Not Just the Ticket — #76, Front 242, November 21, 1993

Front 242, Hollywood Palace

Then-current album: 05:22:09:12 Off

Opening acts: Ethyl Meatplow, Stabbing Westward

Back of ticket ad: …hmm, forgot to check. I fear Fox Photo return.

I like the occasional strategies employed by Ticketmaster to gussy up tickets for bands with short names. Too much empty area on the ticket? Asterisks are the answer! Except they were never consistently applied, so.

So, the show that consisted of two ends and one beginning. A negative trend in all three cases.

It was kinda funny, though – and weirdly telling, this show. It was probably the last ‘industrial’ show I attended, by any stretch of the term, prior to Trent Reznor finally taking everything over the commercial top the following year with The Downward Spiral. But the shift was already in the wind – as I muttered at one point on the DVD I did on Nine Inch Nails, he went from new figure to poster boy at a hell of a pace. But that’s to talk about someone who wasn’t at this show, and from retrospection. At the time…well, who knew what to expect?

But this was a show that was already something containing familiarity all around, or at least for the most part. Front 242 I’d already seen earlier that year at Lollapalooza, playing a hell of a set in the sunshine thanks to well placed speaker stacks and staging providing shade and said speaker stacks meaning their rigorous, bass and beat heavy approach pretty much pounded skulls more relentlessly than a lot of bands at the time could ever manage. So I was already primed for more there. And Ethyl Meatplow had also performed there and I was coming up on my third show overall with them, so that was a fine thing.

And then there was Stabbing Westward, of whom I knew nothing – but more on them in a bit. I wish I didn’t have to talk about them but there you go.

The season this show was part of, fall 1993, had been going reasonably well enough for me, though it was definitely a case of learning curves all around. My new apartmentmate Wayne was a great fellow, an amiable computer geek who was and remains the height of personableness; we last chatted a few years back and he was doing well. So that was the easy part – the less easy part was everything else, in a way, from getting to grips with teaching to bearing down a little more on my studies after the initial rough year to the huge Laguna fire that kicked in one hot day, and which I could see cresting a not too distant hill from my apartment. (Friend Mackro remembers seeing Mary Lou Lord do a noontime show out on the plaza, then noticing her looking off in the distance and going “Gee that doesn’t look good” or something similar. He turns around, there’s a massive black wall of smoke rising in the distance, and the rest of the day went from there.)

So all the shows I was going to at this point consisted of one needed break after another – and one of those shows, another ticketless special I’ll be talking about next time, remains an absolute high point of everything I saw during my UCI grad school years. But there were the touring stops up in LA that I was getting to as I could, thus Depeche, thus Suede and thus this show. Another case of Sony connections coming in handy for me, I figure, though ultimately I’m not entirely sure with some of these performances if I just went ahead and bought a ticket or not to be on the safe side. (Trust me, I can’t thank Jen V. enough for all the times she did get me in to see something but I can’t believe she was able to do so each time.)

I do remember Jen V. doing some promo for this show on my computer, though. Which may sound either quaint or nondescript, but a little context here: having fully gotten to grips with the net for the first time earlier that calendar year, fall 1993 was when I first really figured out what Usenet and discussion groups were all about, thanks to Mackro. I then introduced it to Jen, who figured out it was a handy way to send around news about upcoming Sony releases or tours or the like – which included Front 242 and Stabbing Westward. It was the future but we didn’t fully understand it, or rather figure out that’s how it would all go – she reported passing this on to her bosses but they didn’t quite get what was going on. Par for the course for everyone then, though.

So all this was going on and this show was announced and it was the second tour for Front 242 that year counting Lollapalooza but then again they also had their second album coming out. A good approach, really, in that they didn’t do the Use Your Illusion route or anything – Evil Off, to give the simpler name of the second album, was part remix collection, part collection of other tracks, part experiments. These days that too is much more par for the course so like some of the promotion stuff Jen was considering they found the future maybe just a touch too quickly, who can say.

