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[June, 1995] Radiohead. Ah, Radiohead.

Actual t-shirt I got at the concert. 18+ years later, it's still one of my favorites.

Actual t-shirt I got at the concert. 18+ years later, it’s still one of my favorites.

6/2/95

Radiohead. Ah Radiohead.

Wearing the t-shirt as I write this. We got to Tramps fairly early (20-30 minutes). There were already people lined up against the partition (that metal thing between the stage and us with a gap to catch crowd surfers and such) so I was at least going to be in the second row. Then a guy in front of me left and there I was, holding on to the metal bar with an unblocked view of the stage.

David Gray (the opener) wasn’t too bad; played a little too long, though.

They made announcements of upcoming shows at Tramps and when they said Afghan Whigs I positively freaked out.

Radiohead came out later, started out w/”The Bends.” I was between [facing] Thom and gorgeous guitarist Jonny Greenwood. They were great. I didn’t even notice the absence of “Stop Whispering” until Anita mentioned it on the way home. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” was wonderful.   

Radiohead Tramps 1995 Set List

I’ve still kept the set list, too.

I asked a roadie walking around onstage if they gave out drumsticks and he said only if they’re broken. Then he went looking for one w/a flashlight around the drum kit. He came back, trying to hold the drumstick by his side so as to hide it and said, “sh…” as he handed it over to me. This guy next to me (not the set list guy) asked if he could touch it and I let him.

Then Anita and I just walked around Tramps a little until I spotted an Afghan Whigs poster. I ran over and started spazzing about how much I had to go. This really stoned blond guy who was standing there jumped up and took the poster down, handing it to me. I thanked him profusely for it and then he started saying how he wanted it. No matter, it’s mine, I’m going to hang it up along with my set list which was autographed but I’m getting to that.

As we kept walking (still inside) I spotted a roadie who had hit his head earlier while setting up for Radiohead. I started talking to him and he was really nice (had a very cool accent), pretty cute too. He let it slip that the band would be coming back here in about 8 weeks. Then Anita saw Jonny on stage and I rushed over calling his name.

He came down to the gap between the gate and the stage and shook our hands. He’s quite beautiful, amazing bone structure. He signed my set list. Then I spotted the bassist, his brother Colin, all the way on the other side. He signed my set list too.

It was a glorious night, a most amazing concert experience. Hope I have this much luck at the Whigs show (please oh please let Greg be very social and hang out afterwards).

I’m going to put the drumstick (not broken at all but sort of gnawed-at looking) near Trent’s guitar pick. The set list will be hung up near the autographed Sponge flat. I’ll be able to open up my own museum w/all this stuff soon!

What can I possibly add to this thorough account?

I have to admit, I still hold it as a point of pride that I got to see Radiohead so early on in their career, at such a small venue. Total capacity for Tramps was around 1,000 people but it felt even smaller that that, like you were watching a show in somebody’s basement. But then to be in the first row of people, too, was just incredible. I don’t think I ever saw a band perform at a better venue in the ’90s, at least in terms of intimacy.

And it was definitely memorable show in terms of getting not only a great piece of memorabilia but having two members of the band sign it, too. And it’s awesome to be able to have an account of the songs they performed that night. The letters at the bottom stood for the four songs they performed as the encore: “You”, “Bulletproof..I Wish I Was”*, and “Street Spirit.”

I don’t think I ever could have predicted Radiohead would have become as big as they were. I would have guessed they’d go the way of Belly or Catherine Wheel, moderately successful for a time, a decent amount of MTV and radio play for a couple of years and then a fade into obscurity. I certainly wouldn’t have expected their music to take such an odd and esoteric turn after that concert and yet still continue to grow their fan base.    

In any event, if I could have created a blueprint for the perfect concert when I was 17-years-old, seeing Radiohead at Tramps would be the closest thing to matching it.  

* I only just noticed that the song title is missing an extra period in the ellipsis and I’m trying not to let that drive me crazy.

[May, 1995] Not Just The Weather

December 29, 2013 8 comments
paris texas wim wenders

I watched this again recently (all the way through this time) and it really is excellent.

5/12/95

I feel like hell. I don’t know what this is but last night this odd fatigue came over me and I got a sore throat. My throat’s better now but I still feel strange.

