49. Spectrum: Terrace Club dining room in Princeton, early 90s. Lots of droning, singular notes that seemed to last for hours. Local legend claims
that Sonic Boom vomited into a garbage can during a pre-show interview
on WPRB. Many years later, I saw them do pretty much the exact same set
at the 2008 All Tomorrow's Parties festival in upstate New York and it
was just as good. [Listen to Spectrum perform live versions of "Transparent Radiation" and "How You Satisfy Me" from last year's Primavera Sound Festival]
50. fIREHOSE: Maxwell's, 1989. I was visiting a friend who went to art school in Manhattan, and we hopped the PATH to Hoboken for what was my first-ever visit to the fabled rock club. This day also
marked my first visit to Pier Platters and Benny Tudino's, so I
definitely got my dollar's worth on the train ride. Antietam opened, and both bands did
two sets. Mike Watt broke a bass string and changed it mid-song while
somehow continuing to play along with his bandmates. Impressive. This was the first club show I'd ever attended where the majority of the crowd didn't seem like criminals. [Listen to fIREHOSE perform "Sometimes" | Picture originally uploaded by Spiralstares. Licensed for re-use by Creative Commons]
51. Hellacopters: They opened for the New Bomb Turks, and are the only band I've ever seen totally cream them. These guys brought a full-throttle, arena rock stage production to teensy, 150 capacity clubs like Maxwell's, and did so at a volume that was as ungodly as it was unprecedented. Lots of cliched rock moves like pointing to the sky ("What's up there? I don't know!"), guitarist/bassist leaning back-to-back while playing, and singer crawling through guitarist's legs, etc. None of their records ever matched the greatness of their live show, but oh, the Hellacopters mix CD I could sequence for you if I felt like it!
52. All: At City Gardens with the Fiendz and some mediocre punk bands opening. Annoying as they are, an appreciation for the Descendents was kind of mandatory for everyone of my generation, even if it was fleeting. I outgrew anything I ever liked about them over the course of 1.5 summers, and promptly unloaded all their records except for the one with "Myage" on it, which I still enjoy hearing about once every five years. All, the band the Descendents turned into after singer Milo departed from the lineup, were sheer folly from the get go. Only dopes liked this band, and as such, only dopes were excited about seeing them perform. I think we went because we were into the Fiendz, who in hindsight were very similar to All, but they were total north Jersey MallPunks, and for that we either felt sorry for them or recognized a peculiar kinship. Anyway, I had penned an enthusiastic review for a Fiendz 45 in my crappy fanzine, and as such, their singer had implored me (via mail) to please come and support their presence on this bill. All's general suckiness has shrouded any recollection I might have kept vis-a-vis the Fiendz performance, but I definitely remember being in one of two cars that departed the club and arrived shortly thereafter at the home of a friend who lived nearby. We all jumped out and for some reason began mock-fighting one another in her front lawn and generally behaving like silly juveniles. Unbeknownst to us, the friend's father was in the middle of taking out the trash (in his pajamas) and, being startled by the sudden appearance of strangers fighting in his yard, hurried back to the safety of his porch light and hissed at us: "Hey! You kids! Get off my lawn!" Thus, a legend was born. Many years later, the circle was closed when Scott and I learned that the Fiendz were playing at the crappy hamburger joint around the corner from WFMU. Some things are only funny if you grew up in New Jersey.
53. Urban Blight: I owned (and hated) a record by these guys, but wound up being dragged to see them with friends who felt otherwise. Those friends aren't around to disagree at the moment, so I'll tell you that what I recall is an evening of medium tempo, white guy reggae. One of my hapless cohorts was beaten up in the bathroom by someone in the opening band. This guy was wearing a turtleneck—as if getting beaten up by someone in a ska band isn't embarrassing enough.
54. Die Kreuzen: The "Century Days" tour, shortly before they broke up.
They were good, but frustrating in that they leaned heavily on all the
slow, metallic stuff from their final record and pretty much ignored
the brilliant "Century Days" and "October File" albums. Jawbox opened,
and I think the Doughboys also played. I distinctly recall talking to
the editor of Trenton's great Stranger fanzine. I introduced him to my girlfriend, and he promptly began hitting on her. [Listen to Die Kreuzen perform Wire's "Pink Flag"]
55. Idaho: We'd interviewed these guys on WPRB that afternoon and they were soooo.... L.A. They talked about tennis. And smoking. And smoking while playing
tennis. Later that night at Maxwell's, they loaded in dozens of
guitars, many of which would only be used for one song (weird tunings
ahoy). I remember noting that there were more unused guitars on stage
than there were living humans in the audience. Nevertheless, we (a
bunch of PRB people) were excited, as Idaho's 45 on the Ringer's
Lactate label was sorta the smash hit single of that moment. (In our
little universe, anyway.) [Listen to Idaho perform "Creep"]
Idaho - Creep
56. William Hooker: The Knitting Factory and also at Terrace Club. I am not a friend, relative, or even vague acquaintance of William Hooker, yet I somehow got roped into helping him load in his drums at both of these shows. This experience lead me to never want to see William Hooker perform again.
