Not Just the Ticket…before the tickets

My preamble to the whole series was the other day, the first real entry as such will be tomorrow — but even though I don’t have any tickets saved from before that time, I do have some memories.

Untangling the whole idea of where and how I learned about ‘music’ in a broad sense would be the subject for another essay at another time. Learning about the idea of concerts, of going to the show, is no less tangled — I have no sense of it at all, of exactly where the idea of that kind of event and what it might involve first became any sort of concrete vision in my head. Being born in 1971, I had most of the decade to reach a certain point so I suppose I had figured out something by the time I got a third album by my earliest rock god as such — Shaun Cassidy. Having loved (and played to death) a couple of earlier studio albums by him, my nine or ten year old self was utterly thrilled to get the live album he put out, featuring him in a sorta-but-not-really-Frampton-like pose on the cover and with various photographs indicating that he was indeed on a stage and there were lights and he was doing moves and so forth. I had other live albums as such before then, I recall — performances for kids by entertainers, some 50s/60s folk figures or the like — but this was the first dim sense somehow that there was this big production involved, with all sorts of unnecessary characters to my mind (ie, Cassidy’s backing band, duly identified on the sleeve with their own small photos and credits but otherwise rightly anonymous because I didn’t know and care about them — why should I?).

As time passed I saw more evidence of this thanks to clips on TV or variety shows or more, that there was something beyond simply performing on a studio set, that another…world, perhaps, existed. I was pretty adept at creating all sorts of ideas in my head as to what these shows were ‘really’ like, and the concept of live performances based on the recordings I heard and the clips I saw grew further thanks to a series of shows that HBO ran in the early eighties. Keep in mind that MTV came along a little later for me — our family didn’t get it regularly until 1985 — so HBO’s own video jukebox shows and special event programming was actually more of a resource for me beyond the radio. I remember concert specials by Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John, Men at Work, at least a couple of others. Meanwhile I’d also seen plenty of tour shirts over time as well once I’d hit middle school, thanks mostly to what the high schoolers were wearing on the shared campuses at both Coronado and Saratoga Springs — Cheap Trick and the Rolling Stones were the two big ones I remember.

By the time 1984 rolled around, I was thirteen, classically awkward on any number of fronts, a complete top 40 obsessive going into three years of active chart following and dying to finally ‘see a show.’ I was two years in to the family’s stay in Saratoga in upstate New York, and among the many institutions of the town — a classic resort spot that exploded in population and events in summer and then drowsily made its way through the rest of the year — was SPAC, a combination indoor/outdoor arena venue that hosted big events during said tourist season. It was (perhaps still is) the summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet, and any number of times my family went out to picnic on the grass area behind the seats, where I could lay out on a blanket under the stars and indulge in my passion for constellation-spotting as various familiar and unfamiliar classical pieces played. I saw a number of meteors during that time thanks to the Perseids, and at least once I saw a satellite — combined with the warm, often humid temperatures, the memories remain gently blissful.

But like I said, I wanted to see a show, and I heard ads all the time for rock concerts and the like being held at SPAC (I still remember a heavily reverbed voice announcing that “YES-ES-ES-ES!” was playing, the band then riding high on its 90125 sales). I already knew my parents had seen acts there — shortly after we arrived in Saratoga in 1982 they’d gone and seen Air Supply, which made me a little jealous as I happened to like them quite a lot (even had their greatest hits album when it came out a couple of years later). A year or two after that they also saw Paul Simon with, I think, David Brenner opening, and there might have been something else in there too, I’m not sure. There was also a bit of a to-do when the Grateful Dead came through, leading to me learning about Deadheads and the like for the first time, though my parents very definitely did NOT go to that show. As for me, though, nothing as yet — but 1984 was the year of change.

I’m not sure about something, though — I’m not sure whether I wanted to see the show I did because I really wanted to see the band, or because I just wanted to see a show. I’m pretty sure it was the former reason, since there were other shows I could have easily picked given the concert calendar, and either through ads or through talk at school or something I knew this band were performing and I had probably heard about who the opening act was as well — and I’d liked what I’d heard by them too. Maybe I asked, maybe I wheedled a bit, maybe I saved up allowance money, I have no idea, but the tickets were bought, the time rolled around and there I was, off to my first ever rock concert, my dad going with me (my mom rather understandably begged off), all pumped up with energy. Off to see, on the coattails of their big album that year Tour de Force, none other than .38 Special. With Night Ranger opening.

