concert memoirs pt. 44 – gang of four & wire

Gang of Four with John and David at First Avenue.

John and I had discovered Gang of Four when we watched the concert movie ‘Urgh! A Music War’. It is a great film with a lot of great bands, including The Police, The Fleshtones, The Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo, XTC and many others. It was released in 1982 and I have it on video, but from what I can tell it isn’t available anymore. That’s a damn shame.

One of the really stand out acts was Gang of Four. They had such a strong stage presence. The way Andy Gill played guitar was mesmerizing. After watching the film, John and I agreed Gang of Four was worth checking out. John soon picked up their first two albums and we were astounded.

It took many years, but we finally got the chance to see the band live. It was late 1995 or early 1996 at First Avenue. And for cheap! I think I paid $4.00 at the door. If I would have remembered to bring along a Club 241 comp. ticket, I would have gotten in for free. Club 241 was what Club Degenerate had degenerated into. Most often just dance nights with the occasional concert.

At the time, I was working nights doing janitorial work (I went to art school for three years to become a janitor, oh well.). I was cleaning the service area of a St. Paul car dealership that night and I was hauling ass to get done.

I finished up and high tailed it the disco for the show. David and John were there when I arrived. They remembered their comp. tickets and got in for free. Jerks!

This was a really excellent show. The three of us were right down front to witness Jon King and Andy Gill up close. They put on quite a show. Andy Gill is one of my all-time favorite guitarist and it was a gas to watch him play.

They played a good mix of their stuff, old and new. I had purchased their latest album, ‘Shrinkwrapped’, so I was familiar with those songs, which were very good. ‘Shrinkwrapped’ is a much better album then their previous release, ‘Mall’. ‘Mall’ had a couple of good tunes, but overall I thought it a weak effort from an otherwise great band.

The band sounded great and I was pogoing like a crazy person. And when they played ‘Anthrax’ off their first album, the brilliant ‘Entertainment’, I was overwhelmed by the wall of feedback that Andy produced. At one point of the song, Andy dropped his guitar to the stage and kicked it sliding across the stage to Jon King. Jon then kicked it back. The noise was beautiful, man, beautiful!

Wire w/Peaches & Gonzales at First Avenue with Amy, John, Dave & Rosemary.

This is probably the last concert I’ve seen at First Avenue (maybe anywhere). If it was then it is also the last time I’ve been to my old haunt. John has continued to visit the club, but I had gotten married in 2001 and a child would arrive in August 2003, so I dropped out of the concert thing. Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming my wife and kid for this, because I had long since begun losing my interest in going to concerts.

Amy and I met John there. We hung out at the bar straight back from the stage and chatted while the awful Peaches & Gonzales stunk up the stage. They were doing some arty sex songs that just didn’t do anything for us. I got the impression that they thought what they were doing was art.

Well, their art sucked.

I realize Wire can be considered an arty farty band. Hell, I never knew what they’re singing about, but that never bothered me. Their songs are so cool. Have you ever heard ‘Ahead’ off their great album ‘The Ideal Copy’? It just may be the coolest song ever.

John realized that Amy and I weren’t interested in getting down front to see the band. We had had our fill with dealing with the audiences at these shows. John excused himself and went off to find a spot close to the stage. Amy and I stayed right where we were.

We were soon joined by our friends, Dave and Rosemary. They are friends from our Cold Side days. I met Dave when I started working at Cold Side. He was in the office and I was in the art department. Dave soon found a better job and left Cold Side, but we kept in touch.

While Dave was still at Cold Side, I learned that he was quite a guitarist. He’s damn good. He and Richard (another Cold Sider) convinced me to get together with them to play “music”. I play a rather lousy rhythm guitar, but I consented and the three of us have been getting together somewhat regularly ever since. It’s been ten years now and I still play lousy.

Anyway, he and his wife, Rosemary, joined us and we stayed at the back of the bar. We chatted a little and watched the band play.

Wire’s new material at the time was angrier then we had heard from them in a long while. In fact, John remarked on that after the show. He said he preferred their less angry stuff from their ‘Ideal Copy’ and ‘A Bell is a Cup…’ days. I tend to agree, but it was cool to watch the old punkers tear it up.

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