57: Dramarama: "Acoustic Seconds" opened, which was the 7 Seconds
singer guy playing acoustic versions of his band's hardcore tunes. If
you've ever wondered what happens when you take hardcore songs and play
them on acoustic guitars, I will tell you. They sound like the crappy
music played by that guy who hangs out in the stairwell of every
college dormitory, strumming away on his acoustic guitar in a dismal
effort to attract girls. Fortunately, Sticks & Stones also played.
I really liked Dramarama before they became the subject of baffling
VH-1 nostalgia TV shows, but don't remember anything about their set. I
fear I may have left before they took the stage, a lasting testament to
just how bad Acoustic Seconds really was. [Listen to Dramarama perform "Last Cigarette"]
58. The Nomads: The legendary Swedish garage band, that is. At a bar
called Kilowatt in San Francisco. Great place. I had no idea they were
even in the country, but the friends I was staying with lived right
around the corner, so off we went. Lots of people standing on tables
for line-of-sight purposes, which is a tactic that I can't imagine
flying at any clubs in NYC. [Listen to the Nomads perform "I Can't Use the Stuff I Used to Use"]
59. Special-Beat Reunion: At City Gardens, maybe 1989? The popularity
of ska music in the late 80s (which revival was that? I lost count)
made it pretty hard to avoid, even if you hated it. Left to chance,
sooner or later you'd find a ska band sharing bills with anyone from
Helios Creed to the Mentors. Suffice to say, I saw a lot of
Bimskalabim, Toasters, and NY Citizens shows as a teenager, but most
fondly remember this night which comprised a melding of English Beat
and Specials members into a solitary unit for songs by both bands.
Nowadays, it's the kind of practice I'd balk at any artists engaging in, but for a teenager who
was pretty much hellbent on aping as much British youth culture as
possible, this was a spectacular evening in Trenton. [Listen to the Specials perform "Ghost Town"]
60. Sebadoh: A band I liked a whole lot when they were new, but I sadly
never experienced a satisfying live set from. The first time I saw
them was in Jon Solomon's living room, and they were mean, aloof, and
seemingly more interested in smoking weed in their van than actually performing. A year or so later,
they played at a bar in South River (which I am apparently supposed to thank John Allen for pulling together), but aside from riding to the show in a BMW convertible (?!) through the dark streets of Jersey, I
remember nothing of the performance. [Listen to Sebadoh perform "Supernatural Force"]
And no, you didn't miss it here, nor in any of the previous posts in this series. I've never seen Sonic Youth. I have tried, three times, over an expanse of years that straddles three different decades, but to no avail. The first attempt came during the Daydream Nation tour, when I successfully entered City Gardens and saw openers STP and Surgery (both of whom were great). Unfortunately, I got bored and left before SY took the stage, effectively discarding untold amounts of street cred in the process. Nearly 15 years later, I wandered through Central Park with Push Bin Lou in a futile attempt to see the band's Summerstage concert, but the line was too long and we eventually gave up. As a consolation prize to ourselves, we went for Mexican food somewhere the Lower East Side and got mid-day hammered on margaritas. Still more years later, in advance of the band's participation in WFMU's 50th anniversary concert in Battery Park, I finally managed to score tickets by waiting in a crazy corkscrew line with Therese, Steff, and a few other pals. During my conversation with them, I jokingly bellowed: "YOU MEAN THIS ISN'T THE TICKET LINE FOR THE MUCKY PUP REUNION CONCERT?!!" which only Therese found funny. Days later, however, alternate plans for my July 4th holiday emerged, and I wound up giving away my tickets.
And really, I'm OK with never having seen Sonic Youth. As good as they may be, the opportunity for them to make a lasting impression on me has long passed. I've also never read On the Road, and have convinced myself that it's too late and that I've missed my window of opportunity to really appreciate it. (I can see myself turning the last page, throwing the book to the ground, and saying something like: "What that young man needs is a good job!")
Anyway, I'm glad this series is done with. I can promise that it has spared you from hundreds of more boring blog posts that would've clouded the future were I to have let this crap fester in my brain any longer. Over, out, and good riddance to this cranial detritus. Just consider yourselves lucky I was never interested in fishing.