Grateful Dead, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Tues., January 26, 1993
SETLIST : (Set 1), Picasso Moon, Row Jimmy, Wang Dang Doodle, Brown-Eyed Women, Desolation Row, Ramble On Rose, The Promised Land, (Set 2), Man Smart, Women Smarter, Eyes Of The World, Estimated Prophet, Terrapin Station, Drums, Space, The Other One, Stella Blue, Turn On Your Love Light, (encore), Gloria
There’s a gap here, though I don’t think I missed much. I wasn’t to start recording until May and my memory is understandably hazy. Now, I know as well that I wasn’t keen on talking about my Grateful Dead experiences, but I do remember this one was special. That is not because it was a particularly good show, which it wasn’t, but it was the one and only time I was able to drag my dear brother, Alex, to see these guys. He went kicking and screaming as expected.
Alex doesn’t get it when it comes to the Dead. I understand this. There are some bands which I’ll never like, despite how much their fans do, like Phish or Modest Mouse, but at least I feel a tinge of being left out. Alex never cared in the slightest about the Dead, and this show didn’t help alleviate that as I had hoped. In fact, it confirmed everything he felt beforehand.
Part of the problem is that he showed up late. He missed the first set, which had a bit more energy than the second and then missed the Chinese acrobats that performed between the sets, who were amazing. There was one fellah how did some amazing contortionist tricks with a barrel. So, Alex made it in time for the second set, but like I said before, it was sluggish. Even the bonus of having Carlos Santana join the band on stage to play “Stella Blue”, didn’t really help. Jerry Garcia was sort of asleep at the switch that night, probably on a heroin nod.
I’ll never forget that my buddy, Dave Wall was there and was wearing his Walkman. When Alex asked why he had it at the concert, he said when he got bored with the Dead, he’d walk around the outside hallways listening to Metallica. I tried. I really tried to be enthusiastic about the show for my brother, even leaning over to him in the middle of one of Jerry’s better guitar solo stretches, nodding to him, smiling, and saying, “Jerrrrrry…” in a sort of stoner accent. It didn’t help.
Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees, Kyuss, Warfield, SF, Fri., March 5, 1993
SETLIST : Tom Violence, The Burning Spear, 100%, Swimsuit Issue, Kool Thing, Drunken Butterfly, Sugar Kane, Genetic, JC, Teenage Riot, Theresa’s Sound-World, Shoot, (I Got A) Catholic Block, Schizophrenia
I do remember this one distinctly, being one of a very few numbers of shows in my career that had an early and a late show, especially as an usher. I’d never seen Sonic Youth before, but Alex was a big fan and he talked me into going. I suppose it was only fair to go with something cool with him after boring him to tears taking him to see the Dead previously.
Screaming Trees were new back then, another talented act pouring out of the Seattle scene. “Nearly Lost You” was a big hit, but I appreciated their talent and liked their whole set. They played both early and late shows, though Kyuss only played the early show. Sonic Youth were great and after the early show was over and they cleared the house of patrons, I was eager to see them play all over again. Sonic Youth is one of those bands that I regretted not getting into sooner.
Nirvana, L7, The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, The Breeders, Cow Palace, SF, Fri., April 9, 1993
SETLIST : Rape Me, School, Breed, Sliver, Come As You Are, Milk It, About A Girl, Lithium, Dumb, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle, Serve The Servants, Aneurysm, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Territorial Pissings, Blew, All Apologies, Heart-Shaped Box, (encore), Scentless Apprentice, Negative Creep, Been A Son, Dive, Love Buzz, Endless, Nameless
Nirvana was way to big for venues like the Warfield by then, so the next step up was the Cow Palace, which I hate with a passion. I haven’t stepped foot in that god awful building in over fifteen years. The acoustics are atrocious, it’s too far away to get to reliably on MUNI, and the neighborhood is a war zone. But, from time to time, there were shows there that were simply too good to pass up and this was one of them.
At least this show was a charity event for Bosnian rape victims. The Balkan wars were raging then and folks in America had little stomach to get involved, especially after the first Gulf War and the disaster in Somalia. Most of these kids were just there for the music as I was mostly, but I appreciate that these bands at the very least raised some awareness and relief to those suffering so unspeakably overseas.
The Breeders were still fairly new back then, having released their first album, “Pod” in 1990. Their second album, “Last Splash” wouldn’t be released until four months after this show. Tanya Donelly had left the band by then to form Belly and Kim Deal’s twin sister, Kelly, took her place, still learning to play guitar.
The Disposable Heroes were next, this being the first time I’d see Michael Franti perform. Always an easy one to spot on stage since he’s about 50 feet tall. I loved their music and lament that this band was only to stay together a couple years before Franti formed Spearhead. Their sound was pretty rough and industrial compared to Spearhead and his lyrics were fuming with politics and righteous indignation. Like Rage Against The Machine, the Heroes message was a touch out of place for the time they were in, the joyful years under Bill Clinton.
L7 had been around a few years, but their latest album then, “Bricks Are Heavy” had just been released in 1992 and they were getting attention in the mainstream at last. I was glad to catch them, having missed them the year before opening for the Beastie Boys in San Jose, since we were late. The riot girl movement was in full swing and it was nice to see so many female artists like them becoming successful and respected.
Nirvana had yet to release what was to be their last album, “In Utero”, but we were fortunate enough to hear the new songs, a couple of them, “Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” and “Serve The Servants”, being played live for the first time. Unfortunately, it would also be the last time they’d ever play “Negative Creep” and “Been A Son”. They opened with, appropriately enough, “Rape Me”. The show was very crowded, the entire floor of the Cow Palace packed shoulder to shoulder all the way to the stage, so I hung in the back. I remembered the chaos in the mosh pit when I saw them for the first time at the Warfield and was playing it safe that night.
House Of Pain, Rage Against The Machine, Wool, Warfield, SF, Wed. April 14, 1993
Oh yeah, the House Of Pain got a lot of milage out of their hit, “Jump Around” and it still holds up today. It’s impossible not to bop your head slightly when that tune comes on. They were still new, but they got big, Warfield big, in no time flat. I liked their album, not just that song, so I wanted to check them out.
But the big surprise that night was Rage Against The Machine opening. They were new too, but to say that they stole the show would be an understatement. Very few bands could draw my attention so immediately with such intensity as they. I knew this to be true because for some reason, I was selected as an usher to watch the main staircase in the lobby that night, and I was finding it difficult to stay at my post. Their music was so intense, that I found myself gravitating towards them, taking whatever chance I could to peek through the lobby doors to watch what was happening on stage.
As you might imagine, the mosh pit was insane. One doesn’t see mosh pits that rowdy hardly anymore. It’s not just nostalgia, it’s true. Even at metal shows, it’s a very rare show to see the whole dance floor at the Warfield churning with sweaty bodies like they did that night. The House Of Pain did a great show too, but I’d never heard music quite like Rage before and was pleased to find out they’d be the first act on the main stage of Lollapalooza that summer.
Helmet, The Jesus Lizard, Therapy?, Warfield, SF, Fri., April 30, 1993
After seeing them open for Ministry the year before, I was looking forward to seeing them headline their own show. But like House Of Pain show before it, the opening act is what really sparked my interest that night. I’d heard of the Jesus Lizard, they having released a single with Nirvana around then, but didn’t know their music from Adam. This was back when their singer, David Yow, had long hair. After a few songs, David was shirtless, drunk, crowd floating, and that hair was a sweaty mess. You could barely see his face. Like many acts such as Stereolab that I would grow to love to the point of obsession, I didn’t know exactly what to make of the Jesus Lizard’s music the first time hearing it. Their sound was totally original, mixing elements of punk, blues, jazz guitar, industrial, and God knows what else. David’s absolute fearlessness, wailing at the top of his lungs and flinging his diminutive body into the crowd over and over again, made it impossible to look away. I was impressed, but not enough to get their albums then, but after I saw them play at Lollapalooza two years later, I was hooked, got everything they made, and saw them every chance I got after that.
Living Colour, Bad Brains, Warfield, SF, Thur., May 5, 1993
Little did I know that this would be the show that would really got the ball rolling. I’d been an usher only a couple times and wasn’t completely hooked by then, so I’d bought a ticket to see Living Colour. I was a big Bad Brains fan, but this was the one and only time I’d see them with their replacement singer, Israel Joseph I and their replacement drummer, Chuck Treece.
Living Colour was on tour with their new album, “Stain”, and their singer, Corey Glover, had just cut off his trademark braided hair. I still thought he looked good. I kept an eye out for his father, actor Danny Glover, who was a San Francisco resident, but I didn’t see him.
What made this show special was what I saw happen while I was watching the show with my friends. I was near the front of the first level above the dance floor. All of a sudden I noticed a stocky man accosting a fellow in front of me. Lo and behold, he was bootlegging the show with a cassette recorder and the stocky fellow was none other than Michael Bailey, the Warfield’s booking agent. The bootlegger’s tape was swiftly confiscated and the bootlegger himself was ejected from the show.
Now I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but eventually the gears in my brain started grinding and I remembered my experience recording the Jesus & Mary Chain in Amsterdam the year before and realized that ushers were never searched for contraband coming into work. Bingo! Ushering was a perfect cover. I’d never be searched and security would be more preoccupied watching the patrons to even notice me.
Strange fate that it would Mr. Bailey, one of the top brass in the Bill Graham organization, and not some random security guard that would help start this obsession of mine. The incident filled me with righteous indignation. That could have been Living Colour’s best show ever, or heaven forbid, their last if one or more of the band members died the next day or if they decided to break up. Delusions of grandeur aside, I felt a Batman-like duty to tape, knowing at least at that time, that if I didn’t do it, nobody would.
The Broun Fellinis,Elbo Room, SF, Wed., May 18, 1993
The Broun Fellinis,Elbo Room, SF, Thur., May 26, 1993
Around this time, I was living in the Mission on Sycamore Street, which I referred to as an alley, being so narrow wedged in between 17th and 18th streets, Mission and Valencia. There just a few doors down was the Elbo Room, my home away from home, essentially my living room at the time. God knows, I needed one. The room I and my flatmates shared to watch TV was little more than a walk-in closet.
A musical movement was growing at the time, “Acid Jazz” they called it. Though in my opinion, it was just the next generation of young musicians that was playing improvisational jazz that had existed for decades, but there were a few stand outs. One thing that made this movement different was the incorporation of hip hop into the style, rappers specifically. Though there were few, people like the Digable Planets, US3, and Guru from Gang Starr showed that mixing the style could work.
Which leads me to the Broun Fellinis. These guys would become a weekly staple at the Elbo Room and I got to know their music intimately. Though their music was primarily instrumental, a local rapper calling himself, “The Crack Emcee”, would drop in and rap on a couple songs. Furthermore, the Fellinis were really tight back then, just a trio, David Boyce on saxophone, Kevin Carnes on drums, and Ayman Mobarek on bass. Kevin hit the drums pretty hard too for a jazz drummer, giving their sound a funky, hip hop edge.
They had a ability to communicate musically back then which I’ve rarely been able to see any musical group share. But as they say, you only really know what you have when you lose it, likewise, it was for the Broun Fellinis. When Ayman left the band to teach music elsewhere, although the bassist they got to take his place was very good, it just didn’t feel the same anymore.
Not that I didn’t get to see them plenty of times at the Elbo Room when they were all together. They would eventually get a steady gig there, playing every Monday for only $3. One man who would go on to safely say that he saw them enough, was their sound man, Keith Yansurak. I would eventually go on to work with him at the Maritime Hall a few years later. When I met him finally, I knew I’d seen him before, his tall, lanky frame, and head of straight, black, shoulder length hair, looming over the soundboard in the back of the Elbo Room. He must have seen that band perform at least a thousand times.
