Jerry Garcia Band, War., SF, Fri., January 13, 1995
SETLIST : (Set 1) How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), They Love Each Other, Simple Twist Of Fate, Run For The Roses, No Bread In The Breadbox, My Sisters & Brothers, Deal, (Set 2) The Harder They Come, And It Stoned Me, Evangeline, Don’t Let Go, Lazy Bones, Midnight Moonlight
OK, here goes… 1995. Traditionally, January is a slow month for rock n’ roll. People are recovering physically and financially from the holidays and it’s cold outside. Still, it didn’t stop Jerry from popping by the Warfield and doing a run of three shows over the weekend and I made sure to catch a couple of them. This would be the first and only time I’d see the first and last shows of a three day stint while seeing a different show in the middle, that being Abraxas at the Fillmore, but I’ll get to that one next.
I’d seen Jerry enough times at the Warfield by then, that it was beginning to feel routine, well, almost routine. The crowd was still difficult and the relief I felt after being cut ushering felt slightly more gratifying after the last. Maybe I was starting to get tired of it. I don’t know. Jerry was a little off that night though. I mean, we’d all seen it before. He kept time, but just didn’t feel as flashy. I was amongst friends and had my drink tickets for the second set and there was always plenty of weed to pass around. What I, and I imagine most everybody else, didn’t consider that by that August, he’d be stone dead.
Abraxas, Inka Inka, Fill., SF, Sat., January 14, 1995
SETLIST : Waiting, Jin-Go-Lo-Ba, Waiting For You, Going Home, Batuka, No One To Depend On, As Years Go Passing By, Gaurijona, Cruzin’, Szabo, Black Magic Woman, Gypsy Queen, Oye Como Va, Boom Bai Ya Ya
This was an interesting show, it being Santana without Santana basically. The original “Abraxas” band got back together to play the old songs and everybody in the Fillmore that night waited with baited breath to see if Mr. Santana himself would grace the stage that night or even show up to watch. Nope. No show. I mean, if he was there, I didn’t see him and the Fillmore is a small place to hide in and I didn’t see him in any of the VIP booths either. Suffice to say, we were disappointed. Granted, Carlos was and still is a busy man and probably was on the road playing somewhere else that night, but the guy was a local. Carlos easily could have made it if he wanted to, being rich and famous. Regardless, he didn’t make it, and I probably will never know the reason why, but I still enjoyed the show and I liked the poster they gave out that night.
At least I got see Inka Inka once before they broke up. I’m not saying I was a fan or even liked their music. They were OK for a white reggae band and I’d heard their name around. I remember going to a Skankin’ Pickle show once and some guy in the crowd was playfully heckling them between songs shouting, “More Inka Inka covers!” Maybe it was one of their band members.
Jerry Garcia Band, War., SF, Sun., January 15, 1995
SETLIST : (Set 1) The Way You Do The Things You Do, You Never Can Tell, Stop That Train, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Mississippi Moon, My Sisters & Brothers, Dead, (Set 2) The Harder They Come, He Ain’t Give You None, Struggling Man, No Bread In The Breadbox, Rubin & Cherise, Midnight Moonlight
This was it. Jerry did some more shows at the Warfield in March and April, but I’m afraid this was the last show I’d see with Jerry and the band. I’d see the Grateful Dead one more time that summer, the second to last show he’d play in the bay area, but I’ll get to that one later. It was bad enough to lose Jerry that August, but even worse to lose his bass player, John Kahn, the next year of a heart attack in his sleep. The poor guy was only 48 years old. Maybe the grief was too much for him.
Never again would I wrangle the Jerry fans, yes, but I would go on to see various incarnations of the Dead and it’s members at the Warfield for years to come. At least this show was a little livelier than the friday show. It was the only time I’d hear the Jerry band play “Rubin & Cherise” too. Melvin Seals, the keyboardist, would carry on playing under the “Jerry Garcia Band” moniker with Jaclyn LaBranch and Gloria Jones singing back up, but I never saw them after this night.
Years later, I was pointed out by a fellow usher that under the railing separating the dance floor from the next level back on the left bar aisle side where I worked, some Jerry fans put a small brass engraved message, ironically about the size of a cassette tape level. It thanked Jerry for all the shows. I guess that’s where the people used to stand when they saw him. I haven’t checked lately to see if it is still there, but I know it remained there, screwed into the underside of the railing for many years. I still wonder how they were able to attach it down there so discreetly. Did they sneak in a screw gun? I’ll ask Jerry or John Kahn if I make it to heaven.
The Cramps, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Doo Rag, The Edge, Palo Alto, Wed., January 25, 1995
SETLIST : Mystery Plane, Mad Daddy, Bikini Girls With Machine Guns, Pills Bop, Ultra Twist, The Dade County Auto Show, Strange Love, I’m Customized, Mean Machine, The Nest Of The Cuckoo Bird, A New Kind Of Kick, Blues Blues Blues, Route 66, Swing The Big Eyed Rabbit, Let’s Get Fucked Up, TV Set, She Said, The Crusher, Human Fly, Surfin’ Bird
As much as I complain about the security and how I always got lost trying to find the place, I miss the Edge. I saw some good people there. Perhaps my favorite show that I ever saw there was this one. I think as a result of the botched attempt to get the recording of the Cramps the previous New Year’s at the Fillmore, less than four weeks before, I was relieved that I not only I would get another chance so soon, but that they would play the exact same set and tapes would come out perfectly. This was one of those shows like the Lollapalooza ’94 tapes that I actually listened to frequently.
Opening that night were the Voodoo Glow Skulls, always a reliable and energetic opener. I love their frantic cover of The Coasters, “Charlie Brown”. Next up was Doo Rag, which was special since it was the only time I’d get to see them while the duo were still together. Bob Log III would go off to be a one band and I’d get to see him a few times though years later.
Another reason I loved this show so much was that my friend Hefe was along for the show and he’d never seen the Cramps. Hef’ is a tough sell for new music, being a pretty picky person in his artistic tastes, so you can imagine my satisfaction when he had a good time that night. I’ll never forget looking behind me in the crowd during the Cramps’ set and seeing him smile. It was as good as gold.
Violent Femmes, Possum Dixon, War., SF, Thur., February 9, 1995
Having seen the Femmes at a distance once opening for the B-52s at the Concord Pavilion and another the year before at 105’s first B.F.D. festival, it was a relief to see these guys up close. Yeah, Gordon Gano is not a very tall man, but neither am I. The man writes brilliant music and they played a lot of them that night. Also, by this time, drummer Victor DeLorenzo, who left the band to go solo, was replaced by Guy Hoffman.
Years later, I would meet my friend Kristie at work and discover later that she was not only friends with the Femmes, but a member of The Horns Of Dilemma and fellow resident of Milwaukee. They were a group of rotating musicians who’d play with the Femmes which included such notable musicians as John Zorn and Dick Perry. They didn’t have them this night or during the Fillmore show though, but I’d see her play with them at the Fillmore years later when the Femmes reunited with Victor on drums.
Violent Femmes, Carmaig DeForest, Fill., SF, Sat., February 11, 1995
This was a rare show in that the Femmes played both the Warfield and the Fillmore that weekend. I’ve only seen a couple bands do that ever, Siouxsie & The Banshees being one of them. They played a lot of the hits they played at the Warfield two nights before, but there were a few surprises that show. None other than Joan Baez herself came out and played her song, “Sweet Sir Galahad”, with the band. They also played the song “Dahmer’s Dead”, a song chronicling the murder of the infamous serial killer from Wisconsin who was beaten to death with a broomstick in prison, so the song goes.
Joe Cocker, Keb Mo, War., SF, Tues., February 14, 1995
I’ve stated before how much I liked going to shows on holidays and this was the third time I’d seen a show on Valentine’s Day, but Joe Cocker was clearly a more romanic choice than Primus or Smashing Pumpkins. Not dating anybody around this time actually made me feel downright lonely during this show, especially when he did “You Are So Beautiful”. Really, I wish I could have held somebody’s hand for that one.
Loneliness aside, it was a great show and the only time I’d get see Mr. Cocker alive, though he wouldn’t pass away until almost twenty years later. This was also my first time seeing the blues musician Keb Mo, who with just him and his guitar, played with skill and precision. He was able to keep the “dinner theater” people’s attention during his set, a feat not easily done. I was impressed by the power of Joe’s voice that night. He played “Up Where We Belong” from the “Officer & A Gentleman” movie and covered the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends” as expected. Of coarse, I couldn’t get the memory of John Belushi’s spastic impersonation of him on “Saturday Night Live” out of my head and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Strange, it didn’t even occur to me until now that I’d seen two Woodstock alumni within a few days of each other, the other being Joan Baez who came out and played with the Violent Femmes. Now that I’m on the subject of it, I should go over the ones from that fateful festival I’ve also seen, or at least member from the bands that played. Let’s see… Richie Havens, Ravi Shankar, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald, Santana, Grateful Dead, John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Marty, Paul, Jorma, and Jack from Jefferson Airplane, and I think I’ve seen a couple members of Mountain too, but I’m not sure. Whew… Glad I caught all these guys when I did. These days, they’re dropping like flies.
Sister Double Happiness, Frightwig, Kathy McCarthy, GAMH, SF, Wed., February 15, 1995
SISTER DOUBLE HAPPINESS : Jack Freak, Sweet Talker, Bad Line, Gurdon, Do Gotta Do, I’m Waiting For Anyone, For All Time, Sweet Home California, Keep City Clean, Who’s Been Fucking You, A.R. Man, San Diego, You Don’t Know Me, Every, SOH
KATHY McCARTHY : Walking The Cow, Rocket Ship, This Is The Life, She Was My Girl Oh No!, Christine, The Museum Of Love, Sorry Entertainer
I’d seen Sister Double Happiness only once before opening for Nirvana at the Warfield and I really liked their stuff, so I was glad to catch them at the Great American. I believe this was the first time I’d see a show at this venue and I was impressed to say the least. To this day, it is perhaps the most beautiful venue I’ve even been inside of and I’ve seen a few. I moved just a couple blocks away from it two years later and lived at that studio for almost 17 years. I still have mixed feeling about living in the Tenderloin especially for that long, but easily the biggest perk was having that venue as my living room. They had in and out privileges too, so I could go home between sets and get high or whatever. I even did laundry between sets at one show.
But back to the show at hand, Kathy McCarthy opened up with her band and I liked her sound. Like Sister Double Happiness’ singer Gary Floyd, she was from Texas and used be in a punk band called Glass Eye. She opened with “Walking The Cow”, a Daniel Johnston song she had recorded for the “Dead Dog’s Eyeball” tribute album and a song I’d heard a few times before covered by Pearl Jam and Mike Watt. Frightwig was next, a local feminist punk band. Sister Double Happiness’ drummer, Lynn Perko (now Lynn Truell), was a former member as well as a former member of the Dicks with Gary Floyd. Glad I caught Frightwig since they all retired after this show to raise kids, though they’d reform with a new line up in 2012.
Like Frightwig, this would be the last time I’d get to see Sister Double Happiness too. Lynn would join Imperial Teen and Gary would go on to form Black Kali Ma and other solo projects, though I do hear a reunion is in the works for the Dicks. Sister Double Happiness were a fucking good band and though they were respected by their fans and other musicians, they deserved much more accolades and success than they got. I read a list of Rolling Stone’s best drummers and was furious to see that she didn’t make the list and double furious that no woman made that list. That woman hit with the fury of hurricane and she would make faces when she played that most women save for their biggest orgasms.
I actually ran into Gary on Divisadero street a week after this show and told him how much I admired his work. He was very sweet and thanked me and gave me his phone number saying that he and his friends throw parties and stuff all the time. I was pretty young and naive, so when I told my brother Alex, he told me that Gary was gay and probably was putting the moves on me. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, but as a self proclaimed celebrity stalker, I took it as a compliment.
Like I said before, I lived near the Great American for all those years, but eventually met my future wife, Emily, and moved out to Ocean Beach. Lo and behold, who do I see on the N-Judah MUNI train on a regular basis but Mr. Gary Floyd. He’s a little grayer now and walks with a cane now, but having always been a stout fellow, I’m not shocked that his knees would start giving out. I’m ashamed I haven’t said hello yet, I will next time I get the chance. Maybe I’ll check out that Dicks reunion too.
The Cult, Big Chief, War., SF, Fri., February 17, 1995
I knew little about the Cult the first time I saw them. I thought they were american actually. At the risk of sounding sheltered, I still think they sound american. There are certainly american acts who sound english and I’m sure there’s a few who wish they were english and vice versa. Another thing I didn’t know at the time was that Ian Astbury, the singer, had organized the Gathering Of The Tribes festival in 1990, sort of a precursor to Lollapalooza. My brother Alex went to that show, but I didn’t even know about it until it was over.
They were tight that show, undeniably they were a good live act. They came out on stage with the theme song from the movie “The Last Temptation Of Christ”, “Passion”by Peter Gabriel. Appropriate, since Ian looks a little like Jesus, or at least popular artistic depictions of Jesus. They played another film bit when they came back for their encore, the speech in the beginning of “Pulp Fiction” about Ezekiel 25:17 by Samuel L Jackson. The crowd was pumped by their hits “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Earth Mother” at the end. Despite their upbeat performance, I doubt anybody in the audience that night would guess they were in fact coming apart backstage from alcohol abuse and the usual creative and personal differences that break up bands after years of touring and recording. They would break up shortly after this tour, at least broken up until they reformed in 1999.
Digable Planets, Spearhead, Fill., SF, Sat., February 18, 1995
SPEARHEAD : Run For Ya Life, Piece Of Peace, Of Coarse You Can, Positive, Hole In Tha Bucket, Dream Team, Love Is Tha Shit, People In Tha Middle
DIGABLE PLANETS : Dial 7, Dog It, Graffiti, Black Ego, Art Of Easing, Escapism, Nickel Bags, Cool Breezes, Rebirth, Fat Clinic, Jazzy’s Solo, Borough Check, 9th Wonder, Jettin
This was one of my favorite shows I’d ever see at the Fillmore and it was unique that it was one of only a handful of early-late shows, one show starting at 8 PM, the late show starting at 11. I was unaware of this double show arrangement coming into usher that night, so I only brought enough tapes for one show, so I chose the later one. I knew I’d be cut from working and I’d be able to go up front to get better sound. That, and the later of the two shows when early-late shows happen is usually the superior one. The bands are warmed up and the crowd is drunker.
Although Spearhead was brand spanking new, their reputation and fan base was growing quickly. This would be the last time I’d see them as an opening act at a venue, though I’d see them a couple times later as one of the middle bands of some outdoor festivals. Just like the Cult who I saw at the Warfield the night before, that despite the Planets were at the height of their game, they broke up shortly after this show siting creative differences and their general distain for the music industry. It was a pity. They only put out two albums and the newer one “Blowout Comb” was as least as good as their first one, though it was considered a commercial failure.
Thank heavens the Planets got back together ten years later, but it was a long time to wait. They played last month at the Fillmore, but I was a lazy sod and didn’t get a ticket in time before it sold out. Hopefully, their revitalized popularity will encourage to tour again soon.
Sebadoh, Rula Lenska, Godsheadsilo, The Gary Young Band, Fill., SF, Fri., February 24, 1995
Sebadoh was one of those bands listed on the back of my Lollapalooza ’93 shirt that played the second stage, but was on a different leg of the tour than the one I saw in Mountain View. As with bands like Free Kitten, I was keen on checking as many as I could out, or at least buy one of their albums. The band’s bassist, Eric Gaffney had recently left the band and this was their first tour without him.
I picked up Sebadoh’s album, “Bubble & Scrape”, and though I wasn’t that thrilled with it, I liked the opening track “Soul & Fire”. It was such a painfully sad break up song that it crossed that line into hilarity and it was catchy too. A year later, when I was interning for Dave Lefkowitz the manager of Primus, a friend of Dave’s was trying to get his band off the ground and took that song to record, calling it “Soul & Flame”, probably in an effort to plagiarize it and not pay royalties. That friend of his always looked pale and sweaty, probably a drug fiend of some sort, and Dave was generously trying to help him out. But I digress. The point is the song was good enough to steal.
This show was a four band stretch and that kind of show carries a interesting dynamic, as a three band, two band, or “evening with” line up all are in their own ways. Four bands tended to irritate the ushers, since they had to work longer, but at least one band will probably be good. That was Godsheadsilo. Yeah, I liked them. Gary Young, the former drummer from Pavement, was there with his band. I’d seen his video for “Plant Man” on “Beavis & Butthead”, and though he was a weird old duck, his music wasn’t that arousing. Same for Rula Lenska. Sebadoh played a good set, but their music, as some like to call “lo-fi”, was ponderous. Maybe I was just sleepy from the long night. At least they had a good poster at the end of the show.
Sheryl Crow, The Freedy Johnson Band, War., SF, Fri., March 3, 1995
Sheryl had made it to the big leagues. She wasn’t an opening act anymore and the Warfield was packed that night. The “Tuesday Night Music Club” album sold like hotcakes and Sheryl got three Grammies that year, big ones too, Record Of The Year, Best New Artist, and Best Female Vocal Performance. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing that damn “All I Wanna Do” song. Still, that song and all the others were undeniably catchy and she seemed like a nice lady.
Sheryl has the dubious distinction that, though she is blameless, every time I see her, hear her, or even think of her I’m without fail reminded of Cheryl, Ash’s possessed sister from the “Evil Dead” movie. I imagine Ms. Crow made up in that creepy bluish zombie make up and chilling yellow contact lenses reaching out and grabbing Ash from the chained up basement door in the floor, cackling maniacally, “It’s your sister, Cheryl!!!”
Anyway, it was a great show, lots of enthusiastic ladies singing along to all the hits. She even had the good taste to play Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’r” for her encore. Freedy Johnson had some nice songs too and he’s a pretty talented guitarist. I’d go on to see Sheryl play the Warfield one more time in ’97, but she never really made any music that could stack up to the success of “Tuesday Night Music Club”, at least not commercially. Tall order. She still wrote good songs and bagged a few more Grammies.
Danzig, Korn, Marilyn Manson, War., SF, Fri., March 24, 1995
DANZIG : Brand New God, Little Whip, Until You Call On The Dark, Her Black Wings, Devil’s Plaything, How The God’s Kill, Do You Wear The Mark, Dirty Black Summer, It’s Coming Down, Cantspeak, Going Down To Die, I Don’t Mind The Pain, Stalker Song, Mother, Twist Of Cain, Bringer Of Death, She Rides, Snakes Of Christ, Am I Demon
MARILYN MANSON : Cake & Sodomy, Cyclops, Snake Eyes & Sissies, Dope Hate Organ Grinder, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These), Get Your Gun
KORN : Need To, Snakes & Ladders, Blind, Lies, Faget
It was quite a line up that night. Korn was still new, butI was seeing a lot of them back then, getting to know their music pretty well. Yes, Korn was still the first of three bands, but they were getting more attention as the year went on and that went double for Marilyn Manson. The “Smells Like Children” album would be released later that October, but he was already playing his cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), which would ultimately be his biggest hit. This would be the last time he’d tour as an opening act, though I did see him once opening for Black Sabbath during Ozzfest in 2001.
The other day, I was talking about this show with a friend of mine I work with named Jeff, who was with BGP at the time as a stagehand and worked that show. He told me that it was the last tour Manson did not wearing those creepy contact lenses that we are now accustomed to seeing him in. Jeff said when he came back to headline the Warfield two years later, he ran into him backstage and said dryly, “I see you’re doing the David Bowie thing now, eh?”. Marilyn gave him the cold shoulder after that.
What sticks in my mind about this show for me was briefly meeting Mr. Manson after his set was over. What was puzzling about our encounter was that I was positive that I was wearing a suit and tie that night, though it was well over a year before I was working for Swank AV which required me to wear one. Anyway, I was in a suit and I saw Marilyn walking down the main aisle with a couple fans and I built up the courage to approach him. I felt like a total tool, real yuppie scum, but I greeted him, told him that I thought he did a great job that night, and he looked me square in the eyes and very sincerely replied, “Thank you very much”. And that was it. I was actually taken a little aback by his good manners. Considering the ferociousness of his stage show, I thought he’d decapitate me or something. But I like to think he recognized my sincerity and responded in kind. Manson was good back then. Those first few albums were well made.
I was never into the Misfits, though I appreciated them and their sound. Danzig had a hit with “Mother” from his first solo album and I admit that one was catchy, now a staple for the kids playing “Guitar Hero”. Watching Danzig hit the long yelling notes, I couldn’t help but think that he resembled Bruce Willis jumping off that exploding roof in the first “Die Hard” movie.
The Funky Meters, The Pulsators, Mrs. D, Fill., SF, Sat., March 25, 1995
SETLIST : Sissy Strut, (Unknown), Hang Em’ High, House Of The Rising Sun, Iko Iko, Everybody’s Talkin’ (Unknown), Jungle Man, Fire On The Bayou, Midnight Rider, Get Out Of My Life, Woman, Love The One You’re With, Ohio, Keep On Marching – Africa – Keep On Marching, Thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Mice Elf Again, Sophisticated Cissy, (Unknown), People Get Ready, People Say, (encore), I Want To Take You Higher, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Ain’t No Use, Hey Pocky Way – Happy Birthday – All Shook Up – Hey Pocky Way, Willie & The Hand Jive
I’d seen the Neville Brothers with the Pulsators opening only a few months before for the first time, so I was familiar with some of their songs this night, though only Art Neville was the only Neville brother in the Funky Meters. They were an offshoot of the original Meters, but only Art and George Porter, Jr. were founding members. These guys did their share of covers, about half the set, including a ripping version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. I liked the poster that night. It had a big green cartoon alligator wearing a king’s crown on its head.
Des’ree, Zen Box, Fill., SF, Tues., March 28, 1995
I managed to catch Des’ree this one time at the height of her popularity. Her big hit, “You Gotta Be”, came out the year before and it was catchy. Heard a lot of that song that year. Before writing this, I mentioned this show to my wife and hummed a few bars which pissed her off, since it unavoidably got it stuck in her head. It’s that kind of song, yes.
Still, I like that song and I liked Des’ree. She came off as a classy woman, almost regal. Maybe it’s the British in her. A pity that she stopped touring, or at least never played a show that I heard of in the bay area again. She had an aura about her, sort of like Willie Nelson’s or what I imagine being around the Dahli Lama would be like, that in her presence, one feels that no harm can come to them.
Ice Cube, Da Brat, B.L.A.C.K., War., SF, Sat., April 8, 1995
SETLIST : Natural Born Killaz, (unknown), The Nigga You Love To Hate, (unknown), It Was A Good Day, You Know How We Do It, Gangsta Gangsta, Check Yo Self, (unknown), Bop Gun
I hadn’t seen Ice Cube since Lollapalooza ’92 and this was the first show where I’d seen him as the headliner. There was a ton of security around to be sure. Gangsta rap was still hot back then and tensions were high between east coast and west coast artists and their crowds, leading ultimately to deaths of rappers like Tupac and Biggie, just to name a couple and not even to mention folks killed at rap shows during these years. Not to say much went down at Cube’s show or any time I’d see him, but Warfield security was understandably not taking any chances. One fistfight broke out in the pit that night, but they threw the folks involved out and frankly it only annoyed the crowd that their party was being delayed.
Folks who go to Gangsta rap shows in my experience have been actually quite positive. They’re there to party and when the beat drops, oh yeah, folks are dancing, putting their hands in the air, doing the call response thing, and are all smiles. If I had any complaint as an usher, it’s just the fans go in aisles and there’s no real use in trying to move them much. It’s too loud. There’s too many of them. By the time you move one, three have taken their place, and so on. Best hope is just help people get through.
Though I don’t really remember B.L.A.C.K., Da Brat definitely made a good impression. Her first album, “Funkdafied” just dropped the year before, and it had already gone platinum, making her the first female rap artist to get one. She was a good fit, opening for Cube, having a lot of charisma and attitude on stage. Pity she had a bit of temper and would get in to trouble down the line, getting into fights and serving a little jail time. This would be the only time I’d see her.
The topic on everyone’s mind that show was of coarse the death of Easy E, who succumbed to AIDS only two weeks before this show. His gold casket had just been put in the ground the day before at a funeral attended by over 3,000 people. The show that night was awesome as expected, maybe the best show I’d ever see him do, and Cube talked about Easy before he wrapped up the show with “Bop Gun”, saying how they met and dedicated the show to him. Cube had also made amends with Dr. Dre and they’d recently collaborated on the song, “Natural Born Killaz”, which he opened the with that night.
Liz Phair, Jewel, War., SF, Sun., April 9, 1995
America had a collective boner for Liz Phair at this time, myself included. She seduced us first with her diminutive Nicole Kidmanesque looks and sexy lyrics, but the brilliance of her compositions. Her songs will haunt you. “Whip-Smart”, her second album was just released the year before, and the single “Supernova” was a big hit, it’s video in steady rotation on MTV. I even heard once that the then First Daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was a big fan of hers.
That night was pretty low key, despite the full house. Both her and Jewel, the opening act, went on stage solo. Jewel did her set, one that I’d go on to see three times that year. Like Liz, she was short, blond, and attractive, and her songs were catchy, though they didn’t impress me as much as Liz’s. Still, her debut album, which had just came out that February, was one of the best selling debut albums in history, going 12 times platinum.
Liz came on stage playing solo with an electric guitar, something most solo performers don’t do. Really, the only other person I recall ever doing that was Robyn Hitchcock. It worked though, especially after hearing Jewel’s mellow acoustic set. After a while, you forget that she didn’t have a band backing her up and I found myself bobbing my head and dancing to the beat. I prefer to see her with a band all the same, but seeing her or anybody playing solo electric is such a rare occurrence, that I didn’t complain. Unfortunately, I’d have to wait eight years later to see her again.
Siouxsie & The Banshees, Spiritualized, War., SF, Mon., April 10, 1995
Siouxsie & The Banshees, Spiritualized, War., SF, Tues., April 11, 1995
SPIRITUALIZED : Medication, All Of My Tears, Electric Mainline, Walking With Jesus, Electricity, Those Blues,
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES : The Double Life, The Killing Jar, Tearing Apart, Face To Face, (unknown), Stargazer, Christine, Dear Prudence, Not Forgotten, The Rapture, (unknown), (unknown), Falling Down, Peek-A-Boo, Spellbound
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES : The Double Life, Forever, The Killing Jar, Stargazer, Fall From Grace, Christine, Kiss Them For Me, Not Forgotten, The Rapture, Night Shift, (unknown), Falling Down, Love Out Me, O Baby, Dear Prudence, Cities In Dust, Israel
At long last, I finally got to see Siouxsie & The Banshees and I’m glad I saw them when I did. This would be the only shows I’d see of them, until I got to see them one more time seven years later at the Fillmore during their aptly named “Seven Year Itch” tour. Of coarse, I didn’t know this would be the case at the time, so I’m especially glad that I caught both shows of their two run stint at the Warfield.
These shows were special as well because Spiritualized was the opening act. They were the first band I’d ever usher for, opening for the Jesus & Mary Chain in 1992. Though I wasn’t a big fan of their work back then, their second album, “Pure Phase” had just come out the month before, and I was a fan of that one. They were a good pick for the opening act and since their music was so trancelike, it made ushering a breeze. Their songs, though beautiful, played live tend to glue the listener to the spot their standing on and turn them into stone.
Siouxsie and the band would soon wake everybody up. They played a decent number from their latest album, “The Rapture”, released that January, which I liked. Sadly, their label, Polydor, would drop them only a few weeks after it debuted for some reason. I suppose I’d be fed up with the music industry after this tour if I were them too. At least, Siouxsie and her then-husband Budgie, the drummer, would go on to tour with the Creatures, which I’d get to see a few years later at the Maritime Hall.
They dusted off a few golden oldies those two nights, like “The Killing Jar” and “Christine”. I must confess, I never liked the Beatles song, “Dear Prudence”, but I can only fault them for choosing to cover it and not writing it. They did “Cities In Dust” and “Israel” to end the show on the first night, two of my favorite songs of theirs and “Peek-A-Boo” and “Spellbound” on the second night.
Now, as if these show weren’t special enough, they also serve to remind me of another unique event in my life. After the end of the second show, I hopped into my car with my friends, Casey, (God rest his soul), and John, and drove all night to Disneyland the next morning. We ate breakfast at a coffee shop, dropped acid, and spent the entire day there. We had to wait almost two hours when we got in to get on the new Indiana Jones ride, but by the time we got out, we were high as kites.
Toon Town literally came to life and on the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride, I had to focus to keep it together. My brother Alex had a friend arrested years before for dropping acid, jumping off the boat, and frolicking amongst the animatronic pirates. He was thrown into the Disneyland holding cell with a 15 year old prostitute. My friends and I managed to get through the day without serious incident, though by the time we crashed at our motel room, my back was sore as hell from all the rides we took. We must have gone on Space Mountain alone three times that day.
Merle Haggard & The Strangers, Various Artists (Tom Russell, Katy Moffatt, Peter Case, Marshall Crenshaw, Rosie Flores, Dave Alvin, Billy Joe Shaver), Fill., SF, Sat., April 15, 1995
VARIOUS ARTISTS: (TOM RUSSELL) Tulare Dust – They’re Tearing The Labor Camps Down, Gallo Del Cielo, (KATY MOFFATT) Walking On The Moon, I Can’t Be Myself, (PETER CASE) A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today, A Little Wind (Can Blow Me Away), (MARSHALL CRENSHAW), You Better Back Off, Silver Wings, (ROSIE FLORES), West Texas Plains, My Own Kind Of Hat, (DAVE ALVIN), Kern River, King Of California, (BILLY JOE SHAVER), Georgia On A Fast Train, Rablin’ Fever
MERLE HAGGARD & THE STRANGERS : Jambalaya, Jole Blon, Big Mamou, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Hobo Bill’s Last Lament, (Unknown), Workin’ Man Blues, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star, Big City, (Unknown), Mama Tried, (Unknown), Silver Wings, Milk Cow Blues, Kern River, (Unknown), Footlights, A Hundred Years From Now, Closing Time, The Highway Is My Home, Sing Me Back Home, They’re Tearin’ The Labor Camps Down
Having seen Johnny Cash at the Fillmore the year before, my interest in country music was lit. I grew up visiting my father’s family in the Midwest and would hear some of the more popular names on the radio driving around. That side of the family worships Dolly Parton as the living God, but I knew, like most people, the hits from folks like Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, and a handful of others. But really, the only song I knew from Merle at the time was “Okie From Meskogee”, and I only knew that one because it was on the “Platoon” soundtrack. I was listening to the Dead around this time, but was unaware that “Mama Tried”, a tune they often covered, was one of his too.
Like Johnny Cash, Merle was finally getting some recognition from folks from my generation. Metallica even brought Merle to play a flew shows on the Lollapalooza bill when they toured the following year. And for this show, Merle’s influence was honored by a tribute from seven different artists opening the show doing two or three songs each. I didn’t know any of these people, but for some reason, I knew Marshall Crenshaw was once a member of Beatlemania. Don’t ask me why I knew that. I would become a fan of Dave Alvin in the future though.
I was impressed by the quality of Merle’s voice, mournful yet angelic. People really shut up and listened at that show too. We got a good variety of songs from his career, both from Merle and the tribute artists. Folks were treated to two different versions of “Silver Wings” that night too, Crenshaw playing it as well. Funny though, I didn’t get to hear “Okie From Meskogee”, the one song I knew.
