[April, 1995] Belly in Concert (Radiohead in the House)
Well who the hell would think that Belly fans could be so goddamn vicious. I could understand moshing to Superchunk (who were excellent, I must say) but Belly?! We’re talking pretty, energetic little songs here, not exactly the stuff made for crowd surfing.
Anyway, I was right in the middle of it and was shoved (to the point where I could barely breathe) and kicked (in the jaw, spine, head…by all the floaters) and had my hair constantly pulled (hard).
It was a great concert, though (they were a lot better live than I expected). Tom dyed his hair blonde and I was surprised at how many songs I was able to sing along to (when I wasn’t being slaughtered by the goddamn Belly—okay and Superchunk—fans) Tanya Donnely said Radiohead were in the house and I thought she was just using slang to say they were cool, but no, Radiohead were actually at the concert! We (Anita and I) are waiting for that tour already.
For those too young and or unfamiliar with Belly, they were once quite the up-and-coming alternative band. They had an MTV hit with “Feed the Tree” and just a few weeks after seeing them in concert, they made the cover of Rolling Stone, proof that they were once on their way to being a pretty big deal. Except that they never quite got there. After two albums, lead singer Tanya Donelly went on to have a solo career, but I never found that music as interesting so I didn’t follow it.
There are two albums that will forever transport me back to junior year of high school and I look at them as two sides to the same coin: Radiohead’s Pablo Honey and Belly’s Star. Both had their place in the alternative music movement, with shades of angst and grunge balanced with catchy hooks. Get ready for a time warp, kids: I owned both of these albums on cassette and listened to them incessantly on my Walkman (RIP).
It was with Belly’s second album, King, that they started getting more attention, though their sophomore effort wasn’t anywhere near as good as their debut (same exact thing happened with Liz Phair and Tori Amos; go figure). King still had moments of the quirky darkness of Star but seemed like it was trying to hard to be polished and veered from accessible into bland. Even so, I liked it well enough and I was excited to see them play live.
Back in the ’90s, crowd-surfing was all the rage, but I didn’t realize how ridiculous the trend had become until this concert. I can (kind-of-but-not-really) understand moshing to indie opening band Superchunk, since they do have some fast-tempo-ed songs with a bit of screaming here and there. But for Belly fans to be thrashing around was incomprehensible. Moshing to aggressive music like Nine Inch Nails made perfect sense, but not so much for a band who sings, “take your hat off boy when you’re talking to me and be there when I feed the tree.”
I remember how frustrating it was to be in the midst of such an aggressive audience reaction to Belly’s music. I was knocked around so much, I came home bruised and sore, with my long hair tangled into one giant dreadlock, feeling an overall “what just happened?” sense of confusion.
But despite all that, Anita and I probably ended up raving about how much fun it was, and how cool that members of Radiohead were there. When Tanya Donelly announced their presence, I of course scoured the balconies of Roseland to see if I could spot them, but didn’t get a glimpse. Soon enough, I’d end up with a much better view of them, anyway.