I’ve played that first concert story detail for laughs plenty of times over the years, especially since I know so many folks who have first concert experiences I would have killed for — friend Mackro’s first show was a late eighties Skinny Puppy performance, for instance. I still chuckle a bit over it as well. But you know, to heck with that — I was who I was, where I was, in the time I was growing up, and by god I was finally getting to see a rock show and it wasn’t like I didn’t know either of the bands, that was the point. They had hits on the radio — .38 Special’s were “If I’d Been the One” and “Back Where You Belong,” while Night Ranger had to have had “Sister Christian” on the air at that point, though I’m pretty sure I knew them more for “(You Can Still) Rock in America” at that point — and they were therefore pop acts, straight up. I didn’t know about Lynyrd Skynyrd or ‘classic rock’ as such, so any sort of cultural context on that front was lost on me. I just wanted to see the show.

The exact memories of that show are miniscule. I remember some guy running out on the stage and enthusiastically introducing Night Ranger to the crowd — I know the sun hadn’t set yet, still light in the sky even though we were actually in the seated area for once. I remember being impressed by the fact that .38 Special had two drummers, that the lead singer dashed about on stage, that there was a laser-light show that broke out near the end of the concert. I vaguely remember standing up at plenty of points when the ‘big’ songs were played and everyone stood up, including my dad and our two neighbors in the seats next to us, a fellow Navy officer and his wife — I hadn’t realized at all that they would be coming along, and obviously the tickets had been purchased together, but somehow I got it in my head that we had somehow coincidentally ended up all sitting together.

I remember two other things in particular — I kept wondering what in the world it was I was smelling during the course of the show. It was a strange odor, it wasn’t cigarette smoke, but I had no idea what it was or where it was coming from. (Trust me, folks, it wasn’t from my dad, who didn’t smoke anything at all to start with.) I’m sure if we had ended up sitting in the lawn section it would have been perfectly clear — in fact that’s probably why we weren’t sitting there — and I had to have asked my dad at least once what it all was. Time and experience at many similar concerts cleared up that question easily enough but for then it was the great mystery.

I also remember a great parking lot incident — I forget which of the two cars we drove over to the show in, probably the station wagon, but both of them had California plates and had been taken across the country. As we parked and locked the car, some guy in a bunch of teenagers or people in their early twenties looked at us with surprise and admiration and said — quite earnestly, no irony at all — “Wow, did you guys come out from California for this show? That’s dedication!” Again, time would make something like this a little less surprising to me — and after all, after the Grateful Dead visit, who among local showgoers wouldn’t be surprised at people turning up from far afield?

The overall atmosphere, the sense in my head, was the feeling that shows were fun, that big shows were entertaining. I had a great time, for all that barely any of it sticks with me (including nearly all the songs) — the performances went without a hitch, I didn’t have any sense of threat or anything going weird or wrong, I don’t recall dealing with any aggressive characters or anyone obviously drunk or stoned, there wasn’t anyone right behind me yelling along to all the lyrics, there wasn’t someone annoyingly tall right in front of me blocking my view. The going-on-ninth-grade Boy Scout that I literally was enjoyed it all, and it felt right, for lack of a better term. This was what rock and roll was surely all about to my mind, big huge shows by big huge bands, roars from the crowd, everyone having fun. Friends of mine in later years have often mentioned how they never felt comfortable at arena shows — too distant, too alienating, or else otherwise pointless — but they’ve always made sense to me, they’re my baseline for shows, really, and I have nothing but good memories associated with that first ‘real’ example of one.

Well, except for not being able to hear anything the following couple of days, admittedly.

Some months later my dad and I went to another show, only this time it was a case where we both definitely wanted to go. I’d been a fan of Hall and Oates for some years at that point — turned out my dad really enjoyed them as well, and probably both for the same reasons: they were really, really damned good, absolute masters of killer radio singles for a long stretch of years there. I’d locked into them with the run of singles at the start of the decade like “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Private Eyes” and so forth, and by the time 1984 rolled around they were unknowingly on the verge of wrapping up their absolute commercial domination, having released another pretty massive album courtesy of Big Bam Boom, with Band Aid guest appearances, the hit Paul Young remake of “Everytime You Go Away” and their Live Aid (and live album) appearances with Eddie Ruffin and David Kendricks all forthcoming in the following year. I don’t remember if my dad made the offer to me or I’d asked him or whatever, but sometime in late 1984 off we went to see them, only this time to a hockey arena further north in Great Falls, near the southern tip of Lake Champlain.