Adam Ant, The Murmurs, F.L.U.X., Fill., SF, Tues., April 18, 1995
SETLIST : Wonderful, Virale Rock, Alien, Desperate (But Not Serious), Room At The Top, Car Trouble, Cleopatra, Egg On His Face, Got To Be A Sin, Beautiful Dream, Beat My Guest, Marco, Kings, Stand & Deliver, Vampires, Goody Two Shoes, Red Scab
We were far along into the decade of the 90’s that music from the previous decade could be looked back upon with nostalgia. Adam had been big with his hit “Goody Two Shoes”, but had fallen off the radar for a few years, but was making a modest comeback with his new album, “Wonderful”. The Murmurs opened up and it would be the last time I’d get to see them. Leisha Haley would go on to play in Uh Huh Her and Gush, date K.D. Lang for a few years, and do some acting, notably a regular character on “The L Word”. They finished their set with “You Suck” and their spastic cover of “White Rabbit” as I heard them play previously.
Apart from “Goody Two Shoes”, all I really knew about Adam was that Captain Sensible from the Damned thought he was a wanker and calling him “an ugly old pirate” in his solo hit song “Wot”. Granted, his fashion sense was a touch comical to me, but I actually was impressed by the catchiness of his songs. I forgot that he did the song “Stand & Deliver” too, an underrated tune in my opinion. I appreciated that his band had two drummers as well, a rare thing for any band, giving a heavier sound to his music’s rhythm. I’d never see Adam again and was disappointed that there wasn’t a poster that night.
Little Feat, The David Nelson Band, Jambay, Fill., SF, Fri., April 21, 1995
JAMBAY : (unknown), Modes Of Transportation, Ceremony, Time Traveler, Waiting For You, The How, I Need A Pick
THE DAVID NELSON BAND : Panama Red, Freight Train Boogie, (unknown), John Hardigan’s Wife, The Desert Son, Sidestepping
LITTLE FEAT : Hate To Lose Your Lovin’, All That You Dream, Drivin’ Blind, Spanish Moon, Skin It Back, Romance Without Finance, Rock & Roll Every Night, Old Folks Boogie, Texas Twister, Cadillac Hotel, Two Trains, Blue Jean Blues, Cajun Rage, Rock & Roll Doctor, Oh Atlanta, Dixie Chicken, Let It Roll, (encore), Fat Man In The Bathtub, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, Willin’
Though I’d listened to the Dead and been living in the city over five years, I was just beginning my education in hippie history. And although Jerry Garcia wouldn’t die until that August, I was already noticing new hippie or rather jam bands starting to form, bands like Jambay.
For some reason, I knew one of the members from Jambay, one of the singers, a skinny, bald guy who also played a djembe drum. I think I met him as a member of one of the parade at the Mardi Gras show with the Dead that year. Anyway, Jambay was not a bad as most of the new jam bands emerging were around that time, but they were soon forgotten. The ones that made an impression on me were the ones who played only instrumental songs, bands like Sound Tribe Sector Nine and the Disco Biscuits.
On the other side, seeing the David Nelson Band for the first time was a treat. Though originally from Seattle, David mingled with all the Dead’s people, playing as a guest on many of their best albums and touring with Jerry. He opened with “Panama Red” that night, probably the song he’s best known for. Funny that I would first know that phrase from “Apocalypse Now”, when Chef was trying to score herb from a supply officer.
But I’m neglecting Little Feat. Many folks in the bay area and indeed the world forget that hippie music didn’t just come from the bay area alone. Being steeped reply into the blues, it was only natural that a few of these bands came directly from the source, Little Feat being one of them. I loved their sound and could tell they’d been playing music for years. Shaun Murphy had just joined the band lending her sweet voice to the harmonies and I was won over. I didn’t bring enough tape that night and only got ten songs of theirs, missing “Dixie Chicken” at the end, but I never forgot that show, especially since they had a classy poster that night.
Testament, Level, Outrage, Fill., SF, Sat., April 22, 1995
SETLIST : The Preacher, Alone In The Dark, Burnt Offerings, Ride, Musical Death (A Dirge), Eerie Inhabitants, The New Order, Low, Urotsukidoji, Into The Pit, Souls Of Black, Practice What You Preach, Apocalyptic City, Hail Mary, Dog Faced Gods, Return To Serenity, The Legacy, Trail Of Tears
To go from Little Feat, a venerable hippie band, to Testament in one night is a little jarring. That was one of the reasons I liked working as an usher. I, as well as the other ushers, got a well rounded education in all musical styles and going from one style to another made us feel like we were worldly, especially when the styles were as divergent as these bands were.
Opening was a band called Level, though I can’t type their name properly since their logo had the last “L” in their name reversed making in it perfectly symmetrical, and rather brilliant logo. It was one of those names you wonder why nobody chose it beforehand and also, they were talented, but were unfortunately short lived. Many great sound people also play music, and their bass player was a tall, blond fellow named Nathan. He would go on to be one of the most respected and familiar sound guys in the bay area and a regular at the Fillmore. He made the job look easy.
Testament, not unlike Little Feat, was already a founder of their musical genre, the bay area’s so-called “thrash” metal movement. They would be ultimately immortalized in “The Simpsons” two years later when Reverend Lovejoy would welcome his followers to come by the church and listen to “the Christian rock stylings of Testament”. I was disappointed to see that the show was so undersold, especially since they were not only from the bay area, but were recording a live album. I doubt there was more than 300 people in the house that night. Though it made it more of a party atmosphere, Testament deserved a full house and certainly deserved a poster as well, which they didn’t get.
Despite the fact that I didn’t know Testament’s music then, at least I did understand the reference they made in one of their songs, “Urotskidoji”. That was a series of manga movies from Japan which were, let’s just say gross and leave it at that. My friend Casey, God rest his soul, showed me one of these movies once, and believe me, once is enough.
Charlie Hunter Trio, Elbo Room, SF, Tues., April 25, 1995
Like so many talented people I’d see this year, Charlie was moving on to bigger and better things. The ironically named Elbo Room was now clearly not big enough for him. The word was out and it wouldn’t be long until Charlie would be signed to Blue Note records, move to New York City, and would cost at least three times as much to see perform. Not that it was the end of the road for Dave Ellis and Jay Lane, far from it. Dave would join Jay playing with Bob Weir in Ratdog for years. Furthermore, Jay would play with Les Claypool in his Frog Brigade and for a stint with Primus as well.
But, this would be the final time I’d see Charlie and the trio play their tradition tuesday night show at the Elbo Room. None of us were ready to let them go, but that’s life. One of the reasons Charlie found some attention amongst the mainstream was a cover of NIrvana’s “Come As You Are”, which the Trio played that night.
Though I’m a little early in the timeline to mention this, a few months after this show, at the beginning of the next fall semester at S.F. State, I started an internship with Charlie’s manager, Dave Lefkowitz. Dave’s primary focus at his management agency was Primus, but he also dealt with the affairs of the bands on Claypool’s “Prawn Song” label. I’ll go deeper into my experiences in that office later on, but I was interning there for some time before I got to see Charlie play again, this time with his new Quartet.
While I was interning for Dave, Charlie went on the road to play a few dates in Australia, and I had to go down to Australian consulate with his passport to get a visa for him. Curiosity had the better of me on my way there and I peeked inside Charlie’s passport. Turns out that his real first name is Edward.
Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Dave Matthews Band, Boxing Ghandis, War., SF, Tues., May 9, 1995
SETLIST (Dave Matthews Band) : Seek Up, Dancing Nancies, Warehouse, Say Goodbye, Rhyme & Reason, Jimi Thing, #36, Ants Marching, #40, Tripping Billies
Dave Matthews Band, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Boxing Ghandis, War., SF, Wed., May 10, 1995
SETLIST : Seek Up The Best Of What’s Around, Dancing Nancies, Lie In Our Graves, Warehouse, Rhyme & Reason, Jimi Thing, What Will Become Of Me, Drive In Drive Out, Recently, #36, Ants Marching, (encore), Don’t Burn The Pig, #40, All Along The Watchtower
I’d seen Big Head Todd during the Horde tour and liked them, but wasn’t a huge fan. On this bill there was a new mysterious stranger in town who’d quickly make a name for himself, Dave Matthews. I didn’t know this guy from Adam, but he was on the bill for this two day stint at the Warfield and was already big enough to warrant a “co-headlining” status.
When that status is invoked, though it is rare, it usually means both bands get to play an equal amount of time, but in this case, the rarest of cases, the bands actually switched order every night. Big Head Todd went on last the first night, Dave the second. I’ve only even heard of this arrangement done once before and that was when Lush and Ride toured together.
Though this would be the first time I’d see Dave, I went on to see him plenty afterwards. He was truly impressive at this show. His talent as well as the chops from his band was undeniable. These guys were tight, real professionals. I know it sounds corny, but I also sensed that Dave was nice person. And despite the fact that his music would soon become less interesting to me as years went on, I appreciated the efforts he made supporting good charitable causes. He also had good taste in the opening acts he chose to tour with him.
They had a really nice poster for that two day stint. It was a cartoon of two cowboys back to back, pistols drawn, looking like they were about to duel each other. It was one of those posters that was laid out horizontally, instead of the the usual vertical poster. Horizontal posters were rare between the Fillmore and the Warfield. I’d estimate the did them once out of every fifty posters. One of these nights, I should go up to the poster room of the Fillmore and actually count.
Belly, Cold Water Flat, War., SF, Wed., April 26, 1995
SETLIST : Dusted, Puberty, Lil Ennio, (unknown), Full Moon Empty Heart, Angel, Judas My Heart, Red, Now They’ll Sleep, Feed The Tree, King, Seal My Fate, Gepetto, (unknown), Slow Dog, Lillith
Belly put out their second album, “King”, that year and their fan base had grown large enough to fill the Warfield. The new album didn’t yield as many hits as the first one, but I still bought it and liked it. I’d see Belly play at Shoreline later that year at the Fillmore, but they would soon break up and Tanya Donelly would continue with her solo career. She even became a postpartum doula, talented woman, Tanya. Fellow Bostonians, Cold Water Flat, opened up that night. Their musical career would likewise be short-lived, but their drummer, Paul Harding, would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his debut novel, “Tinkers”, fifteen years later.
Veruca Salt, The Muffs, Figdish, Fill., SF, Thur., May 2, 1995
SETLIST : Get Back, All Hail Me – Stone Face, Forsythia, Straight, Celebrate You, Twin Star, She’s Brain, Pale Green, Levelor, Sundown, Seether, Spiderman ‘79, Victoria, 25
I was glad I got to see Veruca Salt with their original line up that year. I missed seeing them the year before when they were opening for Hole at the Fillmore, choosing instead to see Tool at the Warfield, a tough call, but I still felt I made the right decision. I wasn’t a fan of Hole, but they got a good poster that night and I was jealous. The good news was that Veruca Salt did get a poster that own that night and it also was a good one. All and all, it was a good show, and though I only knew Veruca Salt’s big hit single, “Seether”, I liked the rest of their set and was impressed with their chops.
I had heard of the Muffs and even bought their first self-titled album before seeing them. They were tight, but like Figdish, this show was the only time I’d see them. Figdish broke up in 1998 and the Muffs would get together only a couple times afterwards to make a new album and tour. Kim Shattuck did have a brief stint replacing Kim Deal in the Pixies, but that didn’t last long. Personally, I was hurt that the Pixies would try to replace Kim with another girl named Kim no less, but I didn’t blame Shattuck for taking the job. I mean, who wouldn’t want that gig?
The Flaming Lips, Archers Of Loaf, Beatnik Filmstars, Fill., SF, Fri., May 12, 1995
The Flaming Lips, Her Majesty The Baby, Union Square, SF, Sat., May 13, 1995
SETLIST : Everyone Wants To Live Forever, Turn It On, Moth In The Incubator, (unknown), She Don’t Use Jelly, Waterbugs, What A Wonderful World, Superhumans
I want to put these shows together because they were back to back, but also that I always felt Union Square shows were sort of a companion piece to a band’s main show. That would also feel true years later when Amoeba Records would often do in store shows for bands who were also playing later that night. Though this time, the Lips would be playing Union Square the day after their Fillmore show, so it was a rare bird anyway.
As you might recall, the Lips were technically the first band I’d record as an usher at the Warfield when they opened for Porno For Pyros two years prior. I hadn’t seen them since then, probably since the hadn’t played in town and if they had, it passed by me unnoticed. But, being so impressed by them the first time round, I’d made an effort to get a few of their older albums, which I found interesting, but not nearly as sophisticated musically as they were creating around this time. As most people who first heard them with their hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly”, I was unaware that they’d been around since the early 80s.
Their new album, “Clouds Taste Metallic” would not be released until that September, but they were already trying out new material live, notably, “Bad Days”, which they contributed to the “Batman Forever” soundtrack, though I wouldn’t be able to see it until a month later. Regardless, the band was headlining the Fillmore and had made a name for themselves.
My roommate Mike came along to usher with me and as always we lingered about the poster room. There we discovered Wayne, the singer, putting together strands of christmas lights to decorate the stage with later. Though they were headliners, they were still a do it yourself kind of band, I guess. Wayne was still clean shaven then. I approached him, shook his hand, and told him that I’d seen him with Porno For Pyros and liked their music. He was a little shy, but was polite and indulged my eagerness to meet him. I asked if he was going to play “Be My Head”, one of my favorite songs that night. He said no, but reassured me there would be plenty from the previous album like “Turn It On”. I thanked him again and let him be, turned to Mike, and whispered in his ear as we walked away, “I can die a happy man now.”
Turns out the christmas lights were timed to go on right as the electric guitars kicked in during the first verse of “Turn It On”, appropriately the first song of the night. As promised, they covered a lots of ground, playing tunes from the last album like “Oh My Pregnant Head”, “Moth In The Incubator”, “Superhumans”, “Chewin’ The Apple Of Your Eye”, and of coarse, their bit hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly”.
They did a shorter set as expected the next day at Union Square, but added the B-Side “Waterbugs”, which I’d never heard before that day. Both shows they did a touching cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”. Whenever Wayne sings something sentimental, he’d put one hand on his chest and stretch the other out, sort of reminiscent of Al Jolson. God knows, what he lacks in the strength of his singing voice, he more than compensates with emotional content.
REM, Sonic Youth, Shoreline, Mountain View, Tues., May 16, 1995
SONIC YOUTH : Bull In The Heather, Starfield Road, Washing Machine, (unknown), Junkie’s Promise, Diamond Sea
R.E.M. : I Don’t Sleep I Dream, What’s The Frequency Kenneth?, Crush With Eyeliner, Near Wild Heaven, Disturbance At The Heron House, Try Not To Breathe, You, Turn You Inside Out, Strange Currencies, Revolution, Tongue, Man On The Moon, Country Feedback, Half A World Away, Losing My Religion, I Took Your Name, Departure, Get Up, Orange Crush, Star 69, (encore), Let Me In Everybody Hurts, Bang & Blame, Wichita Lineman, Finest Worksong, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Truth be told, I wasn’t the biggest fan of REM, though everybody in the world was more than familiar with their hits by then. The Pollard brothers were big fans, and I liked a couple songs off their most recent album, “Monster”, so I decided to check them out. The clincher that night was the fact that Sonic Youth was opening and I hadn’t seen them since they played their double show at the Warfield back in 1993.
Sonic Youth had just finished recording their new album, “Washing Machine”, and though it wouldn’t be released until September, I’d get to hear some of the new songs, not only that night, but twice more when they headlined Lollapalooza that year in August at Shoreline and Cal Expo. Furthermore, they would play two more shows that November at the Warfield after the album was released, making it a grand total of FIVE times I’d see them in a six month period. Whew! So, I got to know the new material pretty well, which thankfully I enjoyed, especially the long, but epic, “Diamond Sea”.
The show that night was the second of three shows in a row at Shoreline and I had the good fortune not to pick the one the night before, which had been rained on mercilessly. Michael Stipe even joked that it “was like Florida” out there. The lawn was still a little muddy, so I didn’t sit that night. Stipe had finally accepted that he was bald, shaved his head, and kept it that way. Like Billy Corgan and Joe Satrioni, it was the right thing to do and was a good look for him.
It was REM’s first tour in six years, but they hit a real stumbling block that March when Bill Berry, their drummer, fell victim to a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized, though he had recovered in time to do this show obviously. Michael joked about it asking between songs in the beginning how he was doing and Bill smiled and pretended to fall over sideways. If that wasn’t bad enough, Mike Mills, the guitarist, would get surgery for an abdominal adhesion and Stipe would get emergency surgery to repair a hernia only a month later. Glad I saw them when I did.
Despite all the health issues, they put on a great show, playing almost thirty songs. I’d never seen them and didn’t own any of their albums, but I knew many of their hits they played that night like, “Man On The Moon”, “Losing My Religion”, “Orange Crush”, and “Finest Worksong”. They finished their encore with a frantic rendition of “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. I’d figured that REM would always be together, but they would call in quits in 2011 and this show would be the only time I’d get to see them. I would see Peter Buck with the Minus 5 play opening for Wilco at the Warfield though and a couple times playing with Robyn Hitchcock with both the Minus 5 and the Venus 3.
Santana, Linda Tillery & The Cultural Heritage Choir, Fill., SF, Wed., May 17, 1995
Santana, Linda Tillery & The Cultural Heritage Choir, Fill., SF, Thur., May 18, 1995
(May 17) Yaleo – Hannibal, Open Invitation, Harmonious Convergence – Hal 99, The Call – Kenya, Shortnin’ Bread, Right On Be Free, Make Somebody Happy, Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile), Always,Bacaloa Con Pan, Chill Out (Things Gonna Change), Sonny Sharrock, I Love You Too Much, (encore), Guajira, Jin-Go-Lo-Ba, Oye Como Va, Gypsy Queen
(May 18) Another Man Done Gone, How Long Watchman, (Unknown), Harmonious Convergence – Hal 99, Right On Be Free, Make Somebody Happy – Get It In Your Soul, Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile), Always, Bacaloa Con Pan, Chill Out, Sonny Sharrock, Guajira, Savor, (drums), Jin-Go-Lo-Ba, Gypsy Queen, Oye Como Va
I’d seen Santana at the Good Road Festival, opening for the Dead in Vegas, and jamming with the Dead unannounced a couple times, but I believe this was the first occasion I’d see Carlos headlining his own show. It was appropriate that it would be the Fillmore too, seeing that this hallowed hall was where he got his start all those years ago, sneaking in when he was a kid. Like Wayne of the Flaming Lips, I took my opportunity to approach Carlos before the show and told him, “Hey, you know I’m your neighbor?” He looked at me with mild puzzlement before I continued, “Yeah, I live next to a mural of you in the Mission, on 22nd and South Van Ness.” He smiled, nodded, and said he knew which one it was. He was gracious to let me have my little moment.
Though he wouldn’t be thrust into international superstardom for a four years with the album “Supernatural” and the ever-present hit single, “Smooth”, Santana was indisputably rock n’ roll royalty and one of the bay area’s favorite sons. There was no doubt when the tickets went on sale, that all three shows would sell out instantly and they did. I was lucky enough to get in to usher the first two shows, which left me free to catch PJ Harvey at the Warfield for the third.
Santana always plays a good show, covering a decent amount of material, at least two hours worth every time. Technically, he might not be a sharp as some classically trained guys out there, I might even call his playing a touch predictable, but his style and emotional expressions are unmistakable, perhaps only second to Hendrix. When he leans back and closes his eyes during a solo, he simply loses himself in the music and we are lost along with him. The man is guitar hero, hands down. He doesn’t ever sing, but who cares? He doesn’t need to.
Thank God there was a poster that night, though it never was really in doubt. To have this man play three sold out shows for his first time since the Fillmore reopened and not have one would have been unforgivable. Certainly, the ghost of Bill Graham was floating around that night as I’m sure he often visits, especially when some of the old guard like Carlos are playing.
PJ Harvey, Tricky, War., SF, Fri., May 19, 1995
SETLIST : Lying In The Sun, Send His Love To Me, Meet Za Monster, One Time Too Many, Waiting For The Man, Harder, Telco, Long Time Coming, Down By The Water, C’Mon Billy, Hook, Me Jane, Driving, 50 Foot Queenie, I Think I’m A Mother, Long Snake Moan
I was just getting into the music of PJ around this time, a late bloomer unfortunately since she was already big enough to play the Warfield. Apparently, when she had played Slim’s previously, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love here hanging about. Nevertheless, my time had come and her show would be the fourth show in a row for me before I got a day off, then to do five shows in six days afterwards. That was a busy month for me.
Tricky was brand new as a solo artist back then, having just left Massive Attack. His debut album, “Maxinquaye”, had only been released that February. Though he was really a self taught musician, his music would soon inspire many contemporaries and help spearhead the so-called “trip hop” movement in England. I like to call it, “Ali G music”. His style was unique, like nothing I’d heard before, but I was distracted by the way he’d jitter about on stage, shaking his head back and forth. He reminded me of that guy in the nightmare hospital scene in “Jacob’s Ladder”. Whatever, it kept him in the zone, I guess.
I had already been seduced by PJ Harvey’s music, but when she got on stage that night, my boner was at full mast. She wore only a loose black nighty and her make up was done up past hooker level, bordering on clownish. She was hot and she knew it and I admired her for putting it forward front and center, so much that I felt she was deconstructing the very nature of feminine sexuality in female rock stars altogether. Sure I couldn’t take my eyes off her, but that look gave her a vulnerability that drew you into her melancholic wailing and never let go. Like Iggy Pop, she might have not had the voice of an opera star, but her emotional expression and the depth of her lyrics were overpowering. Her music was about as dark as it came, reminiscent of Goth ladies like Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush, or Lisa Gerrard, but she definitely had some blues sensibilities.
I was so young and naive back then. The first time I saw the video for “50 Foot Queenie” on “Beavis & Butthead”, when Beavis thought she was Mallory from “Family Ties”, I really thought it was Justine Bateman. Justine had done a film in 1988 called, “Satisfaction”, where she played a rock n’ roll singer, so I made the connection and thought to myself, “Damn! This song rocks!” With the sunglasses PJ had on in the video, the resemblance was striking though.
Luscious Jackson, Ninety 9, Cold Cock Trio, Fill., SF, Sun., May 21, 1995
SETLIST : Pele Merengue, Strong Man, Energy Sucker, Bam-Bam, Daughters Of The Kaos, Citysong, Life Of Leisure, Deep Shag, Sunshine, Rock Freak, 69, Here, She Be Wantin’ It More, Radiating, Angel, Keep On Rockin’ It, Surprise, Let Yourself Get Down, Satellite, Roland, Lay Down Your Burden
The ladies from Luscious Jackson won me over when I saw them the previous November at the Edge. Seriously, there was something hypnotic about the way Jill Cunniff dances. Her movement just made me happy. Only the dancing of Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne can do this to me. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you’ve seen as many bands as I have, I assure you it is.
Ninety 9, an amazonian black rapper opened and though I thought she had talent, I never heard of her again after this show. I can never forget when she joined Luscious Jackson on stage to sing the song, “Sunshine”. She would sing the line, “sunshine on my shoulder”, holding the last word, “shouuuuuuuul-DAH!” They got a really nice poster that night, a rare horizontal one, which is still one of my favorites.
Bob Dylan, War., SF, Mon., May 22, 1995
Bob Dylan, War., SF, Tues., May 23, 1995
(May 22) : Down In The Flood, Man In The Long Black Coat, All Along The Watchtower, Most Likely You Go Your Way & I’ll Go Mine, Tears Of Rage, Desolation Row, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Seeing The Real You At Last, She Belongs To Me, Obviously Five Believers, (encore) Lenny Bruce, My Back Pages
(May 23) : I Want You, All Along The Watchtower, Queen Jane Approximately, Jokerman, Silvio, Mr. Tambourine Man, Boots Of Spanish Leather, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, God Knows, Never Gonna Be The Same Again, Obviously Five Believers, ( encore) Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, The Times They Age A-Changin’
What is there to be said about Mr. Dylan that hasn’t been already? So much has been written and his career spans over half a century. He’d already been playing over thirty years by the time I finally got to see this two night stint at the Warfield. I, like so many others, was well acquainted with his hits, many being covered regularly by the Dead, and even the Chili Pepper’s cover of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Everybody and their mother covers, “All Along The Watchtower”.
In his long career, Dylan had his ups and downs, which goes without saying for somebody with a career that long. I am happy to say I got to see him here whole he was on the upswing. He’d just did an “Unplugged” album with MTV as many older artists did around that time to introduce himself to the younger people and he also just quit drinking. As unintelligible as his singing voice is renowned to be, I can only imagine how disastrous it would sound when he was drunk. However, I didn’t have a problem understanding him, though I always felt he sounded like somebody trying to sing while their nose was being pinched firmly.
Over the two days, I was pleased that he played at least half the songs that were familiar to me. He played an acoustic guitar most the night, but put it down to just sing on a couple songs. Though like I said he was sober, he sort of stumbled around the stage when he was just singing sort of like a drunken bear. It’s best that he keeps the guitar on his person. It’s sort of hard to picture him without one. I was furious to see that there was no poster for these shows, a real glaring omission on the part of BGP.
Buckshot LeFonque, KNT, Fill., SF, Thur., May 25, 1995
SETLIST : Spanish Key, No Pain, Mona Lisa, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Rocky & Mino Show (Reality Check), Cow Fonque, Machine Gun, No Pain Salam, DJ Apollo Solo, Recognize
My feet were still getting wet in my jazz education, but around this time everybody and their mother knew who Brandford Marsalis was. The main reason of coarse was that he had been the band leader on the Tonight Show for the last three years. And for those three years, I watched as Branford painfully faked laughing at Jay Leno’s cringeworthy jokes. A good paycheck as it was, by 1995, clearly he had enough, moved on, handing over the reins to Kevin Eubanks.
With that behind him, Branford had time for his new band, Buckshot LeFonque. It was nice to hear him blend in some hip hop to his style, further legitimizing such sounds that I was hearing then from others in the acid jazz movement as well as more mainstream acts like Digable Planets, Us3, and Guru from Gang Starr. I especially appreciated the song they played, jamming to samples of Maya Angelou reading, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”.
It was also pleasant to see some jazz music at the Fillmore at all. Most jazz people get segregated to places like Yoshi’s in Oakland. The Fillmore neighborhood once had a rich history with jazz during the post war era and it felt good to hear it there, though the venue only had a modest crowd that night. I was disappointed that there wasn’t poster given out that night, but not totally surprised either.
The Black Crowes, Urban Dance Shakers, Greek, Berkeley, Fri., May 26, 1995
SETLIST : High Head Blues, Twice As Hard, Could I’ve Been So Blind, Shake You Moneymaker, Descending, Halfway To Everywhere Jam, Thorn In My Pride, She Talks To Angels, Darling Of The Underground Press, Jealous Again, Hard To Handle, P.25 London, No Speak No Slave, (encore), Nonfiction, Pimper’s Paradise, Remedy
The Crowes continued their success with their third album, “Amorica”, and were now big enough to fill up the Greek. The album, in my opinion, was my favorite. It was cohesive and truly solidified their sound as theirs. Incidentally, it also ruffled the feathers of many right wing types with it’s cover, a girl’s pelvis with her lady parts covered with the American flag. Maybe it was the little pubic hairs sticking out the sides that really offended them, so they made an antiseptic version of the cover showing only the the flag triangle and a solid black background.
Whatever one’s opinion on free speech, the flag, or women’s anatomy, one couldn’t deny that the Crowes put on a great show that day. With the new songs mingling with the old hits, there was something for everybody, including a spot on cover of Bob Marley’s, “Pimper’s Paradise”. It seemed appropriate that they would dabble in reggae since they made no bones about their affection of marijuana, not to mention that they also opened for the Grateful Dead only a month prior. There was no shortage of herb being smoked that day and I gladly contributed to the clouds emanating from the dance floor. We had perfect weather and a gorgeous sunset, a perfect show indeed, or so it would seem.
What I, and I suspect most fans, in that crowd didn’t know was backstage things were going south for the Crowes. The brothers, Rich and Chris Robinson, were getting on each other’s nerves and feuding and by the next year they would fire the guitarist, Marc Ford, and the bassist, Johnny Colt, would then leave the band for good, permanently dissolving the Crowes original line up. Though they would go on to tour for another twenty years with several line up changes, I felt they never were as good as they were that night at the Greek.
George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, Bimbo’s, SF, Mon., May 29, 1995
SETLIST : Mothership Connection, (unknown), Flashlight, Aqua Boogie (Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadooloop), (unknown), Rhythm & Rhyme, (unknown), US Customs Coast Guard Dope Dog, Living Without You, Maggot Brain, She’s A Freak, Atomic Dog, Make My Funk A P-Funk
Very few bands have the staying power of Mr. Clinton and company. To my recollection, only Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, or Ween can do shows as long as him, especially without taking a break between sets. Granted, George and his people were assisted by any number of substances, but that being said, it is hard enough just to be a patron at one of his shows from start to finish.
Happily, they played at Bimbo’s, one of my favorite venues, which sadly puts on very few concerts throughout the year and even fewer that I seek to attend. It’s a classy joint. Looks like a place that the mafia would hang out in, a supper club, adorned with red velour everywhere, staffed by folks in clean white uniforms, a appropriately located in the heart of North Beach, the italian section of town. They even have a bathroom attendant, a occupation depressing and degrading beyond belief in my opinion. I mean, come on people, they’re human beings and deserve better than this.
Anyway, I’d only seen George at Lollapalooza the year before, and though I was aware of his reputation for doing long sets, the set he did those days were clearly truncated. But this would be the first night I’d get to see them, “An evening with..” and although there were only fourteen songs played that night, they were on stage almost four hours! “Atomic Dog” alone went on for forty five minutes. This allowed ample time for long extended guitar solos and jam sessions that blended songs together. They even covered Sly Stone’s “thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Mice Elf” for a while before drifting into “Make My Funk A P-Funk”.
Despite the long show, the funk is infectious. You hear that first downbeat, “The One”, and something clicks in your mind and booty. One has to move. So after four hours of dancing, my body felt tired, but strangely capable of dancing even more. There is something also satisfying knowing that I got my money’s worth. Clearly, I’d spent just as much on shows where the headliner only played for an hour.
Beastie Boys, Bad Brains, Hurricane, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Wed., May 31, 1995
SETLIST : The New Style, Egg Man, Stand Together, Root Down, Hold It Now Hit It, The Sounds Of Science, Pass The Mic, Sure Shot, Gratitude, Sabrosa, Funky Boss, In 3’s, The Biz VS The Nuge, Time For Livin’, Eggs Raid On Mojo, Jimmy James, Time To Get Ill, Car Thief, Shake Your Rump, Get It Together, Shadrach, No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Flute Loop, rickey’s Theme, Tough Guy, Transit Cop, Son Of Neckbone, Something’s Got To Give, Big Shot – Heart Attack Man, Slow & Low, So What’cha Want, Lighten Up, Sabotage
I’ll never forget this show for many reasons, but first and foremost was because it was the result of a difficult choice. My brother Alex was keen on checking out The Stone Roses, who were playing at the Fillmore the same night, and though I understood how good they were and how important they were to him, the Beasties meant just slightly more. What I didn’t know is that on top of personal turmoil tormenting the band, their guitarist John Squire, would also bust his collarbone biking on Mount Tam in the north bay just after their show. The Roses broke up shortly thereafter and I’d never get to see them at all, though I did get to see Ian Brown do a solo show. That one was absolutely memorable after argot broke out in the middle of it, but that’s another story for a later time.
