Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Echoes Of December 5th

The recent "Sweet Savage / Vivian Campbell" post created a frenzy in Umlaut's Old Metal fanbase. In order to bring some balance back to this space, here's something to extinguish that Old Metal nostalgia:

Echo & the Bunnymen
The Fillmore, San Francisco
December 5, 2005

Echo & the Bunnymen were one of those "fag" bands I got into after I burned out on the Metal and Punk Scenes in the mid-80's. Umlaut was very entrenched in the local S.F. Metal Scene up until then and it was a shock to some that I disappeared from it. Years later a friend told me about a rumor that I'd been spotted at a U2 concert wearing a SWEATER (GASP!). Note: Sweaters are not METAL. It was probably true. Metal runs in my veins but I had to move on, dyaknowwhatimean?

At that time, I fell in with a group of people who were into all types of music, but mainly "Alternative" and the Grateful Dead. Hey! Stop that snickering... You can knock Deadheads, but you know what? Most of the Deadheads who I've known (and still know) are the most open minded people I've ever met when it comes to music. They tend to listen to everything (including Metal), which was always really cool to me since I was the same way. However, I never wore patchouli.

I started to find myself during that time of my life and I realized alot about what makes me tick. What? Oh yeah, I was reading crap like Bukowski, The Beats, etc. etc. blah blah blah. Listening to Bob Dylan obsessively. Yeah, I was wearing black turtlenecks and Creepers too. However, I never smoked cloves.

The Bunnymen remind me of that specific time in my life. Lots of late nights drinking and howling in North Beach trying to catch a glimpse of the future. Lots of coffee house discussions about this book or that poem or that movie. I was the type of person that annoys me now. I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

I saw Echo in September 1987 on a double bill with New Order at The Greek in Berkeley (the awful Gene Loves Jezebel opened). They were great, although Ian McCullough did fall off the stage at one point. I would venture to guess he was fucked up, but I was 23-years old and probably thought it was cool. For those who care, here's the setlist from that show:
  • Going Up
  • Rescue
  • Bombers Bay
  • My Kingdom
  • Crocodiles
  • Seven Seas
  • Bedbugs & Ballyhoo
  • The Killing Moon
  • The Cutter
  • New Direction
  • Ocean Rain
  • Soul Kitchen
  • Lips Like Sugar
  • Thorn Of Crowns
  • Do It Clean
  • Paint It Black

1987 Bunnymen Tour Button (From the Umlaut Attic)

Despite the good memories I associate with Echo, I generally don't like going to see old bands like this anymore. Fond memories can easily be tainted by seeing old heroes who haven't been treated well by the march of time. Dyaknowwhatimean? However, at Miatomic's invitation, Umlaut did the time warp and stepped back into the 80's. No, I didn't break out a black turtleneck and Creepers.

The stage lighting was so 80's, down to the spots pointing straight down while a smoke machine added ambiance. Remember how The Cure used that same lighting trick when they'd play A Forest? Me too.

Ian McCullough had basically the same haircut as he did in 1987, and I swear he was wearing the same clothes too. However, it would be great if he took care of his voice after all these years instead of chain smoking onstage. When his voice cracked during The Killing Moon I actually cringed. Thank dog for Will Sargeant.

I've always liked Sargeant's guitar playing (The Edge could never carry his jock), but I don't know if I've ever seen one musician carry a band's entire performance like Sargeant did at this show. His 12-string during The Killing Moon saved the song when McCullough's voice almost lost it... and Sargeant's fingers definitely kept Ocean Rain afloat. He was so obviously above and beyond the 4 anonymous hired guns who made up the rest of the band... and he had the same haircut that he had in 1987.

After seeing Bauhaus a couple of months ago I was struck by the differences in how each of these 80's icons came off. Bauhaus didn't delve into any nostalgia performance wise. Their musicianship was also spot on and they had the charisma of the original lineup to fuel things. The Bunnymen were standing squarely on Will Sargeant's shoulders since McCullough's voice was so dodgy. Plus, the other 4 members were some of the most anonymous "new" members I've ever seen a band field onstage.

Thankfully, all cylinders hit during The Cutter and it was almost like 1987 again. Almost... okay... not really. Sadly, they didn't play Do It Clean. Returning to the 80's was a dubious experience for Umlaut, but he would get the same feeling going to see King Diamond or Krokus at this point in his life too. Dyaknowwhatimean? You can't put your arms around a memory.. so don't try (unless it's Iron Maiden...'cause Maiden STILL rules).

Fu Manchu shirts = 1. If you bought one of every Bunnymen merch item you would have paid... NOTHING. There was NO merch for sale! Nada. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Instead of the usual gig poster, they handed out free packs of Dentyne gum after the show. Eighties.. I'm living in the Eighties.

Oh yeah... Then there's this:

Eighteen years ago on December 5th Umlaut saw the Jesus & Mary Chain at The Fillmore (Darklands Tour). I'm the tweaker type who trips on shit like realizing I was in the exact same building on the exact same date almost 20 years earlier seeing one of my favorite bands.

Nine years ago on December 5th, Umlaut saw Soundgarden / Rocket From The Crypt in Oakland. The sound sucked that night.

No matter where you go, there you are...