All I can say is that I ended up at my friend and fellow UCLA-era show vet Jason B.’s house at some point that evening before the show. He’d gone on to grad school like I had, in this case in history and still at UCLA, and I dimly remember a housemate hanging around briefly or something that night…all kinda unclear, maybe we all had dinner there with Jen. It’s a bit confused, but we all ended up over at the Palace for the show. To say that everyone there had almost certainly been at Lollapalooza as well for both Front 242 and Ethyl Meatplow was probably an understatement; everyone was probably wearing close to the same outfits.

For this show I hung out nearer to the bar throughout – I had a feeling that upfront might be a little hectic, based on past experience. But when it came to the first band on the bill, I think the general reaction among most folks was a big fat “What the hell?” Not entirely, but Stabbing Westward were at that time utterly unknown and not doing a good job at making themselves less known. I think their album Ungod had either come out or was about to, but I hadn’t heard it before the show, though I’m sure Jen had mentioned them as they were on Sony.

What they were, though, was pretty bad. Not as bad as another industrial rock band I would see later that month in the same spot also in an opening role – more on that later – but pretty damn dull and horrible. Lead guy was either wearing a cowboy hat or a bad beard or both – given the group’s Chicago provenance the whole ‘If only we were Al Jourgensen’ feeling was palpable, but there was also the inevitable wannabe Reznor effect. After they left I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with them again…how wrong I was.

Ethyl Meatplow, a much different situation. Either I’d heard they were about to break up or were soon on the verge of doing so, but there was a sense of semi-valediction at this show – also, as my friend Jason said, “Most of their fans here are hardcore Latina lesbians!” Which did seem pretty accurate and damn if they didn’t know every word. The topless cowgirls from the Lollapalooza set were back and they were even more…forthright with each other, for lack of a better term. A lot of the set is a blur but “Suck” got a hell of a performance, everyone shouting along, and as a farewell performance without it necessarily being one (it certainly was my last time seeing them) it was a monstrous way to bow out. Carla Bozulich was really only just getting started in many ways, though.

Which left 242 to wrap it all up, though compared to the Lollapalooza show this one was good if not specifically the greatest thing ever – crowd was into it from the get-go, no question, and old hits and new songs got everyone going and so forth, but in the memory it just doesn’t sink in as much for me as that Lollapalooza set did, perhaps just by default thanks to the sheer scope of their set and performance. Here it was ‘just’ the Palace and everything felt a little less defiant somehow, expectations met rather than being, slightly, challenged.

Still, had I known that the group was about to go on hiatus for a while I might have paid a little more attention. And in a way it was a perfect transitional show – ‘industrial’ as conceived in the broad sense of electronic power rigor and pansexual disruption was being winnowed down to angsty dudes shouting plus guitars when it came to the mass market. Not that everything was a paradise beforehand nor would it be a wasteland after but somehow the rise of Stabbing Westward confirmed that a sound which I had thrilled to, however faced with its own limits and biases, was about to become a hell of a lot more boring.

Of course, at least I could complain about it on the Internet at that point. Which wasn’t exactly progress…

Not Just the Ticket — #71, Lollapalooza 1993, August 6 1993

Lollapalooza 1993

Lineup: Primus, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Arrested Development, Front 242, Tool, Rage Against the Machine

Back of ticket ad: …look, Fox Photo, it’s just not working

Seeing a quote that I will always associate with Buckaroo Banzai printed on this ticket bemuses me. Was it meant to be a reference to the film? Would they have done something from Repo Man instead of that? (Actually, it would be great if it had just said ‘Plate. Shrimp. No explanation.’) Was it something that some guy in Goldenvoice heard Perry Farrell saying and thought was appropriate? An eternal mystery.

But anyway, this show, which almost killed all of us. Sort of.

So by this time Lollapalooza was well past the ‘neat idea’ stage to an institution of sorts. A bit much to claim into only its third year, obviously, but compared to other ideas there seemed to be actual legs with this thing – that it all turned out differently in the end was well down the road but then again, now that it’s fulfilled its destiny as being a brand for a fixed-location summer festival, maybe it was just a matter of it coming full circle via Farrell’s inspiration at Reading 1990.

