My first authentic obsession, band-wise and applicable to my book and most of my music-writing life, was Dinosaur Jr. They were my “life-changer” and opened the gate to this path I’ve taken. That being said, my favorite band as an adult is, and will continue to be, Silkworm, but that’s another story for another post during another outpouring of nonsense.
Lollapalooza 1993, in Nashville, was my second Dinosaur Jr. live experience. The night before, I attended a get-together with the four or five dudes who would be with me on this road trip, plus a bunch of other frat-boys and meatheads I didn’t know. The party host was the first kid we knew with his own place, and he liked to keep a social balance of drug-inhalers (me & the handful of hippies I hung with) and the aforementioned locker-room-rape-roid-rage dipships. So me and the closest thing I had to “friends” at the time stayed upstairs and my plan was to do some acid while my buds did some shrooms (I happened to have a couple of hits that’d been burning a hole in my pocket for the last week or so). The acid was slow-acting, leading me to the incorrect conclusion that it was bunk, so after about a half hour of nothing, I downed a massive tumbler of mushroom tea. Well, the acid wasn’t bunk. Nor as the tea. I was no stranger to acid, and beginning at age 16 I would do it upwards of 300 times over the next six or seven years, before my brain reached the “ok, that’s enough of this shit, Earles” juncture-of-fragility. This evening was one of the handful of categorical BAD TRIPS that eventually made such drugs repulsive to my personal taste. Once the acid kicked in on top of the mushrooms, I spent the next eight or nine hours in my friend’s bathtub…crying, terrified that the old-boy-network assholes downstairs would be coming through the door any minute to fuck with me (one of them already had me in his stink-eye crosshairs cuz he overheard his girlfriend saying that I was “cute” or some shit), begging people to take me to the E.R., and generally requiring a full-time babysitter. So yeah, the next day we set out for Lollapalooza ’93 in Nashville. Good thing my tight bro (Jason David Rhea, R.I.P.) and myself had the forethought to invest in a $200 “various artists” cache of synthetic opiates (you name it….liquid and pill form), so I stayed thoroughly high and away from any post-acid mental weirdness for the whole trip.
Nashville was one of the notorious set-shit-on-fire dates on this particular Lollapalooza run. Dino Jr performed, but it was hard to say whether or not it was “any good” due to obvious factors, one being that they were about eight miles from where I was sitting. The second stage did pay off with my second Unrest show, though. Dinosaur Jr. were followed by Alice in Chains and Primus. I could not find any footage from the 07/93 Lollapalooza date that is the setting for my tales, but years later, during an interview with J. Mascis (during The Fog era), he claimed Lollapalooza 1993 to be his least favorite tour/live experience of all time. He did an amazing impersonation of a half-wit in one of the other bands jumping around backstage and getting in everyone’s face with some “isn’t this fucking awesome!?!?” Lollapalooza!!!” scruff-of-the-neck grabbing. See, the first part of the interview was a horror-show on my part because J. is a hard subject, as legend has solidified, but he ended up asking me about my week, about which I revealed had been weird because of an uncle’s death and the subsequent family-drama and cleaning-out-of-an-old-relative’s-house stuff. Oddly, J. had just lost an older relative, too, and this common circumstance sparked a long-ish and enjoyable talk about things that had nothing to do with music or his career. He packs a powerful wit and can hold his end of a conversation like a pro, so long as he wants to. Though I would go on to write about Dinosaur Jr. quite a bit (namely after the reissues and reunion shows fired up mid-00’s), I turned down several later requests/offers to interview him (picked Lou instead) and this one would be the first and last. I just didn’t want to be another in the unending barrage of writers/bloggers to end up in the irritant file in J.’s mind. He has more than enough reason to make interviews hard or impossible for my colleagues. So instead of live footage, here he is serving the shit out of Kennedy’s attempt at an interview circa same time on MTV’s short-lived Alternative Nation
I’m too young to have seen this stuff, and as noted above, I saw Dino Jr. for the first time in early 1992, when they were co-headlining with My Bloody Valentine’s only time in the states to tour Loveless. Babes in Toyland was also on the bill. I was 18 or so, and just drove a few hours (from Memphis) and back in my mom’s 1985 Toyota Tercel hatchback. I did not have a license, but mom was out of town for work, so I ganked the car. Nor did I have any friends who liked this sort of music, so I went solo, and it was a “school night” (a Monday, if I remember correctly), though my senior year of high school was defined by the vices of binge-drinking and truancy, the latter of which I continued with after a similarly timed stint in rehab (and family tragedy on my first day out of rehab) sort of forced me to pull my shit together and scrap a lot of the drinking (with people I had nothing in common with, anyway). I could not find anything worthwhile or representative of the MBV/Dino/BiT tour of 1992, but I will state something that every other future writer/fan has already said about MBV on this particular tour of the states: It stands alone in my frame of reference re: decibel abuse by a live band. I could not audibly figure out what was happening while standing anywhere in the front half of the club, and noticed a few other patrons moving to the back wall. Once I did the same, some note definition and dynamics came through. Whatever…here’s a show from 1988, almost four years prior to what I’ve been going on about. Sound isn’t the tits, of course, and Lou was not long for this lineup, but at least it gives a live picture of the first few years.
