Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Gang of Four

The first concert I ever saw was Heart, in support of their second record. The year was most likely 1977. At the time I was working summers on pear orchards in San Jose. I remember we tried to sneak wine into the show, which was outdoors. As we approached security we noticed that they were patting everyone down, so I drank all the wine. I recall only being picked up off the floor in the toilet, and the encore, when they played Magic Man.

I saw the Portland trio, Pell Mell play at The Metropolis in downtown once. There was a lighted disco floor and where once most likely hung a disco ball was a broken chair, covered in mirror fragments that twirled above. They were a great band, a unique combination of punk, surf and funk. At the time there were a few punk venues in Portland. There was Urban Noise on Union street (now Martin Luther King BLVD) and Clockwork Joes in downtown. At that place I once saw Toxic Shock play, and while using the bathroom I remember stepping over vomit and a passed out guy who later became my roommate.

Caroliner Rainbow was a great band. A music existing somewhere between 19th century Americana, industrial and punk. Every one of their records was hand painted and covered in glue attached objects. My Friend, Lori painted all of their sets. Once I saw them in San Francisco and they played inside a house made in the middle of the club. To see them, you had to work your way through the crowd to the house and watch them through a window. They all had fantastic costumes and the vocalists read lyrics from a huge, painted book. I saw Nick Cave for the Henry’s Dream tour, who also read lyrics from a book. He prefaced each song by saying, “this is a song about a dead girl”

It was also at The Warfield, where I saw Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Diamanda Galas and The Butthole Surfers. It was back in the day when one could smoke indoors and there was some crazy dancer flailing about in front of me at the Surfer’s concert and I contemplated lighting his hair afire. Nirvana opened for Sonic Youth who were promoting their Daydream Nation album. I had a backstage pass, and went down into the band’s room where Kurt Cobain was bashing a pinball machine. During the show he kept stopping the band by smashing the drum set with his guitar, yelling at the drummer before beginning again.

Though I saw Diamanda Galas perform her Plague Mass at the Warfield, the most memorable show was at Slims, a small venue. It was during an El NiƱo deluge, and there were perhaps 20 persons there. I was sitting on a balcony with my friend, Heidi when Diamanda asked us all to come up closer. We sat around the foot of the stage and she even took requests!

I saw many concerts at the IBeam in San Francisco with my friend, Lo, though it was with Cynthia that I saw the Wipers. Greg Sage (basically The Wipers) I knew of from Portland of when I was still in high school, and later got to know him from a cafe I worked at. The Wipers opened for the post-punk band Big Black, fronted by now legendary producer, Steve Albini. It was the loudest band I ever saw, indeed I had to leave. I saw Mark Stewart and the Mafia there together with my friend, Nappy Jonz. They were mixed by legendary Adrian Sherwood doing the mix. Psychic TV was another band that I left during the ‘performance’. What was advertised as a concert was in fact, a video installation consisting of stacks of televisions featuring images of growing wolves The novelty band, Killdozer I saw, but do not recall. What I do recall was my clothing at home, making a trail to the bed where apparently I passed out.

Swans have been a favorite band of mine up to today. The sheer noise and slow pace of their first releases has moved over time to include a much more varied output, today including double records that have 25 minute songs. I have seen them numerous times, every one of those concerts amazing. Other bands that are more known from the 1980s underground include the German group, Eistursende Neubauten, who I was play live on the waterfront in Seattle. I will never forget the stage being destroyed by them with jackhammers and Molotov cocktails being thrown.

A jump to Japanese bands. Keiji Haino I have seen a few times. Also peircing in volume, at one show with his band, Fushitsusha, he walked off the stage in some anger at the band, who continued to play, the bass player kicking the discarded guitar around the stage floor. Psychedelic troubadours Acid mothers Temple also play very loud, and I have seen them several times. Over time I got to know them through my brother, and they have often stayed on the property where I live. My late dog, Lola was quite in love with Hiroshi, from the band, and would sit on his feet and stare up at his face in adoration.

The birth of an entire genre can be attributed to Throbbing Gristle. I saw them after they reunited in the 1990s. At he time I was in a band in Germany, and we shared the same rehearsal space. At one point I was looking around for my rosin, used on the violin bow, and was quite honored to find it among their things.

A quick run through here; Prince I saw with a backstage pass I had won in a telephone call-in contest, Bruce Springsteen wrote my mom a note when he found me and a friend waiting at 4am to exit the venue. It read, ‘Dear Joan, don’t be mad, he was with me, Bruce Springsteen. Yoko Ono gave everyone at her show at New York’s Kitchen, a piece of an all blue puzzle and said, ‘In ten years we will put the sky back together’.

D’Angelo played one of the best shows I ever have seen. Neil Young I did not see, but stood outside the perimeter in Golden Gate Park, with my brother who sold hot dogs. The Sugarlhill Gand I shared a bus ride into Athen, Greece as I was showing a film up on a hill while the concert happened below. I saw the heartbreaking last show of The Sun City Girls, as their drummer was to die the following week. Devendra Banhart I saw play in a very small record store in Oakland, California. When I saw Funkadelic during the Atomic Dog era, I counted 22 performers/dancers on the stage. The Sex Pistols was also a reunion show, and counts with Lee Scratch Perry as one of the worst I have seen, though Pistol’s singer John Lyon fronted band PIL was a memorable concert.

One final anecdote is when a band I was in, SLIP played at an outdoor festival in downtown Oakland. We were following an acrobatic troupe who were amazing. A fellow band mate said, ‘my GOD, we have to follow THEM”? Indeed our brand of free improvisation cleared the could in nearly an instant, and we played to ourselves.