Primus, The Residents, Bimbo’s, SF, Tues., January 9, 1996
SETLIST : (CD ROM Banter), To Defy The Laws Of Tradition, Here Come The Bastards, Groundhog’s Day, John The Fisherman, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver, Hello Skinny (with The Residents), Tommy The Cat
It wasn’t long after Primus’ triumphant New Year’s show in Oakland before I got to see them again. But this show was a completely different animal altogether. For starters, it was a private party, a CD release party, but not just any CD… a CD-ROM… (Ooooo…) Yes, in the wee years of the internet revolution, the CD-ROM was the next big thing and bands were starting to dabble in it. I was still working as a humble intern for Dave Lefkowitz, Primus’ manager, so I was fortunate enough to be able to get into this event and was able to bring along my buddy Tory too. It was also my brother Alex’s birthday, but he was elsewhere having a good time as usual.
Though they didn’t perform a set themselves, The Residents were there, promoting their new CD-ROM, “Bad Day On The Midway”. A screen and projector were set up with their computers. Their disc was an interactive adventure set in an old, creepy carnival, where you could choose a character and go around trying to solve a murder and meet all sorts of colorful characters. It actually went on to win People’s Choice Awards for Best Entertainment Title and Most Innovative Use Of Multimedia. As luck would have it, twenty years later, my friend Kristie found it at a thrift store and gave it to me for my birthday. I am unable to run it on my current computer, since it was designed to run on Windows 95 and is so old, my disc drive can’t read it anyway, though I still don’t have the heart to tell her. That was a thoughtful gift.
Primus’ “enhanced CD” was less theatrical. It allowed the user to sail around in a cartoon boat and visit songs and stuff, but it was clever and fun, and back then innovative. They got Bob Cock to come out and introduce the show, though Les introduced him by his real name, Adam Gates. He said, “I’m here to sell ya’ a bunch of shit. So I hope you got tanked up on the free booze…” he pointed to somebody in the crowd, “Oh yeah, you payin’ for it? Looks like you got the bad seat, monkey boy.”
One of the only times I met Les Claypool, he originally thought I was the guy who designed the CD and we had an slightly awkward silence together when I admitted that I wasn’t. If I had made more of an effort to learn computer programming back in those days, I might be a wealthy man today, but who knows? I might of been hit by a bus too and I wouldn’t be here to write these delightful tidbits for you.
Back to the show, this one was unique as it was an all banjo show from Primus as well, something they have never done since and I suspect had never done before. The bass banjo is a remarkable instrument and I’m really surprised that people don’t use it more often. As you could imagine, a virtuoso like Les made it sound exquisite and he said he kind of liked it better on the banjo. Larry too was something to hear as well. I’d grown accustomed to hear his one of a kind electric style and to hear him stripped down to a straight banjo was refreshing, a poignant reminder of his technical prowess.
I had never even heard of The Residents before this show, though I would become a huge admirer as the years passed and I got to see them proper. Like I said, they didn’t play that night, but we did get a consolation prize of the Black Skull guy coming out to sing the lyrics of “Hello Skinny” with them. I’m sure anybody who has had the pleasure of seeing the Residents will admit that the first time is a little haunting. I can see why the guys from Primus identified with them. They were weird and true originals. Primus had done a B-side of “Hello Skinny/Constantinople”, but they only played the first half that night.
Near the end of the set, Les introduced their most recent hit, “Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver”, saying, “We’d like to do a song that probably not too many of you folks have heard before”, then Larry did the first few bars of “Stairway To Heaven”. Got a laugh, of coarse. I actually prefer “Wynonna” on the banjo personally, giving it an additional boost to it’s country twang. They wrapped up their short nine song set with “Tommy The Cat”, leaving me and the crowd screaming for more, but I was satisfied knowing I that I had seen something really exclusive. I was even more gratified when I heard the tape later and it came out stellar.
Ben Harper, Elbo, Room, SF, Sun., January 21, 1996
Ben was still pretty new back then. “Fight For Your Mind” had only been released the year before, but I’d already seen him twice, opening for such respected performers as Luscious Jackson and P.J. Harvey. Both shows he made quite an impression on me and the crowd, so much that he nearly stole the show. His reputation was growing so large that the fact that I got into the Elbo Room show was remarkable all by itself.
I don’t think I had ever had to line up outside the Elbo Room on Valencia Street for a show there before this one, but it wasn’t too cold out and thank god it wasn’t raining. My flatmate, Mike, gave me the heads up on the show and we were able to get down there early and get in line. It was also fortunate that we were living only two blocks away back then as well. The Elbo Room on weekends is truly uncomfortable and that’s when it is just an average show there, hot, stuffy, and shoulder to shoulder crowded, so Mike and I knew we were in for it and braced ourselves.
Luckily, we got a good spot up front, being in line early, and we didn’t have to wait too long until Ben got on stage. He was great as always, basically doing the stuff I’d heard him play before, including his cover of “Concrete Jungle” and “Voodoo Chile”. It was obvious to us and everybody there that we were been spoiled already seeing such a talent in such a small place and that we’d never get this chance again. Mr. Harper would indeed go on to be the headlining act we know him to be today, but I’m proud that I got to see him a few times before he was playing with his own band, The Innocent Criminals.
Lenny Kravitz, Poe, War., SF, Fri., January 26, 1996
Lenny was the kind of act that I always thought I’d seen a few times, but after going over my records, I regret to say that I only had the pleasure of seeing him once. Perhaps it was that he was and remains to be around and popular and I’m sure it’s partially because my memory isn’t what it used to be. Thank God for these tapes. Listening to them brings a lot back. For instance, Lenny did stumble a bit with the lyrics of “What Goes Around Comes Around”, but he was able to roll with it and the crowd forgave him.
I do know for a fact that this was the only time I’d see Poe. She had talent, but this was back when I wasn’t recording everything at shows and I only got one song from her, “Hello”. I remember she had good fashion sense and was a apt pairing to Mr. Kravitz. It was a difficult time for Lenny because his mother, Roxie Roker, an actress who was in “The Jeffersons”, had passed away less than eight weeks before this show from cancer.
My brother Alex had been dating a woman named Tiffany for years, who had been an extra in the music video for “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”. She was up in the balcony in that video wearing a giant fake afro wig. Tiffany was tall, beautiful, and very funny, so it came to no surprise that she was able to sustain a successful modeling career. She and Alex eventually parted ways and I hadn’t seen her in over a decade when I bumped into her at a They Might Be Giants show at the Fillmore. She looked just the same and was in good spirits that night. Whenever I hear Lenny, my thoughts always drift to her.
Blur, The Rentals, Fill., SF, Mon., January 29, 1996
SETLIST: Popscene, Tracy Jacks, It Could Be You, Charmless Man, End Of A Century, Oily Water, Mr. Robinson’s Quango, Jubilee, To The End, She’s So High, Globe Alone, Advert, Bank Holiday, Supa Shoppa, Country House, He Thought Of Cars, Girls & Boys, Stereotypes, This Is A Low, My Sharonna Intro, Park Life, The Universal
Britpop was at its height around this time and though it never really vanished, its decline was inevitable, yielding to newer music. Blur’s rivalry with Oasis came to a head when they released their newest single “Country House” from their latests album, “The Great Escape”, the same day that Oasis released their single, “Roll With It”. Though Blur won the sales competition between the two, Oasis would ultimately go on to play to larger crowds, especially opening for U2 the following year. One would argue that Blur would go on to be more respected musically, considering also Damon Albarn’s other endeavors like Gorrilaz and the The Good, The Bad, & The Queen. Also, Blur would easily win the congeniality award, considering the Gallagher brothers’ infamous reputation for boorish drunken behavior.
Opening that night were the Rentals, who had a big hit on MTV with their single, “Friends Of P”. Like I said before with Lenny Kravitz, I wasn’t recording everything back then, but I was lucky enough to get that song of the two songs I captured of theirs that show. The Rentals was the side project of Matt Sharp, the bassist of Weezer, and he’d go on to leave Weezer two years later, followed by lawsuits over his royalties. The Rentals were a good band, but this would be the only time I’d get to see them. Maya Rudolph from “Saturday Night Live” actually toured with them playing keyboards briefly during their early years, though I can’t recall if she was with them that night, since I didn’t know who she was back then.
My brother Alex was way into the Britpop scene and I was happy that he was with me that show. Though I wasn’t as devoted a fan to the musical movement at the time, I did worship bands like Lush and Stereolab, who were contemporaries of Britpop guys like Blur at the time. Blur’s music was growing on me and I was starting to remember their catchier songs like “Girls & Boys” and “Park Life”. They had a cool poster that night too.
Arlo Guthrie, Mare Winningham, Fill., SF, Fri., February 2, 1996
I was still being educated to the many participants of the hippy movement and the Fillmore was no better place to get acquainted with the one and only Arlo Guthrie. Arlo is the son of the immortal Woody Guthrie and gained notoriety in 1967 with his epic comedic folk song, “Alice’s Restaurant”. Though just shy of one year of that song’s 30th anniversary, he was touring the nation, having released the album, “Alice’s Restaurant : The Massacree Revisited”.
To my pleasant surprise, the opener that night proved herself of equal importance at least to me. Mare Winningham had the voice of an angel and a smile to match. She had just been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the indy film, “Georgia”, with Jennifer Jason Leigh and her song, “Hard Times”, had become a hit in the folk music circles at the time. I was surprised that the song wasn’t nominated for Best Original Song too. She played it that night, naturally, along with a sweet rendition of “The Last Time” by the Rolling Stones.
Arlo is the kind of performer who is part singer/songwriter, part storyteller, like Robyn Hitchcock, Richie Havens, or Ray Davies. At least half the show was him telling stories. Not to imply that his stories were tedious, quite the opposite. He, of coarse, had a lot to say about “Alice’s Restaurant”, telling of it’s ill fated release date, the same week as “Sgt. Pepper’s”. He also told the story of the time he met Jimmy Carter’s son, Chip, who claimed that an opened copy of his album was found in the White House after Nixon left and mused over the fact that both the song and the gap in the Watergate tapes were both 18 and a half minutes in length. It was easy to like Arlo and having both he and Mare playing solo acoustic insured that the crowd was mellow.
Los Super Elegantes, The Prodigals, Kilowatt, SF, Sun., February 4, 1996
Though I was preoccupied with seeing shows at the Warfield, the Fillmore, and larger venues, from time to time, I’d still slip away and catch a show with the locals in the Mission. The Kilowatt was actually a nice venue and I was disappointed when they stopped doing live music a year or two after this show. What drew me to this show, I can’t rightly remember, but I’m glad I did.
Los Super Elegantes was a fun band to experience. They were a unique Latin punk/pop band fronted by Milena Muzquiz and Martiniano Lopez Crozet, a handsome and sassy couple. They had met as art students in SF a few years before, but they had only started playing with this band for less than a year. The band backing them were air tight and it was impossible to watch these guys perform without having a smile on your face. Latin music of any kind was welcome to my ears and long overdue, considering how long I’d been living in the Mission. Though I didn’t know their songs, I did recognize their cover of the romantic standby, “Besame Mucho”. Los Super Elegrantes eventually relocated to Los Angeles, but I’m afraid I never saw them again.
The Smashing Pumpkins, Kezar Pavillion, SF, Tues., February 6, 1996
SETLIST: Tonight Tonight, In The Arms Of Sleep, Cupid De Locke, Thirty-Three, Today, Soma, Take Me Down, Beautiful, Rocket, Lily (My One & Only), Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, The Bomb (Where Boys Fear To Tread), Zero, Fuck You (An Ode To One), Here Is No Way, To Forgive, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Muzzle, Thru The Eyes Of Ruby, Galapogos, Geek USA, Cherub Rock, Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans, 1979, XYU, By Starlight, Silverfuck, (encore), (unknown), Farewell & Goodnight
This was a weird one, not to say that all Pumpkins shows are routine. For starters, they threw this show at Kezar Pavilion, the one and only show I’d see at that venue. I mean, it wasn’t really a venue to begin with. Kezar is an old indoor basketball court at the end of Haight Street, just as Golden Gate Park begins. It is primarily used for indoor sporting events by UCSF and all other school, professional, and amateur organizations, basketball of coarse, as well as stuff like volleyball. It wasn’t even that big. I doubt there was more then 2000 people there that night, but despite it’s size and hard surfaces, the sound people made it sound pretty good in there.
The second thing about this show was the way we got tickets. They only allowed people to get vouchers for their tickets, a two ticket maximum, and they made us redeem them at the door with a photo ID, go straight in the show once you’ve picked them up, with no ins and outs to boot. My guess is that it was another attempt to rock acts to divorce themselves from the terrible Ticketmaster behemoth, a movement led by Pearl Jam that was well meaning, but ultimately futile. It was fair and democratic, but inefficient, confusing, and costly.
Smashing Pumpkins had recently amended their name officially to “THE” Smashing Pumpkins, which I still feel personally was a mistake. It changed the name from a verb to a noun. Maybe they reconsidered after they were on “The Simpsons”, when Billy introduced himself to Homer as “Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins”, and he replied, “Homer Simpson, smiling politely”. For all I know, it wasn’t a big decision at all and Billy always thought of the band with that name, or maybe he wanted it to deliberately ambiguous, so guys like me would muse about it like I’m doing now.
Billy had also had officially changed his look, shaven bald, which he remains to this day. His hair was probably thinning anyway, and his curly red locks gave him a clownish appearance which seemed antithetical to his notorious melancholy demeanor. He was also consistently wearing long sleeve black shirts with the word, “ZERO”, on the front, the title of one of the singles from their new album, “Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness”. Like the name change, the fashion message was open to interpretation, though it was a brilliant commercial move. Those shirts were a hit and Billy must have made a fortune off them.
Speaking of commercial hits, the new album was all that, their biggest money maker as far as I know, certifying diamond in the end, over 10 million sold. They got seven Grammy nominations and bagged Best Hard Rock Performance for “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, their first Grammy win. Money aside, I would argue it was their best work to date, the most cohesive for sure. I will always wince every time Billy’s voice would ascend to that caterwaul screaming level, but when he was calmer, I thought his voice was rather soothing, and this album had quite a few mellower songs. They were trying to distance themselves from the whole grunge, mosh pit movement that they’d been lumped into from their beginning and branch out into music that was more conceptually sophisticated and cerebral. “Mellon Collie” was just that and the songs were undeniably brilliant as they were catchy.
So, there we were jammed into this basketball court for an evening with Billy and the gang. They thankfully covered a lot of ground that night, playing almost 30 songs. Billy made a joke halfway through the show thanking the crowd for welcoming them back after his rather bratty outburst he’d had last time he was in the bay area playing Lollapalooza, which he’d dismissed as a “carnival”. I was grateful that the show was in February, so it wasn’t too stuffy. The floor was hopelessly packed, so I stayed up in the bleachers. It was a one of kind show, and in hindsight, I regret not going to the wednesday show as well.
Motorhead, Belladona, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., February 9, 1996
Let us begin the wonderful and monstrous tale of my time at the Maritime Hall. Hopefully, you have read the intro, so I can skip a lot, but this was my first time ushering there as a “Peace Dog”, my first time in the building at all or anywhere near it. The Maritime was easy to find being across the street from the iconic “Union 76” clock tower at the entrance to the Bay Bridge. That clock is long gone now, but anybody who lived in the bay area back then knew it well.
Strange that Motorhead would be my first show there. I’d seen them only once opening up for Black Sabbath the year before and from their song “Ace Of Spades” which I only knew because they played it on an episode of “The Young Ones”. They were only on stage for a half hour for that first show, but this night I got to see them as the headliner. I’d bought the “No Sleep Till Hammersmith” live album in the interim, and was becoming more familiar with their music and for Lemmy’s revered reputation amongst metal circles. Lemmy had just turned 50 and was touring as a three piece for the first time in years after the departure of their second guitarist, Wurzel.
Although it was a metal show and it being my first time working there, ushering wasn’t that hard. The dance floor was so wide there, that keeping a flow of human traffic in the back was a breeze, even when it was starting to get crowded near the time Motorhead was about to take the stage. One shining memory that night was the brief moment I helped Lemmy through the crowd to get to the backstage entrance. I saw him coming and recognized him instantly, a towering dark figure wearing a black cowboy hat, naval waistcoat, and an old cavalry saber at his belt… no shit… a saber. I walked him to the door and for a fleeting golden moment, he touched my elbow, and nodded to me in thanks. Even though I was just beginning to become a fan of him and his band, I felt time stand still there.
Motorhead maintained their well deserved reputation for being “louder than everyone else” that night, playing at a level just shy of rattling the fillings out of your teeth. Thank god for earplugs. Lemmy would succumb to cancer 20 years later, though I consider it a miracle that his head didn’t explode from the noise he made, or at the very least would be deaf as a post. The man indeed was a walking, talking miracle and I thank my lucky stars that I got to see him as often as I did. Naturally, the sound level that night insured I’d have no trouble recording it and the tapes came out great.
The Presidents Of The United States Of America, Love Jones, War., SF, Sun., February 18, 1996
One could dismiss the Presidents at a novelty band, but they did have an interesting sound and to have three singles like, “Lump”, “Kitty”, and “Peaches” all on their debut album is no small feat. Those songs were ridiculously catchy, to the point of becoming “ear worms”, the kind of songs one can only extract from their head with a drill. It is also something to be said for their meteoric success at that time. Their self titled album had only been re-released on Columbia seven months prior to this show and they already were playing the Warfield.
Like I said, these nerds had an interesting sound. Chris Ballew had rigged together what he called a “basitar”, a guitar strung with two bass strings, like Mark Sandman from Morphine, a musician he had worked with before. Dave Dederer had a “guitbass”, with both kinds of strings, like Charlie Hunter. So, these guys had gone to music school and they were tight as a band, that is undeniable. But what I couldn’t stand was the fact that Chris would SMILE when he sang. That drives me crazy. Chris Barron, the other Chris, from the Spin Doctors did that too.
Smiling aside, this was the only time I’d see them and thankfully it was at the height of their popularity. Their first album went triple platinum and though their second album went gold, they’d never surpass the fame they achieved that year. I would become furious a few years later when I heard they played at the presidential inauguration for George W. Bush, but I’ve been since reassured hearing they’d campaigned for Clinton and Kerry as well. With the name they have, I suppose it would be difficult to decline an invitation to play for either party.
Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Julian Marley & The Uprising Band, War., SF, Fri., February 23, 1996
SETLIST : Irae, Generation, Live It Up, Bygones, Who Will Be There, In The Flow, World So Corrupt, Brothers & Sisters, So Much Trouble, I Shot The Sheriff, Tumblin’ Down, What’s True, Tomorrow People, Keep On, Conscious Party, Water & Oil, Get Up Stand Up
Ziggy was busy around this time, this being his second show at the Warfield in only five months. His half brother, Julian, was on the bill, the first time I’d see any of the Marley kids apart from Ziggy. Julian was three years younger than me and he was just beginning his professional musical career, having recorded his first album, “Lion In The Morning” that year. Nice to see that although he was from a different mother and the only Marley kid born in the UK, that he and Ziggy got along and worked together musically and with their philanthropy. Julian’s music was good too, talented for a fellow so young. He also did a couple of his dad’s songs that night, “Cookie Jar Crumble” and “Exodus”.
Ziggy was still touring from the album “Free Like We Want 2 B” from the year before, but would soon get a hit “Hey What A Wonderful Kind Of Day”, though he didn’t play it that night. That tune would soon become the ever-present theme song to the kid’s show “Arthur” on PBS. Like Stephen, Ziggy played well and predictably did a few of his dad’s songs that night too, “So Much Trouble”, “I Shot The Sheriff”, and wrapping up the set with “Get Up Stand Up”. It is always welcome to see reggae show come to the Warfield or Fillmore. They were few and far between back then, though I’d soon get a comprehensive education in reggae at the Maritime the next four years.
John Entwistle, Joni’s Butterfly, Fill., SF, Sat., March 2, 1996
I’d been quite familiar with the work of the Who, they being one of my brother’s favorite bands. “Tommy” was one of those perquisite albums a young man learning the basics of classic rock simply had to know from start to finish. The Ken Russell film they made from it was also unforgettable. I’d been more of a fan of “Quadraphenia”, but clearly “Tommy” was the more successful album. Little would have I guessed the stage musical version would be such a hit on Broadway in 1993. In fact, this show was only three days before it’s premiere in London’s West End.
My brother Alex being a fan of the Who was in no small part to the talents of Mr. Entwistle. Indeed, Alex’s style of bass playing is quite similar to his, not to mention Alex bears a resemblance to the man, tall and lanky, with freakishly long fingers, fingers that were made to play bass.It would be another three years until I would see the Who together, minus Keith Moon of coarse, at the Bridge School Benefit, but seeing John that night was a pleasant introduction.
John was just about a new solo album released that called, “The Rock”, his first release in 15 years. Though the songs were actually recorded ten years prior, the album wasn’t actually released until almost six months after this show. At least he had plenty of time to rehearse the songs, though I wasn’t a big fan of them. He did play a few Who songs as expected including “The Real Me”, “Long Live Rock”, and of coarse “Boris The Spider”, one of the rare songs the Who played that was one of his. John also did “Summertime Blues” and “Shakin’ All Over”, covers the Who made famous. Though he was renowned for his bass playing, I thought his singing voice wasn’t bad, almost as good as Pete’s anyway.
George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., March 9, 1996
I’d seen George and the gang at Bimbo’s the year before and knew I was in for a long night. I was fine with that, it being the only band that could play for that long without totally exhausting me. The funk they bring lifts one up and keeps you up. It was my second show at the Maritime and I was already smitten by the place. It seemed so looser, so different from the rigid, increasingly corporate vibe of the BGP venues. That, coupled with my innate yet constant need to rebel from conformity, made this venue my new cross to bear. In those days, to me the Maritime was the answer to prayers I never knew I made, though it was really because I was blissfully unaware of how the place was going to be run into the ground ultimately.
These were the salad days of the Maritime, when they still existed under the “Family Dog” moniker and I was a Peace Dog. One would think on the surface that ushering a George Clinton show would be a nightmare, considering the length, volume, and wild spirit of the show, but it wasn’t at all. The dancing made the crowd quite loose and pliable. Everybody was in a good mood and nobody was pushy or disagreeable. The oil plates and video projections had the effect of diffusing peoples attention to the staff and become immersed in the music and ambiance. Those oil plates in particular were hypnotizing. Really, watching them cools you off, must certainly lower one’s blood pressure.
George was starting to get together again with old P-Funk people, though I couldn’t say who was who up on stage there that night. They were a motley cast of characters to say the least. I knew about Bootsy and Maceo Parker, but they weren’t touring with him and I never saw them play with him live. George’s new album, “T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.”, short for “The Awesome Power Of A Fully Operational Mothership”, was to be released by Sony that June, and I know he at least did one new song off of it that night, “Hard As Steel”. I was spoiled during those few years in the late 90’s seeing George and P-Funk. Whenever one sees a band that plays as long as they do, it’s more satisfying than seeing acts that play the usual hour, hour and half sets. After three hours or so, you feel like you’re one of them.
Lou Reed, Luna, War., SF, Sun., March 17, 1996
LUNA : 25 Minutes, Sideshow, Chinatown, California (All The Way), Tiger Lily, Slash, Moon, Friendly Advice
LOU REED : Sweet Jane, NYC Man, Dirty Boulevard, New Sensations, Waiting For My Man, Vicious, Set The Twilight Reeling, Doing The Things That We Want To, Hang On To Your Emotions, I Love You Suzanne, Video Violence, Trade In, Egg Cream, Strawman, Riptide, Hooky Wooky, Magic & Loss, (encore), Take A Walk On The Wild Side, Satellite Of Love
I hadn’t seen Lou since the first time I had the pleasure in London back in 1992. I was selfishly upset with him for not touring with the Velvet Underground when they reunited in 1993 and toured Europe on their own and U2. Little did I know then that Sterling Morrison was dying from lymphoma which would ultimately take his life in 1995. Actually, I was just starting to get into Lou’s music around this time, a late bloomer I was, and though I’d never see the Velvet Underground, I was lucky enough to see Lou a few times, and John Cale too.
Lou had just released “Set The Twilight Reeling” only a month before, this one his seventeenth solo album. Say what you want about Mr. Reed, he was prolific to say the least. Luna was opening that night, and I was already a fan, seeing them open for the Cocteau Twins back in 1994 and owned their second album, “Bewitched”. Luna had toured opening for the Velvet Underground on that aforementioned tour in Europe, so it figures that they’d continue touring with Lou. Their sound was an appropriate fit to his.
Like I said, Lou was prolific, so he had no shortage of material to draw from that night and he gave us all a healthy variety of songs from his solo work. The new songs were good, especially “Hang On To Your Emotions”, and he played a couple of Velvet songs too, opening with “Sweet Jane” and doing “Waiting For My Man” for his fifth song. It was St. Patrick’s Day that night, but it didn’t feel particularly relevant. Nobody was conspicuously drunk and none of the music felt Irish. Black was the chosen color to wear that night, not green.
Patti Smith & Friends, War., SF, Mon., March 18, 1996
Though I’m sure it was just coincidental, fellow New York rocker Patti Smith followed Lou Reed at the Warfield the next night. I was almost totally unfamiliar with her work, save “Because The Night”, and that was only because it was had been made famous again with the 10,000 Maniacs version released on their “Unplugged” album in 1993. I was so dumb, I thought it was their song at first, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that. I at least knew a bit of Patti’s reputation as a New York punk pioneer and being respected as such, was relieved to get her checked off my list.
God forgive me, but I have to confess that I believe that Patti is one of the least attractive people in rock n’ roll. I’m no supermodel myself, that much is clear. But let this be a testament to the power of her music and charisma on stage, because this show was over twenty years ago and her looks have only gone downhill from there. It’s no secret that show business, especially the music business is shallow and vain, so before you all break out the torches and pitchforks, let I remind you of the immortal words of John Cusack in “Tapeheads” who said that there are plenty of people in the business who are ugly who are making serious money. Harry Wayne Casey, leader of K.C. & The Sunshine Band is a perfect example. I would gladly accept his level of ugliness to have his talent, fame, and money.
Anyway, Patti was just about to release her new album, “Gone Again”, in June, her first new album in eight years. It was filled with songs of mourning for several friends and relations like her ex-husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, her brother, and Robert Mapplethorpe. She also wrote a song for Kurt Cobain called “About A Boy”, a variation of the title of the Nirvana song, “About A Girl”. Her reputation was well earned as I was moved by her performance of both songs and a long stretch of poetry near the end of her set. We were fortunate enough to also have Lenny Kaye, the guitarist from her original group, playing with her that night, having rejoined with Patti a year earlier. They did a cover of “Gloria” by Them and “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple too. Unfortunately, my mic went south during the show and most of the recordings were all fucked up. Serves me right for being so superficial. At least I got a few more times to see Patti to redeem myself a little.
Stone Fox, Amplifier, Fill., SF, Fri., March 22, 1996
This was the first time I believe that the Fillmore was trying out a “Fillmore Sessions” show, at least it was the first one that I attended. It was an admirable, though short lived, attempt to bring a handful of local acts in for a night of music at a reasonable price. Such noble gestures in the live music are extremely rare, especially for BGP. But due to low attendance, these shows soon evaporated. At least they were easy to usher.
Not to say that the bands that played at these shows weren’t good. They were. So many talented local acts don’t make it big time, though they are remembered by those who heard them fondly and some of these acts members would go on to other more notable projects. Such was the case of Stone Fox, a very good band in my opinion, who had fans ranging from Metallica to Tammy Wynette, both of which they were an opening act for during the 90’s. Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes had signed them to her Rockstar record label as well. Though they called it quits two years after this show, I have the pleasure of saying I got to see them this one time. Janice Tanaka, the bass player, went on to play for L7 and Pink. Like the Patti Smith show, regretfully, the mic I was using was still on the fritz and I didn’t catch it till I listened to both shows afterwards.
Radiohead, Fill., SF, Wed., March 27, 1996
SETLIST : The Bends, Bones, Anyone, Bulletproof…If I Was, Lucky, Creep, My Iron Lung, Lift, Nice Dream, Electioneering, Planet Telex, High & Dry, Just, Fake Plastic Trees, You, Blowout, I Promise, Street Spirit
This was a big one. I knew it and the other ushers knew it too. Radiohead’s second album, “The Bends” had already been out over a year and was a stake in the heart to anyone who’d dare call them a one hit wonder after that. They’s still be playing smaller venues like the the Fillmore and opening for larger acts like Alanis Morrisette until “OK Computer” came out a year later. Then, they were big time. Though that album was the one that sent them playing venues like the Warfield and bigger afterwards, I still feel that “The Bends” was their best work.
David Gray was the opening act that night, but I didn’t record him for some reason. Blur’s set, like most English acts was excruciatingly loud and you’d be lucky if their sets went past an hour and a half, encores included. Their sets would eventually get longer when they started to play arenas. Though they were getting big at the height of the Britpop movement, Radiohead seemed to be disconnected from the whole Blur/Oasis circus and not lumped into the so-called “shoegazer” bands like Lush, My Bloody Valentine, and Slowdive. Maybe their music was too melancholy for the former and too upbeat for the latter. Whatever reason, they were finally standing out.
Though “Creep” would be the song everyone would first learn about them, they had the wisdom to play it a few songs into their set, not saving it as a predictable crowd pleaser to end their set or encore. Nirvana did the same thing with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Thom Yorke introduced the song saying it was “written about some sad drunk bloke. Never met him myself.” I loved hearing the new songs live as I thought I would. I still get misty hearing heart wrenching songs like “Nice Dream” and “Fake Plastic Trees”. Like I said, “OK Computer” wouldn’t be out for another year, but they did play the song, “Lucky”, which they had recorded the year before as a contribution to “The Help Album”, a charity compilation put together by Brian Eno to benefit children victimized in the Bosnian War. Mr. Yorke was humble as always that show. Before singing “Electioneering”, he mused about looking at people coming into the show that night from his tour bus, though thankful, that it still freaked him out a bit, saying also it’s when he has to kiss ass to get what he wants, it left a bad taste in his mouth.
They had a great poster that night as they certainly deserved. I was mad to fine out that the sound of the recording occasionally would warble, making Thom sound a bit like he was gargling underwater. Not that it was a total loss. It was only on a few songs, and was otherwise loud and clear.
The Fugees, The Roots, (Early & Late Show), Fill., SF, Fri., March 29, 1996
Unlike Radiohead who played the Fillmore two nights before, The Fugees went straight to the top of the charts immediately with their first album, “The Score”, hitting number one on Billboard and other charts, snagging them the Best Rap Album Grammy the following year. They were hot and they knew it, so hot in fact, that this was one of those rare occurrences when the Fillmore did an early and a late show in the same night.
To usher one of these shows is a little weird and tiring too. You have to work through the entire early show, get the crowd out, then work through the opening act and into the first couple songs of the late show. The time did pass pleasantly since the crown was behaving and the opening act was none other than the Roots. I’d seen them very briefly as one of the side stage acts at Lollapalooza ’94, though I caught them only in passing while rushing between other acts. They were brand new then and not understanding the significance of what they’d become, I was shamefully ignorant. Back then, they were still just a three piece band. But I did get a double dose of them that night, fresh after their second album release, “Illadelph Halflife”. I still didn’t know any of their songs, but I was floored by the Questlove’s drum solos during both opening sets.
It was easy to like The Fugees and I could see why they got so big so quickly. Wyclef was a natural showman. He worked up the crowd doing a “Moment Of Silence” guitar solo for all his dead friends and covering Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”. Lauryn Hill would ironically leave Wyclef and go on to hook up with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan, siring five children by him, though they would never get married officially. “Killing Me Softly” was a big hit then, though I suspect many of the younger fans didn’t know it was a cover of a Lori Lieberman song, made famous by Roberta Flack. Covers aside, there was no denying “Fu-Gee-La” and “Ready Or Not” were excellent. I still think it’s genius that they would sample Enya on “Ready Or Not”. She has to be one of the whitest people on Earth. I didn’t bring enough tapes that night, so I wasn’t able to get the Fugee’s late show, though I did get both sets of the Roots. It wasn’t a big deal since both of the Fugees sets were identical. It was criminal that they didn’t have a poster for that show, considering how big they were and it would be the only thine they’d ever play at the Fillmore.