In any event – summer 1993, another Lollapalooza, announced well in advance, etc. By this point I’d also figured out what exactly the general lineup would be by the time they announced it – not specifically by any means but I had a few guesses at work and, pretty much, bullseye. I even wrote this fake article about it which thankfully never got published anywhere, but based on the previous years I’d figure there’d be an LA funk/metal band, an industrial act, a hip-hop performer or group and so forth. So when bands like Rage Against the Machine, Front 242 and Arrested Development were confirmed I was all ‘well, there you go.’

The big change was in location – Irvine Meadows would have done me just fine as before, especially given its nearby location to where I then lived, but whether it was because of some sort of glad-handing deal or an attempt to be different or who knows what, the location this time around was…Irwindale. Specifically their recreational park, associated with this Santa Fe Dam printed on the ticket. Now, Irwindale I had only ever heard of as a possible location for the Raiders when they weren’t sure if they were staying in LA or not, so hearing that they’d be at this spot was more than a slight surprise. Nobody I talked to remembered ever having been there or at this alleged recreation area so there was much scratching of heads and shrugging.

Still, it was Lollapalooza, so we dutifully went. And it did feel like a combination of excitement and duty at this point – while there were rumblings of other similar tours kicking in, they weren’t exactly exciting us. (To think there was a time when a major summertime festival tour could come into being thanks to frickin’ Blues Traveller…) Also, in classic ‘New! Improved!’ style we were hearing about a greatly expanded side stage setup, where the more ‘indie’ in the broad sense of the word acts were going to be playing, some of which I was all about (others not so much but hey).

The group of us that went consisted of fellow concertgoer Steve M. from UCLA days and a clutch of mutual friends – and one thing I remember either about this weekend or time was that had I timed it better I would have also been able to catch Adorable and Underground Lovers at a small show a day or two later or something similar. Still regret missing that one, especially not getting to see Underground Lovers touring off of the should-be-much-more-famous Leaves Me Blind but what can you do. In any event, I ended up in LA and our group set out to get over to Irwindale from the Santa Monica area – a bit of a trip in and of itself.

I remember I went with friend Randy B., a garrulous and friendly sort I’d always gotten along with during our UCLA days of radio station work and/or RPG gaming. He had recently heard about this group Moxy Fruvous so I remember listening to what I guess was their still-Canadian-only release and thinking “King of Spain” was kinda fun, and otherwise we talked and joked our way out to Irwindale, along with whatever directions we had scrounged up and/or used a Thomas Bros guide for. (Good lord, it all sounds so distant now. Mapquest, Google Maps, standard GPS guidance…none of it to hand.) So by whatever means we ended up driving the two way, single lane either way road up over an artificial wall or loop of white rocks and looked down into…

Well, if it was a recreation area, it was kinda depressing. I assume it was all totally artificial, I couldn’t imagine it being anything else. There was a ‘lake’ which I suspected wasn’t there to start with, plus a large enough green area with trees next to it where the stages and show would obviously be, plus a huge parking area that was essentially nothing but flat gravel plus some lightstands here and there (it might have been better than that but I can’t say for sure – it doesn’t feel like it from this distance). The San Gabriel Mountains in the background looking north made for a dramatic view, though the inevitable summer smog didn’t help it any. The whole thing felt a little weird, and it was already a pretty hot day by the time we got out there in the early afternoon.

Somehow all our group members got together and we ended up in the line to get in – and that’s when we should have known that this was not going to be the best of days. Again, summer, hot, not a formal arena as such in the slightest, so a lot of folks had brought water and/or food along. It was after all just a huge picnic area so who could blame people? So the fact that the ticket checkers and security people were confiscating ALL the food and water as we came in was not exactly cheering us up. Even less so when it was being consumed in front of us as they laughed. Thanks a lot. (The following year the PR announcements for the festival took great pains to underline that there would be free water, so you can imagine how many complaints were received.)

Once we got in, everything actually calmed down a bit – for all that we had to buy our overpriced and no doubt not very good amenities, the basic layout of the park was actually conducive to chilling. The stage was set at the opposite end of the park from the entrance at the edge of a huge flat grassy area; in between was, well, about what you would expect in such a park spot, with a lot of shade trees under which you could spread out towels or the like and relax. (The security folks did not confiscate the towels, at least.) Also, the second stage was nearby and far enough away from the main stage that they weren’t being drowned out.

