Not Just the Ticket — #68, PJ Harvey, July 13, 1993

PJ Harvey, Palladium

Then current album: Rid of Me

Opening acts: Radiohead, Moonshake

Back of ticket ad: Fox Photo still not giving up. A siren song easily resisted.

I honestly don’t get what the staple holes to the side of the ticket are from. Maybe I bought this thing directly at the outlet here at UCI and that’s what they did with all tickets. A strange little beauty mark.

Meanwhile, this show! What a triple bill to be at!

It’s perhaps a natural counterpoint to the previous entry, given the nature of the music and the tragic conclusion to the band’s story, that this one provides nothing but warm fuzzies, or something close. Which given some of the music that the bands in question have done over time might seem ridiculous, and yet. This is definitely one of those ground zero shows in ways, something where I’m like, “Wow, I was lucky enough to catch that? How did THAT happen?”

Of course, it wasn’t like it was a small unannounced club show. A lot of what made this show especially memorable wasn’t apparent at all when I saw it (and loved it), and nearly all the attention was focused on one person. PJ Harvey seemed to come out of nowhere when the first singles surfaced on Too Pure in the UK; as with nearly everything at that point it was a Melody Maker article that first made me go “Wait, hold on, who is this?” She had already had a review or two through them by the time of a first big story but what happened was that in early 1992 or so (maybe late 1991?) said magazine ran an issue grouping together four up and coming acts in a typical enough ‘we can’t decide who will be the cover star but maybe it’s everyone’ approach. I think Thousand Yard Stare were the stars as such, featuring one guy stark naked. Great.

The PJ Harvey story was far more interesting and there were soon a slew of stories followed by the release of Dry, ending up out here in the States shortly thereafter. One listen — I picked it up shortly before I left Los Angeles for OC — and I was a pretty committed fan, though to my annoyance I wasn’t able due to that move to attend what was her first LA show, a set opening for David J. Given he’s a musical hero of mine, I’m even more annoyed I missed that set now, what a perfect combination of two inspired and singular figures who love their roots and blues and take them very different directions.

There’s no great secret why PJ Harvey got the attention she did — sometimes quality will just do the business for you. She put together so much so well and so immediately that it still makes you shake your head in admiration all this time down the road; if Dry is only a starting point it’s still one with killer songs and performances on it like “Sheela-Na-Gig” and “Dress” and “Water” and a hell of a lot more besides. So wickedly smart, so knowing, so impassioned, and goddamn did it ever kick out with unbridled energy as much as it was, in its own particular way, art rock.

So come a year later and Steve Albini recording sessions and Beavis and Butthead going on about how she had a crooked mouth and Rid of Me hits and good goddamn was THAT ever a monster. The title track seriously freaked me the hell out when I first heard it, the whole idea of quiet/loud/quiet was already a perceived cliche but there’s something so singular about the title track of Rid of Me, its understated hook, PJ’s cool singing, the twisted falsetto backing and extra treble and then BAM. And that was just the start of a mesmerizing, amazing album. If I talked about it in full I would be going on for quite a while.

Seemed like everyone was a fan around me. I sure as hell hoped everyone was. Meantime having played at the Whiskey the previous year opening for David J she was now scheduled to headline the Palladium in less than a year later, and all this without having actually busted out into massive selling levels yet. She was just already that huge in her own distinct way. So getting a ride to the show was easy — in this case it was with Yen D. and at least a few other friends.

The Palladium was the Palladium, no surprises there, but for some reason I do remember we ended up at a nearby restaurant to eat before the show. It’s not there at all now, at least so I’m guessing, but I have this impression it was a couple of blocks away (perhaps on Vine between Sunset and Hollywood) and was a Thai place. I was just walking down that stretch of road the other day and I know it’s definitely not there now, replaced by one or another of a set of buildings, but still, we had dinner and then over to the show.

I don’t remember too much of anything before the appearance of Moonshake, just that they were on stage and doing their thing in reasonably short order. They were the actual opening act for this tour, Moonshake having jumped from Creation for their first single to Too Pure for everything else since that point, though PJ and crew had already moved on to Island fully by then. But on a larger scope it all made sense, whether it was Dave Callahan’s background in the Wolfhounds or Margaret Fiedler’s own distinct voice and performing sense or the combination of them in early Moonshake or something else that ended up being the connection between them and Ms. Harvey, or just the fact that they all ended up at the same clubs in London for a drink. (Which strikes me as the most logical answer.) In any event, I honestly don’t remember much of the set aside from it being loud, scabrous, and generally causing confusion among the audience. I would have been right there with them if I hadn’t already known about the band, honestly.

And then, oh yeah, Radiohead. The reason I haven’t talked much about them and getting to know about them around 1993 in this entry so far is because I already did that a bit in my (much shorter) blog project back in 2007, Countdown to In Rainbows. So let me refer you to the entry I wrote that started it all, and I’ll copy/paste (and slightly edit) the relevant part about the performance here:

In retrospect the memories are dim. They’re on stage, they’re playing and they seem, well, okay enough to be there. They’re not actually part of the tour, this is a one-off date, part of a series of LA performances including a separate club headlining show, a radio session, and a TV appearance for Arsenio Hall. It’s not a bad initial touchdown in LA, and it helps that they are the in thing.

I remember Thom’s hair. EVERYONE remembers Thom’s hair. It was in all the photos then, he had grown it into this strange…mop. It wasn’t grunge. It wasn’t glam. It wasn’t ANYTHING. It was, just, well, strange. The stage lights glinted off of it, it shook a lot. Some rock people do big hair really well. Thom Yorke didn’t, frankly. But he was happy with it, at least initially, and hey, like I’m one to talk. Still, I think I was doing a touch better than him. However, he was the one on stage and I wasn’t, so enough of that.

I had a promo tape of Pablo Honey at this point; I would have preferred a CD but I only got that bit later. I really loved “Anyone Can Play Guitar,” scattered other songs. The setlist indicates they played that but I only remember “Creep.” Because the place, unsurprisingly, went nuts. And I think the band were already pretty tired of it. But they played it, and they knew why they were there in the first place, why they had a leg up over all the other bands whose first LA appearances were small club showcases and nothing else. It was because of that song.

But they weren’t the reason why everyone was there that evening, of course.

I remember squeezing my way up towards the front — nowhere near it, but much closer than I had been — with Yen and others in a group. Yen kept calling out “Polly wanna cracker!” every so often, and why not? I don’t remember anything untypical about her and the band finally taking the stage, just that there were a hell of a lot of cheers and pent up energy.

The show itself was unsurprisingly great, though there’s not much in the way of specific details that stick with me. I remember PJ herself looking a bit bemused, amused even, at the prospect of playing before such a crowd, but not in an arrogant or distant sense, more like a ‘wow, it’s already come to this — okay then!’ way. Given the Palladium’s notoriously dicey acoustics I am not surprised that no one moment is the moment for me but discovering it was the drummer who could do a very good rip on those falsetto vocals from “Rid of Me” was a bit of a revelation.

The whole point was — it was just a spectacular show with no one highlight per se in my brain, just a great smear of energy and theatrics and getting down in it. Little surprise that she kept getting bigger. Or that she talked about sheep balls with Jay Leno later that year.

Not Just the Ticket — #62, The Jesus and Mary Chain, November 21, 1992

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Palladium

Then-current album: Honey’s Dead

Opening bands: Curve, Spiritualized, Medicine

Back of ticket ad: Perfect synergy for once — KROQ sponsored the show and they had the back of ticket ad too. Of course, they weren’t actually playing much of anyone on this bill…

I wonder a bit about the smudge at the bottom of the ticket there, it almost looks like a burn mark more than anything else, though I don’t recall any circumstances involving me wanting to set it on fire.

And this show, the Lollapalooza for the UK that was taken over to the US where the band headlining it had already been on the real Lollapalooza. Allow me to explain.

The ticket doesn’t show it at all but earlier that year when the Jesus and Mary Chain had been gearing up for a tour based around their album that year Honey’s Dead, either they or their booking agents or somebody took notice of the fact that the previous year Lollapalooza had been a thing and all in America and that it might be good to replicate over in their own neck of the woods. Which, considering Perry Farrell got the idea for Lollapalooza from Reading anyway, strikes me as a bit circular in more ways than one. Melody Maker got on board with this big time via a sponsorship, which is how I heard about it, and I admit to being more than a little jealous of UK audiences.

That first Rollercoaster tour, headlined by JAMC, also featured Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and Blur — bands I all ended up seeing one way or another that same year but to have them all in the same place at the same time, well, I can only imagine how I would have reacted, and I probably would be talking about the show to this day if so. If you swapped out Blur for, say, Spacemen 3 (if they were still going at that point) and put me at one of the shows I would have been able to pretty readily say in retrospection “Oh right, ground zero for so much stuff that followed it wasn’t even funny.” It still got close — Blur were a bit of a sore thumb there but had their own last laugh soon enough — but the point being, I read about this tour and these shows and went “ARGH why not bring it here” or something similar.

