Ministry / L7 @ Roseland Theater - 8/19/99
Neil Diamond @ Key Arena - 8/22/99
Ween @ Summer Nights at the Pier - 8/04/99
Ministry / L7
August 19, 1999
Earpollution is on remote in the nice city of Portland which, on a
good day, is about 2-2.5 hours from Seattle. My girlfriend and I were
killing two birds with one trip: a little getaway for a wedding, and
since we were missing the show in Seattle we had to try and catch
here in Portland instead. After arriving we picked up our friends,
Eric and Tara, from Omaha and headed out for fine dining. There's
no better place to go than the India House on 11th and Morrison. Some
very spectacular Indian food! After dinner we walked down around the
river waterfront park and took in the setup for some religious
fanatic to spew shit the next night. There were row upon row of
Port-o-lets. Hmm, how convenient!
We arrived at the Roseland Theater about 8:30. If you have never been here, this is a very cool place. On the main floor is a diner with a separate bar attached to it. The concert hall is on the second floor, which holds about 500 people. There is a balcony with a bar upstairs from this. Everything is set up for all ages with special stamps for the drinking areas, one for the inside of the left wrist and one for the top of the right wrist. I suppose if you wanted to check out the cellar you would get a stamp on your right ass cheek. The place is covered with rock memorabilia, promo photos, ticket stubs, fliers, gold records and much more. Tables in the downstairs bar had genre-themed memorabilia on the table under glass. One table had the L.A. Glam scene, another had Rap, etc.
By the time we got inside L7 was already on the stage playing away. I asked a guy if anybody opened up for them and he said "no." However, the Slipdisc website listed Rorschach Test as opening up in Portland and Seattle, so I can only presume that they did not open the show. L7 was show-casing their new album Slap-happy and a new bassist, Tinoca. I had not heard anything from L7 for a while and did not know if they had broken up or not. Anyway they played all their older hits mixed in with new material. For me, L7 was great about five years ago. They play a good set of Punk 'n' Roll, but the new material had a more all-out metal feel to it. One song was a slower ballad of sorts, not too bad. I give them credit for still carrying the Riot Grrl banner.
Ministry came out next with seven members including a sax player who, by the way, had an outstanding performance! With the twin guitar attack that has been Al and Co.'s standard for the last eight years--just grab a couple of friends, teach them the songs and take them out on tour with you--Ministry opened their set with "Psalm 69" with the pit taking up almost the entire floor area. Luckily for me I brought my earplugs because they had this incredible layer of high-end noise on top of the sound. It was very painful. Okay, so the sound sucked bigtime! Al tossed his leather jacket into the crowed during "Filth Pig." The crowd was a free-for-all, crazed sweaty pit with people just walking right through others pushing them out of the way. If they wanted to get by someone they took L7's advice: "Get out my way or I'm gonna shove." One guy came rushing out of the pit towards Eric and Tara and almost made it to some clearing before he puked up some vile mess. Eric felt warm liquid on his leg and caught a big whiff of the foul odor. Poor guy almost made it out of the crowd safely. Al never was one to perform a show without his bottle, which he cracked open during "So What." Towards the end of the song a guy made it up onto the stage and started creating havoc. It took seven guys to get him off. Al stated "Have you ever seen a guy on PCP? Well, he was on it." This guy messed the show up for a few minutes, but the band came back and cranked up "Just One Fix" followed by "NWO." It was during this time that a drunk and stoned kid tried to pick up my girlfriend. She was glad that he finally got lost. The light show for "Thieves" left your audio and visual senses pulverized, and the set finally ended.
Everyone knew that an encore was due and the floor stomping began. Ministry came back out to treat us to two new songs: "Supermanic Soul" and "Eureka Pile." After this I was expecting the house lights to come on, but Ministry came back out again to treat us to two more songs, ones that I have never seen them perform live before: "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and "Supernaut." With the sound so shitty "Jesus Built My Hotrod" sounded more like "Jesus Destroyed My Hotrod." The sound was so-so sound, but still, it was Ministry! Five years after the last release and the new music is just "okay." All in all, a good show from Al, Paul and Co.