I saw “Paris, Texas” last night, but only really paid attention to the last hour, which was really good. I’ll have to see it again some time. And I want to still see “Until the end of the World” as well as any other Wim Wenders movies (films actually because they’re too deep to just be called movies) that I missed.

This is a bad day. Two more classes left and chorus (don’t think I’ll sing today though).

“We scratch our eternal itch
our twentieth century bitch
and we are grateful for our iron lung” – Radiohead

Reviewed The Bends for the Observer. Raved about it.

I think I want to see “Wings of Desire” again. I’m sort of in the mood for it.

I’m reading The Bell Jar which my English teacher said would fry my brain. That, combined with getting 3 more Cure tapes isn’t the best thing for lightening up my mood. I think it’s just the weather.

Warning: This book *will* fry your brain.

Warning: This book *will* fry your brain.

It wasn’t just the weather.

I still vividly remember my English teacher’s warning about the book and how I dismissed it. After all, this was the same teacher who did not give good grades on papers that disagreed with his viewpoints and managed to ruin  The Great Gatsby for me (luckily I reread it again years later and it became a favorite). So I was looking for a reason to contradict him and was determined to enjoy the novel without absorbing any of its darkness. That didn’t work out so well, though, and I still slipped into a depression for a good week or two. Though watching a sad movie like Paris, Texas (even if only the second half) and listening to lots of The Cure probably contributed to that some.

[I just need to pause here to comment on my use of the word “film” over “movie.” While I still make that distinction from time to time, I cringe at the way I corrected myself in this journal entry. This is me rolling my eyes at my pretentious teenage self.]

While I could never read The Bell Jar again knowing what it did to me, it wouldn’t be the last time that my emotional state would be profoundly affected by something I read, watched, or listened to. I saw Requiem for a Dream in the theaters and cried for days. When the DVD came out, I watched it again and was plunged into another depression and finally made the connection.

Maybe it’s the mark of a work of greatness or maybe I’m just too damn empathic. Either way, I always find it remarkable when a creative work could provoke such an intense emotional response. And while I still find a natural allure to dark and disturbing things, sometimes I have to proceed with caution so that I don’t end up in my own bell jar again.

[May, 1995] Awards and the Road to Gothdom

December 8, 2013 2 comments
...

5/5/95

Wow. I won a Gold Award in that contest. I’m going to Washington D.C. to read an excerpt from my story at the library of congress. June 17 (Saturday) there will also be an awards ceremony. The awards will be mailed to the winners by the early summer. I think that means moolah. A scholarship maybe. I still can’t believe it. This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, winning a National award in a writing contest. Maybe this means I’ll have a good shot at Emerson’s writing scholarship. It’s so great how my parents are leaving this entire college thing to me. I have yet to find a more perfect school for me than Emerson. I think it would be a cool place for Tim too.

The writing award was a pretty big deal and just the affirmation I needed as an aspiring writer. I don’t remember whether I got any scholarship money, though since I was light on extracurricular activities, it was a nice thing to add to my college applications. But I cared less about that as much as this was an indicator that writing was something I was decent at and should stick with. I’ve gone back and forth on that matter in the years since, but at seventeen it was an unexpected and flattering accolade.

It’s funny how I glaze over the parental college issue, because while my mother supported my liberal arts trajectory, my father wanted me to apply to Ivy League schools and refused support unless I was either pre-law or pre-med. As a struggling immigrant, he wanted me to pursue a lucrative career, whereas my mother wanted me to pursue what made me happy.

By the '90s, Robert Smith should have probably started looking into a different look...

By the ’90s, Robert Smith should have probably started looking into a different look…

I told Anita that when the Cure tour again (and since there will be a new album in September that may be soon) we will dress up as major goths and go (It will be so great I can’t even wait!). It will be even more fun than doing the stuff for the NIN-turned-Killing Joke show. I’m getting a lot more into the Cure (talk about them more, want more albums), I’m beginning to also get that feeling again, the same one I had with U2 and NIN. I think that Tim has (at least partially) converted me. Well I have to wait a while to see the effect it has on me.

“I’m bent out of shape desperate to whine screaming so loud that I don’t make a sound
strung out on speed maxed out on lies I know you’re to blame but I can’t say why.” – Moist

I love that quote and wrote it down even though its sentiment doesn’t express my current mood. I feel kind of hyper.