So…they did. They would have already booked this one at some point after the Mary Chain’s own Lollapalooza joint was either about to start or was under way and based on how they were dealing with the crowds at that tour happily abandoning them following Pearl Jam’s stage departure I suspect they couldn’t wait to get into smaller venues and headlining status quickly enough. By that point they had essentially found where their natural headlining level in LA would be at at its height — they’d played the Palladium before, as I said near the start of this series, and they’d play there again. But while they’d be bringing Rollercoaster as a concept or at least an ad campaign over — and Melody Maker sponsored that as well — the band lineup was a different thing altogether, but in retrospect a really wonderful one.

More on that in a second — by this time in that opening quarter of grad school I would have been at least finding my initial feet on campus and in the program and would have recognized something pretty clearly: I was in over my head. I wasn’t drowning but for the first time ever — or so it seemed — I was being challenged in my ability to keep up in classes. Probably a necessary thing to have happen on balance, it helped knock the general drifting sense of ‘oh I can read a bit here and there and write a random paper and whatever’ that I must have figured grad school might be like based on how else I’d been getting along in my school work up until that point. Pretty rapidly I was realizing that most of my classmates knew a heck of a lot more than I did or had been thinking about issues in more cohesive detail or more than likely both — compounded by the fact that I’d ended up at a school that heavily emphasized theory, something I admit I didn’t have much grounding in at all, I felt more like sinking than swimming in that first quarter, which probably continued for the next few years on balance.

But that in turn made all that I did love as an escape valve all that much more important — my newspaper writing work, my radio station work, the new friends I was making and much more besides. Who exactly I went with to this show isn’t clear to me — I think it would have been a couple of the more goth minded KUCI crew, possibly my friend Rich A. and his roommate but I’m not positive. Whatever happened, all I remember is that after another long haul up to LA there I was in the Palladium once more, observing a crowd in black mostly from the back and making sure not to trip over the slightly hidden step down to the dancefloor.

Medicine were opening on this date of the tour — a logical enough choice given the vague shoegaze/psych theme of the whole bill combined with their increasing profile — but by the time we arrived they were mostly finishing up, and I just remember a bunch of seemingly random noise on stage and shadowy figures being shadowy. If Brad Laner reads this he can say more, I’m sure — I was still in my ‘oh yeah, them’ phase and probably tried to find and chat with people at the top of my lungs.

Next up was a band I’d been anxiously waiting to see for a while, though — Spiritualized proved to be the first time I’d see either of the two main guys behind the previously mentioned Spacemen 3, who had pretty swiftly become one of my major musical lodestones over the preceding years. Lazer Guided Melodies had come out some months before the show and I had that thing plastered in my CD player, a know-every-note disc if I ever had one, so I was pretty hyped, to understate. As it turned out, this show ended up being released as a limited edition live album, Fucked Up Inside, so if you want to hear and judge for yourself feel free — like everything else, it seems, it’s out there somewhere online. My impression is more visual, the band standing fairly still, Jason Pierce to the side singing in his usual there/not-there way but still pretty keyed into everything, a controlled chaos at the band’s most raging. I remember the start of “Walking With Jesus” pretty clearly because I didn’t expect him to do that, and I couldn’t not remember that high-pitched tone cycle that I will forever associate with any performance of the group.

Curve were also on my ‘must see ASAP’ list though I’d liked them more for the singles than the Doppelganger album in full. What singles, though — the Horror Head EP was similarly stuck in my CD player that previous summer — and while my impressions of their set are a little more scattershot on balance it was also clear a good chunk of the crowd were there to see them, and they delivered. From the back of the venue and given the Palladium’s sound it was a bit of a muffle but “Sandpit” delivered, “Ten Little Girls” similarly, and they all looked like they were having a blast on stage. It would take a later show for everything to really kick in for me when it came to them live but that will be some time away in this series.

Which left the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I do remember thinking that they were bound to be playing a better — or at least a not as short tempered — set in front of their crowd rather than in front of empty seats in the Irvine sun. I had heard something about how they’d been starting out their headlining sets that year with a pretty extreme audiovisual collage and so it was: with a completely overpowering and seemingly shapeless build of feedback and drums and more (not quite their version of Ascension but one never knows) a frenetic, high-speed kaleidoscope of quick-cut imagery rolled across a screen at the back of the stage as the lights went down. It was a lot of the leather jacket/rock and roll/babe/etc. visual signifier stock in trade they’d happily made their own but at one point it suddenly cut to Malcolm McDowell staring directly into the camera, wearing a hat and some eyeliner as the camera pulled slightly away. The crowd didn’t need to think twice about that one and the calls of “ALEX!” were pretty loud. (Still hadn’t seen A Clockwork Orange at that point myself but I knew who it was — the power of visual icons for you.)

The band came out to play “Catchfire” and it was good enough but I admit after that opening everything becomes a bit of a vague fog for me — aside from “Teenage Lust,” thanks to a rather raunchy tour film, it was just more Reid Brothers and associates making a lot of well-received and pretty familiar noise on stage. No regrets or anything but it’s hard to say there was anything more to come to mind than that.

That is, aside from the visual in the lobby area of seeing stacks of Melody Makers with Wiz from Mega City Four on the cover sticking his tongue out, and seeing said papers being tossed about and trashed with wild abandon. They probably could have done that better.

Not Just the Ticket — #56, The Medicine Show, July 25, 1992

The Medicine Show, Hollywood Palladium

Apparent festival line-up, in general order from openers to headliners: Terri Nunn, Dogs D’Amour (?), Circle of Power, Low Pop Suicide (?), Blind Melon, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Porno For Pyros, Ogre of Skinny Puppy, Alice in Chains

Then-current albums: …naming them all would take a while

Back of ticket ad: “The Academy of Radio Broadcasting — FREE Voice/Talent Test and Career Seminar.” It’s a change, at least.

I need to start by noting that this is not in fact a show by the band Medicine — I’d already seen them the previous year and would again later this same year — at the same venue in fact, and also as part of a multiband lineup. But I’ll get to that later.

As for this very odd little festival show…nobody can seem to agree on it.

My memory banks don’t turn up all the bands. There are definitely some bands I remember, others I don’t — but when trying to find more information on who was there online, things get fragmented. A seemingly definitive review by Pleasant Gehman for SPIN indicates that the Dogs D’Amour and Low Pop Suicide both played there, but I honestly don’t remember either of them. A concert tracking site removes Dogs D’Amour from the lineup but also removes Circus of Power, who definitely played, and adds My Sister’s Machine, who I don’t remember at all. I don’t remember Blind Melon being there either but a recording of the band from the show is available. No general reminiscences seem to be around, no flyers for the show have been scanned to my knowledge.

It’s a little weird, this lack of commentary or agreement, given the reputation of some of the bands involved already to that point, weirder given those reputations that were about to go sky-high (and which have remained there). Shows like this weren’t new of course, the idea of benefit festivals having been long since established. The whole idea behind this show was to raise money to protest against animal testing and vivisection, a sound cause. I had to have heard about it through a combination of friends, ads, reports somewhere. The timing was also good because I was just a couple of weeks away at that point from my trip to the UK for August, after which time I would head south for grad school in Irvine. So either I bought a ticket in advance or got one at the door, who knows, but I do know that there were a slew of people excited about it; I went with about three, maybe four other people piled into the car.

I had heard as well that it would be an acoustic show or at least partially so, so I was intrigued by the idea of Ogre from Skinny Puppy doing a show like that alone. At the same time, nearly everyone in the car were talking about one band in particular. Rage Against the Machine were a group I’d only just heard of or had never heard of and apparently they were utterly amazing — they only had a demo tape out and it either wasn’t in the car on the way over or we were listening to something else. I think the latter because I do remember seeing the cover of the demo for the first time that evening, a match taped onto a photocopy of a stock market report. Pretty sure I thought something like “Pretty obvious” but at the same time the folks I was with spoke so highly of the band that I was pretty well prepared to have my socks knocked off.

It was another lovely summer day and we got to the Palladium, parked, went into the darkened theater and…I’m not sure what happened next. I almost think we walked in on Terri Nunn’s set, but it could be that she started first and I’m conflating events. I have no sense of the crowd at this show other than the fact that it was pretty well packed if not sold out, though it would only grow more so as the evening progressed. If there was a benefit T-shirt sold at the show I don’t have it — would almost be the only way to track who really was actually there, it seems — and I spent most of my time on the floor about two thirds of the way back. So with that as a set-up, let me go through what I can recall…

Terri Nunn’s set was, um, curious. So she did the acoustic/unplugged thing (and keep in mind this was still in the relatively first flush of the whole MTV-driven idea, the show was just a couple of years old at that point), but at the same time nearly everyone there, myself included, probably thought “Well wait, why is she on this bill anyway?” Which is a little rude to think, perhaps, but given that her work with Berlin was seen as this already distant sampling from another time/place where most everyone else on the bill was in-the-moment, I couldn’t but think there was a little opportunism in her being here. That was probably the case with a lot of the bands on the bill, though, but there was an air of strange, ragged desperation in her case. She did versions of “Sex (I’m a…)” and “Take My Breath Away,” perhaps inevitably, along with a new song that she said was inspired by the Rodney King verdict and its aftermath a couple of months beforehand. I can’t say it was deathless.