August 22, 1999
It seemed innocent enough. My mom--the biggest Neil Diamond fan
ever--called me up one Saturday morning asking if I might phone in
and get tix for her to Neil's Seattle show as she would be busy
procuring seats to both his Spokane and Salt Lake City engagements.
You see, my mom is a huge Neil nut. She has probably every album,
tape, CD, video, picture, poster ever made. She's in league with fans
from all across the globe, trading and bartering Neil merchandise to
help build out her own collection. And they're a loyal bunch, both to
Neil and to each other. She talks about her car breaking down in
Pocatello, Idaho, only to be picked up and housed by a Neil fan who
lived in the area. Hey, now that's a fan! I'm convinced that
somewhere in her house she has a secret room that's her Neil Diamond
shrine; pictures, letters, posters basking in the glow of candles
that are kept lit day in, day out. Having seen her addiction for
Neil, I can now understand a little better about where my passion for
music comes from. And if my mother is any gauge, it's only going to
get worse with age.
Sure, mom. No problem. How many tickets do you want? "Oh...just one." One? "Yeah. All of my friends are going to the other shows instead." Mom, you can't go alone... "That's alright, I figured you wouldn't want to go. I'll be fine on my own." Ugh...erg...Fuck! This is revenge for all the crappy things I pulled on you as a kid, isn't it? "Well...[long pause]...nooo." Fine...fine! I'll go! "Oh, that's sweet, Craig. Now make sure you get the expensive seats, I want a good view of Neil!"
Half of my friends snickered at my predicament while the rest declared jealousy. I couldn't figure out if the latter half were into Neil out of genuine interest or for the kitsch factor that seems so abundant with his music. I tried to block it all out of my mind. This was like one of those bad recurring dreams where you go to school in your underwear, oblivious of your predicament until it's too late, until everyone is laughing and pointing. Very funny...ha ha.
And so on the appointed day at the appointed hour I escorted my loving mother inside the Key Arena to participate in what would undoubtedly be a life altering experience. The venue was sold out. "They always sell out," my mother said. "And there won't be an opening band or an encore. Neil doesn't need either." Yes, mom. I promptly excused myself and proceeded to the nearest concession stand for the first of many hastily consumed alcoholic beverages. Three beers and five minutes later (Jesus! Only five minutes?) I returned to my seat just in time to catch the house lights going down. As a blanket of dry ice floated out over the stage-in-the-round, laser lights danced across its smoky wisps. Taking the stage to the thunderous applause of the crowd, Neil Diamond--evil incarnate himself--waved hello to the crowd and launched his band into the first of many musical trips down Memory Lane, not letting up until the show ended a good two and a half hours later. As Neil looked out across the audience--his audience--I could almost hear him mutter: "Fuck the revolution? I'm the revolution, baby!"
Oh, and he played all the oldies, every song you thought he would. "I Said...I Am," "Song Sung Blue," "Sweet Caroline," "Love on the Rocks," "Forever in Blue Jeans," "America," "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," and a whole lot more. My mom kept me posted throughout. "Oh, this is a song about his son. This song is about his divorce. This is a song about..." Yes, mom. Out of their seats from the first notes, all twenty thousand fans stayed on their feet throughout the show, screaming out Neil's name, rocking best as they could to the beat. Well, not quite all twenty thousand. More likely nineteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine fans. The twenty-thousandth attendee stayed seated for the duration of the show, hands locked tightly beneath his legs. It wasn't necessarily Neil's repertoire that kept me paralyzed with fear, it was the realization that I was trapped with an audience who couldn't keep a collective beat. I was trapped with twenty thousand people who couldn't find down of one for more than two bars at a time. This was like being trapped in some freaky, late night B movie. Or worse: this was the scene in A Clockwork Orange where Malcolm McDowell is forced to endure movie after violent movie, finally succumbing to the brainwashing as his brain could no longer take the stimulus.
