From: Brian MacDonald <email@example.com>
Subject: [mkultra]: here it is
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 21:49:25 -0800 (PST)
I spent the weekend of January 9th through the 11th seeing Unwound four separate times. Let's start with Friday...
My first time going to the PCH club actually. It was cold and pissing raining on and off the whole night. All the wet shoes made the otherwise gray cubic venue even murkier. It didn't help that someone passed out before any band even started. The ambulances were called out. The PCH Club folks were getting worried about violating fire codes. Pretty stressful. Fortunately, things got better once bands started getting set up.
First off, Godzik Pink, local sensations went up first. (At least North Hollywood). They've been touring with Unwound before and after this weekend... Pretty neat. If you like off-kilter song structure, with skronky sax, guitar, bass, drum action, you'll like these guys. According the band later, they were quite displeased with the set tonight. After all the downers from minutes before, it's understandable.
Next up, the Tight Bros From Way Back When. Jared from KARP was the lead diva/tambourinist, with members of Behead The Prophet Yadayadayada performing the rock. If you like Black Flag and the MC5, this was your band. Jared's fro was the biggest I've ever seen it. (Buzzo may now have some competition). "How many sexy people in the audience tonight", Jared drawled. A few folks raise their hand. "Only 3 sexy people in the audience tonight". The band gets heckled with MC5 references from clever wits from the audience.
Lowercase went on next. Hmmmm. Sorry. Couldn't really get too excited about them. Vaguely Sonic Youth/Unwoundish/emo-ish/soft-ish dissonant guitar rock.
Unwound grace the stage. By this point, it's REALLY humid and hot inside. They open the set with "Petals Like Bricks". At this point, the acoustics of the venue really sucked a lot of the sound, which took out any potential oomph our mighty three could have unleashed. They continued with "Envelope" and a great extended version of "Hexenzsene". They went on to the newer songs "Meet The Plastics", "Laugh Track", and mesmerized all with "What Went Wrong" and "Side Effects of Being Tired" (Go Vern!). They ended the set with "Valentine", and much to the cheers of the audience segued into "Kantina/Were, Are, And Was Or Is". By this point, I had accepted the muffled sound and let loose as much as the smelly sweaty venue weather allowed.
Began my trip to San Diego. I stopped by Lou's records for some used CD shoppings. Some great finds here...
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 "lovelyville" $5
Birthday Party "Junkyard" $5
Birthday Party "Prayers On Fire" $5
DJ Wally "Genetic Flaw" $7
The Ex "Pohkerrie" $7
I continue further and get down to Hillcrest to catch the free all-ages show at Off The Record, and walk around until the show starts. Turns out both bands are late, including openers fluf. They soon, come, set up quickly, play... O, lead guy, cracks jokes and jibes in between songs. fluf ends.
I should mention that it is here that I finally met friendly fellow Unwound/RFTC/DLJ list peer Andy Blanchard. We get around to talking about the shows, the list, and other random things.
To comment on the floor layout, there is a small area where fans are next to the band, then only three narrow aisles that go hundreds of feed back, and that's pretty much it. Hundreds of kids had to fit in this limited space. It was extremely hard for Unwound get through the middle aisle as is, much less all the people packed there that needed to be hit on the head in order to get the hint to at least move out of the way. My little whine of the day.
Unwound go on. Here's the set as far as I can remember...
Here Come The Dogs
Meet The Plastics
What Went Wrong
Side Effects Of Being Tired
Justin did his neat little guitar raising rock poses during the break in "Hexenzsene". Neat set, otherwise. I talk more with Andy. I also run into Jason Soares (Thingy, 3 Mile Pilot, tons of other San Diego musical outfits) and Jovi Butts (West Coast Modern Day Punk Rock Orchestra) and met them for the first time. Lots of discussion ensues.
Some more mulling around Hillcrest lead to searching for and finding Pokez, the punk rock budget Mexican/veggie eatery. It's where "da kids" eat in San Diego, I guess. Great food, no garnish, and surly service. But who can blame the poor guy? He only gets paid in tips and has to be the only waiter there. An experience to say the least.
Right before driving off to the Casbah with directions I wasn't too sure about (again, this was my first time driving in San Diego alone, so I was probably just paranoid or confused), I run into Godzik Pink at Thrifty's. I ask them if they knew how to get to the Casbah... They first looked at me like I was either psychic or crazy. I later explained that I saw them the night before, and they seemed more relieved. Ara, the guitarist, told me that they had virtually no idea how to get there, and that I inadvertently helped them out by giving them the directions I was told. We got around to talking a little bit, and made a few more friends. So the next time you see a band inside a Thrifty's, don't be shy, I guess.