I’d get to see them twice more that year, once at the Tibet Freedom Concert and once at Shoreline. That was lucky because Lauryn and Wyclef would soon break up both romantically and professionally and pursue successful solo careers. A year after this show I was working at the Oakland Marriott as an AV technician and my friend Drew, who was working as an engineer there told me that Wyclef came in one night and clumsily attempted to seduce one of the girls that worked at the front desk. He knew this because he was sleeping with her at the time and she told him. Yes, Wyclef cheated on Lauryn too, but I can’t necessarily blame him. That girl at the front desk was hot.
Son Volt, Richard Buckner, Blue Mountain, Fill., SF, Sat., March 30, 1996
Alt-Country was in its heyday back then, though I prefer to hall it “Heroin Country”. I never got to see Uncle Tupelo or even heard of them until they’d already broken up and out of the ashes of that band emerged Wilco and Son Volt. Despite of having the good fortune to see Wilco a handful of times, this was the only time I saw Son Volt at the Fillmore back then and I wouldn’t see Son Volt again until 20 years later, playing a few songs at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival.
They were relatively new in 1996, having just released their first album, “Trace” only six months before this show. It wasn’t a commercial success, but was a hit with the critics, making Rolling Stone’s top ten list. They won me over that night night and I went out and bought it. The opening song,“Windfall”, still gets me misty, one of my favorite songs for sure. I was also pleased to hear some country music at the Fillmore, a rare occasion, really.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Toadies, Weapon Of Choice, Cow Palace, SF, Sat., April 6, 1996
SETLIST : Give It Away, Suck My Kiss, Warped, Walkabout, Backwoods, My Friends, Heroin, Higher Ground, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Pea, Coffee Shop, Aeroplane, One Big Mob, Under The Bridge, Spiritual, Me & My Friends, (encore), Deep Kick, Nevermind, Manic Depression
Sort of a late entry getting back to this one, another show that slipped through the cracks. I’m surprised at myself for overlooking this one, since it was a big show, one of the few that I saw at the Cow Palace. I don’t think I taped it and if I did, the tapes have gone missing or the CDs which I burned from them got filed in the wrong year. Regardless, I do have a couple memories from that one I’d like to share with y’all now.
I hate the Cow Palace for a number of reasons. Apart from being a toxic waste dump located in at least what was then a war zone of a neighborhood, it was a pain in the ass to get to. Driving there was hard enough, but taking the bus took forever and because of that I was late getting there that night. Being late to a show, to all who know me, is one of those things that really gets under my skin. It makes me feel like somebody’s picking my pocket. Weapon Of Choice opened up and I was able to catch their last song. As you’ve might have read, they were a popular opening act back then and I’d already seen then a few times, so it wasn’t a terrible loss. The Toadies were up next and they were as good as I remembered them opening for Bush at the Warfield the year before, though I thought they were a strange band to open for the Chilis.
Speaking of strange pairings, this was the first time I’d see the Chilis with Dave Navarro on guitar. I hadn’t seen them since Lollapalooza in 1992 and by then John Frusciante had already hit the skids, descending into hopeless drug addiction and replaced by Arik Marshall. I thought he was good, so much so, that I didn’t really miss Frusciante, but it didn’t work out for whatever reason and the Chilis had been left idling until Navarro finally accepted the job.
On the surface, it felt like a marriage made in heaven, Navarro free from Jane’s Addiction, an ace guitarist, physically stunning, and fellow L.A. resident. It seemed like a good idea, but Dave’s playing style just felt a touch incongruous to the band. The man simply wasn’t funky. To make matters worse, Navarro was going through a rough patch with drug addiction and that only compounded the bad habits of Anthony Kiedis. Kiedis had injured himself a couple times already on the tour for their new album, “One Hot Minute”. He busted his leg once, tripping over a monitor while dancing with his eyes closed, then again later injuring his back while attempting an unsuccessful backflip. The painkillers he took to counteract the pain only made things worse. Even the drummer, Chad Smith, broke his wrist on that tour.
Creatively, the music from “One Hot Minute” reflected that. They didn’t have the songwriting talents of Frusciante to depend on and lyrics from songs liked “Warped” were a tell that things were going south for the band. I thought “Aeroplane” was probably the best one of the album. Don’t get me wrong, the album was OK and it was a tall order to top “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”. In addition to the drug use themes of the new songs, they did covers of both “Heroin” by the Velvet Underground and “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix. As usual, I was oblivious to all the drama that was going on with the band and enjoyed the show. Ignorance is bliss, indeed.
On a side note, I had to admit to Jay, the drummer for the band Born Naked, who were managed by Pat, my flatmate, that I had to miss their show because I’d already bought the ticket to this one. He playfully ribbed me saying, “Oh, I see where you’re loyalties lie!” I know he was joking, but I still felt bad about it and made sure to catch them whenever I could to make it up him. More about Born Naked later.
Black Grape, The Zen Cowboys, Fill., SF, Sun., April 14, 1996
My brother Alex was a fan of the Happy Mondays and their frontman, Shaun Ryder, and he was enthusiastic about seeing his new project, Black Grape. I was more caught up with the “shoegazer” bands when I was in London back in 1992 and was shamefully unaware of them or the “Madchester” scene. I had already missed my chance to see the Stone Roses, so I was glad to catch these guys, especially since it would the only time. They mentioned just above the ad for the show, “At last!! Immigration visas approved… the debut north american tour”.
Shaun Ryder had been heavy into heroin and God knows what else for years and wouldn’t go cold turkey and get into cycling until a decade after this show. Maybe his drug problems were what was holding them up with immigration. I’d finally get to see him again in 2009, 13 years later, when the Happy Mondays reunited. Black Grape’s album might of been called “It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah”, but that night, I had a feeling he was on something. His voice was atrocious, but I loved the band’s sound, making it was good show nonetheless. Pity there wasn’t a poster that night, particularly since Black Grape would break up a couple years later. They reunited in 2015 and they have a new album coming out, but I don’t think they’ve toured the States yet.
It’s always a treat when I share a show with my brother, especially when he’s introducing me to a band he likes. His taste in music was and continues to be a big influence on me. We especially appreciated that they ended their set that night with a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”. Johnny Lydon’s band, Public Image Ltd., was the first show he took me to, as you might recall.
Lush, The Mojave 3, Sheer, Fill., SF, Mon., April 15, 1996
MOJAVE 3 : Where Is The Love, Sarah, One More Time, Tomorrow’s Taken, Queen Jane
LUSH: Heavenly Nobodies, The Childcatcher, Lovelife, 500, Single Girl, Kiss Chase, De-Luxe, Light From A Dead Star, Undertow, Hypocrite, Runaway, For Love, Sweetness & Light, (encore), Last Night, Ladykillers
Lush had just released “Lovelife”, the fourth and would be final album only six weeks before this show. They were special to me as you know, but with this new album, they were solidly on their own as a headlining act with a loyal fan base in America. Little did I know they were falling apart and would break up less than six months later, though I’d be able to see them two more times in ’96 for which I was grateful.
Another band that came and went too quickly were Sheer, the first opener that night. I was impressed that a band with such a brutal metal sound would have a woman sing so sweetly to it. I loved Audrey Gallagher’s voice that I made sure to pick up their first (and only) LP, “Infliction”, when it was released that May. Second up was Mojave 3. I was a fan of Slowdive and was unaware that they’d been dropped from their label the year before and that Neil and Rachel had formed this new band. When they got on stage, I didn’t recognize them until they started to sing. I loved their new acoustic sound, so much quieter and more melancholy than Slowdive. I picked up their first album, “Just For A Day”, soon after this show and I still think it’s a masterpiece. Though I wouldn’t get to see Slowdive again for over twenty years, I made sure to catch Mojave 3 a couple more times, and Neil doing a solo show once.
But, of coarse, I was there for Lush. It had been a couple years and I was eager to hear the new material live for the first time. They had played “The Childcatcher” before, but it wasn’t released on an album until “Lovelife” came out. They played five other new songs that night and a handful of songs from each of their other albums. Once a band gets to their fourth album, you start missing songs they used to play when they had less material, but the new stuff was just as good so I wasn’t grumbling. I was pissed no end that there wasn’t a poster. Appropriate that we’d get stiffed on “Tax Day”. Lush would never get one from the Fillmore which I still consider an egregious oversight.
Her Majesty The Baby, Train, Crumb, Fill., SF, Sat., April 20, 1996
This was the second of the so-called “Fillmore Sessions” I’d get to witness and unfortunately the first encounter I would have with the band called Train. Anyone around my age from the Bay Area knows too well these guys. They wouldn’t release their first album until ’98, but the folks at BGP took a liking to them early on for some reason. They even gave them an opening slot for the Laguna Seca Daze festival in Monterrey a month later. Naturally, I didn’t know any of Train’s songs except for a cover of “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin at the end of their set. I found out many years later that the singer, Pat Monahan, was in a Zeppelin cover band called Rogues Gallery in Erie, PA before he moved out here. I would grow to despise Train in the years to come, especially when they got big with that godforsaken “Drops Of Jupiter” song.
The good news is that the other two bands didn’t suck. I was familiar already with Crumb. They were being managed by Jordan Kurland, the guy I was interning for at Primus. They would be one of the first acts he’d represent on his own. They were young guys and they had a good shoe gazing sound. They even had a song called “Shoegazer”. They had released their first and only album, “Romance Is a Slowdance”, on Warner Brothers, and I got to see them a couple more times, but after ’97, they basically disappeared. If I ever run into Jordan again, maybe I’ll ask what happened to them. Her Majesty The Baby was another one that I thought were good, but also came and went too quickly. There’s no rhyme of reason to show biz. One never knows who’s going to make it in the long run, even if they suck.
Shawn Colvin, Vertical Horizon, Fill., SF, Mon., April 22, 1996
I’d seen Shawn briefly as the opening act of the Bridge School Benefit in 1992, a very brief set as all first acts of that show are. Despite the heavy roster of musical legends that night like Elton John and James Taylor, I felt she held her own admirably, so I was looking forward to seeing one of her own shows. This was a happy time for female singer songwriters like her. Sarah McLachlan would put together the Lilith Fair a year later and Ms. Colvin would be on the main stage on that tour as well as the following two years. Unknown to me, she had just gone through a divorce, but her fortunes would bounce back big time when she bagged the Grammy for both Song and Record Of The Year in 1998.
The show was sold out that night and line out the women’s room was a long one. I always feel guilty as a man at these shows getting such easy access to the loo. I never complain when the occasional intrepid woman gets fed up and infiltrates the boys room. There were a couple boys opening up the show that night, however. Vertical Horizon. They were just a duo acoustic act back then, though I would see them play with a full band five years later at the Warfield. They could play alright, but it was pretty inoffensive music. Typical KFOG stuff. I had heard a rumor that they were christians, but I didn’t hear anything from them that was suspiciously religious.
Shawn, alone with her acoustic guitar, had good set that night. I love the sound of her voice, sweet as honey. She did a great cover of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police. Right after that she did one of her hit singles, “Polaroids”. The crowd started singing along so loudly, that she continued just playing guitar to them and then ultimately stopped playing guitar and she gleefully allowed them to continue for an entire verse without her. Honestly, I can’t remember any other show off hand where I’ve witnessed that happen. If I did it had to have been once or twice at the most. Her fans love her and after that night, I did too. I loved the “Wizard Of Oz” themed poster that night of her hitch hiking on a lone desert road with a flying monkey crossing sign next to her.
Iggy Pop, Ms. 45, The Customers, Demolition Doll Rods, War., SF, Thur., April 25, 1996
SETLIST : I Wanna Live, Street, Heart Is Saved, Raw Power, Pussy Walk, Search & Destroy, 5’1”, Sweet Sixteen, Sister Midnight, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Look Away, The Passenger, Lust For Life, Home, Sick Of You, No Fun, Death, I Want Something From You, 1969, Louis Louis
Little could have prepared me that night for the awesome spectacle that was Iggy Pop. Like so many other musical acts back then, the only thing I knew of his was the video of “Butt Town” that was on an episode of “Beavis & Butthead”. At least they liked him, Butthead declaring the lyrics, “the best lyrics I’ve ever heard.” Apart from that, I only knew he made the instrumental theme song to the movie “Repo Man”, but I wouldn’t actually hear the song with his lyrics on it till many years later.
Yes, Iggy had a long and illustrious career as the so-called “Godfather Of Punk”, but my brother Alex didn’t have any of his records and I was blissfully unaware of him as many people were until this year when another film soundtrack would thrust him into the mainstream. That film was “Trainspotting”. His song, “Lust For Life”, was used in its unforgettable opening scene and the soundtrack from that movie was a huge hit, making the lists of many best movie soundtracks of all time. That movie at long last made philistines like myself aware of him.
The openers were brief and forgettable, except for the Demolition Doll Rods, and that was only because they were so awful. They, like Iggy, were from the Detroit area. Maybe they were friends of his. Thankfully, punk bands play short songs and are mostly just guitar, bass, drum combos, easily assembled and broken down, so the night passed quickly.
Iggy has the rare distinction of being one of those people that command the stage the microsecond he appears. I know I mentioned Ice Cube being one of those guys and certainly Iggy’s buddy, David Bowie, is another. The man flops around stage with such reckless abandon, one could throw hand grenades at him and he would even flinch. He introduced the song, “The Passenger”, yelling, “Somebody pick me up and fuck me!” Though I didn’t know the difference then between his solo songs and the songs he made with The Stooges, he did a handful of Stooges songs like “Raw Power”, “Search & Destroy”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “No Fun”, and “1969”. He closed the night with a rowdy cover of “Louie Louie”.
Mr. Pop made quite a first impression on me, but I was a little shell shocked by the whole experience. Like many acts that I would grow to love with all of my heart, I was still in that “what the hell kind of music is this” stage. I wouldn’t get a chance to see him again for another five years and that show at the Fillmore would solidify my admiration for him permanently. After that, I would see almost every show he did in the bay area from then on out.
Foo Fighters, Ween, Jawbreaker, War., SF, Mon., April 29, 1996
SETLIST : Enough Space, This Is A Call, Winnebago – Waterbago, For All The Cows, Weenie Beenie, Butterflies, Big Me, My Poor Brain, Gas Chamber, Up In Arms, Good Grief, How I Miss You, Alone & Easy Target, I’ll Stick Around, (encore), Floaty, Down In The Park, Exhausted
The word was out definitely about the Foo Fighters. The first album had already gone platinum by that January and they were already writing songs their second. They were Warfield big and after the second album a year later, they’d move on to even bigger venues. So, I was lucky to see them during those first couple of years. Pat Smear who had toured as Nirvana’s second guitarist was with them then and would leave the band the next year, and wouldn’t rejoin the Fighters until 2011, but I was also lucky because of the line up opening that night in particular.
It was a two night event, the second night being billed as a “Rock For Choice” concert, adding 7 Year Bitch and Pansy Division to the bill as well as Jawbreaker and Ween, but I couldn’t go to that one. I was absolutely committed to seeing Stereolab the next night doing a double show, early and late, at the Great American Music Hall. Still, with a line up like this one, I was tempted to do both nights. As usual, I was blissfully unaware that Jawbreaker was falling apart when I saw them that night. The guitarist and bassist were traveling in separate vans and by the time they got to Salem, Oregon, tensions got so bad that they got into a fistfight. I’d actually seen them once before in 1995 at the Fillmore, but not only I didn’t tape it for some reason I can’t even remember, but that was the one and only time I can recall I ever lost a poster. I can’t even find an image of that poster on line. If it wasn’t for the one hanging on one of the walls of the Fillmore right now, I’d seriously wonder if that show ever really happened.
Blake, the guitarist, introduced themselves getting on stage, saying “We’re from here.” The crowd seemed receptive, though I would read later that their last album had been criticized by their fans for sounding too commercial. It would take 21 years for them to reconcile and tour again. This was my first time seeing Ween and I was fortunate enough to see them when it was just the two of them, playing only a guitar along to a DAT machine. I knew their songs, “Push Th’ Little Daises” and “I Can’t Put My Finger On It” from “Beavis & Butthead”, the latter song they played that night. I liked them, but didn’t learn to appreciate their talent until years later. I regret only recording four of their songs that show.
But the Fighters were clearly the stars of the show that night. Their fans loved them, especially when they heard the hits. But when they got to “Big Me”, people starting throwing Mentos at them, a nod to the music video of that song, a parody of Mentos commercial. The exasperated Dave Grohl, sang, “Mentos really suck. I hate Mentos. Mentos what the fuck.” After the song he said, “Mentos taste great, don’t they? Just don’t throw them at me!!!” I don’t blame him. Those are hard candies and it probably hurts to be hit by one, much less several like he was.
The second album wouldn’t be out for another year, but we were treated to a couple new songs they’d written on the road, “My Poor Brain” and “Up In Arms”. During the encore, they did their cover of Gary Numan’s “Down In The Park”, a song I was familiar with from the “Urgh! A Music War” concert movie. The Fighters cover had just been released on the “Songs In The Key Of X : Music From And Inspired By The X-Files” album that March and many considered it the highlight from that album.
Stereolab, Prolapse, (Early Show), GAMH, SF, Tues., April 30 , 1996
Stereolab, Track Star, (Late Show), GAMH, SF, Tues., April 30, 1996
There are very few bands I would pay to see both an early and a let show for and Stereolab is clearly one of them, if not top of the list. The Great American was and always will be an excellent place to see a show, but that venue seems to be made for them. Pity I would only see them play there one more time in 1997 before they went on to play the Fillmore and once at the Warfield. Like I said before I was missing the “Rock For Choice” concert with the Foo Fighters at the Warfield, but I’d seen them the night before and didn’t really care. I knew I was making the right decision.
Their fourth album, “Emperor Tomato Ketchup”, had just been released that March and naturally, I had it and listened to it repeatedly. Though some consider it to be their most successful album, I thought “Mars Audiac Quintet” and “Switched On” were better, or at least more cohesive. Still, there were many songs on the new album like “Cybelle’s Reverie” and “Spark Plug” which I liked very much and was eager to hear played live.
If I would have one complaint about Stereolab, it would be their choices in opening bands. I have the same complaint about Tool. Prolapse wasn’t that interesting and Track Star were only slightly more interesting, but of coarse I wasn’t there to see them. One of the things I love about Stereolab is when they do an early and a late show, or two shows on separate nights, they always mix up the set lists. At least half the songs of each show were different ones from the other. Often, most bands would only exchange a song or two, if they didn’t just play the exact same set. This shows clearly not only Stereolab’s impressive and increasing repertoire of songs, but of their creativity as well. They never played covers either.
They ended the sets of both shows with long versions of “Stomach Worm” for the early show and “Super-Electric” for the late one, both songs favorites of mine. I love early and late show nights partially because they occur so rarely, but also for getting a double dose of their music. It helps solidify the memory of that night, especially of the songs they played twice. Pity there was no poster to buy for that night. It was an epic one.
The Freddy Jones Band, Screaming Cheetah Wheelies, Fill., SF, Wed., May 1, 1996
SETLIST (Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies) : Leave, Magnolia, Venus, Messenger, Moses, Ride
As I’m sure I mentioned before, I was seeing everything I could back then no matter if I knew the bands or not, really. Volunteering as an usher allowed me the luxury to go to shows without having to commit completely being able to cancel at the last minute or once in a blue moon, not show up at all, though ninety nine times out of a hundred, I made the shows I signed up for. I’d just been to shows the previous two nights including a double early and late show of Stereolab at the Great American as well, so I wasn’t in the mood for a show that would be too physically taxing, not that I was totally uninterested in this show.
I’d seen the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies once before briefly on the side stage of the Horde tour and was impressed by their chops. They were one of those bands that actually sounded like their name. They were fun, loose, and wild, easy to listen to. I liked them more than the headliner really. Pity their career ended a few years later and this was the last time I’d get to see them. The Freddy Jones Band was fine enough, but forgettable. Strange to find out many years later, that there was nobody in the band actually named Freddy Jones. Apparently, they lifted his name from a comic book character somewhere. They probably got a kick out of people asking for Freddy and hell, maybe it came in handy whenever they needed somebody to blame. The IRS shows up? Talk to Freddy.
Cowboy Junkies, Vic Chessnut, War., SF, Thur., May 9, 1996
SETLIST : Laying It Down, Come Calling (His Song), Lonely Sinking Feeling, Angel Mine, Bea’s Song (River Song Trilogy Part II), Just Want To See, State Trooper, A Common Disaster, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, First Recollection, Sun Comes Up It’s Tuesday Morning, Ring, Carmeleta, Ann Song, Murder, Sweet Jane
I have to admit, my opinion of the Cowboy Junkies was already biased by an account I’d heard of them from the stage manager at Slim’s five years before this show. I was there to watch and record the Dance Hall Crashers, my brother’s band, and he stated very clearly and on video tape no less that he thought they were the most pretentious and rude band that he ever had to work with. But I find that people in rock & roll tend to have a polarizing effect on people depending on the circumstances of meeting them and so forth. I’ve heard nightmare stories about some people while hearing others lavish praise on them as well.
One thing I could give the Junkies praise for was having Vic Chessnut opening for them. He was respected among musical circles and fan alike. Just the very presence of a paralyzed man going up on stage at a venue as large as the Warfield all by his lonesome with just his voice and a acoustic guitar was inspiring. People actually shut the fuck up and listened. Alas, this was the only time I would see him before his untimely death in 2009.
Like the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, the Cowboy Junkies have a name that accurate describes their music. If ever there was a band that earned the moniker of “heroin country”, it was them. Their music is like swallowing a handful of sleeping pills, a true cure for insomnia. Granted, their cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” was respectable, the rest of their set was downright boring. The good news is that ushering their crowd was a piece of cake. Those people were downright catatonic.
Primus, Goldfinger, Weapon Of Choice, BG Civic, SF, Tues., May 7, 1996
SETLIST : Too Many Puppies, Pudding Time, The Pressman, Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, My Name Is Mud, Over The Electric Grapevine, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver, De Anza Jig, Seas Of Cheese, Pork Soda, Eleven, The Heckler, Harold Of The Rocks, Southbound Pachyderm, John The Fisherman, (encore), Professor Nuttbutter’s House Of Treats
My time as an intern for Primus’ manager was coming to a close a graduation day at SF State was approaching. This would be the last time I’d see Primus as their intern and consequently, the last time I’d be on the guest list, though I can think of at least one occasion where I was lucky enough to get into another of their show’s for free. Primus had played the Oakland Coliseum the last New Year’s, the largest venue they had played heading their own show to date. It continue to be so, though I’d see them fill places as big as the Civic and the Greek in Berkeley, which is no small feat to say the least, both venues holding around 8000 fans.
Weapon Of Choice opened and having seen them a few times before, I knew what was in store with them and they were the same. This would be the last time I’d get to see them, but I remember them fondly all the same, each show they played at being good ones back in the 90’s. They had the funk and helped set a festive mood for a show. This was my first time seeing Goldfinger, as it was most folks. They were still pretty new back then having their first self-titled album only that February. Like Weapon Of Choice, I’d go on to see them open for many good shows that decade and they too helped set a lively mood in the crowd. Some folks considered them a ska band, but I didn’t really hear it much in their music. I was and remain a bit of a ska purist from my upbringing, but they had ska-like elements in a couple songs including their hit, “Here In The Bedroom”.
Primus didn’t win the Grammy that year for Best Rock Performance for “Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver”, losing to Pearl Jam, which at least was a respectable band to lose to. I remember seeing Les sitting next to his manager Dave Lefkowitz in the the audience that night. I was rooting for them, of coarse. I never understood why people thought that song was about Winona Ryder. Clearly, the name is spelled differently and if you know as much as I know about her, you’d know that she was naturally blonde and dyes her hair black. Don’t ask me how much I know about Winona Ryder. A-hem…
Primus was always on tour when I was working as an intern, so I didn’t really get to see them at all. I had no idea that Herb, the drummer, was growing weary of being in the band, though I did over hear one day in the office that he was accidentally left behind when the band caught a ferry boat somewhere during their tour of Europe. I’d seen Herb in his other band, Laundry, when they opened for Tool two years before and thought they were pretty good. He would go on to play with Maynard in A Perfect Circle and Pucifier. Herb had also finally shaved his head so it made sense that he would also play with the Blue Man Group for a while as well. He often played wearing a head scarf and I suspected he was going bald anyway. Herb was a good fit for the Blue Man Group, being a four star drummer and now he looked the part. So, Herb would keep busy over the years until he rejoined the band in 2003. Brain would take over on drums and played admirably, though I felt the difference when I would see them play again with him a year later, but I’ll talk about that when I get to that show. With Herb out of the band, Les also went on to monkey around with other projects like The Holy Mackerel, Oysterhead, and The Frog Brigade, just to name a few.
But this being the last show I’d see Herb play with them for the time being, it was a good one as always. I even got Les to scribble an autograph on my ticket that night. I made it quick. Didn’t want to be a pest. They covered a good assortment of songs, old favorites for old local fans like myself, and even threw in a “Stairway To Heaven” intro to “The Heckler”. I always felt that was one of their more underrated songs. Primus got the whole floor of the Civic whipped into a mosh pit too. That’s a sight to behold unto itself. I will always remember my short time working for Dave, Jordan, and Sally in the office fondly, but with a tinge of regret, thinking back to how spoiled and naive is was. I had no hope for promotion or even getting one thin dime out that internship and I was graduating anyway, so, in a way like Herb, for me it was time to move on too.
Bad Religion, Unwritten Law, Dance Hall Crashers, War., SF, Wed., May 8, 1996
I’d seen Bad Religion already a couple times and was a fan, impressed by their musical chops and intelligent, thought provoking lyrics. These guys were one of the tightest bands I ever heard. But their talent at this particular show was overshadowed by seeing the Dance Hall Crashers for the first time without my brother Alex playing bass. Alex felt it was time to move on to pursue his acting and comedy and was replaced by Mikey Weiss. Don’t get me wrong, Mikey was a great bass player, but he was different. While he felt more like a funk-punk player like Flea or Les Claypool, Alex had a more of a lead bassist style, like Geddy Lee or John Entwistle. Either way, the Crashers were great and despite the awkwardness, I enjoyed them all the same.
First up was Unwritten Law, who were very good and I would be fortunate to see them a few more times after seeing them for the first time that night. They were from San Diego and been around since 1990, but they had just released their second album, “Oz Factor”, produced by Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin. They were a good fit for the bill that night. Their energy got the crowd awake.
The Crashers were up next and I was hearing the songs from their new album, “Lockjaw”, for the first time. That album was a moderate hit and being without Alex on the bill, I know it irked him a little as it would anyone. The song, “Enough”, was even on the soundtrack of the kid’s movie, “Angus”. I never actually saw that movie. It had an impressive cast including George C. Scott, Kathy Bates, and Rita Moreno. I liked their new songs. Sounded like them alright, though I felt they were less ska and more poppy than their earlier stuff. I was glad to hear them play Alex’s song, “Othello” as well as “Skinhead BBQ” that night. I yelled out for them to play their old instrumental, “Street Sweeper”. I always do, even though I know they never will. A boy can dream. Alex didn’t go to the show that night and I don’t know if he ever saw the Crashers play again. Honestly, I haven’t the heart to ask him. However, he has remained friends with his former band members and still is to this day.
Bad Religion were awesome as always. It is remarkable how they can play that quickly and still remain that tight. There are few bands that ever could pull that off, really only the Ramones come to mind. They had just released “The Gray Race” that February, produced by The Car’s Ric Ocasek, and the first album the did without Brett Gurewitz. Brett was focusing on running Epitaph records and his trouble with drug addiction was causing friction with the band. He’d eventually get clean and rejoin them, but he’d been replaced by Brian Baker for this tour. The new material was great, especially the songs “A Walk” and “Come Join Us”. Pity there wasn’t a poster that night. To this day, the only poster I ever had with the Crashers name on it was the monthly poster from the Maritime Hall from April 2000, and they were just one show from a list or fourteen.
Cracker, Sparklehorse, Train, Fill., SF, Sat., May 11, 1996
First off, the discs for this show have been misplaced, so I’m doing this without the benefit of listening to them again. I’m sure I just put them in a wrong box and they’ll turn up again. Wouldn’t be the first time. I have fairly decent memories of this show, so for the time being, I will carry on and will amend if necessary when the discs turn up.
Unfortunately, the first thing I remember from this show was the unpleasant fact that Train was the first band on. As you might of read from the time I saw them earlier, that I despise this band and yes, this was the second time in a short time period when I had to put up with their cheesy antics. At least, being the first of three acts, their set was a mercifully short half an hour.
The good news was the second act was Sparklehorse. I really liked them. They were brand new back then, but had made such an impression with their first album, “Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot”, that they had already toured opening for Radiohead. Sadly, Mark Linkous, the band’s frontman, had suffered an overdose in London while on that tour from alcohol and pills. His legs were pinned beneath him for fourteen hours while he was unconscious. He lost the use of his legs because of it and when I saw him perform that night, he was in a wheelchair. Mark would ultimately have to have his legs amputated and he took his own life in 2010.
This would be the only time I’d get to see them. They were a great band and I dare say I liked them even more than Cracker, especially for the song, “Rainmaker”. It remains one of my favorite songs to this day. I remember playing that song in a mix tape I had while riding in a car with my Uncle John when he was visiting from out of town. Uncle John’s a touch on the conservative side and wasn’t that keen on music as far as I know, but I do remember distinctly saying that he liked that song. That’s a good endorsement.
I’d only seen Cracker open for the Dead, of all bands, the year before in Eugene, but I did see them three times that weekend, so I was familiar with their music. They won over the Dead crowd and were even granted an encore song on the last day, also a good endorsement for a crowd that’s difficult to impress. Being the headliner that night, I was at least able to hear them play a little longer set than they did before. This would be the last time I’d see Cracker, but I would finally see David Lowery in the band that made him famous, Camper Van Beethoven, when they got back together in 2004. The Fillmore had a rare horizontal poster that night and a colorful one at that. Pity that Train had to be on it though.
Elvis Costello with Steve Nieve, Fill., SF, Wed., May 15, 1996
It had been five years since I’d seen Elvis play at the Greek and I still harbored mild resentment for having seen that show instead of seeing Jane’s Addiction with The Pixies and Primus. I wouldn’t forgive him or myself until I finally saw Jane’s when they got back together the next year in 1997 and really only completely when I finally saw The Pixies in 2003. All the same, I felt lucky to see Elvis in a venue as small as the Fillmore and counted my blessings.
Mr. Costello had long abandoned his experiment with facial hair and was back to his usual look, clean shaven and with short hair. It was one of those, “an evening with”, shows, so there was no opener and there was only one set, so I was cut almost straight away from ushering. Elvis was touring with just Steve Nieve on piano and him on guitar. As intimate as it was, ultimately I preferred to hear him play with a full band. I would learn years later that Elvis had been falling out with Bruce Thomas, the bassist of the Attractions. Their most recent album, “All This Useless Beauty”, had just been released the day before this show, but it would be the last album Elvis would record with that band, though like I said, he was touring with Steve, the keyboardist. The drummer, Pete Thomas (no relation to Bruce), would play with Elvis again when he formed his new band, The Imposters, in 2001.
Truth was, after 1991’s “Mighty Like A Rose”, I lost interest in Elvis’ new material, partially because of my previously mentioned resentment, but mostly just because I was preoccupied with other music. So, I didn’t know most of the songs that night, but he did dust off a couple golden oldies, “Watching The Detectives” being the second song in the set. He did “Accidents Will Happen” and ended the set with “Alison”, even cutting in a few lines from Smokey Robinson’s “Tears Of A Clown”. He also did a respectable cover of the Dead’s “Ship Of Fools” too. There was a poster that night as expected. I would have been very surprised if they didn’t give one to a show of this caliber.
James Brown & The Soul Generals, Sy Klopps, Maritime Hall, SF, Thur., May 16, 1996
It was time to finally have an audience with the Godfather. I really was looking forward to this one. This was a crowning achievement for the Maritime Hall as well, a very big deal for them. I’m sure it cost Boots a pretty penny to land this one, but it was worth it. $30 for a ticket sounds like a bargain today, but that was a little pricey back in 1996. But Mr. Brown’s band, the Soul Generals, was a large outfit and he had plenty of mouths to feed. It was nice to see a band with so much soul the day after seeing Elvis Costello, arguably one of the whitest musical acts ever to exist.