I needed a diversion. The alcohol wasn't working, unaffected by the demonic power of Neil. I started looking around at the audience. Most all appeared to be middle-class, white, balding, Docker pants...hey, she's cute! Hey, she's not bad either! Looking around the venue I suddenly noticed that there were quite a large number of attractive women of all ages, all dressed to the nines, all pining for the love of Neil. Every time a spotlight would stretch across a swath of audience, every time Neil would reach out and seemingly point to a specific lady in the crowd, winking like he knew them personally, all the women--all the very fine women--would swoon beneath his gaze. At one point even my mom turned to me and said, "If only I could meet a man like Neil..." Ack! My own mom! How could it be? What power is this? Could it be his overrated Elvis shimmy? No. His bushy eyebrows? His chest hair? His ear hair? His diamond studded shirt? His shoulder pads? His shoulder pads... Hrmm. Could so much mojo reside in those simple shoulder pads as to make him an irresistible sex god? Wake up, Craig! *smack* Wake up! It's a bad dream, just a bad dream.
Time crawled on. The show finally ended, thankfully minus an encore. Unsure of my step, eyes unable to focus, my mom escorted me outside the Key Arena to the car. "Thanks for a wonderful night, son." Sh-shoulder pads. "Huh?" Sh-shoulder pads. Heh, heh. And now whenever I hear a Neil Diamond song, I smile a secret smile to myself. Shoulder pads. Oh mighty Neil, I got your mojo, baby!
Summer Nights at the Pier
August 4, 1999
Just as Ween started their hilarious set of ditties, one fellow in
the audience remarked "play the long version." This set the tone for
the rest of the evening because as you may know, long versions are
the only thing Gene and Dean do live. Sometimes ridiculously long
versions. But I was, as usual, beside myself with excitement to see
the pair. This was my seventh time.
Ween are one of those live bands that don't require much. They just plain rock the fuck out of you with their own badness. But as beautiful as the Northwest great outdoors is, it didn't provide the dark, smoky milieu that I'm used to seeing Ween in. The sunshine, water and mountains aside, Ween delivered one of the most memorable shows I've had the pleasure of witnessing lately.
The crowd at a Ween show is a strange thing. You'll see people from all walks of life: professionals, bums, students, girls, boys, and this is part I don't get--an unusually large amount of hippies (you know the VW van drivin'-Jerry Garcia worshipin'-tie-die wearin'-dreadlock sportin' people). It's great to see them there, I just don't understand where the solidarity for them comes into effect at a Ween show. I have a funny feeling that the thing that we all have in common is the cut-like-a-knife humor of the Ween song that resides at about ankle level. It's a base humor that everyone can understand.
The song list plays out like a "Best of" album. Which unlike their new release Paintin' the Town Brown that this show was supporting, would be a five disk set. As they strutted out this fine collection including "LMLYP," "You Fucked Up," "Doctor Rock," "Captain Fantasy," "Reggae Junkie Jew," "Big Jilm," "Voodoo Lady," "I Can't Put My Finger on It," and the epic "Buckingham Green," I realized that there is not a better songwriting pair in rock & roll right now than Gene and Dean Ween. Nor a pair more entertaining. When they are on (and they almost always are), they are so on.
Their playing was flawless and the energy between the two is amazing to witness. They share more inside jokes than the Beastie Boys. As the show wore on it became increasingly surreal. The end of the show was a gift from the heaven as they played a 15 minute version of "LMLYP" that can only be described as delicious. A funk-a-fied thrasher take on Prince's "Shockadelica" that puts the ants in everyone's pants. We all got hot and bothered and went home. Next time I would like to see them back at Seattle's premier small club, Showbox.