The first time I heard Nevermind by Nirvana

     My dad and I were sitting in the den watching MTV and Enter Sandman by Metallica came on. He exclaimed, "I love his song... and this video is great." I didn't expect my dad to be into a Metallica song and I was trying to take that in when he continued, "... and there's this other video I love, a band from Seattle." "Soundgarden?" I asked. "No." He had seen a special on the Seattle scene and although Soundgarden was featured, he told me about this other band that he thought was going to be huge. Then, like clockwork, Smells Like Teen Spirit came on.
     Soon after, I went up to Middle Earth records, where I used to buy all my punk and hardcore cassettes back in the day. As it turned out, the record had been released a few days earlier and they were already sold out of it. So that weekend I took a trip to the mall to hit Sam Goody. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money to afford it. $17.99 for a cd in 1991 seemed excessive... so I convinced my friend Nick to buy it.
     We made the trip back home with our friend Tom and I was more than a little bit anxious to throw that cd in when we got back to his house. But when we got home, he said he told our friend Taylor we would stop by. This was killing me inside. But today, I was following that disc wherever it was going. So we (or as Taylor so aptly put it, every tom, nick and owen) went to Taylor's house and it took me a total of about 3 seconds to ask her if she had a cd player. "Yes, in my room, but my little brother is in there playing Sega genesis" Before she could say anything else, I was playing Bonk's adventure with Wesley blasting Teen Spirit. Then In Bloom blew my mind. These guys were like a heavier version of The Beatles. As Come As You Are segued into Breed, I remember thinking that friends of mine that are into Depeche Mode are gonna like this, people into Pink Floyd will like this, metalheads will like this, punks will like this. This was an album with no boundaries. Lithium started and I knew I had a new favorite song. That's when Nick popped in and declared how much he liked it. "Yeah," I replied, "each song is better than the last. It's unbelievable" And that trend continued through Polly, Territorial Pissings and Drain You. Three songs completely different sonically, but also painting a cohesive picture bringing me everywhere I needed to go. Lounge Act. Okay, NOW I've officially got a new favorite song. Still, my favorite 2:37 seconds ever put to tape. From there, the perfect ending. Stay Away and On a Plain, two power pop masterpieces, sounding as if The Smithereens were really pissed off about something. Krist and Dave really shine on those two, and after stripping it back down to Kurt's impeccable songwriting for Something in the Way, I was left utterly speechless.
     That day probably meant very little to Nick, Tom and Taylor, but it was one of the most important days of my life. 20 years later, I am a much different person than I was before that day. Music suddenly became my whole life. A friend once told me that I'm really hard to please, except when it comes to music. To me, that couldn't be further from the truth. I think the main reason I seek out so many bands and listen to so much music is because I am hard to please. I've continued searching for the feeling that record gave me the first time I heard it, and while I've discovered some amazing bands who put out great albums, It has never come even close to the euphoria I felt that September day.
     So thank you Nick Apicella for buying the cd, thank you Tom Randberg for getting your mom to pick us up from the mall, thank you Taylor Scarborough for letting me use your stereo, thank you Wesley for letting me play Bonk with you, thank you Dad for being a rocker for life, and most importantly, thank you Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl for Nevermind.


Nirvana & The Jesus Lizard

18 years ago today

July 23, 1993. I was more excited than I'd ever been in my entire life. It had been announced just a day earlier that Nirvana and The Jesus Lizard would be playing at Roseland in New York City as part of the New Music Seminar. There were no radio announcements, no big ad campaign, it was just quietly added to ticketmaster's concert listings and there was a small ad in the village voice. I found out thanks to a phone call from a friend and somehow managed to get a ticket.

Nirvana had not played New York since becoming overnight sensations, and this would be my first chance to see my favorite band, and in a venue that I love. By then, almost two years after the release of Nevermind, I assumed that by the time I got to see them play live, if ever, it would be in some enormous arena, where they would look like pebbles on a beach and I'd have to struggle to hear them over the tens of thousands singing along off-key. But this was exactly what I wanted. Witnessing the power of Nirvana in the same place I'd seen Mudhoney and The Flaming Lips and Screaming Trees. I had also yet to see The Jesus Lizard live, so I was doubly excited.

We got inside and within seconds, we were right up front, being crushed against the barricade. A small price to pay to watch two of the greatest rock bands ever. The Jesus Lizard came on stage, with mad-man vocalist David Yow declaring, 'Hi, we're The Melvins from Seattle'. They then busted into Seasick, and Yow proceeded to jump on our heads, performing the majority of the set crawling on our hands and heads like a drunk looking for a barstool. And what a set it was.