The whole course of much of the afternoon into early evening consisted of a cycle of going back and forth from the main stage area to back under the trees where we’d staked out a small spot and where at least one of us held down the fort the whole time. (I forget the exact size of our group – five, six people? More?) And there was a lot of just relaxing in the shade out of the heat, which would have been a good idea on that day anyway but we normally wouldn’t have paid so much and driven so long in order to do only that. Couldn’t begin to tell you exact chronology here but I remember a few things:

Rage Against the Machine started the main stage performance so of course I ignored it. I’d had plenty enough of them in my life already and wasn’t about to waste any more of my time. So Tool was the first main stage group I remember seeing, though I didn’t actually see the whole set. Much as I already liked them and their Undertow album I really didn’t become a hyperfan for some years down the way, so my impressions are a bit dim – huge contorted balloon figures hanging above the main stage as seen from a distance, everyone wilting in the heat. That might actually be the closest experience I’ve had yet to what Coachella is probably all about.

Front 242 was next unless I miss my guess – and I was definitely front and center for that one. The great thing about this, my favorite main stage set of the day, was a simple one – the way the stage had been set up, with towering light rigs and shade and everything else, combined with where the sun was at that point in the afternoon, meant that the entire part of the ground area in front of the stage was comfortably in the shade. Further, since they weren’t anywhere as big a draw as some other bands on the bill, pretty much anyone who wanted to go up front could without getting squashed by big sweaty dudes being assholes. So all of a sudden the tribe of black-clad goth/rivethead types previously scattered throughout the crowd all coalesced in the same spot, without fear of sunburn. A fine thing.

It was the first time I’d seen 242 and they pretty much killed it from the opening beat. Their two albums that year remain favorites of mine, an adaptation of what they had been doing to the transformed ‘industrial’ world that was still very much them (“Religion” didn’t sound like any other band then trying desperately to sound like Mr. Reznor). I just remember a lot of Jean-Luc de Meyer leaping around on stage, sunglasses now making perfect sense, the whole group up front going nuts for “Headhunter” and “Welcome to Paradise,” about what you could all expect. Probably still my favorite set of the whole day.

The other time and place that the black clad types gathered that day was back on the second stage, where I ended up spending a good chunk of the later afternoon and early evening. This was due to Ethyl Meatplow, who I hadn’t seen in a year and a half since they’d opened for Nitzer Ebb. They were still at it in full industrial stomp and sleaze mode – they’d finally released their debut album Happy Days, Sweetheart, and while it wasn’t as great as the live shows it was still a treat – and Carla Bozulich was on fire throughout. As were the two female dancers in cowboy hats, piercings, leather chaps and not much else, who were going at it with each other as much as dancing per se. Nobody minded, as you might guess. (But there was a separate show of theirs later in the year that was even crazier…)

I don’t specifically recall who exactly was booked at the second stage; Ethyl M was the only band I saw a full set by but I ended up chilling with all our stuff under the trees, eyes half-closed and listening as much as anything else. I know there was a great Dos set, one of several I’ve seen Mike Watt and Kira do over the years – they have and will always have a wonderful dynamic on stage, it’s just a perfect treat and they get so easily lost in their music without losing focus. Sebadoh put on a show of some sort but I think I ignored that completely, while Thurston Moore did a solo set as well and he did a version of “Catholic Block” I rather enjoyed. Beyond that…just images of sunlight through leaves and trying to stay hydrated.

At some point I remember in the various trips back and forth between the shaded area and the main stage grounds I left Steve M’s backpack sitting somewhere – he was not pleased. Thank god I found it right where I had left it in the middle of everybody, though.

Arrested Development I half-heard from a distance, Fishbone were great but I have only slight memories of their set. For me it all got a bit more in focus when Dinosaur Jr. took the stage – it was starting to head towards dusk but wasn’t totally dark, and I ended up being somewhere next to the central sound/light desk setup in the middle of the field facing the stage. (Not a bad place to be in any event at these things; you only have to worry about random people flying in your direction from one side of you.) It had been just over a year since I saw them last opening for the Cure and they’d had their own breakthrough that year with the Where You Been album and singles like “Start Choppin’” so the crowd was more active by default than the Rose Bowl’s. Good enough set, easygoing, don’t remember much more than that and I haven’t seen them again since. Oh well.