(What I really love is  how I totally missed the reference to methamphetamine in the song lyric, while saying it didn’t match my own hyper mood.)

The musical evolution was well under way, as was the continued flirtation with gothdom.

I was fascinated by the punk and goth subcultures much more than the grunge scene that was emblematic of the 1990s, but I had long since realized I didn’t belong with the punks. And while I loved the goth aesthetic, I was naturally an upbeat optimistic person, and I loved colors, so I didn’t think I’d be suited to the black-black-always-black gloomy world of the gothic people. I also wasn’t familiar with the music beyond the popular bands that fell into the genre’s fold like the Cure, Nine Inch Nails (more industrial, but related) and Cocteau Twins. I also didn’t want to come across as a poseur like I thought Claudia did to me with the punk scene, so I was cautious making any firmly committed affiliations.

One of the most underrated albums of the '90s.

One of the most underrated albums of the ’90s.

I also had it in my head that being goth meant listening to nothing but gothic music, and I still had numerous other bands I listened to (apart from U2) like Belly, Radiohead, Afghan Whigs, and more obscure gems I was happy to discover, like the Canadian band I quoted above, Moist. Terrible name, but their album Silver was an immense discovery to me, full of sharp guitars, vocals on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and lyrics worth scrawling on classroom desks. Being a fan of such an unknown band was both a blessing and a curse, because on one hand they felt like my special secret, but on the other hand, I wanted them to find wider appreciation so that they could tour and release more albums.

And there was also that ambivalent desire for a band to be popular, but not too popular. Belly struck the right balance: they toured small enough venues but had a decent following. But Radiohead… well, I don’t need to tell you about them.

[April, 1995] Belly in Concert (Radiohead in the House)

October 14, 2013 1 comment

4/10/95

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.

April 20, 1995

April 20, 1995

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. 

 

[February, 1995] Radiohead Early Adopter

December 2, 2012 6 comments

“We scratch our eternal itch, a twentieth century bitch…”

2/12/95

Did the Village thing with Anita Saturday. Got neon yellow mascara, some more new music (finally got Dandelion, great CD), old clothes and other random stuff (expensive habit, but the high lasts longer and has no side effects really).

Anita got a Radiohead EP that was released last year called “My Iron Lung.” We listened to it when we got back to my house and I loved it. (She’s smitten with Blur, by the way).

I decided we need a hangout, so next time we go [to the Village] we’ll hunt down a coffee shop or something like that.

Finally got NIN Demos & Remixes. Funny stuff. “ringfinger” used to be a song called “twist” which has this whole spoken word interlude (which includes Trent saying “is this thing on?”).

WDRE is playing “supernaut” which is long, screamy and wonderful. Glad I have it on CD.

How am I going to work out this Mercer thing?…

[First off, I realize that “expensive habit” line insinuates that that “random stuff” makes it sound like I bought drugs, which is absolutely, positively not the case. The miscellaneous items were probably things like stickers with band logos or the latest issue of SPIN magazine. Just want to clear the record on that point.]

When it comes to music, I’ll be the first to admit that I am usually late to the party. I often get into a band after they’ve broken up or (and this may be even worse) already toured for their best album (Nine Inch Nails and The Self-Destruct tour being a noteworthy exception). Shameful as this is to confess, I’ve even discovered “new” music from car commercials.

One band I take pride in loving from their very first album is Radiohead. “Creep” was good, but I adored all of Pablo Honey, which I owned on cassette (to this day, I can’t believe “Stop Whispering” and “Anyone Can Play Guitar” weren’t huge hits, the latter not even released as a single). I listened to Radiohead’s debut album and Belly’s Star non-stop during my sophomore year of high school and even think of the two as companion albums in a way. Both had their moments of darkness, sweetness, strangeness, and catchy pop. Both will forever musically represent 1993 for me.

Radiohead’s second album, The Bends, wasn’t coming out until March (spoiler alert: there’s an upcoming diary entry expounding on it), so we were happy to have this EP to tide us over until then. The second track on it, “The Trickster,” is one of my favorite Radiohead songs to this day (if you like the band but haven’t heard it, go download it NOW; I won’t even be offended if you don’t read the rest of this entry in your rush to own this terrific tune).