But enough about the Roses, I was to see a riot of a different sort that night. The show opened with a brief set from the Beastie’s DJ, Hurricane, who did his song, “Elbow Room”, which he’d been doing with the band since they were touring together after “Ill Communication” came out the year before. His solo album, “The Hurra” had just been released on the Beastie’s Grand Royal label only a week before this show.
Next up was one of the most important reasons I went to this show in the first place and that was because of Bad Brains. They too had just released a new album, “God Of Love” the week before, on Madonna’s Maverick label and produced by Ric Ocasek from the Cars. This also would be the first time I’d get to seem with H.R., their original singer. You might remember the first time I saw them in 1993, opening for Living Colour at the Warfield, was the show that inspired me to start this whole bootlegging business in the first place.
Anyway, I was lucky to see Bad Brains perform that night for more reasons than one. H.R., who had a well documented history of mental illness, had been getting into all kinds of trouble on the tour. Apparently, he got into several fights and beat up, (on different occasions), a skinhead, a security guard, and his own tour manager. Bad Brains even had to cancel their set at Madison Square Garden, when H.R. split, made a run for the Canadian border, and was caught trying to cross into Canada with marijuana. Thankfully, he got released, and managed to keep it together to play in Oakland that night. Bad Brains, like Hurricane, had a short set, but it got the crowd pumped for the Beasties, especially playing the heavy stuff like “Right Brigade” and “Re-Ignition”.
I enjoy the mosh pit just as much as any, but after seeing what I saw at Lollapalooza the year before, I decided to sit this one out and watch comfortably from the bleachers. Back then, before the remodel, the Oakland Coliseum was an ideal indoor arena, with excellent sight lines from any seat above the floor. After the remodel in 1997, they essentially cut the lower seated section in half, added a bunch of luxury boxes and made a system of ramps to the exits that made it confusing and took at least three times as long for one to get out of that place. I hate seeing shows there now.
But from where I was that night, I had a perfect view and the sound was flawless. Clearly, I made the right decision staying up there, for that pit was one of the largest, most agro pits I’d ever see in my life, in the top five for sure. They even had the lights on a little, certainly for safety purposes down on the floor which I’d never seen them do before at the Coliseum, or seen it since. That allowed me to see something that would sear into my brain, and I suspect all those around me as well. During one of the songs, a guy in the pit leaned back, creating a wide gap between him and his victim, and unloaded the mother of all right crosses into the face of some poor other fellow. It was was so clear and blatant, that I swear, everybody in my section of bleachers saw it, flinched, and let out a collective, “Ooooo!!!”
Not to say it wasn’t a good show or that I didn’t have a good time. The Beasties were in their finest form and they covered all the hits, most of the stuff that I’d heard on the Lollapalooza tour, but a handful of real oldies, like “Transit Cop”, “Egg Raid On Mojo”, and “Son Of Neckbone”. They took turns rapping to Hurricane turntables, then picking up instruments and doing slow funky jams like “Sabrosa” and “Something’s Got To Give”, then punk stuff like “Tough Guy” and “Heart Attack Man”. I was glad to hear “The Sounds Of Science” that night too, a song I hadn’t hear them play live before.
When the Beasties returned three years later on the “Hello Nasty” tour, they set their stage in the center of the floor in the Coliseum. Though small mosh pits could erupt, there simply wasn’t enough space to make a pit like I saw that night. A pit can only be as large as the space and crowd would allow it. The good news about a circle pit for bootleggers like myself I discovered later, was that when one erupts, I can place myself on the far edge of it, face the stage, keep one hand to deflect people, and the other to hold the mic. The churning circle of people would also open up a space which allowed me to see the stage better as well.
Though I missed the Stone Roses, Alex had the time of his life as I did with the Beasties. He got a poster though and having ushered, saw the show for free. It was a good poster too. I suppose when you live in an area with such a good music scene, one has to reconcile the fact that you’ll have to choose between bands as talented as these from time to time.
Grateful Dead, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat., June 3, 1995
SETLIST : (Set 1) Hell In A Bucket, Althea, Little Red Rooster, Brown-Eyed Women, Broken Arrow, Stagger Lee, Eternity, (Set 2) China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Samba In The Rain, Playing In The Band, Uncle John’s Band, Drums, Space, Box Of Rain, Stella Blue, Throwing Stones, One More Saturday Night, (encore), Liberty
Now, I don’t normally report on the Grateful Dead shows, as you have read before, but like the few I did mention, this one was special. Yes, this one was the last, the last with Jerry anyway. It was also a big deal because I brought my dear old mother along for this one. My sister Erica was with us too, but she’d seen the Dead before. I was appreciative that she tagged along and eased Mom into the scene there at Shoreline that day.
Of coarse, no one there knew that this run of shows at Shoreline would be their last. This one was the second of three shows over the weekend and Sunday’s show would be their very last in the bay area. They would play Soldier Field in Chicago a little over a month later and then Jerry would bite the bust in August. But we were blissfully unaware as we strolled into the show, even seeing Mickey Hart roll by us in a limo as we approached the gate.
Erica and I were as you might expect on our best behavior that day, staying sober as judges and doing our very best to make Mom as comfortable as we could. We sat up on the lawn and wouldn’t you know it, shortly after, a posse of rowdy, young hippies plant themselves right behind us and start smoking bales of marijuana. I mean, they even had a bong with them. I love pot and always will, but these guys were downright obnoxious. I offered repeatedly to relocate with Mom and Erica to another location on the lawn, but Mom took it in stride and stayed put. The kids moved on eventually and I watched the show undistracted from then on out.
It was a good show and Jerry was in fine form, which made his eventual passing all the more unexpected. They covered mostly songs that I liked which I was hoping for Mom’s sake, though we had to endure Bobby’s schtick at the end with “One More Saturday Night”. I’m glad she got to hear Phil sing “Box Of Rain” too. We had good weather and Mom appreciated the musical cultural exchange. I would go on to take her to other concerts in the future like Tool and the Who.
Skid Row, Souls Of Zero, War., SF, Wed., June 7, 1995
About this time, the so-called hair metal bands of the 80’s were quickly hearing the death knell ringing on the genre, usurped by Grunge bands. Skid Row weren’t even together ten years when things started going south for them. I wasn’t in fact very familiar with any of the hair metal bands, despite growing up in the 80’s. The only song I knew from Skid Row was “Monkey Business” and I only knew that because it was on “Beavis & Butthead”. That being said, I came to the show with an open mind and wasn’t disappointed, though I wasn’t that impressed either. Sebastian Bach did have an impressive set of pipes. Such bands I would go on to see really didn’t do much for me with the exception of maybe Ratt or Judas Priest.
Fight, Release, The Pigs, Fill., SF, Thur., June 8, 1995
FIGHT : Small Deadly, Legacy Of Hate, Another Thing, Immortal Sin, I Am Alive, Kill It, Little Crazy, Mouthpiece, Victim Of Chance, Nailed To The Ground, Contortion
THE PIGS : Snuff, Crush Test, Skin, Idiot Box – I Want Out, Blood, Lift, Closer To Nowhere, Loco, Inject
Though I wasn’t really a fan of Skid Row, I did learn to appreciate the music of Rob Halford. I’d go on to see his solo project band, Fight, the following night at the Fillmore, though I wouldn’t see Judas Priest until seven years later and that was with Ripper, the replacement singer. I did get to see Halford reunite with Priest when they played Concord Pavilion in 2011, but I’d stopped bootlegging by then. Like I mentioned with Skid Row, I was unfamiliar with most hair metal bands from the 80’s, and also like Skid Row, I only knew one song of theirs, “Breaking The Law”, because I saw it on “Beavis & Butthead”.
I did remember that my brother Alex like their album, “British Steel”, and that my Mom grew anxious of him listening to them after the suicide pact controversy Priest got wrapped up in 1985, leading to the civil trial in 1990, that was ultimately dismissed. Such news and the scary posters Alex had on his bedroom walls from Iron Maiden and Def Leppard didn’t assuage my mother’s fears, but Alex made it to adulthood relatively unscathed.
The little I knew about Priest was actually a plus for me this night, since Halford’s new band Fight was a bit of departure from his old band’s sound. Fight was more of a thrash metal band, more stripped down and low fi. Halford also shed his usually flamboyant hair metal attire for a tee shirt and jeans, not to mention by this time, he also accepted his male pattern baldness, shaved his head, and it remains shaved to this day. I, and I imagine many of Priest’s fans, were unaware that Halford was gay, though looking back at some of the leather get ups he used to wear, it seemed a bit obvious. He didn’t officially come out until three years later.
Even if his sexuality mattered in the slightest to me, which it doesn’t, I liked Fight. They were a good band, but I’m afraid this was the only time I’d ever see them and there wasn’t a poster to boot. I did see his other solo band, simply called Halford, play the Regency in 2010, but like Priest in 2011, I’d already retired from bootlegging and didn’t tape it.
Live 105’s BFD: Bush, Chris Isaak, General Public, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Mike Watt, Catherine Wheel, Sublime, Elastica, Belly, No Use For A Name, Matthew Sweet, Phunk Junkeez, Batter Than Ezra, Wax, Shoreline, Mountain View, Fri., June 9, 1995
The second BFD show made it official that that it was an annual thing now and that was cause for celebration. Festival shows have and always will be the best way to see a lot of music in a short time, but unfortunately for all of us now, it is no longer at a reasonable price, unless it’s for free like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. The line up on this year was impressive and I had seen the later half of them live already.
The first handful of bands were new to me, though I had heard of most of them. I used to have a flatmate name Ted Swiet, who, bearing a resemblance to Matthew Sweet though they weren’t related, used his picture from the “Altered Beast” album for an art sculpture he made. Nice guy, Ted. I miss him. I liked No Use for A Name, a very underrated band in my opinion, and would go on to see them several times in the future opening for ska and punk bands. Belly was a welcome addition and I was a fan by then. They would tour with Catherine Wheel later that year and I thought they were a good pairing.
This was my first time seeing Elastica and though they’s been together for a couple of years, the release of their first self-titled album that year in March exploded on the music scene and made them overnight sensations. Everybody had a boner for Justine, the singer. She’d played guitar in Suade and dated Brett Anderson too, but broke up with him in 1991 and left the band, so I never got to see her play with them by the time I saw them. Justine then hooked up with Damon Albarn of Blur, making them the ultimate Britpop power couple, but they too split up in 1998. Elastica’s music was catchy, but unfortunately The Stranglers and Wire thought so too, suing them for plagiarism. Those cases were ultimately settled out of court. Still, didn’t harm their career none, especially that year. I saw them four times in 1995, this show, twice at Lollapalooza, and at the Fillmore.
Little did I know that this would be the only time I’d see Sublime. They had gotten attention on the radio with their song, “Date Rape”, and were a welcome addition to the new ska punk bands like No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones who were in style at the time. They were definitely the band to see on the second stage that day and it was crowded. Yep, they were rowdy. Their reputation had preceded them and the mosh pit was equally as rowdy. Still, it was easy to like them and after Bradley Knowell’s death from a heroin overdose the year after, I’d see members of Sublime play often in their following incarnation, the Long Beach Dub All Stars. I have a story about the night Knowell died, but I’ll get to that when I catch up to 1996.
I did see Firehose once before at Slim’s, though I couldn’t pin down an exact date for y’all, but this was the first time I saw Mike Watt playing on his own solo project. Mike, the venerable and respected ex-member of the Minutemen, is one of those rare musicians that everybody appreciates, especially fellow musicians. Everybody wants to work with him, which is why I was fortunate enough to see him several times more in the future playing with such bands as Porno For Pyros and the Stooges. There’s just something totally positive and benevolent about him, so much that when he’s done playing his set, I just just want to give him a big hug, though he’s drenched in sweat. Pity, they had him playing the second stage. He deserved more credit and a larger audience, but it was nice too to be able to get close to him.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin were a welcome sight to see that day and I was happy that they were getting the attention I thought they deserved playing the main stage. Glad I got to see them when they were around, for they played at the Fillmore a month later and abruptly broke up, but more about that when I get to that show. General Public were a special case for me, this being the only time I’d ever see them. I loved the English Beat and Rankin’ Roger and Dave Wakeling, being the singers, obliged the crowd covering a few songs, opening with “Mirror In The Bathroom” and ending their set with “Ranking Full Stop” and “Sooner Or Later”. Not to say that their General Public songs took a backseat at all. “Tenderness” was a big hit and everybody loved their cover of the Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There”.
Next up was local boy made good, Chris Isaak. Oh yeah, Chris was big now playing second to last on the main stage that night. For a BFD show, this slot was really the headliner. In festival shows, unless you get somebody really big to close, folks start dwindling away at the end, having been exhausted, drunk, and sunburned from the day’s reverie. Mr. Isaak had just released the “Forever Blue” album only 17 days before this show and it was a big hit with such tunes as “Somebody’s Cryin’” and “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing”. This was the first time I’d see Chris, though I’d go on to see him several more times to come, including later that December at the Warfield. His set doesn’t change much, but it’s a good set and he always gets a big cheer when he comes out at the end wearing his suit made entirely of mirrors.
Still, I can’t help but what wonder what right such a handsome and successful man has to constantly sing about getting his heart broken. Whatever pays the bills, I guess. Works for Gwen Stefani. Suffice to say, he was a smoothie. I remember he brought up a buxom, supermodel looking, dark haired woman on stage during one song from the front row. He asked what her name was, but she was shy to answer at first, which he quickly followed, “Well, I guess you can call yourself anything you want to.”
Finally, there came Bush. Their album, “Sixteen Stone”, had been released only six months before, but was such a hit, they found themselves as the headliner that night. Don’t get me wrong, their songs were catchy and they could play, but the undeniable resemblance of their sound to Nirvana’s dogged them and continues to do to this day. I think Americans were particularly resentful since we’d only just lost Kurt Cobain and we felt like Bush was grave robbing. In the end, whether they liked it or not and I’m sure they didn’t, Bush was the last gasp of the grunge movement. Like I said before, everybody was exhausted and half the crowd had filed out by the time they finished.
Morphine, The Dirty Three, Tinsel Town, Fill., SF, Sat., June 10, 1995
MORPHINE : Have A Lucky Day, Free Now, Other Side, I Had My Chance & I Let It Go, Every Night Around 11 O’ Clock I Go Out, Super Sex, Yes, Honey White, The Saddest Song, Shame, Free Love, Cure For Pain, Wo.oh, Buena, Radar, The Virgin Bride Is The Virgin Widow, All Wrong, Ballad
THE DIRTY THREE : The Star Spangled Banner, Everything’s Fucked, Sue’s Last Ride, At The Bar (With The Dirty Three), My Best Friend Is A Toaster, I Remember A Time When You Used To Love Me, Mick’s Love Song, The Dirty Equation
It’s always strange to go to a small show after seeing a festival show like the BFD at Shoreline the day before, but Morphine was just what I needed to cool off, if you excuse the phrasing. They had just released their album “Yes” that March and the single “Honey White” was a big hit. Their sound came at a good time too. Grunge and ska punk were winding down and movies like “Pulp Fiction” were making a new cooler aesthetic more popular. Morphine was pretty lo-fi, having no guitars and the singer-bassist, Mark Sandman, only had two strings on his bass. Not to say he wasn’t good or just plain lazy, he had a real smooth and unique style and his songs were sophisticated and catchy. I was equally impressed that their saxophonist, Dana Colley, could play two saxophones at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that before or since.
As impressive as Morphine was, the band that really wowed me that night was the opener, the Dirty Three. A trio, obviously, and an instrumental band at that, was just a drummer, a guitarist, and a violin. But let’s just say what Warren Ellis did with a violin was practically indescribable. With the electric pick up, he made that thing feedback and wail, making sounds more akin to Jimi Hendrix or the Butthole Surfers than Mozart. He clearly was in the zone physically with his music as well, squinting his eyes, jumping around and contorting to music even during parts of the songs when he wasn’t playing. Warren was funny too, making weird banter between songs sort of like Robyn Hitchcock. He even resembled Robyn a bit, his voice too. That night he introduced one song saying that he didn’t want a lover, he wanted a toaster.
As talented and flamboyant as Warren is, I can’t leave out Mick Turner and Jim White. Their sound was a perfect compliment to Warren’s, rock steady, understated, and sophisticated. Only guys that talented could frame Warren’s madness so elegantly. Like Stereolab and Tool, the Dirty Three was one of those bands that instantly dumbstruck me and I would see them every chance I’d get from then on out.
Incidentally, I was lucky to see Warren then, because he was clean shaven. He’d go on to grow a Rasputin length beard and he still hasn’t shaven it. He joined fellow Australians, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, a year later and continues to play with them to this day. When he came out on stage when I saw them at the Warfield in 1998, I didn’t even recognize him. It was a marriage made in heaven though. His sound, though not a spastic when he played with the Dirty Three, melded perfectly with the Bad Seeds. He’d also go on to collaborate with Cave on movie soundtracks like “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford”, in my opinion one of the best movie soundtracks ever.
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, The Turtle Island String Quartet, Fill., SF, Tues., June 13, 1995
Bela was one of those names circulated around the hippie circles and I knew my friend Jeff Pollard liked him, so I decided to give him a chance. It was a mellow show to begin a five show stretch and as hippies go, they were civilized. Bela’s music runs the gambit, touching on all sorts of styles, not just hippie jam stuff as I discovered. Yep, he could play the banjo alright, flowing from bluegrass to jazz, folksy. He made it his own. Though I wasn’t a fan, I did appreciate his talent and understood why smarter music fans than myself would appreciate it.
He had an interesting band, including bassist Victor Wooten and his brother Roy, also known as Future Man. As the name implies, Future Man was dressed in a rather colorful and eclectic get up, looking like an extra from a 70’s science fiction B-movie. He also played a homemade electric instrument he called the “Drumitar”, an instrument to match his look, a colorful, keyboard guitar apparatus with a myriad of buttons that produced all manors of sound. Future Man was an interesting fit into Bela’s music, a harlequin clearly clashing visually to his mullet headed, button down, low key appearance, yet able to blend seamlessly with his musical repertoire.
Bela also had another fellow in the band that night, though I didn’t catch his name. He bore a resemblance to Yanni and Bela was taunting him about it on stage, cheerfully of coarse, but the Yanni clone guy didn’t look like he appreciated it much at first. After a couple songs, Bela apologized for saying he looked like Yanni.
Peter Frampton, Sadona, Fill., SF, Wed., June 14, 1995
SETLIST : Day In The Sun, Lying, Lines On My Face, For Now, You, Waiting For Your Love, Show Me The Way, All I Wanna Be, Talk To Me, Hang On To A Dream, Penny For Your Thoughts, Most Of All, Can’t Take That Away, Nassau – Baby Love, I Wanna Go To The Sun, I’m In You – Almost Said Goodbye
Frampton was one of those names in rock music everybody knew, even if they couldn’t tell you a single song he played. His live double album, “Frampton Comes Alive!”, was not only one of the best and most famous live albums ever recorded, it proved to rock bands everywhere that live albums were a commercially viable alternative to so-called “Greatest Hits” albums. Certainly, it’s success helped fuel interest in live albums by other bands to follow lie “Cheap Trick At Budokan”. It, being the twentieth anniversary of Frampton’s 1975 album, Peter came to Fillmore to record a new live album and video there over the three day stint that week. The Fillmore was an appropriate venue to record “Frampton Comes Alive II”, since some of the first album was recorded across the street from there where Winterland once stood. I was seeing the first of the three days.
Like Bela Fleck the day before, I wasn’t a fan of his music, but I appreciated his talent. Live album recordings at the Fillmore are no small matter to me and I definitely could fathom the significance of the occasion, so I was honored to be there. Though it didn’t nearly sell as well as the first album, which was expected, it was good to see Peter get a looking in by a new generation, especially when he was in the “Homerpalooza” episode of “The Simpsons” a year later.
Unfortunately, I ran out of tape before the encore, but I was reassured to know that I could get the real thing when the live album came out. I stuck around to watch, ending the set with “Do You Feel Like We Do”, Peter using that trademark voice modulator thingy everybody loves. Shame on me that I never picked the album up. I’ll keep my eyes open next time I’m in Amoeba Records. They did have a nice poster that night, which defiantly was expected considering the historical nature of these shows.
Ian Anderson, War., SF, Thur., June 15, 1995
Though it wasn’t Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson was their theatrical singer/frontman who had the unique position in rock and roll of being a flute player. I wasn’t familiar with the songs of either Jethro Tull or Ian’s solo work, but I did remember the brouhaha over the Grammy that went to Jethro Tull in 1989. They beat out for the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy odds on favorite Metallica and their album, “…And Justice For All” with their album, “Crest Of A Knave”. Some folks thought it was a sentimental choice since they’d never won a Grammy, but I remember a lot of metal fans were pissed and the Grammys decided to split Hard Rock and Metal Performance from then on out into two categories.
Mr. Anderson had just released his second solo album, “Divinities: Twelve Dances With God”, only a month before this show and as the name might suggest, it was more along the lines of new age or world music as opposed to metal. Indeed, the crowd was fairly subdued and I think it was a sit down show that night, seats set up on the dance floor all the way up to the stage. Ian seemed very humble on stage, a real English gentleman. He even made fun of his vulnerability a little, jokingly asking the critics to be favorable to his new outing while he meekly kowtowed a few times. What stuck in my memory more than anything that night was his uncanny ability to play the flute while standing on one leg and gyrating spastically. He was famous for it, really. His right leg must be incredibly strong from years of performing this way.
The Orb, DJ Lewis, War., SF, Fri., June 16, 1995
I was aware of electronic music back then, but didn’t go out of my way to see anybody who performed it. I remember my friend Hefe got me into Jean-Michel Jarre and I liked the film scores of “Tron”, “A Clockwork Orange”, and “The Shining” by Wendy Carlos. The so-called rave scene was alive and well in the bay area and it was still a fairly new movement in music, but I really didn’t know anybody else who went to raves, so they still being mostly held in secret, I was in the dark about how to attend them. Also, I wasn’t very keen on staying up all night for a show and I hadn’t tried ecstasy yet either. The thought of paying considerable money to stare at a couple of guys spinning records all night kept me away from the legitimate dance clubs as well.
Thankfully, having the opportunity to see the Orb at the Warfield as an usher was a fortunate introduction to live electronic music for me. Though I and my fellow ushers were initially resentful for having to work a little longer than usual before being set free, the crowd didn’t really start coming in until a couple hours after they opened the doors, presumably because they were accustomed to having their shows start later. So, for the opener, DJ Lewis from London, there was no stress involved as the few patrons around mostly meandered about and weren’t interested much in being up front by the stage.
The Orb was pleasant to work as well since it wasn’t the beat driven almost oppressive dance music I’d associated with dance clubs at the time. They were truly one of the pioneers of ambient and/or dub music as some people were calling it. This allowed folks to chill out and really listen for stretches in between when the beat came down and it was time to dance. Though it wasn’t fast paced mostly, dancing to it was practically inevitable. It just took you over. Also, they had a dynamite light show which I appreciated since like I said, watching a couple guys on turn tables doesn’t give one much to take in. I only knew their bit hit, “Little Fluffy Clouds”, but they did a couple amusing interludes like opening the show with Ren & Stimpy’s, “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song. They also played “I Want To Marry A Light House Keeper” before “Clouds” and “Singing In The Rain” at the end of the set, (perhaps a nod to Wendy Carlos and “A Clockwork Orange”), and the theme to “Bonanza” as well. Funny guys, the Orb.
This was a unique show especially since once I was cut from ushering, I and a bunch of ushers including Tina, the head usher, went down on the floor and danced together. I must have danced with Tina for hours, so long that I even overcame my self consciousness about taping the show. I held my headphone mic all night, it’s slender cord coming out of my nerdy hip pouch, but she either never noticed it or didn’t care. To this day, I didn’t know if she knew about my recording or not. I still bump into her on MUNI or at shows from time to time. Perhaps I will talk to her about it next time I run into her.
Cachao, Rebirth Brass Band, Taj Mahal, Fill., SF, Sat., June 17, 1995
This was an interesting pairing of acts as I was to discover. My education in musical styles of the world expanded a little further that night with some blues, New Orleans funk, and some genuine Cuban Mambo. First up was Taj Mahal. Taj was a legend in his own right, having played among such contemporaries Lighting Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Howling Wolf. He and Ry Cooder would go on to work with the Rolling Stones, who started basically as band covering bluesmen like himself. He played solo that night, an admirable feat for any opening act unto itself and he put a smile on my face. I liked the way deftly picked his guitar with his fingertips, making it look effortless. Very few songs I hear from an artist I’d never heard or seen before stick in my head, but I’ll never forget hearing, “Big Legged Mamas Are Back In Style Again”. Perhaps it appealed to my sense of justice, celebrating the beauty of women who didn’t look like those resembling famine victims on the covers of fashion magazines and elsewhere at the time.
The Rebirth Brass Band was up next, bringing their genuine Big Easy, “second line” sound, the kind of band who struts and gets their funk on walking in the various parades in New Orleans. They definitely livened up the crowd that night and certainly inspired everybody to get their drink on for sure. Such music made dancing compulsory or at least got one’s head bopping. The dance fever continued with Cachao. I was so helplessly ignorant of any form of music from any Latino country that this was a welcome lesson, especially from such a venerable musician. I’m glad I got to see him before he passed away. Relations with Cuba were just beginning to thaw a little and Americans were gradually gaining interest in their culture again. Pity there was no poster.
Africa Fete ’95: Baaba Maal, Boukman Eksperyans, Oumou Sangare, Femi Kuti, Fill., SF, Thur., June 22, 1995
Like Cachao and his style, I was equally ignorant in the music from Africa, but thanks to the Fillmore, I got a healthy dose of it that night. The Fillmore clearly was making a concerted effort to put out a wide diversity of music styles during those early years, perhaps in respect to the memory of Bill Graham, who was renowned for getting such wide ranging acts to play for him, even on the same bill. Getting the Dead and Miles Davis to play together was just one famous example.
Femi Kuti, the eldest son of Afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti, opened that night. Though he had big shoes to fill, playing along side with his dad payed off big time when he released his debut solo album that year. Clearly, he was an ace musician in his own right and carried on the name of Kuti with honor after Fela passed away from AIDS two years later. I loved his sound, which makes me ashamed to admit that whenever I think of his name, some immature wise ass fragment of my brain shouts it out in the voice of Beavis… “FEMI KUTI… Heh-heh-heh-heh!” It’s my fault obviously. The same thing happens when I think of Paulo Nutini. (heh-heh-heh-heh!) Stupid, I know, but I probably wouldn’t think it if I didn’t like them.
Anyway, the other acts that night kept the mood lively and got everybody dancing. I remember what colorful outfits everybody had on and what a square I felt like that night. Ushers, you see, have to dress in, as Tina phrased it “dark, neural colors and no jeans of any style or color”. The band’s attire was equally matched by the wide range of instruments played all night, every conceivable drum and horn. Occasionally, an audience member would be brought up on stage to do some traditional African dancing, all smiling as wide as one could. The joy in the room was palpable, especially during the headliner, Baaba Maal. That night was an inspiration to me, though like Cachao, they too were denied a poster. Shameful.
Pearl Jam with Neil Young, Bad Religion, Crash & Brittany, Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, SF, Sat., June 24, 1995
BAD RELIGION : 21st Century Digital Boy, The Handshake, American Jesus, Stranger Than Fiction, Recipe For Hate, Struck A Nerve, We’re Only Gonna Die, Infected, No Control, Generator
PEARL JAM : Last Exit, Spin The Black Circle, Go, Animal, Tremor Christ, Corduroy, Not For You, (with Neil Young), Big Green Country, Act Of Love, Throw Your Hatred Down, Powderfinger, Truth Be Known, Rockin’ In The Free World, The Needle & The Damage Done, Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black), I’m The Ocean, Down By The River, Downtown, Cortez The Killer, Peace & Love, Rockin’ In The Free World (reprise)
Oh yes, the infamous “Hurl Jam” show. Folks who were there know exactly what I’m talking about and the folks who weren’t, stay put. I’ll get to it. Let me set the stage for you first. For over a year, Pearl Jam had been in a grudge match, or shall we say “grunge match” (ba-dum-boom!), with the evil capitalist behemoth Ticketmaster for all the nefarious doings that they do which we are all too familiar with now. It was brave, though quixotic notion that they thought they could put a dent in Ticketmasters dark, diabolical armor, but Pearl Jam’s intention was admirable. The sight of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament standing tall in front of Congress in their grunge attire, smiling like dorks, and taking the oath will forever be burned into my generation’s collective memory.
Which leads us to Golden Gate Park. PJ had put this show together, putting a big middle finger in the air to Ticketmaster, who had effectively prevented the band from playing any of the venues they serviced for the three years this feud persisted. We could only get tickets from mail order, which came as a brown, psychedelic scarab design art piece reminiscent of the old Fillmore flyers, and I was lucky to get one. Pearl Jam was huge by then, their third album, “Vitology”, had only been released that winter. But the buzz around that show was about the new album, “Mirror Ball” with Neil Young singing instead of Eddie Vedder, that was just about to be released only days after this show. Nobody had heard any tracks yet, but knowing the size and significance of this show, we were all confidant that Neil would make an appearance and we’d at least hear a handful of the new songs.
I was excited for this show, but not nearly half as excited as the Pollard brothers, who as you know by now will live and die at either Neil or Eddie’s command. The park’s Polo Field was filled with around 50,000 folks and with a little effort, we managed to find parking, get in, and wiggle our way up to the front, or at least a couple hundred feet from the front. We made it time to see the first act, Crash & Brittany, but only caught a handful of songs. I was particularly thrilled that they had Bad Religion on the bill next. Their most recent album, “Stranger Than Fiction”, had gone gold and they were finally getting the respect they deserved. Pearl Jam showed good taste putting them on that bill and the exposure to the kids out there hearing them for the first time was helpful, teaching them what real American punk music sounds like. They got a respectable mosh pit going.
Getting back to the “Hurl” part of “Hurl Jam”, what we all were blissfully unaware of that day was that Eddie Vedder was suffering from a brutal case of food poisoning backstage. God knows what he ate, but he was a mess. He had actually left a hospital in a brave attempt to try to perform, but after seven songs, he deliriously explained the situation, describing quite frankly how he’d been producing all kinds of things from his body. Thankfully, Ol’ Uncle Neil came to the rescue. He took the stage and quickly got things rolling again, playing three new songs from the “Mirror Ball” album, before playing a bunch of Neil classics.
Though my friends and I were relieved and truly overjoyed that Neil saved the day, there were grumblings amongst the philistines who had just came to hear Pearl Jam do the hits. They didn’t appreciate not only hearing the new songs for the first time, but didn’t realize that this would be the one and only time Pearl Jam would play these songs with Neil, at least in America. They toured Europe with Neil for eleven shows that August, but that was it. The pet name, “Neil Jam”, was being floated around then, but I felt that was flattering, reminding me of “Van Hagar”, when Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen.
Due to Eddie’s illness, the rest of the tour had to be cancelled and their blood feud with Ticketmaster soon evaporated, leaving Ticketmaster even more corrupt and evil than before. Pearl Jam, painfully aware of the disappointment from some of their fans, returned to play an extra long show in San Jose that November, but I didn’t go to that one. I’ll never forget hearing after that one of my poor flatmate, Troy, who having regretted missing the “Hurl Jam” show went to San Jose and passed out only two songs into their set. Troy was a young, muscular man who hadn’t drank much that day, but for some inexplicable reason, perhaps too much sun, went out like a light and had to be dragged off to Rock Med. He came to eventually, and listened to most of the set lying down in the shade. Poor guy.