I haven’t seen Alice in Chains again since that night either but c’mon, no Layne Staley? Again, a year had passed since the first time I’d seen them, headlining the Medicine Show acoustic benefit deal, so this time around it was rather nice to see and hear the full-on sludge version of them – the Dirt album ended up getting a hell of a lot of time on my stereo during the intervening months, much more so than their debut, and even the slightly capering activity of new bassist Mike Ynez wasn’t too distracting. I forget what they started out with but the crowd went berserk – well, Steve M. didn’t, he still hated ‘em – and it actually became a bit of a jam session for the rest of the bands on the bill. A couple of Fishbone dudes joined them for “Them Bones,” Maynard from Tool duetted with Layne on a hellishly creepy version of “Rooster” – the part of them that was always theatrical goth draped in Black Sabbath’s robes made perfect sense there.

Which left Primus. I always liked Primus, nerd rock of the most obvious kind, which was part of the appeal. You easily got a sense of how Les Claypool came to be – of course someone growing up in the East Bay and loving Metallica, Rush and the Minutemen would sound like that! Bring on the bass! Throw in the covers of songs by the Meters and the Residents and Peter Gabriel and XTC and well, there you go. Still love “John the Fisherman” from their first studio album above all else, it’s kinda exactly them at that time pureed, reassembled and summed up.

So Steve M. and I and others were all about their headlining set, which in retrospect seems kinda crazy – they were big but that big? But the place still remained pretty well packed and the Pork Soda album had a top ten debut not that long beforehand so hey. (I still remember the crowd chanting ‘Water! Water!’ at some point during the set – I told you that was an issue, after all – and Les going “Need some water? Well how about something else for ya.” Cue “Pork Soda” the song itself.) “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweakers” was my favorite song of the set that evening, it just felt good to stomp around and mosh a bit, really. Well, in my own polite way.

Now – if this had been the end of the evening, then, well, aside from the annoying foolishness when getting in it might not have been that bad. Still obnoxious around the corners and I couldn’t say in retrospect any one of the sets was some sort of see-the-light revelation, Front 242 coming close maybe, but in all, an enjoyable enough way to spend time with music and friends.

But then we tried to get out.

Finding the car might have been the first problem. I think getting out and away from the park area on foot was vaguely painless but then Randy and I had to search for the car a bit – first time in that parking lot, night, what are you going to do. But we did find it, got in…and then we realized what the real problem was.

As mentioned earlier, the way in to the Irwindale Recreation Area was a two lane road, one lane in, one lane out. During the day people kept arriving as they did so while I’m sure there were tie-ups it probably all evened out in the end. But after Primus it seemed like everyone had hung around and wanted to leave at once.

All at once.

We saw the crush from the distance and thought “Uh…let’s wait this out.” So we did. For about an hour or longer, it seemed. We weren’t the only ones by any means – tons of people were sitting in their cars thinking the same thing, and while the parking area had thinned out, it was still going to be a lot of people waiting for the even greater amount of people to make their way out. Exactly how much this was anticipated or planned for by the organizers is beyond me but there it is. Randy and I also had no idea where the rest of our group was – cell phones in 1993 weren’t quite yet widespread, shall we say.

So we waited and talked and waited…

After a while, either Randy or I noticed that in the opposite direction from the exit, across the parking lot area, a vaguely steady stream of cars seemed to be taking off beyond the lot…somewhere. There were enough of them that we decided that we had nothing to lose by following them, if only because we figured somebody had to have figured out something. Perhaps a foolish impulse but we were getting a bit stir-crazy. So Randy drove over – there wasn’t any formal lineup or anything, it was always a case of there being just enough space for any new car to arrive and head out.

So we essentially ended up in the demi-desert of Irwindale that surrounded the recreation area. To this day I would not be able to tell you exactly where we went for about the next half hour or so it seemed. There did appear to be a dirt track of some kind, so whoever got the bright idea either just knew the layout of the place or had been tipped off or something similar, but it wasn’t a finished road by any means, and where we were headed we had no idea. There was the car in front of us in our headlights, kicking up dust, and the car behind us following patiently, the scrub plants on either side and that was simply it.