It was around this time, Anita’s musical tastes and my own began to diverge. She was gradually adopting more Brit-pop and, later on, indie music, whereas I was headed for a gloomier alternative sound that would eventually (and unsurprisingly) lead to the world of goth. In the meantime, Radiohead was the perfect bridge that fulfilled our joint musical needs, balancing mood with melody, quirkiness with accessibility.

I still listen to Radiohead today. Considering my history is studded with questionable music taste, it’s nice to have a band like this to balance out the scales.

[December, 1994] WDRE and G.O.D.

12/18/94

“See faces frozen still against the wind” – U2

Ellis Island was not the huge bore I expected it to be. Mom and I had an… interesting train adventure on the way back. The blind leading the blind.

“Glitter Over Disintegration” is the title I decided upon. I made it an acronym on purpose (sort of). This one moved along fairly quickly. It’s relieving to know I can write outside of life experiences.

Anita and I have already scheduled our first trip to the Village, this Friday. I want these next 4 days to be over with more than anything. Anita heard that Larry Mullen Jnr was at the DRE acoustic Christmas concert. It’s a little frustrating, yes, but it just wasn’t meant to be, like with the backstage passes.

I’m in the process of dying my hair (reddish-blond, so the box says). “That tingly feeling means it’s working.”

“Destiny protect me from the world” – Radiohead (one of the bands at the DRE thing)

WDRE was a fantastic radio station based out of Long Island that used to be known as WLIR. It was known as the listening destination for alternative music, but balanced the more popular bands at the time like Green Day, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots with 80’s alternative that was rarely heard on other stations, like The Smiths, early Cure, and Madness. Back in the day, radio stations used to give out concert tickets, usually to the caller that corresponded to the station’s ID (i.e. Z100 awarded its 100th caller). I wore out my phone’s redial button trying to win all kinds of tickets, but unfortunately, I was never lucky when it came to shows I really wanted to see, like the DRE Christmas concert. Instead, I won tickets for artists/bands I had no interest in, like Barenaked Ladies and Paul Weller. In fact, I won Paul Weller tickets twice and didn’t go to the show either time. I listened to DRE in the last years of its heyday, because a couple of years later it switched format to adult contemporary, which made me pretty much give up on radio.

boat trip, anyone?

 “Glitter Over Disintegration” was about a couple, Rob and Tera, trying to have a picnic on a boat, except for the threat of “shadows” which periodically appear to Rob and slowly drain his humanity. It was my none-too-subtle metaphor for depression. Here’s an excerpt from the last page:

I sank my teeth into my lip to hold back the rising bile and hysteria. Each time the shadows came they took a little bit more of Rob, leaving me with less to look after. I hated compensating for this gradual annihilation.

I reached my arm out but he wouldn’t let me touch him. The gnawing of my frustrated teeth cracked open my thin skin and blood poured over my lip and chin, leaving both wet and sticky. I sat back and lifted my tired eyes when—

It was as if ink was slowly staining the sky, pretty blue being eaten by darkness. The trees shriveled, becoming ash, and the water coagulated into murky gelatinous lumps. The boat spiraled into different directions, pieces of it chipping off and flying into the blackness. I started to scream then abruptly stopped when Rob took my hand. The sadness in his soft face became a resigned fear as he placed his other hand around our wrists.

We kissed as the pandemonium crashed down on us.

Reading that last line so many years later makes me chuckle at all the intense drama I was trying to invoke.

The story was inspired by Tim Wunderlich, a pen pal whose acquaintance I made via a friendship book. Tim was an alternative kid living in a small town full of people who were intolerant of him. Whether it was circumstance, biology or a bit of both, Tim had some pretty intense depressive episodes. His negative rants at the world worried me, but also added to his mystique. And also made me determined (let’s say it all together now) to be the one to save him.  Of course, sometimes my optimism just couldn’t withstand his pessimism and his letters left me depressed, but the good kind of depressed where I was able to channel it into fiction, even if it does read more than a bit melodramatic today.

[December, 1994] Writing Exercise: A Musical Portrait

The red spiral notebook was a journal started out of a requirement for a creative writing class. I usually didn’t use it for the actual writing assignments, but the one below somehow got included.

The assignment was to pick someone in the room, and write a detailed description of them. Then some of the students read their descriptions out loud and the rest of us tried to guess the subject. We weren’t given any restrictions on what we could write apart from not using the person’s name. I looked around the room for potential subjects but then decided to write about myself. Go vain 16-year-old me! Now I kind of cringe at my teenage self-centeredness, but am also glad for the verbal time capsule. Then I actually read through it and cringe again.