I knew what most people knew about James Brown by then, all the hits, his history of drug abuse, domestic violence, and run ins with the law. Being the nerd I was and still am, I remember Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, “Living With A Hernia”, Mr. Brown’s appearance on “The Simpsons” back in 1993, his roles in “The Blues Brothers” and “Dr. Detroit” with Dan Aykroyd, and of coarse, Eddie Murphy’s brilliant impersonation of him on “Saturday Night Live” in the “Hot Tub” sketch. But little could prepare me for the spectacle that awaited me that night.
It was close to sold out but not entirely. For some reason, they gave out special tickets for people to sit in the balcony, separated from the folks on the floor, the only time to my recollection that the Maritime ever did that. The folks in the balcony however weren’t given any special ticket, hand stamp, or pass and were just given a password to get a seat which was “Spam”. I doubt that this was very effective since anyone who knew this could easily tell anyone that had a floor ticket this password and so forth, but for the most part it wasn’t a difficult crowd to manage. Everybody wanted to be on the dance floor to get down anyway.
Mr. Brown’s reputation for perfectionism was well earned and the show reflected that. The Soul General’s, all dressed in matching orange uniforms, were as tight as a band could be. This is one of the only bands that had back up singers AND dancers. James did all the dance moves and theatrical bits that he was famous for, including that cape gag at the end. You know, where his MC puts it around his shoulders and pretends to help the exhausted Mr. Brown off stage, only to have him fling it off and get funky again. It was a brilliant act and such a show thankfully got a poster to match it. The poster that night was a large one done by Jimbo Phillips, and it remains today to be one of my favorites.
Todd Rundgren, Jefferson Starship Acoustic Shuttlecraft with Vince Welnick, Fill., SF, Sat., May 18, 1996
I knew very little about Todd going into this show. My brother Alex liked his old band The Nazz and I knew he had been involved with many musical projects as a musician and producer, though back then I couldn’t have named one. But I knew enough to know that this guy was important. Likewise, even though I despised as most people did, “We Built This City”, I knew I had to see the Jefferson people in some form eventually. As a San Franciscan I owed it to them, especially since the show was at the Fillmore.
The Jefferson Starship Acoustic Shuttlecraft, as they were known, were what I could only assume a departure from their electric stuff. I appreciated that they had Vince Welnick playing with them. He clearly took the death of Jerry Garcia hard emotionally, not to mention it meant the end of touring with the Dead, so this show was encouraging to see him out and about and playing music on stage again. He joined Todd on stage later as well. It was mellow hippie stuff and it wasn’t hard to usher.
Todd’s music was alright, but didn’t particularly gel with me. I’d heard around those years of his experimenting with electronic music and his affinity to complicated MIDI controlled keyboards and samplers. Music taste aside, I enjoyed his banter between songs. Todd is a funny guy. He dedicated his set that night to all his friends in Marin, folks “who drive with two hands”. Between one of the songs, he told the sound man to turn his guitar down a bit, “about 600 decibels”. I ran out tape before the show ended, but I do remember him making some joke about food and saying that something was “for your sweet tooth and your meat tooth”. God only knows where that bit came from, but I thought it was a clever phrase and I use it myself from time to time. As luck would have it, I would go on to record the audio for his “Live In San Francisco” DVD, released in 2002, when he played the Maritime, though I didn’t receive and credit or money for it. That’s show biz.
Born Naked, Dr. Obvious, New Idol Sun, Cat’s Alley Bar & Grill, SF, Wed., May 23, 1996
Before I go on to talk about this show, I must first acknowledge the only and only, Mr. Patrick Dillman. Pat was the manager of Born Naked, a short lived, but talented grunge band that frequented gigs around the city. Pat was my flatmate during the two years I spent living on South Van Ness and 22nd and he was an ideal living companion. He was only a few years older than me and my other flatmates, but he seemed wise and mature beyond his years, always paid rent on time, and kept his stuff clean.
I admired him and I regret I wasn’t closer to him when I eventually moved out of the flat. This being a confession, I admit I occasionally snuck into his room while he was away and snibbed a pinch of weed from his stash. I was lean on cash, especially during this last year at college, but that was no excuse for doing him that wrong. I regret that and hope to some day find a way to repay him, though weed is considerably more affordable today and of higher quality. I’ve seen him around town every now and then at shows, but haven’t gotten the nerve to say hi again, partially for the shame I feel. He hasn’t said hi to me either, but I don’t blame him one bit. I’m happy to know that he’s married now and has an adorable daughter.
Indeed, I owe Pat thanks. The singer/guitarist of Born Naked, Sal, was close friends with Tim “Herb” Alexander, the drummer of Primus, and it was through Sal, then to Pat, that I was informed that Jordan at Dave Lefkowitz’s office was in need of an intern. Herb had helped Sal build his recording studio, mixed the recording of their self titled LP, and even played with band on guitar on occasion, though I never saw him play with them. Thinking I was doing the band a favor, I played their demo for Dave and Jordan in the office, but I could tell when I told Pat I did that, he was upset, though he understood my intention and had the good grace not to scold me for it. I think he thought the demo wasn’t up to snuff for presentation, even though I thought it was fine. Regardless, Dave never brought on any new acts under his wing while I was an intern for him or ever did since. Primus and all of Claypool’s side projects clearly was enough for him.
Back to the show. This was the only time I ever saw a gig at the Cat’s Alley Bar & Grill, a nice little spot south of Market. It was small, but the crowd was a comfortable size, so it wasn’t hard to get around and it sure as hell was loud enough to get a good recording. Born Naked had talent and were really nice guys. All of them were very friendly to me. Jay, the drummer, like many good drummers, made funny faces when he played. Clearly, they had talent. But their sound was similar to many of the grunge bands of the time like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Smashing Pumpkins. If only they’d put their stuff out five or ten years earlier, they would of had a better chance at success. I think they deserved it, but even as early as 1996, grunge was already making way for other trends like Britpop and nu-metal. At least I got to see them a good handful of times. I wish them all well, especially Pat.
The Mo’fessionals, Los Angelitos, Jungle Biskit, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 24, 1996
The Maritime was still getting its sea legs, so to speak, but hand landed some notable acts like James Brown, who I wrote about a little while ago. They did from time to time, showcased local acts at affordable prices and this was one of them. I’m sure they, like the the Fillmore, when they experimented with the so-called “Fillmore Sessions”, didn’t make any money off these gigs, but their hearts were in the right place and that’s a rarity in show biz.
I really liked Jungle Biskit and regretted never picking up one of their albums. They had a big, funky sound, reflected literally by the size and talent of their bass player, a mountain of man. Los Angelitos were from Berkeley and they were good too, finishing their set with a funny song called “Unabomber”. Ted Kaczynski was just arrested that April and had accumulated a bit of a cult status up till then, until everybody found out what a disheveled loser he was.
The Mo’fessionals like Los Angelitos had a great horn section and made a big band sound that was easy to dance to. Josh Jones was their drummer and he had a respectable reputation amongst the acid jazz scene with his group and collaborations with others. Zoe Ellis, the sister of Dave Ellis, the saxophonist for the Charlie Hunter Trio, sang for the Mo’fessionals and I thought she had the voice of an angel.
Ministry, The Jesus Lizard, Laika & The Cosmonauts, War., SF, Sat., May 25, 1996
Ministry, The Jesus Lizard, Laika & The Cosmonauts, War., SF, Sun., May 26, 1996
SETLIST (Saturday) : Psalm 69, Crumbs, Reload, Filth Pig, So What, Just One Fix, N.W.O., Hero, Thieves, Scarecrow, Lava, The Fall, Stigmata
(Sunday) Psalm 69, Crumbs, Reload, Filth Pig, So What, Just One Fix, N.W.O., Deity, Hero, Thieves, Scarecrow, Lava, The Fall, Supernaut, Stigmata
I was already a big fan of Ministry when these shows came around and was becoming a bigger fan of the Jesus Lizard after seeing them twice at Lollapalooza the year before. So much so, that I signed up for both shows, knowing that I’d be missing Sublime play at the Maritime on the first night. I was, however, able to get ahold of a custom poster for the Sublime show the night before at the Urban Jam show and it was a good one, one of my favorites.
It was a good thing I got that poster when I did. If you hadn’t of guessed it by now, yes May 25th was the day when Brad Nowell, the singer/guitarist of Sublime, died of a heroin overdose. Yep, he was supposed to play the Maritime that night. My flatmate Mike went to that show and when I got home and asked him how the show went he said simply, “No show. Singer’s dead.” I only got to see Sublime play a couple songs on the side stage at the first 105’s B.F.D. festival when he was still alive, though I’d get to see the rest of the band play a few times in the future as the Long Beach Dub All Stars. To make matters worse, I just discovered that Brad died at the Ocean View motel which is only a block away from where I’m living now. I’d thought that he died at a hotel in the Marina. Such a pity. Their self-titled third album was released just two months later with their big hit, “What I Got”.
I was oblivious to the death that day and I had good reason to be celebrating. Saturday was the day I graduated from college. I ate at Benihana that day after the graduation and went to the show in my cap and gown. I saw David Yow from the Jesus Lizard on the dance floor before the doors opened watching Laika and the Cosmonauts’ sound check and I talked to him for a bit. He looked me up and down at first and asked, “This for real?” I said yes and he congratulated me. I told him about the times I saw him and his band play and what I fan I’d become and asked him for his autograph which he graciously agreed to. He signed it, “You know what, Nick? You gradu-fuckin-ated”. I love that man. Incidentally, it was also the birthday of Tina, the head usher that night.
Laika and the Cosmonauts were from Finland and Al Jourgensen of Ministry was a big fan of theirs. They were subdued compared to Ministry and the Jesus Lizard, playing surf rock-lounge music sounding stuff, even doing a few covers from theme songs of old movie thrillers, “Psycho”, “Vertigo”, and “Mission Impossible” on the first day, and “Experiment In Terror” on the second day. The keyboardist came out on the second day to play with the Jesus Lizard when they did “Horse”, one of my favorite songs of theirs with an addictive key hook through the song. Never saw that band again though.
The Jesus Lizard was the frantic spectacle I grew to know and love both days. They mixed up their set lists both days, though I confess I still don’t know the names of a few songs they played both days, which is why I didn’t write out the set lists. David was cracking me up both nights as well. He said, “I know Ministry is usually good, but tonight their sleeping through the whole set. You wanna talk about dull? You wanna talk about boring? Ministry is going to come out and bore the fuck out of you!” Between songs on the second day he screamed out, “Everybody say Rock & Roll! Everybody say suck my ass! Everybody say let’s go to Los Angeles! Everybody say fuck me! Everybody say fuck you! Everybody wondering when we gonna start the next song!” This unfortunately would be the last time I’d see them with their original drummer, Mac McNeilly, until he rejoined the band twelve years later.
Ministry had released “Filth Pig” that January and though I didn’t think it was as good an album as “Psalm 69”, I liked it all the same. I had heard of Al’s reputation for eating copious amounts of drugs and even heard that the name of the tour, the “Sphinctour” was a reference to the fact that he had to wear adult diapers. Years of hard drug use apparently causes incontinence. Al had been hitting a rough patch back then and the dark themes in the new album reflected that, so much that he doesn’t like playing songs from that album any more. Good sets, both nights, mostly playing the same stuff. They did their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” during their sound check the second night, but didn’t play it during the show. They played Link Wray’s “Rumble” as an intro when they got on stage both nights as well. Happy to say they had a poster that night as well.
Live 105’s BFD: No Doubt, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Lush, Stabbing Westward, Jewel, Garbage, Cast, Dance Hall Crashers, Dishwalla, The Meices, Mr. T Experience, Bracket, Stanford Marching Band, Shoreline, Mountain View, Fri., June 14, 1996
LUSH : Heavenly Nobodies, The Childcatcher, 500, Single Girl, Hypocrite, For Love, Sweetness & Light, Ladykillers
JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS : My Reputation, Cherry Bomb, Androgynous, Love Is All Around, I Want To Be Your Dog, I Love Rock & Roll, Crimson & Clover, I Hate Myself For Loving You, Do You Want To Touch Me
This was the first day of a looooong weekend, certainly one to remember. I caught 13 acts this day and I would catch 19 more the next two days at the Tibet Freedom Concert in Golden Gate Park. That’s 32 in total… if my math’s correct. Yep, 32. I checked. The B.F.D. was now in it’s third year and with the success of the last two, this solidified the annual festival. It was here to stay and I’m happy to report that it continues to this day 24 years later, though it has since moved to the Concord Pavilion from Shoreline. Good.
Opening on the main stage were the Meices, a band from SF that I’d heard of, but never had the pleasure to see. They were fun, but over soon. Like so many acts of the beginning of this festival, they had just enough time for five songs. I’d never see them again since they broke up a year afterwards. One interesting and surprisingly innovative thing the festival did that year was have the Stanford Marching Band play. They came out between the Meices and the Dance Hall Crashers out on the lawn and played on their own without the sound system. They did marching band covers of Green Day’s “Welcome To Paradise” and the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band”. This was a smart idea, an idea that I can sadly report has never been repeated, at least at any show that I’ve seen since.
Next up was the Dance Hall Crashers. I’d just seen them six weeks before opening for Bad Religion at the Warfield, which makes it one of the quickest times I’ve had seeing a band between gigs and the irony that it was my brother’s old band wasn’t lost on me. It was the biggest stage I’d ever see them play and they performed admirably as always, though all five songs were new ones. There was some confusion afterwards, as Dishwalla were to play next instead of Cast. I guess Cast was running late. Dishwalla did an out of left field cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Gratitude”.
Cast was next and they were good and loud. Alas, this would be the only time I’d see them. I ran out to the second stage to catch a song from Bracket before they started. This was the first time I’d get to see Garbage. They’d been around a few years, but had released their eponymous first album the year before and it was a big hit. Butch Vig, the drummer, had struck oil producing Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album, but like most people, I had no idea he played the drums. If I only had one complaint about seeing them live, it was that they sounded exactly like they did on the album, which is a compliment as well if you think about it. Only a producer with such a precise ear for how their music should sound could replicate it that closely. Butch had sound baffles around his drum kit to help, a sight rarely seen in rock circles, but occasionally with jazz drummers. Everybody on Earth was horny for the singer, Shirley Manson. I like to think she inspired many women to stop wearing bras. Jewel was her usual charming self and one has to give her extra credit for going up to such a large crowd, the largest I’d ever see her play, just her and play solo on acoustic guitar. Say what you want about her music, but that takes guts. She’s such a cutie, especially when she play the “Yodeling Song”.
I was flipping around tapes at this show because I think I failed to pack enough ammo, so some songs were lost in the sets with band coming in the middle when I was putting in tapes to cover other acts. I think that happened with the Mr. T Experience, who were on the second stage, and with No Doubt, the last act of the night. I’d never seen the Mr. T Experience before, but I knew their name well after seeing a flyer from one of their shows on the bathroom wall of my home when I was in high school. My brother Alex and I shared a bathroom back then and it was flyer from what I assume was one the shows he saw them play. It being over six years since I flew the nest, it was a long time coming seeing this band and I wasn’t disappointed. They were real punks and a delight to listen to, though I revet this would be the only time I’d ever see them.
Stabbing Westward were up next and I liked their industrial sound, a harshness this festival desperately needed. I also found it a unique juxtaposition to have them follow Jewel. I remember near the end of their set, the singer led off a handful of things that “B.F.D.” stood for and I’ll never forget that one of them was “Burning Flatulant Diarrhea”. Good for them.
To those who know me or to those who have read this thing, you know that Lush is a big deal for me. They were at the top of their game here, moving up from being the opening act at Lollapalooza to being one of the top three acts on the bill at this one. Like the Dance Hall Crashers, I’d seen them almost as recently, just two months prior, and would see them only once more three months later before their apocalyptic break up. They were continuing their tour with the “Lovelife” album and half the set were new songs. That night they officially joined the list of bands that weren’t my little secret anymore.
Now Joan Jett was another matter, me seeing her for the first time. I’d grown up hearing her stuff and had little appreciation for it, other than “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody, “I Love Rocky Road”, which should be noted as the hit that brought him into the national spotlight. I did know “My Reputation” from the “Urgh! A Music War” concert movie, however. I loved their set. She was a real pro. Even though I never watched the “Mary Tyler Moore Show”, I knew right away that they were covering the theme song, “Love Is All Around”. It was a great song and I’d hear it again when they used it for the closing credits for the 1999 film, “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. They did all the hits including “Crimson & Clover” which up till around that time I din’t know that it was a cover by the band, Tommy James & The Shondells.
Joan Jett’s set has the dubious distinction of being one of the recordings I actually tried playing in a car when I was traveling with my family. In hindsight, I should have played the tape that had No Doubt, which would have been a more popular choice for my brother and sister, but Joan’s set it was to be. The quality of the recording was bad enough, but when my dad heard the lyrics to “Androgynous”, I could tell he was starting to lose his patience. They implored me to eject the tape and let them take over, but I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. I said, “You’ve made your decision. Now do what you have to do.” And yes, they ejected the tape and we went on with the trip, but I never forgot that.
Last, but not least, was No Doubt. It was was an uplifting note that this festival was headlined by the last three acts who were fronted by females. To most today, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but 22 years ago, it was significant. No Doubt went from relative obscurity to the top of the heap with their album, “Tragic Kingdom”. “Spiderwebs” was the big hit until they released “Don’t Speak” as their third single in April. Then, they were big time. Gwen Stefani was now a cultural icon and she never went back. She made quite a living for herself singing about her romantic troubles. We all should be so lucky.
Tibet Freedom Concert: Beastie Boys, The Smashing Pumpkins, Tribe Called Quest, John Lee Hooker, Foo Fighters, Biz Markie, Pavement, Cibo Matto, Richie Havens, Chaksam-Pa, Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, SF, Sat., June 15, 1996
Tibet Freedom Concert: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, The Fugees, Bjork, The Skatalites, De La Soul, Beck, Sonic Youth, Yoko Ono/IMA, Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, SF, Sun., June 16, 1996
RICHIE HAVENS : Blood On The Wire, License To Kill, Freedom, On The Turning Away
FOO FIGHTERS : This Is A Call, For All The Cows, Wattershed, Big Me, I’ll Stick Around, Alone & Easy Target, Exhausted
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS : Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Zero, Tonight Tonight, Fuck You (An Ode To No One), Silverfuck
BEASTIE BOYS : Jimmy James, Root Down, The Biz VS The Nuge, Time For Livin’, Believe, Stand Together, Get It Together, Ricky’s Theme, Sabrosa, Flute Loop, Shake Your Rump, Finger Lickin’ Good, Sabotage, Tough Guy, Red Tape, Buddavista Vow, Sure Shot, So Whatcha’ Want?, Something’s Got To Give
SONIC YOUTH : Bull In The Heather, Starfield Road, Saucer-Like, Diamond Sea
BECK : Pay No Mind, Alcohol, Truckdrivin’ Neighbors Downstairs, Asshole, One Foot In The Grave, Burnt Orange Peel, Hollow Log
BJORK : Army Of Me, Human Behavior, Venus As A Boy, Hyperballad, Enjoy, Violently Happy
THE FUGEES : Another One Bites The Dust, No Woman No Cry, Fu-Gee-La, Killing Me Softly, Ready Or Not
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE : Bulls On Parade, Vietnow, A Pocket Full Of Shells, Turn It Off, Bombtrack, A Bullet In Your Head, Killing In The Name, Freedom
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS : The Power Of Equality, Suck My Kiss, Venus In Furs, Waiting Room, Walkabout, I Am You Are Me, Aeroplane, Give It Away
Oooo boy. This one was a whopper. I’d been putting this one off for a while and for that, I apologize. Work’s been busy and as you will read, this was a big one. First off, a little back story. Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, had been a practicing buddhist and had founded the Milarepa Fund to help Tibetan exile organizations and promote Tibetan independence and human rights. This two day festival would go on to raise over $800,000 and was the largest charity concert since Live Aid in 1985. After Tienaman Square in 1989, there was little hope that China would ever ease, much less release, it’s brutal iron grip on Tibet, but perhaps this concert more than any other factor at least raised awareness of the suffering of the Tibetan people in America. There would be other charity shows for the people of Tibet, but this was the big one.
As a stickler to always getting to the concert on time, I made sure we got there early, but parking as it was, we were lucky to get inside the show just as Chaksam-Pa, a collective of Tibetan musicians and opera people, were just finishing. Richie Havens, venerable veteran of Woodstock, bravely took the stage all alone with his acoustic guitar and played admirably. He did a passionate rendition of his song, “Freedom”, easily as intense as he made it on the fly all those years ago. He finished with an unexpected a cappella cover of Pink Floyd’s “On The Turning Away”. I dare say I like his version better. Afterwards, Bob Thurman, a professor and expert on all things Tibetan and buddhist, spoke to the crowd, reminding those there of the atrocities being committed in Tibet, reminding everybody attending wasn’t just there to get high and have fun. He is also incidentally the father of actor Uma Thurman. He spoke again the next day as well.
This was the first time I saw Cibo Matto and they were pretty new back then. I heard that fellow New Yorker’s, the Beastie’s, were fans. Their brand of far out hip hop was welcome and refreshing, especially since there were so few females on the bill, just Bjork, and Lauryn, D’Arcy, and Kim, the single female members of the Fugees, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sonic Youth. Pavement had their short set and I was surprised to hear them do covers of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” and the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On”. I didn’t learn until recently the latter was a Velvet song. I thought it was Steppenwolf, sounded like them. I suppose this was a good milieu for bands wanting to play something special. Young as I was, I felt that this was a historical show and I’m sure I wasn’t alone that day thinking so.
After some announcements, Biz Markie took the stage busted out some of phat human beat box techniques. He would come out later to do his part for the Beasties, singing his bit from “The Biz VS The Nuge”. He added some levity to the serious nature of the show by adding some parody lyrics to his classic hit, “You Got What I Need”. One verse was, “Oh baby, you, you got a hair weave, but you said it’s your real hair”, the other was, “Oh baby, you, you got a disease, but you said it’s just a rash”.
Like Cibo Matto, the Foo Fighters were still new, but were also a welcome addition. The show was about halfway through and the crowd was getting hard to manage, especially when they started moshing. They hadn’t been able to cut loose with the music before hand and I guess they were more than in the mood. I had a backpack on and was frantically pivoting left and right trying to get bodies off me. You can hear some guy between songs telling folks to “take it easy” and that “we’re all friends here”. It didn’t help much.
After some more speeches, the crowd mellowed out a little to the blues stylings of the one and only John Lee Hooker, even though he only got to play four songs. I guess they were running behind schedule. Funny thing, and this is something I’ll never forget, John got a little rude interruption from the stage next door. I forgot to mention at the start that the setup was two identical stages side by side, both with Tibetan designs around cloth trim, one side red, the other red. While one act was playing on one stage, the other would be setting up on the other side, keeping a continuous stream of music coming throughout the day. Well, Tribe Called Quest was setting up to play after Mr. Hooker and let’s just say Ali on the turntables was cutting into “Boom Boom” on the other stage pretty loudly. John didn’t look too happy about that. Tribe, also tight with the Beasties and fellow Lollapalooza ’94 alumni, pumped up the crowd. I’d get to see Tribe one more time a couple months later, but that would be the last time, though I’d see Phife Dawg once at the Maritime before he passed away.
Like Tribe, the next one up was a Lollapalooza ’94 alumni, The Smashing Pumpkins. They had headlined that festival, but this time the Beasties would follow them. The Pumpkins were still touring with the new songs from “The Mellon Collie & Infinite Sadness” album and they played only songs from that album, except for “Silverfuck” which they closed with. That one seemed to go on for all eternity and as much as I loved that band, when they finally finished, I as well as the rest of the crowd was relieved.
It really was the Beasties show that day and they always deliver, especially that day, obviously an important gig for them, MCA more than anyone. As much as I’d seen them up until that show, I dare say that I was proud of them. This show was different. They were doing something honorable here, and in doing so gave the other artists and all of us the privilege to be part of it. I know I’m having a big head saying that, being just one face in the crowd those two days, but shows like this don’t come around very often. Clearly, this was one of the highlights of my entire life.
“Ill Communication” was a couple years old now, but the songs still felt fresh and nobody was tired of them yet, that was for sure. Rest assured, the mosh pit woke up for them, even though it had been a long day. The “Buddavista Vow” now took on much deeper meaning, as did “Something’s Got To Give” which they closed the show with instead of the explosive finale of “Sabotage” as they usual do which they played earlier. Buddhist monks came out at the end and offered prayers to wrap up the show as well as they would do the next day.
The next day started similarly as the day before, the mad rush to find parking and get there on time. We ended parking probably over a mile away, but still got in with just enough time to hear Yoko Ono/IMA finishing the last two songs of their set. Sorry I had to miss Buddy Guy that day, though I’d get to see him play elsewhere in the future. I could hear Yoko’s shrill wailing before we were even inside the gates. Her caterwauling on “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” still manages to pierce my ears like nails on a chalkboard every holiday season. Don’t get me wrong though, I liked that band’s music, it being my introduction to Sean Lennon, her son with the late Beatle, John. He’d go on to become a respected musician in his own right, playing in such projects as The Ghost Of A Sabre Tooth Tiger and The Lennon Claypool Delirium. He’d tour the next year playing with Cibo Matto who performed at the festival the day before. Thank God he got his beautiful singing voice from his dad and not his mom.
Next up was Sonic Youth. I’d been getting a steady diet of Sonic Youth over the past couple years, having seen them twice at the Warfield, once opening for R.E.M., and twice again headlining Lollapalooza, but their unique sound is always welcome to me. I appreciated that although they had limited time in their set, they still played the epic-long “Diamond Sea”, probably my favorite song from the “Washing Machine” album. Fellow Lollapalooza ’95 alumni, Beck, followed, though he was just playing solo acoustic this time, a quiet departure from Sonic Youth’s feedback wall of sound. Like Richie Havens the day before, he had the courage to face this sea of people all alone with his guitar. He did bust out some beat box stuff and improvised some free style rap near the end of his set too. Now that takes balls. His next album, “Odelay”, was released the day after this show and from then on he would be huge and remain so.
De La Soul provided some more quality hip hop to the bill. This was the first time I’d see them, but I’d have a few times to record them in the future at the Maritime. I was especially happy to see The Skatalites on the bill, a band whose influence was getting some mainstream recognition that day. I was and remain biased of coarse for my ska upbringing. They had a short four song set like John Lee Hooker the day before. I guess they were running behind that day too, but I was happy to hear them close it with “The Guns Of Navarone”.
What happened during Bjork’s set continues to haunt me to this day. I’d gotten close to the front, probably the closest I’d gotten to the stage that day when one of the security guys spotted me, saw my earphone mic, and knew I was recording. He wasn’t close enough to grab me, but he looked me dead in the eye and yelled at me to “STAY RIGHT THERE!”. I panicked and took off for the back of the crowd. Of coarse, he never caught me, but the problem was I told my friend Tory to meet me right there at the barricade at the end of the show to walk back together to the car at the end of the show. I was so young, paranoid, and stupid, that I was afraid to go back at the end and instead waited by the car. It took a long time for Tory to give up waiting where I’d asked him to originally and make it there and he was justifiably pissed off about it. I apologized profusely and it still upsets me. I won’t forget that to the end of my days.
The jarring experience tainted my enjoyment of Bjork’s set and I’d only get to see her one more time play live a couple years later at the Warfield. Likewise, I’d only get to see the Fugees one more time a couple months later at the Smokin’ Grooves tour, which as luck would have it, be the last time I’d see Tribe Called Quest who played the day before at the festival. They did their hits, including Wyclef’s cover of “No Woman No Cry”, where he once again substituted “San Francisco” for “Trenchtown” in the lyrics which predictably got a cheer from the crowd. What Wyclef lacks in originality, he clearly makes up with in showmanship.
As the shows progressed both days, I grew accustomed to the rhythm of the crowd’s movements and learned to shift from one side of the field to the other near the end of each set, so I’d be in place for the beginning of the next set on the other side when the next band started. Well, when Rage Against The Machine started, the crowd surged over like a fucking tidal wave and I had to use every ounce of my strength to stay upright. Lots of people fell over on the way and we all did our best to help them up, so nobody would be crushed to death. It was pretty hairy, truth be told, but as far as I know there were no serious injuries that day. Suffice to say, the crowd went completely nuts during their set and it was one of the biggest pits I’d ever see in my lifetime. It’s more than a pit when it gets to be that size, it’s a god damn maelstrom.
The energy expended during Rage’s set actually made the Chili’s set a little more civilized. I appreciated that they opened with “The Power Of Equality”, in my opinion one of their more underrated songs and definitely appropriate for the theme of the festival that weekend. Like Pavement, they too did a Velvet Underground cover, “Venus In Furs”. Sterling Morrison had died the year before that the Velvet’s had just been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame that January. Still, singing a song about sado-masochism might not be the most appropriate of tunes for a benefit for the Tibetans. Anyway, they also surprised us with a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” too. Perhaps the theme is more appropriate for a people in exile and to those stuck in Tibet, waiting for liberation.
After it was all over and I finally reunited with Tory, we drove away listening to Beck doing a couple songs on Live 105 in studio. He played “Pay No Mind”, “Hollow Log”, and talked with the host and some callers. Whew… Well, that’s it. After B.F.D. III at Shoreline, I tallied up three days and 35 bands under my belt. That was a lot of tapes to label and transcribe. B.F.D. and Tibet Freedom take up four discs each day, making it an even dozen and probably twice as many in cassettes. Like I said, it was one for the ages, a line up in star quality I probably will never see again.
Porno For Pyros, Cornershop, Fill., SF, Tues., June 18, 1996
SETLIST : Porpoise Head, Wishing Well, Meija, Good God’s Urge, Porno For Pyros, Cursed Female, unknown, Black Girlfriend, Bad Shit, (encore), Thick Of It All, Mountain Song, Kimberley Austin, Tahitian Moon
It had been over three years from that fateful night at the Warfield when I began recording shows as an usher and Porno For Pyros was back, this time at the Fillmore. “Good God’s Urge”, their second and final album, had just been released the month before, but I’d already heard a couple of the new songs from a bootleg CD I’d picked up of their performance at Woodstock ’94. Whoever made the disc, obviously didn’t know the names of the new songs, calling “Porpoise Head”, “Thin White Sheath”.
Peter DiStephano, the guitarist, had left the band just before the new album was released, taking a hiatus because he’d been diagnosed with cancer. They replaced him with a guy named James, though I didn’t catch his last name. The bassist, Martyn LeNoble, had left before the album was done recording and they brought in the one and only Mike Watt to finish the album and tour with them. He was a more than welcome addition to the band as he is to any band he blesses with his presence. Still, his modest, flannel wearing, teddy bear look about him seemed antithetical to the band’s chic theatricality, but hey, who makes the rules, right? It’s Mike fucking Watt there. They were lucky to have him.
Another fine addition to the show was Cornershop on the bill as the opening act. I was already a fan and this was over a full year before their second album, “When I Was Born For The 7th Time”, would be released bringing them some success in the mainstream. They only had time to play four songs, especially since their epic “7:20 AM Jullandar Shere” would go on for over ten minutes.
With Watt on bass and the new guitarist, they played very well that night. The new songs were a little dreamier than the first albums’, but they were good shoe gazing respites from the older more upbeat numbers. They meshed well together. Porno For Pyros will always be dear to my heart being the first headliner I taped as an usher, and indelibly ingrained on my memory because of all the mayhem that broke out during that first show when the crowd barricade collapsed.
One thing in particular that made this show special was that I finally got to hear a Jane’s Addiction song live for the first time. The second song into the encore, I was lifted on high hearing the opening riff of “Mountain Song”, one of my favorites of theirs. As I was hoping they would, Jane’s would reform the next year and I would at long last redeem myself for missing them in 1991. This excellent show was also fortunately concluded with being handed an excellent poster, done by none other than Winston Smith. With his usual 1950’s parody flare, it showed Jesus handing a young girl a tuba, some biker chick, a steamboat, sea plane, a guillotine, amongst other things. Alas, this would be the last time I’d see Porno For Pyros, though there have been rumors of a reunion recently.
311, Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Urge, War., SF, Fri., June 21, 1996
Oh yeah, 311 got big fast. This wasn’t the first time I’s seen them though. I was lucky to catch them once before when they were just getting attention at Bottom Of The Hill, the last show I’d see at that venue before they remodeled the place. 311 quickly got promoted to playing the Fillmore, where I saw them again back in 1995. Hearing 311 today to a young person, their sound might sound dated and even a touch hokey, but back then, nobody sounded quite like them. They were original and clearly had talent. I appreciated that they came from Nebraska as well. Any good bands that make it big in rock & roll are in short supply and are needed.
To bounce from the small foothold of Bottom Of The Hill to the expansive stage of the Warfield in less than two years is no small feat and deserves respect. Not a lot of bands can do it that quickly. The line up that night started with The Urge, a strong opener, though it would be the only time I’d ever see them. The Voodoo Glow Skulls followed, a welcome opener to any show. They did their covers of “Charlie Brown” and “Here Comes The Sun” as usual and the crowd got a little mosh pit going, so they were warmed up for 311. They were tight as I’d seen them before and they even played “Who’s Got The Herb?”, which they recorded as an outtake for the “311” album but later released for the “Hempilation : Freedom is NORML” compilation album. Plenty of herb was sparked up that night for that song.
Cocteau Twins, Spain, War., SF, Sat., June 22, 1996
SETLIST : 50-50 Clown, Calfskin Smack, Watchlar, 1/2 Gifts, Rilkien Heart, Green, Treasure Hiding, Ella Megalast, Pitch The Baby, Wax & Wayne, Aloysuis, I Wear Your Ring, Summerhead, Seekers Who Are Lovers, Iceblink Luck, Violane, (encore), Pandora, Blue Bell Knoll
I’d seen the Twins only once before at the Warfield back in 1994 and was fortunate to catch them this time around, since it would be their last before they broke up. Yes, the years of fighting, substance abuse, and mental breakdowns between Robin and Liz in the band took their toll. There was hope in 2005 that they would get back together for Cochella, but that fizzled out. This was the year the Twins had played on a few dates of the Lollapalooza tour with Metallica, Kirk, the guitarist, being a big fan of theirs and had been in the crowd watching them in ’94 at the Warfield. I’d see that tour when it came through six weeks later, but Devo was in their place for that show, which was fortunate. I like the Twins, but I worship Devo, and that would be the first time I’d get to see them.
Opening that night was a band called Spain. They were fronted by a fellow named Josh Hayden, the son of jazz legend Charlie Hayden. I didn’t know that at the time, but I knew who Spain was because of a young woman I was smitten with named Tanya, who was Josh’s sister, one of a set of triplet sisters. Tanya was a student at SF State as I was and lived on my block in the Mission. She was easy to spot, being absolutely gorgeous. I never had the courage to ask her out and I remember one time she was giving away stuff outside her place and I actually took a couple jars of expired vitamins from her. That’s where I learned that Spain would be opening for the Twins soon. As luck would have it, Tanya would eventually marry none other than Jack Black, who she went to high school with in Santa Monica, though they didn’t marry until 2005. I just found this out only moments ago as I looked up a picture of them together. Yep, that’s her. They look happy and have had two sons. Good for them. Hell, I’m jealous of her. Jack is filthy rich and supremely talented.
Anyway, I can’t say I was a fan of her brother’s band, but had the good taste to not tell her that when I saw her again. The Twins were loud and dreamy as I remembered them the last time I saw them. I’m glad I went because it was one of the rare occurrences when my sister ushered with me. She was a fan obviously. It is a rare show when she comes out of the woodwork for one and I made sure to get her more albums by them as gifts to her in the future. Though it would be the last time around for the Cocteau Twins, I would at least get to see Robin Guthrie perform with his band, Violet Indiana, at the Great American Music Hall in 2002.
Weird Al Yankovic, Lord Carrette, Fill., SF, Thur., June 27, 1996
SETLIST : Since You’ve Been Gone, Gump, Alternative Medley (Loser – Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Black Hole Sun – Basket Case), One More Minute, Like A Surgeon, George Of The Jungle, Melanie, Headline News, I’ll Repair For You, The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota, Jurassic Park, Laundry Day, Chicken Pot Pie, Spam, My Bologna, Alimony, Syndicated Inc., Another One Rides The Bus, Gee I’m A Nerd, That Achey Breaky Song, Phony Calls, Cavity Search, Green Eggs & Ham, Eat It, Smells Like Nirvana, Bedrock Anthem, Amish Paradise
Oh boy, where to begin? As my nerdish tendencies might imply, you can probably guess that I’m down with the Weird One. Yes, before I could even learn to appreciate the songs he was parodying, I knew “Another One Rides The Bus” and “I Love Rocky Road” by heart. So, it was a long time coming to see the master, though I couldn’t recall a time he performed in the bay area up to this point. Lucky for me, he was playing the Fillmore and I was in.
Opening was a comedian called Lord Carrette, who was trying to play some high brow Lord Buckley knock off. He wasn’t very funny even with his sort of hyper aware, self deprecating style and he barely got a handful of chuckles from the crowd. Luckily, he was only on for about twenty minutes. It was a little jarring at first seeing Weird Al without his trademark mustache. He’d shaven it to do the video for “Amish Paradise” and I guess he hadn’t grown it back yet.
His songs were short, so we were blessed to hear a whole bunch of them including polka medleys of alternative rock standards, some originals, and new ones off of his most recent album “Bad Hair Day”. He even showed videos between songs of celebrity interviews of people like Madonna, where he’d splice in funny questions and comments to make the interviews appear ridiculous. They also showed the funny game show “Wheel Of Fish” scene from the film “UHF” between a couple songs too. One of my favorite bits he did that night was when took a long time to humbly acknowledged his band, went to introduce them, and then quickly just said, “guitar player, bass player, drummer”, and then went immediately back to playing music. There were plenty of wig and costume changes for the songs too, including the Amish get up at the end.
There had been some tension between him and Coolio over the “Amish Paradise” single, debates over whether permission was asked, etc. If anything, the controversy served only to increase sales for both their songs. That’s show biz. Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” is just a rap version of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” anyway. Fair use, right? Coolio and Mr. Wonder should be honored. It is easily one of Weird Al’s best songs and funniest music videos. I always felt that Weird Al should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. I mean, really, he’s one of a kind, an American institution. Needless to say, I was furious when I found out there was no poster that night.
Butthole Surfers, The Toadies, Reverend Horton Heat, The Supersuckers, Greek, Berkeley, Fri., June 28, 1996
It had been a little while since I’d been to the Greek. Though I will always enjoy shows there, if you’re not from Berkeley, getting in and out of there can be a little challenging. This was one lineup I would not miss. This was one of those bills that would come once in a lifetime and I knew it, so I made sure to be there. This would be the third time in three years seeing The Supersuckers opening for somebody, so I was familiar with their music by this time. Eddie Spaghetti Could always be relied upon to crack out the jams under that cowboy hat of his.
The good Reverend was next and the pit down front was growing large. Mr. Heat, like Fishbone and Los Lobos, is one of those rare acts I know I can see and he’ll deliver each and every time without fail. I’m pretty sure this is the only time I’d ever seen him as an opening act though, but for the Surfers, it was a perfect fit. He too is a fellow Texan. When they played “$400”, the Reverend made a point to mention that three of the four acts on the bill played that song. I assume The Toadies were the one that didn’t, they being not so punkish.
Speaking of The Toadies, this would be the last time I’d see them. I had the pleasure of seeing them open for three different bands in less than a year, twice with Bush, once with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and this show, respectively. I didn’t appreciate them in their time as many people back then didn’t. They were original. I appreciated that of the three bands on the bill that did songs for the “Saturday Morning : Cartoon’s Greatest Hits” album, they were the only band to play their song from it, “Gooulie Get-Together”. That was a pity too, because I loved the Reverend’s covers of “Johnny Quest/Stop That Pigeon” and the Surfer’s cover of “Underdog”, the latter I never heard performed live.
This was the first time I’d seen the Surfers since that fateful night opening for Nirvana’s last bay area show in Oakland, New Year’s Eve 1993-1994. They had made a mighty impression and I was keen on becoming familiar with their music. Though they always had respect amongst punk circles and some mainstream success with “Independent Worm Saloon” and being on the first Lollapalooza tour, they were thrust into the mainstream that year with their new album, “Electriclarryland”. It was the single, “Pepper”, that caught everybody’s ear, and though some claimed it was derivative of Beck’s “Loser”, it helped push the new album to go gold in a matter of months. Everybody loved the music video featuring Eric Estrada too. When once asked why he was in the video, Gibby Haynes simply replied because he couldn’t get porn actress, Erica Estrada.
The new album had the additional benefit of offending the mainstream with its cover, a cartoon of a man getting a pencil shoved into his ear, and well, the band’s name had always offended people, only now the mainstream were just hearing about them. In response, the Surfers made an alternate cover with a picture of the head of a squirrel and their named printed “B***H*** Surfers”. Why they chose a squirrel, I might never know and I doubt the folks in the mainstream would have to strain what little brains they had to figure out their name from that pitiful attempt at censorship. The success of the new album introduced their music to a new legion of fans and some of their other songs would go on to find their way into TV and film soundtracks to boot.
The weather that night was balmy and perfect and there was a full moon as well. Gibby pointed to it between songs, saying, “Look at that fuckin’ moon!” The new songs were fantastic live and it was gratifying to see the Surfers making it big and getting the respect they deserved. It was an interesting juxtaposition seeing them play the night after “Weird Al” Yankovic. I think they would make an interesting double bill, then again, anyone playing along side those two acts would be interesting.
Ice Cube, Mack 10, War., SF, Sat., July 20, 1996
SETLIST : Natural Born Killaz, Steady Mobbin’, Friday, The Nigga You Love To Hate, How To Survive In South Central, Gangsta Gangsta, Fuck The Police, You Know How We Do It, Today Was A Good Day, Check Yo Self, Ta Da, West Up!, Bop Gun
Cube had just been in the movie “Friday” the year, the sixth movie he’d acted in and his first writing for that was produced. He was touring, playing songs off the “Lethal Injection” album from December of 1993. I’d seen him do songs from it the year before at the Warfield and it would be another two years before he’d release a new album, but Cube being Cube, it still was a party and I was far from tired of hearing his stuff. No one can accuse him laziness and I pity any one who would dare do that to his face.
Opening that night was Westcoast Connection alumni, Mack 10. He’d been on Cube’s “Bootlegs & B-Sides” album and Cube produced his first album on Priority records. He got the crowd warmed up with his short set. Rap shows, though a challenge to usher if you don’t know how to cope with them, are usually short, provided the acts get on stage on time. Cube is always professional and although it was one of those rare occasions that I had to work all night as a paid usher, I was bopping along with everybody else. Like I said, it was mostly stuff from the last time, but we did get to hear the title song, “Friday”, from the new movie. I admit, I hadn’t seen it by that show, but have seen it and it’s sequels plenty since.
No Doubt, Goldfinger, Salmon, Fill., SF, Tues., July 30, 1996
SETLIST : Sunday Morning, Move On, Different People, End It On This, Happy Now, The Climb, Excuse Me Mister, Open The Gate, Just A Girl, Sailin’ On, You Can Do It, Total Hate, Pawn Shop, Don’t Speak, Spiderwebs, (encore), Star Wars, Let’s Get Back
I know I sound like a broken record, if you excuse the expression, but No Doubt were no longer our little band anymore, not that I could lay claim to them. Seeing them open for Fungo Mungo with the Dance Hall Crashers at the Stone made a searing impression on me. And seeing them in the headlining spot at B.F.D. that year left ,yes, I’ll say it, “no doubt” that they had hit it big. Which made it all the more precious that I’d be able to see them at the Fillmore at this time, easily the smallest venue I’d be able to see them at then or ever since their ascension. Damn, I did a metaphor and a pun in the same paragraph. Forgive me.
I was just getting to know the Live 105 DJ, Mo Mellady, through my friend John, and she was there to do a little promotion and introduce the bands. She would go on to be a good friend of mine as well as the voice of the cartoon spokeswoman of E-insurance, Erin Insurance, the pink haired secret agent who would brave great danger to bring insurance to the masses.
I was starting to get into the habit of recording soundchecks, a habit I wish I adopted years ago. I got a couple songs from No Doubt that night, including a sweet cover of The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di”. Mo introduced the first band, Salmon, from Gilroy. I always liked Salmon and still do. It was a pity that their career was short lived. They deserved more. I wish I recorded their whole set that night instead of the measly two songs I got. Next up was the ever-present Goldfinger. In eight months, I saw them open for four different bands! They’re still around, but that fourth time was the last time I’d see them. Along with Salmon, they got the crowd loosened up, and the mosh pit was ready for No Doubt.
This was probably the last time I’d hear many of their songs from the first album, with the possible exception of “Move On”. They also did a brilliant cover of “Sailin’ On” by Bad Brains, though most of their young fans would assume it was their song. I’m glad they do that one, showing respect to the punk pioneers and by extension, their good taste in music and their influences. After playing “Total Hate”, they even did a bit from the Sublime song, “Pawn Shop”, a tribute to the fellow southern Californian band who just lost their singer to a drug overdose less that two months prior. Sublime’s new album had just been released that very day. On a lighter note, we were tickled at the beginning of the encore, to hear the band do a little intro of “The Throne Room” theme from “Star Wars” before finishing the night with “Let’s Get Back”. They had a good poster that night too, a cartoon of a Tunnel Of Love ride. If they hadn’t had one for such a prestigious show, I’d of been flummoxed to say the least.
Lollapalooza ’96: Metallica, Soundgarden, Devo, The Ramones, Rancid, Screaming Trees, The Shaolin Monks Of Kung Fu, Psychotica, Soul Coughing, Sponge, Thirty Ought Six, Satchel, Crumb, Bluegill, Spartan Stadium, San Jose, Fri., August 2, 1996
RANCID : Maxwell Murder, Roots Radical, Avenues & Alleyways, Old Friend, St. Mary, The Wars End, Nihilism, I Wanna Riot, Black & Blue, Radio, Junkie Man, Time Bomb, Ruby Soho
THE RAMONES : Durango 95, Teenage Lobotomy, Psychotherapy, Blitzkrieg Bop, Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?, I Believe In Miracles, Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment, Rock & Roll High School, I Wanna Be Sedated, Spider-Man, Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, Rockaway Beach, Pet Sematery, Do You Wanna Dance?, Chinese Rocks, 53rd & 3rd, I Don’t Want You, Wart Hog, Cretin Hop, R.A.M.O.N.E.S., Today your Love Tomorrow The World, Pinhead
DEVO : Whip It, Girl U Want, Satisfaction, Uncontrollable Urge, Blockhead, Mongoloid, Jocko Homo, Smart Patrol – Mr. DNA, Gut Feeling – Slap Your Mammy, Gates Of Steel
SOUNDGARDEN : Spoonman, Searching With My Good Eye Closed, Let Me Drown, Waiting For The Sun, Pretty Noose, My Wave, Ty Cobb, Fell On Black Days, Rusty Cage, Black Hole Sun, Outshined, Mailman, Jesus Christ Pose
METALLICA : So What, Creeping Death, Sad But True, Ain’t My Bitch, Whiplash, Fade To Black, King Nothing, One, Until It Sleeps, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Wherever I May Roam, Nothing Else Matters, Enter Sandman, (encore), Detroit Rock City Intro – Last Caress, Master Of Puppets, Overkill
Another long day, but one for the ages. Lollapalooza would be in San Jose this time and the only time. It was at Spartan Stadium where I presume San Jose State had their football matches. I usually get lost each and every time I try to find something in San Jose, but this time it was relatively painless, partially because I came early as usual and beat the crowd going in. Lollapalooza would only tour one more time the following year with the exception of the tour in 2003, then would take permanent residence in Chicago as a three day festival every summer.
The line up this time around was formidable, though guitar heavy. No hip hop this time around, in fact, not a black person in sight. I’m afraid the same went for women too, making this the most homogenous of Lollapaloozas. Not that it wasn’t a good line up, like I said, it was one for the ages. I’ll try to stay in order and not jump around. First up on the main stage was Psychotica. They were an industrial pop band that was short lived, I’m afraid. They broke up a couple years later. I do remember the lead singer asking if the crowd was “ready for the new age of glitter”. Ummm, they weren’t apparently, though I would buy their album and really, they weren’t that bad.
If there was one act from far left or shall I say far east field, it was the Shaolin Monks Of Kung Fu. Yes, these were actual bone fide monks demonstrating kicks and weapon routines to a pre-recorded narrator and rather typical Chinese instrumental music. They were bad ass to say the least and it was a relief to see some people of color on the bill, even if it wasn’t a musical act. These guys would bend steel rods around their forearms and one even broke a piece of plate metal with his forehead. Impressive, but their set was short.
I was glad to see the Screaming Trees up next. They had just released “Dust”, their seventh and final studio album. Josh Homme, who would go on to front the Queens Of The Stone Age, had just joined the band and the new material was excellent, though not as commercially successful as their previous album. This would be the first time I’d get to see Rancid. I’d seen Tim Armstrong before when he was briefly in the Dance Hall Crashers, but that was when I was just a kid. Their third album, “…And Out Come The Wolves”, had been out over a year and was a big hit, going gold, and they had a rowdy pit from their fellow Bay Area fans.
Rancid made sure to give a shout out to the Ramones, who followed them. I’d had the luck to see the Ramones twice at the Warfield and this being the third, I was beginning to take them for granted. They were finally getting the crowds and commercial success they so richly deserved. Little did I or anyone know that Joey had been already fighting lymph cancer for a couple years and it would eventually take his life in 2001. Even worse, we’d lose Dee Dee to a drug overdose the next year and Johnny to prostate cancer in 2004. Yes, this would be the last time I’d get to see the Ramones, but they played a hell of a set as always, covering twenty two songs in only 45 minutes. I feel great pride that I got to see them together when they were alive and that their legacy flourishes to this day and forever.
I must say that the main draw for me at this festival had to be Devo. Yes, after long last, I would finally see these heroes of mine. I was lucky to see them too, since they had come out of hiatus to do just a very limited stint on the tour. I mentioned before that the Cocteau Twins, who Metallica had been fans of, had been on that slot in the line up for part of the tour and it didn’t go so well for them, partially because the band was fighting each other and all the punks and metal heads were unreceptive. There had been a bunch of others on different legs of the tour including Waylon Jennings, Cheap Trick, the Violent Femmes, and the Wu-Tang Clan which provided much needed variety to the bill.
But I digress, yes, Devo. They’d been broken up for years and I was heartbroken that I’d never got a chance to see them before and was wondering if I would ever. Mark Mothersbaugh had gone on to have a successful career writing scores for TV and movies, including “The Rugrats” of all things. He still does soundtracks to this day and he’s brilliant at it, like fellow rock alumni as Danny Elfman and Trent Reznor. Devo was in fine form, opening with their big hit, “Whip It”. I’m glad they don’t do the predictable thing and save that one for last. I loved that Mark busted out a pom pom for “Mongoloid” and that the band tore off their trademark yellow plastic jumpsuits at the last songs to reveal their sleeveless black shirts and biker shorts. I was in heaven that day.
This was a weird line up for one other reason and that was that Soundgarden was there, the first time a former Lollapalooza alumni returned on the tour. There had been others like Tool and Cypress Hill who’d came back on tour from playing the side stage previously, but this was the first time a main stage act had returned. “Superunknown” was a huge hit, giving them the coveted second to last spot on the bill, in some ways a more prestigious spot than the headliner, considering the caliber of past alumni from that spot like Ministry and the Beastie Boys, and that those in that spot probably had the most exposure to people, while some would leave before the headliner had ended to beat the rush out of the show. They did an awesome cover or “Waiting For The Sun” by the Doors and Chris Cornell did “Black Hole Sun” all by his lonesome on an acoustic guitar. Like Metallica, Chris had just cut his hair short too.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there were several fine acts on the second stage that year. The Melvins were finally getting good as a live act, or maybe I was just starting to “get it” with their music. This would be the first time I’d get to see Soul Coughing and the second time I’d get to see Sponge, both excellent acts worthy of the main stage. Crumb was there too, who you might remember was one of the acts Jordan Kurland from Primus’ management was wrangling at the time. They were on early that day, so they didn’t attract much of a crowd. I certainly made maximum effort to see what I could, but the second stage was so far away, I literally had to run back and forth to get there in time to get enough songs to make it worth my while. Suffice to say, I was on their brink of exhaustion by the time Metallica took the stage and was relieved that I could finally rest and stay in one spot for a while. I had way too much sun as well.
And last but not least, there was Metallica. I’d grown up hearing their music in the background of my young life, but neglected to listen to them. My brother liked “…And Justice For All”, I remember, but as for me, I didn’t listen or saw much heavy metal before then. Shame on me too. I could have seen these guys when they still had Cliff and Dave in the band in small venues like the Stone or the Omni back in the day if I’d been turned on by then. They were starting to get my attention when I heard about the Day On The Green show they’d done with Guns & Roses where the lawn got torn to holy hell. The brand new Soundgarden was on that bill opening that day as well as Queensryche. I of coarse wasn’t there and just heard the stories.
But by this time, Metallica was huge and starting to grow up a little. For starters, like I said everybody in the band just had haircuts. Jason Newsted was still in the band and would be for another 5 years. Ask around metal fans, especially in the bay area, and Metallica tends to be one of those watershed acts, like the Grateful Dead. There’s no middle road between liking them or not it seems, but like the Dead they are our home town heroes made good and for better or for worse, they’re family, even if Hetfield did snub me that one time at the Fillmore when I asked for his autograph. I’m happy to say that after that night, I clearly fell on the approving side of those who’ve heard their music. Their talent in their instrument playing and song writing clearly was beyond reproach. There was even a point where I was wondering how the holy hell they could keep up the pace they were keeping without collapsing into exhaustion, especially Lars. God damn, can that man hit the drums.
I’d get to see Metallica play a couple times acoustically at the Bridge School Benefit in the next year, but it would be a full eight years before I’d get the chance to see them play electric again when they did a run at the Fillmore. I would get one instance as a stagehand being able to set up their gear at some MTV fan appreciation party at the Baker Hamilton building south of market out here before that, but we stagehands weren’t allowed to watch the show. At least it was loud enough that we could hear it from around the corner, though I can’t really recall what they played that night. I helped move their gear out of storage up in San Rafael before we drove with it there, really the only time I helped transport gear as a stagehand. I also remember their manager at the show chewing out some MTV production assistant who was telling some of his crew to move their cars, yelling, “Put that clipboard down, motherfucker!”
Anyway, it was fun to hear them do some covers for their encore, starting with a bit from Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City”. They finished with the Misfits’ “Last Caress” and Motorhead’s “Overkill”, both songs they would go on to release as B-sides in a couple years. Other than that, they covered a decent cross section of their work, some of the new songs, and epic long version of “One”, with excruciatingly loud war noises at the introduction. Like I said, I was exhausted and could barely stand by the time the show ended. I was so glad to see the sun go down and I could cool off, not to mention the indescribable relief when I finally got back to my car and could sit down. Alas, I would never see the Ramones again, but I would go on to see Devo many more times.
The Cure, San Jose Arena, San Jose, Mon., August 5, 1996
SETLIST : Want, Club America, A Night Like This, Push, Pictures Of You, Treasure, The Walk, Dressing Up, Just Like Heaven, Jupiter Crash, Round & Round & Round, Lullaby, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, Strange Attraction, Mint Car, Love Song, Fascination Street, Shiver & Shake, Return, Trap, Prayers For Rain, Inbetween Days, At The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea, Bare, Disintegration, (encore), Catch, Hot Hot Hot!!!, Close To Me, Why Can’t I Be You?, (encore), Boys Don’t Cry, 10:15 Saturday Night, Killing An Arab, A Forest
It is a rare occurrence that I see a show in San Jose and I believe this was the only time I’d see two shows in a row down there. At long last, I was to see The Cure, a band friends of mine had been obsessed with, though I had been a late bloomer getting into. Like the “Greyheads” who got into the Dead after they did “Touch Of Grey”, one could say I was a “Fri-head”, one who got into The Cure after they released, “Friday, I’m In Love”. It was a catchy tune and was cheerful and upbeat, a departure from their usual moody, melancholy stuff. One could go so far to call it corny, but anyone who knows me knows that I’m an old softie. It was an easy song for me to fall for.
Because of that, I started getting into their older tunes and it was good timing that they had released both the “Show” and “Paris” live albums just a few years prior, giving me some quality live material to study. This show was also a welcome introspective departure from the bombastic Lollapalooza show I’d just seen three days before, but unlike that show, I got lost trying to find the so-called “Shark Tank”. How the fuck does one get lost finding a stadium!?!? I found a way not only once, but thrice, having did it happen again when I’d go to see David Bowie and then the Stones. I made sure to leave early those nights as well and on all three occasions, I was able to get in just in time for the show to start. Back then, the area was called “HP Pavilion”, now it’s called “SAP Center At San Jose”, just another of an endless trend of ridiculous corporate names that have been attached to venues starting around this time and continuing to this day. Sometimes you get an interesting one, like “Sleep Train Amphitheater”, but other times an embarrassing one like “Enron Field” have to put out to pasture.
It was “an evening with…” show and unknown to me was an unusual time to see The Cure. Being new to them, the only member I knew was Robert Smith, whose goth visage was unmistakable, even to those who couldn’t name song one from them. But behind the scenes, Porl Thompson and Boris Williams, two original members had just left the band, and their original bassist, Simon Gallup, had to quit because of pleurisy, a lung disease, a few years before. Regardless, their replacements played brilliantly and I was none the wiser. I would grow to appreciate how the imposing appearance of Smith distracted people from the brilliance of the band itself. You listen to the music without him singing and it is incredible, flawless at times. I feel the same way about bands like The Doors and Stone Temple Pilots. In the long run, it’s good for the band in some ways I suppose. The others don’t have to be worried about being mobbed by fans so much.
Robert Smith came out that night wearing a San Jose Sharks jersey which I found amusing and admirable. Not only was he giving a shout out to the locals, but one could interpret that he was making a ironic statement that the average Cure fan wasn’t that into hockey, or any team sport for that matter. In my experience, Goths tend to gravitate towards solo exercises like long distance running. Anyway, The Cure certainly had endurance, putting on a two and a half hour show with some songs like “At The Edge Of A Deep Green Sea” and “Disintegration” going on for some time. The sound system was superb. The tapes came in clearer than most shows, especially arena shows.
The new material was likable, though the new album, “Wild Mood Swings” didn’t go down commercially or critically as their earlier stuff, and one could argue that it’s been this way ever since. Really, it would be hard to top what they had made up till then. It happens to a lot of bands and is nothing to be ashamed of. They continued to put out new stuff steadily through the years and always kept touring. The new songs felt faster and cheerful, though their lyrics might have been dark. I was lucky to hear them when I did. The Cure would play maybe only one song a show from this album from the tours that came after this one.
The length of the show took me by surprise, unfortunately, and I ran out of tape. I had to do the lifeboat situation decision of having to put in the first tape and tape over the beginning of them show, until I had all the songs from the encores. It’s a tough choice to make, but bands tend to put their best songs at the end of sets and well, you gotta do what you gotta do. I lost the first six songs, including “Pictures Of You”, perhaps one of the saddest songs ever written and one of my favorites of theirs. Oh well, no use moping about it, even if it was a Goth show.
Berlin, Fill., SF, Fri., August 9, 1996
SETLIST : Masquerade, Touch, Heartstrings, When We Make Love, Gabriel, No More Words, Medication, Pleasure Victim, You’re The Boss, Metro, Now It’s My Turn, You Don’t Know, Like A Man, Sex (I’m A), 13 Men, Take My Breath Away
Though this was my first time seeing them, everybody knew Berlin from their hit, “Take My Breath Away”, the Oscar winning anthem from the movie “Top Gun”. But Berlin is one of those bands that you hear live and say to yourself, “Oh yeah, they did that song too.” I got a handful of those that night. There was only a DJ on before, so like The Cure a few days before, it was just “an evening with…” show. Also like the Cure, I didn’t know the line up was missing many of the original members. It being my first time again, was oblivious. Berlin had been broken up for a few years and Terri Nunn, the singer and John Crawford, the bassist had gotten the rights to the band’s name and were touring with new members.
They were great and I fell in love with Terri as most boys do and I’m sure some girls. Berlin is definitely getting busy music. How many children were conceived to “Take My Breath Away” must at least be in the thousands. As a matter of fact, my wife’s parents used to love that song. My poor lady cringes if she even hears so much as a measure of that song. Too bad, it’s a pretty song, but I understand. Most people have a song that does that to them. For me, it’s “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind (shutter!)
Anyway, Being in the Fillmore, Terri made sure to praise Grace Slick in between songs, calling her “the reason she got into singing”. In a way, the venue seemed to fit their sound. Pity there was no poster that night. I would go on to see Berlin a few more times after this show, including getting to record them at the Maritime in 1999. I would see Terri Nunn after that show once and she remembered my name and gave me a hug. She’s probably the only rock star who ever did that.
Burning Spear, Strickly Roots, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., August 17, 1996
This would be a special show for two reasons. One, it was the last show I did at the Maritime as a so-called “Peace Dog”, and two, it was the night I found the courage to ask my next girlfriend, Lisa, out for a date. Shortly after this show, I was approached by my friend Randy, who was working in the production office, if I was interested in becoming Pete Slauson’s assistant in the recording room. You might recall from my earlier writing that poor Pete had suffered a severe hand injury and needed some help to do the job and Randy knew of my experience in sound from SF State. Well, the next show I did at the Maritime was Christian Death and I passed the audition and the rest is history, but I’ll cross that bridge soon enough and give y’all more details on that night later.
But back to the show. Like I said, it was the last time I’d usher there and there was Lisa beside me on the dance floor. Opening was Strickly Roots, a staple in bay area reggae playing regularly at places like Ashkenaz in Berkeley and opening for any reggae act of note touring through California. I can’t really say how many times I’d seen them before this show, but a conservative estimate would put it at three at least. They were fronted by a white fellow with ginger brown dreadlocks of impressive length. I never learned his name, but as far as white reggae singers went, he wasn’t half bad. I heard he passed away a few years later and that his last gig was at the appropriately named, Last Day Saloon, though I can’t verify that. Despite their career and reputation, I’ve been able to find very little to research on Strickly Roots, but I assure you that anybody who saw reggae in the bay area in the 80s and 90s probably ran into them at least once or twice.
During their set, I had just built up the courage to ask Lisa out, but I found that I first had to go through a fellow named Paul. Paul was a fellow usher, a middle aged New Yorker who had a mustache, was quite talkative and absolutely repulsive, especially to women. He was infamous for being gassy. He was in the middle of some long diatribe when I literally had to cut him off, saying, “Uhh, can you excuse me for a minute?” I then promptly approached Lisa who was a few feet away and asked her out plain and simple. To my delight and relief, she said yes, which began a year and half relationship. It would remain the longest relationship I would have with a woman until I met my beloved wife. I haven’t seen Lisa since we broke up twenty years ago, but wherever she is I wish her well and all the happiness in the world.
I’m pretty sure I’d seen Burning Spear before at one of the Reggae Sunsplash’s at the Greek in Berkeley, but understand, those were very long days that included an endless cavalcade of ganja smoking. I had their “Live At The Paris Zenith ’88” album and it was one of my favorites. This would actually be the only time I would bootleg Burning Spear myself, though I would go on to record them several times in the future with Pete. I’m proud to say that the band took a few tracks from our work and released them on their “(A)live 1997” album. It’s easy to love this band, impossible not to dance to, and it its completely understandable why they are one of the most repeated reggae bands in the world. I only wished I brought more tapes that night. I was only able to get one disc worth of material.
The Misfits, Anthrax, Life Of Agony, Cannibal Corpse, Fill., SF, Sun., August 18, 1996
I should open this bit by first offering a retraction. I’m too damn lazy to go back and edit what I wrote earlier right now, but I’ll make sure to be more careful in the future. I mentioned that seeing Metallica at Lollapalooza a little over two weeks before this show won me over, despite that Hetfield had denied me an autograph at the Fillmore. Well, turns out that the snub actually occurred at this show, not before. They were close together, so you can understand how that memory could get a little cockeyed.
To say that it was a snub is harsh, and in hindsight was totally justified. I was in the wrong and if I ever get the opportunity to meet James, I’d offer him my deepest and sincere apology. I mean, it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m embarrassed nonetheless. I had been working at Swank Audio Visuals and had to wear a suit to work, much to my dismay and humiliation, but at least when I got out of work early enough to usher, I was more than dressed appropriately for the occasion. So, there I was working in front of the soundboard or “horseshoe” as it was known to ushers when I look over and see Mr. Hetfield enjoying the show with Jim Martin, the former guitarist of Faith No More.