King Crimson, California Guitar Trio, War., SF, Sun., June 25, 1995
Young and naive as I was, I was beginning to think I was pretty sophisticated with my taste in music. Then I saw King Crimson. These guys are operating on whole level, a level of musical complexity that still eludes me to this day. Robert Fripp and the gang frustrate me since I can’t get my pea brain around their songs, making me feel like a total caveman or worse, those soulless consumers who only listen to commercial radio, being spoon fed culture from the music industry.
Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself, like I said, I was young and naive. This was my first time seeing them too and I was aware enough to having at least heard of them. They were doing a three night stint at the Warfield and I was catching the middle show. I was still a little spun from the exhausting “Hurl Jam” show in the park the day before, but the crowd was subdued enough, though Prog Rock fans tend to need more space than others. They are primarily overweight middle aged men who don’t like to be touched. Believe me, I know, since I’m rapidly turning into one of them.
I liked the opener that night, The California Guitar Trio, whose name is an accurate description. These guys had studied to play guitar under Fripp and they clearly were paying attention. They played instrumental jams on acoustic guitars for their set and for the most part people were polite and listened. King Crimson came up and I was cut as usual a couple songs into their set. Fripp was noted for always sitting on a stool why he played, which that smart ass part of me wanted to scream out, “Stand up, damn you!!!”, during the show. I mean, what the hell, we all had to stand. But then again, the stuff he plays probably requires so much brain power, he might have to divert the neural activity from his legs to his fingers. Who knows? Not this caveman. I was just happy they got a poster that night. (Grunt!)
At least in the future, I’d become familiar with King Crimson’s song, “Thela Hun Ginjeet”. Les Claypool would cover it with his side project, the Frog Brigade, and release it on the their “Live Frogs, Vol. 1” album, which I was fortunate enough to be in the crowd when it was recorded in 2000, the album released a year later. I remember Adrian Belew dedicated that song to Les when I saw King Crimson open for Tool at the Berkeley Community Theater in 2001 as well. I’ll of coarse get to those shows later.
Mudhoney, Clawhammer, The Zeros, Fill., SF, Fri., June 30, 1995
SETLIST : Make It Now, Judgement Rage Retribution & Thyme, Into Yer Shtik, Touch Me I’m Sick, Dead Love, Suck You Dry, You Got It, What Moves The Heart?, Blinding Sun, F.D.K. (Fearless Doctor Killers), When Tomorrow Hits, 1995, (encore), Generation Spokesmodel, Dissolve, Poisoned Water, Hate The Police
It was easy to have missed the Seattle grunge scene, like so many musical movements, since it was short lived. Mudhoney was one of the founders of the movement starting in 1988 after dissolving the band Green River, but by 1995, I was a Johnny Come Lately in appreciating them. Kurt Cobain was already dead over a year, friends and former Green River bandmates, Pearl Jam, as well as Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots, were moving on to larger venues, leaving Mudhoney more less left behind. Furthermore, grunge was giving way to the heavier, so-called “nu metal” bands like Korn, Limp Biskit, Staind, and Disturbed. The music industry is a cruel and fickle mistress. No secret there.
That being said, I was happy to see Mudhoney when I could. I did know their hit, “Touch Me I’m Sick”, through my flatmate Mike, and even the parody version, “Touch Me I’m Dick” from the 1992 film, “Singles”. There were many who wore that night to be sure, but as an usher, I was consigned to wearing black. I liked that Clawhammer used the disco version of the Star Wars theme to introduce themselves when they got on stage, but other than that, the music that night didn’t hook its claws into me that much. I appreciate Mudhoney for helping get the grunge ball rolling, but I and the rest of the American public moved on.
Pennywise, The Joykiller, D.F.L., Fill., SF, Fri., July 7, 1995
I had heard of Pennywise from the one and only call in I had at my radio DJ show in college at SF State. That semester, I was known as “DJ Nickabod Crane” at KSFS, a lonely job since we were a cable radio station without a transmitter. Only folks who had their radios hooked up to cable would ever hear us and every year, the kids at KSFS would invade the dorms on campus, going door to door in an effort to hook up everybody with limited success. So, imagine my surprise when one fine day the phone actually rang and the guy on the phone wanted to hear Pennywise. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an album of theirs to be found, so I played him a song from the Jesus Lizard instead and he seemed satisfied.
It was good fortune that Pennywise would play the Fillmore only a short while after that, so my interest was piqued, though I knew absolutely nothing about their music. To my relief, it was a bone fide southern Californian punk rock show. I liked The Joykiller too, a offshoot band of T.S.O.L., a band my brother grew up liking. Their singer, “Gentleman Jack” Grisham, one of many names he took, would run for Governor in the infamous California recall election eight years later, but would lose to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pity, since Jack or practically any of the other candidates would have done a better job. Still, I was glad to see the Joykiller when they were together. They had just formed, but disbanded only three years later.
Pennywise is clearly one of the best live bands I will ever see. Their energy on stage is overwhelming, whipping the dance floor into a circle pit from song one. These guys were four star musicians too. They knew their instruments well, playing with razor sharp precision. One has to be that good when playing as fast as they do. Though I was just shy of turning 23, I was already starting to feel a little jaded from seeing so many shows, but Pennywise made me feel like a kid again. They made me feel like a punk again and to this day whenever I feel like blowing off steam, I know that Pennywise is there. As you might suspect, I made a point to see them at any opportunity after that night.
The Sextasy Ball: The Lords Of Acid, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Prick, War., SF, Sat., July 8, 1995
Like grunge, the industrial music Waxtrax scene coming out of Chicago had been steadily on the rise since 1987-88 and was beginning its decline. Bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails would survive to play bigger venues, but everybody else who kept going would continue playing clubs. The bands this night were those, as cruel as it sounds, leftovers, whether they knew it or not. One wouldn’t have guessed it by the crowd and the bawdy, jubilant vibe in the air that night.
Dubbed “The Sextasy Ball”, folks took it upon themselves to have a kinky Valentine’s Day in July. There were plenty of folks strutting about in leather chaps, feather boas, and the like. As a San Franciscan, I was accustomed to seeing stuff like this, but it helped liven up the atmosphere all the same. Prick opened up the show that night. Kevin McMahon, the frontman, had worked with Trent Reznor before and I would see them again later that year with Nine Inch Nails, opening for David Bowie at Shoreline. They were loud and aggressive, pretty good, but only played a handful of songs. Next up was My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. They were colorful and fun, despite their reputation for being worshipers of Satan. They didn’t do anything I found offensive, but in this town you got to do something pretty impressive to raise an eyebrow.
Last up was the Lords Of Acid. This would be the only time I’d see them, so I was lucky to catch them during the brief period when Ruth McArdle (AKA Lady Galore and Cherrie Blue) was singing for them. Their second album, “Voodoo-U” had been released the year before adorning a cartoon cover of a handful of naked lesbian devil-women getting it on in hell by hot rod artist, Coop, and Ruth dressed accordingly. She wore a skin tight little red one piece body stocking with her legs in fishnet, sporting a pair of devil horns and a pointed devil’s tail attached to her booty. Strutting all over the stage, there was ample opportunity to see that tail wiggle and flail in every direction. Like the Thrill Kill Kult, they were fun and upbeat, mixing in samples from old cult movies and pausing between songs to urge people to throw their underwear on stage. You know, good wholesome stuff. In hindsight, no pun intended, that would have been a good show to drop acid.
Peter Murphy, Jewel, War., SF, Tue., July 11, 1995
Like so many musical styles, I was new to Goth music as well with the exception of the Damned, who I still hadn’t seen. I’d had heard of Bauhaus, but they had dissolved long before in 1983 and would not reform until 1998. So, I was a babe in the dark, dark woods at this show. Strangely enough, the opening act was Jewel, the Alaskan folk singer, a far cry stylistically from the vampirish Mr. Murphy, but what the hell. This was the Fillmore and I’ll take such eclectic combinations gratefully. Jewel was still riding high from her debut album, “Pieces Of You” and this being the second of three times I’d see her that year, I was beginning to get to know her songs. Sure, they were catchy, and yes, perhaps a song like “Who Will Save Your Soul?” had a certain melancholy appeal to the Goths. But all the brooding in the world couldn’t defend these gloomy Gus’ from the onslaught of cuteness with songs like, “Do You Want To Catch A Cold With Me?” or “The Yodelling Song”.
I was impressed with Peter Murphy. His signature baritone voice is unforgettable and he certainly had no shortage of charisma. He was skinny, dark, and handsome with a charming air about him that only an Englishman can possess. It was no wonder that his look was the basis for comic book ghouls like Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” and Barr’s “The Crow”. Murphy would also appropriately go on to play a vampire in a flashback scene of one of those godforsaken “Twilight” movies. He won me over that night, though I had none of his albums, knowing none of his songs. I made sure to pick up Bauhaus’ “The Sky’s Gone Out” the next time I went record shopping. Alas, there was no poster that night.
Procal Harum, The Robbie Krieger Band, Fill., SF, Sun., July 16, 1995
PROCAL HARUM : Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of), Shine On Brightly, As Strong As Samson, Quite Rightly So, Homburg, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Conquistador, Rambling On, A Salty Dog, Nothing But The Truth, Boredom, Memorial Drive, Skip Softly (My Moonbeams), A Whiter Shade Of Pale, (encore), Repent Walpurgis, Whisky Train
THE ROBBIE KRIEGER BAND : Touch Me, Love Me Two Times, Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, Love Me Two Times (reprise), The Ally, Alabama Song, Backdoor Man, 5 To 1, Freedom, Riders Of The Storm, Revulation, Little Red Rooster, Roadhouse Blues
I know I must sound like a broken record, speaking of all the bands and music I was ignorant of during these early years and Procal Harum totally fits into that truth, but I did know the Doors. Robbie Krieger was the reason I was there that night. Growing up with my friends, the Doors was one of those compulsory bands assigned to the great cannon of rock and roll. This was not uncommon. One could go all over the world and see folks wearing Doors shirts, hear their music on the radio, or find their albums in stores.
As luck would have it, I bumped into Robbie walking up the main steps to the balcony before the doors were open to the public and spoke with him briefly. I didn’t want to be much of a pest, so I just said that I was honored to see him play that night and wished him a good set, words I’m sure after thirty years by then he was accustomed to hearing. He was polite, smiled, shook my hand, and thanked me. That was it, my moment with rock and roll royalty.
Mr. Krieger sang vocals that night with his band and he wasn’t too bad. He could carry a tune, but he clearly wasn’t trying to channel You-Know-Who and that was wise. The Doors was one of those bands like the Cure, whose frontman eclipsed the rest of the band, stealing all the attention, distracting their audience of the sheer talent. Hearing Robbie play that night was a crystal clear reminder to us all just how creative he was as a guitarist. It was nice that his son, Waylon, was playing guitar along side him that night as well. If I had one negative thing to say about Robbie Krieger is that he’s not the most attractive man in the music business, but he is handsomer than Martin Fierro of Zero or Harry Wayne Casey of KC & The Sunshine Band.
Now I obviously didn’t know a lot back then, but apparently that night I didn’t even know what I did know. Yes, I had heard the seminal 60’s classic, “Whiter Shade Of Pale” before. That keyboard sound was unmistakable. But I being ignorant and disrespectful of my musical elders, didn’t plan to stay that night, so I didn’t bring enough tape and left after the tapes ran out about halfway into Procal Harum’s set, leaving just after “Homburg”. Shame on me. As you might imagine, they left their big hit for the end of set, so I missed it. There wasn’t a poster that night, so there wasn’t that reason to keep me to the end either. I eventually wised up and broke myself of this habit and wouldn’t leave a show early again unless I had a good reason.
The Verve, Maids Of Gravity, Slim’s, SF, Tues., July 18, 1995
SETLIST : New Decade, Slide Away, This Is Music, Mover, Man Called Sun, Rolling People, Come On, Life’s An Ocean, The Sun The Sea
Though it would be a couple more years before The Verve would get huge with their hit, “Bittersweet Symphony”, the secret was out already how good these guys were with their second album, “A Northern Soul”, which had just been released only a month before this show. The radio station Live 105 was promoting the show as they did most of the Britpop acts around that time. The DJ introducing the show goaded the crowd saying there was a person with a video camera circulating and encourage people to go up to it and say, “Live 105 sucks if they don’t play The Verve”.
Richard Ashcroft was in a little better shape than I saw him the last time they played Slim’s, but then again so was I. You might remember the last time I saw them, my buddy Casey and I were high as kites on LSD, and Ashcroft looked like he was on the brink of death. Nope, we were just fine that night and The Verve played excellently. I wasn’t as into the new album as their first, but I absolutely love “A Storm In Heaven” and I hadn’t really got to know the new songs yet, hearing them played live for the first time that night. One notable song from the new album not played that night was “On Your Own”, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful ballads ever written. God knows why they didn’t play it. The set was painfully short and excruciatingly loud, as it is for most Britpop bands and they didn’t play an encore. But I love The Verve and always will, so I forgave them.
The Boredoms, Thinking Fellers Union #282, The Molecules, Fill., SF, Sat., July 21, 1995
Let’s just say that the Boredoms is the ideal show to break up with a girl. Believe me, I know. Before I go into the show, let me set the stage here. At the time, BGP was allowing their full time ushers to put in requests for comp tickets and if the shows weren’t that well sold, one could expect to get them. For Shoreline or Concord Pavilion shows, often they would get seats up in the 100 sections up front. Knowing this, I asked out a lovely usher named Sarah, very sneakily hoping that I’d be able to get her to put in a request for the upcoming Lollapalooza ’95 shows at Shoreline and Cal Expo. The previous years of Lollapalooza were well sold and I was hoping to get good seats. Ironically, the Boredoms were, in fact, the opening act for the first leg of the Lollapalooza tour the previous year, before being replaced by Green Day.
Sarah was a kind, intelligent woman and doing what I did rightfully made me feel like a shallow prick. I enjoyed the brief time we dated, but I couldn’t shake the intense guilt of my motivations to date her. Honestly, this was one of the lowest things I feel I’ve ever done and couldn’t go on knowing that she deserved much, much better at the time.
The Boredoms, a noise punk band from Osaka, Japan, were so loud and utterly tuneless, that it became the perfect background score for one going through the process of telling somebody it was over. Their music is best described as my friend Frank Gallagher once said, “Like a pet store on fire.” I tried to do it as respectfully as possible, but over the din of noise, it came out rather abruptly. She took it with grace and maturity and we actually went on to see the Lollapalooza shows when they came to town that month, accompanied by friends. It was awkward, but civil. I’ll go into what happened at those shows when we get to them later.
I liked the Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 who opened that night, but I couldn’t enjoy myself knowing the task that was at hand. But I do want you all to know that there was a happy ending in the long run for Sarah. Shortly after this unfortunate series of events, she met Jim. They fell in love and were then married. Jim in great guy, the kind of person Sarah deserves. I’ll never forget the Boredoms because of all this and I vowed never to commit myself to a relationship for such stupid, selfish reasons.
On a side note, Sarah was the roommate of Tina, the head usher. Since Sarah knew of my clandestine bootlegging habit, I was pretty sure Tina knew as well, though Tina has never mentioned it. A couple weeks ago, I saw the Damned at the Fillmore and bumped into Tina on my way out, giving her one of my “Bootleg Confessions” business cards. Perhaps she has read some of this since then, and if she or Sarah has read this far, let me just say right now how sorry I am. This is a confession, after all. I was young, selfish, and dumb.
Foo Fighters, Shutter To Think, Wool, Fill., SF, Wed., July 26, 1995
FOO FIGHTERS : I’ll Stick Around, Winnebago, Big Me, This Is A Call, Weenie Beenie, For All The Cows, Butterflies, X-Static, Good Grief, Alone & Easy Target, Podunk, Exhausted, (encore), Down In The Park
SHUTTER TO THINK : So Into You, 9 Fingers For You, Gang Of $, Earthquakes Come Here, Sex Kitten, KY, X-French Tee Shirt, B Drop, (unknown), Red House Hit Liquor
It had been over a year since Kurt Cobain blew his brains out with a shotgun and Dave Grohl was ready to move on with his brand new band, the Foo Fighters. Dave had been stockpiling songs of his own while playing in Nirvana, but didn’t reveal it to anyone for a number of understandable reasons. Nirvana was a full time job, requiring a great deal of attention and physical endurance. Also, despite the strength of Grohl’s songwriting and his indisputable talent with many instruments, the thought of going toe to toe with Kurt on stage must of been incredibly intimidating.
But with Kurt dead as doornail, Dave was free to discreetly record his songs and try them out in public. Like I imagine most people on Earth, I had no idea that he played any other instruments besides the drums, much less could sing. In fact, he recorded the first album playing everything, a feat only replicated by a handful of artists, like Prince, Lenny Kravitz, or Paul McCartney. Word hit the street pretty fast. This show was actually not the first one the Foo Fighters had played in San Francisco. Trying out the new material, Dave and his newly formed band toured briefly, opening up for Mike Watt at Slim’s that May. I Found out about the show too late and couldn’t get a ticket. I was at Santana that night at the Fillmore anyway.
By this time, their first single, “This Is A Call”, had hit the airwaves and was an instant hit. As big as a fan as I was of Nirvana, and being heartbroken from their tragic self destruction, I was relieved that Mr. Grohl’s new endeavor was a good one, a fresh start. I think it was what we all needed and no doubt what he did. That night, the opening band was Wool, with the brothers, Peter and Franz Stahl. They were former members of Scream, the band Dave played drums for, before leaving to play for Nirvana. Next up was Shutter To Think, a band I’d seen before with the Smashing Pumpkins and playing the side stage at Lollapalooza the year before. I gave them another chance, but still didn’t like them. Thankfully, this would be the last time I’d have to see them.
Everybody was pumped to see the Foo Fighters when they finally got on stage. The suspense was killing us to hear how they sounded live. They were pretty tight. Dave might not have the singing chops live as he does on his albums, but what he lacks in beauty, he compensates with force and emotional content. Likewise, his guitar playing is good rhythm stuff, not attempting any wild solo work, but Foo Fighter songs don’t really call for that. His song writing ability, however, was beyond reproach, a pleasant surprise. “Big Me” would go on to be a huge hit the next year when the music video was released, the one that was the parody of the “Mentos” commercials circulating at the time.
Seared into my memory from that night was the moment when a young lady rushed the stage to hug Dave. A photographer from the Chronicle nailed the perfect moment, when she embraced him, she, smiling like a girl in love, and Dave, grimacing like Shelley Duvall in “The Shining”. Suffice to say, Dave was not prepared for such adoration so soon. Who would be? We were lucky that night too, since they played Gary Numan’s, “Down In The Park” for their encore, a cover that would later be aired on an episode of the “X-Files”, but wasn’t released on the first album. The poster that night was great ones well, one of the best that year, or ever in my opinion. Little did I or anyone would know at the time that the Foo Fighters would go on to have such an illustrious and long career, over twenty years now, playing stadiums instead of nightclubs.
Sponge, Letters To Cleo, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Fill., SF, Sun., July 30, 1995
This would be the last time I’d see Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, who were the main reason I wanted to see the show in the first place. They were burnt, I guess, and though they’d reunite a few times after this, they and English bands like Jesus Jones, EMF, and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, and others from the so-called Manchester scene, were on their way out of style, just like grunge. I thought it was strange they’d be the first on the bill. Considering how much I liked them, I naively thought they were the most popular, and them opening was a snub of some kind. Not that I didn’t like Letters To Cleo or Sponge. I did. In fact, I thought they were underrated, but I was into Ned’s first and my brother loved them too.
Sponge was respected amongst their peers, even though they fell by the wayside as well, reforming from time to time. I remember they would end up opening for big acts like Kiss and Neil Young, as well as play the side stage at Lollapalooza a couple years later. They were transplants from Michigan to L.A. and their sound was original, being separated from what was going on in Seattle at the time. It was a solid line up that night and naturally, it is a pity when good bands like these fade away while others of lesser talent get big. There’s all kinds of reason of coarse why this happens, but it’s comforting to know that they must have influenced others as others influenced them.
Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Tiamat, War., SF, Tues., August 1, 1995
BLACK SABBATH : Children Of The Grave, Neon Knights, Children Of The Sea, War Pigs, The Mob Rules, Heaven & Hell, Can’t Get Close Enough, Headless Cross, (encore), Iron Man, Paranoid
MOTORHEAD : Ace Of Spades, Sex & Death, I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care), Over Your Shoulder, On Your Feet Or On Your Knees, Metropolis, Sacrifice, Liar, Stay Clean, Burner, Orgasmatron, Nothing Up My Sleeve, Going To Brazil, Killed By Death, Iron Fist, Overkill
Young and dumb as I was, I really wasn’t appreciating what I was seeing that night. I knew of Sabbath, but only really knew “Paranoid”, and that was partially because that song was covered by the Dickies. I only knew of Motorhead from their appearance on “The Young Ones” playing “Ace Of Spades”. I’d go on to see Sabbath with Ozzy years later, as well as Dio, but this was the interim period in their history where they had Tony Martin singing. This was also the brief period when they had Cozy Powell on drums, who would quit the tour a month later, being replaced by Bobbi Rondinelli. But like I said, I barely knew who these guys were then, much less what was going on in history.
Suffice to say it was loud and this was the first time seeing Motorhead, a band whose reputation for ear splitting levels of sound preceded them. They didn’t disappoint. They opened with “Ace Of Spades” and the pit went crazy as expected. I took my earplugs out for a couple seconds and quickly changed my mind. How Lemmy wasn’t deaf as a post from all the years of playing like this up until is death is absolutely mysterious to me. Over the years, I’d find that, like Wille Nelson, Motorhead’s show is essentially the same, but it is such an experience that one never complains about it. They were perfect at what they did and why should somebody mess with perfection?
I remember that I was tired and watched Sabbath’s set from the balcony. Tony clearly wasn’t as scary as Ozzy, who I knew from his reputation of drug consumption, weird outfits he wore in the ’80’s, and that whole “biting the head off a bat” incident. Little did I, or anyone, would predict that Ozzy would go on to find superstardom once again through reality television. Tony Martin was a little guy, with long curly dar hair and a mustache, reminding me of magician, Doug Henning. Still, he had a good voice and I was surprised to hear, “The Mob Rules”, a song I knew from the animated movie, “Heavy Metal”. I forgot Sabbath did that song, back in their Dio days, but once again, I had no clue.
Barenaked Ladies, The Waltons, Fill., SF, Wed., August 2, 1995
It’s a rare occasion when my sister, Erica, gets out to see a show with me, especially if she’s ushering. The amount of times she ushered with me in my career can probably be counted on one hand. So, since she was a fan of the Barenaked Ladies, it wasn’t much of a surprise that she chose to tag along. I am always happy to see a show with her. Erica has always been a workaholic and deserves to let off some steam and chance she can get.
The Barenaked Ladies, hailing from Ontario, Canada, had been around a few years and was touring with their second album, “Maybe You Should Drive”. It turned out to be a commercial and critical disappointment, but the Ladies bounced back with following albums, and would forever carve their mark on popular culture composing the theme to the TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”, in 2007. This would be the only time I’d see them though.
Now, anybody who knows me at all, understands that I exhibit nerdish tendencies more than the average man, and in some cases, border lining the realm of dorkishness. But I’m afraid I did draw the line with the Ladies. They were just too cheerful for my taste. Certainly, there was no shortage of angst filled, screaming bands back then like Smashing Pumpkins or Nine Inch Nails, but the Ladies were just too nice. Whenever I hear their music, a very mean subconscious urge arises in me to take somebody’s lunch money. I know, not nice, eh? Having been born in Buffalo, I was just a few miles too far south to be a Canadian. Sorry… Erica liked them anyway.
But they did something on stage, I thought was amusing. They rolled out a Coleman BBQ set on stage, opened it and one of them took out a spachula and started flipping donuts into the crowd. They seemed like nice guys and even though I hate “The Big Bang Theory”, I’m happy that they are getting paid. It’s nice when nice things happen to nice people.
Maxi Priest, Strickly Roots, Fill., SF, Fri., August 4, 1995
To hear reggae at the Fillmore is a very rare occasion, tantamount to seeing a unicorn, really. So, even though I’d never heard of Maxi Priest, I leapt at the opportunity. Opening that night, was the bay area’s own Strickly Roots, who I had seen on a handful of occasions opening for other reggae acts and playing at Ashkenaz, a venue in Berkeley renowned for having reggae and world music acts perform there. The singer, a white fellow with a head full of dirty blonde dreads and a huge beard, reminded me of Chewbacca.
Maxi Priest was a real smoothie. He definitely took a page from old soul crooners like Al Green and Marvin Gaye. I could tell he was a hit with the ladies. It helped first timers like myself that he played a handful of familiar covers like “Some Guys Have All The Luck” by Rod Stewart, “Wild World” by Cat Stevens, (also a regular reggae cover done by Jimmy Cliff), as well as Bob Marley standards, “Three Little Birds” and “Get Up, Stand Up”. Though this would be the only time I’d see Maxi Priest, he’d continue to perform throughout the years, even singing for UB40 for a spell.
Megadeth, Korn, Flotsam & Jetsam, Fear Factory, War., SF, Wed., August 9, 1995
SETLIST : Skin O’ My Teeth, Hanger 18, Wake Up Dead, Reckoning Day, This Was My Life, Angry Again, A Tout Le Monde, In My Darkest Hour, Train Of Consequences, Sweating Bullets, Symphony Of Destruction, Tornado Of Souls, Peace Sells, Victory, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, Anarchy In The U.K.
It was strange fate that Megadeth would be the band to play the Warfield the day Jerry Garcia died. The Warfield had been for years practically his living room. I remember my friend Tory called me that morning to give me the news and I knew when he, like myself, calls that early, it must be bad news. But the news of his death was not totally unexpected. I instantly thought to myself, “Jerry’s dead?… Oh yeah, Jerry’s dead.” His rotund figure, diabetes, and his on again off again relationship with the needle were sufficient strikes against his survival. Like Keith Moon, he was trying to get off drugs when his body decided that this time, enough was enough. The full time ushers sticker that night, instead of “Megadeth”, said, “He’s Gone”, the title of one of Jerry’s standard songs.
We, the ushers and staff, were sad, but were a touch numb by the time Fear Factory took the stage. Three songs into their set, the singer, Dino Cazares, took us for a bit of a loop. He shouted between the second and third song, “Are you guys awake yet? Look’s like all you motherfuckers are bummed out because Jerry Garcia died! I killed that motherfucker! Fuck Jerry Garcia! Rest in peace!” Standing next to me was my friend, Bill Garby, a long time Bill Graham employee and true blue hippie. We eyeballed each other a little and gave out a collective, “Okaaay…”
Flotsam & Jetsam were next and they had the good taste not to address the elephant in the room. I knew of them from their former bassist, Jason Newstead, who had left the band to join Metallica years before after their bassist Cliff Burton died in 1986. Jason was in the audience that night, watching in the back of the floor in the VIP booths. Korn was next and it was obvious that they were quickly moving up the rock & roll food chain, being the penultimate band that night instead of the first like I’d seen them previously. I believe this was the last time I’d see them as an opening act, at a non-festival show anyway. Chino Moreno, the singer of the Deftones, came out to sing the Ice Cube song “Wicked” with them. They would go on to release that song with Chino on the album, “Life Is Peachy” the following year. Other than that, it was their usual set, including Jonathan Davis introducing “Snakes & Ladders” with his bagpipe cover of the first few bars of “Low Rider”.
Once again, I knew this band solely through the one song that I saw shown on “Beavis & Butthead”, the song “Sweating Bullets”. Granted, I liked the song, but Megadeth’s music didn’t really click with me. I actually ran out of tape after six songs into their set, but thankfully that song was the last one. This was the only time I’d get to see Megadeth with Nick Menza on drums, who was unceremoniously let go from the band three years later while he was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from his knee. Dave Mustaine claimed he thought he was lying about the cancer… weird. He was doing a lot of drugs back then and was in and out of rehab. Anyway, Dave’s bizarre behavior aside, I’d eventually associate Megadeth as the harbinger of bad tidings. Six years later, they’d play the friday after 9/11, a show I will describe later. I know two bad incidences in a row hardly constitutes a trend, but by the third time I’d see them in 2016, I was extra cautious that week. Thankfully, nothing particularly horrifying happened that week.
Better Than Ezra, The Dambuilders, Enormous, Fill., SF, Thur., August 10, 1995
I wasn’t a big fan of Better Than Ezra, or even knew who they were for that matter, but after seeing Megadeth the night before and the whole trauma of Jerry Garcia’s death, I needed the distraction. They seemed inoffensive and non-threatening. I’d even go so far to call them “college music”, which is not as insulting as it sounds. There’s always lots of pretty girls at their shows. Their single, “Good”, was a hit that year, having had their second album, “Deluxe” re-released on a major label. Though I wasn’t that interested in the opening act, Enormous, I did like the Dambuilders, especially because of Joan Wasser on violin. It’s a rare bird to have a violinist in a rock band or any band, so she was appreciated.
I feel guilty whenever I go what I call a “throwaway show”, or a show I had no particular interest in, nor any remarkable memories about. Like I said, I was distracted by the death of Jerry and I certainly pay more attention to the shows I work more than many of the employees at the Fillmore and elsewhere, partially because I am less distracted than they are. To the artists on stage, it is certainly a big deal, especially when they play the Fillmore. That goes double, if they’re playing there for the first time. They did get a good poster that night and I got to see Better Than Ezra a couple more times in the future.
Collective Soul, Rusty, Fill., SF, Sun., August 13, 1995
Collective Soul had earned the reputation for being a Christian rock band and that was all I knew about them coming into this show. Ed and Dean Roland, the band’s singer and guitarist, were from the south and their father was a baptist minister, but they in fact weren’t particularly Bible thumpers. It was their breakout single, “Shine”, with its prayer-like lyrics that cemented that misconception. Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins even tried suing them once, claiming that they ripped off his song, “Drown”, but dropped the case when Collective Soul dug up a demo of it that predated that song. That smart ass Billy should consider himself lucky that they didn’t return the favor and sue him for ripping them off.
Anyway, getting the Christian crowd on your side isn’t entirely a curse. They have money, buy albums, and one can rely on them not to get wasted and start trouble when they come to the shows. That made ushering easier than usual that night. They were touring on their newest self titled album and their single, “December”, was a hit too and would turn out to make them even more money than “Shine”. The girls liked them because they were handsome and non-threatening, but I wasn’t particularly aroused by the music that and I never saw them again. I did appreciate that the poster was one of the horizontal ones, a rare sight at the Fillmore.
Lollapalooza ’95: Sonic Youth, Hole, Cypress Hill, Pavement, Beck, The Jesus Lizard, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Dirty Three, Blonde Redhead, Cal Expo, Sacramento, Thur., August 17, 1995
Lollapalooza ’95 : Sonic Youth, Hole, Cypress Hill, Pavement, Beck, The Jesus Lizard, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Dirty Three, Blonde Redhead, Shoreline, Mountain View, Fri. August 18, 1995
SETLISTS (August 17)
SONIC YOUTH : Cotton Crown, The World Looks Red, Bull In The Heather, Starfield Road, Washing Machine, Saucer-Like, 100%, Tom Violence, Junkie’s Promise, Bone, Skink, The Diamond Sea, (encore) Teenage Riot
BECK (2nd Stage): Pay No Mind, Loser, Motherfucker, Inferno, Asshole, Beercan
As you might of guessed by now, I was really sprung by the Lollapalooza festivals. Each one’s line ups served as a guideline for what music I was supposed to be listening to back then. I trusted those festivals and by and large, their selections, at least for the main stage, were well selected. After the previous year, with The Smashing Pumpkins and the Beastie Boys, expectations were high for the line up in 1995. Though at first glance, the list seemed anti-climactic, but looking at it in hindsight twenty years later, clearly the talent was was good as any of the other years, except for Hole. I hated Hole, but I do appreciate that it would be the only time I’d see them and the historical significance of Courtney Love playing so soon after Kurt Cobain’s death wasn’t lost on me. More about Hole later.