They’d always play two sets and they never disappointed. I liked that these guys were local too and played elegant, well composed songs that left plenty of stretches for each musician to solo and improvise. They always dressed informally too. Going to hear jazz music at upscale places like Yoshi’s in Oakland is always a treat, but an expensive and formal affair. With the Fellinis, I always felt like I was in my living room. I felt safe with them.
Porno For Pyros, The Flaming Lips, Warfield, SF, Sun., May 29, 1993
SETLIST : Orgasm, Sadness, Porno For Pyros, Meija, Cursed Female, Cursed Male, Pets, Dominate Her, Bloody Rag, Packin’ 25, Black Girlfriend, Bad Shit
This was it. Jesus & Mary Chain in Amsterdam was the prototype, but this was truly show number one. I was a little nervous, still being new to ushering at the Warfield, but I kept cool and was discreet. This was a unique show already in part for a tragedy that struck Stephen Perkins, the drummer. His brother died in the middle of the three show run at the Warfield and the second show was cancelled in order that he could go home and be with his family. As I’d mentioned previously, I wasn’t into Jane’s Addiction until they broke up and only caught a couple songs from Porno For Pyros on the side stage at Lollapalooza the year before. I was really impressed with their new eponymous album and was eager to see them.
While waiting outside the Warfield with a couple other ushers, none other than Perry Farrell himself burst out the side door of the Warfield on Taylor street followed by his girlfriend, carrying her son. The kid couldn’t have been older than four and was fast asleep in his arms. Before any of us could talk to him, he blurted out, “Not now, boys”, and the three of them were whisked away in a van. We made small talk with one of the security guards, hoping to find out what the deal was, but he didn’t know. I coyly inquired if I could get backstage and he bluntly shut me down. I then dryly asked, “Not even for sexual favors?” He wasn’t impressed. Even though I was joking, it didn’t occur to me until later that considering Perry’s ambiguous sexual nature that my offer might of actually been taken seriously. I had a plus one that night but none of my friends could make it, so I took in one of these poor ragamuffin kids who didn’t have a ticket, named Jeremy to usher with me. He was most grateful.
Eventually, I got inside and took my position clearing the left bar aisle, one section above the dance floor. I kept my recorder in a fanny pack, the dorkiest male accessory ever invented. In hindsight, my unfashionable appearance may very well have provided cover for me. Nobody suspects the nerd, eh? When the lights went down, I pulled out the earbud from the pack and lurked at the end of my aisle.
First up were the Flaming Lips. I knew they had gotten on the side stage for a leg of the Lollapalooza tour this year and were getting attention with the single, “She Don’t Use Jelly”. This was back before Wayne Coyne grew his beard. One thing’s for sure, they were loud. I mean, it was excruciating. My recorder had no problem picking them up at any distance.
Things took a turn for the worse when Porno For Pyros got on stage. Just as they were getting started, opening up with the slow number, “Orgasm”, the barricade between the crowd and the stage gave way. This was a general admission show and since everybody and their mother was hell bent on cramming up to the front, the sheer force of their weight was too much for the barricade.
The real problem was that one of the security guards couldn’t get under or above the lip of the barricade in time and was pinned like a bug. He was a big fellow too, a bald, black, gentle giant of a man named Orlando. He was one of the good ones there, always handling tense situations with grace and demure, knowing his size would always win in the end if that didn’t work. But poor Orlando was no match for the hordes of fans packed in who couldn’t or wouldn’t back away from the stage. Perry pleaded with the crowd until there was finally enough wiggle room to free him. Poor Orlando injured his back so badly that he never worked security again, though I did see him working at Amoeba Records for a couple years.
The crowd mellowed out eventually and the show began again. Perry dedicated the show to Stephen’s brother and urged the crowd to tell those they loved that they love them, since others might not get the chance if they don’t. I admired Stephen for finding the courage to carry on in spite of his loss. I was still paranoid about being discovered taping and still a little spooked by the mayhem on the dance floor, so I retreated up into the balcony with a couple ushers to record the rest of the show.
Since the band had only one album, they played every song they had from it with the exception of “Dominate Her”, leaving us with a set that was only fifty minutes long. I’d hoped that he would have dusted off a couple Jane’s Addiction songs, but no such luck. We did get a treat as they began “Cursed Male” seven songs in when we were introduced to Jean-Louis, the world’s largest hermaphrodite from Montreal, Canada. He claimed that by the time she was ten years old, “she had her first period and also had a twelve inch… shoe size”. Furthermore, after already siring two children that he/she had a baby in the oven and that baby would be the first addition to the Porno For Pyros clan in about six months time.
And that was it. I went home and labeled my first tape. Luckily, I had the foresight back in these days to actually write about these shows soon after I taped them, mostly the next day, so I have a lot of information on this year as well as 1994. Unfortunately, I became lazy and stopped, but I’m glad to have what little I have, especially since it goes back to the earliest stuff.
The Broun Fellinis,Elbo Room, SF, Tues., June 1, 1993
Another great show by the Fellinis. I’m embarrassed listening to the recording on how clumsy I was back then holding the headphone mic. Though it would take a lot of volume before overloading the signal, any jostling of the head would make an annoying rumbling sound. Anyway, the Crack Emcee, Troy Dixon was there for their second set and did “Fair”, “POW”, and “Urgency” with them that night.
Lollapalooza ’93: Primus, Alice In Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Arrested Development, Front 242, Babes In Toyland, Rage Against The Machine, Charlie Hunter Trio, Shoreline, Mountain View, Wed., June 22, 1993
Lollapalooza ’93: Primus, Alice In Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Arrested Development, Front 242, Babes In Toyland, Rage Against The Machine, Mutabaruka, Tool, Mountain View, Thur., June 23, 1993
SETLISTS (June 22)
PRIMUS : Here Come The Bastards, Nature Boy, Bob, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver, Fish On, My Name Is Mud, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, Seas Of Cheese, Pork Soda, Mr. Krinkle, Hamburger Train, Harold Of The Rocks, Thieves, DMV
ALICE IN CHAINS : Dam That River, Them Bones, We Die Young, Love Hate Love, Would?, Rain When I Die, Angry Chair, Man In A Box, Hate To Feel, Rooster
FISHBONE : Everyday Sunshine, Bonin’ In The Boneyard, Unyielding Conditioning, Black Flowers, Freddie’s Dead, Servitude, Swim
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT : Give A Man A Fish, Dawn Of The Dread, Fishin’ 4 Religion, Raining Revolution, Tennessee, Momma’s Always On Stage, Na-Na Song, Mr. Wendell
PRIMUS : Spegetti Western, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, Bob, My Name Is Mud, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver, The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon (Fisherman’s Chronicles, Part III), Toys Go Winding Down, Pudding Time, Seas Of Cheese, Pork Soda, Mr. Krinkle, The Heckler, Fizzle Fry
FISHBONE : Swim, Behavior Control technician, Unyielding Conditioning, I Wish I Had A Date, Everyday Sunshine, Bonin’ In The Boneyard, Servitude, Subliminal Fascism
TOOL : Cold & Ugly, Hush, Sober, Prison Sex, 4 Degrees, Flood, Opiate
I will always appreciate the Lollapalooza tours I got to see, but this was a special one for a reason y’all probably can imagine. Yes, Primus was all grown up now and headlining. “Pork Soda” was out and was a big hit. To headline this festival was quite a feather in their cap, an affirmation of their talent and effort.
But this would be the first festival show I would bootleg. I had to bring a lot more tapes in with me. Thankfully, folks who attend festival shows not only a large in number, but they always bring in a lot of gear with them, so security never frisked me with much scrutiny. On the first day, I went to the show with my friend and co-worker, Lori. We worked at the student union coffee shop and bar together and she was a self-described “Bar Wench”. I had a crush on her, but she was dating a fellow that she brought along with us to the show. Tough luck for me.
Opening that day was Rage Against The Machine, brand new and fresh as a daisy. They blew us all away with their energy, a perfect opener for the festival. People forget how original their sound was back then, though I felt the righteous indignation in their lyrics was poorly timed for the glorious years of prosperity we were living under the Clinton administration. After being stuck in the lobby when they opened for the House Of Pain at the Warfield in April, I was glad I could finally see them properly.
Next was Babes In Toyland. Glad I got to see them during the short period that they were together and that they got on the bill. They were not only the only all female band on the line up, they were pretty metal, heavy stuff. They were definitely one of the founders of the riot girl movement. But for some strange reason, Timothy Leary, yes, THAT Timothy Leary, introduced them, mumbling how the show was giving him Woodstock flashbacks. They weren’t getting much love from the crowd and they were shortly replaced on the tour by Tool, who were playing the second stage that day.
I’ll never forget seeing Tool for the first time. Maynard had a mohawk and introduced the band, claiming that “they played a lot of raves, so prepare to dance.” They opened with “Cold & Ugly”, starting it with the opening guitar licks from “Train To Bangkok” by Rush. From the first, ear splitting scream he let out at the beginning of that song to the end of their set, I was utterly transfixed. I never heard a voice even close to the power that man had. I wouldn’t have been surprised if everybody in the crowd looked like they were skydiving from the force coming from his voice. Maynard reminds me of the statue of Lincoln at his memorial in D.C. No matter where I am in the crowd of one of his shows, I always feel like he’s looking right at me.
Front 242 followed. I had heard of these guys from a friend I spoke to at the last Porno For Pyros show, saying how glad they got on the bill and that they were finally getting some recognition. I picked up the “Up Evil” album before the show and their music grew on me. It was unique, dark, electronic, but they still used a drum kit. Unfortunately, they got wedged in the dreaded third place on the bill, the time when it’s the sunniest, hottest, and the crowd is the most distracted. Like the Jesus and Mary Chain the year before, they tried in vain to crank up their fog machines full blast to little avail. Yes, Front 242 is an act best seen at night. I remember one drunk, Sport-O taunting them, shouting “We are from Belgium! We eat waffles all day!”
I didn’t get much time checking out the other acts on the second stage, but I managed to hear a song from reggae poet, Mutabaruka. At least one reggae act got squeezed into the tour. A tall man with long dreads and a conspicuous streak of white hair on top of his head, he towered over the crowd and laid down some rastafarian wisdom with his deep baritone voice. Hefe got me into him and I’m glad we got there early enough to catch at least one of his songs. I remember there was a local TV news anchor woman at the time, whose name escapes me that had that same streak of white hair across her head. I used to call her, “Mrs. Mutabaruka”.
The only other act I caught on the second stage was Charlie Hunter Trio. Little did I know at the time, that I would become so familiar with him and his music when he’d become a staple at the Elbo Room for the next couple years. Charlie was one of a kind, playing an 8 string guitar, 3 bass strings on top, 5 guitar stings on the bottom. He’d play both bass and guitar lines absolutely seamlessly. I only saw one song, so I didn’t get much from them, but like I said, I’d make up for it in spades later.
Back on the main stage, there was Arrested Development. Babes In Toyland might of had a short career, but these guys were gone almost as fast as they hit the scene. Pity they didn’t last longer. Unlike Front 242, their upbeat and joyful sound was the perfect music to hear in the middle of a sunny day. During the middle of one song, the women in the band chanted, “marriage, marriage, marriage”, which got some support from the women in the crowd, but the men were conspicuously silent.
I grew up listening to Fishbone and will never tire of seeing them. The “Give A Monkey A Brain” album had just came out and I loved it. Too bad Columbia records dumped them after that one. They were just starting to get the props they deserved. It must have been terribly frustrating for Angelo to perform at Shoreline though. A sea of orange plastic chairs was between him and the mosh pit on the lawn in the back. At the end of the set, he got buck naked and shouted, “I must be free in America!”. Even up on the lawn, we could all see that he was a well endowed man.
Between acts, I checked out the poetry tent, which was being led by my brother’s friend and former roommate, Bucky Sinister. He had run the tent the year before as well. There was some random fellow free styling about how much it sucked to live at home with his parents, not working, and how everybody in the tent was free to suck his dick.