I thought that was pretty neat-o, but tried not to stare. I think it was during the set of Life Of Agony. Anyway, others were beginning to notice them there and a young lady approached me and asked me if I had a pen she could borrow which I did and I lent it to her. She got James’ autograph and gave it back to me. Another asked me for the pen and did the same. Well, at this point, I thought why the hell not and tried to ask him too at which point, as you might of gathered, he refused. He simply said, “It’s the wrong time.” I was a little miffed, but tried to be offended. A couple songs later, I looked over to him, gave him a dorky smile and a thumbs up. The looks on their faces said it all. I’ve never considered myself a “cool” person, but that moment was probably the most uncool moment of my life and it certainly didn’t help that I was wearing a cheap suit. So, at the astronomically unlikely chance that Mr. Hetfield or Mr. Martin read this, let me just say… sorry.
Now that this business is out of the way, I can get back to the show. Among punk and/or metal circles, it can be agreed that this was quite a line up and understandable why the afore mentioned musicians would be in attendance. Incidentally, it was quite a stylistic departure from the reggae stylings of Burning Spear which I had witnessed the night before. Opening up was Cannibal Corpse. This is the kind of band to me that seems to be making a deliberate effort to piss off and God and get a one way ticket to hell. I mean, I like the macabre as much as the next red blooded American, but somebody has to take these guys aside and say, “OK, guys. Let’s take it down a notch, shall we?” Seriously, if you want to lose your lunch, just stroll down whatever record store is still open and check out their album covers. They are a master class in goriness and their song and album titles are so dark, they cross over into the hilarious. Let’s take albums like “Butchered At Birth”, “Tomb Of The Mutilated”, and “Evisceration Plague”, or songs like “Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains”, “Meat Hook Sodomy”, or “I Cum Blood” as just a few notable examples. Not to say they weren’t any good. They were. It doesn’t get much heavier than them and they certainly made you feel masculine. Culture Club they’re not. It’s just bands like them, Deicide, or Cradle Of Filth, make me look up to heaven and say, “Hey God… I’m just here for the show, OK? Don’t send me into the fiery pit for all eternity for this, OK?”
Life Of Agony were up next and though they were pretty heavy, they couldn’t compete with the cookie monster metal I’d just witnessed before them. I was distracted too by singer Keith Caputo’s bugging eyeballs whenever he sang. I guess he couldn’t help it, much like Chino Moreno of the Deftones. I mean, I repeat both bands, but it’s a distraction for me. I’d get to see the band one more time in 2005 before Keith had a sex change and became Mina Caputo, a rare event for any lead singer, but especially for a metal band. Truth be told, I was really there to see Anthrax, the one band on the bill that I knew anything about and I knew very little about them, apart from their cover of “Time” by Joe Jackson. They were great as expected.
I’d seen Danzig only one time a year before at the Warfield, but I knew nothing of the Misfits before this night, save spotting somebody wearing the random fan T-shirt or patch. Danzig had long left the Misfits to pursue his successful solo career and the bassist, Jerry Only, and the drummer, Dr. Chud, had just gotten rights to use the band’s name after a long stretch of legal work. They had a new singer, Michale Graves, and they started touring again obviously. They wouldn’t come out with an album of new material until a year later, but all the same, I didn’t know their new songs from their old ones anyway, so it made no difference to me. I appreciate their music, but I never was much of a fan. Like Kiss, I think their look was half the reason they were famous to begin with. Still, they clearly had fans including Mr. Hetfield, who I just saw cover their song, “Last Caress” as the closing song of their encore at Lollapalooza just a couple weeks before.
Les Claypool & The Holy Mackerel, MIRV, The Fabulous Hedgehogs, Fill., SF, Sat., August 24, 1996
This was a transition period for Mr. Claypool. Herb had left Primus, to be replaced by “Brain” Mantia. “Brain” would go on to play in many of Les’ side projects including the Frog Brigade and the Bucket Of Bernie Brains band. But first he would be introduced to Claypool’s fans in The Holy Mackerel, a name keeping with Les’ penchant for fishing. Their new album would be released a couple days after this show, so everybody in the house was hearing the new songs for the first time.
First up were the Fabulous Hedgehogs, a fun band and a good opener. I believe Mikey, the guy who replaced my brother in the Dance Hall Crashers, used to play bass for them, or taught their bassist before joining the Crashers. Next up was MIRV, who I was already familiar with, having seen them open for Les with their first show at the Greek, though I only caught their last song, and two other times at Slim’s, once opening for Sausage. MIRV was pulling double duty that night, also playing guitar in The Holy Mackerel.
Bob Cock came out to introduce the band, doing a sort of preacher schtick, getting the crowd to pray along in unison, “Oh, the Holy Mackerel! Oh, the fishiest of fishies! I want to rub you on my buttocks! It’s my biggest wishy-wishy!” Since the songs were brand new, I didn’t know the titles, but upon getting the new album, I knew they played most of it, including “Hendershot”, “Highball With The Devil”, “Running The Gauntlet”, and “Calling Kyle”, songs that Les would go on to play in other bands of his as well. Like Sausage, I was lucky to see them play since, this would be the only time I’d see them. Yep, just this one tour. Les would go on to tour with Primus again with “Brain” on the drums in ’97. As luck would have it, The Mackerel would play The Fillmore a mere month later, a show I would miss, and that show got one.
Sex Pistols, Goldfinger, Gravity Kills, Shoreline, Mountain View, Tues., August 27, 1996
SETLIST : Bodies, Seventeen, New York, Did You No Wrong, No Feelings, God Save The Queen, Liar, Satellite, (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone, Submission, Holiday In The Sun, Pretty Vacant, E.M.I., (encore), Anarchy In The UK, Problems
Oh yes, it was finally time to see the one, the only… Sex Pistols. This was important for a number of reasons. First, the obvious, they being who they are and the fact that they hadn’t played together in almost twenty years. Second, this was the first time I’d be seeing Johnny since seeing him with P.I.L. all those years ago at my first concert ever at the Warfield. Third, it just felt right, though I can’t really say why. We were in the middle of the golden age of Bill Clinton and I can’t say people were in a punkish mood. Still, like I said, it just felt right.
For some reason, I didn’t record the openers, Goldfinger and Gravity Kills. I don’t recall showing up late to that show and I highly doubt that I would have, considering its importance. Regardless, I have recordings of them playing elsewhere, two other times for Goldfinger that year alone. It was totally bizarre that BGP booked the Pistols to play Shoreline, probably the least punk venue in the bay area. That and they had the unfortunate timing of playing the same night Kiss was in town doing their own reunion tour, ironically just down the road at the San Jose Arena. Consequently, Shoreline was only half full that night, making the mosh pit up on the lawn a pathetic sight indeed.
Johnny even noted between songs, “I suppose you’re all looking forward to Kiss! Well, kiss this!” Thankfully, I was at an age where I realized that Kiss sucked and I made the right choice. The Pistols played only an hour, but I understood, they only having one album. Still, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was gratifying to hear them playing with Glen Matlock again on bass as well, who was so unceremoniously replaced by Sid Viscous back in the day. That guy really kept the band together musically. Sadly, I didn’t get the encore that night, but I would be redeemed when the Pistols would tour again and play the Warfield in 2003, a venue much more appropriate for them, especially since that was where I saw Johnny first.
Smokin’ Grooves Tour ’96: Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Cypress Hill, The Fugees, Spearhead, Tribe Called Quest, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat., August 31, 1996
CYPRESS HILL : Let It Rain, Make A Move, Hand On The Pump, Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk, Real Estate, Hits From The Bong, Cock The Hammer, drums, Illusions, How I Could Just Kill A Man, Insane In The Brain, Lick A Shot, Throw Your Set In The Air, Icicle (with Call O’ Da Wild), We Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That
ZIGGY MARLEY & THE MELODY MAKERS : Feelin’ Irae, Tomorrow People, The Power To Move Ya, Tipsy Daisy, Rastaman Vibration, Stir It Up, Rainbow Dancing, Wood & Oil, I Shot The Sheriff, Free Like We Want 2B, Look Who’s Dancing, Could You Be Loved?, Get Up Stand Up
As a sort of response to the success of Lollapalooza, the Smokin’ Grooves tour was born in an effort to bring quality hip hop acts, with the exception of Ziggy Marley, to the masses and not just in the cities on the coasts. It also showcased bands that used actual instruments to help dispel the notion that the genre was only for folks with turntables and lastly, to prove to the public that such a tour could be achieved without the people involved or their attendees shooting each other left, right, and center. I’m pleased to say that this show went off without any such incident and to my knowledge no other on the tour did either. I think that was partially because of the copious amounts of marijuana being smoked throughout the show as the name of the tour would suggest… thank you Cypress Hill especially. I got there just as Spearhead was finishing their last couple songs. I think my buddy Tory was with me on this one. Busta Rhymes was on the bill too, but he either dropped out or was on first and I missed him completely. This was back when Spearhead was still calling themselves just that and not Michael Franti & Spearhead. I still think Franti should have never changed the name.
Tribe Called Quest was up next and alas, this would be the last time I’d see them together. “Beats, Rhymes, & Life” had just been released a month before and despite it’s lukewarm reception, it would go on to win a Grammy and go platinum. They coyly encouraged the the crowd on the lawn to come up to the sparsely populated front seated section, but backed off a little at the end, saying they didn’t want to cause any trouble. Like Lollapalooza, Tribe was a weird fit as a middle act on the bill at Shoreline. It was hard to get the crowd in the move when they were so far away. Speaking of distance, behind the scenes, Pfife Dawg was growing apart from the others. Q Tip had become a muslim and brought his cousin, Consequence, into the band. After the next album, they’d all go their separate ways and wouldn’t reform until Pfife passed away in 2016, though I would go on to see him play once as a solo act at the Maritime.
This would also be the last time I’d see The Fugees. This would be the fourth time I’d see them in 1996, counting having seen them twice in one night, doing an early and late show at the Fillmore. It stood to reason with that frequency and their commercial success, that I’d see them more in the future, but nope, didn’t happen. They played their usual set including “No Woman No Cry”, a tune of Ziggy’s father. Lauryn Hill had met Ziggy’s half brother, Rohan, that year and went on to record her smash hit solo album, “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill” at Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica. Though she would refer to Rohan as her husband and they had five children together, the were never legally married. I wonder if she met Rohan on that tour…
Anyway, Cypress Hill was up next and was a crowd pleaser as always. They were a good act to have on a festival later in the show as the sun’s going down. People smoke a lot of herb, chill out, get the munchies, and are nice loosened up. Their third album, “III : Temples Of Boom” had been out over a year and everybody knew their material well. Like Tribe and The Fugees, they’d go on the next year to take a break and pursue solo projects, but Cypress Hill were back right away in ’98 and have been at it ever since. Thank God for that too. The world needs this band.
Last up, was Ziggy & The Melody Makers, the last time as well for me to see him, though he still tours, playing at Stern Grove this year in fact, though I’m afraid I had to miss it. I’d get to see his brothers, Stephen and Damian, on a number of occasions in years to come though. It was a nice set to end the day with and he covered a good handful of his dad’s tunes, rounding out the set with a rousing “Get Up Stand Up”.
Rage Against The Machine, Girls Against Boys, Stanford Prison Experiment, Fill., SF, Thur., September 5, 1996
SETLIST : Bulls On Parade, Know Your Enemy, Without A Face, Tire Me, Fist Full Of Steel, Snakecharmer, Bombtrack, Down Rodeo, Bullet In Your Head (encore), People Of The Sun, Wind Below, Killing In The Name, (encore), Roll Right, Freedom
This was actually a second attempt to see Rage with my buddy Tory. We had drove down to San Jose Event Center the day before to try to score a ticket outside the show, but were unsuccessful. I had almost a perfect record going to concerts that were sold out and score a ticket, especially if it was at a large venue like that one. But no, it wasn’t the case that time, not a single ticket being offered. I was already on the list to usher the next night, so I felt badly mostly for my friend and vowed to do my best to get him into the show the next night, a tall order since the Fillmore was a fraction of the size of the Event Center.
Luckily, there always is one or two no shows on the usher list and Tory was able to get in without much fuss, a relief to us both. The opening acts were good, but weren’t given much attention to by the crowd. I wish I could have seen Rage on the leg of their tour that year where The Jesus Lizard was opening. That would have been a hell of a show. Still, they got on stage soon enough, we were cut from ushering, and enjoyed the spectacle immensely.
This was one of those rare shows where a band who obviously could pack a venue several times the size played for the intimacy and prestige of the Fillmore. We were damn lucky, even more so since Rage would split up a few years later and I wouldn’t be able to see them play again together until the Rock The Bells show in 2007. Zach De La Rocha would disappear from the limelight with rumors of a solo album that never materialized, and the others in the band would get Chris Cornell to join them to form Audioslave.
And what a show it was. It was easily one of the largest mosh pits ever at the Fillmore and they played tight as any band could play. Zach dedicated “Without A Face” to the United Farm Workers and gave a long speech during the first encore in support of the Zapatistas in Mexico. They had one of my favorite posters I’ll ever own given away that night, with a big, red, evil looking Uncle Sam with a dollar sign on his top hat. I would see Lush at the Fillmore two days later and heard from the drummer of Muzzle, the opening band, that the setlist from Rage was still taped to the drum riser and he gleefully took it for himself. If I’d known, I’d of tried to sneak up there before the doors were opened that night and snag it for myself.
Christian Death, Switchblade Symphony, Big Electric Cat, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., September 6, 1996
This was it, show number one. Yes, on this fateful evening, I not only met Pete Slauson for the first time, but I was thrown head first into the deep end, helping him in the recording room. You might recall the story I told you earlier of Pete injuring his right hand, nearly severing off his fingers, and I was brought in to help. The job was tough enough to do with two working hands and an extra set of them was clearly needed, along with my eyes, ears, and legs. Mind you, most of what I was doing was just labeling tapes, I was talked through operating his stacks of ADAT machines and the procedure of patching the soundboard, reverb effects, and compressors. It was a lot to take in, but I did my best to catch up. Luckily, I passed the audition and would remain his literal and figurative right hand man.
Pete is a genuine hippie, not just your average run of the mill one. He’s the real thing. He was there. He saw it all. From running monitors at Altamont to touring with the Beach Boys, Pete stands along side a short list of those who saw the scene unfold from the inside. He knew everybody and they all knew him. So, one can only imagine the absolute indifference he had to the music of Christian Death, not that I knew their work any more than he did.
Technically, the first band I recorded, or in this case helped to record was Big Electric Cat. They were big in Australia at the time and were signed to the Cleopatra label along with Switchblade Symphony and Christian Death. I can’t say I remember much about them since I was so busy down in the recording room trying to keep up. I’d labeled my first batch of ADAT tapes and handed the first one to Pete to put in the machine, but handed it to him with the rest of the labels on its wax paper underneath the tape and he didn’t see it. He tried putting it in the machine and it wouldn’t take it. I immediately knew what the problem was and after the machine rejected it, I pointed it out. Pete looked at me and gave me a nod, pointing his index finger to his head and back at me, indicating we were in sync mentally. To this day, I still can see that gesture in my head. That one’s for life. For the rest of the night, and for the most part the rest of our careers together at the Hall, we were on top of it.
Though I didn’t know Switchblade Symphony either, I would grow to appreciate them since they would return on a number of occasions to open for other goth rock acts like The Creatures and Frontline Assembly. They were pretty new, having released their first album, “Serpentine Gallery”, only the year before and I liked their music. Tina and Susan were beautiful and I was impressed by Tina’s voice. She was classically trained and it showed. This band has the unique distinction also of being one of the only bands I would record that would actually come back and remember my name. I know, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was to me, especially coming from such a talented and attractive band. Alas, they broke up around 1999, so I’m glad I got to know them when I did.
By the time Christian Death came on, my work was pretty much done down in the recording room. The board was patched, the ADATs, VHS and DAT recorders were rolling, Pete was mixing, and the tapes were long since labeled. I could take a deep breath and cool off. Pete would light joint after joint, putting me in an utter stupor, though it seemed no amount of marijuana would ever phase him in the slightest.
Upstairs, the show was going on and Pete’s partner, Don Humphries, was directing the camera people. Back then, the Maritime still had humans on camera, and though most of the folks we got to do camera back then were amateurs, Don was a pro. Don had gone way back in the day with Pete, recording concerts and some TV work with him. He was a big teddy bear of a man, prone to wearing Hawaiian shirts and having a affable disposition. It was no wonder that the tyranny of Boots would soon drive him away and the Hall would be stuck without a permanent video director, until Boots put together the robotic camera system in 1999. Don would pass away a few years later and I still miss him as I know Pete does. Still, the show must go on and it would indeed go on for me and Pete for a few years and a few hundred more shows to come.
Lush, Imperial Teen, Muzzle, Fill., SF, Sat., September 7, 1996
SETLIST : Heavenly Nobodies, The Childcatcher, Lit Up, 500 (Shake Baby Shake), Single Girl, Downer, Kiss Chase, De-Luxe, Light From A Dead Star, Last Night, Hypocrite, Runaway, For Love, Ladykillers, Ciao!, Sweetness & Light
As one door was opening for me at Maritime Hall, another was tragically closing with Lush. Little did I or any fan in the audience knew that a catastrophic end would soon come to our beloved band shortly after this show. Yes, Lush would go on to play their last show in Japan eleven days later, but this would be the last they would play in the continental US. Their drummer, Chris Acland, hung himself in his parent’s garden on October 17 and the band went on permanent hiatus. Thankfully, they’d reform in 2015 and I’d see them once again at the Warfield in February of 2016, nearly twenty years later, a very long hiatus indeed.
The tragedy was compounded with the relatively mundane fact that I was only able to get half the show on tape. I still don’t really know why, but I was only able to bag a few songs from Muzzle, two from Imperial Teen, and the last seven songs from Lush. I must have run out of tapes at home and couldn’t score another or one of my tapes got destroyed somehow. Regardless, it is a terrible loss to me, though I’m grateful for what I got of Lush, which I will go into in a second.
I don’t remember much from Muzzle, though I do remember their singer, Greg Collinsworth, came up on stage near the end of Lush’s set to sing the Jarvis Cocker part in “Ciao!”. They were a short lived band and broke up a few years later in 1999. Imperial Teen, on the other hand, would go on to play for years and I was very fond of them. Lynn Perko from Sister Double Happiness, one of my favorite drummers ever, was in it and Roddy Bottum from Faith No More was on guitar and vocals. Their first album, “Seasick”, had just come out that May and was a hit with critics and fans. I’m glad a got at least a couple songs at least and one of them was “Butch”.
Lush had been around long enough that I thought I’d get to see them all the time. They were one of those bands that I loved so much still, I would see them every chance they came to town without fail as if part of me deep down knew that they were not long for this Earth. What makes this show so bittersweet was that it was Chris’ 30th birthday and the mood that night seemed so jovial. In fact, they even brought a Elvis impersonator to wish him a happy birthday. He came up with the traditional Elvis intro “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from “2001 : A Space Odyssey”, led him to the front of the stage and sang “Viva Las Vegas”.
Then they brought another Elvis impersonator, a female one named Elvis Herselvis, on stage. She said we were “all children of Elvis” and called Chris “a fine upstanding boy” adding that he didn’t look a day over 14. They went on to lead the crowd to sing him happy birthday and gave him thunderous applause. In strange bit of dark foreshadowing however, they immediately followed with “Ciao!”, a song clearly about a bitter break up, which they botched the beginning of and had to start over a few bars into it. Miki dismissed the blunder, joking with the crowd, “Shut up. It’s his birthday.”
Thankfully, they ended their set with “Sweetness & Light” as they always did, probably my favorite song that they play. In less than four years, I got to see Lush 10 times! One would think that would be enough, but I never grew tired of them. To add insult to injury, even though this was their third time playing the Fillmore and it was sold out, there still wasn’t a poster. At least when they toured twenty years later, I’d get to buy a tour poster from their merch people along with a shirt and a tote bag. I had some making up to do.
Reverend Horton Heat, The Lunachicks, Reacharound, War., SF, Thur., September 12, 1996
SETLIST : I Can’t Surf, Slow, Now Right Now, Big Sky, Baddest Of The Bad, One Time For Me, Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’, Slingshot, Spell, Time To Pray, Wiggle Stick, $400, Or Is It Just Me, Big Red Rocket Of Love, Marijuana, Cowboy Love, Beer 30, Martini Time, Crooked Cigarette, Generation Why, Nurture My Pig, Psychobilly Freakout, Jonny Quest – Stop The Pigeon, Yeah Right, That’s Show Biz, The Devil’s Chasin’ Me
I’d already seen the good Reverend three times in the last two years before this show, so I was familiar with his music and a bone fide fan. The album, “Martini Time”, was released that May and he and his his band were touring non stop. One could go so far to say that this was the height of his commercial success, landing a gig headlining the Warfield. They’d keep touring and still do to this day, releasing eight more albums, but they wouldn’t play a venue that size on their own again, though they’d still pack in the crowds at places like Slim’s and Bimbo’s.
Opening the night was Reacharound. Their guitarist and bassist had left Flogging Molly to form this band, and while Flogging Molly went on to find success, Reacharound would soon fade into obscurity. I do admit, I loved their name, a good name for a punk band. The Lunachicks were a very fun band to watch, talented and hilarious, introducing themselves as “a band from New York-motherfuckin’-Cit-aay!” They also dedicated their song “Drop Dead” to anybody wearing Birkenstocks in the crowd. I was glad to get to record them in 1999 opening for The Go-Go’s. The proverbial cherry on top of their set was when they did a magnificent punk cover of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”.
Heat and the band played a great set as always, opening the set with the rollicking, “I Can’t Surf”. I was especially thankful that they’d play their cover of “Jonny Quest – Stop The Pigeon” that they did for the “Saturday Morning” compilation album of cartoon themes. Though like I said this would be the biggest show I’d see them play on their own, they didn’t get a poster that night and to my memory, I don’t believe I’ve ever gotten a poster for them, unless you count the one from Johnny Cash in 1994 at the Fillmore. They were billed as the “Pajama Party Orchestra”, for some reason. At least the one poster they were on that I have is a great one. I suppose then, it was fitting that the second to last song of his set was “That’s Show Biz”, a rather bittersweet, but funny short musical essay of the cruel nature of his chosen profession, but then hitting back, finishing with the epic “The Devil’s Chasin’ Me”.
Paul Westerberg, Thermadore, Fill., SF, Fill., SF, Fri., September 13, 1996
Paul Westerberg is one of those names in rock & roll I SHOULD have known, but didn’t. His former band, The Replacements, were venerated as one of the founding pioneers of the so-called “alternative” scene that blossomed into the mainstream in the 90’s. However, they’d broken up by 1991, when I was just getting started seeing live shows and were off my radar, with one exception. Back in the day, I would raid my brother’s wardrobe for stuff and shirts would just migrate into my wardrobe almost on their own and one of them was a shirt for The Replacements, featuring a cartoon head with a flattop. I liked the design, but never followed up on it to actually listen to their music.
Paul had his solo career going since the break up and was touring with his second album, “Eventually”, an ironically titled album for me considering how long he’d been around before I got around to seeing him. I’d get to see fellow Replacement, Tommy Stinson, play bass for Guns & Roses at the Warfield 11 years later, but alas, I’d never get to see his brother, guitarist Bob Stinson, who would succumb to years of drug abuse and die the year before this show.
So, that being said, seeing Paul was a chance to redeem my omission at least a little bit. Opening were Thermadore, who had members of Mary’s Danish in it, a band I enjoyed seeing a couple times before they broke up in 1993. They were short lived as their previous band, but they did do a respectable cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” in the middle of one of their songs. Coincidentally, the Reverend Horton Heat played the night before and they had opened for Mr. Cash the first time I saw both of them, though it was a safe bet that the folks in Thermadore did it on their own. Maybe they saw Cash’s poster up in the poster room.
Speaking of posters, Paul got a great poster that night, showing a painting of a man diving off of a cruise ship, heading into New York City harbor. It helped make up for my indifference to his music. Like I said, the man was respected, but I didn’t connect with him. It just happens sometimes. Either the music clicks with you or it doesn’t. Maybe it was because it was Friday the 13th.
The Jesus Lizard, Six Finger Satellite, Oxbow, Fill., SF, Sat., September 14, 1996
Unlike, Mr. Westerberg who I saw at the Fillmore the night before, I was definitely into The Jesus Lizard and was hell bent on seeing them every opportunity I could muster. I’d already seen them twice in May, opening for Ministry, and they were still touring, promoting their latest album, “Shot”. By this time, their original drummer, Mac, had left the band, exhausted from touring and wishing to spend more time with his family, and was replaced by Jim Kimball. He played quite well with them, but I loved the way Mac would swing his arms above his head like a wild monkey when he played.
Opening that night was Oxbow, a band so noisy and experimental, that they almost defy description. The singer, Eugene Robinson, looked as if he was having some sort of shrieking mental breakdown on stage. His hair and muscular build reminded me of the Humungous from “The Road Warrior”. I have a feeling The Humungous and his gang would like the music of Oxbow. Their indescribability was only compounded by the fact that I had to tape over their short set, so I could get the remained of The Jesus Lizard’s. Six Finger Satellite was the only opener listed in the ads before that night, so I didn’t bring enough tapes, which is a pity since I believe that was the only time I ever saw Oxbow, but rest assured, they made quite an impression. If memory serves, I believe James Maynard Keenen toured with A Perfect Circle and opened for them at Slim’s while they were still playing their first gigs, trying out the new material. It’s a faint memory, so I might be wrong, especially since I didn’t go to it.
This actually would be the first time I’d see The Jesus Lizard headline their own show. Before, they’d always been either an opening act or at Lollapalooza. It was a full house and I was proud that they were getting the attention I thought they deserved. Likewise, I was pleased that there was an impressive mosh pit and security didn’t seem to mind David Yow doing his usual drunken antics, diving into the crowd and such. Pity there was no poster that night and apart from the one I got from Ministry back in May, I don’t have any poster of theirs despite all the times I’ve seen them. I knew most of the songs they played that night, but there were still five whose titles still elude me, so I’m not putting down a setlist. It’s a little frustrating with the Lizard, trying to decipher what the hell Yow is screaming about, but I love them all the same. Their music is at least slightly more comprehensible than Oxbow’s.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Sponge, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Concord Pavilion, Concord, Tues., September 17, 1996
SETLIST : Hey Hey My My (Out Of The Blue, Into The Black), Pocahantas, Big Time, Slid Away, The Needle & The Damage Done, Sugar Mountain, Comes A Time, Heart Of Gold, Cinnamon Girl, Fuckin’ Up, Cortez The Killer, Music Arcade, Like A Hurricane, (encore), Sedan Delivery, Roll Another Number (For The Road), Rockin’ In The Free World
We in the bay area had been spoiled for years to be able to see Neil Young as often as we did back then, but mostly it was because of the annual Bridge School Benefit. It had actually been three years since I’d seen Neil play an all electric set, Bridge School being always played acoustic. The last time was when he toured with Booker T & The MGs, so this would be the first time I’d get to see him with Crazy Horse playing electric as well. I still feel Neil is at his best when playing with them, their cohesiveness, flawless harmonies, and impressive repertoire. Speaking of which, Neil and the band were touring that year, promoting their latest album, “Broken Arrow”.
This was also one of the rare occasions that I would be seeing a show at Concord Pavilion. Since I’d moved to San Francisco, it would take a special show for me to haul my ass so far out, even though I liked the Pavilion. This was before they remodeled and ultimately ruined it. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the lawn was so much bigger then and when you got to the front of it, you actually were pretty close to the stage, the sight and sound lines next to perfect. And though it would change names to God only knows what corporate beast has slapped their name to it, the Pavilion shall always be the Pavilion to me. Anyway, enough griping.
Opening was local musician Alvin Youngblood Hart, whose debut album released that year made quite an impression amongst the hippie and jam band circles, getting him a Grammy nomination. It’s reassuring to me that the this crowd embraces black artists, especially guys like Dave Matthews. Though his fans may be about as white as they come, he gets folks like Macy Gray and Jimmy Cliff to tour with them. Anyway, Alvin earned additional respect by going out in front of that crowd with just himself and an acoustic guitar. He did a spot on rendition of the blues classic, “Gallows Pole”. Very impressive. Though this was my first time seeing him, as luck would have it, I’d see him again only nine days later at the Warfield opening for Richard Thompson.
Next was Sponge, a welcome addition to the bill, not to mention an admirable departure from the hippie and jam band crowd’s usual wheelhouse of chosen genres. Yes, the grunge scene was winding down, but they were one of their more underrated offers. Alas, this would be the last time I’d get to see them, though I was able to see them on three occasions in a little over a year.
Like I said, this would be the first time I’d get to see Neil with Crazy Horse play electric and they opened with their epic “Hey Hey My My (Out Of The Blue, Into The Black)”. Neil did, however, take a little breather in the middle of the set to play a few acoustic solo numbers, starting with “The Needle & The Damage Done”, then “Sugar Mountain”, “Comes A Time”, and “Heart Of Gold”. They bounced back into the electric set with “Cinnamon Girl” and “Fuckin’ Up”. They wrapped up the night with a sprawling 12 minute version of “Rockin’ In The Free World”. Thankfully, this wouldn’t be the last time I’d see Neil play electric and I wouldn’t have to wait as long again. He’d tour electric with Crazy Horse the next year, headlining the H.O.R.D.E. tour.
Sebadoh, Jeremy Enigk, GAMH, SF, Fri., September 20, 1996
Having seen Sebadoh once the year before, I decided to give them a second viewing since they were playing the Great American and the tickets were only $12.50, an affordable show even at 1990’s prices. Their music had taken a more rocking turn with their new album, “Harmacy”, a little harder than their older, more low fi stuff. Little did I know, Lou Barlow was not getting along with the drummer and he’d soon replace him. Lou had a reputation for being moody, as his music reflected.
I was new to Jeremy Enigk and his music. He was on a solo tour after Sunny Day Real Estate broke up for the first time and he’d just converted to Christianity. I thought his voice was unique and his songs beautiful, especially since he was touring with a couple string and flute players. I revet not recording more than a couple songs from his set. Either I was late, or didn’t bring enough tapes. Regardless, I would be lucky to see Sunny Day Real Estate when they reformed a couple years later, even getting to record them a couple times at Maritime Hall.
Whatever show I see at the Great American is always a pleasurable experience to me no matter what. It still is my favorite venue to see a show. Even when it’s sold out, it still feels comfortable. The very esthetics of the place are divine and the staff are always friendly. I know, barring an act of God, that place will remain standing. It’s a work of art.
Zero, Moby Grape, Canned Heat, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., September 21, 1996
My adventure as a recording engineer at Maritime Hall had officially begun that night, I having passed the “audition” a little over two weeks prior at the Christian Death show. I was still getting my feet wet and learning the procedures of patching the console, getting the ADATs to sync up, and keeping up with the pace of getting the input list from the stage crew, delivering tapes and release forms to the artists, and getting refreshments for Pete and me.
Stylistically, this show is about as far as one could get from Christian Death. Yes, this was a genuine hippie show. All these guys, the original members anyway, were there from the beginning of the San Francisco scene and though they didn’t get the notoriety and financial success of such contemporaries as The Dead, Santana, or John Fogerty, they were respected amongst their peers and many of those who bore witness to those magical fleeting years were in the audience that night.
One who showed up to my surprise was none other than my former sound teacher, John Barsotti, who came down and hung out with Pete and I in the recording room. As you might recall, Pete and John were old friends and one of the main reasons Pete took me on as his apprentice was that he knew I was one of John’s students at S.F. State. John mixed the recording for Moby Grape that night, having worked for them in the past and he did it effortlessly as expected.
The funny part was when Pete lit up the first joint of the evening and passed it to us and the strange feeling of apprehension I felt having to share a joint with a former teacher. I was young and dumb and it took me a moment to realize to myself that John had been a sound man for the Doobie Brothers, for God’s sake, for years and smoking herb must have come as naturally to him as breathing. I mean, really, not to promote stereotypes, but John looked the part of a north bay hippie just as much as Pete did, graying ponytail, penchant for tie dye shirts, shorts even in cold weather, and sandals. As the pot kicked in, my apprehension waned.