Circus of Power or Tool might have been next though I almost think that Blind Melon must have gone even earlier, even though, as noted, I don’t remember them being there at all. “No Rain” would at least have been played without anyone thinking of bee girls, given that video was a year off. Let’s say that Tool were next, if only because I seem to remember them being a first-half-of-the-show thing. I had the Opiate EP by this point and had heard they were a pretty good bunch, but I otherwise didn’t know what to expect, though I was amused to see Henry Rollins joining them on stage. In fact, I was just amused by them period — for all that it was a short, weird set, or because of it, it perfectly captured their blend of seriousness and humor. They did do an acoustic setup, all five of them counting Rollins in line, though I can’t remember what if anything he was playing. Maynard in the center filled in some dead time as they set up by announcing, “Okay, this is a little song called “Maynard’s Dick,”” and then did some random singing of said phrase — that it actually was released as a song years later seems appropriate. The whole feeling was initially pretty goofy, which is why I was a little startled when they launched into a song that I would discover a year later (when it appeared on their first album Undertow) was “Disgustipated,” a steady percussion punch with Maynard singing a couple of phrases over and again like an endless command. It lasted something like ten minutes here, Maynard going into the “LIFE FEEDS ON LIFE!” bit while everyone else played and then systematically destroyed their instruments as they played. And that was it, when they finally wound down and finished the song they left the stage. It wasn’t Mr. Bungle’s amazing art-terrorism earlier that year but it got my attention, and I definitely became a fan of theirs from that point until this very day.

Assuming it was Circus of Power next — and in fact assuming it was them at the show to start with — the guest starring continued. It actually became a bit of a theme of the evening — Grace Slick appeared at one point between sets to encourage donations and activism — so I was a little surprised but maybe not overtly so that Ian Astbury ended up sitting in with the band. Circus of Power themselves though — pretty anonymous. They were one of those clutch of bands from around that time that weren’t LA glam, hadn’t figured on being alternative, didn’t bill themselves as straight up metal…it was as if the space opened by groups like Jane’s Addiction just didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. There was a bit of dramatic gothiness in their performance, again all acoustic from what I remember, and given Astbury’s presence the inclusion of a cover of the Cult’s “Brother Wolf Sister Moon” seemed about right. (To Astbury’s credit, though, he didn’t take the lead vocal — he seems pretty good about this sort of thing, consider that new EP with Boris where a member of that band actually sings the one Cult cover on it.) The set ended, that was that.

I’m guessing, I think, that Rage Against the Machine would have been next. I do remember that the crowd was definitely getting a little more fired up at this point, the floor more packed. Cool, I would have thought, there’s a sense of catching something big before it goes big. I honestly can’t remember if they had acoustic instruments for this one but I think they did, though they weren’t coming out looking ready to play easygoing folk jams. Cheers were going up, I was psyching myself up a bit — okay, bring it on! And they started in with a wallop and shout and the place exploded.

Except me.

I’ve rarely, maybe never, been left SO immediately cold by a band, so immediately turned off. Perhaps, with retrospection, part of this was driven by the fact that being in the middle of a swathe of people really getting into it was just pissing me off even more. But they just did NOT work — and keep in mind again that I only knew their name and nothing else about them, nothing else about what they sounded like or were standing for or talking about, what bands they’d performed in before, none of it. I was taking them without any preconceptions on that front and…they failed for me. Hating them in general from that point forward was pretty simple because if you’re not making me happy then I really don’t want to hear you go on.

Of course, as mentioned, in that crowd I was in a decidedly minority opinion. The rest of their set is a trudging blur to me, but at some point they wrapped up and then somewhere along the line a band I had a lot more potential interest in played their set. It wasn’t the debut show of Porno for Pyros — that had happened in the same venue a couple of months beforehand for another benefit concert — but the Jane’s Addiction fan that I was really, really wanted to see Perry Farrell’s new thing, hopeful as I was that this new band, which also had the earlier group’s great drummer Stephen Perkins, would hopefully be equally great. Well, we all know how that turned out, but on the evidence of the set I was still kinda hopeful, I suppose — Perry didn’t too much in the way of his random lectures and rants, the songs sounded okay…but it wasn’t surprising at all that the song that got the biggest response, understandably so for an acoustic themed show, was “My Time,” which had surfaced in similar form on the band’s initial live album. Who knows, maybe the endless reunions were already in place in his head.

Up until this point I don’t recall any of the bands or performers saying or doing much with regard to the general theme of the show, supporting anti-vivisection activities. That definitely changed with Ogre’s appearance, given Skinny Puppy’s own core interest in the horrors of the subject and corollary examples of the human animal at its worst having driven any number of their songs. I had been looking forward to his spot the most, really — I had, annoyingly, just missed Skinny Puppy playing the Palladium a couple of weeks beforehand (with Godflesh opening! still kicking myself a bit over not seeing that combination, especially since I think Robert Hampson might have been touring with them at that point) and still had never seen Skinny Puppy live at all. And as it turned out, I never did in that lineup, given Dwayne Goettel’s death a couple of years later. Point being, this was kind of it for me, and I was admittedly curious and intrigued at what an Ogre acoustic set would be like.

He came out with a friend on guitar and ended up only doing two songs, to my disappointment. The first, either titled “Ode to Groovy” or “Groovy’s License to Kill,” was low key and straightforward enough, a steadier reflection and, I’d guess, condemnation. After some brief remarks, he then launched into the song I kinda knew he would end up doing, “Testure,” his lyrical delivery being this obsessive spiral downward, done just to the accompaniment of his friend’s guitar. If it lacked the full arrangement impact of the song as most well known it was no less harrowing in the end, and if I had to take away any one song from that night as truly representative of what it was supposed to be standing for, it would be that.

That pretty much left Alice in Chains, just a couple of months away from the release of Dirt, to close it out — they’d already released their first acoustic EP Sap the previous year, so the idea that the group could do the unplugged thing was already a familiar one, and along with their weird, compelling way around harmonies is what lets the band be such a strong one still in the memory, however distant now, however much there were questions of them supposedly being ‘fake grunge’ swirling around them at the time. I think it was Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers who said the following year that the band was a lot greater and more individual than anyone realized, and while I wouldn’t go completely as far, I was closer to that than some, still am, even if I haven’t listened in a while. It was definitely a change to see Jerry Cantrell playing under what I remember were very low lights, when a month before he had been having ridiculous fun doing the guitar soloing on a song with Spinal Tap.

The whole band was very quiet, almost still, even as the floor had filled up again and there were many cheers. It too was a short set, two songs I seem to remember, with Ann Wilson from Heart, who had appeared on that earlier EP, joining them for a song. Layne Staley did a pretty solid job, I seem to remember, but any assumptions you could make about who in the band was or wasn’t on something at that point might well have been true. It was murky but not imprecise, something that was a definitely theatrical performance without them moving at all. A hint of a real darkness that somehow suited the show’s stated purpose, however indirectly.

I don’t remember much after that, it all wrapped up, there might have been some complaints about the shortness of the final sets but it had been a long evening already. I kinda wish there were more clear memories around about this show on the net, there are gaps in my head about it all still as noted.

Not about Rage Against the Machine, though. Alas.

Not Just the Ticket — #36, Toy Dolls/Fear, March 13, 1992

Toy Dolls, Hollywood Palladium

Then-current albums: You got me.

Opening act: 7 Seconds

Back of ticket ad: KROQ, once more. And again.

Friday the 13th, and yet I don’t recall anything bad or unlucky happening on the day. Oh superstitions, I tell ya.

Meantime, this show. This was a curious one.

It wasn’t the first punk nostalgia show I’d been to or anything, by any means — the Dickies shows, the Damned show and so forth. But this show was a bit unique for me in that I really didn’t know anything at all about any of the bands involved except by name, if that. I’m not even sure what prompted me to go beyond the fact that it was relatively cheap and all.

I suspect it had something to do with my friend Steve M., who I definitely remember going with along with various friends of his. Steve always had more of a general grasp and knowledge of punk than I did, which I ascribe at least in part to his Orange County upbringing. That so many punk bands (then and now) came from the area was part of it, of course, but there’s also the fact of just growing up in said county to start with. I didn’t, I just live here now due to the random accident of history that gave me not only a spot at grad school at UC Irvine but a four-year fellowship. (I would have found out about that around this time, and I remember my dad telling me it was probably a good idea not to look that gift horse in the mouth; eighteen years later, here I still am, slightly to my surprise, but hey.)

The point is, I arrived here as an independent if still pretty young adult later that year. If I had grown up here during those years beforehand…I’d probably have wanted to bail pretty quickly, and used alternate means of escape in the meantime. Like music, thus Steve, and so forth. Of course Steve was like me in that he liked a lot of different things so it wasn’t the only focus point; still, he knew enough about the bands in question that he must have said something about how it’d be fun, and I think my friends Jason B. and Dave S. might have wanted to come along as well, not sure. Whoever got together for this show, off we went to the Palladium, once again. VERY familiar with it now at this stage of the game.