With the sun finally going down, Dinosaur Jr. took the stage. This was the first and only time I spoke for my recording. It was Lori’s idea that we talked a little about what was going on and what we thought of them. I thought J. Mascis sounded a little like Neil Young. Yeah, it was boring, so I never did it again. They made good, loud music, but it wasn’t the kind that one could really dance or mosh to, so everybody mainly just stood and stared at them.
Alice In Chains got the coveted second to last slot on the bill. They started with a huge, white sheet draped in front of the stage, lit up with flashes of simulated lightning. The sheet dropped and they opened with “Dam That River”. The mosh pit started instantly and Lori and I scrambled to pick up our stuff that had been on the ground while we were quickly being trampled. I remember even rolling my eyes and muttering, “OK. OK. Thanks a lot.” I learned then that it’s never a good idea to set up camp at a festival when a pit could erupt that quickly.
I loved their music, especially their drummer, Sean Kinney. He, like so many other drummers, don’t get the credit they deserve. I was even “air drumming” a little during their set and I wasn’t the only one. Layne scolded the folks sitting in the seats up front as many acts playing Shoreline are prone to do calling them “The Popcorn Crowd”. He promised to “butter yours for you”. Before beginning “Love Hate Love”, he shared with the crowd, “I used to love someone extremely a whole fucking bunch of a lot, till she trampled all over me, little fucking whore. I can say that cus’ she’s not here.” Yes, clearly he was a man of deep feelings. As aforementioned, Alice In Chains was on the penultimate spot on the bill and had the privilege of being able to play an extra song for an encore, which was “Rooster”. The song opened with an excerpt from an interview with Jerry Cantrell’s father, a Vietnam veteran, on the video screens. Little did I know that this would be the only time I would get to see Layne Staley alive. His was a tragic waste, as it is to all who die of an overdose. Being from Seattle, there was a good chance that it did rain when he died.
Finally, there was Primus. They began to use the overture from the soundtrack of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” to warm up the crowd before they got on stage. It was a perfect pairing, alerting the fans that they were soon up, getting a little mosh pit started during the fast part in the middle, and having start right as it ended with it’s triumphant cracendo. I always thought that Les and Danny Elfman would make a good team making music together, but it never happened.
By this time, I was totally familiar with all of Primus’ material and knew which each song was within a note or two. Les brought out his upright bass for the songs, “Seas Of Cheese”, “Pork Soda”, and “Mr. Krinkle”. It was dark enough that Shoreline had turned on it’s projection screens, so the crowd in the back could see what was going happening on stage better, though I still find them to be annoying, distracting me from the music. Though it was amusing once between songs that they froze an image of Larry playing guitar making the most ridiculous face. Herb got some time to do a drum solo, being ribbed a little by Les between bits of it, asking finally that he show him “how big his peter is”. Herb let loose a barrage of tom drum hits. I have always appreciated Herb’s skill. He’s precise, clean, and modest, a real professional. On the end of the second day, we were lucky enough to have Jerry Cantrell join them for the encore of “Fizzle Fry” too. For their encore, “DMV”, Les did a couple lines from “Thieves” by Ministry, which was amusing.
Gallon Drunk, Kennel Club, SF, Tues., July 5, 1993
I had picked up some bootleg tapes of Lush shows when I was in London as you know and each tape had a pastel colored paper copy of the ad for the show. On one of these shows, I saw that Gallon Drunk opened. Back then, I was seeing more and more shows, needing less motivation to be goaded into going to them. I figured, if Lush liked them, I’d like them too. I had good luck seeing bands that had opened for them before, like Pulp and Stereolab. Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab did some background vocals on a few tracks from their album, “In The Heart Of The Town”.
This was the first time I’d see a show at the Kennel Klub when it was still that name. It eventually became The Justice League, and then the Independent. It was a big club, about the same size as Slim’s, but more of a square shaped floor, not rectangular. It did have the poor design flaw to have it’s bar smack dab in the middle of the dance floor. I liked the Kennel Klub. It was nice to try out a new venue, but when it got crowded there, it was very hard to get around.
Gallon Drunk was one of a few bands around then like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion who were making a dark, bluesy rockabilly sound, loud and punkish like the Cramps, but noisy and brutal too. They dressed the part as well, looking like a bunch of “Teddy Boys”, with high heeled boots, pointed sideburns, half opened silk shirts, slick backed pompadours, and such. It made sense that James Johnston, the singer/guitarist would go on to join Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds a year later. They did a great, creepily slow version of “Miserlou” by Dick Dale, which would become recognized all over the world the next year as the opening song to the movie “Pulp Fiction”.
Mike Delanian, the front man would go between singing, playing guitar, keyboards, and even played harmonica, and boy, could that man sweat! He definitely gave at the office that night, managing to fling a few drops of sweat on those in the “splash zone” up front. It was so loud, the vibration from the music were rattling beer cups put on the edge of the stage to point of falling off. It was a still, balmy night when it was over, and MUNI being late as usual, I took it as a good night to walk home.
Supreme Love Gods, Pure, Moth Macabre, The Edge, Palo Alto, Thur., July 14, 1993
Palo Alto is quite a distance to travel for a show, but I’d been to the Edge a couple times recording footage for the videos I made for Skankin’ Pickle and the Dance Hall Crashers and the Ride show, and I really liked the place. It was the day before my birthday too and I felt like celebrating, even if I was alone that night. No matter how many times I went to the Edge though, I’d always get lost. It’s my own fault of coarse, not writing directions down or getting a map or something, but every time I made it to downtown Palo Alto, I knew I’d eventually get my bearings and something would look familiar. It was also one of the only times I was able to pry my friend, John Hanna, from his house to see a show. I don’t remember exactly what I said to convince him to go, but it worked.
Funny that despite ample parking available in the area, the club owners were absolutely determined to make people park in a lot adjacent to the club. They would even go so far as to post guards on the roof of the Edge with binoculars to spot stragglers coming in and refuse them admission until they marched back to their cars and did so. That happened to me that night. I was young, but smart enough to know to never, ever refute club security, no matter how unreasonable they are.
Moth Macabre were pretty good, but I never saw them again after this show. I liked their female singer. Pure was good too and I especially liked that they lit up the stage with christmas lights. I’m a bit of a christmas light fanatic. John chilled in the back while I watched the show up front mostly, but it wasn’t a very well sold show, so I was able to find him pretty easily.
The Supreme Love Gods were one of the few american bands that were emulating the music trend of electronic sample heavy rock bands back then, typified by guys like Jesus Jones, EMF, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, etc. I’d seen them open for Ned’s at the Warfield before and I liked their sound. They were from Fresno, a city not exactly comparable to foggy ol’ London. Not to say that they weren’t good. I liked their self titled album they released from Def American, the only LP they would ever make. I thought it was cute that they played the Brady Bunch’s “It’s A Sunshine Day” before they got on stage too. They had a rapper come out and do a couple verses for “All Over” and their version of “Fire”, (their song, not the Jimi Hendrix one), rocked a lot harder than their version on the album. Pity they broke up shortly after that show. They had potential.
The Broun Fellinis, Spike’s, SF, Sun., July 23, 1993
Though the Fellinis were my monday night band at the Elbo Room, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t go out and see them elsewhere. Maybe I couldn’t make it the next night, who knows? They were a hard working band and there were plenty of venues around. Spike’s was a short lived bar not far down the road and I’d never been there, so I gave it a shot. It was a classy place for its modest size. Pity it didn’t last.
Charlie Hunter Trio, Elbo Room, SF, Tues., July 27, 1993
Like the Fellinis, Charlie Hunter and his trio, Dave Ellis on saxophone and Jay Lane on drums, would have a regular gig at the Elbo Room too, they playing on tuesdays. They were a little more expensive, costing a whopping $5. They’d play two sets as well. I was definitely getting my money’s worth of quality jazz back then.
I’d seen the Trio play a song on the second stage at Lollapalooza only a month before and I was eager to hear more. I wanted to make sure what I had heard wasn’t just some ganja fueled hallucination. I watched and listened to him play with absolute and total concentration. Charlie would never, EVER fuck up and to this day still hasn’t. It boggles my mind that he can play that 8 string guitar, doing both bass and guitar parts simultaneously without bleeding out his ears or something. He does make a bit of a funny face while he’s playing, but I’ve seen funnier. Charlie just lust looks a little stressed out, clearly trying to concentrate, but hell, who could blame him. When you hear his music on an album, one must remind oneself that it is indeed only one musician playing both parts. To a person who didn’t know this, they’d probably still like the music, but seeing him perform this impossible feat live truly has to be seen to be believed.
The Trio itself was a huge part of the reason Charlie sounded so good as well. Dave Ellis and Jay Lane are masters of their instruments and went on to glorious careers of their own. I wouldn’t have guessed they would have teamed up with Grateful Dead alumni Bob Weir after Jerry died in such bands as Ratdog and Furthur, but hell, they did the Dead’s music justice for sure. Jay had a long history playing with Les Claypool in Sausage, the Frog Brigade, and replacing Herb in Primus for a time too.
Instrument proficiency and the complexity of their music aside, they played catchy, well composed songs. Their music was accessible and always made me smile. Not so much for my flatmate Hefe. My old friend was living with me at the place on Sycamore at the time and had his room in the front facing the street. The Elbo Room had the habit of leaving it’s upstairs emergency exit door open during the summer months at night and I’m afraid my poor friend got an earful of Charlie every tuesday night whether he liked it or not.
Sade, Digable Planets, Shoreline, Mountain View, Wed. July 28, 1993
SETLIST : The Sweetest Taboo, Keep Looking, Your Love Is King, Feel No Pain, Love Is Stronger Than Pride, Smooth Operator, Red Eye, Haunt Me, Like A Tattoo, Kiss Of Life, Nothing Can Come Between Us, Cherry Pie, Pearls, Bullet Proof Soul, Keep Hanging On, No Ordinary Love, Is It A Crime, (encore), Cherish The Day
There are some shows that are conducive to drugs, herb for reggae, X for raves, margaritas for Jimmy Buffett, and so on. Granted dropping acid for Ministry would have been a bad idea, but for Sade, we thought it would be a good idea. We, being my friend and old London roommate, Matt, and our friend Terry. Terry lived in East Palo Alto which was unfortunate due to the high crime rate at that time, but one saving grace is that she was close to Shoreline. We popped by her place and dropped our tabs and then proceeded to the show. The show had been sponsored by Sony, but the ticket had it billed as the “Pepsi Music Festival”, that coupled with Sade holding an electric guitar in the ad for it added to the mystery. I’ve never seen her ever play an instrument.
Opening were the Digable Planets, who were new back then and had a fresh sound, mixing jazz riffs into hip hop. In those days, I only recorded a handful of songs from opening acts, so I only got four songs that day. Thankfully, the last one was “Rebirth Of Cool (Cool Like Dat)”, their hit single and one of my favorites. The Planets were a good pairing for Sade and I dare say one of the best pairings of an opener to a headliner I would ever see.
Before Sade got on stage however, we noticed that it was becoming more difficult to find a place to sit on the lawn. The lawn at Shoreline attracts what I like to call “The Tupperware Crowd”, middle aged folks who pack gourmet picnic foods and spread out on massive blankets that clearly take up more room than they would ever need. This monopolizes space and pushes folks like us farther out to the nether regions. To make matters worse, the acid was kicking in and it was becoming hard to relax. Bad enough we had 25,000 pairs of eyeballs looking every which way. We found one spot and crammed in, just on the edge of the imaginary aisle that ran down the lawn to the spotlight towers. I was sitting pretty close to a fellow next to me and tried to be nonchalant about it. I casually asked, “Do you know what time it is?” to which he replied, “Time for you to stop sitting on my lap.” Matt, Terry, and I gave each other rather uncomfortable glances for a few moments and then tactfully decided that it was time to move on. We could have stayed, but it was spoiling the mood. The next couple we sat next to took offense to us smoking a joint, and the fellah said, “Not around us, guys.” So, we had to move from there too.