Musically, I was given a grand tour of the San Francisco sound, though Canned Heat were originally from L.A. They were famous for their hit, “Going Up The Country”, recognized as sort of the unofficial theme song of Woodstock. They were one of the few acts to play that fateful festival as well as Monterey Pop. I would, for better or for worse, get to know Zero quite intimately from my tenure at Maritime Hall. As luck would have it, I’d seen them before play at the Depot stage at the S.F. State student union building a few years before and was impressed frankly, mostly because of Steve Kimock’s masterful guitar playing.
Though Zero was formed years after the Summer Of Love, members like saxophonist Martin Fierro, drummer Greg Anton, and bass player Bobby Vega, had played in different bands and collaborations with members of the Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and others over the decades. To this day, I hate to say it because he was a nice guy and a talented musician, but Martin, God rest his soul, was one of the ugliest rock stars I ever had the pleasure to seeing. I know it’s not a beauty contest, but he’s up there with Patti Smith and KC from KC & The Sunshine Band, all of them in their later years of coarse. They weren’t so bad when they were young, but then again, who am I to talk? God only knows how hideous I will be if I’m lucky enough to make it to old age.
Anyway, like I mentioned, I would get to know Zero all too well, they turning up like a bad penny over and over again at the Maritime. Pete and I would record not one, but two live albums there for them, the “Double Zero” album being a double album, as the name suggests. It got to the point where we wouldn’t come in to record them after that, though I would be compelled to on more than one occasion, due to the band absolutely SWEARING that it would be the last show they would ever play. It would always be a lie, but it taught me a valuable lesson. Never believe a musical act when they say it is going to be their last show. They ALWAYS come back, even if every original member of the band is stone dead. Hell, these days, they even come back as holograms.
De La Soul, Fishbone, Goodie Mob, The Earthlings, Royale, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., September 24, 1996
As the Maritime nourished my hippie music education, it also taught me a master class in hip hop and what a line up it was that night. De La Soul had been around for a while and I knew my brother Alex was a fan of their first album, “3 Feet High And Rising”, a true game changer in hip hop circles, but I was unfamiliar with them mostly. They had just released their “Stakes Is High” album and though it wasn’t as big a money maker as their debut, it still was a dope album and got praise from critics and their fans.
But the real attraction for me that night, naturally, was Fishbone, a band I followed and adored. Indeed, this would mark the first time I was involved with recording one of my heroes at the Maritime and it was an indescribably gratifying feeling. Once their set had begun that night, Pete cut me loose for a while, so I could go upstairs and enjoy myself. I admit though, it was strange to see them as an opening act at a show, though I’d seen them as a middle act at Lollapalooza back in 1993.
I still was getting up to speed on working in the recording room, so I was still just assisting back then. Pete would gradually let me mix opening bands and eventually would leave me to record a whole show solo the following April, doing the 420 Festival show with the Long Beach Dub All Stars. But between this show and then, I was content to sit back, pay attention, and learn a few things about live hip hop.
Lesson one, though it doesn’t really involve recording, is that no matter how excruciatingly loud a hip hop act is on stage, they will without fail chant for the sound men to turn it up. Many seasoned sound people who have worked with hip hop acts have the foresight to give the guys a little head room in the beginning so they can at least appear to accommodate them. Second, always keep your eyes on the mics, since multiple rappers on stage will switch mics constantly, making it a challenge to figure out who has what, especially when they’re taking turns rapping different verses. Third, rappers always cup the head of the microphone and force their mouths right up to windscreen in an effort to sound louder. This makes the mics sound like shit and gives the monitor guys an even more difficult time to work out feedback. You know a rapper in a real professional when they hold their mic properly, such as Chuck D of Public Enemy and KRS-One, and thankfully they guys in De La were pros too.
I’m pretty sure this was the only time I’d get to see the Goodie Mob, though I’d go on to see founding member CeeLo Green again. He’d, of coarse, move on to form Gnarles Barkley with Danger Mouse and achieve meteoric success with their smash hit, “Crazy”. Like most music scenes, I was unaware that I was witnessing one at the time, as the so-called “Mid-School” hip hop acts were emerging. The Goodie Mob had just released their debut album, “Soul Food”, the previous year and they were joining the ranks of other “Dirty South” hip hop groups such as Outkast and Nappy Roots.
One group that was on the bill and I would, for better or worse, get to see open time and again for hip hop acts at the Maritime was The Earthlings. They consisted of friends of Little Boot, Boots Hughston’s son and stage manager at the Hall. Granted, a couple members like Top Ramen, weren’t half bad, but understand, these guys were just kids at the time, a bunch of white boys from Vacaville. So, compared to the talent that followed them that night and the other nights they would play, they seemed pretty outgunned. Needless to say, it was blatantly unfair that they would get so much exposure due to nepotism when there were so many other struggling hip hop acts in the bay area who deserved getting booked more. But to their credit, The Earthlings, after a few years of performing, did improve.
After The Earthlings came out with a live album from our recordings at the Maritime, I did warn Little Boot that there was already a band out there called The Earthlings, but he told me not to worry about it. Pete always said that nobody sues anybody in rock & roll unless there is money to be made and with the case of The Earthlings, if you pardon the expression, they never got off the ground.
Bad Religion, Samiam, The Edge, Palo Alto, Wed., September 25, 1996
This show would be the last time I’d see a show at The Edge in Palo Alto and I can’t say I would be sad about it. Despite the impressive roster of acts that played there, the quality of the sound system, and the efficient layout of the place, I’d always get lost trying to find it from the long drive from the city and the security there were paranoid dicks. I know I’ve said it before and the good news is you’ll never have to hear it again. They had their last show at The Edge in 2000 and God only knows what has become of the venue since. I don’t know, don’t want to know.
That being said, I can at least say the last one I’d catch there would be a good one. Having seen Bad Religion three times already, only five months before in fact at The Warfield, I was familiar with many of their songs and was a committed fan. Like Los Lobos or Fishbone, Bad Religion is among the rare bands that ALWAYS deliver, each and every show. This night was no exception. It was good to see them in a smaller venue after seeing them at The Warfield and the even more massive boondoggle that was the “Hurl-Jam” show at The Golden Gate Park Polo Fields.
I love the way Greg cracks jokes between songs. He said that night that they sometimes look a little confused on stage, but they were just a reflection of society in general. “And if we look confused, imagine what you guys look like! (drum rimshot!)”, he said before introducing “Come Join Us” as a song about cults. He asked if there were any members of cults in the audience, citing that cult membership was on the rise in Northern California.
It was a good mosh pit that night as the dance floor at The Edge was the perfect size for it. Unfortunately, The mosh pit of The Edge would claim a serious injury to a friend of mine before it went under. Yes, my buddy John got elbowed in the jaw, breaking it badly, during a Kid Rock show there. Kid Rock was brand new back then and I remember John trying to get me to go with him, though I couldn’t make it for one reason or another. Maybe if I’d been there, it would have never happened. Poor John had a long and painful recovery from that show making it another reason I’m relieved that venue is no more.
The Richard Thompson Band, Alvin Youngblood Hart, War., SF, Thur., September 26, 1996
I hadn’t heard any of Richard Thompson’s music before that night, neither had I heard any from his former band, Fairport Convention, though word around from the older hippies ushering that night was that they held him in high esteem. He had a long history and was touring for his eighth solo album, “You? Me? Us?”, so I had to give him credit for being prolific. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and check it. It was a very sharp left turn stylistically from seeing Bad Religion the night before and I would take another sharp turn the following night, recording Yellowman at the Maritime.
Though I didn’t know Thompson from Adam, as luck would have it, I’d just seen the opening act, Alvin Youngblood Hart, open for Neil Young & Crazy Horse in Concord only nine days before this show. Nine days… That has to be some kind of record seeing the same opening act for a different headliner at a different venue so soon. Probably is. I liked Hart and as before, he came out all by his lonesome and played acoustically. I only got two songs from his set, but he did his cover of “Gallows Pole” again and he was received politely by the crowd.
Speaking of the crowd, they were hippies, yes, but they were the more folksier kind, the type who were down with Dylan before he went electric. There were no spinner dancers, burning of sage, or conspicuous drug or alcohol consumption. These people were civilized, quiet types really. And after a night in the mosh pit with Bad Religion, it was a relief to not really have to struggle with this crowd.
Yellowman, Inka Inka, Mission Irae, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., September 27, 1996
This would be the first of a few encounters I would have with the one and only Yellowman. A year later, he’d come back to the Maritime and we would use that recording to make a live album, the third album to come out from the Hall. Yellowman is an albino which undoubtably led to his getting skin cancer, living in sunny Jamaica. In 1986, the cancer spread to his jaw in which he had to have part of his jaw removed, permanently disfiguring him. I didn’t know this at the time, as usual, not knowing much about anyone I’m seeing for the first time. I feel badly for making fun of his ugliness at the time, even dubbing him the “Yellow-phant Man”. I’ve mentioned other musicians who were ugly before, but at least Yellowman has a good reason for it.
Looks aside, Yellowman puts on a good show and has tons of energy, too much really. His love of soccer shows as he is constantly pacing back and forth across the front of the stage during the show. The guy can’t stand still for a moment. It annoys the camera people who always have to keep some room ahead of him as he paces. Watching him, frankly makes me sea sick. But it was a good introduction to him that night and I was able to see Inka Inka one more time opening.
Helmet, Far, No Knife, Slim’s, SF, Thur., October 3, 1996
I hadn’t seen Helmet since they opened for Ministry four years before and was still a fan of their “Meantime” album, so it was good to finally get to see them headline their own show. Slim’s, of coarse, was a much smaller venue and the mosh pit wasn’t as perilous by half. They were touring with their next album, “Betty”. They had just gone through the departure of two guitarists in two years, but Chris Traynor from Orange 9mm was in the band by then and though new, did just fine that night. No Knife was brand new back then and this would be the first time I’d see either them or Far. Far, I felt, was a very underrated band and deserved better. I regret only recording one song from No Knife and three from Far that night.
They both, like Helmet, were pretty clean cut guys. It was sort of trend back then, these young, alternative metal bands like Clutch, The Deftones, and Papa Roach. Even Metallica cut their hair back then. Just as well. It helped prove to the mainstream public that heavy music could be made by the boys next door as well as leather clad biker hooligans. Slim’s was a good venue for these guys. I remember there was one drunk idiot who kept on screaming, “In The Meantime!” between songs over and over again until I was getting a little pissed. They wouldn’t play that one until the end, naturally, since it was their biggest hit. Great show and for only $12, which was cheap, even back then.
Butthole Surfers, Starfish, Fill., SF, Fri., October 4, 1996
SETLIST : Birds, Cough Syrup, Thermadore, Pepper, Ulcer Breakout, Jingle Of A Dog’s Collar, Dust Devil, Ah Ha, 1401, Cherub, Cowboy Bob, X-Ray Of A Girl Passing Gas, Out Of Vogue, Hey, Space, LA, The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey Oswald’s Grave, (encore), Creep, French, Goofy’s Concern, Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales, TV Star, Who Was In My Room Last Night?
Before I talk about this show, it occurred to me that I never told the story of how I was first introduced to the music of the Butthole Surfers. A long time ago in 1986, when I was still in high school around the time I was a freshman, my brother Alex took part in a homemade video for the songs, “Lady Sniff/Cherub”. I know it was that year because Alex was changing his hair color a lot back then and he was going through his blonde Martin Gore from Depeche Mode phase. He’d go on to dye it black in 1987. Also, it was for his friend Tim Gill, who was a friend and fellow classmate of Alex’s, did it for some sort of class project, and he’d go on to move to London the next year as well. It was a pretty weird video as one might imagine, befitting the Surfers music, consisting first of a close-up of Tim above the chest wearing a cowboy hat lip syncing to “Lady Sniff”, then some crazy jump cuts of Tim, Alex, and another friend changing clothes instantly, and Tim’s dog. But what stood out most was the unique credit sequence at the end of it.
My brother had a paper bag over his head, stood still, and slowly started unrolling a roll of toilet paper. On the roll, they had written their credits with a black marker. I thought it was one of the most original ideas for a credit sequence I’d ever seen. Frankly, I’m surprised I’ve never seen anyone try it in anything else. It going from top to bottom perhaps was inspired by the top to bottom credit sequence in “Repo Man”, which came out around that time as well. Who knows? Regardless, I’m glad I hung onto that video and transferred it to DVD. Some day I should post it on Youtube.
The Surfers were riding high from the release of “Electriclarryland”, especially with their hit single “Pepper”. Some accused it of being derivative of Beck’s song, “Loser”, but if it helped introduce the mainstream public to their music, I’ll give them that. They had hit some controversy with their success, since stores like Target were wary of selling an album with their name, which they used asterisks to make a clean version of it, saying “B***H*** Surfers” instead, as well as changing the cover art. Originally, they had a cartoon of the top half of a mans head with a bloody pencil stuck in his ear, but they changed it for the clean version to a simple photograph of a a cute squirrel. As they say, there is no such thing as bad press and anyone buying the clean version would clearly be even more interested seeing the original. Human nature, I guess.
Anyway, back to the show. As popular as they were, seeing them at the Fillmore at the time was a privilege. The last time I saw them was at the Greek in Berkeley, which held eight times as many people. This I believe was one of the longest sound checks I ever recorded, getting around seven songs worth, including “Pepper” and “Goofy’s Concern”. After this show, I made it standard practice to get as much of a show’s soundcheck as possible. Starfish, a fellow band from Texas, opened the show. Turns out that the band Coldplay originally wanted to use that name. Whether they changed it because of them, I don’t know, but a Dutch reggae band would go on to use that name years later.
The Surfers did a magnificent show, unsurprisingly pretty much the same set as the one they had done four months earlier at the Greek. I always love the visuals they project onto the screen they have erected behind them, this night including the shot of an elated man’s expression as he rides a roller coaster and a warped out, slow motion loop of the pot smoking scene from “The Breakfast Club”. They wrapped up the encore with a rollicking “Who Was In My Room That Night?” which went on for over thirteen minutes and as anyone who knows their music live, you can imagine a great deal of feedback was involved.
Thankfully, they had a grotesque cartoon poster given out that night, one of the rare horizontal posters. Without going into too much detail, since a picture in this case is indeed worth a thousand words, it involved a decaying beheaded corpse whose arms were angled one through a wound in its abdomen and holding a microphone, the other between its legs with a scrotum at the elbow and a loudspeaker for a hand. A cartoon bubble from the speaker snaked out of it then through a wound in the body’s chest, out its back, displaying a pair of musical notes. Oh yes, the body also had a small cartoon fart cloud emanating from it too. It’s best to look up the poster somewhere to really give the art justice.
After this show, the Surfers released one more album, but then the band would take a break. There were rumors of Gibby Haynes having hearing loss, a claim any reasonable person would believe considering the volume they play at regularly. He would eventually go on to play in his solo project, Gibby Haynes & His Problem, a name that was perhaps a reference to his hearing loss, but I never saw them live. I would have to wait a whole 12 years to see them reunite again, that time to play at the Fillmore for New Year’s Eve 2008-2009, much too long a wait for any fan like myself, but better late than never, I suppose.
The Illuminati, Steve Kimock, Bobby Strickland, The Waybacks, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., October 5, 1996
This, the third show in a string of four, was another in my hippie musical education at Maritime Hall. The Illuminati, not the cryptic organization bent on world domination, but the band that night were headlining. They were actually more accurately Joe Gallant & The Illuminati, a typo on the poster that night, due to the negligence of Boots, the Maritime’s owner, no doubt. They had just released a cover album of the Grateful Dead’s “Blues For Allah”. Opening that night were The Waybacks, who though newly formed that year, would go on to play gigs in the Bay Area to this day, often playing famous albums from other bands in their entirety. They just recently played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival last year, doing an abridged version of The Who’s, “Tommy”.
Keeping with the cover band motif of the evening, Steve Kimock, from Zero and other Grateful Dead related projects was there as well. He had just released an album of cover songs and a handful of originals with other such notable hippie guitarists as Henry Kaiser, Harvey Mandel, and Freddie Roulette, called “Psychedelic Guitar Circus”. Bobby Vega from Zero played bass on that album too. Bobby Strickland was there that night as well. He and Steve had been playing with Vince Welnick’s band the Missing Man Formation newly formed, one year after the death of Jerry. But honestly, I don’t remember too much from that night since I’m sure my partner Pete did the recording and many, many joints were passed between us as was perfunctory at any hippie show with him. Rest assured there were plenty of Dead songs played and it was a welcome respite from the onslaught of bombastic music I experienced the last two days from Helmet and the Butthole Surfers.
Midnight Oil, Patti Rothberg, Fill., SF, Sun., October 6, 1996
SETLIST : Underwater, Dreamworld, Sins Of Omission, Truganini, Star Of Hope, Written In Heart, The Good Son, Home, Dreams Of Heaven, Wanakume, Earthbeat, Surf’s Up Tonight, Sometimes, Dead Heart, Blue Sky Mining, Only The Strong, (encore), One Too Many Times, Progress, Forgotten Years
I had the pleasure of seeing Midnight Oil back during the Fillmore’s first year of the reopening and was indeed impressed. That night, I had discovered that they had many more quality tunes to offer than their big hit, “Beds Are Burning”, which was a good thing, since they didn’t play it at this show. I always feel it is a bold and very, very rare move when a band renowned for one particular song leaves it out when playing live, especially when performing away from their native country, theirs being Australia. Of coarse, I couldn’t blame any band for doing it, having to play the same songs night in and night out, particularly when they only have an album or two of material.
Thankfully, Midnight Oil had plenty of material to choose from that night. They were touring in support of their ninth album, “Breathe”. As I do research while writing these things, I discover as often as I do when I see these bands who were just doing their first gigs, that others like Midnight Oil had been around much longer than I previously thought. Indeed, founding members singer Peter Garrett, keyboardist/guitarist Jim Moginie, and drummer Rob Hirst, had been playing together a year before I was born, first calling their band Farm. They would later change their name to Midnight Oil, drawing the name from a hat. One of the other names in the hat was Television, which I’m sure they’d be disappointed to have had to change their name anyway, being that it was already taken by the New York punk band of the same name three years earlier.
Patti Rothberg opened that night and though it would be the only time I’d see her, at least her legacy will cemented by her cover of “Kung Fu Fighting” that would be featured in the Chris Farley movie “Beverly Hills Ninja”, released the following year. That, and she got her name on the poster that evening which was a nice one. And even though Midnight Oil didn’t play their hit that night, we were treated to a very respectable cover of their fellow countryman, Nick Cave’s, “The Good Son”, one of my favorite songs of his. This was the last of a four show in a row run for me as well and I’m sure I needed a rest when it was done.
Korn, Delinquent Habits, Limp Biskit, Fill., SF, Wed., October 9, 1996
SETLIST : Twist, Blind, Chi, Need To, Clown, Good God, Low Rider, Shoots & Ladders, No Place To Hide, Divine, Ball Tongue, Ass Itch, Kill You, Faget
All those gigs opening for bands were finally paying off for Korn. Though admittedly by coincidence, I’d seen practically every show Korn had played in San Francisco up to that point, seeing them already five times by then open for Rage Against The Machine, The House Of Pain, Danzig, Megadeth, and KFMDM. But this would be the first time I’d get to see them headline their own show. They had just finished recording their second album, “Life Is Peachy”, but it wouldn’t be released until a week later, so everybody in the audience was hearing the new songs for the first time. It was said that this was the first show they ever played the last song of the album, “Kill You”, live as well.
The first band opening that night was Limp Bizkit… Yes, THAT Limp Bizkit. Story goes that Limp Bizkit were touring with Sick Of It All and they invited Korn backstage to drink beer and compare tattoos. They were unsigned at the time, but they were able to play them their demo and impressed them enough to take them on tour with them. They would soon be signed to Interscope and their debut album, “Three Dollar Bill, Y’all” would be released the following summer and the rest is history. Of coarse, I as most in the audience that night, didn’t know them from Adam, so I only recorded two of their songs that night, “Counterfeit” and “Faith”. I was repulsed by their nu-metal version of the George Michael song, mainly because my ex-girlfriend adored him as well as my sister and had to endure the original too many times. I have to admit though, it was an ingenious bit of marketing to get people to remember who Limp Bizkit were and one can’t argue with results. I’ll refrain from telling the story of where their name comes from because, let’s just say it makes for bad table conversation.
Next up was Delinquent Habits, who though had been around a few years, had just released their self titled first album that June, Sen Dog from Cypress Hill being one of the album’s producers. I really liked these guys, especially their song, “Tres Delinquentes”, which used the horn riff from Herb Alpert’s, “The Lonely Bull”. Korn did a great set as always and I think it goes without saying that the mosh pit was lively that night. Jonathan Davis brought out the bagpipes once again to do his cover of “Low Rider” by War before playing “Shoots & Ladders”, always a crowd pleaser.
They had a great poster that night too, one that I actually saw recently framed in the office of a local in-house AV company at one of the hotels I did work at a couple years ago. It was a creepy cartoon of a man sitting in a chair, smoking a corn cob pipe, pouring alcohol from a bottle onto himself, and holding a lit lighter, an appropriate image for Korn and their macabre lyrics. One can assume naturally that the bottle labeled “Silo” is of a “Korn” based alcohol. (Ba-dum-boom!) Creepiness aside, it’s always nice to see a poster from a show I attended somewhere and share my experiences with another who was there. That’s one of the reasons why collecting posters is so important to me.
Beck, Sukia, War., SF, Thur., October 10, 1996
SETLIST : Devil’s Haircut, Novacane,Thunderpeel, The New Pollution, Pay No Mind, Asshole, Truck Drivin’ Neighbors Downstairs, Hollow Log, The Girl Of My Dreams, One Foot In The Grave, Jackass, Where It’s At, Disko Box, Sissyneck, Derelict, Beercan, Debra, (encore), High 5 (Rock The Catskills)
When Beck first got attention around 1994 with his hit, “Loser”, there were many who dismissed him as a quirky one-hit wonder, even myself. But after seeing him for the first time at the first of Live 105’s many B.F.D. festivals, even for the short set he had, I knew right away that he was something more than that. And after he played a couple of the yet to be released new songs at Lollapalooza the next year, my impression of him only grew fonder. But when he dropped the album, “Odelay”, that June, any notion of him being a one-hit wonder got metaphorically stabbed in the heart, pushed out the window of a skyscraper, to have that notion land onto an exploding bomb.
Yep, whether he liked it or not, Beck had hit it big in the biggest possible way. Even by the time of the Warfield show, he was already too big for the place. Being such a momentous show, it would be one of the few occasions that my brother Alex would join me in ushering that night. Opening was Sukia, a short lived electronic band founded by former child actor Ross Harris, who had played roles on TV in the 80’s for such shows as “CHiPs” and “Little House On The Prairie”. They based the bands name off of an X-rated, Italian comic book about vampires. Little known as they were, the crowd mostly ignored them, though I remain haunted by one of their songs, which sampled a voice talking about “Snowbird” and “Casanova”.
Though I thought they were OK and am grateful that I could see them before their imminent disbanding, I was deeply disappointed that the Dirty Three, who were already one of my favorite bands by then, weren’t opening instead as they were initially advertised. I assumed Beck had met them while touring in Lollapalooza the year before, where the Dirty Three were on the second stage and Beck would come out to do a set on the second stage during that tour from time to time. I never found out why they were replaced that night. Though I do remember a night years later when I saw the Dirty Three headlining somewhere and Warren was rambling between songs about they were being paid $300 a night to open for Beck. Even for back then, that was beyond cheap. Maybe they jumped ship.
This would be the first time I’d be seeing Beck after the new album, so we got to hear eight of the new songs that night and I got to know the names of the new songs that I’d heard before at last. He did a few “slow jams” as he called it in the middle of his set, busting out the acoustic guitar and going solo as he usually does in his shows, playing such songs as “Hollow Log” and “One Foot In The Grave”. Pity that there wasn’t a poster that night. Apart from a secret show he would do for Miller beer with the Foo Fighters at the Warfield in 2000 which was a special occasion, I would never see Beck again in such a small venue.
Dr. John, Dave Mason, Harvey Mandel, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., October 12, 1996
My writing this piece today comes with terrible timing in that the news of Dr. John’s demise as of last week. Granted, he made it to the ripe old age of 77 and considering his past drug and alcohol abuse, coupled with the typical Louisiana diet, the world was lucky to have him as long as it did. It was only just the other day that I learned that Dr. John was the inspiration for Dr. Teeth on “The Muppets”. When you look at both of them side by side, now it seems obvious. As I was still new to recording with Pete at the Maritime, Pete held the reins down in the recording room, and I as his assistant, was free to go up and check out most of Dr. John’s set. Naturally, I would have appreciated it more if I knew it would be only one of two times I would ever get to see him perform.
It was a class act show that night all around, since they had not only Dave Mason, but Harvey Mandel opening. Dave had been a founding member of Traffic and had collaborated live and on albums with every conceivable musician in England during his hey day, including members of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Fleetwood Mac, for whom he was briefly a member of the band. Harvey, master of the two handed fret tapping guitar technique, had likewise played with all the folks here out on the west coast around the same time. He too recorded stuff with The Stones as well. Between those two and Dr. John, the musical chops at the Hall under that bill is hard one to match. I was lucky to see them all together. It was one of those shows at the Hall, where oil plate projections seemed to best with the music.
John Cale, Red House Painters, Fill., Tues., October 15, 1996
SETLIST : Secret Corrida, All I Want, Dying On The Vine, Guts, So What, Entre Nous, Crazy Egypt, Fear (Is A Man’s Best Friend), Set Me Free, Dancing Undercover, So Much For The Evidence, Mudd, Model Beirut Recital, Magazines, Leaving It Up To You, D-a-R & R, (encore), Mercenaries, Pablo Picasso
As I’d written before, I’d taken a interest in the Velvet Underground after seeing Lou Reed in London in 1992. The band was seeing a resurgence in mainstream attention after their brief reunion around 1993 and opening for U2 on a leg of one of their European tours and though I never got to see them together, I was starting to listen to their music more and appreciated their sound, the sort of dark antithesis to the hippie stuff that was going on over on the west coast during their heyday. Sterling Morrison had died the year before and the Velvets were just inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this very same year, which would be the last time they’d ever perform together.
Opening that night was San Francisco’s own Red House Painters. I was impressed by their musicianship and songwriting skills. I was lucky to see them one more time a year later before they broke up, primarily so frontman Mark Kozelek could pursue his solo career and later form Sun Kill Moon. They were signed to the 4AD label up this point and their “sadcore” sound fit in well with the likes of the Cocteau Twins, The Pixies, and Dead Can Dance. It’s rare for me that an opening act, sight unseen, could captivate my attention like they did, thanks mainly to Mark’s hauntingly beautiful singing voice.
I would go so far to refer to this show to what I like to call a “Versus” show, or a double headliner show. I always felt calling such a show like “Red House Painters VS John Cale” to add an additional element of theatricality to the experience. Yeah, I thought the Painters’ music was at least up to scale with Cale’s.
Not that I didn’t like Cale’s music. I can appreciate his skill and unique musical vision and can see why he butted heads so much with a control freak like Lou Reed. But clearly his influence over the Velvet’s earliest songs help made them as successful as they were, definitely the band’s best work. So, this would be my first time seeing another member of that seminal band, and to this date the only other one. I of coarse didn’t know any of his songs, but I did know his cover of Burning Sensation’s “Pablo Picasso” from the “Repo Man” soundtrack which he ended the night with. As luck would have it, I’d get to see him sing that song two years later at the Maritime when he was playing with Siouxsie Sioux’s band, The Creatures.
Sativa Blue, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., October 16, 1996
Ugh. Forgive me, but I know jack shit about this band. As their name would suggest, it was probably a local hippie band and it was quite likely that Pete and I smoked weed until I was a drooling vegetable that night. As I probably mentioned before, Pete smoked a LOT of weed and he was the kind of guy that no matter how much he smoked, it didn’t outwardly affect his mood or behavior in hardly any detectable way. I, on the other hand, after two or three of his joints would be catatonic.
To their credit, the Maritime hosted a bunch of younger hippie bands that came and went, leaving practically no trace of their existence. It was one of the “Wednesday Showcase” shows where the cover at the door was only $5 and beer was $2 each, a very affordable deal even at 1990’s prices. It was noble for Boots to give these guys a shot and though I have no memory of this show, it’s a safe assumption that the Maritime was probably the largest venue the ever played.
Bridge School Benefit ’96: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Patti Smith, The Cowboy Junkies, Pete Townshend, Hayden, Neil Young, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat., October 19, 1996
Bridge School Benefit ’96: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Bonnie Riatt, Patti Smith, The Cowboy Junkies, Billy Idol, Hayden, Neil Young, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sun., October 20, 1996
HAYDEN : In September, (unknown), Between Us To Hold, When This Is Ove, Bad As They Seem, (unknown), We Don’t Mind
PETE TOWNSHEND : The Kids Are Alright, I’m A Boy, A Legal Matter, Let My Love Open The Door, Drowned, Behind Blue Eyes
COWBOY JUNKIES : Sun Comes Up It’s Tuesday Morning, Powderfinger, Lungs, Ring On A Sill, Carmelita, Murder In The Trailer Park
PATTI SMITH : Wing, Beneath The Southern Cross, Ghost Dance, Gone Again, About A Boy, People Have The Power
DAVID BOWIE : Aladdin Sane, Jean Genie, Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, I Can’t Read, The Man Who Sold The World, Heroes, Let’s Dance
PEARL JAM : Footsteps, Sometimes, Betterman, Courderoy, Off He Goes, Nothing Man, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Black, Daughter, Yellow Ledbetter
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE : Cinnamon Girl, Cortez The Killer, Campaigner, Human Highway, Scattered (Let’s Think About Livin’), Cowgirl In The Sand, (encore), Helpless
BILLY IDOL : My Baby Left Me, Sweet Sixteen, White Wedding
COWBOY JUNKIES : Sun Comes Up It’s Tuesday Morning, Lungs, Powderfinger, Carmelita, Ring On A Sill, Murder In The Trailer Park
PATTI SMITH : Wing, Beneath The Southern Cross, Ghost Dance, Dancing Barefoot, About A Boy, People Have The Power
BONNIE RAITT : Dimming Of The Day, Home, For What It’s Worth
DAVID BOWIE : Aladdin Sane, Jean Genie, I Can’t Read, The Man Who Sold The World, China Girl, Heroes, White Light/White Heat
PEARL JAM : Sometimes, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Courderoy, Off He Goes, Nothing Man, Daughter, Footsteps, Porch, Around The Bend
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE : (Same as Saturday)
Every Bridge School Benefit is special, considering the talent Mr. Young scares up each year, but this one is at least in the top three of the ones I had the pleasure of seeing. First and foremost, it was the first time I brought my mother to one of these. Back then, we were on a sort of cultural exchange where I would take her to my concerts and she would take me to things like the symphony or the opera. I would go on to take her to another Bridge School in 1999, but that would be the last one she’d get to see. I regret never taking my dad to one, though my sister attended a few of them with me, especially during the last few years the were put on.
The second reason that this one was special was David Bowie. Even though he was one of the middle acts, his presence was felt. He was a heavy, clearly the heaviest on the bill. I’d seen him only the one time before on the “Outside” tour with Nine Inch Nails the year before, so I was chomping at the bit to hear more from him. What a difference in style it would be tonight from the dark, unholy marriage with Trent Reznor to this uplifting acoustic evening, surrounded by children.
The third reason was that, this being 1996, made this the tenth anniversary of the Bridge School shows, which added an extra layer of importance these ones. Bridge School had reached a milestone and everybody was starting to get the feeling that this annual event was here to stay and it would be for at least twenty more years anyway.
Pegi Young came out as always both days to welcome the crowd and introduce her husband Neil to do the opening song for the day, “Natural Beauty”. It was so long, clocking in over twelve minutes, so it was the only one he played for his traditional opening mini set. Most of the time, he had time for at least two or three. The next act was Hayden, a fellow Canadian. He was a hot commodity in 1995 with his album, “Everything I Long For”, being such a hit, everybody including Neil were falling over themselves to sign him to a major label. He eventually signed with Geffen for a cool million, but soon faded into obscurity. Personally, I found his voice to be grating when he wasn’t singing softly. The set on the second day was better since he took to the piano and did a soothing cover of fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat”.