The impressions from this one are more haphazard but again essentially positive — having done my first outdoor arena show, now I could do my first indoor one, which probably explained why it was even louder there (though this time around I had earplugs, thoughtfully provided by my dad). I only just remember the opening band Xavion, a bunch of Prince-obsessed types who I had thought I had only imagined until I read the entry on them in Chuck Eddy’s Stairway to Hell some years later — maybe one of these days I’ll track down their one album, but in the meantime here’s “Eat Your Heart Out”, which should rightly qualify somewhere as an undeservedly forgotten song from the time — and about all I recall of Hall and Oates themselves was Hall’s mane of blonde hair and their own version of ‘well we’ve hit the big time so I guess this happens.’ I forget what song but during the guitar solo part — performed by G. E. Smith, finishing up his own lengthy stint with the group before landing the Saturday Night Live spot — a platform rose out of the fog machined depths and there was Smith on top of this huge column, noodling and riffing away. It got a huge cheer, I remember that much, and much like some of the .38 Special show, a lot of what seems ridiculous in retrospect made sense right then and there. Of COURSE there’d be something like that, of COURSE we’d all love it — it wasn’t something to question or look at askance in my experience, it all seemed correct, proper somehow.

Again, to return to baselines a bit — I have no doubt I was surprised by the moment when it happened, it was meant to do that to at least some extent, even as the fact that it existed to start with didn’t. Yet somehow I’d already been primed for this, ready for surprise and still surprised, a weird sort of double impact. It reminds me of what Gary Numan mentions when he says the thing he most remembered about his earliest musical encounter, seeing Cliff Richard and the Shadows on TV, was the sparkle of lights off of Hank Marvin’s guitar — or to draw on my own experience, seeing Star Wars on its first run in 1977 when I was six and being amazed by the razzle-dazzle but simultaneously uncritically accepting it as something that should always happen. This is a movie, movies can do this, therefore movies must do this, to oversimplify. This is an arena rock show, arena rock shows can do this, therefore arena rock shows must do this. It says something that I can remember nothing else about the actual performance but that.

There was one other thing I do remember from that show, though — it’s where I got my first concert T-shirt, which I held on to at least through the rest of high school, I’m pretty sure. As anyone who knows me well can verify, I’m rather fond of my tour shirts, though obviously this was only one shirt among many others I had at this point, from Izods to (when I got back to California) random surf shirts or two. I do remember being jealous of a friend who had seen the .38 Special show who had a shirt from said concert, though, and that probably prompted me asking if I could have one of my own — so if my dad had bought that for me as opposed to me buying it with allowance money, then hey, thanks! From that point forward I was pretty well taken with the idea that one had to have a shirt after seeing a show — another little cultural requirement that was really just an assumption, but again fit with my own experiences of seeing shirts around like that.

But that said, I didn’t see another show for almost four years after that. A few months after the Hall and Oates show we returned to California, and for the rest of high school while my musical tastes continued to twist and turn, I don’t recall — at all — any point where there was a show in San Diego that I just had to see. Not one single memory beyond, vaguely, the impression that Def Leppard must have come through at some point on the Hysteria show — and if they did then I definitely regret missing that, much as I love said band and album still to this day. My mind was full of many other things, other interests, not least of which was the all important task of surviving high school and dealing with a creeping disaffection that was relieved by graduating from it and moving on with life.

By that time, in 1988, I was working through the last part of my year long classic rock phase, buying loads of CDs for the first time, fully discovering Depeche Mode (a little too late to figure out that I really should have gone to the 101 show, alas — and I knew people who went!) and enjoying, among other acts, Sting. A bit like Hall and Oates for me, Sting, thanks to the Police — similar radio omnipresence thanks to a string of killer singles that sounded great up through 1983-84, easily sliding over into his solo career as well. Pretty sure I had not only picked up …Nothing Like the Sun but …Nadie Como El Sol, his Spanish-language EP rerecordings of some songs from that, and had at least one poster around. Then of course there was the sense of vaguely literary pretensions that didn’t hurt the proto-English major I was, of course. “Hey, he named the album after a line from Shakespeare!” (I still wasn’t sure who Nabokov was then.)

