Thursday, January 29, 2009

TVD's Alternative Ulcer

Ed's note: Beginning today and every Thursday, TVD's got a new column from an old friend:

Today's blog is all about comebacks. My inspiration came from seeing 2007's 'Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten' the other night with my roommate. At the end of the film are clips of Joe and Mick Jones playing together for the first time in 19 years at the Acton Town Hall Firefighters Benefit. We debated about what we would do if we were at the show - would we dance? Would we mosh? Would we stand and just stare at the stage trying to take in the history that we missed because we were babies when the Clash were at the height of Clashdom? Despite our disagreements about what we would do if we attended the benefit, we both agreed that it would be an amazing show. (Sidenote: am I the only one who had no idea Joe did a movie with Courtney Love and he and his family let her crash at their place for a bit? How does she do it??)

The next day I was discussing this concept with a friend. He said seeing bands decades after the height of their career (we're not talking money here, but when the band was just really at their most amazing) is just not as good as seeing them back in the day, and it's not really worth it. I disagreed, however, as I was a baby when most of the bands that have really influenced me were touring and making the music that would become the soundtrack to the years that would really form the woman I've become.

For instance, when Stiff Little Fingers announced that they would be touring again in celebration of their 30th anniversary, and playing all of the songs from 'Inflammable Material', I was skeptical (only one album? would people respond well?) but I bought my ticket as soon as they announced the tour. The show was fantastic. They played like it was 1979. The crowd ranged from youngins to old punks. So I always use that as an example of a band that has changed over time and does a sort of "comeback" tour (sure they never went away, but I think "comeback" is still semi-appropriate when referring to bands whose lineups have changed over time and who don't tour very much) and still rock the shit out of the club.

However, as with all rules, there are exceptions to the "comeback." Last fall it was announced that Bad Brains would be playing in DC on Election Night. When I was told this I think my brain might have actually exploded. I'm 25. I grew up overseas. I had no opportunity to see Bad Brains when they lived in DC, let alone any shows they may have performed since the early 80s. So damn right I was excited. I went with a couple of friends, one of whom is a huuuge Bad Brains fan. He and I discussed how excited we were. Bad Brains took the stage. Our excitement quickly waned. The whole band, except HR, were playing like it was the early eighties. Fast. Intense. Awesome. You know, before HR made those unfortunate homophobic remarks that pretty much solidified the beginning of the end for Bad Brains as we knew them. And here HR was, front and center, singing like it was a reggae show. He was singing slow and spacey and off key - like decades of drug use had finally taken their toll.

We kept our hopes up. "Perhaps HR is just messing with us!" But song after song after song everyone around us seemed to get angrier and more disappointed. At one point there seemed to be more people outside smoking than actually inside the club. Then they left the stage. Everyone expected an encore, because that's what you DO when you play a reunion show. But the lights came on. The roadies entered the stage and everything started getting packed up.

I expected a riot at this point. People were p-i-s-s-e-d. My friend is still not over that concert. You can't even put the letters H and R next to each other without him getting visibly upset. If I didn't love their music so much, I think this show would've ruined Bad Brains for me.

LL Cool J once said "Don't call it a comeback." I say, if you're going to only show up and do a half-assed show, don't come back at all.

Stiff Little Fingers - Suspect Device (Mp3)
Stiff Little Fingers - Alternative Ulster (Mp3)
Stiff Little Fingers - Tin Soldiers (Mp3)
Bad Brains - Attitude (Mp3)
Bad Brains - Pay To Cum (Mp3)


dickvandyke said...

First Class Kris. many thanks.

WarmWind said...

I love this blog!!
"Gate 49" is an awesome SLF song btw.

Sal Go said...

haha, another horrible comeback show/tour: The New York Dolls sponsored by Little Steven. That was some jaw dropping amazingly bad wrinkle-rock.

KRIS said...

i was given tix to that show and ended up not going. good to know i didn't miss much!