Thankfully, he was followed on the first day by Pete Townshend. I’d only seen John Entwistle do a solo show at the Fillmore that March, so I was eager to see Pete and get some more Who songs under my belt. Five out of the six songs he played were, except for his solo hit “Let My Love Open The Door”. He joked after “I’m A Boy” that when he was 19 and a half when he wrote it, he was having a gender crisis. Pete clearly was having a good time and his experience that day certainly influenced him to come back to play Bridge School again in 1999, coincidentally the year I brought my mother again to see it. By 2000, when the Who played again headlining their tour, my Mom and I had seen Pete three times in four years play at Shoreline. Pete got a well deserved standing ovation at the end of his set.
On Sunday, instead of Pete, we had Billy Idol. This would be the first time I’d get to see him as well. I actually had my fingers crossed that Pete would still be around this day, so he could join him on stage and play “Cousin Kevin”, since Billy had sung it in L.A. for the Who’s 1989 reunion tour. No luck, I’m afraid. Oh well, it was Entwistle’s song anyway. We only got three songs from Mr. Idol that day accompanied by his long time guitarist Steve Stevens, but “White Wedding” was as epic as one would expect. Even Bonnie Raitt gave him a shout out later. I’ll get to that.
Pete and Billy got the crowd warmed up enough each day so they could cool back down again with the Cowboy Junkies. Dear God, that band is boring. I can’t blame Neil for having a soft spot in his heart for some fellow Canadians, but they put the show to sleep during their set. To their defense, their music is an effective low cost cure for insomnia. They did a cover of Neil’s “Powderfinger” which obviously would have been better if Neil would have came out and sung it with them.
The crowd picked back up again for Patti Smith at least. I’d seen her earlier in the year in March, so I was beginning to be familiar with her songs. And since my mic fucked up during that show, I was able to redeem myself somewhat by getting her sets on both days in their entirety. “People Have The Power” was one of the highlights of the show, so much so that it became one of the de facto themes of Bridge School, used in their montage videos between sets and as the final song on the first Bridge School compilation album that would be released the following year. It was moving to watch Patti face the children when she sang, dedicating “Wing” to Neil’s son, Ben. That woman truly has heart and soul.
On Sunday, Bonnie Raitt came on after Patti, having just arrived in time for the show from the airport, even borrowing a guitar from the Cowboy Junkies. She gave the previously mention shout out to Billy Idol, growling out “White Wedding!” during her introduction. She went on to say, “If somebody told me I would be playing on a bill with Billy Idol and Patti Smith a few years ago, I’d say ‘Yeah, and I’ll be wearing your pajamas too’”. She opened with’s “Dimming Of The Day”, a cover of Richard Thompson who coincidentally I saw for the first time that April. She went on to do “Home”, a cover of singer/songwriter Karla Bonoff’s, who she gave props out to in the introduction of it. For her last song she did a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, mentioning before it that since the national election was two weeks away that folks go out to vote no on Prop 209 to preserve affirmative action, though unfortunately it was ultimately approved. Still, she brought the house down with that one. Too bad my mom wasn’t there on that day. As luck would have it she was fan of Bonnie’s father, John Raitt, a renowned Broadway musical actor from the 1950’s.
The wait was over. Bowie was back. He’d just been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame that January and was just a few months shy of his 50th birthday. Additionally, he’d just finished recording “Earthling” which would be released the following January, though we would hear no new songs at these shows. Just as well, being heavy into drum and bass, the new material would be challenging to translate acoustically, though Bowie if anybody could find a way. To choose only seven songs each day out of repertoire would be tough, but we got some gems including the rather obscure “I Can’t Read” from his “Tin Machine” album.
On the first day, he had a little playful dig at Pete Townshend before playing that song, playing the first couple licks of “Anywhere, Anyhow, Anywhere”, a song he covered on “Pin Ups”, his album of covers he put out in 1973. Bowie apologized, saying that he “thought he had Pete Townshend’s songbook for a minute.” He swiped out the songs “I Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love” and “Let’s Dance” from the first day for “China Girl” and “White Light/White Heat” for the second day. His rendition of “Heroes” would also be a highlight of both shows and would be not only one of the best tracks on the Bridge School compilation album, but would find solemn relevance again in 2001 after 9/11, an anthem that would resonate when he played it at the Concert For New York City benefit.
This would be the third time Pearl Jam would play the Bridge School benefit in only four years and it was clear to see that they were going to play more in the future. They were definitely peas in a pod with Neil by then, having just toured with him on their collaboration “Mirror Ball”. You might recall we in the bay area had the strange luck of being the only show in America where we had the privilege of hearing those songs live at the ill-fated “Hurl Jam” show in Golden Gate Park, where Eddie Vedder had to take a powder after seven songs due to stomach flu.
Anyway, Pearl Jam had just finished their latest album, “No Code”, and even though it wasn’t as big a hit as previous efforts, we still got to hear a handful of new songs for the first time live those nights, “Sometimes”, “Off He Goes”, both nights, as well as “Around The Bend” played last on the second night. I was pleasantly surprised on Sunday to hear an unusual medley in the middle of “Daughter”. It wasn’t that much a of a shock to hear a couple lines from The Who’s “The Real Me”, since Pete Townshend played the day before and even did “Drowned” and “Behind Blue Eyes”, both songs from the “Quadraphenia” album. The real mind blower came when Eddie sang a few lines from Stereolab’s “The Noise Of Carpet”. Not only was I honored as probably the biggest Stereolab fan in the crowd that night, it was fairly certain that I was one of maybe a handful of attendees that night who knew them or that song at all.
Lastly, there was Neil and Crazy Horse. He’d just released “Broken Arrow” with the band and we were treated to one of the new songs those nights, being “Scattered (Let’s Talk About Livin’). Tragically, my batteries ran out on the first night, leaving me with only their first two songs, but I made damn sure to get it all on the second night. They finished the evening with a sweet rendition of “Helpless”, joined as is tradition with a handful of musicians who had played on the bill earlier that day. Patti Smith did the second verse herself. Pity Bowie didn’t come back for the encore, but after this two day cavalcade of stars, I had nothing to complain about… except for the Cowboy Junkies.
Zero, Chambers Brothers, J.C. Flyer, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., October 25, 1996
This would be my first encounter with Zero since they played at The Depot at the student union at S.F. State at least two years prior, and it was damn sure not to be the last. My time at the Hall afforded me more times to see them than I would dare to count. Not that I didn’t like them personally or appreciate their music. In fact, the first time I heard them, I was working behind the bar at the union and couldn’t even see them, but I still was impressed by their musical chops. Though everybody could play, it really was guitarist Steve Kimock who was the star of the band, and he would go on to play with KVHW, multiple Grateful Dead incarnations, and practically every bay area hippie band one could imagine.
But as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and I grew to become very familiar with them. The thing that got me most I think about Zero was that they were constantly claiming that the show they were currently doing was going to be their last show and it never was. Pete and I ended up recording them so often that they released not one but two live albums from the stuff we did and even after that, we still recorded their shows, though by 1999, Pete left doing them to me.
Back to the show. It was the Maritime’s first anniversary party. J.C. Flyer opened up, a local hippie/country musician who wrote on the side for Relix magazine. He was one of those ubiquitous hippies who seemed to be at every one of these shows, mostly hanging out and socializing, but occasionally acting as an emcee and from time time sitting in with bands on acoustic guitar. Next up, was The Chambers Brothers. They were immortalized by their 1968 hit, “Time Has Come Today”, a sprawling eleven minute hippie anthem easily identified by the echoing periodic exclamation, “Time!” Pete told me a story that night of a show he did with them back in the day in Golden Gate Park. Pete had dropped some acid and he was transfixed during that song watching the surrounding trees undulate to that song. I’m sure that he wasn’t the only one tripping that day.
Hookers Ball 1996 : Blues Jam Drifters, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., October 26, 1996
A rather strange departure from the hippie scene the night before would be this little gem. I was well aware of the Exotic Erotic Ball that took place annually at the Cow Palace, an extravaganza of debauchery that often left the floors sticky. But this was a smaller, more intimate scene and as it turned out, would be for a worthy cause.
Margo St. James, an advocate for sex worker’s rights, had put this thing together as a benefit for her organization, COYOTE, shot for “Call Off Your Tired Old Ethics”. She would help provide medical and social services for sex workers, Margo being a self-proclaimed prostitute herself. Margo had organized the first Hooker’s Ball in 1978, which amassed 20,000 attendees. Hell, she even tried to get the Republican nomination for president in 1980. Seriously, she probably would have done a better job than Reagan and there would be no end to the “being screwed by the government” jokes.
Continuing her ambitious agenda, Margo was running at the time for a seat n the San Francisco Board Of Supervisors and got damn close, going on to score 7th place, in a race where the top six are elected. She would go on however to serve on the Boards’ Drug Abuse Advisory Board and would found the St. James Infirmary Clinic in 1999. We recorded the whole event, though the only real band on stage to note was the Blues Jam Drifters, an ensemble so obscure, that I can find no evidence today that they ever really existed.
I do remember one buxom lady who got on stage with an acoustic guitar and sang a cute little song called, “Safe Sex”. Also, there was a transgender woman who emceed most of the night who neared a striking resemblance to Dave Foley from Kid In The Hall, when he was dressed up as he did on that show many times, in drag. I made a wise crack to Pete and his friends in the recording room, saying in a gravelly southern accent, “She got a pretty mouth”. Gross, yes, I know, but it did get a laugh from them. I remember Pete saying, “My boy here’s learnin’, yes he is”.
Incidentally, St. James was married for a time to the late Paul Avery, writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, who was famous for his writings about Patty Hearst and the Zodiac Killer. Paul was played by Robert Downey, Jr. in the David Fincher movie, “Zodiac” in 2007. Margo lived with Paul on Orcas Island in Washington until his death from emphysema in 2000 and she still lives there to this day, though the legacy of her work lives on, especially in the good worker continuing at the Infirmary Clinic she founded.
Tool, Failure, War., SF, Sun., October 27, 1996
Tool, The Cows, War., SF, Mon., October 28, 1996
(Sun.) Stinkfist, 46 & 2, Intolerance, Eulogy, Hooker With A Penis, Prison Sex, Jimmy, Undertow, Pushit, Sober, Opiate, Aenima
(Mon.) Third Eye, 46 & 2, Swamp Song, Eulogy, H., Sweat, Hooker With A Penis, Jimmy, Sober, Opiate, Aenima, Stinkfist
The wait was over and the new album was out. “Aenima” was a big, fat stinking success and it had only been out a month and it was worth the wait. Tool always takes a long time between albums and as I write this eager fans are awaiting their next album. Other waits between albums have been long, but at thirteen years since the “10,000 Days” album, clearly has been the longest wait by far. Not that ol’ Maynard hasn’t been busy. When he’s not working with his other bands, A Perfect Circle and Puscifier, he makes wine at his vineyard Cadaceaus, in Sedona, Arizona. But I digress.
As you can imagine, these would prove to be popular shows, hopelessly sold out the instant the tickets went on sale. I was lucky enough to get to usher on both days and my friend Tory was with me on the first day. Suffice to say, it was a loud show, but the sound checks were so loud, that Tina, the head usher, had difficulty bang heard during the usher meeting up in the ladies lounge. I remember looking over to Tory while Tool sound checked to the song, “Intolerance”, hearing Maynard powerfully singing the chorus, “You lie, cheat, & steal!” No complaints here for the volume, meant more Tool for us to hear. And when I was free of the usher meeting, I got a great deal of the soundcheck recorded on the second day and it came it clear as a bell. They had a guitar tech playing in Adam Jones’ place during the check and he did quite well, playing the parts note for note. If I hadn’t seen the band with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have known the difference. I would go on to work along side that guitar tech in my job year later, Shawn Finkelstein, a man of infinite talents.
Tool was breaking in their new bass player, Justin Chancellor, from the band Peach. Paul D’Amour had left the band under amicable terms and Justin was getting his sea legs, being his first tour with the band. His sound was a good fit for the band and him now being in the band almost twenty five years, clearly was the correct one for them. As superb as Tool was and still is, I’ve never been satisfied with their choices for opening acts, with the exception of one tour when they had Tricky opening. I never liked the band Failure, who played on the first day, and this was the second time I’ve seen them open for Tool, the first three years prior at the Trocadero. I do appreciate their cover of “Enjoy The Silence” they did for the Depeche Mode tribute album, but they didn’t play it that night or any night I’ve seen them and as for their music, it bores me. So much so, that I didn’t record any of their set. The Cows on the second night were marginally better and I’d never seen them before, so I at least recorded their set. Maynard came out to introduce them, pointing out that Election Day was next week and we should all “vote for The Cows”. It would be the only time I’d see that band since they would break up only two years later.
Tool’s sets on both nights were exquisite, but I was distracted on the first night by my friend Tory’s state of mind. I won’t go into what emotional turmoil he was going through at the time, but he was in a bad place and we both knew it. I’d hoped that seeing Tool would help him through it, but halfway through their set on the first night, I was unsure if bringing him that night was the right decision. I stayed by his side through the show and hoped the show helped. I think in the end it did.
Tool was definitely upping the theatrics of their shows. They had erected video screens to showcase their videos, beautiful though haunting visions from Adam Jones. His displays for their live shows would only grow more grandiose as the years progressed. Last tour, they had 26 Barco projectors. Secondly, Maynard came out painted blue from head to toe only wearing boxer shorts, one of many disguises he would don in the future. I’d find out later that he did this partially so he wouldn’t be recognized in public and considering Tool’s skyrocketing popularity, it’s understandable. By the end of the second night, it was clear that Tool had hit it big time and time would show that Tool fans would have to go to much larger venues and pay a lot more to see them perform live. There was no poster that night, a towering injustice to these shows, both being sold out and the last time Tool would play a venue this small.
The Cramps, The Phantom Surfers, The Groovie Ghoulies, War., SF, Thur., October 31, 1996
SETLIST : Dinner With Drac, I’m Five Years Ahead Of My Time, Green Fuzz, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, The Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon, Ultra Twist, Strychnine, I Walked All Night, Goo Goo Muck, I Was A Teenage Werewolf, Primitive, Mean Machine, Hot Pearl Snatch, You’ve Got Good Taste, Hipsville 29 BC, Dames Booze Chains & Boots, Psychotic Reaction, TV Set, The Crusher, Surfin’ Bird
Though I’d seen the Cramps perform on New Year’s Eve once, they were a band that were born to play on Halloween. I mean, these guys always looked like they belonged as the house band in some haunted mansion. I would be lucky to see them perform once more on Halloween four years later as well, but let it be said that there is no band alive or dead who is more worthy to play on this most ghoulish of occasions. Speaking of ghouls, the Groovie Ghoulies opened followed by the Phantom Surfers, both good punk bands that warmed up the crowd.
Though ushering can be a tough job sometimes, ushering on Halloween, makes it more enjoyable. For the life of me, I can’t recall what I dressed as that night, but not only can ushers dress up, I would take the opportunity to usher in character. There would always be some cool costume to check out all night to pass the time. I’ll never forget one of the waitresses was dressed in a tennis outfit with a knife stuck in her back. When I asked who she was dressed as, she said Monica Seles, the professional tennis player who had been attacked while on the court back in 1993. Pity it ultimately ended her tennis career, but that was an inspired costume.
The Cramps would thrill us all that night with twenty songs, splitting between their originals and covers of obscure golden oldies. Lux and Ivy were definitely students of old rock & roll, giving their own particular psychobilly spin on such tunes as “Strychnine” by The Sonics or “Primitive” by The Groupies, but still managing to do them with the utmost respect and musicianship. Like the Dead, the covers they chose would be obscure enough to be mistaken as originals. They finished the night as they often did with an apocalyptic rendition of “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen, which many consider to be the first punk song. The Cramps played that one out to a full fifteen minutes, Lux doing his trademark stage antics, flopping about in his low hanging, leather pants, microphone swallowed up into his mouth, and hanging from the speaker stacks. I always had sympathy to the poor sound man who had to clean Lux’s mic at the end of the show. It would have been a perfect evening, but like Tool who played at the Warfield three days before, there was no poster at the end of the night, another unforgivable injustice to such a memorable evening.
Bob Mould, Mark Eitzel, Fill., SF, Fri., November 1, 1996
It had been a couple of years since I’d seen Bob Mould play with his band, Sugar, that show at the Warfield being the first time I’d see him. He was touring as a solo act this time around, promoting his self titled album, sometimes referred to as the “Hubcap” album, from the hubcap on the cover. Bob had written a song called “Dog On Fire” which They Might Be Giants did a cover of and was and still is being used as the theme song to “The Daily Show” which just aired that year for the first time. Little did any of us know that it would still be used 23 years later.
Opening that night was Mark Eitzel, the former frontman of American Music Club. As luck would have it, American Music Club was technically the first band to play at the Fillmore when it re-opened in 1994, being the opening act for Smashing Pumpkins. He too was a solo act by this show, having just released “60 Watt Silver Lining”. Mark had been out as a gay man since 1985, but Bob had recently outed himself in an interview with Spin magazine, though his sexuality had been considered an open secret. Coming out back then was still pretty bold, but thankfully has been becoming increasingly less eyebrow raising over the years. I imagine most of the fans there that night were gay, but I was oblivious anyway. The real courageous “coming out” as it were by these two artists that night was coming out on stage alone with only a guitar. That takes guts, especially at The Fillmore. Glad they got a poster too.
Rita Marley, Sister I-Live, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., November 2, 1996
Continuing my reggae education at the Hall, I had the pleasure to see Rita Marley this one time. She had been widowed from the late great Bob Marley for 15 years by then. I was only 9 when Bob passed away and knew nothing of his music or reggae in general. Rita had sung background vocals on many of Bob’s songs on such albums as “Natty Dread” and “Rastaman Vibration” as a member of the I Three. As luck would have it, fellow I Three alumni, Judy Mowatt, would play the very next night at the Hall for the “Fire On The Mountain” tour, a tour of reggae artists promoting an album of Grateful Dead reggae covers. Whether Rita and Judy crossed paths that weekend is anybody’s guess. Maybe they took the same bus. Who knows?
Sister I-Live opened that night. She was a common fixture at the Hall, opening for many reggae acts back then and she always got the crowd pumped up and dancing. Though I’d never get to see Bob Marley, though I do hope to catch him in heaven, God willing, I did get to see a few of his sons, such as Julian, Stephen, Damian, and Ziggy over the years. And though I’d never get to see Peter Tosh either, I’d get to see his son Andrew play at the Hall in 1998. Many cohorts of Bob would grace the Hall as well during those years, including Bunny Wailer and others in the original Wailers band. To this day, when I consider if I had a chance to see an artist who’s since passed, it’s always a toss up between Bob and Hendrix. Tough call.
Fire On The Mountain : Joe Higgs, Wailing Souls, Judy Mowatt, Chalice, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., November 3, 1996
This was the second of two nights of reggae at the Hall. As mentioned in the last entry, Rita Marley played, and this night included her fellow I Three alumni, Judy Mowatt. Whether they were touring together or even knew each other were in town that weekend is anybody’s guess. If I ever run into either of them, I’ll be sure to ask. This night was a cavalcade of reggae stars touring in support of the “Fire On The Mountain” album, a compilation of Grateful Dead songs done dancehall style. Judy was doing “Row Jimmy”, Joe Higgs did “Uncle John’s Band”, the Wailing Souls did “Casey Jones”, and Chalice did “Fire On The Mountain”. Naturally, they all sang those songs that night.
I’ll take some time here to talk about the Dead, since I’m basically skipping all the shows I saw with them before Jerry died. I’ll get to Phil and all the other Dead incarnations as time goes on. The thing about folks who cover the Dead to me is often their versions are often better. Half the songs the Dead do are covers in the first place. Some die hard fans resent anybody who dares cover their songs at all. Indeed, the Dead remain one of those bands that are a bit of a watershed. Either you dig them or you don’t, but there are a few who straddle the fence precariously and I consider myself one of those few eccentrics. Yes, to me, when the dead were on, they were really on. When they weren’t, even the die hard fans would just look at each other and shrug. All the LSD back then certainly helped as it would any show really.
John Melloncamp, Sue Medley, Fill., Mon., November 4, 1996
SETLIST : Love & Happiness, Jack & Diane, Lonely Ol’ Night, Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), Check It Out, What If I Come Knocking?, Crumblin’ Down, R.O.C.K. In The USA, Hurts So Good, Authority Song, Pink Houses
Every once in a blue moon, the Fillmore affords its patrons and staff the opportunity to see an act that would normally play a much larger venue, by virtue of its reputation. I’m sure artists like Mr. Melloncamp appreciate the chance to play to a smaller crowd from time to time for no better reason than to feel the intimacy and nostalgia of the shows they once did when they were getting started in their careers. Not that I would have gone out of my way to see him and haven’t since, but his repertoire of songs are easily recognizable and his work on Farm Aid is truly commendable. At this time, John had cleaned up his diet and quit a four pack a day cigarette habit after suffering a mild heart attack in 1994. He looked good and was full of energy and good spirits. This show had the additional distinction of being the last show before the general election of 1996. Thank God in heaven, Bill Clinton won re-election easily.
Before I continue, I will address the elephant in the room and talk a bit about his name changes. Yes, most people were introduced to John in the 80s when he was known as John Cougar. He then changed it to John Cougar Melloncamp and then finally in 1991, he finally dropped the Cougar officially altogether. One of my favorite stories attached to his name changes was that of Rodney Anonymous of the punk band, the Dead Milkman. He too changed his name, though probably not legally, to Rodney Anonymous Melloncamp back then too. Recently, my wife and I were listening to the news and overheard that the country of Macedonia was considering changing their name and I made my wife laugh when I suggested that they change it to Macedonia Cougar Melloncamp. (Ba-dum-boom!) And yes, I’m afraid I have to mention one of the most hilarious band names I’d discover one day, albeit cringe worthy as it is offensive… John Cougar Concentration Camp.
OK, enough about his various names. Even though John might be considered an 80’s nostalgia act, he was touring with a new album, “Mr. Happy Go Lucky”, and he played a couple songs from that album that night, “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)” and “What If I Came Knocking?”. There was a bit of controversy over the cover of that album because it included the Devil and Jesus and John holding a baby wearing clown make up who some thought was appearing to be dead. The baby was actually his son, Hud, who was sleeping at the time, but they released the album with a less offensive cover later.
Of coarse, he got the crowd pumped with “Jack & Diane”, doing it the second song in and one could easily appreciate his showmanship and talent. I look for no better endorsement for an artist than “The Simpsons” who would go on to use “R.O.C.K. In The USA” in 1999, and the Weird Al Yankovic parody cover of “Jack & Diane”, “Homer & Marge”, in 2003. There is no higher praise in my opinion to have one’s music used for that show. Unfortunately, this special show was cruelly denied having a poster that night, a terrible omission.
Greyboy Allstars, Mad Professor, Vinyl, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., November 8, 1996
Though the Greyboys had been around for a few years, even playing regularly at the Elbo Room, this would be the first time I’d see them. They’d just released their first album the year before and the acid jazz scene had firmly taken hold in the mainstream. Not that the Greyboys were popular enough to fill the Maritime. They weren’t. Probably only a few hundred there that night and I imagine most of them were there to see the Mad Professor.
Yes, the Hall had established itself by then as the premier place in town to see reggae and one could imagine the surprise of many of the concert goers that night upon hearing both the Greyboys and Vinyl. Vinyl, though not as jazzy as the Greyboys, were pretty much a jam band, albeit one of the better ones, but clearly not reggae at all. I heard that there were some complaints that the Mad Professor wasn’t the headliner and as you can imagine, a lot of folks left that night after he was done.
Certainly the Mad Professor wasn’t to blame. The legendary dub DJ had produced and remixed songs for all kinds of artists including Sade, Rancid, and Depeche Mode, just to name a few. Though I hadn’t seen him in the flesh, I was already a fan of his work and it actually was an honor to meet him. The list of his work is beyond prolific and he still commands respect in the music industry to this day. He gave me his business card and I passed it on the my friend, Hefe, who is his biggest fan in the whole wide world. He did his set that night up in the balcony, next to the front of house board and as luck would have it, he played his music through ADAT machines, the same soon to be obsolete medium which we recorded our shows. Pity we couldn’t release an album of his set that night, but we’d have the supreme honor to have him collaborate with Lee “Scratch” Perry for our first live album from the Maritime a year later.
It must be noted that the 80’s hair metal band, Great White, was supposed to play at the Hall a couple days before, but they cancelled for reasons I don’t know. If the name is ringing a bell, it’s probably because of the infamous fire they had at one of their shows that happened seven years later in 2003 in Rhode Island. Pyrotechnics had set it off, igniting acoustic syrofoam next to drum kit, which released toxic smoke as well. In the end, the fire claimed the lives of 100 people, including their guitarist, Ty Longley, and injured over 200 others. One of the people who died was a man named Jeff Rader and he and I went to the same junior high school together, though he was a year older than me.
This is a sensitive subject for me because Jeff bullied me mercilessly back then and I wished a violent death on him more times than I care to count. I overheard his name mentioned on the news after it happened, but dismissed it initially, hoping it was someone else with the same name. But when they showed a stock picture of him, I knew instantly that it was him, even though I hadn’t lain eyes on him in over ten years. I felt terrible. I learned a priceless lesson that night to never wish that kind of harm on anyone, no matter who they are or what they did to me. When it happens, and it actually has happened to not just one, but three people who used to bully me, it only served to make me feel worse.
Turned out Jeff was Great White’s roadie and merchandise salesman. I heard that he actually got out of the blaze at first, but died after going back inside to attempt to rescue his new girlfriend. They both died however. There is even footage of him when the fire began as he got on stage trying to point to others towards the exit. Apparently, one of the exits was covered by drape and people didn’t know it was there leaving them one way out. As you can imagine, many died in the stampede towards the door. As an usher, this fact hammered home the importance of knowing exits in a place and that point was naturally mentioned in the following usher meeting for the first show I did afterwards, the Bob Marley Day show at the Warfield with Julian & Damian Marley and a bunch of other reggae acts.
Unaware as I was of his fate after our time in junior high together, I would learn after Jeff’s untimely death that he actually was friends with some people I knew and was even close to one of my old friends, Lina and he had even dated another friend, Marne, briefly. I had no idea. They all had nothing but nice things to say about him, emphasizing how kind he was. As you might imagine, I found this baffling, considering the cruelty he displayed towards me when I knew him. I would learn that he also roadied for other hair metal bands of note, such as Tesla, Poison, Ratt, Alice Cooper, and Ted Nugent. Ironic that we’d both work in the similar jobs, though I never cared for touring. It made me consider my own behavior back in junior high. I mean I was nerd for sure and maybe a bit of a smart ass, but I still can’t for the life of me imagine what I said or did that could have possibly made Jeff treat me so badly.
Jeff’s death helped me bury my bad feelings towards those who did me wrong and I wish I could thank him for that. Perhaps I will, god willing I make it to heaven some day. As a small peace offering, I named one of my characters in my second novel, “Frankenswinger”, Mr. Rader. Most of the characters in that book were named after former bullies of mine as way to bury the hatchet with all of them for me. Like Jeff, Mr. Rader was an antagonist at first, but died heroically in the end.
What makes this story especially haunting is the last picture taken of Jeff that night. In the rush towards the exit, a man named Joe Cristina snapped a shot of him with the fire raging on the stage behind Jeff. Joe managed to escape through an atrium window. Jeff can be seen apparently calm and holding a a beer, his jacket, and a cigarette of all things. The look on his face is not one of a man who is seconds away from dying. This image will haunt me to the end of my days. One can only hope that in the face of such certain doom, that they could face it with Jeff sense of calm.
Billy Bragg, Robyn Hitchcock, War., SF, Fri., November 8, 1996
SETLIST (ROBYN HITCHCOCK) : The Devil’s Radio, Where Do You Go When You Die?, Serpent At The Gates Of Wisdom, 1974, De Chirico Street, Egyptian Cream, Filthy Bird, Beautiful Girl, I’m Only You, I Am Not Me, I Something You, You And Oblivion, Only The Stones Remain, (encore) Clear Spot, Sinister But She Was Happy, Beautiful Queen
As you might have read before, I’d been a huge fan of Robyn’s and still am today. This was the largest venue I’d ever see him play in and even though it was just a solo show for him and Billy, each alone, just them and their guitars, they had a decent crowd that night. A bit of confusion on my part about this show, since I’d also have on my list that I was at the Greyboy Allstars at the Maritime on the same night. Also, I appear to have only the first four songs of his set recorded. I clearly remember being at the Greyboys the whole night and it would be like me to leave one of Robyn’s shows for any reason. Perhaps I cloned myself that night or something. Regardless, Robyn was touring with his new solo album, “Moss Elixer”, and he played a decent handful of new songs that night. He even did a cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Clear Spot” for the encore.
Robyn was opening that night for none other than fellow Englishman, folk rock artist Billy Bragg. Billy was touring with his new album, “William Bloke”, the first album he’d release in five years. He was an interesting pairing to Robyn, being likewise a solo act and very talkative between songs, though his banter was more political while Robyn… well, he’s just his usual scatagorical self. Pity that I didn’t get any of his set recorded that night either. I remember my old girlfriend Jodi was a big fan of Billy’s and this was the first time I’d see him and he made a good impression. I liked his voice and that he was a vocal supporter of many working class causes. He’d go on to get even bigger in the States in 1998, when he collaborated with Wilco to make their hit album, “Mermaid Avenue”, a collection of songs with previously unheard lyrics by the late Woody Guthrie.
Johnny Cash, The Mother Hips, Fill., SF, Sat., November 9, 1996
THE MOTHER HIPS : Whiskey In The Southbound, Honeydew, Transit (Terminal) Wind, Mother Hips, Old Man From The Mountain, Shoot Out, This Is A Man, Workingman’s Blues, Been Lost Once
JOHNNY CASH : Folsom Prison Blues, Get Rhythm, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, Country Boy, Unchained, Riders In The Sky, The Ballad Of Ira Hayes, San Quentin, Southern Accents, Rusty Cage, Ring Of Fire, I Walk The Line, I Still Miss Someone, Jackson, If I Were A Carpenter, Wabash Cannonball, Wildwood Flower, The Church In The Wildwood, unknown, I Used To Be Somebody, Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, Gospel Boogie, Orange Blossom Special, Big River, Rowboat, Bird On A Wire, Meet Me In Heaven, A Boy Named Sue
The idea that an artist may not be around forever was a notion that I was growing more and more accustomed to as the years pass, but back then, Johnny Cash was on the top of his game and it felt that he would go on forever. Unfortunately for him and us all, that would not be true and this would be the last time he’d perform in the Bay Area. A year after this show he would be diagnosed with Shy-Drager Syndrome, a neurodegenerative disease that led to slow and steady demise of The Man In Black seven years later in September of 2003. To make matters even sadder, he would lose his beloved wife, June, only four months before he died, so this would be the last time I’d see her as well. Johnny was supposed to do a show the following year, once again at The Fillmore, but it was cancelled as was his entire tour due to the illness. I remember one of my old girlfriends, Lisa, a former usher herself, regretted missing this show as well, thinking that he’d come back some day. We both were looking forward to that show in 1997.
But like I said before, this was farthest from my mind that night. Johnny had just released “Unchained” that tuesday, the second album he’d release on the American label, following the hugely successful “American Recordings” album. This one would prove equally as successful, garnering him a Grammy for Best Country Album and he was nominated for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for his brilliant cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”. Not only did this album have a number of other excellent covers, but Johnny also had Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as his band on this one. Opening that night was San Francisco’s own, The Mother Hips. They too were on American Recordings, having just released the album “Shootout” that year, but they’d soon be dropped by American.
Mr. Cash covered a lot of ground that night, playing 28 songs. They did some of covers from the new album including the aforementioned “Rusty Cage”, but also “Rowboat” by Beck and Tom Petty’s “Souther Accents”. June joined him on stage half way through the show and sang for the rest of it, starting with their classic duet “Jackson”. I have to admit, something dreadful happened and it turned out that I accidentally recorded over the first five songs of the night somehow. Hell if I know how it happened, but a few songs from Robyn Hitchcock’s show the night before got on the tape instead. Though it was only five songs, I did lose a couple big ones like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Get Rhythm”. How that happened, I’ll never know. At least it was Robyn and not some band I didn’t care about. Still, I’d go on to see Robyn many times after this one and this would be my last time with both the Cash’s. Like the last time they played the Fillmore, June gave a little speech between songs, detailing her long career and illustrious family history. I appreciate her work and especially setting Johnny on the straight and narrow. He’d been stone dead years before this if it wasn’t for her. But the talk kind of shifted the show into neutral for a few minutes, until they brought it back to life with the old Carter family classic, “Wabash Cannonball”.
