as Show, so there’s an easy way to double check most of the details, the film projections, the general feeling at least visually. At the same time that’s a construction that is solely visual and audio, from multiple perspectives, not my sense of watching from a distance across a sea of darkened figures, all standing, similarly cheering, seeing them as a brightly lit island that was near enough to take in well, far enough away to be a full spectacle, on a warm night growing cooler as it went.

No one song stands out, it’s all about the impressions — the screens on either side of the stage cutting between various video projections of the band members, for instance, sometimes showing Robert at the mike singing and playing, often showing Boris Williams’ steady work on drums (and I’m still very happy I got to see him at least once live with the band). The overdriven glow of the lights at their brightest, the reactions to new songs and old songs both — “From the Depths of the Deep Green Sea” does come to mind now, it’s no surprise that one has stayed in the sets over the years. A sense of ‘at last’ for me, yes, but not in a surprised way, more in a slightly comfortable way, a feeling of correctness. Knowing now that they would never have as much of an entree into pop as that almost makes me a bit melancholy, for lost time, for continuing obsessions — all very Cure-like, really.

I do definitely remember getting out of the parking lot took a long damn while, though.

Kale and carrot salad

Kale and carrot salad

So this one grew out of the fact I had plenty of kale around, not much lettuce and little desire to cook or steam the kale, especially in this weather. As I had a lot of carrots too I did a bit of scrounging and found this recipe (it downloads as a PDF), which as it states:

This is a new twist on kale because it is not cooked. The acid from the lemon and orange juice actually soften and sweeten the kale.

Which it did! Extremely enjoyable results and a good hot weather dish, so give it a whirl…

The Faraday Trippers at UCI, July 14 2010

Faraday Trippers

So I had a chance to meet the Faraday Trippers — the core of Mike and Pat plus newer member Bryce — at Bottled Smoke back in May. Mike runs Seagrass Recordings, who have released the various Faraday-associated recordings so far; the band itself is an all-theremin bunch.

We had a great dinner beforehand and then headed over to UCI for the show, organized by the ever-capable Acrobatics Everyday, with the band being an opener for Mahjongg. To quote myself from Twitter:

Very enjoyable show from the start — while there’s a similar all-theremin base as with the Lothars, extra percussion via bells tambourines and chimes adds a certain unexpected collage, an extra layer of rich sound. Bryce plays very subtly on his theremin, Mike is more motion-heavy, and Pat maintains steadier tones, creating a rich variety….The shift in approach as the piece continues is notable; Bryce’s percussion/drone is more frenetic, Pat’s more busy.

A full Flickr set here if you’d like to look further! That’s Bryce and Mike in silhouette at the start of this blog entry.