Turns out the directions were spot on! I come to the Casbah. Godzik Pink arrive, and being a mostly under 21 band playing the 21+ Casbah, they were told that they could only come in the venue to play, then they had to leave right after performing. Needless to say, Godzik were pink with frustration (Please forgive me for that horrible fucking pun). We get around to talking about the pros and cons of 21+ vs. all ages shows. Why it's great that all ages venues are non-discriminating and non-intrusive, but why it sucks that most all ages venues in the area can't provide a scenic view of the band for more than 10 people in a place less than 120 degress F, yadayadayada. Ara was cool enough to put me on their guest list. (Thumbs up!).
First band on is The Heat. Their early XTC/James Chance & Contortions fashion sense makes me a bit anxious and happy. I'm immediately let down when their music turns out to be of a dilute Make*Up nature. <BEGIN RANT> IF BANDS ARE GOING TO DO THE IRONIC SOUL-PUNK THING, WHY DON'T THEY LOOK BACK TO DEEPER ROOTS THAN THE F*%$&IN' MAKE*UP FOR CHRIST'S SAKE? <END RANT> Here's to hoping that more bands starting incorporating the early XTC/Pere Ubu/Contortions *musical* sense as well as fashion sense.
Next up are Godzik Pink... I guess their anger at the 21+ thing provided some rock adrenalin. Their set was very entertaining and very tight, making the night before seem like a really bad dream. As Ian pointed out, yup the "mathy" aspects are quite vivid. Whereas bands like Irving Klaw Trio and Sun City Girls are apt to let their music become totally out of control, Godzik Pink use the same elements to enforce strict control. Still, it was a great set, and I look forward to what Godzik Pink will do next. They should be the band opening for everybody in L.A., *not* the friggin' Polar friggin' Goldie Cats or the Radar friggin' Bros.
I get around to talking with Justin from Unwound for a little bit. (I guess he recognized me from the last two shows, and decided to say "hi"). We discuss a similar 21+ vs. all ages venue topic. Justin doesn't feel too strongly for or against either. He doesn't *prefer* to play in 21+ bars, but when it's the only possible choice at the time of booking, they do it anyway. In such cases, they don't mind playing an all-ages alternative in the same area...(like the Off The Record thing earlier that day.) We also discover that we have similar tastes in music (Wire, Minutemen, Can, etc.)... So remember that tape I offered a month or so ago? You can also call that the "Stuff Some Of Which Justin Trosper Likes" tape as well. Vern, Justin, and Sara hang out playing pool in the back room part of the Casbah with Gary Jabberjaw and company. They seem really relaxed and satisfied with life at the moment.
The Tight Bros From Way Back When are up next. The lighting and acoustics of the venue make this one a far more suitable for the "MC5 in Vegas" stylings of the Bros. Jared is really wild and crazy tonight, jumping into the audience using certain members as poles to ricochet himself back onto the stage. (Andy B. and I were willing victims of this the most out of anybody.) Jared does the "How many sexy people in the audience tonight" thing again. That's show business, I guess. They, ur, kicked out the jams, motherfuckers, to say the least.
FINALLY, Andy and I get to the very front in a relatively air-conditioned venue to see Unwound without the backs of any heads! We discuss what music-related listserv members who meet each other usually talk about... music, past shows we've seen, etc.
Unwound, get on stage... The crowd is rowdy, shouting stuff like "PLAY THE ROCK MUSIC, MOTHERFUCKERS" before Unwound make a peep. As a reaction to that I guess, Justin turns on his beat box, and starts messing with that and his Echoplex. As certain audience members start heckling Justin with louder more stupid comments, Justin ignores them more and more prolonging the Replikants-esque beat box noise thing. Vern joins in making strange noise with his bass. This goes on for around 6 minutes.
The set starts. KaphOOOOOMP! BAM! They begin with "Petals Like Bricks" with no warning and with a mega-wallop. The band are already the most energetic I've ever seen them, ever. And that's after seeing them five times since. They continue with "Dragnalus" and "Message Received". Often in between songs, Justin will turn on his beat box and start making more noises, inciting more hecklings from the crowd. Next is "Data", one of my faves from the new album. A few more before playing "Unauthorized Biography" and a blistering, doom declaring "Disappoint". "What Went Wrong" and "Side Effects" wows the audience into submission. Andy and I note that the last song on the set list is "For Your Entertainment". RIGHT before, Justin pauses and talks to the other band members.... As it turns out, Dirty, former Unwound roadie and current roadie/member of Rocket From The Crypt, is in the audience livin' it up on his.. BIRTHDAY! Justin announces the following last "song" as a present to dirty.