We eventually did find a spot and settled in just as Sade took the stage. With just a few notes of that voice of hers, my frazzled nerves were instantly soothed. Sade’s irresistible siren song still gives me goosebumps to this day. I remember commenting that she had more sensuality in her pinkie finger than Madonna had in her whole body. Her song hypnotized me like a cobra in a wicker basket. She covered all her big hits of the day, opening with “Sweetest Taboo”.
Funny thing did happen. Though it was indeed the absolute definition of “The Tupperware Crowd” that night, I will never forget that there was one couple, just one, on the entire lawn that was standing. They were about fifty feet ahead of us and the man was wearing a tank top and had a sweet mullet haircut. He didn’t dance, but his buxom lady did, she dressed in leopard skin printed tights. We thought they were annoying and comical at first, as I’m sure everybody else in our area did, but as the show went on, I grew to admire them. It took courage for them to stand alone and dance, courage that clearly I and my friends didn’t have that night. Besides, one should dance to Sade, or at least do something with your body to it, like have sex. God only knows how many children were conceived while listening to “Smooth Operator”.
X, The Best Kissers In The World, Warfield, SF, Fri. August 13, 1993
This remains one of the only shows I actually was able to pick up a girl. I can’t say exactly why it happened, call it gravity I guess. I was working my aisle and there was a pretty, fair skinned, blonde woman there and we got to talking. Her name was Sheri. Ironic that the opening act was named The Best Kissers In The World.
I wasn’t that familiar with X, though I knew my brother was a fan and I’d seen their recent single “Country At War” on “Beavis & Butthead”. John Doe dedicated the song, “Someone’s Watching” to Pete Wilson, our not too likable Republican governor. I didn’t know any of their other songs apart from their cover of “Wild Thing”, which they closed their set with. I liked them, but clearly my attention that night was for scoring. As luck would have it, she said she was a sex education teacher and after I was cut, had a couple drinks, and watched the rest of the show with her, I convinced her to come back to my place.
I got to second base, but that was it. I don’t think she was particularly turned off or offended, and I was at least smart enough to know if I did something to kill the mood, but she wouldn’t go any farther. Maybe she didn’t like my apartment, who knows? I got her number, but never hooked up with her again. Easy come, easy go, I suppose. Serves me right for picking up a woman on Friday the 13th.
Spin Doctors, Screaming Trees, Soul Asylum, Greek, Berkeley, Sat., August 21, 1993
SPIN DOCTORS : What Time Is It?, Off My Line, Yo Mama’s A Pajama, Big Fat Funky Booty, Forty Or Fifty, Jimmy Olsen’s Blues, Refrigerator Car, Shinbone Alley, How Could You Want Him, (unknown), Two Princes, More Than She Knows, (encore), (unknown), Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong
SOUL ASYLUM : Somebody To Shove, All The King’s Friends, Cartoon, Keep It Up, Get On Out, Black Gold, Summer Of Drugs, Runaway Train
There are not many musical acts that I can say I am ashamed for having once liked, but the Spin Doctors is on of them. Well, maybe shame is too strong a word. Anybody who saw them live would agree that they were a good band and that their songs were catchy, but they are sort of one of those bands that people love to hate.
For starters, their sound was very indicative of the 90’s. So, it shall come to no surprise that this tour was being put on by MTV and billed as their “Alternative Nation” tour, a title that still to this day raises a little bile in my throat. Opening the show, were Soul Asylum. Though I liked their music, I was resentful that the lead singer, David Pirner, had got to date Winona Ryder, an actress I will always have a thing for. That resentment goes double for her dating Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, because I hate that band.At least the Screaming Trees were there. They always put on a good set.
One of the problems with the Spin Doctors is whenever the singer, Chris Barron, performs, he smiles when he sings. I hate that. Maybe he can’t help it. Maybe he’s having a good time, is stoned, whatever. It annoys me. I don’t like it when folks are gloomy all the time on stage either, like the Jesus & Mary Chain. The Doctors seemed like nice guys. The bassist, Mark White, even came out to talk to some folks in the crowd during the opening acts. I don’t regret going to the show. Seeing a show at the Greek in the summertime is always a pleasant experience. I don’t go to venue enough.
Neil Young with Booker T & The MGs, Social Distortion, Blind Melon, Shoreline, Mountain View, Wed., September 8, 1993
SETLIST : Mr. Soul, The Loner, Southern Man, Helpless, Like A Hurricane, Rockin’ In The Free World, Love To Burn, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Harvest Moon, The Needle & The Damage Done, heart Of Gold, Powderfinger, Live To Ride, Down By The River, (encore) (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, All Along The Watchtower
You never know when you’re seeing somebody perform for the last time. I mean, it wasn’t Donald “Duck” Dunn’s or Shannon Hoon’s last performance ever, but it was certainly the one and only time I ever saw them alive. Sure, Mr. Dunn didn’t pass away until 2012, nearly twenty years after at the age of 70, still too young in opinion, but poor Mr. Hoon, dead less than two years later at the young age of 28.
As I mentioned before, my friend Jeff would live and die by Neil Young’s command, so it was a no brainer that he would check out this show, but it was one one of the only shows I’d see with Brian and Mike also. The brothers Pollard were all together for this one. I had never seen Neil play with an electric band, only had seen him at the Bridge School Benefit before, so this was a first for me. I was in Hawaii that summer when Neil had played surprise shows at both Concord Pavillion and the Warfield with Booker T & The MGs for a paltry ten bucks! I heard Tina from the Warfield was desperate to book ushers at the last minute for that show.
Blind Melon was a good band, though like all so-called one hit wonder bands, blessed and cursed by their hit, “No Rain”. Sure, it was a catchy, happy little tune, but their other songs rocked. They never got the credit they deserved in my opinion. I missed them opening for Lenny Kravitz at the Greek in 1995 and their last show at Slim’s in 1996.
It was also the first time I’d see Social Distortion, a band I was only vaguely familiar with, but they as well as Blind Melon made a good impression. I remember I was a bit cagey and felt like walking around when they were on, but their sound, especially their cover of “Ring Of Fire”, drew me back to the lawn and they won me over. Unfortunately, it would take 11 years until I got a chance to see them again at the Warfield.
Like I said, this was the first time I saw Neil play electric and I was blown away by his guitar style. Hearing it on a record doesn’t do it justice. Neal really gets into it, closing his eyes, tweaking his face, and teetering back and forth to the beat, especially to long guitar solos like he did on “Like A Hurricane”. He played some mellow acoustic numbers as well including “Harvest Moon” which was a special song for Jeff, being the one he’d play at his wedding reception soon after, the first song dancing with his new wife, Christine.
Charlie Hunter Trio, Elbo Room, SF, Tues., September 14, 1993
WOMAD ’93 : Peter Gabriel with Sinead O’Connor, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Crowded House, PM Dawn, John Trudell, Stereo MCs, Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, SF, Sun., September 19, 1993
PETER GABRIEL: Come Talk To Me, Steam, Across The River, Shakin’ The Tree, Blood Of Eden, Solsbury Hill, Sledgehammer, In Your Eyes
CROWDED HOUSE : It’s Only Natural, Love You ’Til The Day I Die, In My Command, Weather With You, Private Universe, Don’t Dream It’s Over, World Where You Live, When You Come
ZIGGY MARLEY & THE MELODY MAKERS : Feeling Irae, Tumbling Down, Choose Well, (unknown), Justice, No Woman No Cry, Tomorrow People, Could You Be Loved
STEREO MCS: Fade Away, Everything, I Wanna Get Higher, Connected, (unknown), Step It Up, Creation
A very big deal indeed, one of a very few free shows of this size, the whole Polo Field. In hindsight, I’m surprised more people didn’t show. These were the days before festival shows became unspeakably expensive and they consisted of just a main stage, one side stage, and perhaps one tiny stage for local acts, tops. Had a few friends tag along on this one, but I’ll always remember bringing my friend Eric, a perpetually stoned Deadhead, and his two sisters, Nora and Kristen. The sisters were very young back then, and though we were sure not to smoke pot in front of them, there was plenty wafting in the air that day. Not knowing what pot smelled like, I’d never forget the time Nora commented weeks later that “Eric’s jacket smelled like WOMAD”. Still makes me chuckle today.
We were early, getting a decent parking spot and got in just as John Trudell started the day. I’d seen him before at the Good Road show and liked his style. Kind of reminded me of the Last Poets. Sure, there are a million rappers out there, but not many people do straight up poetry to music. PM Dawn was next. Though they were big with their first two albums, they fizzled out shortly after and this was the only time I would see them. We ran into a couple folks we used to work with at the novelty restaurant, Bobby McGee’s. Trey and Morgan were a married couple that were both waiters there, but I wasn’t very happy to see Trey. Despite her pleasant demeanor, she was notorious for stiffing us busboys with our share of the tips.
I would see the Finn Brothers later, but this was also the only time I ever saw Crowded House. They were a jolly bunch that day. Between songs, Neil asked everybody to take their hats off, then cringed and told them to put them back on again, saying they were having a bad hair day. He also encouraged them to form human pyramids for some reason, but nobody did it. They got the crowd singing for “Don’t Dream It’s Over” at least.
Ben and Jerry, yes, THE Ben and Jerry guys from the ice cream company came out after and spoke to the crowd, urging them to check out their activity booth, fill out a card, and get some free ice cream. I was too dug in the crowd to check it out. I couldn’t check out the small stage in the back of the field, though I could hear the distant echo of the music from it between songs and sets. Pity I couldn’t catch James and Inner Circle who were there that day.
I loved the Stereo MCs. They and Peter Gabriel were the main reasons I wanted to check out that show in the first place. Though “Connected” was their big hit and the song they’d always be known for, I loved their album of the same name from start to finish. Pity that that album would be their last for a long time, almost a decade. I only remember them opening for Jane’s Addiction by then down at Shoreline, but I couldn’t make it, so alas this would be the only time I would see them.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to see them as much as I could back in 1993. The Stereo MCs in addition to doing the WOMAD show also put on a gig at the Kennel Klub that weekend. I went down early the day of the show, but it was sold out. Shame on me, of coarse not buying a ticket in advance, but I saw the ad for the show too late. Doesn’t happen, being shut out of a show entirely, too often, but it happens. I always felt that no show was impregnable and probably could of got in, if I just stuck it out there for the show, but for whatever reason, I bailed.
The good news was that, when I was out front brooding, the band came out front and was taking a break. I talked with the lead singer, Rob Birch, for a minute and told him about my plight in which he responded. “What a pisser.” I gave him puppy dog eyes for a moment, naively hoping that he’s get me in on the guest list, but no avail. But I digress, the MCs did great, got the whole crowd dancing. My recording came out good too. Some years recordings definitely sound better than others, which I attribute to mostly to the type recorder I had at the time. Most of my tape recorders would start going south after a year or two. Couldn’t be helped, the motors just start dying on you.
Next up was Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers. I always felt Ziggy was underrated and was glad he was there that day. Music festivals tend to ignore reggae bands which is too bad. Reggae is one music style that most people like, or at least tolerate, especially kids. I never met a child who didn’t like reggae. It was freezing cold by the time they finished their set, which seemed out of place with their genre, reggae having originated in the tropics.
Finally, the big guy showed up, Mr. Gabriel. He was accompanied by Sinead O’Connor which was spell binding. Their voices fit like hand and glove. Rumor had it they were a bit of an item back them, even that she was his baby mama, though that was not true. Anyway, second song was “Steam”. It being a foggy day as it is often down on the Polo Fields, he introduced the sang saying, “As the mist rolls in, we’re going to try to generate a little steam.”
