Thursday 25 June 2020

remembering live music 4: the missed and the misunderstood

A quick detour from these posts - which could come over as "cooler than thou I WAS THERE" grandstanding - I'm going to talk about a few artists that I either missed or just didn't get at the time.

1. Pavement, Derby Wherehouse, May/June 1992

Yes, this was the band's first ever UK gig. Yes, they were all over the British music press. And yes, this was a hot-shit ticket.

But I only went because a friend of mine from college got a ticket. At the time, I was a right snooty so-and-so who saw them as a complete rip-off of The Fall.

But, y'know, the difference was they wrote HUMMABLE SONGS and seemed to be charming and amusing people.

There was one writer in Melody Maker who at the time called skronk avant-garde guitar manglers Trumans Water the REAL Pavement. Which is a statement I agreed with but which is, in retrospect, so needlessly arsey it's ridiculous.

The gig was packed (ooh look, there's the drummer from The Wedding Present!) plus it was a beautiful sunny evening.

Pavement were ramshackle. And cute. And charming. And their original loose-cannon drummer Gary did handstands and chatted with the crowd.

But I just didn't get it. Even though I can still remember some of the tunes they played that night. Because HUMMABLE SONGS.

At the time I preferred the support act, Jacob's Mouse (no, me neither).

I still listen to Trumans Water. But nowhere near as much as I've listened to Pavement in the years since this gig, right up to the present day.

I even wrote huge sections of my University dissertation about their second album, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. TRUE STORY.

2. The Strokes, Sheffield Leadmill, 23 August 2001

Another gig that I was dragged to by friends - Simon and Annabel. This was one of their first UK tours but even though all the influences and references were there, again I JUST DIDN'T GET IT.

Was I threatened by how insanely cool and attractive they were? I wouldn't like to say. But probably, yes. Definitely.

They were supported by The Moldy Peaches, who were cute but annoying after a while. I actually listened to them while writing this post and I really enjoyed them.

I think at the time The Strokes didn't even have that many songs so I think they just played tracks from their forthcoming (?) album. Maybe even in the album order?

God, they were cool.

And looking back now, they were everything I want in a band. Locked-in together, no flash, no gimmicks, chops for days.

About 6 months after this gig - so almost exactly 6 months after everyone else in the world - I borrowed the CD of Is This It from Annabel and finally understood. Now I think that if anyone wants to learn how to play alternative/indie-rock guitar they should just play along with this album. It's all there.

As if to prove a point, I've just spent 15 minutes watching live footage of them from around this time. They was great.

I'd completely forgotten that both Moldy Peaches and The Strokes were tainted by the shadow of 9-11: The Strokes first album came out at the end of August 2001 and featured New York City Cops ("...they ain't too smart"); The Moldy Peaches album actually came out on September 11 2001 and featured the song "NYC's Like a Graveyard" - ouch.

3. Bill Hicks, Sheffield University, 26 November 1992

This one hurts but confession is good for the soul. Also, not music although he had a rock-star attitude.

This gig took place during my first year studying at Sheffield Uni. With my brother I'd devoured Bill Hicks' legendary 1991 comedy set Relentless when it was shown on Channel 4. Politically he was light-years ahead and had a great, no-bullshit persona.

Dreadful hair and glasses, however.

His '92 UK tour was around the time he recorded his Revelations set. At the time The Guardian and various left-wing comedians were all hymning his act with its politically edgy material. It turns out Bill didn't want to be idolised. He also didn't like the idea that people felt they had a handle on him.

So for that recording - in front of an audience of paid-up believers and his peers - he launched into an extended, skin-crawlingly appaling bit which saw him adopt the persona of Pan The Randy Goat Boy.

It's truly horrible. But point made.

Two years later Bill died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. His legend has only grown in subsequent years. Some of his political material would be entirely relevant now if you could just change the names.

Truth be told his sexually explicit material would have been his downfall had he survived. I dread to think what he would've made of the #MeToo movement or issues of rights for trans people. And some of his material hasn't aged at all well. But that's comedy, right?

So anyway. On his final UK tour (?), he played down the road from me, at the University where I was studying.

And I didn't go. 

Worse than that, I didn't go because I couldn't be arsed.