concert memoirs pt. 19 – husker du

Husker Du w/Peter Case
3/30/87 First Avenue w/John & Bob Ticket Price: $8.50

This is the last time John and I would be seeing Husker Du in concert. However, it was the first (and only) time for my older brother, Bob. John and I were unimpressed.

The show was in promotion of their latest release, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. It would be their last studio release and I found it somewhat disappointing. It’s hard to pinpoint, but I think it was that the cleaner the production became the thinner their sound became. Still I like much of the album, but I did take to calling it Warehouse: Songs and Storage. Ha ha ha, oh, stop me!

So the show…

We pretty much ignored former Plimsouls member, Peter Case. I had no idea who he was. I didn’t know he was in The Plimsouls. I didn’t know who The Plimsouls were at the time. Whatever.

So, out came Husker Du and it wasn’t long before we could sense something wrong in the air that night. The band just didn’t seem into it. Their sound was very good. Very clear. Very clean. But they lacked energy.

It didn’t help that they played the new album, in its entirety, in order. They only broke it up twice. Once to play a very slowed down version of Flexible Flyer and later to play what I think was a cover.

The audience grew restless very quickly and then many became angry. John was very angry. He and Steve, a fellow First Avenue regular we referred to as Iggy Pop Guy (medium length story), were standing together shaking their fists, giving the finger and its verbal equivalent, telling the band to make an effort. I was less vocal, but just as annoyed.

I’m not opposed to a band playing an album in that way, IF it’s a theme album, such as the rock operas of The Who. As far as I can tell, Warehouse is not a theme album. And doing their show in that manner took all sense of spontaneity away.

They were merely going through the motions. They were tired of being a band by that point and it showed.

My brother, who hadn’t seen them before, enjoyed the show. He didn’t get to experience the high energy and intensity and fun as we had.

Sometime after the show, I fellow we knew in those days, Jimmy the Punk, admonished us for being so angry at the Huskers. We needed to accept what the artists are trying to do. Well, I thought they were trying to piss us off.

Husker Du would not last much longer and we would never see them play again. It’s too bad it ended that way. But we still saw them when they were great.

As we were leaving First Avenue that night, we were making our way back to John’s car parked in the cheap parking lot tucked behind the disco, just across 8th St. on 1st Ave. We were heading across 8th, John in front, then me, with Bob last, when a car came careening from 1st Ave. onto 8th. Right toward us. We all stopped. At the last second, the car widened it’s turn, went up onto the curb, knocked down a no parking sign, pulled back onto 8th St. and went on its way. The whole event was over in an instant.

We returned to making our way back to the car. John told us as he stood, frozen, watching the car heading right at him, he thought to himself, “If they don’t turn, they’re going to hit me.”

They turned. No harm done. Except to the sign. And the guy’s bumper. And suspension.

concert memoirs pt. 18 – game theory, the woodentops, peter murphy & chameleons uk

Game Theory w/The Jayhawks

10/19/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Nothing. I’ve got nothing here.

The Woodentops w/Trip Shakespeare & New Marines
11/5/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $6.00

I don’t recall anything of the open acts, but I did like Trip Shakespeare a lot. I’m pretty sure I saw their first ever show in the 7th Street Entry, but I’ll write about that at another time.

The Woodentops put on a good show with their fast, jumpy style of acoustic alternative/pop music. Very high energy. The crowd was jumping and some fellow kept yelling, “Frenetic! Frenetic!”

I kept thinking, “Ok, pal, nice word. Very descriptive. Now shut-up!”

A highlight moment was when the lead singer hopped down to the floor and sang and danced his way through the audience.

“Frenetic!”

“Man! Seriously, shut-up!”

Peter Murphy
2/24/87 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $5.00

Five bucks to see Peter Murphy, not bad.

At the time, I was more of a fan of his solo material than of Tones on Tail or Love & Rockets (the bands the other former members of Bauhaus were in). Don’t get me wrong though because I liked them all. It’s just that Peter Murphy’s stuff seemed more lush and musical (whatever that means) while TOT and L&R was more striped down and dark.