At one point, Peter stopped the show, worried that the crowd up front was getting a little too packed or rowdy or something, and tried to calm them down and get them to back up a bit. Don’t know if it helped or not. Dug in as I was, I wasn’t that close. He finished with “In Your Eyes” with an impressive singing solo in the middle from Sheila Chandra, who had played a set on the second stage earlier that day. I stuck around and caught the Drummers Of Burundi play as the rest of the crowd left. Though I’d see festival shows at the Polo Fields again, this would be the last one I’d see for free. Mr. Gabriel tried to organize another WOMAD show the next year with Primus, Midnight Oil, Live, and Arrested Development but it fell through unfortunately.
Jimmy Cliff, Warfield, SF, Fri., September 24, 1993
Ah yes. Mr. Cliff. Very few names in reggae get recognized as much as this man and for good reason. But right off the bat, I do want to get one bit of unpleasantness about this show out of the way. Ushers are allowed to check their coat or bag at coat check at the Warfield, provided they get their stuff out before the encore, or wait patiently till every patron’s got their stuff at the end of the night. I checked my coat, but some evil soul lifted it by the time I came to get it. The coat check lady pleaded ignorance and I was left coatless that night. Thankfully, that was the one and only time that ever occurred. Tina made sure to strongly remind the ushers at the next show not to leave any valuables in coat check.
That being said, the elation I felt after seeing Jimmy Cliff was more than enough to cushion the emotional blow I felt from the loss. Jimmy is absolutely ageless, partially because he is so energetic on stage and I only imagine he has a healthy diet, probably vegetarian. Seriously, very few performers like Mick Jagger or Neville Staple from the Specials can keep that level of energy up while singing. You have to be in good shape. I doubt at any period in my life that I could make it through two or three songs without having to get revived with a defibrillator. Likewise, very few performers can lift a crowd’s spirits as high as Jimmy as well, which makes him quite a rare bird.
Sheep On Drugs, Kennel Club, SF, Mon., September 27, 1993
SETLIST : Uberman, Track X, A To H, Motorbike, Acid Test, Mary Jane, 15 Minutes Of Fame, Chard
Having seen these guys in London, I was happy to see them make it all the way to SF. Intentional or not, there’s something really funny about these guys. They seemed to be hell bent obsessed with drugs to the point of caricature. The show was what I’d hoped, playing all their hits while wearing porcelain whit, Phantom Of The Opera masks. They’re sound was infinitely fuller too this time around since they were touring with a live drummer as well.
The thing that made this show extra weird didn’t even happen at the show I saw. On the other side of the country in Washington D.C., my cousin Michael saw them at the 9:30 Club during that tour. Now, Michael is a sweetheart, a very nice man, clean cut, conservative, yet clearly open minded. He isn’t particularly into going to concerts, so perhaps it was by accident as well that the ONE show he goes out of his way to see was this one.
But the proof is in the pudding with Sheep On Drugs. They get the crowd pumped up no matter who they are. Same thing happened when I took my friend Eric, the Deadhead, to their show at the Trocodero. He couldn’t help but dance to them.
Primus, The Melvins, M.I.R.V., Greek, Berkeley, Fri., October 1, 1993
PRIMUS : Here Come The Bastards, nature Boy, Seas Of Cheese, Pork Soda, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, Hamburger Train, DMV, Bob, My Name Is Mud, Fish On, To Defy The Laws Of Tradition, Groundhog’s Day, Pudding Time, Harold Of The Rocks, DMV (video), The Air Is Getting Slippery, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver, Master Of Puppets
THE MELVINS : Larry, Hooch, Night Goat, Honey Bucket, Hag Me, Oven, Lizzy, Sacrifice, Copache, Joan Of Arc, Ballad Of Dwight Fry
Primus had made it to the big leagues and were too big for the Warfield. This was their first bay area show hot off the Lollapalooza tour. I was and still am unaccustomed to being late to shows and anybody who knows me knows that I get quite anxious when that happens. So, you could guess how I felt that night, since Primus was one of my all time favorites.
Not that I was in any danger of missing them, but I did miss the opening act, M.I.R.V. This is significant because I believe this was their first show ever. The abbreviation of their name was a reference no doubt to “Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle”, a form of nuclear weapon that upon approaching its target, its warhead casing would open up and scatter multiple warheads over a large area. A play on words as well, since, they were fronted by Marc “Mirv” Haggard, who used to be in the Limbomaniacs, the opening act when I saw Primus for the first time at the Warfield. He had shaven off his long blonde hair and was totally bald. But like I said, I was late and just caught the last half of their last song. Pity, though I would go on to see M.I.R.V. many more times to come.
The Melvins were next and they were even more poorly received that when I saw them open for Primus last time. As much as I appreciated them at the time, as a live act back then, they were cringe inducing. The booing was thunderous by the time they finished their set.
Primus’ set was familiar, though they did perform the instrumental “Hamburger Train”, a song that I feel is underrated in their repertoire. I love seeing shows at the Greek and Primus almost feels tailor made for the place, being from the area and the pit felt like just the right size. So, it was appropriate that Primus used this show to film footage for the video of “DMV”. They had played it in their set earlier that night, but after finishing their set with “Harold Of The Rocks”, their buddy Bob C. Cock came out during the encore break to get the crowd warmed up for the filming.
He said, “Now folks, you are in a rare opportunity to be sitting in your living room, late night, watching MTV. You’re taking a rather large bong hit when you notice that find that you are seeing yourself on the television watching this video that is going to be filmed. Now, I’ve been sent out here by my friend, Les, to make sure you people behave in an according manner, if he requested to me, Bob C. Cock, the C. is for Cock, pathologically obsessed with my own penis. He requested to me that you all act like complete fucking lunatics sent from hell. (Applause) Thank you very much. Now, we have a message for San Francisco. I’d like you all to join me in a rousing chorus, singing along…” He took an aside to a man in the crowd, “I like your cock, sir. You’re mighty sexy. Do you think you can measure up to Bob? I’d like everybody in the audience to say, ‘Suck my cock!’, here we go. 1-2-3!”
And everybody yelled it, of coarse. He thanked the audience one last time, then Primus came back on stage. Les said, “Well, it’s Milli Vanilli time, boys and girls. I’m gonna pretend that I can play this son of a bitch and you’re going to pretend you’re enjoying it. Roll em’! Roll that sucker!” Then there was a blip marker and the song started and the band played along. Since it was just the album version playing over the loud speakers, I stopped recording and went into the mosh pit, hoping to be seen in the video, though I never could locate myself or any of my friends with me that night. After it was over, Les joked, “That lip syncing is hard shit!” Then made some joke about Madonna that I couldn’t make out.
For some weird reason, somebody threw an INXS CD on stage. They didn’t seem to fazed by it, though Les, but he did get a little pissed later on when somebody threw up a roll of toilet paper. He said to whoever threw it, “You know, cranium size is directly proportional to the size of your penis, and buddy, your penis is mighty small. Don’t throw anything on stage because it fucks it up for all of us.” He then made a joke introducing “The Air Is Getting Slippery” by saying, “We’d like to take you back to our 7th album”, which is funny in hindsight, considering how many albums he’d put out in the years to come. Don’t get to hear that tune very much live, being one of the rare songs where Larry plays the banjo.
They closed the show covering Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets”, a nod to Les’ relationship with that band, having auditioned as their bassist after Cliff Burton had died. Thankfully, it didn’t work out, but it does make one wonder what Metallica would have sounded like if he’d joined them. A year later, the Warfield put up a giant framed photo of Les playing at this show which remained up for at least a couple years.
Jerry Garcia Band, Warfield, SF, Tues., October 5, 1993
SETLIST : (Set 1), How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), He Ain’t Give You None, Get Out My Life, Woman, I Shall Be Released, No Bread In The Breadbox, My Sisters & Brothers, Deal, (Set 2), The Way You Do The Things You Do, And It Stoned Me, Think, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Lay Down Sally, That Lucky Old Sun, Midnight Moonlight
Jerry had become sort of the de facto house band of the Warfield for the last few years of his life. He and his band would play three night stints there at least two or three times a year. After a while, it felt sort of routine, but this was the first one ushering for me. I’d always seen Jerry at quite a distance before, so it was a thrill to be so close to him, especially during sound checks when nobody else was around. My friend Eric, who was ushering with me that night swore that Jerry was looking right at him attempting to communicate telepathically.
Ask any usher who served back then, they will tell you the Jerry crowd was easily the most difficult to work, with Phil Lesh shows, and the various Grateful Dead musical project incarnations that followed his death. Don’t get me wrong, the Jerry crowd was friendly, nice people one and all, I and many of my fellow ushers considered ourselves one of the family. But seriously, folks, trying to get these people out of the isles or into their assigned seats made herding cats look like a cakewalk.
For starters, once that music started, the crowd would just start dancing and tune everything else out, especially if they were “The Spinners”. Those are the folks who would spin in a circle like a Whirling Dervish. Thankfully, many of those folks stayed out in the lobby, where they had enough space. Secondly, everybody in the crowd knew everybody else, so when somebody encountered somebody they knew in the isle, they would hug and talk and so on. By the time you politely got them separated, they would move a couple feet farther and then run into somebody else they knew. This would go on and on. Thirdly, every Jerry show was always, ALWAYS sold out, no prayer for an easy night.
The good news was, after a song or two into the second set, I would be let go. I’d quickly turn in my two drink tickets, usually pounding the first beer immediately and would find a spot usually on the house right side of the floor, just one section above the dance floor. That section was usually the least crowded, since the crowd enters from the house left side of the floor first. Sight lines and sound was usually pretty good there too. Some of the other ushers knew this too and I was always in good company down there.
There was no shortage of weed passed around and I would partake, though I selfishly didn’t bring any most times. I never felt good about that, but the process of taking out a pipe, bag of weed, lighter, and load a bowl while holding my mic was just a little too tricky to pull off. I was a little paranoid back then too. America wasn’t as liberal about pot back then as they are now, even in San Francisco, and holding herb on me outside my home always made me nervous. The Jerry crowd was always generous with their weed and I loved them for it and I always tried to be generous with my weed when folks were at my place to compensate for my selfishness.
I’ll never forget that through the whole first set, there was some crusty hippie in my aisle, yelling, “Catfish!!! Why not Catfish!?!?!” I guess he was referring to the song, “Catfish John”. Jerry didn’t play it.
Diamanda Galas, Warfield, SF, Wed. October 6, 1993
I went to this show from the recommendation from my friend Elizabeth, a hardcore lesbian and vampire enthusiast. I had heard that Henry Rollins was also a fan of her and having nothing else lined up that night, decided to check it out. It was a fully seated show, with tables and chairs and the crowd was very subdued and polite. Nobody bickered about not being able to get a seat or anything.
This was a show not easily forgotten. Visually, she got your attention immediately, coming on stage naked from the waist up and pouring fake blood all over herself, a good start. She had black hair so long, it rivaled Crystal Gayle. But that voice of hers… Damn! Diamanda Galas has the voice that is an eerie combination of Maria Callas, an old Sicilian woman lamenting at a country funeral, and a body snatcher from the 1978 movie with Donald Sutherland. That’s not an insult, mind you. It was beautiful, yet so haunting. I’m getting the chills just listening to it now while I write.
“The Plague Mass” was a musical piece written after the death of her brother, Philip-Dimitri from AIDS. She had been an AIDS activist for years, writing an operatic trilogy called “The Mask Of The Red Death”, which her brother unfortunately died before its completion. So, the emotion behind her lamenting was understandably genuine.
I remember taking this tape home and playing it for Hefe, who was one of my roommates at the time living in the Mission. The line “Where you a witness?” repeated over and over again during the performance followed by her wailing became a sort of running joke between us that we’ve never forgotten. To just hear this once on tape and have it forever seared into Hefe’s memory is an accomplishment in unto itself. Hefe has never been easily impressed. I still consider his approval of any artist as the highest compliment an artist can get.
Free Kitten, Truman’s Water, Tiger Trap, Slim’s, SF, Sun., October 10, 1993
I had seen Lollapalooza that year and as most festival shows, if there was even a half decent tour tee shirt, I was damn sure to buy one. This was no exception. The shirt listed all the main stage acts, but also listed all the second stage acts as well, including the ones that were on other legs of the tour. Hungry to hear new music, I made it a point to hear the acts that didn’t make it out to Mountain View, such as Sebadoh, Tsunami, and Mercury Rev.