The actions of punk nostalgia (any nostalgia) is to oversimplify, of course. It’s one reason why it’s so frustratingly boring, the rough edges smoothed out and ignored. For some years now I’ve been delving into the various alternate histories of ‘punk’ and the time immediately afterward thanks to the Net being such an astonishing medium for getting so much else out there that was also part of the time, in different countries, different contexts. Just this weekend — I was up in SF visiting my sis and some friends — I snagged another in the Messthetics series plus the new Minimal Wave Tapes compilation, both of which addressed things that simply didn’t fit in the accepted history I had haphazardly learned by the time of this show. The me of 1992 didn’t really make any distinction in my head between Toy Dolls and Fear and 7 Seconds except that they were all supposed to be punk stalwarts of a sort, that Toy Dolls were English and the other two bands American, that said American bands were supposed to be hardcore, whatever that meant exactly, and that there was a strong probability there would be big beefy shirtless dudes going around in the pit with that look and hand gesture that made them seem like the marshalls of their own individual idiot parades. Such was the case, of course (see also L7’s “Everglade,” which probably ran through my head every time I saw someone like that in this year).

So that’s all I knew and all I really figured to know. I hadn’t seen The Decline of Western Civilization, I didn’t know about “Nellie the Elephant,” I just knew we were off to a show and that things would happen as they did. I still like these shows of random or no expectation; I remember a lot of milling around with Steve and his friends in the crowd, trying (and failing) to hit it off with at least one of his female friends, the usual stuff for somebody just turned twenty-one and with plenty of the bees of confusion in my head (and plenty more years of it to come). Dim, dim memories of the crowd being very much a mixed bag but mostly my age or younger — for all that it was nostalgia, it was of the sort that always seems to draw a certain age in age, a ‘first time’ thing as much as my various earlier experiences were on a number of fronts.

7 Seconds might not have been the actual first band on the bill, I seem to remember there being one other band, but that might be my brain on the fritz. Kevin Seconds and company put on the kind of show I expected, I guess, in that I don’t remember anything about it either way besides their “99 Luftballoons” cover, and since that’s one of the greatest songs ever I was fine with it, though I assume they trashed some of the lyrics along the way. Honestly I don’t think I’ve yet heard anything they ever did in studio so it’s a little hard for me to talk more about their show. Pretty sure I was standing near the back of the main floor with Steve and a few others, probably indulging in our favorite habit of snide comments about anything or anyone who deserved them. Not much changes there, really.

The Toy Dolls were another story entirely — in fact I’d have to put that down as one of my favorite shows ever by someone who I never bothered following up with at all. Sounds dismissive, it’s not meant to be — partially it’s that daunting discography, partially it’s the fact that I know I heard a tape or two over the next year or so and thought it was okay enough but it just wasn’t the show. That was, and remains, one of the most fun, crazy shows I’ve ever seen, and for that reason alone I’m so glad I went.

It helped that nearly everyone there (except probably me) knew them and knew their stuff. I didn’t know anything about them beyond the name and a vague reputation, I just recall the drummer bashing away, whoever it was on bass strutting on behind his shades (pretty sure he was wearing shades) and then Olga, the main guy, walking on with a giddy, great smile on his face — and he was definitely wearing shades — playing his guitar and looking like he was the happiest dude not only in the room but on the planet. You got a good sense that he was doing exactly what he loved doing and in a setting that had thousands of people cheering him on. Couldn’t knock that at all!

Pretty much every song was a singalong, the audience full in there. I was standing near the front, to the side, not quite looking at the band in profile but not far off from that, a bit like my usual perch at the front of the Palace but on the other side of the stage. There was a pit but not a mean one, it was all goofy adrenaline and mad pogoing. Couldn’t tell you a song they played but who cared, it was all warmth, cheekily phrased more than once in the lyrics I’m sure.

And there’s one moment that always struck me as the perfect example of dealing with a stage screwup. Somewhere during a song Olga’s guitar completely dropped out, a cable had come loose or something similar. While a roadie went to look at it, Olga kept playing away as if nothing had happened, his smile still broad as hell — and then he leaned up to the mike and said, without a trace of rancor or annoyance in his voice, “KEEP GOING!,” referring not so much to the band, who were doing just that, but the audience, who had slowed up a bit in their dancing. So the crowd poured it on, the cable was soon fixed and it was business as usual. I really like that memory, and that’s a reason why I’ll always tip my hat to them, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.

That left Fear and there’s not much to say there. Lee Ving and company had a good song or two there — a couple of classmates of mine two years beforehand had been especially enamored of “Living in the City” — but again, not really knowing anything about him or Fear or the whole Belushi thing or whatever I can’t say I possessed a sense of the occasion, if indeed this show was an occasion. The pit was at its most aggressive (and most beefy) and I watched it from the same spot I watched the 7 Seconds show, ie well away from any potential damage to my person. I have a feeling loud and rude words were plentiful.

And after that, again, you got me. Went home and studied for finals, I guess. Curious show, as I said.

Not Just the Ticket — #35, Primal Scream, March 7 1992

Primal Scream, Palladium

Then-current album: Screamadelica

Opening band: …don’t think there was one.

Back of ticket ad: 97.1 KLSX, the Classic Rock Station! Which would have made more sense had this been a show from three years later.

I admit I’m starting to be as tired of the color scheme of this run of tickets as I was of the earlier one. Still, there’s something…soothing about the pastels.

Meanwhile, the all over the place show by the all over the place band. I’m sure they would have it no other way.

Weird band, Primal Scream, more in retrospect than anything else. Bobby Gillespie is someone I honestly can’t quite figure out — I don’t think he’s a genius but he’s no slouch either, and if he is as perfect a specimen of record-collector/cultural-recombination rock as anything else, it’s in a way that always feels…off. He’s clearly trying to be the guiding force/focal point of a large organization that keeps mutating a bit, like he really wants to be George Clinton or James Brown — hell, Mark E. Smith — but will never actually be that person, not even close. Yet here it is almost twenty-five years on from the first Primal Scream releases and he’s still around (and the band’s working on a new album), and I’ve seen the band a number of times now over the years, slightly to my surprise, and there are a clutch of songs I’ll always enjoy. He manages aural comfort food brilliantly at his best — it’s stuff you all pretty well already know but he dresses it up nicely with the help of everyone pitching in on the music and then all he has to worry about is singing lyrics that are all random signifiers. Figures.

Still, for a while there — if you were young and impressionable and not quite aware of what he’d already done beyond knowing he was in the Jesus and Mary Chain once, a description that summed me up nicely at the time — he seemed to be some sort of avatar of the future, if only because he was apparently loving the present, at least in a UK context. When I first heard “Loaded” in 1990, I didn’t know a damn thing about his earlier releases and the trebly garage rock love and the paisley and the leather trousers and whatever. Didn’t even know that was him on the back of the single that was eventually released over here with that and “Come Together” and a few other songs and remixes kicking around, certainly didn’t realize that was him singing for a grand total of two seconds on “Loaded.” “Loaded” was its own universe, “Loaded” was something else.

Which of course was Andy Weatherall. The lesson of Primal Scream and the eventual release of Screamadelica was hardly a new one for me by this time, but it was one of the first conscious examples of it that I had been aware of — and that lesson was that it was less about the band or musician and what they sung and performed, but how the end result was eventually put out there, or what someone did with that end product, that mattered. Remixes, edits, airplay versions, all had been something I hadn’t merely noticed but by default had grown up on and with, being a member of a populace that encountered music in this fashion without being aware I was, unless I ended up with an album or a single or whatever and noticed that something was different somehow. In this case, something was, contextually, more radical — the remix was the song, the original song “I’m Losing More Than I Ever Had” a mere curio and irrelevance, Weatherall’s work essentially creating a nonexistent identity for Primal Scream that they suddenly were expected to fill. To my mind, Primal Scream were, for that brief moment, always just a primarily instrumental band, and always sounded like that, and always used movie dialogue samples and half-heard vocal lines and big, slow beats.

The following run of singles are still fun to think about, really, because you can pretty well audibly hear a band thinking that the neo-garage/psych/biker rock revival was surely just around the corner think “Well, maybe we were going about this a bit dully before, and it should be something a little…more…this?” Gillespie started singing all over the place — no more disappearing acts for him — but he started singing over things that he hadn’t really done before, culminating with the still wondrously blissed out “Higher Than the Sun,” where the Orb did the music/production business and introduced a huge, sweeping stomp and hush that frankly the band could never have come close to on their own. Still wonder a bit what it would have been like if he and the rest of the band said “Fuck it, let’s just go from here” — Gillespie would have been the weak link in the chain in the end, maybe, but I think they could have found a way to be as truly distinct as their heroes instead of retreating to recombine and recombine them again endlessly.

