Not Just the Ticket — #74, The Boo Radleys, November 18, 1993

Boo Radleys, Roxy

Then-current album: Giant Steps

Opening act: …no clue

Back-of-ticket ad: NOT Fox Photo. A whole new world!

A different back of ticket ad! It’s almost refreshing, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s just something lame from AT&T. Scary thing is that I think I remember the associated commercials all too well since a lot of old MST3K episodes I had were taped during this stretch of time on late night repeats.

And so the Boos, the first in a huge series of shows I attended in the latter half of November 1993. Along with an early interview of mine, which I won’t post here. At least, not yet.

But a little more context – so by this time I was well into my second academic year at UCI as previously noted, getting to grips with my studies a touch more in some ways but finding new distractions – and new interests – in my teaching role, which I would realize more with time was my primary interest and joy during the entire time I was in the English department. I’ve said before that had I ended up going to grad school with a specific focus on teaching writing and composition – something I didn’t realize I had a knack for and a joy in until I started doing it – I’d probably be a writing program employee (or director?) somewhere right now. But that’s a much different alternate history of mine and the part of me that doesn’t like taking work home is rather thrilled I didn’t go that route.

Meantime I was also getting more into my role as both radio DJ at KUCI – not too hard given my KLA work but still it was nice to be regularly broadcasting on actual airwaves – and as music writer at the school newspaper. My friendship with Jen V. meant, as she pursued her work at Sony, plenty of opportunities to see about shows and all – there had already been a slew that summer and fall and more were to come – but it also meant I really had to step up and do a bit more in terms of earning my keep on that front. Which sounds crass but I’d learned a bit more over the years about the nature of the beast – Jen V. was approaching it from a more knowledgeable and more focused point of view since that was going to be part of her field in music journalism in later years where I was still feeling like I was along for the ride.

However, that also meant that when opportunities arose I tried to take them, and so 1993 was when I really started interviewing bands for both station and paper for the first time on a regular basis. I converted a lot of those tapes last year to mp3 and in listening back to them I sound kinda awful, frankly. So I might yet share them – might – but am still working out how best to present them.

Which all meant that when I heard the Boo Radleys were coming through town I wanted to interview them, figured I could do so by asking Jen if she could help with that, and so on and so forth – which is how I ended up sitting around with Tim Brown and Rob Cjeka leaning on the hood of a truck in the Roxy’s parking lot talking for twenty minutes. More on that in a bit, but first a bit more on the Boos:

While they’d been releasing a number of EPs and things by the time I finally got to hearing them in early 1992, it was only at that time that I figured out more about the Boo Radleys beyond an occasional Melody Maker mention here and there. It helped that they were on Creation Records and that more than one reviewer said something like “So Creation have another shoegaze style band now” and I thought “Oh, so I’ll probably like them and I know what they sound like too.” Which was both true and untrue.

In retrospect it might be too easy to overpraise the Boos, and I’ve said some purple prose over time; like much of that period I haven’t really gone back to listening to much of what I was playing at that point and it’s hard to relisten with fresh ears now. Still I’ve been playing their debut Creation album Everything’s Alright Forever as I type this and there’s a little more unexpected variety in here than I realized; they did more later on but the fact that they had a balance between Sice’s sweet, clear vocals and the bigger guitar shimmer and crunch is in retrospect crucial. Sure there’s echo and being lost in the mix but not constantly, and there’s a sense of opportunities being gently tested rather than ‘just’ being another MBV-style band – both bands loved Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth and all but they had different goals in the end.

I missed their previous LA appearance opening for Sugar the previous year – and that would have been a hell of a loud show for sure, friend Stripey went and confirmed as much – but I was determined to see this one, and given it was a small demi-promo show at the Roxy that was going to be simple enough. The Boos had been catching some major buzz given their just released album Giant Steps, signaled the previous year by the “Lazarus” single, but all that buzz was strictly a UK/European one; in the States, they were suffering a bit of the same fate as Jellyfish around that time – an indirect but appropriate enough comparison point, in that both bands loved their studio fetishes and details, thought the Beach Boys and the Beatles had a lot to offer and were defiantly not grunge for all the guitars.

So it’s little wonder that the show was a gently packed one, featuring what by now I’d recognized as my particular tribe of Anglophiles always there to see yet another show by yet another UK press favorite. However, while the show itself is a bit dim in the memory – I was near the back of the audience area, enjoying the performance but not throwing myself into it, and while I remember “Does This Hurt?” and “Lazarus” and “Barney and Me,” that’s about it – what happened beforehand was clearer.

First, a bit like the lunch with Suede, I was along for a meal with the band, in this case a promo dinner at a Thai spot some doors down from the Roxy. I don’t remember much about the food either way – a reasonably well appointed place at least, and I ended up chatting mostly with fellow writers and radio station folks at one of the two tables that were commandeered. I half remember Jen’s boss showing up and enjoying the food and Sice chatting away happily with everyone – he’d shaved his head by this point, beating Billy Corgan to the punch by some years as well as only doing the right thing given his rapidly receding hairline hadn’t been doing his long hair any favors. (Trust me, if it ever happens to me, I’ll do similar.)

Second was the fact that, indeed, I was going to be able to do an interview with the band for KUCI. Or at least part of the band – there were only so many of them and a number of us, and I couldn’t get to interview them all. But it’s always unfortunate when the rhythm section folks in a rock band get treated as secondary unless they’re the singers or lyricists or the like, and I had no problem with chatting with either Brown or Cjeka. So armed with my tape recorder and wanting to find a quiet spot, we stood outside the Roxy in their rear parking lot near their tour bus or van. I do remember standing up the recorder on a hood or something like that so I could keep my hands free.

So on a mid-November night – not too cold, I figure, given LA – the three of us chatted away for a while, and as mentioned, when I listened back to the tape last year, I was a bit cringing at myself. Then again, maybe that’s all a good thing – it’s a good reminder as to how far I’ve come, and hopefully how much more relatively confident I am in a lot of things. But I’d like to think I was more enthusiastic in a gawky way than just annoying, and at least having a bit of knowledge about them via the UK press was better than no knowledge at all. I remember asking them both about the tour they had done the previous year with the Pale Saints in the UK and they were at pains to point out that was not a fun-and-love jaunt by any means – the two bands really did have distinctly different personalities, I have to say.

Above all I have to thank them both retrospectively for being chill and taking it easy – both Tim and Rob came across as friendly, thoughtful and funny, and Rob was especially patient with me trying to get the pronunciation of his last name correct. So if that ended up standing out for me more than the show, well, who can blame me in the end?

Though I am glad I was able to get all four of them to autograph my singles and album covers. Yeah, being a hyperfan again. But it was good fun.