At that point he was one of those acts that seemingly everyone liked, at least in my experience. It was certainly the case with everyone down at Perkins’ Book Store in Coronado, an easy ten to fifteen minute walk from my house, where I not only purchased books but records, thanks to the small section in the back dedicated to just that. I got along very well with all the staff clerks — all very friendly and all female, for what it’s worth, given the eternal stereotype of what record store employees are supposedly like — and that spring of 1988 somehow or other a bunch of us decided in a heap to go see his show at the small outdoor stadium at one of the local colleges to the inland of the coast. I remember going over to the apartment where one of them, an Australian woman, lived in town and chatting away before a party of about five or so set out for the show.

There’s even less I could say about this show as a show. It was a warm evening out in the almost desert, I sat up in the stands though it was all general admission and watched the stage in comfort with a couple of other folks from our group while the rest headed down the front in what seemed to me like a pretty big crowd milling around. Steel Pulse opened and so I first learned what bass could really sound like through the right soundsystem (pretty damned overwhelming), and Sting was, well, Sting, delivering both solo and Police songs with the expected jazz-tinged pop-friendly etc. thing that he made his name with.

Again, only moments stick — he did “Fragile” all in Spanish, which got a big reaction from the crowd, which I remember being heavily Latino — not surprising at all given that it was San Diego and right near Tijuana, and especially not given that he and the Police had just as much of a reputation in Mexico and, as I later discovered, throughout the rest of the hemisphere as he had in the US then. Towards the end of the show he did what seemed to me like another typical thing that rock stars were supposed to do — take off his shirt and show off his chest. It got a lot of female cheering and my compatriots from the bookstore weren’t unappreciative.

But once more I’d had what was a gently positive time out — with people I was friends with, in good weather, an upbeat show from an artist I liked, relaxed and able to see it all in comfort. Even the whole aspect of seeing someone at a relative distance, the small figure on the stage, wasn’t too surprising to me at all by now, it just seemed expected, par for the course. It also brings home just how much, by the end of high school, my musical life was defined almost entirely by mediation — via records, tapes, CDs, videos, TV appearances. The sense of wanting to see someone live had obviously had its impact on me, but the fact that I attended so few rock or pop or any sort of shows like that, and the fact that I barely can sense any sort of feeling that I had missed much as a result of that, says a lot about how I perceived music and likely still do, as much a product of that formative time as anything — that the recording still has a certain cachet over the live performance, that ultimately it is what I value the most.

Doubtless in part this is due to its solitary possibilities — you can listen to songs on your own or with others, but at concerts there’s likely going to always be someone else there (there are of course always exceptions, as any number of bands can tell you). The part of me that is happily and utterly content to be curled up with a book, writing away quietly as I am now, cooking in the kitchen — that part of me doesn’t need shows, and certainly didn’t seem to need them then. Looking back of course I can sense the many what-might-have-beens — what shows did I miss? Were there any local acts of interest or touring bands playing college or club circuits in Saratoga and Coronado that I would kick myself now for having missed? (But then again, would I have even been aware of them then? My listening habits and my sporadic means of finding out information while dealing with a lot of other things in life were what they were — so while many years later I deeply, deeply regretted having missed the Chameleons’ San Diego appearance for Strange Times, I also know that there was almost no way I would have even noticed that show being announced, or even who the band was. Sure, I could be annoyed at my past self, but I certainly wasn’t surprised by said self either.)

In any event, there I was, and there I was again a few months later, now off to UCLA as a college freshman, meeting many new people, settling into dorm life, wandering down to record stores in Westwood, talking and learning and observing (‘Gee, did EVERYONE on my floor go to that Depeche Mode show at the Rose Bowl?’). It was fall of 1988, I still wasn’t even eighteen yet, and though I don’t think I consciously had any idea that another show would soon be on the cards, I wasn’t surprised when it did finally happen.


Announcing Not Just the Ticket

It’s a good day for announcing various new projects — Tom Ewing’s started up another one worth your attention, It Took Seconds, for instance. And as he says there, “this blog project – which, like all blog projects, is as likely to fail as finish – is based on a very simple idea.” Since that could just as easily describe my own new project, keep that sentence in mind, especially the ‘as likely to fail’ part.

Not Just the Ticket is the first of three projects I hope to launch this year — this is the easiest to get going so I’m starting it now, in large part to act as a writing prompt for me for the new year. Call it as close to a resolution without actually being one, though I am going to aim at a generally set schedule of one per weekday — I will allow myself weekends off, though, at least for now (then there’s vacation and etc. — point being, pacing is something which I’ve learned through experience is just as important for self-directed projects as it is when you’re working following another guideline).