This festival served as the one and only time I tried to record with a mic different than my usual headphone. I was able to get ahold of a small condenser mic that was compatible with the recorder I had at the time. I had been getting consistent complaints about the tinny quality of my recordings, an opinion I shared completely, so I was willing to give it a try. The new mic did sound better, but I gave it up after this festival because it was too big to conceal while ushering, it drained the batteries too quickly, and if anything touched it, it would make a terrible, terrible noise on the recording. To make matters worse, I couldn’t monitor sound levels and if the music was too loud, it would overload, making the recordings totally unlistenable. Believe me, considering my methods, the earphone was really the only way for me to go. Still, it’s a pity though. The stuff I recorded that did come out OK sounded brilliant compared to my usual stuff.
Anyway, back to the show. The first day of the two days I saw of this festival was at Cal Expo in Sacramento, one of only a couple times I saw a show there and the only time I’d see Lollapalooza there. I liked Cal Expo since it was smaller than Concord Pavilion and much smaller than Shoreline. That, coupled with the fact that neither show were very well sold, made it easy to see the acts on the main stage and even easier to see the acts on the side stage.
I got there early as usual and the second stage was holding a talent show before things got rolling on the main stage. There was a wise guy emcee bringing folks up from the crowd to sing improvised lyrics accompanied by a fellow on acoustic guitar. Most was just gibberish, especially from one guy the emcee dubbed the “Prozac Boy”. At the end, the emcee got the crowd to cheer for their favorite and the “Prozac Boy” won. Next up on the second stage was the Dirty Three, a band I’d fallen in love with by then and was grateful that they were on the bill and were starting to get some recognition. I only was able to catch one of their songs before I had to check out the Bosstones on the main stage, but it was a good song. It was a slow and melancholy instrumental like many of their songs, but was different as Warren Ellis played an accordion instead of his violin.
I think I lost the tape I had with the music of the Bosstones and the Jesus Lizard which is a crying shame, especially since I would go on to be a huge fan of the Jesus Lizard. That sorrow was doubled when my recorder didn’t work at all when I went on to record the festival at Shoreline the day after. I deserved it, which I’ll explain later. I will share what memories I have though. How the Bosstones could play in that blistering Sacramento heat wearing suits or any nightclub is beyond me.
David Yow of the Jesus Lizard, on the other hand, could always be relied upon to go shirtless and jump into the crowd every chance he got. David was his usual maniacal self and he got a decent pit going, cracking jokes between songs, and even making fun of a couple goth girls sitting isolated up in the bleachers, wondering if they were dead. He and the band were beginning to play new songs that would eventually end up on their next album, “Shot”, and like the Dirty Three, I was grateful that they were getting some mainstream recognition. I did manage to get one song from the Jesus Lizard on one tape however, “The Associate” which was fortunate, because it was the one song that the horn from the Bosstones played along with them.
Beck, who was just on the cusp of huge mainstream success, was next, and having been impressed with him at the B.F.D. the year before, I was keen to catch him this time round. Like I said, he was just about to get big when he’d release “Odelay” in 1996, but we were lucky enough that day to hear the new songs, “Novacane” and “High 5 (Rock The Catskills)”. Even though I’d never heard them before, I knew they rocked and it was obvious that Beck was going on to bigger and better things. Beck made fun of Cal Expo a little asking if he was at an amusement park and if this was where they did the puppet show. Luckily, Beck came back out to play the second stage later that day during Cypress Hill’s set and I caught all of it, playing six songs that he didn’t play earlier. For some reason, I thought Beck was from the Sacramento area originally which isn’t true, having grown up mostly in Los Angeles.
Next up were Elastica, but I only caught one song of theirs, “Line Up”, because I wanted to catch Mike Watt’s set on the second stage that day. I’d seen them at the B.F.D. earlier that year and would catch their set the next day at Shoreline, so I wasn’t too worried about missing them. I admired Mike Watt and thought the punk elder statesman deserved my attention that day.
Pavement were from the central valley, Stockton to be exact and their playing at Cal Expo was a homecoming of sorts. They had success with their previous album, “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” and were touring with their much anticipated follow up album, Wowee Zowee”. Their music was new and unique then, and their stoney lyrics and cerebral melodies actually were conducive for an act that comes in the middle of the line up, when the crowd is totally baked, the sun is at its apex, and its hot as hell. I liked them, but the crowd at Shoreline was far less receptive. I remember Stephen Malkmus hiding behind one of the prop trees they had on stage trying to get some shade. They jokingly claimed their poor performance that tour was what sunk the Lollapalooza festival, but Lollapalooza would continue for two more years before ending as a tour and taking up permanent residence in Chicago as a single weekend show.
I’d seen Cypress Hill play the side stage three years prior and with their second album, “Black Sunday”, having been out already for a couple years, they were a big hit and graduated to the main stage. Whether they planned it or not, they became the soundtrack to the growing marijuana legalization movement, followed only by perhaps the Black Crowes, Phish, or Pantera. Clearly, their giant inflatable Bhudda on stage with the ganja leaf necklace was a clue. They were a good choice for the third to last act. The sun was going down and the ensuing munchies would be well timed for the dinner crowd before the last two acts.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t a fan of Courtney Love or her band Hole, but I was glad to catch them, since I missed them play the Fillmore the year before and this would be the only shows I’d get to see them. Courtney had all sorts of stories floating around about her, from her drug use, conspiracies about her having had Kurt murdered, having Kurt write all Hole’s hit songs, and so forth. I didn’t know the truth about any of these rumors, but it didn’t concern me that much since I didn’t like Hole’s music anyway. What I didn’t know was that Kristen Pfaff, their bassist died of a drug overdose only months after Kurt’s suicide, being replaced by Melissa Auf der Maur. I failed to appreciate the emotional turmoil Courtney was enduring. She even got into a brawl with Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill on that tour and had to take anger management classes. She shed a tear when she played a cover of Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea” that night. Between songs she noticed someone in the crowd holding up a picture of Kurt, one where he looked sensitive with heavy black eyeliner and she said that Kurt always hated that picture. Otherwise, she behaved herself, but that changed the next night when she played Shoreline. I’ll get to that later.
Finally, Sonic Youth took the stage and though the crowd was dwindling, I stuck around to the very end. I would get to know them and their new material from “Washing Machine” well in 1995, seeing them open for R.E.M., twice more at Lollapalooza, and again twice more at the Warfield three months later. I especially liked their epic long tune, “Diamond Sea”. It’s rare that a rock song longer than fifteen minutes can be so cohesive. My tape ran out before they played “Teenage Riot” for their encore, but I got the rest of their set.
The next day, I went to the show with Sarah, the woman I broke up with only a month before this show a while we ushered at the Boredoms at the Fillmore. Sarah had gotten comps to this show for us and since it wasn’t well sold, we got some pretty good seats. It was awkward though, as you might imagine and although I made an effort to be cordial or at least civil, I couldn’t help but feel like a total asshole the entire time. Sarah was a good sport and put up with it. She cringed when I said we’d stay to the end to see all of Sonic Youth’s set, but what the hell, we came all that way and they were a great band. It would have been a shame to have left early after seeing everybody else.
Strangely, what stuck in my head that day was a half eaten paper tray of barbecue hot link slices congealing in the sun. Sarah had gotten them from one of the vendors in the food court and didn’t want to finish them and offered the rest to me which I declined. The thing is, I love barbecue and actually wanted to finish them, but in doing so I thought I’d be sending her a signal that there was still a possibility of our relationship continuing. That was how stupid I was back then. So there the links stayed, on the ground, uneaten for the rest of the show. It was bad enough that I treated her so disrespectfully, but the thought of wasting good barbecue is something that haunts me to this day. Never again.
Back to the show. Like I mentioned earlier, my tape player took a dump that day, so though I went along holding the mic, changing tapes all day, it was all for nothing. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but my guilt for treating Sarah so boorishly filled me with the sense that I was getting my comeuppance and took it in stride. I enjoyed the music nonetheless and managed to hold on to handful of memories from that day at Shoreline.
The set from the Jesus Lizard was unforgettable because if there is one band that shouldn’t play to the near empty seated section up front at Shoreline, it is that band. David Yow made the best of it, wandering out into the seats during one song, sitting down next to some people while belting out his wild lyrics, putting up his feet on the chairs in front of him, and putting his arm around the guy next to him. I’ll never forget a joke he told between songs that day. “How do you keep your girlfriend from, you know, stumbling around the backyard all day?… Shoot her again.” Yeah, that one stuck with me. It’s sick I know but I like to tell it myself, but substitute it with boyfriend and tell it to women. Seems less creepy for some reason.
Walking around the second stage area, I had the good fortune to run into Beck. He was only with one other person and I did my best to approach him in a way that didn’t seem intrusive. I told him I saw both his sets on the main and second stage the day before at Cal Expo and that I thought he played beautifully and that I loved the new songs. I wanted his autograph, but as luck would have it, the only thing I had for him to write on was the paper sleeve from one of my tape cases. He simply wrote “Beck” in simple, but readable lower case cursive on it and as I praised him, he simply looked at me, smiled slightly, and nodded. I’ll never forget him in his straw cowboy hat and sunglasses and the sort of serene expression on his face. He seemed so calm and peaceful that he almost seemed stoned, though I was sure he wasn’t. I shook his hand and he went on his way.
Back to Courtney Love and Hole’s set that night. I started watching them, but Courtney was growing more and more distracted as the set went on. She was complaining that her voice was giving out and asked the sound man to turn the reverb way up to compensate. Then, she started chewing out a couple guys up front who were sitting down during their set asking them to leave so some of her fans up on the lawn could come down there and watch. The guys in the seats looked like Cypress Hill fans and despite Courtney’s needling, they stayed put and tried to blow it off, but she wouldn’t relent. It got to the point where I was feeling uncomfortable even watching this train wreck, so I went to check out the second stage.
Thank God the Jesus Lizard were coming on there to do a second set like Beck did at Cal Expo. David Yow, obviously under the influence of alcohol as we were accustomed to seeing him, was cracking jokes, thanking the crowd for coming to watch them instead of that “crazy bitch”. When I came back to the seats to catch Sonic Youth’s set, I heard that Courtney was eventually carried off stage by one of the security guards. So once Sonic Youth wrapped it up, that was it. Some people regard this Lollapalooza line up as the weakest in the series, and at the time, the popularity of the acts might not have measured up to previous years. But in hindsight, the bands, especially Beck during that period in his career, should get the credit they deserve, Hole notwithstanding.
Weezer, Teenage Fanclub, That Dog, War., SF, Sun., August 20, 1995
SETLIST : Intro – ?, No One Else, In The Garage, Undone – The Sweater Song, My Name Is Jonah, The World Has Turned & Left Me Here, Holiday, Jamie, Say It Ain’t So, Getchoo, Only In Dreams, (encore), Buddy Holly, Surf Wax America
Weezer had made the quantum leap from being an opening act for Lush the year before to headlining a sold out show at the Warfield. It was in no small part to the success of their single “Buddy Holly” and the hilarious “Happy Days” music video directed by Spike Jonze. Not that they were a one hit wonder. Their first self titled album was brilliant from start to finish and their success was well deserved.
I liked the opener, That Dog, though I would never see them after this show. I would, however, be forever haunted by their singer/violinist Petra Hayden. As I’ve said before, I like any band that has a violinist. But in 2106, Petra would lend her sweet voice to the song, “Easy Street” by the Collapsable Hearts Club, a tune that was used on an episode of “The Walking Dead” to torture poor Daryl, being played over and over again while he was imprisoned by Negen to break his spirit. But to me, on the contrary, the song never grew tiresome. In fact, I play the ten hour loop of it available on YouTube whenever I fold laundry or clean my apartment.
Next up was Teenage Fanclub from Scotland that had good reputation of being a solid alternative rock band. They were pretty big in the UK and they had just released their fifth album, “Grand Prix”, that May and it was well received. Their sound was a good match for Weezer’s and they got a good response from the crowd that night.
When Weezer took the stage, one couldn’t help but notice that the lead singer/guitarist, Rivers Cuomo, was wearing a leg brace on his left leg. I assumed he just had a nasty spill somewhere. What I and I imagine most of the fans in the audience didn’t know was that he was born with his left leg 44 mm shorter than his right and he had surgery to correct it that March. The doctors broke the leg to reset it and he had to endure months of physical therapy and used a cane to get around. While he recovered, he even studied classical composition at Harvard, though he ultimately dropped out two months before graduation. He would find time in later years to complete his degree there finally in 2008. This recover period also gave bassist Matt Sharp time to spend with his side project, The Rentals.
But Rivers was stoic and kept the momentum of Weezer’s success going despite the pain. Although their next album, “Pinkerton”, wouldn’t have nearly the commercial or critical success as their first, their fans loved them. They did play one of the new songs that night, “Getchoo”. Weezer was a welcome relief to the angst of the diminishing grunge scene, filled with sweetness and humor. I was upset that I was cut from ushering during “No One Else”, one of my favorite songs of theirs. This show was the last show of their tour and they made sure to thank their entire crew. Pity that I wouldn’t see them again for another ten years.
The Pharcyde, The Nonce, Milkbone, Fill., SF, Tues., August 22, 1995
I loved The Pharcyde and was overjoyed that they got to headline a show at the Fillmore. I’ve said before that hip hop shows were rare there and it was especially welcome to have an act I appreciated. Their second album, “Labcabincalifornia” wouldn’t be released until November, but they did just release the first single from that album, “Drop” less than two weeks before this show.
There were some drummers playing up in the lounge that night accompanied by a couple horn players who improvised licks here and there. I caught a few minutes of them after the doors opened before Dave Rep, the Fillmore’s house manager, introduced the first opening act, Milkbone. Alphabet Soup was supposed to open the show that night, but for some unexplained reason, they were a no show and were replaced at the last minute.
The middle act, The Nonce, I thought were very good and the crowd totally got pumped up by them. I would have hoped to see them again, but one of their members, Yusef “Afloat” Muhammed was found dead on the side of Freeway 110 in Los Angeles in 2000. The cause of his death is still unknown. It’s a pity since they had been signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings and like I said, they had talent. It was a fun show that night and I’m glad I got to see them at least once, but I’m happy to say I’d see the Pharcyde a few times more since then.
Primus, Mike Watt, Greek, Berkeley, Sat., August 26, 1995
SETLIST : To Defy The Laws Of Tradition, Mr. Knowitall, John The Fisherman, Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers, Professor Nutbutter’s House Of Treats, Mrs. Blaileen, Nature Boy, Southbound Pachyderm, De Anza Jig, Seas Of Cheese, Pork Soda, My Name Is Mud, Bob, Over The Electric Grapevine, Toys Go Winding Down, Pudding Time, Harold Of The Rocks, Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, Tommy The Cat, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
It had been over two years since I’d seen Primus, since they headlined Lollapalooza, and to me then it had felt like an eternity. Les had taken time out to play with Sausage and Herb toured with his band, Laundry, opening for Tool at the Warfield, but they were back in force. They had released their new album, “Tales From The Punchbowl” in June and it only took six weeks to be certified gold. They had a hit with the single, “Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver”, and it would garner them their first Grammy nomination. The music video for the song was a big hit too, being played regularly on MTV and making it on to “Beavis & Butthead”. It parodied a series of Duracell battery commercials that were being aired at the time, where the band was dressed up as plastic cowboys. It was a hoot, boy howdy.
But the big difference at this show from the others was I had just began working as an intern for the manager of Primus, Dave Lefkowitz, for which I was very proud. Let me start from the beginning. I was studying at SF State as a Broadcasting major, emphasis on audio production, and I was eligible for getting credit by accepting unpaid internships. My flatmate, Patrick, at the time had been managing a band called Born Naked and their singer/guitarist, Sal, was friend with Herb, Primus’ drummer. By extension, Pat knew Dave Lekowitz’s assistant, Jordan Kurland, and word had gotten to Pat that he could use an intern.
Jordan was a tall, soft spoken man only a few years older than me, but brilliant and committed to succeeding in a life in the music industry. He had already worked for the band, Living Colour, and even was sporting little dark dreads from the top of his head, similar to Corey Glover’s. Jordan really looked after me and appreciated my enthusiasm, writing glowing reviews of my work to the broadcasting department, ensuring I got credit without question. He had already began organizing the Noise Pop festival in 1993 and from it’s modest beginnings playing a “5 bands for $5” show at the Kennel Klub, it would gradually grow year after year to a citywide festival. Jordan would eventually leave Dave to handle this festival, which eventually grew to become the Treasure Island Music Festival, but he would also manage musical acts of his own, like Death Cab For Cutie, Matt Nathanson, and Creeper Lagoon.
There also was Trouz, Primus’ road manager and had also been Metallica’s road manager for a time. He was a tall, skinny fellow with a shaved head and a wicked sense of humor. He was tough, I could tell, but was very down to earth and accepted me as part of the office which I found very endearing to me. I really liked Trouz and admired him, though I would see him only rarely in the office since he was on the road with Primus most of the time.
Last but not least, was Dave’s secretary, Sally. I recognized her instantly when I first came in the office as the once, eternally patient ticket vendor at the Slim’s box office. How many times had I lined up front and center before her early on sunday mornings, eagerly awaiting her to open up so I could get tickets from her there. Back then, the Slim’s box office had also been a Ticketmaster outlet that wasn’t generally known to most folks, so I and a handful of others in the know would be able to score tickets quick there to shows that would very rapidly sell out and I wouldn’t have had a prayer trying to score them elsewhere, being stuck hopelessly in a long line.
I thought Sally was beautiful and I clearly was a horny young man back then, though I took no advances upon her. She was probably around ten years older than me, had a boyfriend, and I was hopelessly and hilariously out of her league. I was dumb, but I was at least smart enough to know that. Still, I enjoyed working in the office with her, my time mostly spent there with her more than Dave or Jordan. She would tolerate my immaturity and I was grateful that she mostly wore sheer white shirts that gave me a good indication to what lay beneath. I haven’t seen her in years, but I have no doubt that her beauty hasn’t faded.
As if it was divine intervention, Dave’s office was only three blocks from our place on 22nd and South Van Ness, on the top floor above Different Fur recording studios, the studio that Primus used to record “Pork Soda”. I sheepishly went over and gave Jordan my resume and Dave let me begin immediately. I thought it quite a feather in my cap, but I learned that the music industry thrives on free labor, but you better believe I never once complained about it, though I did try to get my internship bumped up to a paid position to no avail. More of that later on.
It was Dave’s office, but I was essentially Jordan’s assistant. I would help keep track of the band’s royalties, open fan mail, keep the good one’s and send them off to the band, collect orders and money for merchandise, send it out, and keep a data base updated for Primus’ fan club, “Club Bastardo”. Like a kid in a candy store, I had access to every conceivable bit of Primus merchandise and you’d better believe I snagged a piece of everything I could get my fingers on.
This office was also the home of Les’ record label, Prawn Song, which at this time had been partnered with Interscope and Mammoth records, though would become independent again in 1999. I was also helping with the merchandise with the label’s talent such as M.I.R.V., Laundry, Alphabet Soup, Porch, Sausage, Eskimo, and none other than Charlie Hunter and his trio, who was just beginning to get recognition nationwide. He’d eventually go on to get signed by Blue Note records and move on to stardom in jazz circles worldwide. Believe it or not, I was also responsible for listening to the scores of demo tapes being sent into the office, hoping to get signed to Prawn Song, or to have Dave represent them as their manager. I set aside the ones I thought had talent, but Dave never picked any of them. I don’t imagine he had time. I even found an old demo tape from Green Day amongst the others and although it probably irked him that he passed on them, he would have no doubt found it insurmountable to carry the weight of managing both Green Day and Primus, especially all the way to this day. He would have made a pretty penny though.
Dave was also managing the Melvins and along with “Club Bastardo”, I was tasked to keeping tabs on the “Melvin’s Army”. They were a smaller group to wrangle, but their fans were devoted for sure. Eventually, the Melvins had a falling out with Dave and they went their separate ways, though I can’t speak to the details of that. I did meet King Buzzo at the Maritime Hall in 1999 and I mentioned to him that I once was an intern for Dave and he simply said, “I’m sorry.”
I’ll get back to tales from Dave’s office another time, but that’s a good start. Back to the show at hand finally. The last time I’d seen them was also at the Greek and it was a great place to see them or any band to play, but especially them, since they were local boys. I had gotten comp tickets and a backstage passes through Dave for me and my friend, Tory, a Primus fan as much as I was. It was strange to go backstage at a show that big, having not been backstage to any show since my days following around the Dance Hall Crashers and Skankin’ Pickle. We hung about nibbling on the vegetable plate, but I did manage to talk to Larry LeLonde for a moment. He was nice to me and quite easy to talk to. Les, on the other hand, was a touch standoffish to Tory and I. He was busy talking to others and everybody wanted to talk to him. I told him I was working in Dave’s office and he mistook me for the fellow working on the CD-ROM version of their new album for a moment. When I told him that I was but a humble intern, there was a semi-uncomfortable silence and we moved on from there. I admire Les more than most musicians, but when I’m around him, I feel the unshakable feeling that there is nothing I can say or do that he would find remotely interesting.
Tory and I emerged from backstage to watch Mike Watt open the show and having seen him on the second stage at Lollapalooza only a week and half before this, I was getting to know his music. He got the crowd worked up a bit as he does, slapping his bass silly. Mike would always be covered in sweat at the end of his set, a badge of honor I feel for a musician, showing the crowd that he gave at the office. Mr. Watt is a rare bird in the music industry, being friendly, talented, and respected amongst his peers and fans.
For some reason though, I didn’t have a tape of his set that day, and what I have left of Primus’ set is but a mere eight songs, starting with “Southbound Pachyderm” and ending with “Toys Go Winding Down”. Perhaps I lost the tapes or there had been a recorder malfunction. I honestly don’t remember. Sometimes in the mosh pit, the stop button gets hit, but I often would check it deck to see if it was still running, so this remains a mystery. Regardless, it was good to see Primus again after so long and to hear the new songs live for the first time. They were as least as well written and played as their previous stuff, and I would say that I thought “Punchbowl” was a better album than “Pork Soda” to me. I’d be lucky enough to see Primus three more times before they would release the “Brown Album” in 1997. They were really on top of their game around this time.
The Ramones, Gern, War., SF, Thur., August 31, 1995
SETLIST : Durango 95, Teenage Lobotomy, Psychotherapy, Blitzkrieg Bop, Do You Remember Rock N’ Roll Radio, I Wanna Be Sedated, Spider-Man, The KKK Took My Baby Away, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, Commando, Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, Rockaway Beach, Pet Sematery, Main Man, Cretin Family, Take It As It Comes, Somebody Put Something In My Drink, 7 & 7 Is, Wart Hog, Today Your Love Tomorrow The World, Pinhead, The Crusher, Poison Heart, We’re A Happy Family, My Back Pages, Chinese Rocks, Beat On The Brat
I was truly lucky to see the Ramones when I did, because they had just released their final studio album, the aptly titled “Adios Amigos!”, and vowed to disband if it wasn’t a success. Despite modest sales and a minor hit with their cover of Tom Wait’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”, it wasn’t enough to keep them together. They’d tour once more in 1996 on Lollapalooza and then they were done for good. I was lucky to catch that tour too. I think the general public and even fans like myself failed to appreciate their talent and contribution to rock music at the time. In fact, I’m sure of it. They had been playing for almost twenty years by then, amassing a arsenal of over 2,200 shows under their belts, so nobody could accuse them of not playing enough, that much was certain. But seeing younger punk acts like the Offspring, Rancid, and especially Green Day, go on to wealth and mainstream success couldn’t have helped morale.
They were amongst friends that night though, and ironically, the mainstream media and everyday people were just beginning to appreciate them. It was just too little too late. It felt good to don my leather jacket and sweat it out in the mosh pit one last time at the Warfield. They tore through their setlist at their usual breakneck pace, hardly letting anyone catch a breath before belting out another intro, “1-2-3-4!!!”, and tearing into the next song. I loved their cover of the “Spider-Man” theme. Indeed, they made it sound like it had been their song from the get-go.
Even though, like so many genius artists, they went unappreciated in their time, the Ramones would go on to get the respect they deserved ultimately. They would be at last inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002 and their first album would FINALLY be certified gold in 2014, a whopping 38 years after its release. Those, like myself, who were lucky enough to see them play live will have the solemn pride to tell the young just how awesome they were.
Ratdog Revue, Second Sight, War., SF, Sat., September 2, 1995
SETLIST : Walkin’ Blues, Take Me To The River, Juke, Little Red Rooster, Every Little Light, Twilight Time, KC Moan, Maggie’s Farm, Should Of Been Me, Fever, Youngblood, Eternity, Winners, Heaven Help The Fool, Drums & Bass, Victim Or The Crime, Throwing Stones, (encore), It’s A Man’s World, Wang Dang Doodle, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Jerry Garcia had only been dead for a month, but the seeds for Ratdog had been planted for well over a year. Back then, they were still billed as Ratdog Revue, though they had officially changed their name to Ratdog for their first show on August 8, just one day before Jerry died. So, I had to assume that this show had been booked before that, this show, not being and impromptu thing. Bob Weir had played with Rob Wasserman before, just the two of them, but they had a full band this time. And who did they pick to play drums for them? None other than Jay Lane himself.
I wouldn’t have guessed that Jay, who I’d seen with Sausage and the Charlie Hunter Trio would end up with these hippies, but it turned out to be a good marriage after all. Stranger still, would be that fellow Charlie Hunter Trio alumni, Dave Ellis, would join the band on saxophone the next year. Both their styles styles blended well with Wasserman on bass, making one of the greatest instrumental combinations I’ll ever see, really, all of them masters of their art. This, coupled with Vince Welnick on keys in tow, definitely helped Bobby make the transition from the Dead and got him back to making music right away.
Not to say Bobby couldn’t do it alone. People would come to see him no matter who he played with, but with Jerry now gone, Bobby was all alone and had to carry the burden of the guitar parts that he ably, even subtly supported in the Dead. In Ratdog, Bobby became an even more understated guitarist, to the point where he’s almost trying to be silent altogether. I couldn’t blame him for being shy a little. Jerry was such a tour de force on guitar that to even try to match him on stage would be like attacking a battalion of tanks with a defective slingshot. Bobby did get better and more confident as the years passed. He had to and practice makes perfect. Though his singing with the Dead would often make me cringe. He would attempt to do a little rock star grandstanding as well, particularly at the end of a set on rock songs like “One More Saturday Night”, that would make me shake my head from time to time, saying, “Bad, Bobby! Bad, Bobby!”
Still, I liked Bobby. Most everybody I knew who liked the Dead or knew anything about them agreed that he was nice guy, nicer than Mickey Hart anyway. So, it felt good to support him and the band that night. Jerry’s death was still a fresh memory and all the Heads were looking to Bobby for where the future of the surviving Dead projects were going. Like I said, he brought along Vince Welnick, who opened with his side project, Second Sight, that evening, as well as played along with Ratdog. Vince was emotionally devastated by the loss of Jerry and needed this show probably more than anybody. He even attempted suicide on tour with Ratdog only a few months later. He got therapy and kept it together for a while, playing with Dead members in The Other Ones, but would ultimately kill himself in 2006. He cut his own throat and rumor has it, that he did it in front of his wife. Poor bastard.
My sister Erica came with me that night and ushered. She was seeing a decent share of shows that year, compared to most years for her. Erica liked the Dead and saw a few of their shows before Jerry’s demise. My brother Alex detested them, so I knew better than to ask him along or to any hippie show for that matter. All and all, Ratdog were a good that night. They had the energy and urgency of a new band. The hippies appreciated it and would go on to see Bobby and the band pretty regularly, even if they weren’t playing places as big as the Warfield. I remember my sister looking at me during the song, “Should Have Been Me”, a song clearly in mourning of Jerry, and let out a sentimental, “Awww”, during the chorus.
Ratdog wouldn’t be alone dividing up and sharing the remaining Deadheads looking for shows to see. Bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, and Moe had already been touring for years, and soon newer acts like String Cheese Incident and Umphrey’s McGee would pick up the stragglers. But there would never be a parking lot scene quite like the Dead parking lot. Sad as it was, it was good timing for me. It was time I laid off psychedelic drugs and finish college.
HORDE ’95: The Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Taj Mahol & Friends, Wilco, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sun., September 3, 1995
The day after Ratdog Revue show, I made the trip down to Shoreline to catch the HORDE show. It being Blue Traveler’s baby, they were there as always, along with the Black Crowes, who I saw there the tour the year before. Like the Ratdog show, it was a welcome relief to hear these jam bands, who weren’t officially hippies, but the younger jam guys were close enough. The Black Crowes were fortunate enough to open for the Dead that April in Tampa, Florida, which would have been a stellar combination to see.
I never met a hippie who didn’t like reggae music, so it was a good choice that they included Ziggy Marley on this tour. Marijuana seems to unite the fans of each style like macaroni and cheese. I was a little suspect of Ziggy at first, having not seen him before and concerned that he was riding his father’s coattails. I had heard a rumor that he had been booed off stage from the Reggae Sunsplash before, but that turned out to be untrue. Ziggy and the band won me over and though his solo stuff wasn’t as good as the covers of his dad’s stuff, they held their own. Suffice to say, it would be a tough shadow to come out from under, but Ziggy had already been playing music of his own when his father died and this was fifteen years later. He had nothing more to prove, and would go on touring and being a philanthropist to this day. I’d get to other Marley kids in the future, Stephen, Ki-Mani, and Damien, who I especially liked.
They had some good people on the second stage that year, The Mother Hips, Wilco, and Joan Osborne. Wilco was still pretty new, having only released their first album, “A.M.”, that March. I had heard of Uncle Tupelo, the band Jeff Tweedy shared with Jay Farrar, but never saw them. They were founders of a so-called “alternative country” sound that was emerging around that time. Musicians who were not as polished as the Nashville acts, but grungier than the “heroin country” crowd like Mazzy Star.
Joan Osborne was new back then as well, having also released her first album, “Relish” that March. But Joan was VERY well known by then due to the success of the single, “One Of Us”. Though she didn’t write it, suffice to say it didn’t harm her career none, being covered by many artists, and featured in several movies and TV shows. Even Dr. Evil would sing that song in the movie, “Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me” in 1999, tricking his henchmen into thinking he wrote it. Frankly, I was surprised Joan wasn’t on the main stage, but it was nice to see her up close. She would go on to tour with members of the Dead, proving that she wasn’t going to remain relegated to history as a one hit wonder.
Blues Traveler did a stellar set that night as usual. I had heard them do their cover of “Low Rider” before, but their cover of “Gloria” at the end of their set was a new one for me. They are one of those few bands that translate well to festival crowds as well as small ones. I liked that John Popper would visit the second stage and jam with people on this tour. He graciously thanked all the stage crew near the end of their set, calling them, “the finest crew he had worked with his entire life.”
And from the “Blues”, we then went to the “Black”, (ba-bum-boom!) Alas, this would be the last time I’d see the Crowes touring when the “Amorica” album was new. Even worse, my batteries ran out right after the began their set with “My Morning Song”. I am comforted that they were one of the first bands after the Dead to allow their fans to record their shows, so there is no shortage of live stuff I can get my hands on and I’m sure if I looked, I could find a copy of that show somewhere. The Crowes would be remain a good band, but infighting, line up changes, and drug use would take their toll, and they would never be to me quite as tight as they were back then.
