[June, 1995] Carnival and Catherine Wheel
Wow, I almost felt like I was starting a letter (I must comment on how annoyed I am that I haven’t gotten any real letters in a while. I just know I’ll get about 8 in the same day). But now isn’t the time to be sarcastic because it was a beautiful day. Carnival was great even though all I did was sit there and talk and sign people’s yearbooks and sit there trying not to melt under the sun. It was great.
Then (w/Anita) on to Tower Records in the village to see a free concert by Catherine Wheel. Very good they were*, bought the album then & there (I love the single “Waydown” so much, I wouldn’t mind if it was that song over and over). Got yet another set list which was signed by all the band members this time (very nice people, a British band).
For anyone joining the game late, I was a big penpal nerd in the ’90s and continued to be so in my later high school years (I’ll spare you additional gushing about how superior paper letters were to electronic correspondence—this time!—and direct you to this earlier blog post for more background). Inevitably, no matter how I tried to space out my letter-writing, I’d usually get responses in bulk, despite the letters coming from all over the world.
Carnival was an annual event that I imagine most schools have a version of (booths with games, food, etc.) so I’ll spare you details, but mostly because that particular year I didn’t do much more than “sit there” and call it “great” (can’t you tell I was an aspiring writer from that vivid description alone?).
Before delving into the show itself, a note for the younger readers: once upon a time there were these places called “record stores” where they sold music in physical form, on vinyl, cassette and these small plastic discs called CDs. Some of these larger shops, like Tower Records, hosted musical artists from time to time to do in-store signings, and sometimes the bands would also perform a 20-minute mini-concert to promote their latest album.
Anita and I had a previous adventure in New Jersey seeing Sponge at a different Tower Records, but it was nice to be able to attend another in-store closer to home.
To this day, Catherine Wheel is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. For those unfamiliar, their sound is a shoegaze/rock mix with a dash of dirty guitars (I initially wrote “grunge” but couldn’t live myself for labeling them that way). They also sounded better in person than they did on any of their albums (one of the few bands I could say the same for is Pearl Jam).
Catherine Wheel had some brief MTV success with the single for “Waydown” but never made it really big like—Radiohead big. (Fun fact: lead singer Rob Dickinson is the cousin of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.)
It’s a shame they weren’t able to find a wider audience, because I think they put out of lot of solid music and put on great concerts. And while it was nice to see them perform at smaller venues, they deserved more wide-spread attention and success than they ever received. The album I bought referenced in this entry, Happy Days, is pretty good, but Chrome and Adam and Eve are even better and some of the most underrated music to come out of the 1990s.