The show itself has few memories. I don’t recall if he played any Bauhaus songs, although I’d say probably not. I might have more memories of the show if he had.

What stands out are images of him dancing about, doing his Gothic thing. And it seems as though he was lit by a very bright white light from underneath.

Chameleons UK w/The Mighty Lemon Drops
3/11/87 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Both John and I liked The Mighty Lemon Drops, but, if you know their stuff, you gotta admit they sound an awful lot like Echo & the Bunnymen. (Also a good band that has a strong Doors influence. We like Echo & the Bunnymen even with their similarity to that extremely overrated band.)

Anyway, as I said the Lemon Drops sounded very much like Echo and John felt compelled to point that out. Once or twice between songs, John would call out, “Rescue!” Which, if you don’t know, is a song by Echo off their great album, Crocodiles.

I don’t think the band appreciated it, but John and I thought it was funny. It wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying their set, we were. It was just that it was funny. At least John didn’t yell, “Freebird!”

Speaking of birds (brilliant segue, Jim!), when The Chameleons were onstage, Birdy (lead vocal/bass) took to berating a couple of the more uncouth members of the audience. I can picture a couple dudes holding up their beers and whooping or something. (I never understood the holding up of the beer. Was it a salute? Was it an offer to the band? Was it to show what lousy taste in beer they have?)

I can’t remember exactly what Birdy said, but it was along the lines of… “Look at the moronic frat boys drinking Bud and looking for a fight.”

So, the band played great. They were promoting my favorite of their albums, Strange Times. They have other good albums but Strange Times holds together beautifully from beginning to end. I especially remember the lead guitarist stepping up front while playing the excellent lead in to the fantastic song, Swamp Thing.

Good show.

concert memoirs pt. 17 – guadalcanal diary, naked raygun & rem

Guadalcanal Diary w/Timbuk 3

9/17/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

The opening act is, mainly, remembered for their one hit, ‘The Future So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades’. However, they were still an interesting band to watch play live. Just a guy and a gal and a boombox. Their hit song might not have gotten too big by then, because most of the crowd seemed to be indifferent to what Timbuk 3 was playing.

But the real stand out moment of the night involved Guadalcanal Diary and my friend, John…

And this is an excellent example of the quickness of John’s mind.

So, Guadalcanal Diary had taken the stage and John and I were right down front. It was a somewhat light crowd for the show that night. The band was in good form and rockin’ right along.

They were about to play their version of the campfire sing-a-long ‘Kum-Ba-Yah’. The band was quietly playing as the lead singer was introducing the song. He was talking in a calm and reserved manner. He said we should all hold hands. We all stood there.

He shouted, “I SAID HOLD HANDS!”

Without missing a beat, John fired back, “F@#K YOU!”

The singer was taken aback momentarily then he laughed and the band played the song.

No one held hands.

Naked Raygun
9/21/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Seeing as how I’m virtually certain that the time John and I saw Naked Raygun open for Husker Du was the only time we’d seen them in the main room, this show was most likely in the 7th Street Entry. Which is the best place to see Naked Raygun. Small, intimate, dank, sweaty, loud. John and our friend, David, took to referring to it as the “particle accelerator’. An apt name if I’ve ever heard one.

I have to say that Naked Raygun always put on a great show. I’ve seen them a few times and have never been disappointed.

As sometimes happened in those days, you’d get someone in the crowd that didn’t understand the whole slam dancing thing. They’d either think it was a free pass to knock some people’s heads together (that was usually some knuckle-headed frat boy) or they’d get pissed off and start a fight. I think the latter was the reason for a little scuffle that broke out on the dance floor that night.

Pat Woods, the lead singer for the local band Man Sized Action, was in the audience. The fight broke out and Pat, who was a pretty big fella, muscled the two knot heads to the floor. He held them there while the bouncers made their way over to boot the morons out.