One on the list was Free Kitten, which I was delighted to hear was a side project of Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, which I liked very much, though had only seen once at the Warfield, well, technically twice, since they played an early and late show that night. Anyway, Kim had teamed up with Julie Carfitz of Pussy Galore to make this band and I went down to Slim’s not hearing any of their music before to give them a listen.
Frankly, I didn’t really like their music, thought it was loud and boring. Still, it was a cheap show and Truman’s Water and Tiger Trap were pretty good too. Kim’s then-husband and bandmate, Thurston Moore, was hanging out and working the merch booth and I got to walk over, say hi, and shake his hand. He was taping the show from there with a consumer model camcorder. Free Kitten’s set didn’t get much of a reaction from the crowd, but at least Thurston Moore came up for their encore later and played a couple songs solo, sort of a consolation prize for a lousy evening.
I mean, it wasn’t a waste of time, but I was disappointed. Still, it was one of the only times in my recollection that Free Kitten ever played in town and at least I can say I caught them once. I do make a point from time to time to see a band, sight unseen and unheard. It keeps me open minded and when they’re good, it is that more a pleasant experience.
Skavoovee ’93: Special Beat, The Skatalites, The Selecter, The Toasters, Warfield, SF, Tues., October 12, 1993
SPECIAL BEAT : Monkey Man, Rough Rider, Tears Of A Clown, Twist & Crawl, Too Hot, It Doesn’t Make It Alright, Get A Job, Ranking Full Stop, Mirror In The Bathroom, Sooner Or Later, Rudi, A Message To You, Enjoy Yourself, (unknown), Spar With Me, You’re Wondering Now
THE SELECTER : The Selecter, Rip Them Down, Three Minute Hero, Missing Worlds, James Bond, Train To Skaville, On My Radio, Too Much Pressure, Pressure Drop
Suffice to say, many shows I write about, especially around these years, you’ll hear me repeat over and over of how little I appreciated the significance of what I was seeing. Having lived long enough, I have the benefit of hindsight and I know just how important it was to see these shows when the artists were alive and well, or just plain alive in many cases.
That being said, the Skavoovee show was one such show to be sure. I never saw the English Beat when they were together and I would have to wait over twenty years to see the Specials with their original line up. This would be the one and only time I’d get to see the Special Beat, a mash up, supergroup with band members from both groups singing selections from both their histories.
Ska music was at the height of what was considered its third wave, my brother’s band the Dance Hall Crashers being one of these new bands. Though most playing that night were from the second wave that occurred around 1980, we were blessed to have the first wave legends, the Skatalites, on the bill as well. My buddy Matt tagged along for the show as my plus one and helped me usher. Somehow, he managed to get a poster for that night, though I was unaware that one was available.
My friend and old roommate, Matt Riggs, was with me as my plus one that night and helped me keep the aisles clear. He just revealed to me recently that he still has a poster from this show, though I’d lost mine long ago. It’s special also because on the list of tour cities, they spelled our town, “San Fransisco”. First up was the Toasters, warming up the crowd, finishing their set with a rousing rendition of “East Side Beat”. Then came the Selecter, English contemporaries of the Beat and Specials. I was impressed at the sheer physical prowess of their singer, Pauline Black. She was ripped back then, especially her biceps. Ska is an energetic music which explains why many of their singers are in good shape. I’d like to see her compete against Henry Rollins to see who had the biggest veins in their necks.
Third on the bill was the afore mentioned Skatalites. Like I said earlier, it was good to see the guys when they were alive, for every original member is now dead, except for singer Doreen Shaffer. Indeed, these guys are one of the main reasons the other bands exist as well as all others playing ska after them. They created an original sound, not to mention made generations appreciate the old action film, “Guns Of Navarone” which they do an immortal cover of its theme song.
The Special Beat’s set was fantastic, covering all the hits from both bands. It was one of the few shows I’d see back in those days which I knew every song. We danced, and danced, and danced. Their music was infectious. I even ran into my old girlfriend Katie down on the dance floor, the first time I’d seen her in person in three years. I was glad to see her and hadn’t felt a tinge of bitterness from our break up thereafter. There was a little scuffle in the pit during “Get A Job”, but Rankin’ Roger stopped the song until the rough housing ceased.
I’m happy that ska music had it’s time in the sun back then, but I resent that it fell out of favor with mainstream culture a few years later and hasn’t really ever returned to that kind of popularity since. One can always pray for a fourth wave…. Someday… Matt and I were drenched in sweat as everybody else was on the dance floor and the cool night air chilled our bodies when we walked outside.
Smashing Pumpkins, Shutter To Think, Richard McGee, Warfield, SF, Mon., October 18, 1993
SMASHING PUMPKINS : Rocket, Geek U.S.A., Today, Disarm, I Am One, Spaceboy, Quiet, Hummer, Soma, Siva, Cherub Rock, (encore), Drown, Silverfuck
RICHARD McGEE : How Deep Is Your Love, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, The Monster Mash
The Pumpkins had released the second album, “Siamese Dream” and the word was out. They were big, huge really. This show at the Warfield was one of the most anticipated of the year, selling out instantly. I’d seen them in London the year before and liked their first album, so I felt proud that I was into them before most folks. Billy Corgan was still young back then, only five years older than me and still had his hair, sort of Raggady Andy looking red curls when I first saw him in London in 1992. His hair was cut progressively shorter every time I’d see him till he was shaven bald. This night, his hair was small curls flat against his scalp, sort of looking like Josephine Baker’s hair, but red.
Opening that night was Shutter To Think whose music I never liked. They were one of those bands whose annoyance to me was compounded by the fact that they somehow got to open for people I did appreciate over and over again. I always feel guilty not liking a band’s music mostly because I know that the band is comprised of decent people who I would grow to like personally if I ever had a chance to get to know them, or at least some members of such a band.
Thankfully, the next act up would be one I would get to know and love deeply. A strange, but brilliant selection it was to have Richard McGee come out and sing some karaoke tunes to this crowd. Mr. McGee, now deceased, was a diminutive, elderly man, resembling Harry Dean Stanton, who would wear flashy, sequined jackets. He sang “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, and “The Monster Mash” with such heartfelt feeling through his frail yet sweet voice, that I and everybody in the house that night fell instantly in love with him. He got a big cheer when he would do a little trick with the microphone, like swing it around once, or switch it to his other hand behind his back. I would get to know this man more because he was appropriately employed at the Fillmore for many years to come as a regular performer in the upstairs poster room between acts there. The usher who regularly worked the raffle box station up there, “Raffle Box Annie” as I would come to know her, became annoyed with his schtick eventually and was relieved at his passing from a heart attack in 1996.
Anyway, the Pumpkins came on later and the place went nuts. It was loud as hell and the mosh pit was raging. Sure, Billy had a reputation for being moody and difficult to work with, but there’s plenty of examples in music of bands who made some of their best music during times of emotional turbulence, like the Beatles and the Doors. Very few people can sing and play lead guitar at the same time, much fewer can play guitar as well as Billy too. You can tell he’s the type of musician who spends countless hours on his music. Not to say I was a fan of his voice. When he sings in that sort of low whispery tone, it’s fine, even beautiful, but when he screams, it sounds like an angry cat being given a bubble bath.
They played most songs from the new album that night. For some inexplicable reason, between the songs “Hummer” and “Soma”, they played a audio snippet from “The Price Is Right” where the answer was “Hamburger” was the correct answer. The crowd cheered along. My tape went a little buggy during those songs, sounding warped and phasing, but it went back to normal a couple songs later when they got to “Cherub Rock”. They finished that night with the fifteen minute long encore of “Silverfuck” which they were accustomed to doing often back in those years. Billy even sang a couple lines from “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” but after hearing Richard McGee sing it earlier, it kind of fell flat for me.
Alphabet Soup with Charlie Hunter, Elbo Room, SF, Wed., October 20, 1993
This was one of the few times I saw Charlie Hunter sit in with Alphabet Soup, a winning combination for sure. They had a rapper do a song who’s chorus went, “Oppression is worse than the grave. It is better to live and die for a noble cause than live and die a slave”. A heroic notion, it might of been, but my be misinterpreted depending on your definition of oppression.
Oingo Boingo, Warfield, SF, Thur., October 21, 1993
Oingo Boingo, Warfield, SF, Fri. October 22, 1993
SETLIST (October 21) : Insanity, Water, When The Lights Go Out, Change, Mary, Skin, War Again, Lost Like This, Spider, Gratitude, Out Of Control, No One Lives Forever, Helpless, We Close Our Eyes, Not My Slave, Stay, Sweat, I Am The Walrus, We Did It There, Who Do You Want To Be?, Nothing To Fear, Dead Man’s Party, Just Another Day, Dead Or Alive, Insects, Grey Matter, No Spill Blood
Thank God I got two full days of Oingo Boingo. There’s something satisfying about seeing an band that plays a set longer than two hours, especially if you’re seeing them twice in row. You really feel like you’ve seen these guys. I’m especially thankful since this would be the only time I’d see them as Oingo Boingo. By 1995, they reduced the band of its horn section and were simply calling themselves Boingo. After that Danny Elfman dropped out, citing worsening hearing loss. By this time, his career writing film scores such as “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Batman” surely made him filthy rich, but still, a world without Oingo Boingo is a loss to us all. Nothing good lasts forever, I guess.
Still, they put on a hell of a show those two days. Like a said, they played for a long time covering pretty much everything folks wanted to hear, even “I Am The Walrus” by the Beatles. They had the whole crowd on its feet, including everybody in the balcony. Now that’s not a very common thing to happen at the Warfield, with the exception of the Jerry Garcia and other Dead spin off bands. They opened with “Insanity” and had ten foot tall puppets in the background with movable mouths that sang along with the chorus. On of the puppets jaws fell off the second night, which made the imagery even more unnerving.
I’ll never forget an incident during one of those shows while I was ushering. I was at my usual left bar aisle spot when I notices my main aisle ushers trying to get a couple to move down off the stairs down to the dance floor. The woman was a morbidly obese white lady with strongly salt and pepper hair and the man was a bean pole slender Asian man, both dressed in what appeared to be handmade Tibetan clothes, maybe some other Himalayan country, can’t really say. The man had one of those cloth brimless hats. Anyway, the woman was ignoring the ushers request and just stood there. I tried to get her to move down too, but she just slowly turned her head frowning frumpily, said nothing, then turned her head back towards the stage. I went to get security, but by the time I’d gotten back, she was sitting on the steps howling that the other usher pushed her and now her ankle is injured, her man standing over her emotionless. Well, with some effort, Rock Med was able to get up an waddle out of there. But I tell you, that bitter, mean frumpy stare of hers is forever seared into my memory.
Mr. Elfman introduced the song “Insects” asking, “How’d you like to hear us fuck up a song we haven’t played in ten years?”. On a melancholy note, I saw these shows with my friend, Casey, who got me into Oingo Boingo in the first place. I only got to see a handful of shows with Casey before he died in 1997, but I’m particularly thankful that Oingo Boingo was one of them, since they meant so much to him. I still have a cassette copy of “Oingo Alive” that he made for me.
Suade, The Cranberries, Warfield, SF, Sat., October 25, 1993
This would be the only time I’d get to see Suade before they were sued by a lounge singer who had the name first, making them have to change their name to The London Suade. They were getting some notoriety in the States, steamrolling through with such other Britpop acts like Oasis, The Verve, Lush, and the like, but the band was starting to fall to bits backstage. Bernard Butler, the guitarist and writer of most of the bands songs, was getting pissed off and walked off stage a couple times on tour. Brett Anderson, the singer, had a turbulent relationship with Justine Frischman, who left him for Damon Albarn of Blur, then she and him broke up, and she went on to form the band Elastica.