The whole experience was surreal – this wasn’t true wilderness or high desert isolation, but it sure felt like it, and we clearly weren’t anywhere near a recognizable road. Essentially it was all down to frustration and trusting that somebody somewhere knew what they were doing. We hoped. The tape player and our vaguely tired mutterings to each other were the only soundtrack aside from the car noises.

Somehow, at some point, we got to the end, and it turned out we were lucky – it did indeed dump onto an actual road and after a little driving around to get our bearings we found ourselves heading for the highway back to LA. Randy shook my hand and said, “My friend, we have passed through the devil’s armpit.” He got that right.

Lollapalooza did not appear at Irwindale the following year. Wonder why.

Not Just the Ticket — #34, Nitzer Ebb, February 27, 1992

Nitzer Ebb, Variety Arts Theatre

Then-current album: Ebbhead

Opening act: Ethyl Meatplow

Back of ticket ad: “50% off developing and printing at Fox Photo 1-hr Labs.” I am guessing this isn’t a popular business model these days.

Once again there are some unusual details here courtesy of the sponsorship. “So supporting a concert with a bunch of topless muscle-bound men in tight shorts will break us big in the LA market?” “Yeah, we’re not sure who has heard of Coke out there.” *strained silence*

So, more of what was considered industrial music at the time. If you squinted a bit.

The thing about Nitzer Ebb, who I only fully learned about back in 1990 with the Showtime album, was that they were in fact pretty much clones of another band entirely, but as with so many acts, it’s often less about who started something than who got the attention at the right time. When I first heard “Lightning Man” courtesy of 120 Minutes or whatever late night MTV show showed it that year for a bit I was pretty quickly taken with the immediacy of the whole approach — Douglas McCarthy’s shout/singing voice and his ear for slogans-as-choruses, Bon Harris’s beat-centered arrangements where basslines and drum hits were just as apt to provide a melody as anything else — and while I more heard than saw their performance opening for Depeche Mode in 1990 at Dodger Stadium I do regret not being near the speaker stacks for that one, must have sounded utterly massive. So I picked up their albums, became a fan, was amused at some of the strained lyrics, never complained about the sonics, looked forward to whatever would be next.

Flash ahead a year and Ebbhead ended up at KLA, getting a review for fellow DJs from resident Wax Trax freak Steve C. — who proceeded to make fun of it quite a bit, beginning, “These guys have sure gotten far completely ripping off DAF.” First time I’d heard of them so when I did finally listen to some of their stuff…I had to admit that Steve was completely right. A song like “Der Mussolini” was essentially the full sonic template for Nitzer Ebb years before the fact, while their shirtless-and-sweaty look wasn’t too far removed from that visually. A classic case of learning a lesson maybe a little too late, but better late than never.

But weirdly enough by this time Nitzer Ebb was actually find their own sound more than ever — the hints of more conventional melodies and orchestration that were starting to creep in at points, perhaps an influence from their early supporters and regular producers Alan Wilder and Flood (a team that knows from arranging, of course, as any relisten to Violator will prove), made Ebbhead their most varied album to date, with the literally wind-and-storm-swept imagery of “I Give to You” matched by a string arrangement that made it sound like McCarthy was singing from a mountaintop and the ‘bring in the guitars’ move of “Godhead” two standouts among many. Also, industrial was still not quite yet perceived as being Trent Reznor’s sandbox first and foremost — though the time was rapidly approaching — and while Nitzer Ebb were much more that than, say, Coil, it was still something different, possessed of its own (borrowed) character.

So I was all up for a show with them and I forget exactly who I went with — a group of about four people all told, but only one I do remember because she was a new station DJ, a big fan of the band and a generally sweet and cute person. Reason enough to go with them, I admit! I actually just recall being picked up outside my apartment and having to squeeze in next to her in the car. Oh darn.

