Today, I’m going to forgo the whole “if you only listen to one song” thing. Instead, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane to February of 1993. It’s a story that I used to tell all the time, and it involves some of my favorite all-time bands. And my favorite all-time concert experience.
People who know me in person, and especially people who have known me for ten years or more have probably heard parts of this story. I’ve even written about it before on a different blog here. Rather than simply cut and paste the whole blog post, I’ll tell it again, with a couple of details added, and some others omitted.
My desire to retell this story got started because earlier today, I was wearing a very old school t-shirt that I’ve had for 24 years. A t-shirt that I got the very first time I saw Throwing Muses play. It was during the The Real Ramona tour. To be exact, it was June 7, 1991 at the now defunct 1313 Club in Charlotte, NC. Anastasia Screamed was the opening band that night. Although I didn’t know it at the time, they were practically the permanent support act for Throwing Muses. I had never heard of them at the time, and I had forgotten all about them until just now.
Anyway, I was wearing that The Real Ramona t-shirt, and posted a photo of myself in it to my social media pages. This sparked a conversation with some of my friends that ultimately led to the story about the (second) time that I saw The Sundays.
Way back in February of 1993, during the golden age of indie rock, I was a junior in college and a very active member of the college radio station. WQFS, Greensboro. 90.9 FM. “Your ONLY alternative”. Most of my good friends were also very active members of the radio station. In fact, all of us would eventually, in some capacity, be managers of the radio station. Back when it was still done for the love of it. These days, kids get academic credit or even a small stipend for doing the same.
We were all very much into The Sundays, and when they came to Chapel Hill in support of their album Blind, it was a no-brainer that we would all go. It was on a Friday night. February 19, 1993, to be exact. We bought tickets and piled a bunch of guys into a car for the short drive to Chapel Hill. Luna was the support act, playing to promote their debut album Lunapark. I don’t think any of us knew at the time that Luna rose from the ashes of Galaxie 500, and none of us had much interest in seeing them. I had played the song “Slash Your Tires” on my radio show, but I didn’t know anything about them. But that night wasn’t about Luna. It was about The Sundays. And because we were all heterosexual young men, it was about the chance to see the radiant Harriet Wheeler front that band. She was, and probably still is (even as she’s about to turn 52) as hot as the sun. As I used to say, “as hot as 12 suns”.
We packed ourselves as close to the front of stage as we could, and we had a very good time. Luna played a great opening set which ended with a cover of the Beat Happening song “Indian Summer”, and The Sundays exceeded all of our expectations. It was a night to remember. One of those “I recall the first time I saw ______” events. At one point, someone in the crowd shouted out “Harriet, you’re the spawn of Aphrodite”, which was hilarious. Because of her in-ear monitors, she didn’t even hear it. The rest of the band had a chuckle about it, and immediately carried on.
After the show was over, we did what we always did, and what I still do to this day. We lingered around for the chance to say hello to the band. We waited in the hallway by the dressing room. And waited. And waited. We heard that they were on their bus, so we went outside by the bus, where we and many others were met by some giant lummoxy guy named Scott. I don’t know if he was their tour manager or the bus driver or what, but he informed the small crowd that the band wouldn’t be meeting any fans and that we really needed to leave. So we did, cursing Scott’s name the whole time.
Because some of us bought tour shirts, we noticed that the next stop on the tour was in Norfolk, Virginia. That show doesn’t show up on this site, but it definitely happened. As it turns out, one of the guys from my crowd had an uncle living near Norfolk who worked in concert promotion. As a shot in the dark, Reid called his uncle to ask if his firm was promoting that show. Indeed they were. Without even asking for it, Reid’s uncle told us that we could come up there and go to the show on his dime. Or his company’s dime, anyway.
We packed the same lot of guys plus a couple more into two cars and made the 4 hour drive to Norfolk. Reid’s uncle offered not only to get us into the show at the now defunct The Boathouse, but also to put us up at his house. And take us to dinner. And, amazingly, get us backstage passes. I never did remove the credential sticker from its backing. Here it is.