It didn’t help that they were being upstaged by the Cranberries who were the openers on this tour. They had the hits “Linger”, “Dreams”, and “Zombie” flooding the airwaves and most folks even back then couldn’t tell you the name of a single Suade song.
Not to say they weren’t good. They were. I liked their set and if they were having a rough time around then, I didn’t notice. I couldn’t help but be horrified on how skinny and frail Brett looked. I know a lot of Britpop singers are skinny, but this guy looked like a goddamn famine victim. I was disappointed to find out that the Warfield made a poster for that show, but it wasn’t being given out to the public and they were only raffling off one autographed one at the mercy booth. I bought a ticket, but didn’t win.
Unrest, Stereolab, Kennel Klub, SF, Wed., October 27, 1993
SETLIST (Stereolab) : Crest (Stacatto Susan), Jenny Ondioline (Neu 1 & 2), Low-Fi, Our Trinitone Blast (Sweet Jesus), John Cage Bubblegum, Ronco Symphony (Beach Boyz Base), Super-Electric, We’re Not Adult Orientated, Lo Boob Oscillator (Sub P.), Golden Ball (Pop Vuh), The Seeming & The Meaning
Thought Unrest was the headliner that night, I was primarily there to see Stereolab. I wasn’t a fan yet, but I was curious about their sound when I saw them in London a year before and had started to pick up their albums. Back then Stereolab albums were had to find in the States. I knew Unrest was on the second stage of Lollapalooza this year on another leg of the tour, so like Free Kitten, I thought they’d be at least pretty good, good enough to headline over Stereolab anyway.
I was there with a friend from college, a beautiful Asian woman named Thuy, who I knew from my friend Robert from school. I was horny as hell for her, but we never really dated. I can safely say that hers is the only name I’ve ever accidentally blurted out during sex with another woman. That’s how hot she was. She was a really nice girl though and I was glad we were friends. Thuy also has the distinction to be one of the few people I had say something into the mic when I recorded a show, a thing I only did only a handful of times and only in the very earliest of my tapes. I just introduced the show and told her to say “Hi” which she did with her sweet voice.
Stereolab truly won me over as a fan for life that show. They were young and their music was super tight back then. There sound was like nothing I’d ever heard and their songs would only become more sophisticated in the future. Interesting habit they had which is one thing that made them unique is that they had alternate names for their songs on their setlists. Some musicians might do this one or two of their songs, but Stereolab did it with at least half of them, sometimes more. They would have the song “Crest” with the name “Stacatto Susan” in parenthesis next to it. “Our Trinitone Blast” was also known as “Sweet Jesus”. “Ronco Symphony” was also known as“Beach Boyz Base”, “Lo Boob Oscillator” AKA “Sub P.”, and “Golden Ball” AKA “Pop Vuh”. Weird, eh? Whatever. Their stuff was great.
Thuy didn’t stick around for Unrest, she having to work early in the morning. So, I stuck around and caught their set. I wasn’t that impressed. They were OK, but having to follow Stereolab sure as hell didn’t do them any favors. I never saw that band again, but I was damn sure to see Stereolab every damn time they’d come to San Francisco thereafter. I did get a chance to talk to the folks from Stereolab, but I’m sure I sounded like a fawning, blubbering idiot. Laetitia Sadier was impressed that I remembered the name of the other opening act they played with in London opening for Lush the year before, Spitire. I also got an autograph from Tim Gane that also said, “Keep On Truckin’!”, an unusual expression coming from an Englishman, I suppose.
Pearl Jam, Rollins Band, Warfield, SF, Thur., October 28, 1993
Pearl Jam, Rollins Band, Greek, Berkeley, Sun. October 31, 1993
(October 28) Release, Animal, Go, Blood, Even Flow, I Could Prove To You, Dissident, Why Go, Jeremy, Rearviewmirror, Once, Alive, Garden, Porch, (encore), My Generation, Whipping, Leash, Indifference
(October 31) Go, Animal, Why Go, Deep, Jeremy, Glorified G, Even Flow, Daughter, Alive, Dissident, Rearviewmirror, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, State Of Love And Trust, Porch, (encore), Blood, Once, Footsteps, Alone, Fuckin’ Up, Sonic Rducer, Baba O’Riley, Indifference
The word was out on Pearl Jam and they were huge by this time. Their second album, “Vs.” just came out and the Warfield show, like Smashing Pumpkins before it, was one of the most highly demanded show that year. And like the Pumpkins, they made an awesome poster for it, but it wasn’t given out to the public. Bastards! My friend Eric came as my plus one that night, but wasn’t on the list for some reason. I gave Tina some puppy dog eyes and she eventually showed him mercy.
Anyway, Rollins Band was opening that night and they brought the same intensity that I saw them opening for the Chili Peppers in London the year before. Rollins was his usual shirtless, muscle bound self. Though clearly in better shape than anybody in the venue that night, he joked that opening for Pearl Jam made him feel like the tennis pro Jimmy Conners. Eddie Vedder later retorted that night during Pearl Jam’s set that he though Jimmy Conners did pretty good that night.
Pearl Jam was in fine form that night, top of their game, really. They were big enough that they were no longer interested in filming music videos. I really think that their abandonment of that medium was one of the main reason music videos started making a steep decline in popularity after them. Their music stood on its own and didn’t need them. The video for “Jeremy” had been played to death on MTV. Pearl Jam always dressed informally, did numerous charity events, and never were conspicuous with their fame and wealth. Not to say that MTV wasn’t all over the place that night anyway. MTV purposefully didn’t sell out the show to it’s usual capacity, so it would be more comfortable, which made ushering easier at least.
But when they hit the stage, the crowd went nuts and the dance floor was as crazy as I’d ever seen it. Eric and I stayed a section above the mosh pit, but Mike Pollard was there with another friend known as “The Pizza Duke”in the pit, no idea how he got that name. Apparently, Pizza Duke’s clothes caught on fire somehow, possibly from some errant cigarette embers. Eddie Vedder stopped the song for a moment asking if he was OK and that he was “worried about him”. He was fine and the show continued. They finished the set with a cover of the Who’s “My Generation”.
After the show, MTV were interviewing people outside and I made sure to yell, “Hail Satan!” as I walked by them, getting a sour reaction from the interviewer. They did an even assortment of their two albums that night, ending their encore the energetic “Whip It” then to the subdued “Indifference”.
Rolllins and Pearl Jam played three days later at the Greek Theater on Halloween, but I didn’t bring in my recorder to that one, fearing I would get nabbed by security. Back then, I didn’t try to bring in the deck to shows that I wasn’t ushering, but I soon would be, devising ways to conceal it on my body. Being Halloween, I dressed as a Renaissance Man, a costume I had left over assembled for when I visited the Renaissance Fair in Novato. I did feel a little weird at that one, being strangely one of only a handful of people in the entire venue in costume. I’d gotten a little drunk outside the show with Mike Pollard, who was there to see them again as well. This was his third time seeing them on this leg of the tour, catching them at San Jose Event Center as well. The show was pretty much the same, though I do remember Vedder coming out on stage near the end of their set with a big Pope mask and hat. He said something about that we should be celebrating a few years without religion which got a cheer from the crowd. Like the Warfield show, they played a Who cover, but this time they did “Baba O’Reilly”.
Bridge School Benefit: Neil Young & Friends, Simon & Garfunkel, Bonnie Riatt, Eddie Van Halen & Sammy Hagar, The Lovemongers, Warren Zevon, Melissa Etheridge, Neil Young, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat. November 6, 1993
NEIL YOUNG : (Opening) Sugar Mountain, Mother Earth (Natural Anthem), (Night Set) Stranger In Paradise, After The Gold Rush, Train Of Love, (encore), Rockin’ In The Free World
SIMON & GARFUNKEL : The Boxer, America, Homeward Bound, Mrs. Robinson, Scarborough Fair – Canticle, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Sound Of Silence
BONNIE RAITT : The Road’s My Middle Name, Nobody’s Girl, Angel From Montgomery, Lord Have Mercy, (Unknown), Walkin’ Blues, (unknown), Thing Called Love, Love Has No Pride
EDDIE VAN HALEN & SAMMY HAGAR : Love Walks In, Right Now, Best Of Both Worlds
WARREN ZEVON : Lakes Of Ponchartrain, Searching For Heart, Splendid Isolation, Tenderness On The Block, Frank & Jesse James, Werewolves Of London
MELISSA ETHRIDGE : Come To My Window, You Can Sleep While I Drive, Bring Me Some Water, Piece Of My Heart
This was my second Bridge School show and I was excited to see Simon & Garfunkel for the first time. Unlike most of the veteran music acts I was seeing around this time, I had a keen sense that this would be the one and only time I would see them and I was right. I knew this made this Bridge show important and not to be missed.
Glad I got to see Warren Zevon at least once in my lifetime. He got the crowd howling for “Werewolves Of London”. This was also the first time I’d see Melissa Etheridge. I didn’t know her songs, but she did a powerful cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart”. Didn’t know she was a lesbian back then, but it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. She has an incredible voice, an impressive vocal range.
I was pleasantly surprised hearing Ann & Nancy Wilson for the first time. Heart had been one of those bands that I would hear in the background growing up, like listening on the radio in the car, but it didn’t really register with me. Hearing them live changed that. They called themselves The Lovemongers at this show. I regret only taping their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle Of Evermore” that night, but at least that song blew us away that night.
Eddie Van Halen & Sammy Hagar played the year before, but I didn’t really know their songs, except for “Best Of Both Worlds”. I was glad to see them anyway and the bay area loves Sammy. He’s one of us, just as Bonnie Raitt is, and she held her own that night as well. I’ll never get tired of seeing that woman play.
So, Simon & Garfunkel finally got on stage opening with “The Boxer”. They covered all their major hits that night. Funny, from time to time when I’m seeing live music, I get a song from another band stuck in my head. During their set, I was stuck with “Slow Down” by the hardcore punk band, Youth Of Today. Then, lo and behold, Simon & Garfunkel played “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” which opened with the lyrics, “Slow down, you move too fast”. Stupid as it sounds, I thought it was funny that night and I never forgot it.
Paul wished Art a happy birthday, which he responded to the sheers of the crowd, joking, “Thirty-six at last!” Art Garfunkel did “Bridge Over Troubled Water” solo and reminded everybody with his powerful voice that despite Simon’s success, he was certainly not the silent partner in that duo. They topped off the set by having Eddie Van Halen join them on stage for “Sounds Of Silence”. Neil Young finished the night with the encore, “Rockin’ In The Free World”, as usual bringing up musicians from earlier on stage to sing the chorus.
Alphabet Soup with Charlie Hunter, Hueman Flavor with Dave Ellis, Elbo Room, SF, Sat., November 13, 1993
This was the second gig I’d see when Charlie was sitting in with Alphabet Soup. It was nice to see that Dave Ellis, the saxophonist from his trio was there, playing with the opening act Hueman Flavor. I love the way jazz musicians trade hats all the time and play in each other’s projects, mirroring the improvisational nature of their playing style. That is a trait you don’t really see in other genres of music.
Bjork, Ultramarine, War., SF, Wed., November 17, 1993
Bjork had just struck out on her own as a solo artist. I’d seen her just that one time last year in the Sugarcubes opening for U2. She rebounded instantly with her her album, “Debut” that summer. Suddenly, everybody knew who she was and for good reason. Her voice is unique and back then, as it is for all young singers, was most powerful. Very few voices come close to hers.
I always had a thing for short girls, probably because they make me feel tall, so I always had a thing for Bjork. I was even a little turned on when she kicked that reporter’s ass on camera at the airport in Bangkok in 1996. She’s a weird one and the world needs more of that. I was taking an early middle ages history class on wednesday nights that was very, very boring and was costing me seeing shows on wednesdays. That class already made me miss Iggy Pop, so I skipped it that week to make sure I caught Bjork. I ended up getting a C+ in class, no regrets.
