I rolled up to the door at Bojangles in high spirits, right on time. "Hold on there, sonny jim," the guy at the door cautioned. "One of the bands hasn't shown up yet."
My heart sank faster than Titanic.
Could it be that I had driven an hour and a half to Sacramento to see my sweet lovers, Unwound, and they had stood me up? I felt so used, so cheap. Fortunately for our relationship, it was another of the bands that hadn't shown up yet, not Unwound. They eventually arrived, and the show went on.
Godzik Pink played first. They sounded like rush-hour traffic. The band consisted of a drummer, bass, guitar, and saxophone; no vocals. This was strictly music for musicians, or for anyone interested in bizarre non-music. I admired their skills, but not much else.
The next band was Tight Bros From Way Back When. I think they were lousy on purpose. You know, "I'm working overtime for your love," stuff like that. The gyrating lead singer was like the Jim Carrey of the indie rock world. No thank you.
Between the first and second band I made my way over to the merchandise table and said "One of everything, please". I got the new CD, the almost-new 12-inch, and a t-shirt.
As I watched Godzik Pink, I spotted Sara. I asked her to marry me. From across the room. In a whisper. She pretended not to notice.
Tight Bros gyrated their way off the stage and the DJ put on Citizen Fish to put us in the mood. Sara came out first to set up and tune up her drums. She uses Zildjian cymbals, in case you care. (Before you roll your eyes, think about the poor music geek reading this who is scrambling for pen and paper to write that little tidbit down.) Justin walked in next, and then Vern appeared last, platinum blond and looking like he just woke up. A little more music geek fodder: Vern played a sorta Fender-style bass, wood colored and torn up, through a Coliseum 300 amp (I've never heard of it either). He also had a distortion pedal, white, looked like a Boss.
Before the set started, Justin stepped to the mic and said, "Hi". And that's all he said.
Justin brought three guitars with him. The Electra with the clear plastic body appeared exactly once, in the first song, Sonata For Loudspeakers. He appeared to have it in drop-D tuning. Vern sat on the floor through this song, but stood (and rocked around) for the rest. There were no saxophones in the live version (obviously), but I didn't miss them. I have to say that the song is more mesmerizing live than it is on the CD. (Maybe if I turn it up really loud...)
Justin filled up space while he switched to his Univox guitar by letting his Echoplex play a little tune for us. The next song was Here Come The Dogs, followed by Envelope. It was so SO good to hear those songs. When he hit the last chord to Envelope, Justin pointed up to the sky. He was pointing at me. Unauthorized Autobiography was next, followed by Data. It sounded to me as though he was yelling "Bausch and Laum" for some reason. (How do you spell Bausch and Laum?) I didn't find out the words were actually "false alarm" until later.
After Data, Justin announced "We're Unwound, by the way."
"Play something from Fake Train!" someone in the crowd demanded.
"No! We're UN-WOUND."
Meet The Plastics was next, and then Laugh Track. Justin spit on the stage. Corpse Pose rocked me. Vern mentioned that the new record was officially released today, and that the show tonight was the release party. Sara traded her sticks for mallets and Justin picked up his third guitar of the evening, a green and black thing with switches on the front of it but no name that I could see.
The most beautiful part of the show came next: What Went Wrong. The quiet instrumental sections were streched out to several minutes, and then it all came crashing back at once.
Vern sang the next one, Side Effects Of Being Tired, which descended into noise, after which Sara took up the mallets again for the next section of the song. Justin ended the song by sampling his entire riff with the Echoplex and letting it loop for a bit while he switched to the Univox again, so that it sounded like he was still playing, even when he took off his guitar and walked away. Every time the riff repeated on the Echoplex it would mutate a little more, and he didn't even have to touch the dials or anything. I wonder how he did that...
"This is our last song," Justin lied before starting Valentine Kard. During the pauses of that song, Sara would raise one arm, Statue of Liberty style. True to her reputation, she was nothing but nonchalant through the entire show. Sometimes she would close her eyes. Zen drumming? Valentine ended and she was halfway off the stage before Justin told her that he wanted to play MK Ultra. They extended the verse a little bit (with Justin forgetting the words, or perhaps speaking in tongues) and then they extended the instrumental/noise part a LOT. They finished the song with sheets of blazing noise, and this time Sara made it all the way off the stage. Vern laid his bass on top of the amp and dissected it while Justin abused his Echoplex. The girl next to me danced to the noise. I don't know what she was hearing, but I could have sworn I heard the riff to MK still playing as they demolished my eardrums.
When I got outside I checked my watch against the clock in my car. They matched, to my surprise; there were moments during the show when it felt as though time had stopped.
This document was last updated 15 January 1998