I've sworn off reviews, yet here I am again. I took in both the San Francisco and L.A. Paisley Underground reunion shows. I left a minus-eleven-degree Minneapolis and arrived at a pretty cold San Fran - I was in a sweatshirt and light jacket and but for the walking would have been cold. In L.A. I wore t-shirts during the day. Whatever you've got going on, Hollywood types, it ain't winter ...
Met my pal Cid Vishizz at our predetermined SF spot at the end of the cable car line at Van Ness. After explaining to him yet again it was a Paisley Underground reunion and not a Weather Underground reunion, Cid went elsewhere to blow up something and stick it to the man.
This is the first California show I've been to where I could walk to and from the theater. I stayed at the Queen Anne Hotel -the Google says the fourth floor is haunted. The Fillmore theater doors didn't open until 7, and since I'd forgotten a toothbrush, I killed time by walking over several blocks to buy one. In that part of SF, toothbrushes are kept under lock and key. "Why?" I asked the attendant who had to fetch me one. "So the homeless don't steal them." Okay. You probably hand out free needles to junkies and condoms to everybody else, but in SF big deal is keeping dental hygiene from the homeless? (My free methadone was handed to me inside a condom.) I've written the mayor's office to demand they hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste to the poor. (Okay, I haven't.)
The Fillmore was an old jazz hall. It had ten giant golden-glowing chandeliers hanging in two rows of five. Along the far wall was one long bench with evenly-spaced little tables. These were reserved. Along the opposite wall, tucked under an overhang, was the bar. The bartenders were alert and vigorous. Rail rum and diet, no
ice, no straw, no lime was $8.50 every time. Funny how simply forking over $10 gave a built-in 15% tip.No need to be a brain wizard. I did this five times (to support the arts). ((Um, actually the next night was the benefit. I got drunk for nothing!)) The stage was the head-high deal with an orchestra pit in between filled (I imagine) with crocks.
Let me hark back to watching the Bangles play in Sausalito, where I had to stand through The Fixx and Modern English first. (Okay, two people I told this to already replied, "Hey, I like the Fixx." Go for it is all I can say.) I found a ledge to sit on between the bar and the large floor and settled in for the Paisley Underground.
I don't think all the members of the groups were original. I had no preconceptions of Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, nor The Three O'Clock. Consequently, I was prepared for the worst (but fortified with rum).
What the f u c k. Nothing sucked. Nothing was tedious. The Bangs were in danger of being the fourth best band. Had it come to a final vote, you'd reluctantly vote them best because, well, they're chicks. (Derek does wear those cool shades.)
This is all from memory - and I've had four concussions. Rain Parade (I specifically asked two people to Google "Rain Parade" on their cell phone telephones in L.A. and neither got results to me, so I have to do it: ==>> Rain Parade - to do something that spoils someone's plans They played about eight songs in SF. The guitarist with the chin whiskers (John Thoman) was beside himself with joy the whole time he was on stage. This dude loves to perform. The drummer ( ex-Game Theory drummer Gil Ray) has an efficient style, all four Paisley Underground drummers had excellent meter, that was a common thread. The bass player's (Steven Roback) voice was a little weak, but some songs were just him playing a little lick over and over and the rest of the band playing off of that. Psychedelic, baby. Lead guitarist (Matt Piucci) was very good, not a shredder, but he would get wound up from time to time, particularly at the L.A. show. There was a very good keyboardist who played bass on one song (Alec Palao) and a second keyboardist who more often played acoustic guitar (Mark Hanley). Nothing sucked.
The Three O'clock. Being the consummate bass player himself, I was sad Cid wasn't here to see the bassist and lead singer for the Three O'clock (Michael Quercio). I know that the group is named after the only time of day they could seem to get together to practice. Not sure if it's A.M. or P.M. - I think I'd heard A.M. "Jet Fighter" I believe was a regional hit. The guitarist was really good (Louis Gutierre), They keyboardist was good (Adam Merrin of the 88), he enjoyed himself as much as chin whiskers from Rain Parade. The drummer (Danny Benair) was pretty flamboyant, from his pink drum set to all the flourishes. Entertaining even.
When the Dream Syndicate started to play, I left my perch and walked over by the stage. Music that draws you in is good music. The lead singer and guitarist (Steve Wynn) was very talented. I know the bassist was good (Mark Walton but I couldn't hear him- I'd only ever heard him sing with Susan Cowsill at Genghis Cohen. His bass lines with the Continental Drifters are really good, Drifter drummer Russ says a song is a conversation: Mark keeps up his end). The lead guitarist was insane. He loved feedback. In fact, I'm sure his name was Freddy Feedback (Jason Victor). He'd deliberately get his guitar pickups as close to his amp as he could, which entangles the two magnetic fields, which we all knows changes the electric currents that run at right angles to the magnetic current and gives psychedelic electric guitar distortion. The DS tended to jam. Their stuff was good - it was all good. This drummer was Dennis Duck and he was a "pounder" - very simple beats repeated over and over (probably the brother of Elton Duck)
The Bangs are three chicks and this dude, like I said before. I never thought about it before, but it's Debbi who sings "I'm in Line." The Little Brunette seemed to have a few more guitar licks to play then on the later stuff. I've always enjoyed Vicki singing "Want You" because she does that thing where she's almost shouting,
and when you shout when you sing if you're not careful your voice breaks, and she's right up against shouting. Both shows she was right up there against it.
The bar tender told me the club would kick the bands out at midnight. I think they quit around 1 a.m.
The Three O'Clock and Dream Syndicate switched places for the L.A. show, and the DS played longer. At the Fonda theater I said hello to the usual cast of L.A. Bangles fans - those who terms of parole allowed them out at night, anyway. Freddy Feedback actually climbed off the stage and played his guitar against the railing and otherwise guitar hero-ed it in front of the stunned audience - including climbing over the railing and playing among us, the Great Unwashed. (I asked the woman next to me why she didn't hit some strings while he was a foot from us.) Cid did show up at the L.A. show, the only thing he noticed was when one of the bangs sitting on a speaker nearly fell over backwards. Oh that reminds me, Rodney Bingenheimer came out and introduced the Bangs, then came back out for the encore.He walked across the stage and looked like a airplane landing on a flight deck with all those arrestor wires grabbing the tail hook. The event was M.C.'s by Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) from the office.
Both shows featured mega-encores with all four groups. I must brush up on my Fairport Convention.
I flew back to a minus one degree Minnesota after getting bumped and picking up $479.80 in free airfare.
I told Cid I'd buy us tickets to the Weather Underground reunion in April.