All of which is prologue because honestly I really don’t remember much about the run-up to this show. I had (and had played to death) Screamadelica from the previous fall and it was little surprise that this was going to be a big production at the Palladium; they had already built up enough of a reputation that a club show wasn’t going to be enough. Further, all the coalescing rave strains from the previous couple of years in the area understandably regarded the band as fellow travellers at the least, full inspirations at the most — I can name at least a couple of friends that were pretty much first introduced to techno, however unusually or to the side, due to “Loaded” — and there were rumors that the show was going to be less of a show and more of an actual rave, just with a band playing somewhere in the middle of it.

Not too surprising that this didn’t really pan out as advertised — Gillespie and company apparently were thinking more that it should be something like an old soul revue, a full hint at the slow retreat already starting to play out even on Screamadelica, what with the Jimmy Miller production jobs and all, plus the Dixie-Narco EP from earlier that year, with Dennis Wilson covers, recording in Ardent Studios, the whole kind of strained reverence that still makes me think of Rattle and Hum aka the album that utterly destroyed my U2 fandom. (And I did have it.) But unlike that misbegotten album Dixie-Narco works as a gentle treat and if it had been a part of their approach instead of the signpost to the next album through and through then who knows how I might feel.

And yet I’m still talking around the show than about it — partially because, the memories really are pretty dim. I think I was up in the balcony for at least part of it though not all, and it was a packed out house and everything, and “Loaded” and “Come Together” and “Higher Than the Sun” and “Don’t Fight It Feel It” and “Movin’ On Up” and etc. etc. all went down well enough. I have vague memories of Bobby Gillespie’s utterly stick-like and ass-less frame not exactly dancing on stage, but then again my own moves as such aren’t much better so I can’t hate the guy for it. I think we all left — whoever we all were at that show, again, dim memories here — when they were still on stage for the encore doing some endless jam/medley which might have been amusing at the time. Or not, thus the reason we left.

It’s a little hard to be dismissive about the show, but I think the reason was slightly alluded to already — they were touring something that they were no longer believing in fully, or perhaps never did believe in to start with. It’s another old story — not just that the breakthrough album cast such a long shadow, but that said album turned out to be the most creative they ever got. Later releases and tours allowed them to be ‘themselves’ more, maybe — and I’ll yet talk about those shows I saw, and all of them were indeed more immediately memorable than this Palladium show turned out to be in the end. But they essentially gave up on a chancier situation to be their own internalized ‘we’re more THIS now’ kaleidoscope, and I still think it was a retreat. Ah well.

Not Just the Ticket — #28, Fugazi headlining Rock for Choice, January 24, 1992

Fugazi, Rock for Choice

Then-current album: Steady Diet of Nothing

Opening acts: L7, Pearl Jam, Lunachicks plus Torture Chorus as MCs

Back of ticket ad: Once again, Domino’s, the ever-so-logical choice for a Rock for Choice attendee.

And back again to the blue color scheme, though its days were numbered. At least, in this iteration.

Your eyes are not deceiving you, BTW. That is Pearl Jam there, wedged into the bill. And the thing was, this wasn’t even the weirdest benefit show I’d attend this year.

But it was still…well, both weird and not weird. In a way it was a show of summaries, not least because it was me returning to the scene of an aural crime, or at least a case of misunderstanding on my part when I failed to realize it was Fugazi playing a full set on stage rather than being some anonymous but fantastic opening band. By this point I’d picked up everything they’d released so I wasn’t exactly going to be surprised anymore, and that might have had an impact on my thoughts on the show in the end. Still that was one part of things that show, and that year.

1992 was the first time I could vote in a presidential election, though I’d already voted in the 1990 midterm elections. It was still way early days yet but I was already figuring that I really, really wanted the GOP out of the White House, and though I’m not a member of and have never registered with any political party I was already sure that the last thing I wanted to see was a continuation of George H. W. Bush’s presidency. Hindsight is 20/20 in that his son turned out to be a damn sight worse, but regardless, a fair amount of my belief that year revolved around Supreme Court concerns, not unduly heightened by the whole Clarence Thomas hoohah the previous year. This had to have been kicking around my head during the first Rock for Choice show with Nirvana but by this time it was starting to be a little more front and center.

And that too was another way this concert felt a bit like a repeat — the first time through was the Hollywood Palace rather than the Palladium but once again L7, understandably, were on the bill given their role in kicking off that whole series of shows and benefits. The intensity of the overriding issue of the show had hardly gone away, if anything it was ratcheting up. But the shadows were a little darker in my head for other reasons as well — I can’t quite put my finger on what prompted it, and the paranoia only really kicked in a few weeks later, but I was gripped for about the first couple of months of the year there with a convinced sense of ecological doom, like things were going to go down more quickly than anyone might have guessed. It was pretty black for a while there, I remember, and I don’t think I spoke about it to anyone, but I found myself going through the motions at my library job more often than not. It probably helped reconfirm what I was already thinking politically, but I am glad I didn’t stay in that mindset — it wasn’t (and isn’t) that there’s no reason to be concerned, but it was essentially unhealthy, defeatist.

I probably went with the same crew of people that I had gone to the last Fugazi show with — Steve M., Kris C., etc. as well as Jason B. I’m pretty sure. Once again I parked myself on the open balcony to observe the proceedings, probably from pretty much the same place I’d seen Fugazi the previous time. Torture Chorus were the MCs except that nobody exactly knew who they were — they seemed to be the Sister Double Happiness of this bill, except that they weren’t, given their role as band introducers and what have you. In trying to rack my brains for more info I gave up and used Google — turns out according to an entry here they were, at least for a Japanese tour that year, a group of four, two musicians and two performers doing some sort of theater of the absurd thing. I can only remember the two performers in that I’m pretty sure it was just a duo on stage, they had slightly weird outfits and they did all sorts of rants and chants and made animation noises, or so it seemed. Maybe the other two were there too, hidden away offstage. Again, very vague, very strange memories, but it probably helped to lighten my mood a bit. Then again, maybe it just made my mood a little worse.

The Lunachicks were definitely first in terms of band performances, though, and they were pretty damned kickass. I have no idea if they were lost in the mists of history when it comes to looking back on loud and great female bands of the era, all I know is that they were from New York and kicked up a hell of a ruckus. Makes sense that L7 had ’em on the bill, I’m sure they jumped at the chance. It’s another blurry show for me beyond those general impressions except one point where their drummer (I think?) came out and took the mike to sing this heavy as hell song called “Super Strong” which was brawling, bold, had attitude, pick a cliche. And it was big and positive too, it was something that made you want to sing along just like that.

Then more Torture Chorus and then…Pearl Jam. So herein a story. Seeing the two bands that rapidly became the two bands in the public eye when everyone was wondering what this alternagrungeSeattlerock thing from Seattle was, Nirvana three months before and Pearl Jam at this point, was a bit of an education in perception, I suppose, but also kinda fun just because in both cases it wasn’t ‘their’ show but part of something else, part of something theoretically bigger than themselves. By that time I’d heard Ten enough times to know that I liked the slow ballads more in the end but I figured the show would at least be entertaining, and it was — in this weird sense first and foremost: when I saw them all jumping around on stage and kicking up a fuss and doing what they did, my thought was “Huh…they remind me a lot of Jesus Jones.” But they did! Them and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin for that matter, all kinds of running around and leaping in the air and general hyperactivity.

But do I remember much more of their set? Not really. This wasn’t the last time I saw Pearl Jam so that might have something to do with it but there’s only one clear moment that stands out in my head, which I think captures Eddie Vedder’s slowly dawning sense that he was caught between warring impulses and would continue to be. It was during some instrumental breakdown of a song, and Eddie stood near the edge of the stage, saying something like how he knew Ian Mackaye wouldn’t approve — and he wasn’t saying this mockingly, a la David Lee Roth trashing the Clash, but with an edge of earnest concern and regret, likely caused by him knowing that Fugazi were, as they proved to be throughout their career, going to stick to their own particular ideals to the end. And then Eddie took a dive into the pit and crowdsurfed away for a while. Perhaps it’s nothing but laughable in retrospect, his concern over that action, and yet it does seem to capture that whole ‘should I really be doing this?’ sense that’s been an undercurrent in Vedder the whole time.

I wish I could say more about L7’s set but this is mostly blank to me, to my regret. There were going to be more shows from them that year that did stick in the mind so I’m not totally peeved about the gap here; still, I’d like to think I would have remembered something from such a fantastic band given every show I did catch. Fugazi I remember more clearly but somehow things weren’t as awesomely great as they had been the first time around. Again, I think a large part of that had to do with the surprise being lost — I was so clearly expecting a show to be as jawdropping great as that introduction that maybe this show couldn’t quite measure up in the memory. Still, “Give Me the Cure” stands out — I think that might be my favorite song of theirs in the end, just for the focus, the slow build, the amazing ending. If they did it that first time I don’t immediately remember it but they definitely did it this time and it was all I could have asked for.

I think Ian may have even said something about Eddie’s statement earlier but that could be a bit of projection on my part. It was a good show, maybe not a truly great one, but still one with moments, even if things were a little more dark and unsure for me in general than I would have wanted, and even though the show could never fully drive that away.