What follows turns out to be one of the best performances I've ever seen of anything ever. A mega-loud and energetic "Valentine/Kantina/Were,Are, And Was Or Is". The volume reached near My Bloody Valentine levels at the end. Justin's noise toyz enhanced it and then some. Not only is this easily the best Unwound show ever, but one of the best shows I've ever seen, period.
My best stab at their set list.
Petals Like Bricks
Meet The Plastics
What Went Wrong
Side Effects Of Being Tired
Kantina/Were, Are, And Was Or Is
Recovering from the bliss, I bid Andy a friendly farewell. Don't ask me how, but I get around to talking to Jason Soares for about two hours afterwards. Before we know it, Jason and I are the only people in the area and it's 2:30am. I stumbled back onto the long and windy fun interstate 5, get home, and drop onto me bed, and sleep like the dead.
The last of the "Unwound in Southern California" experience. At the PCH club once again. Things are far more relaxed. And NO RAIN! I brought some bottled water as a present to the nice folks running and putting on the show.
I come in during Silver Scooter's set. Very pleasant stuff. Kinda like Versus or Wedding Present leaning towards Pell Mell or Bailter Space. I do they continue to lean in the latter direction, though.
In between, Mr. Jay Allen came up and introduced himself to me. We touched based briefly before assembling to see the following.
Tight Bros From Way Back When come up and do their thing. Yup, Jared "How many sexy people in the auidence" thing again, although this time he's reminded by the audience to do it. "Fire! Fire!" Woohoo!
This is the show I finally meet Jarrett formerly of the Uphill Gardeners,and one of the co-conspirators/curators of the new all-ages venue sensation THE SMELL in North Hollywood... Ara of Godzik Pink being the other guy. (Rumor has it A Minor Forest and Storm&Stress will be playing there 2/26, so stay tuned. Jarrett, wish to confirm/deny?)..
I sneak over the little carpeted area behind the main stage to chat with Jarrett about ONCE AGAIN what music-related listserv members talk about when they meet --- music, shows, recommendations, roommates finding incredible records for cents at swap meets, yadayadayada.
Unwound go on. Justin remarks about how hot it is in the venue. The set they do is the most different of all the four sets they do this weekend... here it is, to the best of my recollection..(For some reason, I'm fuzziest on this set... PLEASE correct my mistakes)
Petals Like Bricks
What Went Wrong
Side Effects of Being Tired
Great set! Again, a departure in terms of song choices for the set in comparison to past shows. "MK Ultra" made lots of folks happy as a song ender... I talked with Jay Allen. (Glad you enjoy the tape), and talked about the Unwound shows we saw that weekend.
I talked more with Jarrett at the end of show, and bid everyone a fine adieu. However, staying so late in that part of town may have been a mistake.
As I was walking to my car, this couple had car trouble -- in a desolate industrial part of town with no phone, no cops, and occasional creepy people. This kid asked to me to help him out with his car... in reality, I think he just want someone else there to disuade this creepy man that had been stalking this guys's girlfriend for about an hour beforehand. I'm convinced to manually push his truck out into the middle of Pacific Coast Highway with his girlfriend locked inside the car, so his friends who he called to help him out will find him.
The creepy guy drives back. He gets out of his car, and starts walking, following us and the kid's girlfriend as we struggle to push the truck. I had *no* idea what could have happened. For all I know, he was about to gun both of us down and rape this poor girl. This was definitely a chilling moment for all of us.
We get the car onto the street. The kid asks me to walk back to my car and park behind his truck and turn on my hazard lights. The creepy guys stands aside from the path I need to walk to get to my car. The kid goes up the guy, and asks what he's on about, carry a large gray brick behind him, in case the creepy guy decides to get violent. I run to my car, and drive back behind the truck. The kid manages to disuade the creepy guy. Mr. Creepy is never seen again. (Pheeeew!) While waiting for his friends, I talk to the kid about the show we just saw just to calm him down. His friends come soon. All is fine. I go home. Sweaty and still nervous, but at least OK. Yikes.
So, yeah, a fucked up way to end the weekend to be sure. But well worth it, for all the great performances, great times, and last but not least, great nice people I met all along the way.
Back to the reviews page
To the Unwound page
This document was last updated 27 January 1998