The general inspirations of Not Just the Ticket more or less come courtesy of two writers and their examples of making blog projects work — Tom Ewing is one, thanks to the success of Popular in particular, and Christopher R. Weingarten is the other due to his 1000TimesYes effort on Twitter last year. But the goal of Not Just the Ticket really doesn’t claim to follow directly in either of their footsteps, most importantly because it’s not as wide-ranging as either of them — Popular thrives on the function of the UK charts over decades, 1000TimesYes addressed a broad swathe of new albums released over 2009. Not Just the Ticket draws on one specific path of listening and life, an accounting stretching over twenty years of time.

So having said all that, I should explain exactly what it is.

In my apartment, all I have to do is look around and see things that I’ve literally had all of my life, or at least my conscious memory. There’s a small bookcase right next to my desk that now holds DVDs and a few last VHS tapes, while in my bedroom is a dresser; both of them were in my bedroom as a three or four year old boy in Hawaii. Meanwhile, under the bed (which is far newer, I should say) is a now empty bulletin board that was also in that room and which hung on the wall of nearly all the places I lived before I came to this apartment — it too was in that Hawaii room, and there’s still a couple of marks on it from where I scribbled with chalk back then, or shortly thereafter. It’s boxed up under the bed now because when I moved in there wasn’t any room to put up the bulletin board — a basic cork affair with red metal framing, shaped like a much larger piece of 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper with the longer sides at the top and bottom.

Various things were attached and pinned up and posted on it over the years, photos, pictures, scribblings, but starting in 1988 it also started holding something that eventually took over the whole bulletin board — tickets from shows I attended, specifically basic old Ticketmaster stubs, uniformly sized and therefore easily arranged to fill up the entire board over time. When it was full, I started maintaining a separate stash of tickets in a desk drawer, but the original spree of tickets continued to sit up on the board.

I suppose it was the music geek equivalent of the trophy collection for athletes or hunters or whatever, some sort of ‘hey look at this!’ calling card. Another manifestation of a list impulse, some kind of validation, who knows. But it was also fun to look over them, think back on certain shows and memories.

Anyway, the board itself had been packed away for some years, while newer tickets kept accumulating in my desk. A couple of months back, as I drew towards the end of my main archiving project of all the CDs, I started getting a bit of a very early spring cleaning itch and started cleaning out a lot of unnecessary stuff and junk in my desk and elsewhere in storage in the apartment — still an ongoing process but I’ve already seen a lot of difference. Somewhere along the way I organized all the loose tickets, wondered where all the old tickets were, and finally found the bulletin board packed away with all those tickets still attached to them by pins. Some while of sorting later, I had a nice little rubberbanded pile of tickets a couple of inches thick sitting up on a shelf in my closet, where they sit now.

Around this time I was still figuring out what to do once the overall music archiving project was complete — and it’s not quite done yet but I’m definitely well into the final stretch — and a couple of specific ideas were prompted by that which will play out later this year. Somehow I got the part-and-parcel idea of doing something with the tickets as well, since in the act of organizing them and looking them over, they all seemed like such curious artifacts in some way — both for what they stood for and also in and of themselves. There’s a vague romanticism in my head that lingers over these things as so many shows now rely on tickets that are created by home printers or on lists printed out at the door of the venue or the like — a romanticism that actually irritates me because it mistakes a necessary creation of the time and place for what something must ‘always’ be (see also: classic rock, vinyl fetishism, etc., but those are well trodden grounds). Also there’s that sense of simply recreating the ‘trophy’ impulse mentioned earlier, and finally — and perhaps most pointedly, especially given my forthcoming Stylus revival essay, now due to run with the rest of the overall effort on Monday — there’s an inevitable sense of wallowing in nostalgia again, not the healthiest of mental modes.

With these caveats in mind, though, there’s still something I wanted to try with all these things. So a few weeks back I went ahead and scanned them all for this project, the visual cue for each piece as it appears. What each piece will be won’t be some sort of accounting of the show in a strict factual sense, ie, the amount of tickets sold, the exact set list, stuff like that. For some of these shows that information is out there and lovingly collated by dedicated fans, for others at most any specific, ‘real’ information would be a long lost shrug and vague detail for all participants from band members to bouncers and bartenders on duty that night.