Reverend Horton Heat, The Supersuckers, Hagfish, Fill., SF, Fri., September 8, 1995
REVEREND HORTON HEAT : Slow, I Want It Now, Do It, Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’, Primetime Ford, (unknown), (unknown), 400 Bucks, (unknown), Big Red Rocket Of Love, Marijuana, I Can’t Surf, (unknown), Psychobilly Freakout, Johnny Quest – Stop The Pigeon, Martini time, (unknown), The Devil’s Chasin’ Me
THE SUPERSUCKERS : Goldtop, Tail, Caliente – Rally, Jackalope Eye, Coattail, Bitch, Money
This show has the proud distinction of having its poster grace the wall of my bedroom of where I live currently. Yes, when the time came to choose from a handful of posters that I thought my wife would find tasteful, she picked this one. The rich color and the retro girls made for one of the Fillmore’s better posters and I had a feeling she’d pick it. But to the show itself.
I had seen the good Reverend the year before opening for Johnny Cash under the alias “Pajama Party Orchestra”. Why they did that, I don’t know, but this show would be the first of several times I’d get to see the Rev headline his own. The man’s real name is Jim Heath, a Texas native, and my friend and fellow usher, Chris, used to see him perform back in the day when he was still a solo act. Back then he worked as a sound man to pay the bills and would play Johnny Cash and Grateful Dead covers, before he assumed the name of Heat, an obvious abbreviation of his real last name.
Hagfish and the Supersuckers were good openers, both originally from the desert southwest. There was one hiccup during the Reverend’s set that I’d never forget. The crowd was pretty rowdy as expected and a pretty sizable mosh pit ensued. About halfway through the show, a shirt got thrown on stage and it landed perfectly on Heat’s vocal mic. Whether it was thrown intentionally or it just landed there by chance, Heat was pissed. I can see the silent, stone faced rage in his face to this day in my mind. He marched off stage, but came back after a few minutes. Maybe it was his history dealing with rude crowds as a sound man and solo act, his affinity for his vintage style vocal mic, and/or the seriousness he devotes himself to his musical craft, who knows? Les Claypool’s the same way. He’ll stop the show each and every time something gets thrown on stage. Iggy Pop, on the other hand, could have hand grenades thrown at him and he wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Jimbo, the bass player, told the audience that this was their favorite place to play, but not to “throw shit” and if we see somebody do it to tell them not to. The show continued without incident.
I was glad that they played their cover of “Johnny Quest/Stop The Pigeon” during that show, a brilliant melding of the two cartoon show themes of Quest and “Dastardly & Mutley In Their Flying Machines” The latter of the two was a cartoon that was very obscure to most, but dear to my heart growing up as a boy. They lent that song to the “Saturday Morning : Cartoon’s Greatest Hits” compilation album. I liked that album, but was miffed that the Dickies were usurped from lending their versions of “Banana Splits”, “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)”, and “Gigantor” which songs were on the album but played by Liz Phair, the Violent Femmes, and Helmet respectively. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those bands and they did good covers, but they should have given the Dickies at least one of them.
Bush, Hum, The Toadies, Fri., September 15, 1995
Bush, Hum, The Toadies, Sat., September 16, 1995
(Sep. 15) Body, Machinehead, Swim, Comedown, Old, X-Girlfriend, Bomb, Alien, Testosterone, Bubbles, Little Things, Glycerine
(Sep. 16) Machinehead, Monkey, Swim, Broken TV, Comedown, Old, X-Girlfriend, Bomb, Glycerine, Testosterone, Bubbles, Little Things, Alien, Everything Zen, The One I Love
Bush was on top of the world around this time. Gavin Rossdale would meet Gwen Stefani while touring with No Doubt that year and they’s eventually marry in 2002 and have three sons together, though they’d split in an acrimonious divorce in 2015. But like I said, If anyone was having a good year in 1995, it was Mr. Rossdale. Their first album, “Sixteen Stone”, had rose like a rocket and would go platinum six times over.
As luck would have it, the Toadies were opening these shows, a band that I’d seen play with Reverend Horton Heat, who I’d seen only the week before at the Fillmore. They too even played the song “400 Bucks”. Though they were stylistically a departure from Bush’s, they were appreciated and along with Hum’s mellow shoe gazing, the bill was more eclectic than most. Both openers had songs on “Beavis & Butthead” and were at the height of their popularity as Bush was.
As I mentioned from having seen them headline the B.F.D show that June, that despite being formed a couple years before Kurt Cobain’s death, Bush never shook accusations that they were stealing their bit. Granted, Gavin can’t help the sound of his voice. It was the way God made him, but even if they were ripping off Nirvana, at least they picked a good band to steal from. Regardless, they were a tight band and played well both nights. My recording lost signal completely a couple times for a few seconds during the second night, probably a bad mic. On the second night, they closed with the cover of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love”, which, though I wasn’t a big fan of Bush, i have to admit actually was a pretty good cover. Their poster looked rather phoned in, a cartoon of a bald purple woman with a car’s engine imbedded in her skull, probably a reference to their song, “Machinehead”. It was free though and I did get two having seen both shows, so I have no good reason to complain.
The Mother Hips, Nuts, Papa’s Culture, Fill., SF, Fri., September 22, 1995
SETLIST : Desert Song, Magazine, Been Lost Once, Two Young Queens, Figure 11, Honeydew, Stoned Up The Road, Hot Lunch, Hey Emilie, Lady Be Cool, Shut The Door, Fumbling Parade, Run Around Me, Mountain Time, Mona Lia & The Last Supper, The Message, Chum, Ballgame, Two River Blues, (encore), This Is A Man, Turtle Bones
Like Wilco, the Mother Hips came around a good time. Like many musical movements, the alternative country movement wasn’t particularly coordinated, but just a series of fortunate events. Rick Rubin was gathering bands to his American Recordings label and luckily Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes was also on that label and was a fan of the Hips. He helped them get signed when they were still students at Chico State.
This was my first time seeing them, though they had just had their second album released that August as well as their first album rereleased on American that March. The Hips were new, but the show felt like they’d been around for a while. Chico wasn’t the bay area, but they were local enough and this, being the first time I’d see them as well as the first time they’d headline the Fillmore, was clearly an important show for them. There were friends in the house and there was a positive vibe for sure.
Though their sound, as the music of their contemporaries like Wilco, Jackie Greene, ALO, and Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, (coincidentally the wife of Tim Bluhm, the Hips’ singer/guitarist, at least until 2015), never really gelled with me, I’d see all them from time to time as the years passed. I appreciated them all more than the hippies. They seemed a little tougher, a little more street, less flowery or liberal. Whenever their members would collaborate with guys like Phil Lesh, they helped lend some of that vibe.
The Dirty Three, Bakamono, GAMH, SF, Sun., September 24, 1995
I’d been hooked on the Dirty Three ever since I first heard them open for Morphine at the Fillmore a mere three months and change before this show. I was pleased to see that their talent was already recognized enough to warrant them a headlining show at the Great American, the first time I’d see them at a show where they were top of the bill. Hell yes, I was sure to be there. I’d been able to find their first two CDs but their third album, “Horse Stories” wouldn’t be released until a year later. Thankfully, they were already playing new material by this show, but the only new song I knew for sure was “At The Bar”, because Warren Ellis introduced it.
This show has the distinction of being one of the few times I’d see a show with my old friend, Dave Wall. He was a tall, lanky fellow, who I went to high school with and admired for his sense of humor and warm personality. Dave eventually moved away up to Redding area, joined the Conservation Corps, and we’d ultimately lose touch. My friends and I liked to call him “Cake”, but the origin of that nickname was never related to me. Dave was a skateboarder, more of a punk than a hippie, but I’ll never forget seeing him one time roaming around a Grateful Dead show with his Walkman on. He said was listening to Metallica during the parts of the show when he was getting bored.
Anyway, Dave was there and as impressed with the Dirty Three as I was, I thought he’d be equally as amazed. He did like the show, but clearly wasn’t as blown away as I was. You can hear him on the tape yelling out between songs, “One more level!” As intense as the band would get during the apocalyptic crescendos, it just wasn’t metal enough for him. So, I learned an important lesson at that show, not to be disappointed when friends don’t get hooked on the bands you love. Judging people’s taste is difficult and I’m sure there have times when friends took me to see bands that were their favorites, but didn’t rise to the level of their admiration with me.
Still, to me, the Dirty Three were spot on that night and certainly Warren was giving it his all as usual. By the end of the show, he was drenched with sweat. He leapt about the stage, pouncing off of the monitors and the kick drum, adding that extra oomph to each bow stroke on his violin as he landed. He’d often make humorous, though rambling speeches between songs like Robyn Hitchcock. Warren actually resembled Robyn a bit, especially the sound of his voice. He introduced one of the songs saying that, “I don’t want a lover! I want a toaster! This song is called, ‘My Best Friend Is A Toaster’!” After the song, Dave yelled out, “I want my toaster!” After that song, he invited the crowd to come backstage to have a drink with the band, but when Dave and I tried at the end of the show, the security guard simply stood with his arms folded and shook his head no, saying, “It’s not gonna happen”.
PJ Harvey, Ben Harper, War., SF, Thur., September 28, 1995
There are occasions when I was afforded the privilege of seeing an artist I liked more than one time in a year, especially when they are local. But Ms. Polly Jean Harvey, being from England came a long way to play the Warfield, so I thanked my lucky stars I was able to see her twice that year, just a hair over four months between shows. She was still obviously promoting her third album, “To Bring You My Love”, which was modestly successful in sales, but a herculean achievement critically. There wasn’t a person alive then who didn’t think she was the shit.
It was fitting then that on this show, PJ had an opening act to match, Ben Harper, who was on the rise himself then and had just released his second album, “Fight For Your Mind”, less than two months before this show. One could even say Ben upstaged PJ a bit at this show, but that was only because most of the audience hadn’t heard him before and were pleasantly surprised, as I was when I saw him a year before opening for Luscious Jackson. At least people who liked both acts could find both Harper and Harvey’s albums close to each other when record shopping. His short, but powerful set included covers of “Voodoo Chile”, “Concrete Jungle”, and “Superstitious” that night.
PJ was still dressing rather theatrically back then. Instead of the black nighty and overdone make up, this time she was dressed a bit like a 1950’s Hot Rod Betty. Her hair was in a high pony tail and she wore stiletto heels, skin tight, black leather pants, and had a sleeveless, blue top with striking pointed cones for her boobs. I couldn’t help but imagine her being the hyperactive girl starting a vintage car drag race in some teen exploitation movie. Horny as I was for her, I was even hornier for her music. That was a stellar set they played that night. I especially liked Joe Gore on guitar. His style was a perfect match for her sound on that album. I regret only that I decided to just catch this, the first of two shows she played at the Warfield, opting to see Down at the Fillmore the next night instead. Luckily, there was a great poster that night for PJ and I caught her when I did. I wouldn’t get my next chance to see her play until three years later.
On a side note, without fail, every time I think of PJ, I get the chorus of “Two Brothers With Check (San Francisco Harvey)” by the Ultramagnetic MCs stuck in my head. Her music is a far cry from hip hop, but nonetheless, there it is. It makes me wonder if PJ has ever met Kool Keith or seen him play. For some reason, I think they’d get along.
Down, Release, Fill., SF, Fri., September 29, 1995
SETLIST : Pillars Of Eternity, Lifer, Temptation’s Wings, Rehab, Hail To The Thief, Hand Of Doom, Underneath Everything, Stone The Crow, Ice Monkey, Losing All, Swan Song, Eyes Of The South, Jail, Bury Me In Smoke
Though I was disappointed to only catch the first of two shows that PJ Harvey did the night before at the Warfield, I was lucky to catch Down when I did. This was one of only 13 shows that the supergroup played that tour and I wouldn’t see them again until twelve years later. The memory of Phil Anselmo and Pantera ripping the Warfield a new asshole was still fresh in my mind from the year before and I’m sure the security people at the Fillmore were nervous that night. No apples in the Fillmore’s apple barrel that night, for sure. But thankfully, Down’s music was a touch slower and sludgier than Pantera’s keeping the mosh pit to a level that was manageable.
Down had released a few demos, but their first album, “NOLA”, (a popular acronym for ‘New Orleans, Louisiana’, where Phil and most the other bandmates hailed from), had only been released ten days before this show, so the material was brand new to most everybody there. It was a fun show and there’s something refreshing about hearing a new band playing live for the first time, sight unseen. Like Pantera, Down were proponents of marijuana, which was welcome back in those early days of the legalization movement. They even had a song called, “Hail To The Leaf”. It was helpful to have a band out there that was smoking herb besides hippies, rastas, and Cypress Hill.
Unfortunately, around that time, Phil was battling addiction to heroin and alcohol as well, in part because of an attempt to alleviate pain he was suffering from a back injury. It was starting to get him into trouble and he even mentioned between songs that night that he was on parole, though I never found out what for. He’d suffer an overdose a year later that made him flatline for a few minutes and it would take him over a decade an further rehabilitation with back surgery for him to ultimately get clean. But one wouldn’t have guessed that he was in such a state watching him on stage that night. He was cracking jokes and amongst friends, even pointing out Chuck Billy from Exodus in the audience. Phil was swearing up a storm that night though, making fun of hippies and such at the Fillmore.
Hemp Expo ’95: Trulio Disgracious, Weapon Of Choice, Golden Gate Park Bandshell, SF, Sat., September 30, 1995
As previously mentioned with Down and Cypress Hill, the marijuana legalization movement was just starting to get some traction. Having popular music acts on board helped change public opinion which in turn helped more musical acts “come out” as it were. Ultimately, with such respected artists like Willie Nelson on board, folks in the red states are just starting to see the light. But even in 2017, when I’m writing this, it’s clear that there’s a long way to go.
But listening to this tape reminds me what humble beginnings that the movement started with. The bay area was still struggling to keep what few medical marijuana places afloat. Guys like Dennis Peron and Ed Rosenthal busted their asses and got shook down countless times by the man to get where we are today. Ed spoke that day between acts and circulated in the crowd, gathering signatures for his petition to send to Sacramento for legalization. He needed to get 600,000 and was trying to get folks to pledge to get 100 signatures each and maybe get some money for the cause. With some effort, he even got the crowd chanting, “Legal Marijuana!” Stoners are hard to motivate. Believe me, I know, for I am one of them.
Weapon Of Choice were their usual funky self and it was always a pleasure to see Spankie dancing and singing along. That lady was sexy as hell. Trulio Disgracias was a supergroup from folks mostly from the Los Angeles area with a rotating cast of characters so various, the list of former members is a mile long. One guy I knew on stage was Norwood Fisher, the bassist from Fishbone, who played the Hemp Expo the year before. I was only to see this group this one time and even then I had to bail after only a couple songs, due to the fact that I had to make it to Warfield that night to usher KMFDM.
KMFDM, Korn, God Lives Underwater, War., SF, Sat., September 30, 1995
I bailed early from the Hemp Expo in Golden Gate Park and made it in time to usher that night. This is one of those rare days where I saw a “matinee show” early in the day and still made it to catch a show that night. I had done it the year before after the Hemp Expo to haul ass out to Berkeley to see Soundgarden at the Greek. Like that day, there was quite a dichotomy between musical styles and patrons for each of the shows, making it a well rounded day.
I liked God Lives Underwater and am sorry to say that this was the only time I got to see them. They had talent. Korn was already starting to get too big for their britches as an opening act. I imagine at least as many people there that night were there to see them as were to see KMFDM. This would be the last time I’d see them as an opening act at a non-festival show. Unfortunately, the batteries on my tape deck started running out during the end of their set, which made “Faget” sound funny, like Jonathan Davis was singing after breathing helium. I changed batteries between sets and the recording sounded normal afterwards.
I knew KMFDM, like so many bands back then, only from the video they showed on “Beavis & Butthead”, which in their case was “A Drug Against War” from the album, “Angst”. They were touring on their new album, “Nihil”, which would prove to be the most successful in their career. Tina, the head usher, during the usher meeting before the show joked that KMFDM stood for “Kill Motherfuckin’ Depeche Mode”. Funny as it was, it was the band that actually started that popular misconception, as a private joke to screw with journalists and fans who didn’t know German. Their name actually stands for, ”Kein Merheit Fur Die Mitleid”, which translates into their native German loosely as “No Pity For The Majority”, though literally translates as “No Majority For The Pity”. Take your pick.
This was a golden age for industrial music and they had just relocated to Seattle after spending the last few years in Chicago during that crucial “Wax Trax!” period where so many of their contemporaries like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and the Revolting Cocks, were also on the rise. Their new single, “Juke Joint Jezebel”, even made it on the soundtracks to the movies, “Bad Boys” and “Mortal Kombat”. Both of those soundtracks also went platinum. Like their Chicago contemporaries, I enjoyed industrial music back then and am disappointed that there aren’t as many newer acts around today that emulate that sound. It was a heavy, dark, and welcome antidote to the hippie dippy scene I experienced early that day at the Hemp Expo. The band has changed line ups, played in side projects, and still tours, but this would be the only time I’d see them to date. Glad I got to check them out when they were on top.
The Neville Brothers, Taj Mahal, War., SF, Tues., October 3, 1995
SETLIST : Congo, Mojo, Hoochie Coo, Betcha By Golly – Heaven – Clave, No Woman No Cry, Use Me Up, Don’t Know Much, Don’t Go Please Stay, I Know, My Brother Jake, Can’t Stop My Heart, Nature Boy, Fire On The Mountain, Ain’t No Sunshine, Born Under A Bad Sign
I was seeing a lot of the Neville’s back then, between seeing the brothers and the Funky Meters, Taj Mahal too. This show was a complete reversal from the heavy industrial scene I saw with KMFDM only a few days before at the Warfield. Such abrupt style changes in my musical viewings help me keep an open mind.
Speaking of keeping an open mind, Taj Mahal, renowned blues expert, had started branching out to different musical styles himself, releasing “Mumtaz Mahal” with Indian musicians N. Ravikiran and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt that year. He was solo that night and kept to his bluesy stuff, but his prolific career would continue and he’d finally get a Grammy two years later for his “Senor Blues” album. I love his song, “Big Legged Women”, a perfect companion piece to “Baby Got Back”.
The Neville’s were their super smooth selves that night, playing their hits and a respectable covers of “No Woman, No Cry” and “Fire On The Mountain”.“Don’t Know Much” has to be one of the most seductive songs ever sung. How many kids were conceived to that song, the world may never know. I hung out with a couple other ushers on the dance floor after we were cut and you can hear on the tape the telltale flicking of a lighter a few times that night. I always had to hold the mic with one of my hands when I smoked herb, having only two hands naturally.
311, Phunk Junkeez, 1000 Mona Lisas, Fill., SF, Thur., October 5, 1995
SETLIST : Don’t Stay Home, Lucky, Freak Out, Misdirected Hostility, A.D.H., NVT, Taiyed, T & P Combo, Welcome, Jacko, Omaha Stylee, Do You Right, Random, Silver, All Mixed Up, N.P., Applied Science, 8:16 AM, Unity, Hydro, Hive
I’d seen 311 months before playing at Bottom Of The Hill at the encouragement of my flatmate Kevin at the time. I don’t know how Kevin had heard of them, but he had never recommended a show before and I thought it polite to humor him and go along. That was the last show I saw at Bottom Of The Hill before they rebuilt the stage making it twice as large and relocated the bathrooms that used to be behind it. The previous stage was so small that the singers couldn’t move anywhere on stage, only bopping around the upper half of their bodies.
I was impressed with their sound, and though they borrowed liberally from other rap rock acts like the Beasties, Chilis, and Rage, they were at least taking a page from bands that I liked. But unlike the others, these guys could sing and I mean with real harmonies. It was also notable that they were from Nebraska, a state not normally associated with producing music as heavy as theirs, which I assume was a welcome relief to the kids out there. Folks in the bay area forget how lucky we are with the diverse music scene out here. The release of their third album, the self titled “311”, that July clearly was a hit and they were now headlining the Fillmore. I remember playing some of the album to my friend Tory and he got hooked on them too.
The Phunk Junkees were opening that night and I liked them very much, having seen them that June playing on the second stage at BFD. Little did I know they were brawling behind the scenes back then. K-Tel, the singer, was fighting with other members frequently, inspiring 311 to write the song, “Misdirected Hostility”. He’d eventually get kicked out the band and I never saw them again.
311 played a tight set that night and I could tell they were on the up and up. They had a lot of energy, their fans loved them, and when the singles, “Down” and “All Mixed Up”, were released the next year, they were selling platinum and I’d have to see them at larger venues from then on. Stephen Bradley, the trumpet/keyboard player from No Doubt was in the audience that night and they dedicated the song, “Random”, to him. Nick, the singer, pointed out that with the three acts on the tour, there were “17 guys traveling with shaved heads a not one racist among us”. I got the setlist from the stage that night, but there was no poster.
Buffalo Tom, Jennifer Trynin, The Inbreds, Fill., SF, Wed., October 11, 1995
SETLIST : Souvenir, Sodajerk, Kitchen Door, Treehouse, Summer, I’m Allowed, Torch Singer, At Night, Tangerine, Sundress, Mineral, Velvet Roof, Clobbered
I wasn’t too committed to this show having not heard any of the bands, but I enjoyed it all the same. The tapes came out good, but otherwise I don’t have much to report from that night. I thought Jennifer Trynin who was the second act on the bill was pretty good. I had made a habit whenever a radio station had a table doing promotion at a show, that I’d fill out one of their little forms and maybe I’d score something from them, though up till then I had gotten diddly squat. But that year, KFOG actually came through and mailed me a stack of CDs which included Jennifer Trynin’s album, “Cockamamie”. Though I wasn’t a big enough fan to keep it, I sent it off to my cousin Dawn for Christmas and she liked it.
Soul Asylum, Radiohead, The Nixons, War., SF, October 12, 1995
This was Radiohead’s show and everybody knew it. Even I knew that this would be the last time I’d see this band as an opening act. I had seen them open for Belly in 1993 at the Warfield as well, but for some inexplicable reason, I didn’t tape it. Being a Belly fan also, that disappoints me, but I do remember being impressed with Radiohead that night, knowing instinctually that they were more than just that band that sang, “Creep”.
“Beavis & Butthead” liked that song and they did them the courtesy of reviewing the video to their new single, “Fake Plastic Trees”. Beavis pointed out Thom Yorke’s resemblance to Ed Grimley, a character of Martin Short. Their second album, “The Bends” had only come out that March and I loved it. I know everybody is horny for “OK Computer”, but I will always consider it their best work. Even though it was only a modest commercial hit, the quality of its songs were undeniably excellent. Something about “Fake Plastic Trees” always gets me misty. I think it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Pity they only got to play five songs that night, but they obviously went on to play longer shows at much, much bigger venues.
The talent of Soul Asylum will always be tainted in my mind by my intense jealousy of Dave Pirner sleeping with Winona Ryder. Back then, I would have lived and died by her command and I thought it was the height of injustice that she would shack up with a singer of a band that wasn’t at least one of my favorites. If she was banging Les Claypool, I could let that go, but my fury was quadrupled when I heard that she also hooked up with Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, a band I despise. At least she had the good taste to date Johnny Depp for a while.
Anyway, lets put aside my obsession with Miss Ryder for now. She’ll pop up again in a couple years when I bumped into her at the Fillmore during a Tom Petty concert. Figures that I would bump into her there since Soul Asylum and the Counting Crows clearly took a page from Tom. I guess Winona likes that kind of music. This would be the last time I’d see Soul Asylum and don’t get me wrong, they can play. “Runaway Train” and “Somebody To Shove” are a catchy songs and I don’t mean them any specific harm. I saw them once before playing at the Greek in 1993, opening for the Spin Doctors with Screaming Trees at the cringe inducing titled, “MTV Alternative Nation” tour.
I know why I didn’t tape that day. The Greek had pretty strict security and I didn’t want them to throw away my tape deck or banish me from the show, especially since I’d have to schlep it back all the way to San Francisco from Berkeley alone. Security would always pat down the small of the back,so I had to come up with something that would get by them. I devised a makeshift harness out of tie line that would hoist and hold in place the deck between my shoulder blades, a spot they hardly ever touched, but the rig gave me a suspicious hump on my back that only got me past the gate about half the time. I eventually learned I could get away with it by putting the tape deck right on my genitals. Nine times out of ten, they wouldn’t go there and if they did, most of the time they were too embarrassed to say anything. It’s gross, I know. But the tapes were worth it to me.
Dance Hall Crashers, No Use For A Name, AFI, Fill., SF, Fri., October 13, 1995
SETLIST : My Problem, Queen For A Day, Enough, Go, Othello, Shelley, Truly Comfortable, Sticky, Pick Up Lines, Nuisance, Flyin’, Good For Nothin’, Java Junkie, Don’t Wanna Behave, So Sue Us, Skinhead BBQ, We Owe, He Wants Me Back, DHC
It had been about two years since my brother quit the Dance Hall Crashers to pursue other interests. Alex has always had the habit of letting go of jobs after two or three years to take on others, which on the downside made his professional life turbulent, but on the upside has given him an astounding set of skills over the years. The Crashers had just released the album, “Lockjaw”, less than eight weeks before this show and it was clear that it was to be their most successful album to date. This had to have been understandably frustrating to Alex considering the time and effort he had put into playing with the band, but at the same time gratifying to see his friends doing well.
The Crashers had replaced Alex with a fellow named Mikey Weiss and this being the first time seeing the Crashers without my brother, I couldn’t help but looking at Mikey like he was the proverbial red headed stepchild. I’ve said before that the Crashers had an impressive list of ex-members. Even the line up that night had no founding members. Mikey could play well. I’ll give him that and I’m sure he was a nice guy, though we’ve never been formally introduced. I couldn’t help but notice the not so subtle differences between his and my brother’s style. Mikey was more of slapper like Flea or Les Claypool while Alex was more of a lead player like Geddy Lee or John Entwistle. That, coupled with the fact that the band was playing without horns, emphasized the reality that the Crashers were a different band than the one I remembered. They had moved on, but I was still nostalgic as I’m sure other ex-members in the audience that night were.
This show had an impressive couple of opening bands. AFI was brand spanking new then, having just released their debut album, “Answer That And Stay Fashionable”, that Fourth of July. It had been co-produced by none other than Tim Armstrong, founding member of the Crashers and who had just hit the jackpot with his his new band, Rancid. I was impressed with AFI, especially since they were just kids then. The lead singer, Davey Havok, was just shy of his twentieth birthday at this show. Though they went on to stardom and certainly set a trend with punks dressing like Cure fans, back then they were just kids in tee shirts and jeans. I had no idea that they were originally from Ukiah, a town way up north past the wine country where my parents had recently purchased land and were building a ranch. Ukiah struck me as a place like Humboldt, more akin to hippies and rednecks, than AFI’s sound, but they showed me that there are notable exceptions to the rule.
Second up was No Use For A Name, a band I enjoyed and continued to enjoy when I saw them later down the road. They were a good pairing with the Crashers and one of those bands that turned up on Warped tour and other festivals all the time. I actually was beginning to wonder what had happened to them recently as my progress in writing was leading up to this show and I hadn’t heard of them touring in years. I was saddened to discover that their lead singer/guitarist, Tony Sly, had inexplicably passed away in his sleep in 2012 at the young age of 41. It’s a pity. That band had talent and were frankly underrated.
Nostalgic as I was for the good old days, I was pleased to see the Crashers pack the Fillmore and be amongst all their friends and family. Indeed, this show was a crowning achievement. They played great deal from the new album. Their single “Enough”, the third song in the set, was put on the soundtrack for the film, “Angus” the next year. Shame on me that I’ve still haven’t seen it. Though it was a kids movie, it still had impressive cast, including George C. Scott, Kathy Bates, Rita Moreno, and James Van Der Beek. The video for “Enough” got some play on MTV too. But the Crashers did dust off eight golden oldies at that show and I’m glad the first one in that set was “Othello”, a song written by Alex. It’s not just favoritism that I think it’s still one of their best songs.
I felt a little awkward bootlegging the show that night, considering my history video taping them, but my feeling was amplified exponentially when they came back for their encore. Karina asked the crowd who out there knew the lyrics to “He Wants Me Back” and I totally froze. Back in 1992, I was actually in the music video for the song that was used as a college school project for a friend of the band. Alex had called me in a pinch to play the trumpet player in the band since they were between horn players and I still had my old beat up trumpet from school. We shot the video on Ocean Beach in San Francisco one afternoon and for one split second Alex and I considered the possibility of my joining the band when I managed to play to him the opening notes to their song, “DHC”. Honestly, I was just winging it, but he smiled and laughed, “We just found our new horn player”. I appreciated the sentiment, but shined him on all the same.
Our footage got cut between a vignette of my brothers girlfriend, Tiffany, acting out a series of scenes of her first getting dumped, then moving on, and spurning her former lover when he comes to beg forgiveness, as the lyrics of the song clearly outline. When we watched the finished video, Alex and the band pointed out that I was playing along on my trumpet to parts where they said there wasn’t any playing, but I swore I could hear a quiet underlying horn part subtly accentuating the key changes in the song. It drove me crazy, but hell, it was their song and they undoubtably knew what was going on when it was recorded, so it would have been foolish to insist I was right. Perhaps I subconsciously heard it in my head, thinking that it should have been there, though it wasn’t. Regardless, it is of little concern. Like I said, the video was for a student’s class project and has since disappeared.
Back to the show, there I was, stunned after Karina had made her offer to bring fans up on stage. Though I had heard the lyrics to that song dozens of times the day we recorded that video, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a single line except for chorus. That, coupled with the fear of my being discovered holding my mic recording the show clandestinely, left me frozen in place for the song. While a group of gleeful fans got on stage and sang along, one by one, the lyrics came back to me, and I felt utterly ashamed of myself. Most of the kids on stage were only singing along to the chorus anyway, making me feel even more like an idiot. I’ll carry this one to my grave.
That moment aside, I was glad I went. The Crashers were in good form that night and I liked their new sound as well as hearing the new songs live for the first time. I think you can guess how I felt about the fact that the Fillmore didn’t have a poster that night. The feelings my brother and I felt at that time were tempered ultimately by the fact that the Crashers more or less maintained the level of popularity they had achieved during the “Lockjaw” years. Though the band would split, move on to other projects, and have families, whenever I mention the band’s name to people I meet now, practically every time, they are recognized and are praised.
Terence Trent D’Arby, Jezebelle, Fill., SF, Sat., October 14, 1995
This was my fourth show in a row that week. I still had a lot of energy back then. Though I had mild interest in seeing Mr. D’Arby, I was thrilled to see Jezebelle opening that night. As luck would have it, the a cappella group of ladies had none other than Karina Denike of the Dance Hall Crashers as a member. I’d just seen the Crashers play there the night before and still felt bad for not jumping on stage with the other fans to sing “He Wants Me Back” during their encore.
I’d seen Karina sing with Jezebelle before back when the were called the Sirens. They had to change their name since another band had already laid claim to the name which was a pity, since it was a perfect name for them, though Jezebelle was almost as good. Indeed, the beauty of their voices could easily lead any man to crash his ship on the rocks. They were air tight rhythmically and had soul, big time. I had the pleasure of mixing them live once at an event at S.F. State, where I’d just started working at the student union’s tech services company there, only a few months before and loved their show. I would pan their voices around from the right to left speakers and they brought the house down.
