I saw Dead Meadow, stoner rock merchants from Washington DC, twice inside a week back '03; they were supporting Super Furry Animals and I was a big fan of the Welsh combo back then. The first gig was in the splendour of a disused cinema somewhere in the nether regions of Newport. The venue was like a concrete barn with added piss but somehow suited the general air of ennui that constantly hovers over that particular South Wales town. Having downed a few beers, I roamed the empty spaces on the floor, bumping into a few friends along the way but the loud psychedelic drone coming from the stage was causing some sort of disconnect in my psyche, so conversations were brief and I'd be off on walkabout, soaking up the noise but not making all that much sense of it. Whatever, in these particular circumstances, it all kind of fitted the mood.
A few days later, with my old buddy Martyn, I crossed into England and caught the whole thing again. Sober and in the slightly more refined surroundings of the Bristol Colston Hall (only slightly), they just sounded like mud. I'm still not entirely sure what to make of them.
I'm wary of adding to the wall to wall coverage and pained liberal analysis that the death of Mr. Mandela is engendering today but I don't suppose my few words can add up to very much in the great scheme. We've already seen Cameron jumping on the tribute bandwagon: I wonder where he was during the days of anti-Apartheid protest? Slumming it with the Bullingdon Club up in Oxford? I only use our Prime Minister as one example of the handwringing we're going to get now - they'll all be at it - the BBC haven't talked about anything else on the news since last night. The world continues to be full of inequality but at least Nelson Mandela stood up more bravely for what he believed in than any other politician I could ever imagine. He was, without doubt, a great chap but not a saint. RIP, sir. The struggle to rid the world of madness goes on.
There are not many gigs where I have walked out on the main act. I'm one of those who, no matter how bad things are, I usually stick it out to the bitter end. Its a bit like watching your team desperately try to scramble for an injury time equaliser even though you know it's not coming; you hold on to the final whistle and then regret the rush for the bus later. I will sheepishly admit that I did walk out of an Aztec Camera gig in 1984 even though I was very much into them and, in truth, they probably weren't all that bad that night. No, it was mainly because me and my mate were going through a phase when beer was even more important to us and these were still the days when last orders was called by 10.30 pm. Pretty sad, eh? In my defence, Roddy and the boys were promoting their second album, Knife, which wasn't a patch on High Land, Hard Rain and had the added disadvantage of being produced by Mark Knopfler.
Another reason for flouncing out on Mr. Frame's band (deduct points from us for being very near the front as well) may have been because the support act was Australia's finest, The Go-Betweens? How can anyone follow that? Mr. McLennan and Mr. Forster and co. had recently released the great Spring Hill Fair (1984) but whey were they still a 'support' band? Destined to be forever the bridesmaid, The Go-Betweens were absolute proof that there is no justice in this world. Totally wonderful.
By 1976/77 I'd entered that very confused phase for genuine music lovers where we still had much love for our 'old school' hard, heavy and prog rock styles but also knew that the tide that was coming to sweep them away was oh so necessary and genuinely exciting. I believe it was sometime in early '77 that I took myself along to see prog rock behemoths, Rush, play in support of their album, A Farewell to Kings. I'm not going to deny it, this was a record I'd been enjoying greatly and had heard that the band had a good live reputation, so was looking forward to the smoke and mirrors of slightly right wing Canadian pomposity. Somewhat perversely, Rush were being supported on their schlep around the UK by pub rockers, the Tyla Gang, led by the mildly threatening presence of former Ducks Deluxe guitarist/vocalist, Sean Tyla. I don't recall their brand of back to basics boogie going down all that well but they made a few of us remember it was time to dump the flares and hair and get with the program. It wasn't long before the Rush collection was sent on its way to the second hand record shop.
This is the first in an occasional series (not sure how many 'occasional series' I've started here but some may actually keep going one day) that feature the sounds of artists I have seen over the years in the role of 'support act'. I'm not going to claim I ever saw the Pistols supporting Bazooka Joe or The Beatles under the bill with Roy Orbison; most of the support bands I have happened to have caught in the past nigh-on 40 years have been largely indifferent, possibly best forgotten. However, I do sometimes wonder what ever became of the likes of Unicorn, Glenn Phillips, Erin McKeown, Pan Ram, Moon, The Questions etc. etc. and the very many others I have completely forgotten about. The truth is that, in the main, I couldn't wait for them to get off the stage. The role of the support artist can be a thankless task, having to put up with indifference or even outright hostility from an audience that really don't want them there at all but I have been fortunate to see a few memorable acts and even the some of the not so memorable have a place in my heart. First, to get us started in a positive manner, here's The Only Ones, who I saw supporting Television in 1978, with one of their best songs from their debut LP. What I most remember about them at that time was Peter Perrett's whole 'couldn't give a fuck' attitude, which actually did come over as pretty cool rather than arrogant. I suppose they had the tunes to back it up. Elegantly wasted.
Opening track from debut album by A Hawk and a Hacksaw, a vehicle for the Eastern European neo-traditionalist minimalist folk experimentation of New Mexican accordion player Jeremy Barnes (formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel) and violinist Heather Trost. Their eponymous first record was also the soundtrack to the documentary film, Zizek!which examines the work of psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek.
Late sixties US electro pioneers, Silver Apples, released but two albums in the first phase of their musical lifetime; 'A Pox On You' can be found on their second LP, Contact (1969). The group recommenced activities in the 90's following a revival of interest in their work and continue today basically as a solo project of electronics man, Simeon.
'A Pox On You' is one those tunes that one turns to when certain others come to mind. Take your pick.