Deaf as a Bat
If You Had Lips
One Evening
Then Comes Dudley
Dancing Naked Ladies

Then Nirvana hit the stage. The show was meant to showcase new songs from their yet to be released album, In Utero, most of which they had only played out a few times, if any. They opened with Serve the Servants and followed with Scentless Apprentice. From there, they tore through some classics. The place went crazy through School and Breed, and sang every lyric to Lithium and Come As You Are. Then they unveiled another new one, Milk It. For the next few songs, a guest was called to the stage. Big John Duncan, a Nirvana roadie and ex-guitarist with The Exploited strapped on a guitar and helped out on Drain You, tourretes, Aneurysm and the debut of Very Ape.

I wish I could say I witnessed the debut of Very Ape which, aside from Frances Farmer, is my favorite song on In Utero, but I just listened from a couch downstairs. I went a little nuts when they played Aneurysm and, knowing I was about to pass out, I somehow managed to break through the crowd, to the back, down the stairs and slumped into a couch. At the time, I could have sworn I was there for an hour, but months later, being the Nirvana bootleg collector that I was, I found a copy of the show and realized that I was out maybe 30 seconds. I made it back upstairs, got a coke, and watched them play Blew, Heart-Shaped Box and Rape Me from the back of the club. It's always nice to get two different perspectives at a show.  Now the weird thing about that bootleg that I found of this show is that there were a few floating around, and the one I got my hands on was absolutely, dead-on, my experience of the show. It was as if the person recording it had planted a mike on me. First of all, Aneurysm cuts out mid-song and the recording resumes at the beginning of Very Ape, but even more coincidentally, as Nirvana got to the newly added bridge for Rape Me, I started trying to get close to the stage again. Unfortunately, there wasn't much opportunity for that, and the closest I could get was on the right side, below the vip section. As they played All Apologies and the acoustic set, starting with Polly, Dumb and Something in the Way, all I could hear was Courtney Love blabbing away, telling people she wasn't Courtney, she was Tina Yothers from Family Ties, which you can also hear on the recording I found. You can also clearly hear me and a friend I had bumped into while trying to move up scream "Yeah" when they start Dumb, which was my favorite song at that moment in time.  

For the finale, they played Where Did You Sleep Last Night? live for the first time. Amazing.
For the encore, Teen Spirit and Endless Nameless.
18 years later, still the best night of my life.


June of 11

What a month. I can't remember another time in my life when I got to see so many and such diverse bands in a 1 month span. Though, if I go from the 15th to 15th from November to December of 94, I got to see Bikini Kill, Trenchmouth, Ween, Kyuss, Helmet, Today is the Day, Sick of it All, Quicksand, Orange 9mm, Die 116, The Metroschifter, Face To Face, Carrier (pre-Jimmy Eat World), The Jesus Lizard, Pegboy, Kepone, Shudder To Think and Sunny Day Real Estate. That was my introduction to going to shows solo, a past-time I've grown accustomed to since then. I was in my freshman year at ASU in Tempe, AZ, and up until that Bikini Kill show, I'd only gone to a few mediocre shows since moving there. I did not have a car and had thus far been relegated to shows that the few friends I had made would also be interested in. Then I realized that Boston's, a little dive bar that had all ages shows just about every night, was only about a 45 minute walk away. Kind of a hike, but in the Arizona weather, where it's 75 degrees at 9pm in November, I didn't mind at all. Besides, I was walking that far for decent pizza and chicken parm heroes anyway, why not for kick-ass rock and roll.

Going to shows alone became a ritual after that night. I met some great people, got to have conversations with both Kathleen Hanna and Fred Armisen, and felt an even more enhanced personal connection to the music. I went back the following night to see Ween and Kyuss, and got to talk to Josh Homme a little bit.  He went on and on about how amazing Ween was, but I just couldn't bring myself to stay through their whole set. I've always been a fan of their music, but at that moment, Kyuss was my favorite band in the world. And in my mind, no one could follow them.

So, anyway, June of 11. There was a re-united "classic line-up" version of Guided By Voices at McCarren Pool,  R. Stevie Moore at the Bell House, which I'll get to later,  as well as 'Bob and the Monster', a film on Thelonious Monster's Bob Forrest and the mid-80's L.A. underground rock scene, but I'll focus on June 11th.  I started the day, excited to see Adrian Belew for my first time. The waterfront shows in Williamsburg are always a good time and I've been a fan since the King Crimson days, so I was ecstatic.