I was pleasantly surprised that Karina and her fellow singers seemed overjoyed to see me when I showed up to usher that night and I ran into them up in the poster room. Seriously, I was overwhelmed. They made me feel like I’d just rescued them from a desert island or something and I was on cloud nine, like the luckiest man on Earth. At that point, I was like, “Terence Trent who?…” Anyway, they sang perfectly as always and the crowd received them warmly.
Terence did a fine job that night, though I was unfamiliar with his music. He had recently cut off his trademark mini-dreads and had died his buzz cut blonde. His female fans didn’t mind one bit, judging by the screaming between his songs. Unfortunately, this would be the last time I’d see either him or Jezebelle, though thankfully, I’d see Karina sing in other projects for years to come.
Elastica, Loud Lucy, Fill., SF, Wed., October 18, 1995
SETLIST : Spaz (Spaztica), Line Up, Annie, Car Song, Gloria, Hold Me Now, Rock & Roll Is Dead, 2 : 1, See That Animal, I Want You, Smile, S.O.F.T., Connection, Blue, Vaseline
Though Elastica was only around for a short while, I did get to see them four times, three times in 1995 alone. By this show, I was pretty familiar with their stuff which was easy considering they only had one album. Their self-titled debut just released that March was the fastest selling debut album in UK history and held that title for over ten years, eventually broken by the Arctic Monkeys in 2006. Justine Frischman was still dating Damon Albarn of Blur at the time and he played keyboards on that album under the alias, Damon Abnormal. Granted, they stole a lot of their stuff from the Stranglers and Wire, but the lawsuits were settled out of court.
The great shining memory of this show that stays with me to this day was seeing Justine up in the poster room sitting with her bandmates eating dinner before the show. Every time I saw her perform, she wore tight, low cut, black trousers and when she leaned forward in her chair, there it was. One can only describe her butt crack as “heavenly”. To be serious, I thought she was attractive, but I wasn’t totally floored by her. But when I saw, as Ali G phrased it, her “batty crease”, I could hear angels singing Handel’s “Hallelujah”. I will carry the vision of her plumber’s butt to my grave. I waited until they were done eating and discreetly asked for their autographs. Justine even signed hers with a little heart on the side. (Sigh…)
(A-hem!) But I digress. Yes, the show… Umm… Oh yeah, they were good. Like I said, I was familiar with their material now and I appreciated that they had good tunes other than their hit, “Connected”. I especially liked “Line Up” and “2:1”. Justine had the habit back then of saying, “Cheers!”, between songs. But like most English rock shows, it was short and sweet, playing just a hair over an hour. Not entirely their fault of coarse, since like I stated before, they only had one album. I was able to snag the setlist and they had a really nice poster that night too. Alas, they would only tour one more time in 2000 and that was it.
The Jayhawks, Tarnation, Blue Mountain, Fill., SF, Fri., October 20, 1995
SETLIST : Pray For Me, I’d Run Away, Shots, King Of Kings, Ten Little Kids, Two Hearts, I Still Miss Someone, Nevada, Blue, Baltimore, Waiting, Miss William’s Guitar, Settled, Red Song, Bad Time
This was a good time for the alternative country movement. The Jayhawks had been around since the 80’s but their efforts had been rewarded with the success of their previous album, “Hollywood Town Hall”, released on American records. They were touring non stop this year, promoting their latest album, “Tomorrow The Green Grass”, and been opening for Tom Petty, as well as touring along side Soul Asylum and Wilco. By this time though, the pressure had gotten to singer/guitarist Mark Olson and he left the band, playing his last show with them only eight days later in Dayton, Ohio.
Relinquishing to the pressure of their tour was understandable enough, but the fact that his then-wife, singer/songwriter Victoria Williams, had been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, made continuing with the band too much to bear. Victoria had been following them around on tour, singing with them from time to time, but I didn’t hear her that night or know if she was even in the house. However, they did play “Miss William’s Guitar”, a love song in tribute to her, as they did regularly during that tour. Mark and Victoria would go on to marry and play in their band, The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdrippers, but they would divorce in 2006 and didn’t play together again. Though Mark rejoined the band in 2008 and toured for a few years, I only saw them play briefly at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in 2011, and I had stopped taping by then. So, I was lucky to catch this show when I did.
I liked the openers a lot that night, especially Tarnation. I’d seen Paula Frazer in her punk band, Frightwig, and Tarnation’s sweet country sound was a testament to her talent and dynamics as a songwriter. Tarnation would disband a few years later and this would be the last time I’d see them, but Paula still lives in the bay area and plays in various musical endeavors. The Jayhawks played a cover of “I Still Miss Some One”, by Johnny Cash, who had been recently signed to American himself. Too bad they didn’t give out a poster that night.
David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Prick, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat., October 21, 1995
NINE INCH NAILS : Terrible Lie, March Of The Pigs, The Becoming, Sanctified, Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now), Burn, Closer, Wish, Gave Up Down In It, Eraser, (with David Bowie), Scary Monsters, Reptile, Hallo Spaceboy, Hurt
DAVID BOWIE : Look Back In Anger, I’m Deranged, The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty), I Have Never Been To Oxford Town, Outside, Andy Warhol, Breaking Glass, The Man Who Sold The World, We Prick You, A Small Plot Of Land, Nite Flights, Under pressure, Teenage Wildlife, Strangers When We Meet
At long last, I was to see David Bowie. It was a long time coming and though I knew his big hits, I knew little more than the average kid my age, having really heard his stuff first from the “Let’s Dance” album. Time and again, I missed my chance to see him. The Glass Spider tour in 1987 never came to the bay area, neither when he toured with the Tin Machine project. The Sound & Vision tour in 1990 happened when I was traveling in Europe right after I graduated from high school. Bowie did perform at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert while I was in London in 1992, but I didn’t have a prayer in hell in getting a ticket to that show, so this was really my first real crack at seeing him. Frankly, at this time, I was more a fan of his acting from such films as “Labyrinth” and “The Last Temptation Of Christ”.
Shoreline wasn’t my first pick of venues to Bowie, or any one for that matter, but beggars can’t be choosers. My friend Tory came along with me to the show and we were up on the lawn. We watched Prick open the show. The frontman, Kevin McMahon, was a friend of Trent Reznor, who also helped produce and mix their debut album which had just come out that January. I’d seen them at the Sextacy Ball at the Warfield that July with The Lords Of Acid and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, but this would be the last time I’d ever see them. They had a falling out with Interscope records who refused to back their second album, and though they finally got it done by 2002, they broke up shortly after that.
Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails were still riding high off “The Downward Spiral” album and I was happy that Bowie had chose them as their opening act. They had released a remix album called “Further Down The Spiral” that year but wouldn’t release another album until “The Fragile” four years later. That show they did play “Burn Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)” from the remix album as well as “Gave Up”, which had been previously unrecorded. Despite his success, Trent was hitting a rough patch personally. I mean, he always seemed like a Gloomy Gus, but he was hitting drugs and the bottle hard during these years, particularly due to the death of his grandmother who had raised him. He’d eventually get rehab in 2001 and has been clean since, though he remains a Gloomy Gus. Melancholy notwithstanding, their music complimented the industrial sound of Bowie’s new album, “Outside”. Reznor would actually play Bowie’s stalker in the music video for “I’m Afraid Of Americans”, a track originally written during the recording of “Outside”, but ultimately released two years later for the soundtrack of the movie, “Showgirls”.
Their collaboration on this tour had them do something that I had never seen before at a live show or ever since, which considering how many shows I have under my belt, is kind of a big deal. After a dozen songs, Bowie joined Nine Inch Nails on stage and they did four songs together, two of Bowie’s, “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and “Hallo Spaceboy”, and two of Nails’, “Reptile” and “Hurt”. To have a headliner join an opening act on stage is not unusual, but what happened was when they finished “Hurt”, Nine Inch Nails left the stage and Bowie’s band came on, continuing the show without missing a beat. It was seamless, really.
I had bought the “Outside” album the weekend it was released less than a month before this show. Like a lot of Bowie’s work, he was ahead of his time and I, like some of his critics, didn’t grow to appreciate the genius of his work until years later. Yes, philistine as I am, some of the songs grew on me after I heard them in movies, such as “Heart’s Filthy Lesson” in the movie, “Se7en”, “I’ve Never Been To Oxford Town” in “Starship Troopers”, and “I’m Degranged” in “Lost Highway”. Still, it was nice to hear a couple old classics, especially “The Man Who Sold The World”, that had been recently made a hit again from the freshly deceased Kurt Cobain. It had been a year and half, but Kurt’s death still stung a bit.
Even from the distance of seeing Bowie up on the lawn at Shoreline, I was blown away. Very few artists can command a stage like he did so effortlessly. I was lucky to see him two years later up close at the Warfield and I often site those shows as my favorites of all time, but I’ll get to those later. I made a point to see David every single time he played the bay area up until his death, God rest his soul. He was worth it. He was one of those artists that one can go around the world, mention his name, and you’d get a nod and smile. Honestly, off the top of my head, only Bob Marley comes to mind as another artist that has that power. To this day, I firmly believe that if you don’t like Bowie, you’ve either never heard him or you have something seriously wrong with you.
Charlie Hunter Quartet, Elbo Room, SF, Wed., October 25, 1995
Well, this was it for Charlie. He had finally made a name for himself and the word was out. Even though it was a wednesday, the Elbo Room was packed that night and was stuffy as hell, as it always is when it’s packed. It had only been six months since I’d see the old Trio for the last time there, and Charlie had moved on from Les Claypool’s Prawn Song records to the big time in jazz, signing to Blue Note. Though Jay Lane and Dave Ellis were recorded on the new album, “Bing, Bing Bing!”, Jay had moved on tour with Ratdog and though Dave was playing that night, he would soon follow Jay playing with the Grateful Dead people.
Scott Amendola was on drums that night and if anybody should play with Charlie other than Jay, it was Scott. He would go on to play with Charlie for years in several different line ups, including T.J. Kirk. Dave was on tenor sax and there was another fellow on alto sax, but I didn’t catch his name. Charlie introduced the show saying the first song was the only song “ever written in 1/4 time”, called it what sounded like a “reverse polka”, though I can’t be entirely sure that was what he said, and that it “was great to dance to”.
About four songs in, it was clear that the band needed to play a larger venue. It was too hot and crowded, and all the ambient conversation was annoying Charlie. He said he was going to play a song that was “a slower song that requires less talking” and that they “worked all week on this” and didn’t want the crowd to “hurt their feelings and make us cry”. He was joking in his usual deadpan humor, but part of him was serious too. It didn’t help and the crowd pretty much stayed at the same level.
Yes, Charlie was finally too big for the Elbo Room. He’d eventually move to New York City, but would visit and play in the bay area all the time and always around Christmas. Dave Lefkowitz would continue to manage him and I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie once when he visited his office while I interned there that year and I found him a very charming fellow. I even was tasked to take his passport down to the Australian consulate in town to get a visa for him in preparation for his tour there. Turns out Charlie’s real first name is Edward.
Bridge School Benefit ’95: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Hootie & The Blowfish, The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris & Daniel Lanois, Beck, Neil Young, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat., October 28, 1995
NEIL YOUNG : Comes A Time, The Needle & The Damage Done, Heart Of Gold
BECK : Pay No Mind (Snoozer), Sleeping Bag, John Hardy, Hollow Log, One Foot In The Grave, Rowboat, Asshole, It’s All In Your Mind
EMMYLOU HARRIS & DANIEL LANOIS : Orphan Girl, May This Be Love, Sweet Old World, You Don’t Miss Your Water, How Far Am I From The Kingdom, The Maker
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN : Seeds, Adam Raised A Cain, Sinoloa Cowboys, Point Blank, I Don’t Want No More Of This Army Life, This Hard Land, The Ghost Of Tom Joad, Down By The River, Rockin’ In The Free World
THE PRETENDERS : Sense Of Purpose, Back On The Chain Gang, Private Life, Kid, 2000 Miles, Hymn To Her, The Needle & The Damage Done, Brass In Pocket
HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH : Hold My Hand, Running From An Angel, Fool, Before The Heartache Rolls In, Let It Breathe, When I’m Lonely, Be The One
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE : Pocahantes, Look Out For My Love, Cortez The Killer, Powderfinger, Tonight’s The Night, Rockin’ In The Free World
Bridge School was a regular thing for me now. The line ups are hard to beat and I made a point to catch as many as I could until Neil pulled the plug after 2016. Obviously, the big fish caught on the bill this year was the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Though I wasn’t a big fan, I appreciated his stature and contribution to rock and roll history. But the hoopla was grimly overshadowed by the death of Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon only the week before the show. He and the band were slated to play on the bill and things were looking on the up and up for Mr. Hoon. He had just become a father and Blind Melon’s second album, “Soup”, had just been released that August. I’d seen Blind Melon open for Neil at Shoreline in 1993 when Neil was touring with Booker T & The MGs and hearing their set, I was impressed with the beautiful quality of his voice as well as the band’s songwriting talent. Hoon was at the cusp of shaking off the shackles of being a one hit wonder from that “No Rain” song too, adding insult to fatal injury. Neil opened the show as always playing solo and dedicated “The Needle & The Damage Done” to him. That compounded by the death of Kurt Cobain a year and half since nevertheless also still stung a bit. That sentiment was literally doubled when The Pretenders played the song as well during their set later.
On a lighter note, I was happy to see Beck on the bill, having been impressed with his set at Lollapalooza that year. He was solo acoustic this time and though he didn’t play any new tunes from the upcoming “Odelay” album, he did beautiful renditions of “Rowboat”, “Hollow Log”, and “It’s All In Your Mind”. That last tune made it onto the Bridge School Benefit album, Volume 1. I did scold a lady who was dissing on Beck during his set to what I presume was her daughter. It was quiet since Beck was playing solo, so I couldn’t help but overhear her saying how much she thought he sucked, which I simply replied, “Not everybody here feels the same as you.” She shut up after that.
Emmylou and Daniel were next and they kept the mellow mood going, playing a very moving cover of “The Maker”. They definitely added some real folk street creed to the show. But people went nuts when Bruce came out after, hooting, “BRUUUUUCE!”, which almost sounded like booing. The crowd was already worked up over the Atlanta Braves winning the series that night, which was announced before Bruce came out. There was even a wisecrack about their name, since they were playing the Cleveland Indians and the controversy over the racist connotations of the names was getting particular attention that year.
I know time was limited for the Boss and I wasn’t expecting to hear a four hour set which he had a reputation for playing with the E-Street Band, but all we got were nine songs. Bruce’s newest album, “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” wouldn’t be released for another month, but he played the title song and “Sinaloa Cowboys”. Neil Young came out for the last two, joking that Bruce didn’t know any more songs, so they’d play a couple of his and they went on to do “Down By The River” and “Rockin’ In The Free World”. The comic relief helped assuage our disappointment.
Though I’d seen The Pretenders before, once at the BFD and once at the Warfield the year before, I have to say, they were tight that night. They even were brought back for an encore, playing “Brass In Pocket”, a feat I don’t believe ever achieved by a middle act at Bridge School before or since. As good as they were, I have to admit I was miffed about it since Bruce didn’t get one. They did the usual raffle drawing and the band everybody loved to hate, Hootie & The Blowfish, were up next. I have nothing personally against them, despite the blandness of their music. Darius came off as a nice and humble fellow. The fact that he was playing with such superior musicians wasn’t lost on him and he even made a joke about it, citing the Sesame Street bit about, “which one is not like the other?” Three years later, I would see the metal band Soulfly at Maritime Hall and seared into my brain will forever be Max Cavalera screaming, “Fuck MTV!!! Fuck Hootie & The Blowfish!!!” Every time I think of Hootie, his growling condemnation rings in my ears. This Bridge School would be the only time I’d see them and unfortunately the only time I’d see Bruce as well.
Rounding out the night was Neil again playing with Crazy Horse. I have seen Mr. Young in a few other incarnations, but playing with these guys I believe is the best way to see him, even more than with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. They only played six songs, but they were long ones, especially “Cortez The Killer”. The encore brought up folks on stage from the bill, but Bruce wasn’t one of them and they played “Rockin’ In The Free World”, that Neil had played earlier with Bruce anyway. I think this was the only time I’d ever seen a Bridge School where two of Neil’s songs were played twice in the same night.
Bjork, Goldie, War., SF, Fri., November 3, 1995
Bjork, Goldie, War., SF, Sat., November 4, 1995
(Nov. 3) Army Of Me, Modern Things, Human Behavior, Isobel, Venus As A Boy, Possibly Maybe, I Go Humble, Anchor Song, Hyperballad, Enjoy, I Miss You, Crying, Violently Happy, It’s Oh So Quiet, Big Time Sensuality
(Nov. 4) Headphones, Army Of Me, Modern Things, Human Behavior, Isobel, Venus As A Boy, Possibly Maybe, I Go Humble, Anchor Song, Hyperballad, Enjoy, I Miss You, Crying, Violently Happy, Big Time Sensuality
Bjork was riding high with the release of her second solo album “Post” that June, especially with the big hit single, “Army Of Me”. The video,directed by Michel Gondry who also did the one for “Human Behavior” in 1993, was all over MTV. That weekend I was to get a double dose of the Icelandic banshee. Opening that night was drum and bass pioneer, Goldie. He had only just released his debut album, “Timeless”, that September. I was unaware of it at the time, but apparently he and Bjork were dating and even were briefly engaged.
Both nights, Bjork filled the Warfield with that bafflingly powerful voice of hers. I swear, it’s always the little guys like her and Maynard from Tool, who can produce such an ear splitting tidal wave of sound from their diminutive lungs. Like Maynard as well, Bjork didn’t suffer fools lightly. Later on the worldwide tour of that album, she beat the shit out of some reporter who was pestering her and her young son at the Bangkok airport. The footage of that beat down must of freaked out some of her fans, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was delighted by it.
For the encore, she opened with the new song, which is to say it was actually an old song, the cover of “It’s Oh So Quiet”, originally done by Betty Hutton in 1951. Frank Sinatra also did a version of it too. The music video directed by Spike Jonze would be released a few weeks later and was a big hit too. She closed the encore with a stopped down version of “Big Time Sensuality”, done with just her and the keyboard player. Alas, though both shows were sold out, there was no poster given out.
Belly, Catherine Wheel, Jewel, Fill., SF, Mon., November 6, 1995
BELLY : Now They’ll Sleep, Angel, Untitled & Unsung, Feed The Tree, Superconnected, Slow Dog, Gepetto, Lilith, Low Red Moon, Dusted
CATHERINE WHEEL : Texture, Crank, The Nude, Heal, Eat My Dust (You Insensitive Fuck), Shocking, Pain, Judy, Waydown, Touch You, Mary, Black Metallic
I would not meet my beloved wife until sixteen years after this show, but I was happy to hear in one of our countless conversations that she caught Belly and Catherine Wheel play on this tour when they swung by Ann Arbor, Michigan the month before this show. Emily said she was a big Belly fan and would listen to the cassettes of their two albums, “Star” and “King”, in her car over and over again. This is important because every fellow who is as obsessed with music about as much as I am knows that your spouse’s musical taste could be a deal breaker. Thank God she has good taste. If she liked Train, I might still be single today.
Anyway, back to the show at hand. Opening that day was the ever-present Jewel. That year, she was showing up like a bad penny and this was my third time seeing her in less than seven months. As you can imagine, I was all too familiar with her music by then, but I wasn’t sick of her. I still liked Jewel and really, it was hard not to. She was sweet and her set was short regardless. Yep, just her and her acoustic guitar as usual and her mellow sound made ushering not very difficult.
I had seen Catherine Wheel that June at the BFD show at Shoreline, coincidentally with Belly also on that bill, and I liked them too. I’d bought their 1993 album, “Chrome”, and they were promoting their new album, “Happy Days”, which had been released that June. Tonya Donelly of Belly even leant her backing vocals to the chorus of “Judy Staring At The Sun” on that album and we were lucky to have her come out on stage to sing along when Catherine Wheel played it at this show. She joined in as singing back ups for the chorus of their new single, “Waydown” as well. That one had made it on “Beavis & Butthead” and the band was at the top of their game. I’d get to see them on more time at the Great American two years later, but they disbanded shortly after in 2000.
I’d seen Belly so much in those past couple years that I’d taken them for granted. It turned out that since “King” didn’t sell as well as expected and I’m sure for other personal reasons, that she’d disband Belly shortly after this show and moved on to other projects. Pity that there wasn’t a poster from the Fillmore that night. I know I say it often, but I truly am happy that I saw them when I did. I would have to wait until 2016, over twenty years later to see their reunion tour. I can gladly report that, yes, I did take my wife to their show at the Great American and the poster from that show now hangs in a frame in our bedroom.
Sonic Youth, The Amps, Bikini Kill, War., SF, Tues., November 7, 1995
Sonic Youth, The Amps, Bikini Kill, War., SF, Wed., November 8, 1995
THE AMPS : First Revival, Pacer, I Am Decided, Breaking The Split Screen Barrier, Mom’s Drunk, Empty Glasses, Bragging Party, Full On Idle, She’s A Girl, Tipp City
SONIC YOUTH : Tom Violence, Crown Cotton, (I Got A) Catholic Block, Bull In The Heather, Becuz, Washing Machine, Junkie’s Promise, Saucer Like, White Cross XX, Eric’s Trip, Diamond Sea, (encore), Skink, Expressway
THE AMPS : First Revival, Pacer, I Am Decided, Breaking The Split Screen Barrier, Mom’s Drunk, Empty Glasses, Hoverin’, Bragging Party, Full On Idle, She’s A Girl, Tipp City
SONIC YOUTH : Teenage Riot, Schizophrenia, Pacific Coast Highway, 100%, Becuz, Washing Machine, No Queen Blues, Bull In The Heather, Starfield Road, Skip Tracer, Candle, Diamond Sea, (encore), Junkie’s Promise, Mote
Good heavens, that was a busy week for a November. I was seeing six shows in seven days. By the end of these shows, I’d have seen Sonic Youth five times in only six months. There are very few bands that I could see that many times in such a short period where I wouldn’t be totally sick of them, but fortunately Sonic Youth wasn’t one of them. They had by then already amassed an impressive repertoire since their formation in 1981. I loved the new album, “Washing Machine” and as each show passed, I was getting more and more familiar with their previous work. Like Bjork, who I saw twice at the Warfield only a few days before, seeing both shows allowed me to really absorb their talent.
Before the shows started, I was pleasantly surprised that the front of house sound engineer was playing Stereolab. As you have read, I was very, VERY big into them at that time and continue to be so, but the guy was playing an album that I hadn’t heard before. I had been scouring record shops ever since I’d returned from London in 1992, picking every single album, EP, and single I could lay may fingers on. He told me it was a collection of B-sides and I was ultimately able to find it later, an album called, “Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2)”.
I’d seen Bikini Kill once before opening for the Go-Go’s the year before at the Warfield and was very impressed. Whether Kathleen Hanna liked it or not, she was the de facto leader of the so-called “Riot Grrrl” movement at the time, a title she tried to avoid, fearing media misrepresentation. But she had no fear of her critics or detractors these nights. She and the band tore it up and I and the crowds loved it. Little did I know that these shows would be the last times I’d see Bikini Kill, since they broke up two years after, though Kathleen would go on to other projects like Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin.
This was the very short period where Kim Deal was playing with the Amps, a name derived from her then current alias, Tammy Ampersand. Her sister Kelly had been busted for drugs in November of 1994 and the Breeders were exhausted anyway from nonstop touring. Kim had brought along drummer Jim Macpherson and they had just released their one and only album, “Pacer”, the month before these shows. The sound was looser and grittier than the Breeders other stuff, but it was a welcome addition to Kim’s catalogue of songs, though the album had received mixed reviews. I liked the new material, especially “Bragging Party” and “Pacer”. Kim dedicated “Empty Glasses” to Kathleen Hanna on the second night. Thankfully, Kim would go on to play those songs and others from the Amps when she reformed the Breeders later.
It was nice to hear Sonic Youth play longer sets than I had heard them do earlier in the year, first opening for R.E.M., a set only a half hour long, then playing Lollapalooza, sets just a hair over an hour. They covered a good amount of material both days, about only the half the songs shared on both days. Kim Deal had sung on the song “Little Trouble Girl” on the “Washing Machine” album, but they didn’t play it either night sadly, but other than that, no complaints. I was able to snag the set lists from both days from the sound man I’d befriended earlier talking about Stereolab. The lists were unique in that they had columns running along side the songs listing what instruments Thurston, Kim, and Lee were playing, as well as hand written notes, presumably written by the engineer. I was able to get the set lists for the Amps as well and a great poster was given out both nights.
Morphine, The Mermen, War., SF, Thur., November 9, 1995
SETLIST : Good, Free Now, Honey White, Poetry, Whisper, Potion, Gone For Good, Every Night Around 11 O’ Clock I Go Out, Super Sex, I Know You Too, Shame, Free Love, Cure For Pain, Thursday, The Saddest Song, Buena, Radar, Ballad, Starting From Scratch
It had only been six months since Morphine played the Fillmore and they had already graduated to the Warfield. Their new single, “Honey White”, was a hit and was the second video to make it onto “Beavis & Butthead”. To get more than one of their songs roasted on that show was a badge of honor for them, or any band for that matter. Their music was quickly growing on me as it had the rest of the world. Morphine had the good fortune to become popular during a period where society was becoming more bohemian, partially because of the impact of the movie, “Pulp Fiction”. Some folks called it “heroin chic” and though nobody really sounded quite like Morphine, their music seemed to be a perfect soundtrack to the fashion at the time. I’ve always felt that the definition of cool was to be affordable as well as classy, a delicate balance that this band walked with seeming effortlessness. They were so cool, one felt cooler just listening to them.
The Mermen were a good opener as they always were, but they were an especially appropriate fit opening for Morphine. The crowd was polite, easy to usher, and remarkably well dressed. Listening to the tapes now, I’m proud how well the sound came out. This is in no small part to the high quality of the musicians playing, but also to the skill of the sound people. Bands that play this sharp are easier to mix regardless, since they were only a three piece, but they were rock steady. The tapes came out so good, they borderline almost being commercially viable, though I’d never sell them. As spectacular as the show was, there was no poster given out that night unfortunately.
The Steve Miller Blues Band, Kenny Neal & Martin Simpson, Fill., SF, Fri., November 10, 1995
I had seen Mr. Miller only once before during the Good Road concert at the Shoreline in 1992 and was only aware of his pop hits of the 70’s at that time. I had the good fortune to have read Bill Graham’s autobiography around the time of this show and learned of Steve’s illustrious past learning to play the blues when he was only just getting out of his teens in Chicago during the early 60s. If there ever was a city and time to learn the blues, he nailed it, playing along side such legends as Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Howlin’ Wolf. People like my former self who only knew his top 40 hits couldn’t appreciate just how long he’d been paying his dues before he hit the big time.
Equally as well timed is the rise of the Fillmore and its affinity of booking blues acts along side their hippies. Steve christened his first band as The Steve Miller Blues Band before abbreviating it to just The Steve Miller Band. So, there I was at the Fillmore seeing him play the blues all night on that very stage, just shy of thirty years since their inception. I was still young and dumb, but I did have an inkling of the significance to what I was witnessing. It was indeed a master class in the blues. Hearing him play old blues standards like “Little Red Rooster” gave me a glimpse into the Fillmore’s past, one rarely given with such clarity. The tapes didn’t come out as well as they had for Morphine the night before, but I still had a good time and they at least had a poster. It was quite a run of shows, six in seven days, but Miller was good one to end it on.
Groove Theory, D’Angelo, Stepchild, Fill., SF, Thur., November 16, 1995
This was a unique show because the headliner actually went on second to last. That only happens when one sees one of those godawful gargantuan corporate events like Oracle, where all the “suits” have to head back to the hotel to get their fucking beauty sleep. But that wasn’t the case this time. Groove Theory was late getting in and despite a lengthy wait after the opening act, Stepchild, they decided to go on with the show and let D’Angelo take the stage.
D’Angelo was brand new then, having just released his debut album, “Brown Sugar”, that Fourth Of July. It was getting good reviews and his star was definitely on the rise, making the album hit platinum by the following summer. He clearly was a part of a new wave of soul artists hitting the scene around that time, like The Fugees, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu. Credit where credit’s sue, he had talent, a silky smooth voice, and was a handsome fellow. He was still quite a young man back then, two years younger than I was, having just turned 21 and the ladies went nuts for him that night.
Groove Theory finally made it to the Fillmore and the venue was gracious enough to let them perform anyway. But as you might imagine, most of the crowd evacuated after D’Angelo’s set, having heard who they really came to see that night. They apologized profusely for their tardiness and their lack of soundcheck and played some cool soulful numbers before my tape ran out. I only had space for a couple of their songs. Still, some folks stuck around to hear them out and I regret that I didn’t bring an extra cassette and since there wasn’t a poster to be given out at the end of the night as well, I wasn’t one of them. They broke up in 2000 and I wasn’t to see them again. D’Angelo took a long hiatus before releasing another album as well and I haven’t seen him since either.
The one real persistent memory that remains with me from that show was who I ran into on my way out of the Fillmore that night. While waiting for the 22-Fillmore MUNI bus to pick me up outside, none other than Dave Lefkowitz, Primus’ manager who I had been then interning for, passed me by. He was dumbfounded to hear about D’Angelo going on earlier, having strategically shown up late to skip the opening acts. Disappointed, he went home. There’s a lesson to be learned there to all my friends who get on my case for my insistence on showing up on time to see all the acts of a show. Not only are you getting your money’s worth, but it prevents missing out on such rare whoopsie-daisies such as this one. Besides, I’ve always said, “What if the singer from the opening act ends up some day shooting the President?”
Matthew Sweet, 3-LB Thrill, Popgun, Fill., SF, Sat., November 18, 1995
MATTHEW SWEET : Superdeformed, I’ve Been Waiting, Ugly Truth, Not When I Need It, Evangeline, We’re The Same, Trigger, Walk Out, Divine, I Almost Forgot, Superbaby, Girlfriend, Sick Of Myself, (encore), Smog Moon, Knowing People, Looking At The Sun
3-LB THRILL : Bad – Born, Jeff’s – Collide, Coffin, Drama
I appreciated Mr. Sweet’s talent, but never was a big fan. Nonetheless, I was seeing as many shows as I could back then, especially at the Fillmore. The band Popgun had been added to the bill and they brought with them quite a gimmick. They had made these party favors with the logo, shaped as a cardboard gun. When one held it in their hand up high and quickly pulled it through the air downward, a fold in the barrel of the cardboard gun would snap open, catching the air and made a popping sound. As you can imagine, everyone who had one of these things was doing just that. Even the stage manager, Dave Rep, did it when he introduced them. The novelty wore off eventually after they were done, but I kept my little “popgun” as a momento, though I have since misplaced it.
3-LB Thrill from Atlanta, Georgia were next up and though I liked them, I never saw them again. They have the rare distinction of being one of those bands whose name began with a number, thus being one of the first in my alphabetical list of bands I’ve seen. Matthew Sweet played a respectable set that night and although this would be the last time I’d see him perform live and remain unaroused by his music, I do give him props for being a member of the band that plays with Mike Meyers in the interludes for the Austin Powers movies. Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles was also a member and he went on to record the “Under The Covers, Volumes 1-3” albums with her. Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a nice guy and I actually do like his cover of the theme of “Scooby-Doo” that he did for the “Saturday Morning : Cartoons Greatest Hits” album. Pity he didn’t play that one that night.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Charlie Hunter Quartet,Fill., SF, Wed., November 22, 1995
As a San Franciscan, it was easy for me to forget that there were other acid jazz people out there. We’re not on an island out here, but a peninsula is three quarters of an island. Medeski, Martin, & Wood had been making a name for themselves out in New York City and had recently then made a well timed career move to open for Phish, whose star was quickly rising filling the hippie power vacuum left from the death of Jerry Garcia. Charlie Hunter would benefit in the long run as well getting fans from the jam band circuit, especially since he’d release the “Natty Dread” album a couple years later, covering the famous Bob Marley album in his indelible style.