[12/5/1994 – WRITING EXERCIZE]

[To this day, I intuitively misspell “exercise” because it seems wrong for the word not to have a “z” in it.]

She has long brown hair that ends 3 inches above her waist. She has been growing it for almost 3 ½ years. She has medium brown eyes (not too large or small) and rather thick eyelashes. Her lips are kind of small, she wishes they were fuller but she wears dark lipstick most of the time anyway. Her eyebrows are slightly arched and she plucks them.

[And let’s not forget that the haircut I was growing out was inspired from Chynna Phillips from Wilson Phillips, and necessitated by the need to get rid of the last dregs of a bad perm. Though let’s be honest, is there really such a thing as a good perm?]

She loves music and is always wearing a band shirt (usually U2 or Nine Inch Nails). Speaking of NIN, she’s unbelievable excited about the concert in 2 days. She’s going with her friend Claudia and then Friday with Claudia again and Salli too. This concert is something she has been looking forward to for over a month.

She’s really happy that her best friend Anita got Pretty Hate Machine a few days ago. They tried to listen to it in sync (over the phone) but it didn’t work. Amita is the one who got her started on U2 (which many people were ready to murder Anita for later on).

[I remember that Pretty Hate Machine listening party quite well. I had the cassette and I’m pretty sure Anita did, too. We were gradually incorporating CD’s into our music libraries during our village outings, but it would be a while before compact discs outnumbered our tapes. Anyway, we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone trying to press Play at exactly the same time, but the whirring electronic beats of “head like a hole” always started just a little bit sooner for one of us. No matter how many times we rewound and tried it again, we couldn’t get the music to sync up perfectly. I think we still listened to the whole album over the phone, most likely peppered with my enthused and worshipful commentary.]

One of the few U2 shirts I still own. Goes for $50-$80 on eBay!

Since that summer just two years ago she has accumulated quite a lot of U2 stuff. Sometimes, when she can’t sleep, she’ll go over her U2 collection in her head and has estimated it is worth $850 at face value (she underestimates these things though). 

[Some people count sheep, I counted 7″ and 9″ records, bootlegs, books, magazines, and other scraps of fandom. I still have a box of memorabilia at my mom’s place, though I don’t think it’s worth is going to surpass my 401K any time soon.]

U2 have greatly inspired this person, giving her the words she lives by “dream out loud.” She has learned to accept this part of herself, this “U2-ism” and has come to terms with it in a healthy way (this NIN thing on the other hand…). She now puts together a U2 ‘zine “Faraway, So Close!” that has been doing pretty well (she hopes to complete the second issue over winter break). She’s planning a big trip to Dublin after she graduates and doesn’t really expect to meet any members of the band (such as her favorite, drummer Larry Mullen Jnr) but if she does happen to run into them…so much the better. 

[For the record, I made it through all of my various music obsessions without a single restraining order.]

One more U2 thing, she has met lots of people through penpal listings and such and so now she is in the “U2 network” and has been for over 6 months.

She wants to see if there’s some NIN network (there is On-line, but she’s not with all that).

[Remember when the Internet was this thing you could simply choose not to be part of? No doubt many of you do not.]

She thinks Trent Reznor (who writes, arranges, and performs all NIN songs, hiring people to help during tours) is one of the (if not the) most talented, fascinating people she’s ever known of. His music is so dark and scares so many people (good!) but she finds great strength and expression in it.

This is what you find when you search for a photo of Tori Amos and Trent Reznor together.

She also loves Tori Amos and if you’d ask her who she would like to trade places with right now, she’d say Tori.

[Probably because she was creative and quirky and likely got it on with Trent Reznor.]

Then there are so many other artists and bands she listens to, like The Trash Can Sinatras for the beautiful, tuneful songs. Then there’s Afghan Whigs, Moist, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam for their melodic anger. Also Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead for the “guitar-driven angst.” And Belly and Liz Phair because she, well she just likes their songs.

[And somehow I never got that music journalist career off the ground…]

While this is in no way a complete portrait of her it is a near-complete musical portrait.

[And a somewhat dull and pretentious one at that, so if you made it all the way through, you deserve a cookie.]