Once the scene had settled, one of the Naked Raygun members stated, “There’s no extra charge for the floor show.” And the band played on…

REM
10/14/86 Roy Wilkins Auditorium w/John Ticket Price: $13.50

This was an increasingly rare larger venue show, but REM was special.

REM was promoting their ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ album on this tour. The band still hadn’t hit it mega-big, but they were well on their way. I seem to recall that they had an additional guitarist along and I think he was Peter Holsapple of The dB’s. However, I’m not entirely certain.

The show was good, if not the most memorable. It was the encore that I remember most. The band came back out and started playing a Bruce Springsteen cover.

Let me tell you, John and I had just about had it with the “Boss”. Never big fans of his in the first place, we had endured about two or three years of the Springsteen adoration. People all drooling over him and that overrated “Born in the USA’ album. Jesus Christ! We’d had enough of that shit!

So what does REM do? They play ‘Born to Run’. John said, “The hell with this! Let’s go.”

Incidentally, I believe it was for this concert that John and I lined up at the ticket counter at Dayton’s in downtown St. Paul to get the tickets. I’m not sure how long we waited, but once we’d purchased our tickets John commented on how stupid it was to queue up so long for tickets. He vowed never to do it again.

We never did it again.

concert memoirs pt. 16 – ramones & pete shelley

Ramones w/Funseekers
7/27/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $8.00

This is one of my feather-in-my-cap shows. True, it wasn’t very early on, it wasn’t at CBGB’s, but it was before Dee Dee left the band. And well before they all died, most of them anyway. I hope that doesn’t seem to mean, because I do feel very fortunate that I was able to see them play.

It was a hot July night, the local leather-clad rockers and John and I (John eventually owned a leather jacket but not at that time and I’ve never owned a leather jacket) gathered at First Avenue to take in the greatness of The Ramones. The excitement was as unmistakable as were the heat vapors that could be see rising from the crowd on the main floor.

As a gift to their fans, the godfathers of punk rock had the club play the video of a song from their latest album, ‘Animal boy’. The song was ‘Something to Believe In’ and the video was brilliant. It was a biting parody of the whole BandAid, ‘We Are The World’ trend. The Ramones weren’t attacking the cause, they were merely attempting to deflate the celebrity ego. Besides, if your not in it, you’re out of it. Check for the video on YouTube.

Finally, as the crowd bellowed, “Hey, Ho! Let’s go!”, The Ramones took the stage. And they delivered the goods! “1-2-3-4!” “Gabba Gabba Hey!” Pinheads. Banners. Fantastic songs! And best of all, fun!

Pete Shelley w/Information Society
8/20/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: Unknown

Here’s another great show. The Buzzcocks was one of my favorite bands, but they had broken up by the time I had discovered them, so it was cool to at least be able to see Pete Shelley. And he didn’t have that I’m-only-playing-my-solo-work attitude. He was more than happy to crack out a few Buzzcocks tunes. And we loved it.

There was a good crowd in attendance, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t a packed house. There was plenty of room to dance and pogo and slam our hearts out. And the dozen or so fans down front (John and I included) were going wild. It was exhilarating!

Pete kicked off with his solo effort ‘Telephone Operator’ and kept us jumping with others of his excellent solo tunes and lots of Buzzcocks classics. We were exhausted when we called him back for his encore, but we didn’t stop. In fact, we were so enthusiastic that we got him back out for a second encore!

He and his excellent band came back out after the first encore and Pete looked a bit surprised and certainly pleased. However, he had apparently run through all his rehearsed material, because he treated us to an encore performance of ‘Telephone Operator’.

It was wonderful!

I can’t remember a thing about the opening act, Information Society, but when you’ve seen such a great show why waste brain cells remembering the opening act?

concert memoirs pt. 15 – souxsie & the banshees, let’s active, the church, the cramps & the screaming blue messiahs

Souxsie & the Banshees

5/25/86 Orpheum Theatre w/John Ticket Price: $13.75

Here was one of the rare shows not taken in at First Avenue. John and I had come to prefer shows at First Avenue or, to a lesser extent, the Cabooze. It was easier to get a good view of the act and not have to put up with the assigned seating nonsense. And, of course, the ticket prices were lower. But, Auntie Souxsie was worth shelling out the $13.75 for the balcony seats at the Orpheum.