In a sort of homage to Charlie, I originally labeled this show as he and the quartet as the headliner. That was partially because of my extreme bias towards him, my indifference to Medeski, Markin, & Wood whom I knew nothing about, but also because I had planned to leave early that night anyway and not record much of them. Down the road at the Covered Wagon Saloon, my friend Jennifer’s band, See Jane Run, was playing and I was determined to catch them. As you might have gathered from reading hopefully everything up till now, that it was unusual for me to leave a show early under any circumstance, but I had a bit of an unrequited crush on Jennifer back then and I wanted to show my support.
Like I said, Charlie was my main reason for me being there anyway. He and his new quartet had just played the Elbo Room less than a month beforehand and I was eager to see them play the Fillmore, a venue in days of yore before Bill Graham had showcased many jazz musicians of note. Certainly, the Fillmore was in dire need of jazz to help bolster its tradition of eclectic line ups. I was glad to see that they managed to get a respectable amount of people in the house that night, and they were much more attentive and well mannered than the folks at the last show at the Elbo Room. This show made me feel better about Charlie moving on to bigger and better things. He absolutely earned it.
By the time Medeski, Martin, & Wood got on the stage, the clock had already run out for me. I regret only staying around for two of their songs, but a promise was a promise and you all know by now how I detest being late to anything. What little I heard made a good impression and I made sure to stick around to the bitter end the next time I got to see them perform, as luck would have it on precisely the same day one year later on the very same stage. I could tell instantly that these guys had some serious musical training and even at their young age then, had clocked in some years together. Lord knows, the world needs more talent like theirs to counter the endless barrage of mediocrity permeating popular music.
See Jane Run, CW Saloon, SF, Wed., November 22, 1995
SETLIST : Train, Something About Hope, Sally’s Blue, Shore, In August, Pangea, Vein, Silently Sanctioned, Sick In The Head, La-Dee-Da
A quick recap from the previous entry, I had hauled ass from the Medeski, Martin, and Wood show at the Fillmore to just catch the very beginning of See Jane Run. I’d never seen a show at the Covered Wagon, so I was additionally anxious to just find the place. Thankfully, there wasn’t much else around there at its location south of Market, so it was easy to spot. I was still studying audio production at SF State back then and my friend and fellow broadcasting student, Jennifer Daunt, was playing guitar for See Jane Run. Jennifer was beautiful, very talented, and nice to me, so horny as I was back then, it was understandable that I wanted to be in her good graces. She never took interest in me that way, but I was OK with that. I respected her and I had suspected that she was batting for the other team anyway, though I never saw her date anybody, male or female. I can’t help but wonder where she is today.
When I arrived, I ran into another student, who I believe was named Brian. I remember working with him briefly at SF State’s Student Union at Tech Services and he knew I was recording. I had said, “Welcome to the Covered Wagon!” into the mic and he jokingly yelled in, “Nick’s a poser!” I wasn’t offended. Compared to his and Jennifer’s talent back then, I was. I remember that we three jammed together at a practice recording session at school and I knew I was completely out of their league musically. I tried to keep up, but I will never forget the expression on our teacher, John Barsotti’s face, smiling like a Cheshire cat, knowing full well just how bad I was. That experience was humbling and further solidified my intention to never perform music professionally. I remember Bryan had band himself, called Whoa Nelly, and they were pretty good. On our mixing of that recording session, I thought it would be funny to add some heavy industrial effects on the drums and we’d call our band, Nine Inch Nelly. It made him smile at least.
But as Robert Morely once said, “You don’t need to lay an egg to smell a bad one.” And I can say with confidence that See Jane Run was a good egg. They were one of those many bands that I would see in life that certainly deserved to be bigger than they got.Yes, See Jane Run quickly disappeared and I am grateful I got to see them this one time. Poor Jennifer broke a guitar sting two songs into the set and had to continue with only five, but listening to the tape, you wouldn’t have noticed. I got a kick out of hearing the juxtaposition of their riot grrrl sound after hearing the sophisticated acid jazz of Charlie Hunter and Medeski, Martin, & Wood. The Covered Wagon was the polar opposite of the Fillmore as well, small as broom closet, hot as an oven, and punk as hell. I remember the singer of See Jane Run was a wild one, cracking jokes between songs. She asked before the song “Pangea” if anybody else had a mosquito bite on their tit and said it fucking sucked. They had good songs, especially, “Silently Sanctioned”, a powerful lament to a girl’s mother who allowed her to be molested. Listening to their set, I miss that band. I hope Jennifer and the others are doing well.
Shane McGowan & The Popes, 16 Horsepower, Fill., SF, Fri., November 24, 1995
SETLIST : Streams Of Whiskey, Donegal Express, If I Should Fall From Grace, Nancy Whiskey, The Gentleman Soldier, Green Land, Dirty Old Town, Instrumental, Cracklin’, The Body Of An American, The Broad Majestic Shannon, Roddy McCorley, The Church Of The Holy Spook, Dark Street, Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn, Dog, The Boys From County Hell, My Baby’s Gone, Sayonara, Bottle Of Smoke
Though I saw The Pogues the year before at the Warfield, they were minus one Mr. Shane MacGowan. By 1988, Shane was on the skids with drugs and booze, not showing up to gigs and such, so the band replaced him with venerable Joe Strummer of The Clash in 1991. I was sorry to miss that show since I was on a road trip going across the country then, though my brother was lucky enough to catch it. But Shane pulled himself away from the bottle long enough to put a new band together, record an album, and tour, so I was pleased that I’d finally get to see this drunk wanker.
Opening were 16 Horsepower, a band who’d only just released their first EP less than three weeks before this show. I could see why they were on the up and up so fast. They made a great first impression and they also got the endorsement from Chris Charuki, the front of house sound guy, that night, whose favor wasn’t given out often. When some drunk shouted out, “You suck!”, between songs, he quickly and furiously countered, “Shut the fuck up!” Seriously, you know a band is worth its salt when the sound guy likes you, especially a veteran like Charuki. Alas, I never saw 16 Horsepower again, but I do own the CD for “Black Soul Choir”, the single from their first LP, “Sackcloth ’n’ Ashes”, they’d go on to release in 1996.
Shane eventually shambled onto stage and the band got started. It was obvious that he’d been drinking and it seemed that the microphone stand was probably the only thing keeping him on his feet. Still, it worked. The stand was a sort of crutch to this Irishman, a wise drunk in pub belting out slurred, but poetic ramblings. God only knows what he was saying between songs, but for the songs themselves, he didn’t really have any trouble keeping time or remembering lyrics. It reminded me of folks with severe stutters who can enunciate perfectly if they sang the words instead of speaking.
In any case, Shane was in good company that night amongst the many drunks at the Fillmore that night. The bar must have made a fortune. I had a couple pints of Sierra Nevada myself after I and the other ushers were let go and joined in the revelry. It was easy to have fun listening to this kind of music, the kind of music that makes you feel drunk even if you’re sober as a judge. Shane’s solo songs were good and we were treated to a healthy handful of Pogues songs as well like “Streams Of Whiskey” and “The Boys From County Hell”. They had a great poster that night too. Though I’d see Shane with the Popes again at the Fillmore in 2000 and 2001, I’d have to wait until 2007 to see him sing once again with The Pogues, clean and sober at long last.
Blues Traveler, Jono Manson, War., SF, Sun., November 26, 1995
SETLIST : (Set 1) Dropping Some NYC, Save His Soul, Stand, Spinning Spiraling Machine, Freedom, Escaping, Wang Dang Doodle, Out Of My Hands, Mulling It Over, But Anyway, (Set 2) 100 Years, Sweet Pain, Circle Of Rings, Warmer Days, Mother Funker, The Poignant & Epic Saga Of Featherhead & Lucky Lack, Hook, Jabberwock, Brother John, (encore) Love Of My Life
I’d been seeing Blues Traveler a lot back then, four times in less than a year and half, so I was pretty familiar with their stuff by this show. Even my Uncle Bud out in Buffalo liked them and he is a good judge of real blues music. My buddy Jeff Pollard was a big fan and I’m pretty sure either he and/or his brother Mike were at that show as well. It was a long night since they chose to do two sets that night and ushers had to work through the Jono Mansen, the opener, Blues Traveler’s first set, the set break, then the first couple songs of the second set.
I guess the band had been picking up some of the wandering Grateful Dead refugees like so many other so-called jam bands back then. Further evidence was presented halfway through the first set when the band dusted off Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle”, a song frequently covered by the Dead. Still, they did a respectable job of it as I expected from a band of their skill and talent and that goes for the rest of their set as well. Listening to the tapes now, it still is mind boggling to me how John Popper can play harmonica like that. No one can play quicker while still enunciating each note as crystal clear as he can.
A band as skilled playing live was bound to put out a live album eventually, so I was relieved to see that their sound guy had placed audience mics out that night. Like the Dead, they were allowing their fans to tape their shows and there was a handful of folks on the floor level, set up with their portable recording gear, in a section taped off just for them. The songs recorded by the band on that tour would eventually be mixed down and put into the live double album, “Live From The Fall”, though the liner notes didn’t mention where any of the songs on the album were recorded specifically.
Fishbone, The Brownies, Janitors Against Apartheid, The Edge, Palo Alto, Mon., November 27, 1995
SETLIST : Party At Ground Zero, Give It Up, If I Was… I’d, Another Generation, Unyielding Conditioning, Love / Hate, If I Was… I’d, I Wish I Had A Date, Cholly, Question Of Life, Housework, Ma & Pa, Lyin’ Ass Bitch, If I Was… I’d, Deep, The Warmth Of Your Breath, (poem), Beer Gut, Post Card
Fishbone was hitting a rough patch around this time. They were rather abruptly dropped from Sony Records just as they were reaching their peak in popularity. Perhaps the legal trouble with the so-called attempted kidnapping of guitarist Kendall Jones by John Norwood Fisher, the bass player, when Kendall flipped his lid and joined a religious cult, made the executives at Sony nervous. Maybe it was them losing their keyboardist Christopher Dowd as well or maybe they just didn’t like their new material or a combination of all those things. I don’t know.
But like most Fishbone fans at the time, I was oblivious and determined to see them any chance I could get, even if it meant having to drive all the way to Palo Alto. As I always said before, the Edge was difficult to locate and their security was hilariously heavy handed, but they brought great people there and I liked the size and sound system of the place. Alas, I believe that Bad Religion, who I saw a year later there, was the last show I saw at that venue before it finally closed in 2000.
Fishbone usually had good people opening for them and Janitors Against Apartheid were one of them. Apart from having a hysterically funny name, they had a lot of energy and were rock steady. I’m sure the thought of changing their name after the then recent fall of apartheid in South Africa crossed their minds, but like I said, it was a great name. I’d seen the Brownies before opening for Skankin’ Pickle at the Edge, back when I was following the Pickle around making my video documentary for them. I ran into the lead singer from the Borwnies after their set and introduced myself to him again and I was happy that he remembered me. He was a funny guy and the Brownies had talent and added touch of thrash to their ska sound. They played a rowdy version of Henri Mancini’s, “A Shot In The Dark” that night.
Though Fishbone wouldn’t release “Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge” for another six months, the fans were treated to a couple new songs during that show, “Love… Hate” and “Beergut”. The band gave a fun set as always and Angelo did his share of stage diving and crowd floating. I would have savored the show more if I knew how long it would be until I would see them again. It would fourteen years later until I would catch them opening for Living Colour at the Regency in 2009, the last complete year I was still bootlegging. I really can’t say why it took so long for me to see them again, but I was ashamed it took that long.
The Robert Cray Band, Keb Mo, War., SF, Fri., December 1, 1995
SETLIST : Smoking Gun, Moan, I’ll Go On, I Shiver, Right Next Door (Because Of Me), Enough For Me, Jealous Love, Little Boy Pig, Where Do I Go From Here, Tell The Landlord, The Last Time (I Get Burned Like This), Phone Booth, Holdin’ On
Robert Cray was one of those names in music that carried respect from other musicians, though wasn’t the kind of music all the kids were going crazy for, you know, the MTV people. His music carried a certain maturity to it, not snobbish like some “quiet storm” jazz crap or inaccessible like some math rock, but a very clean, well produced version of the blues. His blues credentials were well established by then, playing alongside notables like Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, and Buddy Guy. This was music for grown ups and I mean that in the best possible way.
Likewise, Keb Mo was one who could described similarly, and we were lucky enough to have him on the bill opening that show. I’d seen him that February opening for Joe Cocker also at the Warfield and once again it was just him and his slide guitar. It wasn’t long before he had the crowd moving and clapping along, an impressive feat for any solo artist playing such a large house. This was the first of a three day stint and the emcee came out and announced that the second show was going to be recorded on saturday to be broadcast to over 60 cities and there was still tickets for the sunday show. It’s not often you get a three day run at the Warfield or Fillmore. Most of the time it’s just two.
I was relieved to get cut from ushering after Robert Cray started. The blues crowd are notorious for their voracious drinking and the lines at the bar were making it difficult to keep my aisle clear. I was even happier after I had a couple beers myself and joined in the crowd. It was obvious to me from the start that Cray was a real pro as was his band. This was a fellah who had been touring for twenty years by then and all his Grammys were well deserved. Unfortunately, my mic was starting to give out during that show and really cut in and out in the middle of the set between “Enough For Me” and “Little Boy Big”. This was the only time I saw Cray, but he’s still around today and I might get my chance again some day. Pity there was no poster, an unpleasant surprise considering he was doing a three day run.
Chris Isaak, The Wallflowers, War., SF, Fri., December 8, 1995
SETLIST : You Owe Me, Beautiful Homes, I Believe, Goin’ Nowhere, Changed Your Mind, Somebody’s Cryin’, Western Stars, Two Hearts, Wicked Game, Go Walking Down There, Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing, Spanish Sky, Put Out Your Hand, Diddley, Blue Darling, Harlem Nocturne, Blue Hotel, Lie To Me
My sister Erica ushered with me that night which was a rare occasion. Girls like Mr. Isaak. He is handsome, talented, and excruciatingly vulnerable. I mean, most of his songs are about him getting his heart stomped on in some way. As a man, I find it difficult to believe a guy with that much money, talent, and good looks would have any trouble in the romance department. I have similar complaints about Gwen Stefani. But hell, such maudlin sentiment hasn’t harmed their careers much, so who am I to criticize?
This would be the first time I’d see The Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan’s band. They’d been around for a few years, playing clubs in LA, but I thought they were brand new and like most folks that night, we were cynically thinking that they got to where they were because of Jakob’s famous dad, Bob Dylan. Though nepotism festers in almost every corner of the entertainment industry, we were all quickly proven wrong concerning the merits of The Wallflowers as a band. They could play well and wrote catchy songs. Their second album, “Bringing Down The Horse”, would be released for another year, but they did play “The Difference” from that album, and my cynicism was assuaged.
I’d only seen Chris at Shoreline before, playing at BFD, so it was nice to finally see him up close at the Warfield. He was a local boy made good too, originally from Stockton, but lurking around Haight street venues like the Nightbreak and the I-Beam before he hit the big leagues. He had played the San Jose Event Center the night before, a venue at least twice the capacity of the Warfield. His set was longer than the truncated festival length set he was given at BFD, but the performance was mostly the same. I could tell that he was a perfectionist in his music, reflected clearly by his fashion sense, meticulous outfits, hair, and such. Speaking of reflection, he came out for the encore in a suit made entirely out of mirror pieces which lit up like a human mirror ball when the spotlight hit it. He and the band put on a tight show and it was easy to love this guy. Being a big David Lynch fan too, I appreciated Lynch’s endorsement, putting “Wicked Game” in the “Wild At Heart” soundtrack and giving him a part in “Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me”.
A consummate showman, Mr. Isaak stuck around after the show ended to sign autographs at the merchandise booth. That is something that hardly any headliner at a show does. In fact, the only act I can think of apart from Chris who did that was Penn & Teller. My sister and I got in line, but realized that we had nothing for him to sign. In an act of desperation, Erica had her sign her passport. Chris obliged her, though I’m pretty sure his signing it broke a law of some sort, though I don’t know which law specifically. I had nothing to sign, but being star struck to the core, I not only shook his hand when I thanked him for the show, but I KISSED it! Yes, it was merely an impulsive sign of respect for true rock & roll royalty, but it being San Francisco, could have been easily interpreted as romantic in nature. Chris smiled, cocked his head slightly, shrugged, and continued to sign autographs for the rest of the fans. Embarrassed, I walked out of the Warfield with Erica, still tasting a modicum of salt from the sweat of his hand. I suppose if I was gay, I could do worse than hooking up with Mr. Isaak.
Robben Ford & The Blue Line, Shannon Worrell, Angela Strehli & The Soul Drivers, Fill., SF, Sat., December 9, 1995
SETLIST : Running Out, When I Leave, Chevrolet, Love Never Dies, Philly Blues, Strong Will Survive, Misunderstood, Good Thing, Start It Up, Sun Catch You Cryin’, Help The Poor
I had no idea who Robben Ford was, but I knew he played the blues. The Fillmore is a great place to hear any style of music, but considering it illustrious history with blues musicians, I made a point to hear blues music any chance I was afforded there. I would learn later that Robben had learned to play at very young age and collaborated with a laundry list of diverse artists, ranging from Miles Davis to Kiss. But tonight was his show, playing with his own band, The Blue Line.
Opening that night was blues veteran Angela Strehli, a Texas transplant to the bay area like myself. She and her band, The Soul Drivers, had a lot of energy and got the crowd warmed up for Mr. Ford. I was very impressed with Robben’s talent. He was one of those rare individuals who could shred on lead guitar and sing. Really, it’s rarer than you might think to find somebody who can do that. Only a handful of people like Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Jerry Garcia,or Billy Corgan come to mind.
It’s even rarer when one can sing as well as Robben too. I’d see him years later playing with Phil Lesh & Friends and his voice was a welcome addition to band as well as his axe. The show at the Fillmore that night wasn’t that well sold, but it was comfortable, feeling more like a party than a concert. Pity, my microphone started breaking up for a song or two, though I managed to get most of the show intact.
George Thorogood & The Destroyers, 2 Lane Blacktop, War., SF, Tue., December 12, 1995
Everybody knew George from his hit, “Bad To The Bone”, immortalized for nerds like me in “Terminator 2 : Judgment Day”, but few could appreciate the effort he made to get to where he did by the time I finally saw him at the Warfield. Indeed, there aren’t many people who had toured as extensively as he did starting from the early 70’s. I wouldn’t have guessed he was from Delaware either, knowing most blues guys stereotypically either came from Chicago or the South.
2 Lane Blacktop opened that night, their name taken from a cult film of the 70’s starring Warren Oates and a very young James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. I assumed they changed the name from “Two” to “2” for legal purposes, though I did discover there was another band called Two Lane Blacktop from New Zealand, though they didn’t form until 2001. The opener was a fun act, a little goofy. They had a song I could never forget that had a chorus about a girl who “had everything you want, she had pork and beans”. Strange how some song lyrics stick in your head forever, while I can see other more successful acts like Queens Of The Stone Age and can’t retain a single line, no matter how much I like them.
George, like many blues acts, was an exceptionally good act to get drunk to and the lines at the bars that night reflected that. With songs like “I Drink Alone” and the immortal blues drinking song, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, Mr. Thorogood’s music certainly was the soundtrack to many a future hangover. But his music was all about getting wasted. He covered a couple other blues tunes of note, “Who Do You Love” and “The Sky Is Crying”, and also Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place To Go”. I appreciated his song, “Get A Haircut”, a reassurance to all those struggling in the business of live music that with a little persistence, one can make a living at it, have a good time, and keep their long hair.
Mr. Bungle, Melt Banana, Fill., SF, Mon., December 18
This one is really frustrating to me because I couldn’t locate the discs for this show. They’ll probably turn up when I scour through other boxes in the future and if and when it does, I’ll be sure to come back and fill in any blanks. Not that I don’t remember anything from this show, I do. In fact, I write most of the information from these shows by memory alone, but listening to the discs while I write will occasionally jar loose a memory or tow.
One thing I definitely remember from this show was seeing Melt Banana for the first time. They were brand new to folks in America, this being their first tour here. They had just released their album, “Scratch Or Stitch” produced by Steve Albini. There are few acts that can illicit that “What the fuck kind of music is this?” response in me, but after about ten seconds into their first song, I was transfixed. Yasuko Unuki is one of those singers like Maynard from Tool or Dio that is diminutive in stature, but gargantuan in voice. How this blithe slip of a woman can belt out those atomic powerful yelps for a whole set is beyond me. She always wears this long sleeve white shirt that bears a striking resemblance to an untied straightjacket. Truly, the music of Melt Banana is the kind of stuff that could be used to drive somebody insane if listen to in excess at a sufficient volume. I was hooked and I made sure to see them whenever I could in the future. I still haven’t heard music quite like theirs from anybody since.
I dare say, at least for me, that they stole a bit of Bungle’s thunder that night, but they still did a great set. They had just released their second album, “Disco Volante” and it was a testament to their talent, diversity, and lunacy. At the time, I thought Bungle was a side project for Mike Patton, but he actually started Bungle first all the way back to 1985 when he lived in Eureka. He joined Faith No More as their singer in ’88 shortly after I saw them with Chuck, their original singer, opening for the Chili Peppers in December of ’87. That was probably one of the last times Chuck played with Faith No More, at least in the bay area.
Anyway, I had seen Bungle one time before opening for Primus during their first New Year’s show in 1992-93 and I did have their first album, but the only song I knew for certain that they played was “Travolta”. On The other hand, I can remember with absolute clarity how they ended their encore. Mike Patton, god bless him, must be the bane of all monitor engineers everywhere, for he subjected the crowd to a symphony of feedback that went on for at least twenty minutes. It certainly felt like eternity, but I and most of the others stuck through it to the end. I had to stay to the end anyway to get the poster, which was cartoonish and rudimentary, but bizarre enough to be appropriate for a Mr. Bungle show.
Cypress Hill, Call O’ Da Wild, Fill., SF, Wed., December 20, 1995
SETLIST : Make A Move, Hand On The Pump, Killa Hill, I Wanna Get High – Stoned Is The Way – Hole In The Head, Stoned Raiders, Red Light, Lick A Shot, Wild Style, Let It Rain, How I Could Just Kill A Man, Insane In The Brain, Roll It Up, Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That, Throw Your Set In The Air, No Rest For The Wicked
Cypress Hill clearly was too big for the Fillmore by this time, so we were spoiled to see them in such a small venue. They were in no small part responsible for the acceptance of marijuana in mainstream culture, definitely more than any musical act I can think of. Bear in mind, that the legalization movement was still in its infancy and Proposition 215 wouldn’t even pass in California until a year later, making California to be the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. It would take another goddamn twenty years to pass it for recreational use.
Though one wouldn’t have guessed at all that it was illegal there that night. My friend John was in the crowd, a man notorious for his weed consumption, and the joints were being passed around so much, that I found it hard to keep up. I have had many a stoned evening, but that one had to be in the top three. There was no need for a fog machine on stage that night, I mean, it was downright cloudy in the house. Marijuana aside, there was music to go along with the smoking and Cypress Hill was in fine form.
They had just released their third album, “Cypress Hill III : Temples Of Boom” that Halloween and I was just getting to know the new songs, hearing them live for the first time that night. During the encore break, B-Real took an opportunity to dis Ice Cube. Apparently, the band let Ice Cube hear a few songs from their new album and ripped off one of their songs. At first I thought it was just Cube using the title “Wicked” from Cypress Hill’s song, “No Rest For The Wicked”, which seemed like not a big deal considering the sings were pretty different stylistically. But Cube actually used the same sample from “Throw Your Set In The Air” a song used in the Ice Cube movie, “Friday”, for “Wicked”. To me, it still seemed like a mountain out of a mole hill, but B-Real and the rest of Cypress Hill it was a declaration of war.
B-Real went on talking about how after Cube ripped him off, Cube called him at three in the morning wondering why B-Real was dissing him and when B-Real confronted him about all the stuff he was ripping off, Cube just hemmed and hawed. During the whole speech, they played congas in the background, occasionally cutting in a DJ sample of “BITCH!” He ended his dissing tirade by declaring that, ”You can always be real, but ice melts away.”
It’s always a pity when two musical acts that I like butt heads, like Blur and Oasis, or Tupac and Biggie, but in show business, I suppose it is inevitable. Cypress Hill would continue to make albums and play big venues, but Cube would do less and less with his music as the years went on and focus more on his acting career. One would hope after all these years, that they have put this behind them by now, but who knows? At least I got a good Fillmore poster that night. I never got a poster for any Ice Cube show.
Joe Satrioni, Rollover, Fill., SF, Thur., December 28, 1995
SETLIST : Cool #9, Flying In A Blue Dream, Summer Song, Ice 9, Luminous Flesh Giants, The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing, If, (Guitar Solo), The Extremist, Moroccan Sunset, (Drum Solo), (You’re) My World, Always With Me Always With You, (Bass Solo), Killer Bee Bop, Memories, Down Down Down, (encore), Satch Boogie, Big Bad Moon, (encore), Surfing With The Alien, S.M.F.
I’d seen Mr. Satrioni only one time before, playing at the San Jose Event Center, and that was the last time I’d see him with hair. Yes, Joe finally accepted his impending baldness and shaved the whole nut. Joe was promoting his newest album, simply called, “Joe Satrioni”. His image on the cover still had him having hair and since the album was only released a month prior, I assumed that the shave happened recently. Bald is a good look for him and I’m sure on some level, ditching it all was a relief and a time saver. As a bald guy myself, I know, and I identify with the man even more now because of it. Did I mention we share the same birthday?
If anything, his lack of hair only helped accentuate his face and as I’ve mentioned before, Joe has the most intense facial expressions of anybody in rock & roll when he’s performing. It’s a miracle that his eyes haven’t shot out of his head like champagne corks by now. That night’s show was tight as he always plays, not a not out of place. It was nice to see him at a small place for the first time and get an up close inspection of his lightning fast finger picking and the aforementioned facial expressions. This was the last Fillmore show before New Year’s Eve too and I was officially on my last winter break before starting my last semester at college, so it felt good to blow off some steam there.
Primus, Tool, Everclear, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Sun., December 31, 1995
PRIMUS : John The Fisherman, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, Professor Nutbutter’s House Of Treats, Mrs. Blaileen, Del Davis Tree Farm, Toys Go Winding Down, Pudding Time, De Anza Jig, Nature Boy, Hello Skinny, (Drum Solo), Over The Electric Grapevine, (Bob Cock Countdown), My Name Is Mud, Eleven, Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver, (encore), Southbound Pachyderm, Here Come The Bastards, Tommy The Cat
TOOL : Stinkfist, Bottom, Pushit, Sober, H., Prison Sex, Aenima, Eulogy
I can scarcely think of a show more revered in my long list of shows to end this year and this segment of my writing project on than this one. Oh yeah, this one was truly for the ages. I was smack dab in the middle of my internship with Primus’ management and I had comp tickets to the show as well as backstage passes for me and my friend Tory. We were to meet my other friend Eric there and he was going to be our ride back to the city, and though he couldn’t join us backstage after the show, he graciously said he’d hang out in the parking lot until we came out later.
Opening that night was Everclear and it was my first time seeing them. It was early and the Coliseum is a huge place, so they played to only a couple thousand people, but they played well. There was something, I don’t know, rather conservative about their music, but their songs were catchy. Indeed, once you hear “Santa Monica”, that one sticks in your head for life.
But the big elephant in the Coliseum that night was Tool who were fast on Primus’ heels as the band to see that night. Though they were all friends and remain so to this day, it was clear that Tool was already too big to be an opening act for anybody anymore, at least at a non festival show. It had been a year since I’d seen Tool at the Warfield where they played a couple of the new songs that would eventually make it on the “Aenima” album, but that show we were treated to five of them.
Like the Beastie Boys show earlier that year, the mosh pit was absolutely enormous, covering the entire floor of the Coliseum from beginning to end of their set. And like that previously mentioned show, I had the good sense to stay up in the seats that night to ensure the tapes came out good, which they did, and for my personal safety as well. Maynard, always the comedian, took a moment between songs to let the crowd know that the planet Jupiter had exploded and those of the astrological sign Sagittarious would slowly start disappearing during the show and he wanted to be the first to say to them, “Goodbye!” Tory was a Sagittarious so I turned to him and offered him my condolences. I’d go on to see Tool four more times before they released their next album, so I got to know the songs off “Aenima” pretty well.
Though a tough act to follow, Primus certainly held their own and then some, opening very strong with “John The Fisherman”. We got a good selection of songs from their repertoire including their cover of the Residents, “Hello Skinny”. Bob Cock came out and led the crowd for the countdown for New Year’s and Primus tore it up with “My Name Is Mud” after the balloons dropped. During the encore they played “Here Come The Bastards” and Les goaded the crowd to chant along with the chorus, “Here they come… Here they come…” saying, “Come on, this is the first time we’ve played the Coliseum”. Unfortunately, that was the last time they played there, though they might still some day in the future.
After the show, Tory and I made our way backstage, negotiating a labyrinth of concrete hallways until we found the after party. We felt awkward, having not knowing anybody, so we grazed at the snack table and thank God they had a pinball machine down there to play and pass the time. Luckily, Sal, the singer and guitarist of Born Naked showed up. My flatmate Patrick was their manager and Sal was friends with Herb, Primus’ drummer. Talking with him for a bit helped put me at ease, especially when Kirk Hammett from Metallica and Mike Dirnt from Green Day showed up.
We were waiting for what felt like an eternity and it was hard not to stare at Kirk and Mike. I even overheard Mike making a joke about people checking them out, cricking his neck a little, wise cracking that folks around here had a tick or something when they were not so subtly trying to catch a glance at them unnoticed. The wait for the Primus guys to show up to the party became just a little too much and Tory and I were worried that Eric would take off without us, so we decided to bail. Wouldn’t you know it the minute we decided to leave, Les and the guys walked in. Just as well, we stared at them for a few minutes and they were surrounded by real friends who knew them, so I thought it would be presumptuous to interrupt them. Couldn’t say why it took them so long to get to the party. Maybe they were in the showers.
Tory and I were relieved to find Eric still in the parking lot, patiently waiting for us in his car, the infamous Chevy Celebrity, the three door sedan, that moniker achieved from a hit and run incident that smashed the car’s rear passenger door. Speaking of car trouble, Eric couldn’t get the car to go in reverse, so we were very lucky that the car parked in front of him in the parking lot had left, so we could roll out going forward. Eric got us home safe and sound and we all crashed at my place in the Mission that night.
There was a poster not given out to the public for that show, but because I was still interning for Dave Lefkowitz, Primus’ manager, I managed to swipe one for the office. It was a brilliant one, referencing Georges Melies’, “A Trip To The Moon”, with a cartoon moon with a face and a rocket capsule stuck in its eye socket. I’m proud to say that this poster is framed and graces my hallway here at home as I write this. 1995 was a good year for me and this show was a perfect way to end it. I hope to see many more New Year’s Eve shows before I croak, but I can say with some certainty that this one continues to be my favorite New Year’s show so far, though Nirvana back in 1993-1994 comes in a close second.