Since he and his band were opening for Coheed & Cambria and the show was free, the line was around the corner, but I managed to get in just in time to catch the opener of his set. While I'm more a fan of his singer-songwriter material, his focus seemed to be the heavier prog-rock stuff, which was fine by me. Adrian was phenomenal as were bassist Julie Slick and new drummer Marco Minnemann. The highlights for me were Writing on the Wall, Three of a Perfect Pair and Dinosaur from the King Crimson songbook, and the title track from Belew's 1990 album, Young Lions.

I tried to tolerate Coheed & Cambria, and while musically, they were more interesting than I'd expected, the whiny vocals and lyrics seemingly stolen from a 13 year old girl's diary were just too much to overcome.

So I got out of there. On to Saint Vitus Bar.

With the night still young, I figured I'd head over to Greenpoint and check out a band I've been meaning to for a while now.


Grandfather first came to my attention about six months ago when they opened for Mission of Burma at Maxwell's.  I was planning on going to the show since I rarely miss Burma anytime they're within reasonable driving distance. Upon looking into Grandfather, I discovered that they recorded an album with Steve Albini that was available for free download on their website. I figured I would download the mp3's and eventually purchase the vinyl if I liked it. I suggest you all do the same. http://grandfathermusic.com/  I was basically impressed on every level, from the music to the artwork to just the way they present themselves, they seemed like a band that knows exactly what they're doing. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it that night, but knew I would make an effort to catch them as soon as possible.
I got there just in time to catch Your Skull My Closet, an energetic three-piece I'd never heard of and was thouroughly impressed. Great rock music a-la early QOTSA. Loved it.

Grandfather then came on and completely blew me away, total pros. Rock music the way it should be made; tight, heavy, challenging, artistic and completely original. I wouldn't call them derivative in any way, but they really harken back to some of the great bands of the 90's like Failure, Tool, Shellac, Chokebore and Quicksand. Not to date their sound either, it's just that artistic rock bands that are able to gracefully walk the line between heavy and ambient are all too rare these days.

Here's a video I shot of 'Tremors' from Why I'd Try. Not the best sound quality with the overdriven bass, but a great song that incorporates everything I love about them as a band.

So I left Saint Vitus Bar feeling revitalized and not yet ready to make the drive back to Long Island. I called a few friends and figured I'd head to Union Pool, thinking it was a good central location to have a 3 dollar beer and figure out where to go next. By then it was a little after midnight and with the pool as depressing as ever, I walked into the back room to see if there was a band or a dance party or anything more interesting than the taco truck and the rude foreigners that seem to frequent that place.  I walk in the back to find an insanely loud ruckus. My first thought was 'These guys are good. They kinda sound like Unsane.' Then they played Scrape. Holy shit! It is Unsane. I just saw Adrian Belew. Then Grandfather, and now I just inadvertently stumbled onto an Unsane show. I only got to see the final 4 or 5 songs of the set, but all in all, I left feeling pretty satisfied. Not a bad day.


Take the Fire Escape From Summer

  • 15 years ago today
  • Sense Field
  • Texas is the Reason
  • Fully

The emo explosion was in full swing, and following the break-up of both Quicksand and Sunny Day Real Estate, it seemed that there were hundreds of bands primed to take the reigns atop a growing nationwide movement. In 1996, Sense Field and Texas is the Reason were definitely two bands that looked ready for bigger things. It was before emo became a dirty word, and you just knew that the major labels were about to pounce on labels like revelation and jade tree. Now, it has become a fashion statement, but in the late 90's, emo as a musical style was still vibrant and somewhat unadulterated. 

Starting the night was Fully, a band fronted by Quicksand bassist, Sergio Vega.  Following the demise of Quicksand, as Walter struggled to get World's Fastest Car off the ground, and Tom and Alan joined Handsome and Seaweed respectively, Sergio was the first from the band to start his own new project. Switching from bass to guitar, Vega's Fully rocked through a set of post-hardcore tunes from their only release, a split cd with another short-lived NY band, Lady Luck , which featured Roger Miret of Agnostic Front on bass with his wife providing the vocals. While Fully packed plenty of punch, they were actually way more catchy than Quicksand ever were, hinting at Foo Fighter-esque power-pop at times and Living Colour radio rock at others. While not ground-breaking, the band was very solid and filled with potential. Looking back, I really think they were very under-appreciated and I wish Sergio had done more with this project and with his songwriting as a whole.  He followed Fully up with a solo ep, the even poppier and more accomplished 'Ray Martin Sessions' on the GrapeOS label and then disappeared until quietly resurfacing as interim bassist for The Deftones.

