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.