Not Just the Ticket — #21, The Damned, Oct. 3 1991

Damned Palladium

Then-current album: at this stage in their career, quite unnecessary

Opening acts: …honestly don’t remember. There might not have been one?

Back of ticket ad: Pirate Radio, we meet again. With an even worse font.

Maybe there was a hidden artistic mantra in this never ending parade of blue-themed tickets. Maybe it had something to do with the Smurf conspiracy outlined in Slacker. The scraggly tear at one edge doesn’t really bespeak adventures but imagine if.

Anyway, this was my first full-on nostalgia act show that I ever attended — definitely not the last, and perhaps not intended by the band as such, but then again…

I blame The Young Ones for it all, and blame them happily. As mentioned in my Fugazi entry, my knowledge of whatever punk was only arrived in bits, fits and starts, but the Damned had a key role in it all, and it arrived at a time when I was in an in-between phase. Way back at the start in the series, I talked about how I didn’t really see any shows in high school aside from the Sting/Steel Pulse one near the end of my senior year; music itself, having been pretty important to me in middle school, had taken a slight back seat to books, movies and dealing with high school in general. TV watching was still high on my to-do list as well and one of the random benefits of MTV’s coverage in the late eighties was their fondness for occasional indulgences in British comedy.

I’d already mainlined Monty Python from some years back (though it was a great excuse now that we had a VCR to tape all the episodes) but their other anchor series for a while there was The Young Ones — if both series were already dated and often felt astoundingly insular to even the most aware American fan, The Young Ones was a little less so, though the perfect timeframe for it on MTV had already passed when the channel’s rampant UK music fascination started to redirect towards metal, hip-hop’s initial rumblings and the off-again on-again top 40 cycle. Still, the stereotypes of Vyvyan the metal/punk freak and Neil the hippie and so forth were already commonalities that even a random doof like me could pick up on.

Anyway, I was watching one episode that was a crossover between the two series in a way — the ‘Nasty’ episode, featuring Terry Jones as a drunk and belligerent priest — and towards the end of the episode this happened:

Somewhere around this same time a friend in English class had played the Damned’s song “The Dog,” a cut from their Strawberries album specifically about the character Claudia from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire — one of several million Rice-inspired songs since but probably the first such song written and recorded to my knowledge, and still an effective, very moody piece:

Between the two I was pretty well sure I needed to find out more, and so after getting my own first CD player in early 1988 one of my first purchases was the career-spanning if slightly haphazard Light At the End of the Tunnel 2 CD collection on MCA. With that, I was off to the races.

Throughout college, I kept adding more knowledge about the group to my brain (and albums by them to my collection) to the point where I pretty much could consider them an all time favorite — and I still do. The more time goes on, the more I get a sense of how they were a classic jack-of-all-trades band, never quite fitting into one scene or sound or another, a bit burdened with the necessary history of their time and place but knocking out a series of albums that nearly all had some wonderful songs on them while more than a few were full-on great in a funny and theatrical psych/rock/metal/goth/whatever vein.

As the years and line-ups have gone by they’ve released a couple of all new albums but — partially due to all the label hopping they’ve done — they rival the Who and the Kinks in terms of ‘greatest hits’ repackagings over and again, and when it comes to what people know and remember them for, it’s definitely the ten year stretch between “New Rose” and their UK commercial apex with the cover of Paul and Barry Ryan’s “Eloise” rather than what’s followed (though that said Captain Sensible’s solo hits in the early eighties and Dave Vanian’s Phantom Creeps side project are both winners in their respective rights).

All this by way of long-winded background and explanation — the band had supposedly broken up after a ‘farewell’ tour in 1989 but a couple of years later and they were back on the road. Having never thought I was going to see them at all — this still being well into the days when I thought that when a band announced they were done, they were actually done — this was an opportunity I was not going to miss for the world. Turns out that in retrospect this was an extremely fortunate decision as this was apparently the final US tour featuring Vanian, Sensible and Rat Scabies, the trio who had first reactivated the band after its initial late seventies collapse and who had created what for me was its strongest period with the Machine Gun Etiquette/Black Album/Strawberries trifecta. Vanian and Sensible have long since split with Scabies and that’s a breach that looks like it’ll never be healed, so hey, hurrah once again for being in the right place at the right time.

Which was the Palladium once again, the third show for me in about five weeks’ stretch in said venue. A little hard to say I was an old hand at the place by now but the basic drill of teeming mobs down below and me up above in the balcony — pretty sure I went with Steve M. and other folks once again, not positive either way. I do remember chatting with this one guy who had to have been there for the opening act, except I really don’t remember there being such an act at all. If anything, he was in my position for Fugazi a few days beforehand — he had heard of the Damned but had never heard anything by them; pretty positive he was more of a straight-up metal guy as I am sure he was wearing a Slayer shirt. Friendly dude, though; I don’t recall what got us talking but I told him a little about the band and how I thought they were great, and that I wasn’t too sure what I was going to get either.

There was no new album to promote, no new single, no new anything, so when they got on stage they just went for it, drawing on their first four albums and associated singles for the most part, though there might have been a Strawberries track or two in there somewhere. Vanian was looking his stylish self, I’m pretty sure Paul Ryan, bassist from the Black Album/Strawberries days, had returned to that slot for this tour, the Captain was being engagingly ridiculous as ever and Scabies was bringing his punked-out Keith Moon flair to it all — old pros doing what they did well and did best, and having a time of it with a crowd who wanted nothing more than that.

Which would have included me. I’ve railed a few times in recent years about pernicious nostalgia impulses, how I prefer it when bands keep at least some sort of strong focus on what they’re currently doing, how the whole ‘play-the-old-album-straight-through’ idea is pretty terrible (Sparks being the great exception, since they did their entire career and then put it all to bed, more or less). But that’s largely because I’m old enough now to not need to see things like Jane’s Addiction reunions and the like — twenty-year-old me, eager to see a band I adored do the old songs I loved, was not so set on that point. I just wanted to enjoy the show.

And I did — it was a fantastic romp. They even did a barn-burning version of one of their most unlikely songs, the dramatic “Curtain Call,” originally a vinyl-album-side long studio number from The Black Album, played in shortened form that night. Rob Tyner of the MC5 had recently passed on so they played their version of “Looking At You” in honor of him, and at one point the Captain delivered one of his trademark rants about annoying people as a perfect introduction to “Disco Man.” Then there was the encore, in which he unsurprisingly appeared wearing his guitar and nothing else. Beyond that it’s all a blur — they did “Smash It Up,” they did “New Rose,” they did all sorts of things. It was all nostalgia for stuff I had never experienced the first time and I loved every minute of it.

On my way out I ran into the Slayer T-shirt wearing guy and asked him what he thought. He’d clearly been in the fairly hyperactive pit the whole time, drenched in sweat — with a big ol’ grin on his face he said he really loved it and was going to check out their albums as soon as he could. Couldn’t ask for a happier ending.

(I note that they’re actually playing this Saturday here in Costa Mesa at the OC Fairgrounds. Hope they win over another batch of folks who might have heard of them but have no idea who they are. Yet.)

Not Just the Ticket — #19, Fugazi, Sept. 8 1991

Fugazi, Palladium

Then-current album: Steady Diet of Nothing

Opening act: that’s part of the story, really

Back of ticket ad: because when I think of Fugazi, I think of, once again, 97.1 KLSX, The Classic Rock Station. Don’t you?

The wall of monotony these blue and white tickets had to have created when they were all on the bulletin board must have been even more dulling than I remembered. I was rather patient having that up for so long.

And…the show which resulted in me being made fun of for a while to come. You know who you are.

So a little context. First off, I was never a punk, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me at all. I learned about it, of course, but I learned about it in slapdash fashion, random mass cultural reference points. And aside from the Ramones and maybe the Dead Kennedys I knew even less about American punk as such than UK punk, such were my interests, such were my senses of continuity. By the time of this show I had long since internalized the Sex Pistols and the Damned, felt the Clash weren’t as interesting as their fans claimed they were (no change there), and had some sort of sense of groups like Crass and other acts on varying levels of fame (or more likely, non-fame). Beyond that, not really sure what I knew and what I didn’t, nineteen years back is a long while. Sure I knew what punk was anyway, they slam-danced and there were anarchy symbols and, um…yeah…

I suppose I’d already been to a punk show of some sort a couple of times — Agent Orange opening for the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Butthole Surfers/Redd Kross/L7 thing if you squint, Rollins at Lollapalooza, but it all depends on context and what it is and isn’t supposed to be and whatever. And I’d only just heard of Fugazi — I’d never actually HEARD them, I should note, but I had heard of them. I was vaguely aware of Minor Threat and the Rites of Spring as well, but mostly I just knew Fugazi by reputation, as this right-on band that were really dedicated to their fans, wanting to keep the ticket prices low as well as their records and CDs, and that supposedly were hellaciously great live. Reason enough to buy a ticket sight unseen (or song unheard) and so off I went with a slew of friends to a show where at the same spot two nights before I’d seen Ned’s Atomic Dustbin get the crowd going with their own moshing antics. I had a pretty good guess that things might be a little more random here.