Texas is the Reason -  Live@ CBGBs - 1995
Texas is the Reason followed. They were in the middle of a huge tour, supporting Samiam overseas, and now Sense Field across the U.S. They came in at the top of their game, with their only lp, 'Do You Know Who You Are?', as well as a split 7" with The Promise Ring having both been released earlier that year. They were a band I rarely missed live, mainly because I don't feel their recordings, aside from The Promise Ring split did them any justice. I seldomly listen to them anymore, but I still hold them in high regard as one of the best live bands I've ever seen.

Like I said earlier, in 1995-96, Quicksand and SDRE were really the two pillars of the emo/post-hardcore/indie whatever you want to call it scene. It seemed like every upstart band of the genre was trying to blend the two in some way shape or form, and much like Clapton did twenty years earlier with blues and psychedelic rock, Texas is the Reason came along and did it with ease, making countless bands suddenly seem amateurish. 

Here's a clip I found on youtube when they played with Sense Field and Dahlia Seed earlier in '96 at Brownies, also a fantastic show.


Finally came the headliners, Sense Field. They, along with Texas is the Reason were getting loads of major label attention upon the release of 'Building', their final release for Revelation Records. And, while TITR's eventual signing ended up breaking up the band, Sense Field wound up signing with Warner Brothers, only to watch their album sit on the shelf for years while the label never put it out, eventually freeing them of their contract.  Between the delays, drummer Scott McPherson left to play with Elliott Smith. They continued to tour and released a few more albums, but they were never able to regain the buzz and intensity they had in '96.  

In retrospect, there are a few things that stand out when looking back on this show. I saw both Sense Field and Texas is the Reason so many times that year that I couldn't tell you much about setlists and such. One thing I can tell you is that Cherokee Parks, fresh off his rookie year in the NBA was there. I was surprised to see upon looking him up that his sister was the original bass player for Nashville Pussy. I did not know that. I felt bad for the people standing behind him. Which leads me to my next point. I remember not being able to find a comfortable spot to watch the show from. I never enjoyed Wetlands. I've never liked venues that are wider than thay are deep, and there always seemed to be a pole in the way, especially if you were near the bar. My recollection of Fully's set is the most vivid. I only got to see them once, (not sure how many shows they even played) and it was still very empty when they first went on, so I got right up front. I guess getting up front and staying there was the name of the game at Wetlands. I saw only a handful of other shows there for those reasons, with Avail and Propagandhi in 2001 being the only other one I really enjoyed.


Grizzy Ghouls From Every Tomb

So where to begin? I've been struggling with exactly how to get this ball rollling. I guess since today marks the two year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, some words on the self-proclaimed king of pop would seem appropriate. As a child, Michael was my first real musical hero. Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of favorites. Music was a big deal in my household. I've been a huge Pink Floyd fan as long as I can remember and I probably knew every Beatle lyric by the time I was 5... but Michael was really my first contemporary favorite. Never mind the fact that it probably only lasted until Weird Al's second album came out, it opened doors for me that would never close. I clearly recall being 8 years old and asking my mom, "Why do I like Michael Jackson so much?" She answered, "Well, he's a great singer and a great dancer..." I cut her off... "No. Why do I like him soooo much?" I didn't understand it. It was my first emotional connection to music, which I guess is something you can never fully comprehend.

The news of Jackson's death came as a shock, as I'm sure it did to most. I was sitting on my couch in Brooklyn, about to go see Dinosaur Jr. when a friend relayed a text from his girlfriend. Without hesitation, I got up, turned off my ipod, put 'Off The Wall' on the turntable and listened to a masterpiece. I didn't want to hear the details, I didn't want a run-down of his trials and tribulations, I just wanted the music.

Fans seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. Suddenly, most had forgotten the reasons they had turned their back on Michael through the years, but I understood. It was a lot like finding out your favorite teacher from grade school passed away or your best friend when you were ten. The relationship you had is no longer relevant, but the loss is substantial and what they meant to you at one point in time all comes rushing back. On the other end of the spectrum were the non-fans. The ones who never cared. As the media took the story and ran with it, I heard plenty of people saying enough is enough. But it's a hard thing to explain, especially to people a little younger than me. They'll never be able to experience the magic and energy that was Michael Jackson for that moment in time. I mean, if my first exposure to him was after 1985, I wouldn't get it either, but I guess you had to be there.