So, we the folks (John and I included) in the cheap seats were all doing our best to dance in our confined seating area, when Auntie Souxsie got a little upset. She didn’t appreciate the apparent sedentary nature of the audience. She said something along the lines of, “I hope your wheelchairs are comfortable.”

“Oooo, Auntie wants us to dance! Well, look up here! We’re rockin’ the balcony!”

Let’s Active
7/6/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $4.00

Ok. We must have liked this band, because this was the second time we’d seen them. I still can’t remember a thing about the show.

The Church w/A Few
7/9/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $7.50

This was our second time seeing The Church. We really liked these guys. Their early shows were pretty damn good. They were tight. They had good balance in their sets, which was something they lost in their later shows. These shows they had the right mix of mid-tempo ethereal songs to excellent fast paced rockers. Their later shows were too dominated by the slower, moodier tunes. But I’ll relate more on that later on in this series.

One thing I really liked about Marty Wilson-Piper (one of the band’s two guitarists) was he had his rock star thing going all the time. The rock star hair, the jumping around, winking at the gals and give them the up-nod. He must have had a lot of “Backstage Betties” in those days. The rogue.

The Cramps w/The Screaming Blue Messiahs
7/22/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $7.50

The title of this segment ought to give you a clue as to my take on this show…

This was a special Club Degenerate concert night featuring The Cramps. So, yeah, The Cramps were The Cramps were The Cramps. Punkabilly, whiskey drinking, leather, Lux Interior’s ass hanging out of his pants, etc., etc., etc.

They were entertaining enough, but the truly transcendent act was the opener. I’m not exaggerating (ok, maybe a little)… The Screaming Blue Messiahs blew The Cramps right off the stage! This is one of those shows that stands out as a true gem. If you weren’t there you really missed something.

This was one of the very best shows I have ever seen. A three piece band that absolutely kicked ass. They were so amazing. I knew, at most, one of their songs (‘Wild Blue Yonder’) before seeing them play. That didn’t matter, because despite my ignorance of their material, I was blown away.

The rhythm section was fantastic. They kept the songs together while lead guitarist/vocalist Bill Carter attacked his guitar. He even dropped it to the stage and danced on it at one point. And when he played it, he was incredible. He had a rather unique finger-picking style. The sound those guys made! You should have been there.

Because they were the opening act and most of the people there were more interested in seeing The Cramps, there was plenty of room at the front of the stage. John and I and a growing number of folks were down front and were being greatly entertained by this fairly unknown band. I say unknown because a fellow approached me and asked, enthusiastically, “Who are these guys?!”

My mind went blank. I couldn’t remember, at first. I told him I didn’t know and we went back to basking in the glory of these musical masters. Then I recalled the Club Degenerate night from the week before when, at the end of the night, Kevin Cole reminded us that the next week would feature The Cramps and The Screaming Blue Messiahs.

I went over to that fellow and told him who they were. He shouted, “These guys are f@#&ing great!”

Indeed they were. You should have been there.

Now two things about The Screaming Blue Messiahs…

First is something admittedly a bit silly. Bill Carter is almost a dead ringer of the 80’s era pro wrestler, Baron von Raschke. Look at the photos below. Bill is on the left. What do you think?

Second, this band should have made it bigger than they did. They released three full length albums (‘Gun Shy’, ‘Bikini Red’ & ‘Totally Religious’) over a five year period (1984 – 89) and then they were done. They vanished.

I find it a little sad that if they are remembered at all it will likely be for their one “hit”, ‘I Wanna be a Flintstone’. It’s very good song, but, let’s face it, despite the fantastic sound it’s essentially a novelty song.

Oh, well. At least I was there.