The Variety Arts Theatre had hosted some good shows and would host more in the near future — I still regret missing both Curve and Verve there (separate dates but imagine the combination! LA would still be a wreck after the sonic overload) — and this ended up being the one time I went, at least so far. (I have this dim sense that the building might not exist any more, but am too lazy to check right now. Typical, I know.) All seated venue, at least on the floor, but I had a guess that it wouldn’t exactly be a crowd that would stay in their seats, proven plenty of times throughout the evening but also to some extent with the opening band — and little surprise, given that Ethyl Meatplow were local heroes.

I had heard about Ethyl Meatplow from an article or two already, knowing that they were apparently the LA response to things like Wax Trax and otherwise, and had become firm favorites at the legendary Kontrol Faktory club night. What I didn’t know at the time — who could, until the years had passed — was that it was only the earliest of many musical incarnations for co-lead singer Carla Bozulich, one of LA’s most inspired and creative performers, not to mention varied. I’ve seen and heard her do everything from high-and-lonesome country to aggressive art rock to murky demi-ambient explorations — often but not always with another local legend, Nels Cline — so her own take on percussive-heavy chantalongs was just part of the portrait. Bozulich and the rest of the trio had their own fun onstage and she pretty readily demonstrated her ability to get not merely the crowd going but especially female fans — something that would grow stronger during further shows I saw of theirs over the next couple of years. It was another strong female voice in a year that was proving full of them, in LA and in general, and while only having one studio album and some singles to their name in the end didn’t fully help Ethyl Meatplow’s profile, I do wonder a bit if they’ve been written out of history given their musical approach, where a band like L7 never had to worry about that. C’est la vie.

Next thing I recall is the slow drawing back of the stage curtain to reveal Nitzer Ebb already fully at it, their new live drummer pounding away, Harris doing whatever with a percussion/keyboard setup and McCarthy almost bouncing with energy, ready to let fly. This all became a little more amusing in retrospect when a friend of mine in later years who had done tons of work with bands over the years mentioned dealing with them briefly at a show, concluding they were a bunch of rich-kid poseurs and laughing at their habit of psyching themselves up with screams and attitude before going on stage. Gotta admit that’s not how I would do things — male bonding, truly one of the most outre concepts — but the crowd was happy and screaming and McCarthy and Harris to their credit earned their topless/tight shorts physiques rather than making you wish they would stay fully dressed.

This is another show of fleeting details than specifics — pretty sure they started with “Hearts and Minds,” after that it was about what you would expect such a set to be from that time, Ebbhead-heavy with earlier songs like “Control I’m Here” and “Lightning Man” and “Getting Closer” and “Join in the Chant” and others all making expected bows. In retrospect that would have been a near-greatest hits performance right there so I’m glad I caught it for that reason alone — the band were bigger than ever in the States, charged up for whatever was next, where the next time I would see them the focus was definitely elsewhere and the atmosphere quite different.

I do remember the final song of the encore pretty well though — it was one of those moments where everything came together, helped by the year. Again, keep in mind the early 1992 election campaign undercurrents bubbling under this whole time, plus my bout of environmental paranoia, my still unsure choices after graduation — a classic case of seeing things big and small through a particular lens. “Fun to Be Had,” the final song from Showtime, might be my favorite song of theirs in the end, with McCarthy’s sloganeering finding, at points, a sudden profundity in context. A line like “You are young, they are old/Control is all they’ve got to GIVE!” is standard enough post-“My Generation” lyrical hoohah but in the time, in the moment, it was an almighty punch that summed up a lot in my head. I don’t think age has per se changed my sentiments entirely; my thoughts on the nature of the evolving social contract in American terms have adapted but my sense that there’s always going to be a cadre of people who only think in terms of “I’ve got mine” hasn’t really been changed. (As I write, a variety of GOP fools are proving the point in the House of Representatives, but I think I’ll save that for a separate post.)

It ended with McCarthy taking the core chant a capella — “Whether you be BAD, SAD or GLAD/You’ve got to know that there’s FUN TO BE HAD!” — as everyone chanted and clapped along. It was a nice twist on the utterly tech heavy approach otherwise, just words and claps and nothing more, and it worked — he kept it going for a few rounds, I think even stopping so the crowd could do it on their own, and he ended it with one almighty yell. Sure, it was probably his own particular shtick, but damn if it didn’t work well.

Now if I could only remember that one DJ’s name…