Each piece instead will be…something else. I’m still not sure exactly what, part biography, part music discussion, part refracted memory, part an analysis of the trick of memory. Part of me is deeply suspicious of the idea of this simply being ‘shows that I’ve seen part 4331’ or whatever, though inevitably the course of this project will make that lens the easiest to view it through. (Also, keep in mind that not every show I’ve seen has such a ticket attached to the memories — but I’ll occasionally step out of the flow of the tickets to note a show here or there that I know I attended but lack any ticket of any sort for.) Ultimately this will be a story of impressions, a history of afterechoes, something that focuses on the fact that artifacts like these tickets stamp times and dates very specifically when so much of the past becomes this overlapping flow of memories and emotions and ideas.

I’ll begin the formal pieces on Monday with a one-a-weekday goal as mentioned, but Sunday I’ll begin with an introductory piece that hopefully will set something of the tone of the whole effort. But who knows where it will all lead? I’m not sure myself — and that may be why I’m writing this.

All thoughts and feedback will be welcome. I hope those who do read it find it of interest.

To anyone attending the upcoming My Bloody Valentine shows

A little warning. A note of caution.

I should have said something about this a while back. But in seeing the various texts and messages and status updates all around over the past few days, there’s a specific theme running through them all, and it is, at base:

“These guys are LOUD!”

Yes. Yes they are.

Please reread my Marooned piece if you like, but more appropriately, I think, read Alex in NYC’s blog about seeing them then and seeing them again the other day. To quote him:

Even from where I was standing (parallel to the soundboard, yet frustratingly far from the bar), I was forced to gaze at my own shoes in a vain attempt to stop my retinas from immolating. Being up front also won’t do you any favors in terms of the band’s penchant for…


Listen, if a venue is giving out free earplugs as you walk in, this should be giant clue as to what awaits you. If you weren’t bright enough to bring them along with you, seize the opportunity at the door. You WILL need them. You WILL regret it if you don’t have them.

And if you choose to ignore that advice, don’t come crying to me.

(I wore earplugs both times I saw them in 1992. And I was and am very very glad I did so.)

And some shots from the Indian Jewelry/XBXRX show…

To explain more about this whole deal, repeating a bit from an earlier post — recently a great bunch of folks with KUCI affiliations, Acrobatics Everyday, led by the indefatigable Sam Farzin, have dedicated themselves to doing what hasn’t been done for a long time on campus, getting in a slew of great shows. The Peter Walker show the other week was also done by Sam and crew, but they’ve mostly done multi-band shows at night at the Phoenix Grille on campus, and there’s more on the way.

Now that's a good price

Last night the Austin band Indian Jewelry, who I quite enjoy, headlined a four-act bill along with XBXRX, Meho Plaza and Sprawl Out. Great sets from all of them and though I couldn’t stay to the very end of the night it was a wonderful time out — the use of the Grille for shows was an inspired idea, never felt too uncomfortable or hot, and the cover charge of $7 is a steal.

My full set of photos is here, but here’s a couple of selections and descriptions:

Sprawl Out semi-disappear

Sprawl Out are a local act with a good Gravity Records/the Locust jones from what I could initially tell, not to mention seeming like they could fit in at the Smell easily enough. Quick, frenetic, everybody sung at least one song and one of said songs was called “Doogie Howser,” but of course. Had free CDs to give away so I snagged one, naturally!

Meho Plaza

Meho Plaza are from LA and I hadn’t known a thing about ’em beforehand, so I was surprised (pleasantly!) to discover that they were half-noise/punk and half-melodic anthems, in a very affecting way — without sounding like they were radio ready (or ever wanted to be), by introducing the latter elements it meant that the more chaotic explosions had some shape and heft to them. Good combination, be interesting to see them again.


XBXRX were easily the performance highlight of the evening, not only dressed in matching outfits but barely standing still at all at any point during the set (only Weasel Walter on drums was relatively stable, and even he sprung up after every song to shake out the energy). It was almost more spectacle than music but that’s not fair to them, they know how to blend punishing noise with frenetic hooks and the crowd went pretty damn well crazy. I had to dodge a flying body or two, but that’s kinda the point.

Indian Jewelry caught in a flash

Indian Jewelry, as mentioned, were the main reason I was definitely getting there — they’ve got the psych/drone thing down that I mainline, with a good line in rumbling drumming that’s very Spacemen 3 to my ears. Couldn’t stay the whole set as mentioned but what I caught was a treat and I hope to see them again next time through. Picked up a shirt while I was at it!

