Then-current album: The Death of Cool
Opening acts: Bleach, Kingmaker
Back of ticket ad: Fox Photo, eager for my developing business.
Back to a pretty faded set of tickets here for the next few ones, browning and almost flaking away. It’ll all go grey at some point, I have to think.
Meantime, the three band show that was the one band show, by ill luck.
The run-up to this show was also that of my first ‘return’ to LA following the move south. It was a mental adjustment as much as a physical one, and also one of new contexts and connections being formed. There were the initial courses, but there also was getting to know my grad school colleagues and the professors in the department, my neighbors of course, my new apartmentmate Dave (good guy, hope he’s doing well!), and, especially important, people at the radio station and newspaper on campus. Many of the people I met there in those first weeks I’m still friends with, most importantly one fellow in particular. The story, as best I remember, goes something like this:
So I found out where the radio station was located — one building over from where I currently work, as it happens, but the station itself has long since moved — and got myself over there after checking in at the department for the first time. Came in through the then-main door and quickly introduced myself to a number of folks around, many of whom were managers of departments there, an easy going conversation as I asked after what was needed in terms of training, initial work and so forth — since I’d already been doing some radio I was pretty quickly assigned an early morning spot for fall quarter shortly thereafter and I was on my way.
It was also pretty natural I would ask to have a quick tour of the premises, including the DJ booth. So I was shown in and met a friendly looking fellow then on the air; we introduced ourselves and started to chat a bit. Such was the introduction to my friend Mackro, scholar and gent then and now, truly one of the best friends I’ve ever had and still have. I’m sure we would have met soon enough even if we hadn’t met on that first day of mine there but nothing like getting off on the right foot.
Mackro’s tastes were similar — not exact, by any means, but close — to mine and so besides other connecting factors like humor, general attitudes and outlooks on life, we pretty quickly figured out that we could rely on each other’s tastes. At some point within those first few months we determined we had been to a number of the same shows, including the opening set of My Bloody Valentine when they played two sets at the Roxy as well as the astounding Mr. Bungle show in Anaheim. Turned out one of the things we were also completely simpatico on was the ever great Kitchens of Distinction, though I can’t immediately remember if he had been to one of their earlier shows like I had. So in some way, shape or form we ended up being part of a group going up to see them as they came back through town following a year and a half away.
My love for the Kitchens had only grown with time since that show, and while I initially thought their album from this year The Death Of Cool seemed a little understated in comparison to Strange New World, I now feel it’s the stronger album as a whole, subtler singles balanced by greater consistency and impact. It had come out before my trip to the UK and I had taken it with me over there as one of my passel of CDs to listen to, and I have a distinct memory of playing it while on some of my train journeys all over the country. I didn’t have a chance to go to Tooting Broadway Station itself until years later but I’m glad I finally did; even if the reference wasn’t originally theirs, it’ll always be more associated with the song than the poem in my mind.
Of course the Kitchens now found themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of things — textured if powerful guitar overload and mature reflections on relationships, meditations on societal homophobia and the complexities of desire, all fantastic stuff and all the richer with time, all up against The Alternative Nation, Dude. Such was the case with a lot of bands in terms of approach and marketing, and the Kitchens, precisely by being so clearly and directly themselves, determined neither to compromise nor simplify, weren’t going to be introduced by Kennedy much on MTV at the time, or any time.
But the fanbase that would turn out to see them at a club was already well established and so off we went to the Roxy; I’m sure my friend Kris C. was there given she worked at A&M, the Kitchens’ American label, at the time, quite possibly others as well. So that was a bit of a reunion; there’d be others. I think because of that we were able to get good seats in the demi-reserved section of the place — nothing hyperspecial but the view was good. It’s a small club show, there’s no real bad spot in there beyond thinking about all the bad bands that had performed there over time with the good ones. (As a random glance at some of the photos in the lobby area could remind you.)
One thing I do remember is that we ended up missing both of the opening bands, which bummed me out a bit. Kingmaker less so, really — to my slight surprise now (but it made perfect sense then…kinda) I had their first and only album to that point and liked it well enough in its ramblerama UK-indie-of-its-day way. They got lumped in with bands like Carter USM and the Neds and especially and understandably the Wonder Stuff, and all for good reason; the fact that I can remember a number of their songs even now I don’t think of with regret but I am surprised I even cared much.
Bleach, though, I’m still regretting having missed — I even picked up one of their last releases from the following year just the other week. While they paralleled what was happening with a slew of shoegaze bands and were vaguely lumped in with them especially with the release of the Killing Time album — their only full length, I’m pretty sure, though they had plenty of EPs before and after — they were a far sonically meaner prospect. It made perhaps inevitable sense, given their lead singer Salli’s vocal style as well as the overall sound, that a logical comparison point was Curve but even more sense that another one was the Charlottes, all tracking further back to the earliest days of a band like Siouxsie and the Banshees, a mix of unalloyed anger and cool focus. By all accounts they killed, but they never came back to America — a chance lost for me.
So that left the Kitchens to actually see and I remember it being a good show, though a lot of the details are lost on me with this one. For the most part, I don’t remember any song standing out from the set, instead it was just a case of a really good performance of many great songs, Patrick Fitzgerald singing his heart out, Julian Swales going understatedly crazy on guitar, Dan Goodwin holding down the drums. I was plenty happy and so was the crowd.
I do remember one thing towards the end, though, which Mackro admitted to me later he was totally fine with — the set, for the most part, did focus on the extremely detailed work of their more recent releases, rightfully so. Either with the encore or right at the end of the set, however, some of Julian’s pedals gave out or there was some sort of glitch — at one point, while he was working on that, the other two did a bass/drum take on the instrumental “Three to Beam Up” which Patrick rightfully described at its end as “Two to Beam Up.” Eventually, after a quick inter-band discussion, Patrick announced that because of it they switch to playing some of the older songs, which tended to have much more straightforward guitar arrangements and performances.
With that Julian ripped into the opening notes of “Mainly Mornings,” one of their best songs from their debut album Love is Hell. I don’t exactly remember what else followed — pretty sure they did “Hammer,” the monster of a conclusion to said record, as well as something else from that one. They had to have been a touch frustrated, I’m sure, simply because they were otherwise keeping focused on their newer work, but it was a great moment and they didn’t act as if it was a burden — it was simply a very handy fallback for them and a wonderful treat for a lot of us who had never seen them do those particular songs. How a band deals with technical adversity is one of those things that tells you a bit about them in general, I’ve found, so it was gratifying to see that their response was top level.
Beyond that I couldn’t tell you about the rest of the evening except that it was now taking a lot longer to get home from a show when it ended. And that was just the start of that phenomenon for me…