The show was exactly the same as the one in Chapel Hill. Amazing. Breathtaking. Fever-inducing.
After the show, we didn’t really know what we were supposed to do. We had all interviewed bands before, but that was always done between soundcheck and the show. We’d never been to a fancy “backstage” event. We found someone who sent us in the right direction, and we apprehensively went to the “secure” area. Just outside the “secure” area, we met a teenaged girl without credentials who asked us to deliver something to Luna frontman Dean Wareham. We agreed, and in we went.
The backstage area was larger than we were expecting, and we had no idea what the protocol was, but we wanted to make good on the promise to deliver that item to Dean Wareham. We found him, introduced ourselves, congratulated him on a good set, told him about the girl, and handed him the item. It was a carrot wrapped by a two page hand-written note written on loose leaf notebook paper. The whole thing was bound with string. He accepted this “gift” and read the first part of the note aloud to us. It opened with “I listen to your music every night while I’m in bed. Your songs come to me while I’m sleeping” The carrot was no longer “weird”. It was disgusting. He didn’t read any further, and he dropped the carrot on the floor. I don’t even remember seeing Dean for the rest of the night. I recalled this story to my friends today, one of my co-conspirators from that night said “He probably wondered who was weirder: the girl who wanted to give him the carrot, or the random dudes who were entrusted with it”.
We’d come through on our promise to deliver the note to Dean, but we didn’t know what we were supposed to do at that point. We sort of moved to one corner of the room and looked at ourselves for a few minutes. Were we allowed to eat the food? Were we supposed to be mingling with other back-stagers? The members of The Sundays entered the room, and with no provocation, David Gavurin walked straight up to me and pointed to my Throwing Muses shirt and said “Throwing Muses? Fucking brilliant”. It was a different shirt to the one I was wearing today. That night, I was wearing the shirt from the Red Heaven tour. Anyway, Gavurin broke the ice and eased our trepidation by commenting on my shirt. I’d already met lots of musicians before, but this was the first time, and remains the only time that I was sort of star-struck. It was much easier after that ice was broken.
We hung out for what seemed like a couple of hours, meeting some of the other fans backstage. A couple of girls who had traveled from the UK to follow the band on the US tour. A twelve year old boy who was learning the drums because he loved The Sundays so much. A few others. At one point, Gavurin and I were talking about the state of live music. Back then, moshing and stage diving were all the rage. You saw those things even at the most relaxed shows. Somebody said they’d heard that people were even stage diving at Slowdive shows. To that, Gavurin brilliantly replied, “If you stage dive at a Slowdive concert, it’s really got to be a SLOW dive”.
Eventually, the night came to an end. The band had a hard and fast rule that no fan could take a picture of themselves with Harriet. That makes sense. Although they had no rules about taking a photo with the whole band, and even though I had my camera, I didn’t get a picture of me with the band. I got loads of pictures of the band, though. The one here is a pretty good one. I just wish that my pals and I were also in the picture. I also got some great autographs on my Blind booklet. Earlier in the night, I had asked them about the “Spawn of Aphrodite” comment in Chapel Hill, and they made a play on that when they signed their names. Click on the image of the cd booklet at the top of this post to enlarge the pic. You’ll see that David Gavurin signed it “David (Venus)”, bassist Paul Brindley signed it “Paul (Penus)” (sic), Harriet Wheeler signed it “Harriet (Anus)”, and drummer Patch Hannon signed it “Patrick”. For 20 years, that was my favorite bit of signed memorabilia. A couple of years ago, I asked Sharon Van Etten to sign the Tramp booklet, and she drew a portrait of me. That kind of took over as my favorite thing.
After those two shows, and the experience of meeting The Sundays, I was floating on air for a couple of weeks. I told the story a lot, and people got really tired of hearing it.