I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth hammering home. This is a 1992 performance of “The Wagon” on Late Night With David Letterman, and if I’m on point, this was the band’s first (of many) appearances on a Letterman-helmed late-night show. What makes this special is how intensely Paul Shaffer’s hack-dawgs get into backing up the Mike Johnson-era Dino lineup, going so far as to turn this into a double-drummer affair. Sadly, this is the edited-short clip, without the moment back-fr0m-the-break in which Letterman does the hand-shake dance and jokes around about being newly deaf from the volume level. I’m sure that’s an approach to humor that Mascis has never tired of. NOT!
I’ve already revealed Team Dresch’s Personal Best as an album covered in the book, and I probably went on about how it is not only the best all-girl, punk/hardcore-informed rock album of the 90’s, but the BEST punk/hardcore-informed ROCK ALBUM OF THE 90’s. If my history isn’t being an asshole to my brain at the moment, T.D. founder Donna Dresch was Lou Barlow’s temporary live replacement back in 1989, before the other replacements (Don Fleming?) and before Mike Johnson signed on for the 90’s. Here’s a fleeting glimpse of what that might have been like live, complete with the shittiest audio imaginable. This is my favorite song off of Bug (“Budge”), and I swear to goodness the song is about fast food, at least partially….
Post-reunion Dino Jr. can be hit-or-miss live (for my picky taste), but here’s a decent performance of my second favorite Bug track, “The Post”…
The next partial body of work revealed to be covered in my upcoming book is that of Trumans Water. Preceding the usual Youtube clips is a list of my favorite Trumans Water song titles…not songs, song-TITLES. Along with being, in the words of writer John Floyd, Trumans Water was…
“That perverse, fascinating, and wildly prolific outfit that inhaled the works of Albert Ayler, Captain Beefheart, and Sun City Girls and breathed out something that wobbled and blurted like oddball jazz but roared with the power of avant-garde rock and roll. Over the course of more than a dozen releases (including four seminal longplayers in the Godspeed series), Trumans Water expanded the boundaries of postpunk and found new ways to express their angst and alienation, as well as putting their lysergic impulses to good use.”
….Trumans Water has a gift for language-massaging song-titles. And Trumans Water never broke up. The band has released over 15 full-lengths since 1992, seven of which fell within the chronological framework of my upcoming book, though I did not write about all seven.
My favorite Trumans Water song-titles:
“Speeds Exceeding”, “Habits are Spirits”, “Bludgeon Elites & Stagger”, “Top of Morning”, “Finger 6 Steps Ahead of Our Minds”, “Mindstab Forklift”, “Bladderstomp: Krautrock”, “It Slew Me”, “Aroma of Gina Arnold”, “Spitvalve Opus”, “Good Blood After Bad”, “Bent Time Hand”, “Death to Dead Things”, “Vacation Starts Great”, “Hurting Eye Flower”, “One Traditional Wound”, “Athlete Who Is Suck”, “Derailleur”, “Long End of a Firearm”, “All Wet West of Washington”, “Ungalaxy”, “Antsmashes Yer Star (Dead Airwaves)”, “Outpatient Lightspeed”, “Infinity Times Zero”, “Slander in New Slang”, “Fuller Piston Vinegar”, “Horsesense”, “Syrup is Tangled”, “Swordfish in the Trees”, “Stares from New Enemies”, “Vexation Fruits”, “Asleep Sneeze”, “Off Peak Arson”, “Wind and Rain Over Wings “, “3 Straps Nose to Rear”, “4 Story Friend”, “Angels Spit Stars”, “Mutual Blood Tied Force”, “Curl Up to Yer Empty Years”, “Flying in a Coin Operated Universe”, “Shoe Lace or Else”, “Care Sliced Lies”, “Obstacle of Habit”, “Lyrical Nozzle”, “Strat-As-Fear”, “Tiny World With the Jitters”, “60 Seconds Over Medium”, “Matter Smasher”, “All Eye And Movement”, “You Live Out Loud”, “Horsesplinter Wraparound”, “I’ve Been Here Before Though I Don’t Remember It”, “The End Is A Cinch To See Even Behynd Me”, “Minus Time Space Plus Soul Time”, “Slum Summer”….
This is what Trumans Water sounds/looks like…
“Wealth In A Flask” (originally released on a 7″ EP…early-to-mid-90’s):
And one of my favorites, “A Tiny World With The Jitters”:
Original lineup, live on the radio, 1993:
Original lineup, live at The Casbah, 1993:
Bongwater was a very special band, hence the writing about anywhere between one and 4.5 Bongwater albums in my upcoming book, Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981 – 1996. Vital book info is yours if you follow this link. The band’s (a core duo of producer/personality/Shimmy Disc proprietor Kramer and actress/performance artist/monologist Ann Magnuson) body of work – a double length epic, three normal-length albums, and an EP released between 1986 and 1991 – was a combination of humor, a vast pop-cultural frame of reference, and an artistically/creatively-successful angle on experimental guitar-based noise-rock/post-hardcore/out-to-fucking-lunch-rock unlike anything that preceded or followed it. The best album is probably 1990’s The Power of Pussy, and here are a few reasons why:
…leads into “What If…” (great example of sense of humor + songwriting beauty)