The next Acrobatics Everyday show will be Captain Ahab on Friday August 22nd, so if you’re in the area/at all interested, head on over for sure.

Akron/Family — believe the hype

Which almost sounds dismissive, but isn’t meant to be, trust me.

Thing is, I’d known of Akron/Family‘s work for a while since the first album, as I’ve been lucky enough to be on Young God‘s promo list for a bit, and was well aware of how they were good sounding sorts, both on their own and playing with Michael Gira in Angels of Light efforts. Apparently at some point they’d been tagged with being another one of ‘those’ NYC bands in a ‘you’re all from Williamsburg or Park Slope or something, right?’ sense, which sounded pretty nonsensical to me three thousand miles away and all. It’s not like they sounded like the Strokes, for heaven’s sake. (Good thing too.)

I’d not seen them live, though — and it wasn’t until I read something from Nari about how a performance she caught up in Big Sur was apparently one of those WHOA-my-god-my-world-is-changed moments along the lines of me seeing MBV that I realized ‘okay, so something is clearly up.’ In rapid succession I had almost everyone and their mother who had encountered them live say, “You HAVE to see them perform.” This is a good thing, it reminds me of the essential difference between Radiohead in studio (exquisite) and Radiohead live (monumental), both astonishingly great but somewhat different beasts.

In a convenient bit of timing, there’s a great piece on the band in the latest Yeti which I recommend — I actually need to recommend the whole issue, that’ll be another post — so they’d been on my mind anyway. Then friend Eric drops me a last minute line after I get home from work yesterday saying, “Hey, they’re playing a secret show at the Echo Curio tonight, wanna go?” (Like a lot of bands playing Coachella, as they’re doing today, Akron/Family decided to slip in an unannounced show for LA while in the area.) Tentative plans had fallen through so I was on board pretty quickly, helped by the fact that the Echo Curio is a great venue — last year’s Bottling Smoke festival was a treat and a half, as I wrote about for Plan B, and you can scrounge through all my photos here if you like.

It was great to go again, been far too long, and folks like Grant and Ged and Tim and many others familiar from last year were there, as were a healthy contingent of the current KUCI crew (many of whom recognized me from the library — love how that works). Opening bands Vampire Hands (Minneapolis quartet, percussion heavy art/math/pop dudes with a slight early Eno fetish) and Chapa (local LA quintet, stylish jazz/hint of klezmer/sweetly zoned rock, like a better National or something) both put on some great sets so the mood was right, and Akron/Family came in and set up, introduced themselves as the great Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (no Riverbottom Nightmare Band?) and DAMN. Yeah, they killed it. I’m still tired from getting in late last night so the words aren’t really around, but even if you didn’t know a note from these folks, bring your earplugs and get there and go to town. Most energized crowd I’ve seen in nonstop dance mode for a ‘rock’ band as described since probably the New Fast Automatic Daffodils — and that was seventeen years ago.

What was most interesting to me wasn’t their vaunted and successful sense of getting the crowd going with singalongs and handclaps and direct participation without having to do any sort of “C’MON LET’S SEE THOSE HANDS!” hoohah (Dave Gahan is the only one I’ll allow that from). It’s not like they involved call-and-response, after all (and they would never claim to have). Instead, it really was all about the jaw-dropping fluidity with which the band performs and slips and moves from mode to mode, style to style, without making it seem clunky or forced. At the risk of damning with faint praise, at a couple of points I thought “This would be what the Arcade Fire might be like if I liked them,” ie able to be successful at uplifting energy transformed outward — a more apt comparison to my mind came later, namely that they might actually approach prime Boredoms instead. (And I thought this before I met Sam from KUCI wearing his Boredoms shirt.)

Anyway, took photos of all three bands, quietly crouched near the fan and the front door (the Echo Curio can and does overheat just by default, so I’ve learned to trust my comfort levels), and my set of Akron/Family photos is here. A lot of murk of course but there were a few shots that stood out for me:

A kind of blue Miles

A little off-kilter

Caught in the light

Dance, dance, dance

Good stuff. Great band. And Miles and Seth were extremely polite and cool fellows when I chatted with them briefly. Yeah, see ’em. (And see Vampire Hands and Chapa too — the former are currently going up the coast with their tour and they’re all real friendly dudes, so introduce yourselves!)