Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Show I'll Never Forget

My sister bought me the book The Show I'll Never Forget. It's good so far, but it made me think of shows that I won't soon forget. So, I decided to periodically blog about those memories.

I remember seeing Pavement at the Agora Theater in Cleveland with the Dirty Three and either Come or Fuck - I don't remember which. Anyway, while I was hanging out in the lobby before the show, some kid asked me about my t-shirt. I was wearing my blue Archers of Loaf shirt that featured the same picture of a hockey player as their Vs. the Greatest of All Time EP. The kid couldn't get into the show since he wasn't yet eighteen.

The Loaf show was about a month earlier in Columbus at a venue called Stache's. Stache's is no longer in the same location. Within a couple of years, the dark, dingy rock dive would be torn down in favor of a shopping center that would feature a Gumby's Pizza, a tanning salon, and an H&R Block storefront. This was same venue that Sonic Youth played in for the first time with drummer Steve Shelley. The place was a historical landmark of college rock and the indie scene.

It was my sophomore year in college and I was still learning about indie rock. Despite living in Columbus for almost two years, I had yet to attend a show at Stache's. Of course, they were constantly going back and forth between allowing those under eighteen through their doors. In fact, my girlfriend at that time hadn't yet turned nineteen. We weren't even sure she'd get in, but it was announced that those under eighteen would be allowed in for an additional surcharge.

Archers of Loaf were unknown to me just a couple of months earlier. I had only known them through a random track on the My So-called Life soundtrack that my brother and sister had given me the year before as a joke for my birthday. The song, "South Carolina", was constantly played in my dorm room. It wasn't until about a year later that I had heard anyone even mention the band Archers of Loaf. This guy Brad was letting me in on the latest in upcoming shows. I was intrigued as soon as he mentioned Loaf playing Stache's.

The local free paper, The Other Paper, was pushing the Loaf show in the week leading up to the gig. The first local band I followed was the band Earwig. They were opening along with this band called Helium. Helium were getting a lot of attention since signing to the indie-rock label du jour Matador and featuring a member of math rock auteurs Polvo. It was going to be tyhe indie rock happening of the spring.

Being the uncool hipster wannabe that I was, I wore my bright orange Weezer t-shirt and high school ball cap. My brother joined us from Dayton. I think he still owes my ex-girlfriend the seven or eight dollars it cost to get the tickets. It was the spring of 1995. My indie rock obsession was about to begin.

Earwig put on one of their more memorable shows that night. It's as if they knew that this was the show that could propel them to greater ultimately wouldn't, but it felt like it could. They rocked through their set and finished with their typical closer, "Wounded Knee". This was one of those three part songs that was made to be a finale. It opened with a sparse guitar riff with plenty of space before rocking with an urgency that riled the crowd into a frenzy. The song finished off in similar fashion to the opening chords before breaking down into a punk rock deconstruction. My heart was pumping. Those around me had these wide-eyed looks of amazement on our faces. This was only the first band.

Our friend (another guy named) Brad who now plays for The Sun was raving about the next band Helium. He was a Loaf fan but was really looking forward to Helium's set. The buzz in the club was definitely about Helium.

Helium was fronted by Mary Timony who has had a solid career of her own over the last decade. The band's video which showed Timony dragging a hoe through a field had been displayed on Beavis and Butthead. The "animated" adolescent twosome of course made some comment about a "ho" as the video played.

My girlfriend at the time bumped into Timony in the restroom. She warned my girlfriend that the stalls were a little scary. Timony later autographed a Helium t-shirt for her while Archers of Loaf played their set.

Helium's set wasn't all that energetic, but it rocked. I still remember the old toy keyboard that Timony duct-taped popsicle sticks to in order to hold a note through one of their songs. I could barely make out her voice, but the band played a loud, rawkus art rock. The set was able to live up to the buzz.

Archers of Loaf was up next. I had been anticipating this show for the past month when (the first) Brad had first mentioned it. He had loaned me their two full-length discs which I promptly copied. Icky Mettle and Vee Vee are still two of my favorite records to this day.

I had a spot right in front of the stage, leaning on the monitors. I was so close that bassist Matt Gentling nearly hit me several times over the bridge of my nose with the end of his instrument when he wasn't yelling a drunken "thanks" into the mic after every song. Eric Bachman, an imposing presence with his 6'5"+ frame and throaty growl of a voice yelled into the mic 24 inches to my left. Dana Carvey look-alike Eric Johnson was maybe five feet away, shredding the hell out of his guitar and distortion pedals. Mark Price was the most ordinary-looking of a band of ordinary-looking guys, but he could beat the skins into oblivion.

Archers of Loaf played a set that included their "hits" Web in Front", "Harnessed in Slums", and "Wrong". During the set, Loaf played "You and Me" which led right into "Might" with a bang of the drums exactly like they had on Icky Mettle. I could see at least two other guys in the audience mouth "just like on the record" as I was thinking the same thing. They played "Audio Whore" and shook the ground beneath my feet as everyone screamed along. The band virtually played every song from their young catalog sans "South Carolina".

I saw Archers of Loaf play three more times after that and have seen Eric Bachman several times as his next incarnation, Crooked Fingers. Never did the band sound as good or rock as hard as they did that night. That show changed the way I looked at live music. There was an entire community of people who lived passionately for these regular guys playing guitars in crap dive bars. I think that I have been searching for a show like that Archers of Loaf gig for the past twelve years. I want that high again.

So, when the kid at the Pavement show asked what he missed, I didn't have the heart to tell him what that show meant to me, and I still don't.


Anonymous said...

it was the agora ballroom and it was come that were on right before pavement. it wasn't 18+, because i was only 15 at the time. drove us and the bartender tried to give him some moonshine. at least, i think that's the show you're referring...wowee zowee era pavement.

Anonymous said...

oh wait, i just realized you meant the kid couldn't get into the archers of loaf show, not the pavement mistake!