Eek-A-Mouse, Hepcat, Slim’s, SF, Fri., November 19, 1993
I was at this show primarily to see Hepcat. I’d seen them on the road playing with the Dance Hall Crashers and hung out with them at a party in L.A. with my brother. Alex Desert was one of the members and when he wasn’t playing with Hepcat, he acted. He was in the TV show “Boy Meets World”, which had just started then and would go on to have a part in the movie, “Swingers” as well. Elise from the Crashers used to be the band’s manager, though I can’t remember if any of the Crashers were hanging out at that show that night. I was happy that my sister Erica was at that show, one of the rare occasions I get to see a show with her. They were great that night as they always were. I felt Hepcat deserved more recognition than they got, but back then, they were respected.
I’d never heard of Eek-A-Mouse, but hearing reggae music was and will always be a relief to me. I need reggae. It keeps me sane. However, I would go on to see Eek-A-Mouse many times after this, recording him at the Maritime Hall plenty. By the last time I’d see him, I’d beg for his set to end. Rastas tend to run late on stage getting on and off, but Eek-A-Mouse will truly test your patience. Usually during his encore or one of his last songs, he’d sing, “Do you want the Mouse to go away?” and follow it with his typical stream of scat singing, “Budda-budda-budda-budda-beedee-beedee-budda-budda” and so forth. While the crowd would predictably respond, “Yes”, I’d be in the recording room lamenting, “Nooooooo!!!! It’s two in the fucking morning! End this now!!!” Also, he kind of creeps me out when he sticks his tongue out all the time. He’s got one of those Gene Simmons length ones that he could probably clean his own ears with. Guess he does it for the girls.
Front 242, Ethyl Meatplow, Stabbing Westward, Warfield, SF, Sat., November 20, 1993
I was already a fan of Front 242, after seeing them at Lollapalooza that year, so I was keen on seeing them for the first time headlining their own show. They were at the height of their popularity in the States and the Warfield was their largest show headlining and would remain so to this day. They played a great set and I was glad I went. Stabbing Westward played well too.
But to all our surprise, the real attention getter that night was the other opening act, Ethyl Meatplow. Now, I’m as open minded sexually as the next person, but the singer, Wee Wee, showed the audience in timely fashion why he was aptly named. He took his pants off right away leaving him naked from the waist below and seized every opportunity to rub his microphone on his crotch when he wasn’t singing. I found out later that a few hundred people stormed out of the show, most demanding their money back at the box office.
Don’t get me wrong, once you get past the mental imagery, they were a good band. I was lucky to see them when I did, because they only made one album and soon split up afterwards. Understandable, since bands like this are likely to be invited to a venue just once and never are welcome back again. Still, their single, “Devil’s Johnson” got on an episode of “Beavis & Butthead” and their other singer, Carla Bozulich, went on to form The Geraldine Fibbers. I heard that BGP even went so far as to sue the band, but I don’t know how that was resolved.
I remember running into Jeff Pollard’s ex-girlfriend, Karen, in the pit during Front 242. She’d been into ska music when I knew her, a real rude girl, but had made the transformation to goth girl in less than a year. We didn’t talk to long and I don’t think I ever mentioned it to Jeff.
Curve, Engines Of Aggression, Slim’s, SF, Fri., November 26, 1993
SETLIST : On The Wheel, Die Like A Dog, Clipped, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, Crystal, Left Of Mother, Unreadable Communication, Superblaster, (Cold) Turkey Crossing, Fait Accompli, Coast Is Clear, Missing Link
I played hooky from school that day to catch Curve do an in store performance and autograph signing at Rough Trade records on Haight street. I waited outside the store that morning for nearly an hour. When I came face to face with the fair miss Toni Halliday, I was my usual blubbering self, mentioning the Jesus & Mary Chain show I first saw them at and how much I loved them. She gracious about it, thanked me, and signed a copy of their latest album, “Cuckoo”.
I will always remember this show primarily because I picked up a couple stickers of both bands at the merchandise table and they are still stuck on my guitar case to this day. They’ve been broken up for some time, but I’m never getting rid of that case. Curve will always have a special place in my heart, being the opening act for the Jesus & Mary Chain at the Warfield, the first show I ever ushered. They were touring, playing new songs and this would be the first time I’d see them as a headliner.
The Engines Of Aggression were a good opener. I liked their cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. As a band, they were short lived, but served the ranks of a slew of bands around that time that were a little too upbeat to be called a Shoegazer band, but a little too cheerful to be called Industrial.
One thing I can say about Curve, they were one of the LOUDEST bands I ever heard. Sure, most bands from the U.K. liked to crank up the amps, but these guys were up there with Motorhead. It made sense, pairing such volume with their wall of sound style, but dear God, it was intolerable to hear without earplugs, especially in a place as small as Slim’s. They had quite an impressive array of amps on stage. It was the day after Thanksgiving incidentally and Toni asked the crowd if they had a good Thanksgiving, then followed, “It means shit to me, I got to say”. It got a laugh. I always had a thing for Toni. She always wears real skintight black pants.
Los Lobos, Jackson Browne, Warfield, SF, Fri., December 16, 1993
I nearly forgot that Jackson Browne opened this show, probably because I didn’t record him. I wasn’t a diligent about recording everything back then and I was sure then as I am now that his music was boring to me. He’d just broken up with Daryl Hannah the year before and there were rumors of domestic abuse going around as well. I ignored his set and waited patiently for the headliner. I do appreciate his charity work, though and I have to admit, “Lawyers In Love”, was a catchy tune, though he didn’t play it that night.
This would be the first time I’d see Los Lobos headline a show, having only seen them very briefly waling into the Bill Graham Memorial show in Golden Gate Park. Thankfully, I’d go on to see them many more times over these long years, often in December. They still make a habit of playing out here then, usually at the Fillmore. Los Lobos is one of a handful of bands that have never, ever, EVER disappointed me live. One of the many reasons why they put on such a good show is their uncanny ability to go seamlessly from one musical genre to the next. Their latest album, “Kiko” had come out the year before, and was winning over new fans like myself, who really only knew them from their work on the movie, “La Bamba”. They’d even started winning over some of the hippie crowd with their cover of the Grateful Dead’s, “Bertha”, which was the last song they played in their set that night. Frankly, I like their version better than the Dead’s.
Incidentally, this was a Toys For Tots charity event and there were bins in the lobby where patrons would drop off their donations. There were Marines in full dress uniform in the house that night as well as a lot of BGP people and big spenders. Ushers have to mind their manners at shows like this.
Violent Femmes, Warfield, SF, Sat., December 17, 1993
The last show of the year was the Femmes. Like Los Lobos the night before, this was my first time seeing them headlining their own show and they also never disappoint. Last time I saw them, I was high as a kite on five grams of mushrooms, watching them open for the B-52’s at Concord Pavilion. What I did recall of them, I enjoyed. Guy Hoffman had taken over as their new drummer recently and played along with a sparse, kick-snare-hat drum kit, playing with brushes instead of sticks. The bassist, Brian Richie, played the vibraphone for “Gone Daddy Gone” too. Talented band, the Femmes. Pity they fought each other so much. I had the weird idea during the song, “36-24-36” that they should do a version “24-36-24” and imagined what a woman with such measurements would look like, but then again the song wouldn’t have rhymed if they did it my way.
Nirvana, Butthole Surfers, Chokebore, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Sat., December 31, 1993
NIRVANA : Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Drain You, Breed, Serve The Servants, Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sliver, Dumb, In Bloom, About A Girl, Lithium, Pennyroyal Tea, School, Polly, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle, Milk It, Rape Me, Territorial Pissings, (encore), Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, The Man Who Sold The World, All Apologies, Scentless Apprentice, Heart-Shaped Box, Blew
BUTTHOLE SURFERS : Dust Devil, Goofy’s Concern, Creep In The Cellar, Booze Tobacco Dope Pussy Cars, Hey, Blindman, The Wooden Song, Gary Floyd, Alcohol, Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales, Tongue, E.D.G.A.R., Dancing Fool, Graveyard, Who Was In My Room Last Night?, The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave
Dear God, I nearly forgot to include this show. The reason being is that I didn’t record it. This show will always haunt me for many reasons. The main one being that it was to be Nirvana’s last show ever in the bay area and that I didn’t record it. Not that I didn’t want to or didn’t try to, but to my utter dismay, when I arrived at the Coliseum, I’d forgotten that I’d loaned the AA batteries from my recorder to my brother Alex earlier and neglected to replace them!
Another reason this show was special, it was one of the few shows I’d see with all three Pollard brothers, Mike, Jeff, and Brian, a rare occasion indeed. Lastly, this show was special because it was my first time seeing the Butthole Surfers. My brother Alex had made a music video years before with his buddy Tim of the songs “Lady Sniff” and “Cherub” for a school project. A bizarre collection of scenes, ending with Alex standing with a paper bag over his head, unrolling a roll of toilet paper slowly in front of the camera that had the credits written on it. Needless to say, my brother was a fan, but I really didn’t know their music apart from those songs.
Tad was supposed to open the show that night, but for some reason had to be replaced at the last minute by Chokebore. They were good, but were quickly blown out of the water by the Surfers. They’d set up a projection screen behind the band and put up loops of such disturbing images as dental surgery and high speed kung fu fighting. The floor of the Coliseum went nuts, so I wisely stayed up in the seats and watched from a safe distance. The Coliseum, before it was rebuilt had great sight lines for folks in the upper tier back then, so I didn’t mind staying out of the action that night. I was very impressed with the Surfers show that night, and picked up every album I could finding shortly after, as well as seeing them live every chance I could.
“In Utero” had been out for a few months and it was a big hit, every song a winner. They also did a show for MTV’s Unplugged that showed their chops playing acoustic that also was a big hit, though the Unplugged album wouldn’t be released until 1996. Pat Smear of the Germs had joined the band as their rhythm guitarist and though I was suspicious of Nirvana changing their line up from a trio to a quartet, Pat’s reputation in punk circles was solid and he fit their sound like a glove. He’d go on to join Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters.
I remember Krist Novoselic between songs in the beginning of the show singing a line from the Dead Kennedy’s “California Uber Alles”, but changing the year in the line to, “Welcome to 1994. Knock, knock at your front door.” Like I said earlier, the Unplugged show on MTV was a hit, so they had good sense to slow the show down in the middle of their set to do a few acoustic numbers, including the cover of David Bowie’s, “The Man Who Sold The World”. During one of the acoustic numbers, Kurt stopped abruptly, pointing out a guy in the crowd to have him ejected by security for “copping a feel” of some girl in the crowd, laughing in a monotone voice as he was dragged out. When midnight finally came, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait was lowered from the ceiling dressed as the New Year’s Baby along with a huge balloon drop.
Alas, little did we know that Kurt Cobain would blow his brains out four months after this show, the last New Year’s show and the last bay area show they’d ever perform. I mean, when he had to go to the hospital the month before his suicide, I just dismissed it as typical rock star behavior or nervous exhaustion. Kurt was the first rock star I’d lose that really meant something personal to me. I was only a five years younger than he was. To think what kind of music he’d go on to make if he hadn’t died.
Thoroughly hooked on bootlegging by this time, I was mortified that I missed taping this show. That feeling was compounded after Kurt died and made a point to never, ever lose a show to having no batteries again. I also made a point to find a bootleg copy somewhere, anywhere of Nirvana’s set that night, but I wasn’t successful till over a decade later, when I found a bootleg DVD of it at the comic book fan convention, WonderCon. But that DVD was of such poor quality that it was hardly worth watching and was burned so cheaply, that it would not work less than a year after I bought it. At least I had the satisfaction of finally finding it and recently, I found a fairly good audio bootleg of the Surfers set that night. There’s some YouTube footage available of the New Year’s countdown, but likewise, it is of poor quality.
And thus ended 1993. Truly addicted as I was, 1994 would prove to be one of my best and busiest years, concert wise.