Why in holy hell this show didn’t get a poster is beyond comprehension. Not only was he the highest of musical royalty at this time and the show was sold out, but the poster they made of the 1994 show would prove to be one of the best posters the Fillmore ever produced, including the old ones. Many such as I consider that poster to be the flagship poster of the Fillmore, at least the Fillmore after the re-opening in 1994. That omission was an unspeakable blunder on the Fillmore’s part, compounded by the fact that, yes once again, this would be Johnny’s last show there.
I heard a strange thing happened after the show that night. Apparently, Johnny and his gang got into their tour bus and were ready to leave the parking lot where it was parked, when some random street person got in front to the bus and wouldn’t move. It was quite a tense moment and there was a scuffle between the crazy guy and Johnny’s people. I assume the guy was arrested, but I really don’t know. Sorry if that it had to be Johnny’s last memory of the Fillmore, but I’m sure he and everyone involved will remember that incident to their dying day. Everybody except for the loon perhaps.
Yes, Johnny has been gone over 15 years since I’m writing this now, but his legacy is secure. The great biopic “Walk The Line” would come out in 2005, only two years after he and June’s death. Joachim Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon would play Johnny and June, respectively, and both would be nominated for Oscars for their performance, though only Reece would win hers. She definitely earned it. As lovely a person and brilliant a musician as June was, I reluctantly think Reece has a better voice. Also in that year, The Simpson’s aired an episode called “Mobile Homer” which featured Cash’s song from the “Unchained” album, “I’ve Been Everywhere”. Johnny’s songs, especially “Ring Of Fire”, continue to be played to this day by countless artists.
Not too long ago, I caught the Reverend Horton Heat at The Fillmore and he mentioned the giant picture of Johnny and his band playing on stage which is on the wall at the top of the stairs of the main entrance. It is really the first thing you see when get up the stairs and the last thing you see before you go down them. The Reverend had opened for Johnny in 1994 under the unexplained moniker of “Pajama Party Orchestra” and he was proud to have had the honor to play that show. Indeed, anybody who got to see him play back then, now certainly counts themselves as lucky.
L.L. Cool J, Galactic, The Earthlings, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., November 10, 1996
To say that going from Johnny Cash the night before to seeing LL Cool J was a stylistic case of whiplash would be an understatement. But I loved the variety of music I had the opportunity to check out back then and I hope it helped broaden my mind just a teensy bit. I was still learning about hip hop acts back then, but everybody knew who LL Cool J was. Believe it or not, during the brief time I was staying at a place on Grove & Central streets near the Panhandle in 1993, he’d just released the album “14 Shots To The Dome”, three years after “Momma Said Knock You Out”, and somebody spray painted “The Double L Nigga Is Back” on our garage door. By 1995, LL was still in the infancy of his acting career, then having starred in the NBC sitcom, “In The House”, as well as had a handful of movies under his belt. He was already at a career high, but by this show, he was riding even higher with his new album, “Mr. Smith”, which included his hit single “Doin’ It”, a staple for all who listen to what my cousin Kate would refer to as “Booty Music”. Yes, many boots have been knocked to that jam.
Opening that night would be the obliquitous white rap act, The Earthlings. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, this was the Maritime’s owners son Little Boots’ band with his rapper friends from Vacaville. And although they would get better as the years went on, they were still pretty green in ’96 and the crowd mostly ignored them. Next up was Galactic, and even though they were brand new back then having released their first album only that July, I thought they were excellent and they still continue to be. But like the show where they had The Greyboy All Stars playing with the Mad Professor, the crowd seemed a little caught off guard pairing this New Orleans jam band with this master of hip hop. Still, I think the crowd was sophisticated enough to appreciate them.
If I remember correctly, he rolled a motorcycle on stage during this show. It might of been when he played at The Fillmore in 2002, but I’m not sure. I’ll get back to y’all when I get to the tapes in ’02. Regardless, such a move must have been difficult, rolling it up on stage, presumably while in neutral up planks on the stairs. I sincerely doubt they had a forklift at The Fillmore. I’m sure the Maritime didn’t. Flashy as it was, Mr. J’s performance was excruciatingly short as it was six years later at The Fillmore, barely breaking 40 minutes. I understand if it’s an artist who’s brand new and only had one album, like when I saw Porno For Pyros in 1995, but an artist of his caliber and extended repertoire could have easily gone on longer. Oh well, short and sweet it was. I think to this day, he’s the only artist I’ve ever seen who both got on stage later and got off stage earlier than scheduled.
John Zorn’s Masada, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., November 15, 1996
This was one of those rare occasions where we weren’t allowed to record that night, so I had the pleasure of being able to adjourn upstairs, have a beer or two, and enjoy the show. Why we weren’t allowed to record that night, I still don’t know, but most likely it was that Zorn had released two live double albums in the previous two years, “Live In Jeruselem” and “Live In Taipei” respectively, and/or didn’t want to get involved with a shady guy like Boots.
Little as I knew about music about then, and even less about jazz, I was learning slowly, but surely. But to peg Mr. Zorn into strictly a jazz category is quite indeed unjust since his repertoire is so extensive, to behold a list of his credits will make you dizzy. From chamber music to film scores to experimental hardcore music with guys like Mike Patton, it seems that there’s nothing this guy can’t play or compose. This night was another installment in his Masada series, a project consisting of hundreds of songs, exploring his Jewish heritage and the Phrygian dominant scale. Not that I would know what that scale was if it crawled up and bit me, but suffice to say John is good at what he does and it showed.
I was transfixed by the music he made that night, hypnotized even. I was lucky to get that night off. I mean, I’d seen my share of the new acid jazz scene, guys like Charlie Hunter and the whole Up & Down Club gang, but Zorn and his guys were really sophisticated. The show made me feel like a grown up that night. I heard some time later that once Zorn was playing a show in New York City and Secretary Of State Madeline Albright was there talking to somebody of importance in the balcony during his set and he stopped the show to ask them to quiet down. Serious musician, this guy. Alas, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him since, but after that show, he set the bar of expert musicianship pretty high for me.
Jorge Benjor, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., November 16, 1996
As green as I was on my knowledge of jazz, as mentioned in the show with John Zorn the night before at the Hall, I was even greener with world music. Now I’ll first come right off the bat by saying that I never liked the phrase “world music” and probably shouldn’t have used it at all, but at that time, any music that didn’t come from America, Europe, or the U.K. was basically just that. My knowledge at the time was really just that limited and I still make microscopic strides to widen my musical horizons to this day.
Thanks be to god that the Maritime brought to its stage from time to time an act like Jorge Benjor. He is a legend in Brazil, a master and founder of the tropicalia sound going back all the way to the 60’s. Some may call it samba, bossa nova, what you will, but I’m obviously not qualified to comment. This being such a rare appearance in the bay area, brought a full house of folks of Brazilian ancestry out that night. And a very dedicated crowd they were. They sang along to each and every song and they sang LOUDLY. Yes, on that cool Saturday evening, the Hall was hot, hot, hot. Pity we couldn’t make an album from his set that night. It had to be one of the loudest crowds singing along to a show that I’ve ever experienced or ever will most likely.
Suzanne Vega, Jason Falkner, War., SF, Sun., November 17, 1996
This would be the first time I’d get to see Suzanne Vega, but I was aware of her music, she already having been around the music scene for over a decade. I knew like most people “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner” and naturally she played both those songs that night. “Tom’s Diner” got even bigger when the dance group DNA did a remix of it in 1990 and it turns out, the actual diner it’s based on is in New York and it serves as the exterior for Monk’s Cafe, the coffee shop the folks from “Seinfeld” frequent. She easily got me and the crowd singing along to the “dut-dut-duh-da-dut-duts” on that song. It’s kind of hard to resist doing even now, not listening to the song.
Vega was touring with her fifth album, “Nine Objects Of Desire”, and she had just gotten married the year before to Mitchell Froom, though she’d get divorced from her husband two years later. Mitchell was in her band and was playing keyboards that night. They had a daughter together named Ruby and the band Soul Coughing named their album “Ruby Vroom” after her in 1994, the year she was born. Tchad Blake, who was playing guitar in Vega’s band, produced that album. Just playing on stage alone with his guitar, was Jason Falkner, the opener. Jason had been part of the San Francisco band, Jellyfish, who had moderate success for a few years in the early 90’s, opening up for bands such as the Black Crowes. But they had recently broke up and he was touring solo, promoting his first solo album, “Presents Author Unknown”. Like most solo acoustic sets, it was easy to usher which was what I was in the mood for, after two nights working at the Maritime.
Harry Connick,Jr. & His Funk Band, War., SF, Thur., November 21, 1996
Harry had already made a name for himself for years, especially for his old school crooning songs like “It Had To Be You” and others he did for the “When Harry Met Sally” soundtrack. He was equally as renown by this year for his acting work, particularly for the role he played in “Independence Day” which had just been released that summer. He had taken a departure from the ring-a-ding-ding stuff on this tour, reconnecting with his New Orleans roots, touring with a full funk band playing songs off his new album, “Star Turtle”.
Not to say that it was all funk and new stuff. He covered a lot of ground that night, even doing a couple slow sentimental numbers like “America The Beautiful” and “Amazing Grace”. It was “an evening with” show, so I was cut early and he played at least two hours. One song he covered that night that I knew was “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), the classic funk song by Sly & The Family Stone. The bass player and drummer did sick solos on that one and Harry got the whole crowd singing along on the chorus.
The biggest thing I remembered from that show was that Woody Harrelson himself was hanging out in my aisle! I was already a big fan and I shook his hand and told him how much I was looking forward to the release of “The People Vs. Larry Flynt”, which would come out that Christmas. He thanked me graciously and I let him be, though I kept him in the corner of my eye for that show. I’m a big Milos Forman fan too. That would be one of his best movies. I was impressed how diminutive and muscular Woody was that night, especially after hearing that he had to gain a considerable amount of weight to play Larry Flynt. I guess he got back to the gym pretty fast after filming.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Charlie Hunter Quartet, Fill., SF, Fri., November 22, 1996
Though the acid jazz scene in San Francisco was starting to wind down as an innovative musical movement, there were some from that scene who were moving on to bigger and better things. A case in point was Medeski, Martin, and Wood, a trio from New York City who were quickly gaining attention after like so many others like The Greyboy Allstars and Karl Denisen’s Tiny Universe in the acid jazz movement got, for better or for worse, assimilated into the so-called jam band scene. They weren’t signed to major label yet, but would soon be signed to Blue Note the following year. But like Charlie and all the others mentioned before, these guys had exceptional musical chops. It was also refreshing to hear both an opener and a headliner at the Fillmore that were purely instrumental, a rare concert indeed there.
Charlie Hunter never really did, but then again, in my opinion anyway, he never really needed to. Charlie had already been signed to Blue Note the year before and was relocated to New York. For some strange reason, I can’t find the recording of his set that night. I’m certain that I did it, since I have Medeski, Martin, & Wood’s set in its entirety, and considering my history and affinity for Charlie, wouldn’t have missed recording him for the world, particularly since this would be the first time I’d ever see him perform at the Fillmore. For whatever reason I missed it, I know he performed excellently because he is one of those rare performers who ALWAYS performs excellently. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, watch him closely if you see him live. Even playing both bass and guitar lines on that 8 string guitar, he never, never, NEVER makes a mistake. The only mistake that night, and you probably see this one coming, is there was no poster given out that night.
De La Soul, Marginal Prophets, Rollo’s Kitchen, The Joint, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., November 23, 1996
Though De La had already played the Hall just two months prior, they were already back to give us some more, of which I was grateful. I was still woefully lacking in my hip hop education and they were definitely in their prime back then. Unfortunately, this show was sponsored by Lucky Strike, yes that Lucky Strike, the cigarette company. For De La and the other bands to do this “Lucky Strike Presents” show was a disappointment to me and probably to many others. But this was the 90’s and the war on cigarettes was still in it’s infancy. Today, such a bill being sponsored by a cigarette company would be unheard of and besides, Lucky Strike has deep pockets and they probably rolled up a truck load of money to De La’s house. I mean, they’re not made of stone.
Around this time, I was so blindly devoted to the Maritime, I was actively going around on my free time, giving out fliers and posters to people around town, especially at San Francisco State, my alma mater. Likewise, I was trying to recruit folks from the broadcasting department, with very little success, to volunteer in manning the cameras at the Hall for the recordings. I would understand why an aspiring media enthusiast would not work at the Maritime after being subjected to any time face to face with Boots, but the fact that so few would even venture a go still confounds me. Maybe word got out early.
De La did pretty much the same set they did last time, but I was also impressed by the set I heard from the Marginal Prophets. They were a local hip hop outfit that were led by Keith Knight, who also happened to be the author of the comic strips, “The K Chronicles” and “The Knight Life”. Sadly, the Prophets would only release two studio albums and one live one, their debut “Twist The Nob” being released a year after this show. Though the Prophets have come and gone, which is a pity, because I thought they were an excellent band, I’m happy to report that his strip is still in the Chronicle and is one of my favorites. Furthermore, he has published several books of his work. Keith is a funny guy and I made sure to give him thanks for his achievements when I met him at WonderCon years later which he accepted with grace and modesty.
Soundgarden, Rocket From The Crypt, Henry J. Kaiser, Oakland, Thur., December 5, 1996
SETLIST : Spoonman, Searching With My Good Eye Closed, Let Me Drown, Pretty Noose, Burden In My Hand, My Wave, Ty Cobb, Black Hole Sun, Outshined, Rusty Cage, Fell On Black Days, Blow Up The Outside World, Rhinosaur, Hands, Slaves & Bulldozers, (encore), Dusty, Jesus Christ Pose
By this time, I’d seen Soundgarden a few times, twice at Lollapalooza
’92, once at the Greek in ‘94, and once again in Lollapalooza ’96, so suffice to say that I was used to them and considering their ever mounting success, naively thought they’d be around forever. Even though the new album, “Down On The Upside”, hadn’t been as big a hit as “Superunknown”, they were playing to bigger and bigger houses, all sold out. As you might have guessed, yes, they broke up shortly after this show in February of ’97, only two months later, and this would serve to be be their final show in the bay area, until they reunited in 2010, thirteen years later. Like so many bands near their break up, I had no idea while they played that night that there was so much tension backstage. Work for bands in such a state, especially hidden from their fans, performing or not, seem especially focused, like such acts as The Doors and The Beatles during their final days. One could speculate that psychologically they needed their art to be in perfection since so much else was so so pear shaped.
The big distinction about this gig is it the one show that I recorded at the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium in Oakland. It is one of only three shows I ever saw there, the other two being Nine Inch Nails with Marilyn Manson opening in ’92 and I believe Jerry Garcia Band in the same year. Kinda’ hazy on the last show and knowing Jerry shows it’s understandable. Pity I wasn’t recording back then. I remember I had tickets to see Tupac play there earlier that year, but it was cancelled for fear of gang violence and naturally I felt cheated. But one has to appreciate the concern, considering Mr. Shakur would go on to be murdered on the Las Vegas strip that September. The other show I was supposed to see there and didn’t was Madness and I had to miss it because of work. That show especially stung because the Dance Hall Crashers, my brother’s former band, and the one and only Bad Manners, were one of the opening acts.
Back to the Kaiser though, it was a huge place, used since 1914 for everything from Roller Derby to the circus to rock shows such as this one. It was even used in 1918 to house people infected with the Spanish Flu. Like it’s doppelgänger across the bay which would become the Bill Graham Civic, it was a giant concrete rectangular box and the acoustics were less than ideal. But it was smaller than the Civic and close to BART making the trek there and back to SF a breeze. I was able to see a peace rally there years later where one of the main speakers was Dr. Cornell West, and yes, the irony that one of the few shows I’d see at this venue would be with someone with the name “Cornell” in their name isn’t lost on me. But this, Soundgarden, would be the last time I’d see a concert at this spacious and renowned venue.
Opening that night were Rocket From The Crypt and this would be the only time I’d ever see them. I think since I arrived late and had limited tape space, I only got one of their songs. Soundgarden were as tight as ever, covering a good cross section of songs. I loved the new material. It was at least as good as anything on “Superunknown”, especially songs like “Pretty Noose”, but one can understand after so many years of touring and the pressure and all that they would want to take a break. Cornell would do a solo album and then do his thing with Audioslave, so I wouldn’t be without him for a while, though I wouldn’t hear Soundgarden again until 2011.
There, they played the doppelgänger across the bay, Bill Graham Civic. I was a little hard up for cash or maybe just plain lazy and didn’t pony up the loot for the ticket. I was just living up the street on Larkin at the time, so I went down and hung out in front of the smoking section outside where they kept the doors open and I could hear and see the whole show completely. I just paced back and forth on the pavement listening to the whole set and loved it. The last show I’d see them play wouldn’t be until they played Bridge School in 2014, almost twenty years later.
I had another opportunity to see Cornell play with Temple Of The Dog at the Civic in 2016, but I didn’t go. I wasn’t a big fan of Temple’s music, but my friend, Jeff Pollard was coming out to the city with hid son Eli, so I decided to go, but it didn’t happen. Eli got sick on the ride out and Jeff and he turned home to Sacramento, so I bailed on it. I hate the Civic anyway and wasn’t in the mood. Little did I or anyone know Cornell would be dead only a few months later. Anyway, enough mourning for rock stars and heir venues. Besides, I had a few more times to hang with Mr. Cornell in the forenamed musical projects. I’ll get to them soon enough.
Crash Test Dummies, Driving Blind, War., SF, Fri., December 6, 1996
Going from Soundgarden from the night before to the Crash Test Dummies seemed to be yet another musical stylistic severe gear change, but I did it. Truthfully, I wasn’t that aroused by them. I’m sure they’re very nice people, after all, they’re Canadian, from Winnipeg. Fellow Canadian Neil Young likes them. He even had them on the Bridge School Benefit one year, but their music all seemed a little tame to me. I mean, the lead singer wore a suit coat. They were touring on their album , “A Worm’s Life” the follow up to the triple platinum, “God Shuffled It’s Feet” and as one would expect and sadly, it didn’t sell as well.
“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” also has the dubious distinction of being VH1’s number 15 on their list of the 50 Most Awesomest Bad Songs Ever and coincidentally also number 15 on Rolling Stone’s Most Annoying Song list. I guess 15 was their unlucky number. I even remember a stand up comedian on TV once making a joke that you could say or read anything in that “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” cadence. Regardless and all smack talking aside, I didn’t think they were a bad band and their fans were very polite that evening. The one thing I’ll give these guys and which I’d give any musical act who has had this distinction is that Weird Al Yankovic used one of their songs to make a parody version of it. Yes, he used their one big hit, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”, to do his song, “Headline News”. If it has some consolation, they will be among the cannon of Al’s repertoire, a badge of honor that any band would sustain them in times of darkness.
Second Sight, The Mermen, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., December 7, 1996
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Vince Welnick. Second Sight was one of his short lived side projects, having only one self-titled album in its history. Vince would go on to form the band, The Missing Man Formation, obviously a reference to the death of his friend and Grateful Dead alumni, Jerry Garcia. Jerry had been gone for over a year and a half by then and the other Grateful Dead members were picking up the pieces and moving on, Bobby with Ratdog and Phil doing his Phil & Friends thing. But Vince hit a rough patch to say the least. He was diagnosed with cancer just before Jerry died and fought depression and addiction all his life. When the Dead toured in 2002 without him being billed as “the surviving members of the Grateful Dead”, would serve as just one more nail in his coffin. Having attempted suicide before, he tried it one last time finishing the job in 2006. Word has it he cut his own throat right in front of his wife. Horrible.
But it comes to small consolation to us that he left behind a long, musical repertoire including this one time around with Second Sight. Vince was not only one of the best keyboard players around, but he had an extraordinary singing voice. Frankly, he was easily the most talented singer of any member of the Dead, past or present, during his short tenure with them. Jerry and Bobby were damn lucky to have him, especially when they sang a cappella “The Star Spangled Banner” together at the opening of a Giants game in 1993. Listen to it some time. He saved their asses on that one.
Back to the show. As much as I liked Vince, I remember little about his band that night. The Mermen opened and they are always a welcome addition to any show as I’ve mentioned on a number of shows already. Indeed, one of the best opening bands and a headliner could wish for. They had been around for seven years by then and had just released their fifth album, “Songs Of The Cows”. Grace Jones, yes THE Grace Jones, was supposed to do a show at the Maritime the day before, but she cancelled unfortunately. I’ve always wanted to see her and still haven’t. In unrelated news, that was the 55th anniversary of Pearl Harbor that day. Anyway, I still had ten more years after this show with Vince still with us all, so I still count myself lucky to have seen him as much as I did, though I never saw him with The Tubes. I did find out that there is a band out of Delaware with the name Second Sight, but they say they formed in 2000, so I don’t know if they’re related.
311, Speaker, War., SF, Wed., December 11, 1996
Yep, it happened. 311 got big, Warfield big. They were booked for two shows there and this one was the first of the two. On this, the last show I’d see at the Warfield that year, they packed the house. In a matter of only a couple years, they catapulted themselves from being an unknown band out of Nebraska, to commercial and critical success. Though 311 are sort of teased these days as being a corny 90’s band, people forget how original their music was when it was new and dismiss their undeniable musical talent. Besides, corn is good for you and never forget, Nebraska is the land of corn.
Digs aside, they were tight that night as they are every time I’ve seen them, really. Apparently, Weapon Of Choice was on tap to open for them that night, but they didn’t play at this gig. I didn’t record their replacement, Speaker, though. I think what happened is it was one of those rare times I had to record over the opener with remainder the headliner’s set since I ran out of tape. Can’t say for sure. One thing I do know is that 311 were loud that night. Listening to the tape, it’s pretty overdriven. Even if I was up close to the speakers on the dance floor that show, it takes a lot of firepower to get a headphone to peak out like that.
Morris Day & The Time, What It Is, Aloosanation, Fri, Maritime Hall, SF, December 13, 1996
I actually still haven’t seen “Purple Rain” in its entirety to this day, but from all the scenes I’ve witnessed, I’ve been able to put the story together. And the highlight of that movie still remains Morris Day. Yes, his character and his band, The Time, may have been the brainchild of Prince, but Morris ruled that movie. As it turns out, The Time was just as much a rival off screen as well, leading to Morris’ acrimonious split with Prince shortly after the film was released in 1985. Fast forward a decade later. Morris had been making a go of an acting career, but landed little roles apart from the occasional TV sitcom appearance. So, in 1995, he got The Time back together with a handful of new recruits and got back to performing.
The man definitely got the Hall dancing that night. The shining memory of that night was in the middle of the set, he had a small round table with a lit candle and a couple of chairs brought on stage. Morris then invited an attractive young woman from the crowd to join him for sort of an impromptu “date”. After a few flattering lines and smooth talk, he produced a bottle with the words “Pimp Juice” printed on the label and poured them a couple of glasses from it. It looked like a champagne bottle, so I assumed that it what it was. After the show, Pete was able to get that bottle and we kept it in the recording room for the remaining years we worked there.
It would be another two decades until I got to see The Time once again at Stern Grove in 2015 and it was a stellar show as well. I remember Morris claiming that the liquid forming on his brow was not sweat, but the fact that he was so cool that it was condensation. That show was the sunday of Outside Lands and I didn’t get on the crew that year, so I made a point of always going to Stern Grove every year if I was free as a sort of “compensation” show. Ironically, two years after, The Revolution, Prince’s old band would be the show I’d see during Outside Lands’ weekend.
The Roots, 75 Degrees, Alphabet Soup, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat. December 14, 1996
Word was steadily getting out about The Roots. I admired their work, having already seen them twice opening for The Fugees at the Fillmore, the early and late show that March, and twice on the side stage at Lollapalooza in 1995 at Cal Expo in Sacramento and Shoreline. But little did I think that they would rise to the level of notoriety that they’ve achieved today. They were touring on their third album, “Illadelph Halflife” and it was clearly a critical success, but their following album, “Things Fall Apart”, would catapult them to worldwide stardom, ultimately leading them to become the house band for “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”. So, I’m proud and grateful that I can say that I saw them “back in the day”.
I was happy to see San Francisco’s own Alphabet Soup opening that night. I’d seen them plenty around town, especially during those years I was living in the Mission. I always liked the way the saxophonist, Kenny Brooks, would tweak his shoulders when he played. I swear to God, one shoulder had to be almost a foot above the other. Though the acid jazz scene was petering out, the members would go on to other successful musical projects, especially drummer Jay Lane, who would go on to play with Primus and various Grateful Dead incarnations. The Roots were evolving their sound as well, having added beatbox master Rahzel to their line up as well as Kamal Gray on keyboards and a fellow named Hub on bass. When they started, they were just a three piece and today, they’ve got around a dozen of them.
Live 105’s Green X-Mas Ball: Beck, Cake, The Eels, Republica, Cow Palace, SF, Sun., December 15, 1996
SETLIST (BECK) : Thunderpeel, Novacaine, Loser, The New Pollution, Pay No Mind, One Foot In The Grave, Devil’s Haircut, Where It’s At, High 5 (Rock The Catskills)
I had done the first two BFD’s, the summer festival put on by LIVE 105, but this would be the first winter festival I’d have the pleasure of attending. They would go on to rename it the “Not-So-Silent Night” and why they called it the “Green X-Mas Ball” still eludes me. There was no particular green motif I could notice, but it doesn’t really matter. It was a good line up and one not to pass up.
As far as the line up goes, you might have noticed that the list above seems suspiciously short, which leads to some bad news I’m afraid. Somehow, I lost the first of two tapes that I had of this show, thus losing the first half of the show. The good news is the bands I lost were Mazzy Star, who I’d already seen before twice at Bridge School in ’94 and again that year opening for the Jesus & Mary Chain at the Fillmore, The Lemonheads, to whom I was indifferent, and Failure, a band as you might have read before that I will just say I don’t care for and leave it at that.
The bad news is that I lost the set with the one and only Allen Ginsberg, the beat poet. Even by then, Allen had ascended to the status of cultural icon and had put some of his works to music with the help of David Byrne, who sadly was not in his band that night. The loss of his set was cruelly punctuated by his death at the age of 70 less than four months later. Obviously, this would be the last musical performance he’d do in the bay area or anywhere, though The Booksmith on Haight Street would have the honor of having his last reading the day after this show.
A parting not so sorrowful after this gig would be of radio host Alex Bennett. Though a San Francisco native, he had made a name for himself on the radio in the east coast before moving back home and getting a job at LIVE 105. Despite his talent and experience, he had a contentious relationship with the station, being fired and rehired once already by this time, but even his public was starting to turn against him. He had become the DJ you loved to hate, though I could care less, since I rarely listened to the radio at all. The crowd booed him mercilessly when he came on to introduce one of the bands, but laughed when he simply smiled and gave the whole of the Cow Palace the middle finger with both hands. He would be gone from the station by the following July to be replaced by the CBS syndicated “Howard Stern Show”, but as luck would have it Alex and Howard would go on to be co-workers together at SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
The first band I was able to salvage was Republica, which is fortunate since this would be the only time I’d get to see them in their short career. “Ready To Go” was their big hit and which they played at the end of their set as expected. They, like Curve and Garbage, were an English rock band, fronted by an attractive woman and had a bit of a dance/shoegazer edge. Just my type. Next were The Eels, who had just released their first major label release, “Beautiful Freak”, that august, but were already getting big with their hit song, “Novacaine For The Soul”.
Then came Cake. I had seen them only once before in passing when they played at the S.F. State student union. Xan McCurdy had just joined the band on guitar and I’d been familiar with him before having seen him play in the mod band, The Loved Ones, who were contemporaries of my brother’s old band, The Dance Hall Crashers. I’d even met him briefly at a party down south when I toured with the Crashers. Hepcat, who had opened down there were at that party too. Xan’s style, though at first take would seem incongruous, fit Cake like a glove, shining through with his unforgettable riff he’d provide to their hit, “Going The Distance”. His coolness, mod haircut, and taste in clothes were also a we’ll needed addition to the band, countering singer John McCrea’s conspicuous lack of style as well as his standoffish to downright hostile demeanor. After playing that one that night, they closed with a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive”.
Lastly, there was Beck, a performer that I’d already seen numerously, twice already, including a show at the Warfield only two months before. They had a giant white menorah on stage and the band was all dressed in white that night as well. I had naively assumed that Beck was jewish for a while because of it, though the rumors of his allegiance to the Church Of Scientology are shaky at best. I’ll never forget that night that somebody from the crowd got on stage and for some strange reason, Beck allowed him to stay, even thanking him at the end of the set for “bum rushing” up there. I’m sure I’d never seen that before and fairly certain that I have not since.
I shouldn’t exactly say “lastly”, when it comes to Beck playing, because The Chemical Brothers were the final act that show. However, I didn’t stick around, which is unusual for me as you might know by now, but I was with my friend Matt that night and I think we agreed that considering how long it took to get there, that we should call it an early night. I was unfamiliar with The Chemical Brothers and wasn’t particularly interested ending a festival show with an electronic dance band. Alas, I’ve not seen them since and am beginning to think that I never will.
The Deftones, Humble Gods, Downset, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., December 20, 1996
The Deftones had been around since 1988, but they hadn’t released their first album, “Adreneline”, until the year before this show. They rose amongst the ranks of such grunge bands with a heavier lean such as Korn, Papa Roach, and Limp Bizkit. Downset, and fellow southern Californians, the Humble Gods, opened that night and I was glad to see the Gods when I did, since they would break up a year later after the death of their bassist, Bianca Halsted, from a car crash. She had been in the band, Betty Blowtorch, as well and died while on tour with them.
What stood out that evening and indeed any evening with The Deftones, were the incredible faces that the lead singer, Chino Moreno, would make when performing. His eyeballs would always bug out to the point where I wondered if they’d eventually pop out of his skull. They had a lot of energy and I liked them, though not as much as my buddy Drew, who absolutely worships them to this day. I would only see them one more time a year later at the Fillmore, but they’re still around, so I might get another chance again someday. One thing is for sure, if I ever want to revisit that night, I can check it out on YouTube. The tape of that show is one of the few tapes to get out and get posted. Coincidentally, the time Betty Blowtorch opened for Goldfinger at the Hall two years later is another one.
The Radiators, Sweet Virginia, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., December 30, 1996
The Radiators, Merl Saunders & The Rainforest Band, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., December 31, 1996
I had been unfamiliar with The Radiators up until these shows, though I would learn those nights, that they were very talented and indeed an appropriate show to see on New Year’s Eve. They had already been playing since 1978, from their humble beginnings as a New Orleans bar band, and had steadily been accumulating fans and recognition. They had released a studio album, “New Dark Ages”, the year before, but they were mostly known for their live stuff.
On the first night, Sweet Virginia opened and as luck would have it, I new them from helping to record them at a session in one of my audio classes at S.F. State. I assume they got their name from the Rolling Stone’s song from “Exile On Main Street”, but I’ve no idea what ever happened to them, though I do remember liking them. The second night, New Year Eve, we had the pleasure of having Merl Saunders open. Merl had been a mainstay on the hippie jam band scene for years in the bay area, often playing with Jerry Garcia and other Dead members’ projects, often covering the Dead’s, “Sugaree”, which he did that night. He was a big guy with a friendly smile and always made me and others feel happy with his skillful keyboard playing and his sweet voice.
The one memory that stuck out from that show was that it was absolutely dumping down rain all night long. The recording room was located along side 1st Street at Harrison, where traffic would often be backed up going onto the entrance of the Bay Bridge, almost always during rush hour. I remember looking out from the window and watching all those poor souls lined up in the dark and the rain and I was alone. Pete had taken the night off since The Radiators had their own monitor board that show and we weren’t multi tracking. All I had was a stereo feed from upstairs along with our audience mics, so it was an easy way to end the year. It wouldn’t be too long until I’ll get the hang of the ADAT machines and be running the room by myself regularly. 1996 had come to a rainy close and the sun would rise on 1997.