But it was just a guess, and maybe on my own or maybe with some of the folks I was with — Steve M. and Kris C. once again for sure, though I’m positive most of KLA ended up at this show almost by default (again, cheap, but throw in Fugazi’s reputation as flagbearers for independency on all levels and there you go) — I ended up at the edge of the public balcony at the Palladium, though near the back wall of the venue as most of the curving flow of the balcony was already pretty well packed. The place in general was pretty well packed — the ticket prices were, again, nearly impossible to beat, so little surprise it was one hell of a turnout. The value of such a concrete demonstration of principle in action serves as its own statement — it’s almost a trump card argument, in that even if you didn’t think anything of Fugazi’s music (or even knew of it at all) then you could appreciate the stand being taken, if one wanted to read it that way. It was a rare thing in my experience.

By this time as well the full sense of romance, if there was such a thing, in the build-up to a show well turned into more of a general anticipation. As mentioned, so many shows were starting to come fast and furious — and the pace would soon quicken some more — that my entire senior year at UCLA would be a blur of show memories were it not for the tickets providing some sort of signposting. Everything was settling into a good general groove, for lack of a better description, even as curveballs could appear out of nowhere — as was going to happen here.

The playbill and/or flyers for the show had indicated that there were three bands all told, with Fugazi headlining. Somewhere I’d heard that they were dedicated to always giving good local bands a break so I was also interested in catching these equally unfamiliar names, just to learn some more and hear some more than I might otherwise. The venue was, as mentioned, pretty reasonably packed by the time the first band appeared, and they were…well, they were okay. They did their thing, it all sounded like the vaguely generic ‘oh right, punk…I guess’ stuff I’d heard over the moons in an extremely haphazard way, as noted before. There wasn’t really anything totally remarkable to my brain about it all, though I remember the lead guy got in some pretty big jumps, hair flowing behind him, and that there was definitely a vocal contingent there to see them. From the back of the venue it struck me more as timekilling whatever and so I patiently waited it out.

Eventually the second band took the stage and there were plenty of cheers for them — “Local favorites,” I thought — and they got into what they were doing pretty quickly. It didn’t take me long to realize something else as well — they were good. They were REALLY good. Some performers grab you with their sheer presence, others with the intricacy of their performances, others with something more — whatever it all was it was firing off on all fours here. The quartet began with a blistering drum-led introduction, so I seem to remember, and from there it was off to the races and a half, and all the cliches you could want had to have been coming to my mind. Two excellent singers more or less trading off lead turns — a bit like Ride, I might have thought — and the whole being something that wasn’t ‘just’ punk at all.

I had to have drawn comparisons to the Ned’s show two nights before in my head, because I remember thinking to myself more than a few times, “Man, if these guys are just the next opening act, Fugazi is going to have to COMPLETELY rule the roost.” It was almost shocking, it was just that spectacular. I appreciated these guys’ sheer style in the face of opening for one of the most highly respected and appreciated bands I’d heard about around that time.

So they wrapped up their set to plenty of cheers — and after a bit they came back. “They were called back for an encore?” I would have thought. “I’ve never seen that before! Damn!”

They started up with one song, then without a break switched to another, I was enjoying it completely and at some point the words of the chorus started to actually sink in a bit:

“‘1-2-3, repeater, 1, 2, 3, repeater.'”

“Funny, isn’t ‘Repeater’ the title of…an…al…bum…”

Yep, there ya go. I had seen an entire set of Fugazi on stage without realizing it was them. At. All.

Part of me had to feel completely ridiculous. Beyond description. Quite obviously I hadn’t said anything to anyone by that point — maybe I was on my own in the balcony, maybe I was just too into the show to say anything, who can say. But part of me had to laugh, it was so wonderfully ridiculous. Couldn’t’ve believe that had happened and yet, there it was, it had, and one hell of a crazy joke it was. I think I immediately confessed this to Steve and Kris after the show and I have no doubt they were looking at me as if I was nuts. (Or more than likely calling me a freak — which Kris still says to me to this day by way of greeting, bless her heart.)

But at the same time, it was really an enjoyable and unexpected experience. Sure I’d come in knowing Fugazi’s reputation but without knowing anything else about them, and without knowing it was them on stage, I was able to simply appreciate the quartet just as they were, and they were honestly, truly magnificent. Sometimes all the praise one hears isn’t hollow, sometimes it all comes from the heart because that’s exactly the kind of reaction they provoked in others. All that sheer power without being flailingly angry, all that appreciation for what rhythm can do just as powerfully as feedback if not more, it was a wonder to behold — and I don’t even think there was an incident of Ian Mackaye telling off the crowd.

So there were only two bands that evening, Fugazi and the much more generic but okay enough openers with the lead guy with the long hair jumping all around and all. I worked out what their name must have been and filed it away in the same mental storage bin as so much else.

Which enabled me, about three years later, to scratch my chin a bit and go:

“Wait…so the band who was really the opening band that night was…the Offspring?”

At least it didn’t take me that long to work out who the headliner was.

Not Just the Ticket — #18, Jesus Jones, Sept. 6, 1991

Jesus Jones, Palladium

Then-current album: Doubt

Opening act: Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Back of ticket ad: oh 97.1 KLSX, you and your classic rock ways, because it was ‘real’ music and because it would last, and it wasn’t like you were ever going to play any new stuff that might come out from bands from, say, Seattle any time soon. Not at all.

Sometimes the thing that surprises me the most about the individual tickets are the prices of the shows on them. For the life of me, this far away from it, I can’t tell if $19.50 was too cheap, too expensive or just right for the time.

Meantime, the show of repeat performances, but on different — arguably brutally different — arcs.

This could I suppose be considered a sequel to both the earlier entries on these bands, on both Jesus Jones and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. The time of the show tells me that this was *that* month — something with both preordained returns to the charts and the unexpected first time appearances soon to follow. Released that month: Guns’n’Roses’ Use Your Illusion, Nirvana’s Nevermind. Released just before it: Pearl Jam’s Ten (with Metallica’s Metallica not far behind). Released just after it: Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. RAWK, the month of RAWK, lots and lots of RAWK, etc. etc. etc. Etc.

The presumption that history has now forced on the time is that of the great readjustment, the perceived recognition of ‘oh wait, there’s also this going on too.’ That said the real shock that month came courtesy of what happened at the end of it, when Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind crashed in at number one; following NWA’s Efil4zaggin earlier that year also topping the charts — and lest we not forget, Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind similarly going straight to number one soon afterwards — it was the clearest success of Soundscan as some sort of barometer of measuring taste via immediate fan reaction and ‘actual’ sales, as well as the first full validation of what is now considered clear orthodoxy in some corners: that American popular music (English language division) can be essentially defined by shifting hierarchies within country, hip-hop and metal/hard rock, plus the mutable category of pop as the overarching field that draws on all three, its own open sense of what a hook can be, and goes to town. An exaggeration, hyperbolic, but not too far removed from a perceived truth.

Not that I cared about that at the time. I was just a college student who DJed on campus radio and read Melody Maker. What was I supposed to take away from all that, beyond judgments from thousands of miles away?

I think I had suggested to Angela — my date at past shows like the Kitchens of Distinction and Tin Machine — the idea of seeing Jesus Jones a while beforehand, having enjoyed that first go-round that year very much. She knew who they were and was up for it; not sure if she knew about Ned’s Atomic Dustbin but they were only just starting to get a little more traction. And that is indeed exactly what they were getting; “Grey Cell Green” was — just — mentioned in similar contexts as songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at times that month because it was starting to get KROQ and MTV attention to a larger degree. Within a couple of weeks the comparison would seem ridiculously absurd and from the vantage point of history completely unbelievable and yet, there it was.

I was all jazzed up, no question — both bands had put on great shows that year, Ned’s not just six weeks before this date, and by this time I knew the drill with the Hollywood Palladium as a venue, so with whatever else I had on my plate at that time — the start of my senior year at UCLA, planning my applications to grad school, much more besides — I think I treated this show with less overt anticipation and more ‘hey, bring it as it comes’ attitude. So the time swirls by and a couple of weeks after Tin Machine’s promo show here it was back to the salt mines of long waits outside, getting frisked by security and making sure not to trip on the sunken step on the way down to the main floor.

The first sign I knew something was up was the appearance of a slew of people wearing Ned’s shirts around me — more, in fact, than I recall seeing of Jesus Jones. Perhaps not too shocking but I think at one point I asked myself if everyone who had attended their previous show had come to this one, because it sure seemed like it — the memory of three guys moving their way up to the front of the crowd, hands on each other’s shoulders in a line so they could keep together, all wearing individual Ned’s shirts, sticks with me. Bromance before its time or at least the coining of the word, though I’m sure the three in question would have reacted badly to any term applied, even if it was as simple as ‘male bonding.’

They were there to mosh, though, that much was clear as soon as Ned’s took the stage. Arms and legs and bodies once again, and if it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it it was definitely one of the most frenetic. Something tells me that enough people had might have already seen the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, but I’m not sure — it had just been released to radio a week beforehand — and something might have carried over from that. Might — again, it wasn’t like everything was suddenly invented right around that time, but things were about to be codified and presented to a much wider audience, and such behaviors were going to be not merely expected but somehow required.

