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.