That all said, though, the other thing that was apparent was that Ned’s were on fire — they absolutely KILLED. I’d seen plenty of good opening bands before but this was the first demonstration of the principle that the opening band should go out there and win people over as if they were the headliners, to not take the job of opener lying down or too politely. It wasn’t like they were trashing Jesus Jones over the mike or anything, but it clicked — they had a friendly crowd, it always helped, but they played damn well, put on a show, “Grey Cell Green” had the place going completely nuts. Angela and I were watching from the center of the floor at a safe distance from the flailing limbs and had a great time with the show, all the thunderous applause and cheers at the end well deserved. We wondered if Jesus Jones were going to be able to top that, but I had to have said something about that killer show they did at UCLA — we decided to watch from the public balcony and decamped there.

But Jesus Jones never quite got it going. It was a good enough show, but something of the unhinged, of the moment edge when they had performed earlier in the year, riding the wave of the number one song placement and all, had perhaps understandably dissipated. It was a little too slick perhaps or, more likely, the band were just a little too tired. The punishing nature of touring — especially if you’re either still scrabbling on the way up or just trying to maintain at a certain level — may be its own cliche several thousand times over but it’s still no joke when you’re trying to get from one side of a big country to another and back again, and maybe Ned’s were able to combine being the new if temporary chart wonders with an inevitable freshness to their advantage — something that came to mind at a later time when I saw Ned’s yet again, but that’s for the future.

So in the end the show wasn’t either a splendid success nor a washout, however much it was biased more to one group’s advantage in the end. It was ‘just’ a show of the time, one of the many I’d attended and yet attend, taking place during the month when the musical world changed or seemed to but which didn’t seem that way to me. I couldn’t be surprised by either band’s set any more except in terms of energy or intensity or whatever it could be called, but I could at least say it was an okay night out with someone I liked. Talk of musical revolutions and all that aside, that’s all that one really needs.

Not Just the Ticket — #14, Butthole Surfers, May 17, 1991

Butthole Surfers

Then-current album: Piouhgd

Opening acts: Redd Kross and L7

Back of ticket ad: Pirate Radio. I’m almost happy to see this one again after all the endless National ads. Almost.

Must have bought this at UCLA’s box office (even though it’s not for a UCLA show) given the switch back to typeset, the coated paper and the like. A little bit of a slight return.

So, two days after a show that, as part of Jesus Jones’ larger breakthrough, signaled a shift in the future for a wholly separate band, another such show, only even more directly and even more about the band in question, who once again weren’t performing on the bill. It all came down to something that happened over on the other balcony.

Not that I knew. How could I? I was off to this show for three wholly separate reasons that happened to be one reason, namely this amazingly killer lineup — Butthole Surfers headlining, Redd Kross middle of the bill, L7 kicking it all off at the start. I’m still a little in awe, and I was definitely incredibly thrilled then. I don’t think I felt anything about this show other than ‘oh hell yeah, this’ll be great.’

At this point in time as well I was starting to get into much more of a regular show groove. From months-at-a-time separation it was starting to come down to not merely every other month but almost every other week or, in this case, every other day. So there’s less of a sense of overwhelming anticipation each time, everything all jumbles up together — one show, another to come, time and again. I definitely remember that my friend Jason B. was part of the crowd that went because he headed out to the main floor of the Hollywood Palladium as soon as he got through the doors, either made a flying leap onto the floor or misjudged a step, and ended up spraining his ankle slightly for his pains.

The big attraction for him, and probably for a lot of us, was actually the opening act, who were sound-checking on stage as we all came in and were milling around with everyone else. L7 had become a firm favorite of mine ever since I’d reviewed the Smell the Glove EP on Sub Pop for KLA the year before — “Dude, wow, they rock!” or whatever the hell I thought to myself at the time. But they did, they sure as hell did — didn’t know anything about their first release on Epitaph but this EP looked stellar, sounded great, still does. So many great pissed-off and hilarious and pointed one liners, great gang shout choruses, pretty damn fun all around. And yeah, they happened to be a quartet of women musicians as well. Jason had seen them open for GWAR earlier and knew they were great, I was looking for my own confirmation of same.

Later shows would provide clearer memories but I can’t but imagine that they kicked down the damn door. All the more impressive given that the Palladium’s acoustics were and almost certainly still are a notorious, crazy mess. Slightly dim visions in my brain of a lot of hair being tossed around all over the place, throat-shredding screams and god knows what else — it wasn’t sprawling chaos except unintentionally, L7 were never about a mess for its own sake, they wanted to focus and destroy. No Bricks Are Heavy songs yet in the setlist I think but they would have slotted right on in.

L7 were also definitely the first all female band I’d seen on stage as well. I don’t know whether that was a dramatic moment in my head or not — in fact I only recognize it being the case in retrospect. I’d already seen bands where female musicians were the key driving forces of the group, Lush in particular, but this was a step beyond that still. Call it an unconscious education rather than a definite pledging of allegiance on my part, but even so it was a necessary step for me as a listener, as an audience member, something that had to happen so I could get certain stereotypes out of my head, or at least recognize them for what they were. You didn’t have to have a Y chromosome to crank up the amps and get really loud and mad, with a wicked but still sharp smile on one’s face. I probably just headbanged a bit, really.

Redd Kross, meanwhile, I had seen before without quite understanding who they were. I don’t ever really remember learning about them at all, it was more something I gathered by osmosis. But back in 1989, I was walking near the UCLA Student Center in Bruin Plaza, where bands often did noontime shows. I remember two long-haired guys — REALLY long-haired — kicking up a racket with their band, and while I was sorta appreciative I didn’t hang around. Not sure why, must have had to run to a class, but I did some asking around and my future apartment-mate Rick was I think who clued me in to who they were, at least by name. Not actually having grown up with KROQ, much less Rodney on the Roq, exactly why they were important escaped me a bit then. Two years on I was vaguely more aware and after having had a good time on the floor I retreated to the open audience balcony to watch the racket and see what was up.

Third Eye had either come out or was about to come out by then — amusingly, the inside art featured a photo from that very same UCLA noontime show — and while I couldn’t really get every last level of seventies jokes and references and so forth (they may have been pretty young then and all but I was barely conscious of anything beyond Star Wars by the end of that decade), I still enjoyed it as it stood. The hair was still long as hell but I do remember them doing “Linda Blair” and “Peach Kelli Pop” and otherwise thinking “Hey, pretty good.” Sometimes you learn by inches with a band.

And then the Buttholes. I have Musician magazine to thank for cluing me in to these guys’ existence — the same 1988 issue I picked up with what in retrospect was a crucial New Order interview also featured Hairway to Steven as its lead album review, which was something I doubt Rolling Stone would have even tried to think about doing at the time. My just out of high school self read about them liking strange noises and bodily functions and obscene drawings for song titles and penile replacement film projections and thought “What…I don’t…uh.” Probably. Three years on and college radio and knowing a lot of friends who liked them and actually listening to a lot of their albums and so forth, well, it does things to a person, so I thought I was prepared for whatever kinds of vile nonsense might be served up.

Turns out there wasn’t much vile nonsense at all, at least not on the level of genital slicing or whatever when it came to the backing films — I do vaguely remember a chopped-up overlay of what might have been a Chinese baseball team and a woman either screaming in pain or ecstasy or both, but the films themselves were inaudible because the band was ridiculously loud. The album they were touring behind, Piouhgd, isn’t one of their best — it’s them knowing they have a sound and essentially continuing with it, so Gibby Haynes mumbles and screams and otherwise does things through his vocal treatments, the rest of the band plods and roars along, it’s entertaining but not deathless, and I remember that about the show as well. Haynes stood to the side and seemed to mostly sing to the wings, but Paul Geary did a great high-speed lead vocal on “The Shah Sleeps on Lee Harvey’s Grave” for the encore, and the whole thing was an entertaining enough bout of confusion and hullabaloo. No idea if they did their Jesus and Mary Chain parody “Something” but if they did that would mean they did it on the same stage where I’d seen said band the year before, which would seem right.

Meanwhile, the other balcony. In a previous entry set at the Palladium (probably that JAMC show), I mentioned how one balcony was always kept open for the general public but the other was essentially the VIP lounge for guest list folks, band friends, industry types, whatever — mix and mingle and rock out. What I didn’t know at the time of the show was that over there — as came to light in a variety of stories in the next few years, and can also be read about here, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love met each other for the second and what turned out to be the crucial time for their relationship and everything that followed. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was still months away from release, nobody could guess the rollercoaster of the next three years.

But again, I can’t look back on that show and think “Wow, the unique atmosphere, rock history being made, I was there!” It’s nonsense to think that. It’s an interesting bit of trivia to be sure but I didn’t see it, none of my group would have seen it, none of us would have known what was going on. More than anything it’s a little weird, strange, but no more than that. It’s an accident of history that at a pretty okay overall show something else was going down.

Looking across the hall at the other balcony, I would have maybe just envied them the free drinks.