287. freak scene

“I kept hearing about Dinosaur Jr. back in the late 1980s but I never consciously heard them. Apparently, they were a throwback to the pre-punk days of big wild guitar solos, epic intentions … but in a good way, which sounded promising. Then I finally did heard Freak Scene some time in 1990 and hell yeah, truth in advertising. Except they were anything but a throwback — guitar so sheer and beaming with fractal light, it was carving gateways into the future. Or at least that’s what it felt like that time at the Commodore, the top of my head lysergically removed from the rest of my body. In a good way. Later, I drove home, still quite high, listening to classical music on the radio – some Shostokowich as I recall. And it all made perfect sense.” (Philip Random)

DinosaurJR-1988-studio

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320. gravity’s pull

“Vancouver, 1984. REM finally made it town and a sold out Commodore was waiting for them, including at least one member from every at least half-cool band in town. They opened with Radio Free Europe as I recall, which killed, but equally notable was Michael Stipe’s hair. It was long, uncut for at least a year, hippie long. Which just wasn’t done in those days in cool culture. Punk had accomplished that much, hadn’t it? Guys with long hair and cool no longer belonged in the same sentence, or the same nightclub. Jump ahead a year to 1985 and REM were back, playing to yet another sold out Commodore, and now there were all manner of long haired guys in the audience. Except now Michael Stipe had his cut short, and dyed blonde. People were confused, feeling out of synch. Until the band kicked into their first song, Gravity’s Pull from the new album Reconstruction Of The Fables – strong and dark, and heavy without being obvious about it. Everybody quickly forgot about the hair.” (Philip Random)

REM-1985-live

375. war in the east

DOA saved my life any number of times in the 1980s, mainly through their live shows. From the back of auto body shops to abandoned youth clubs to at least one high school gym to the Arts Club on Seymour (still the best damned live venue the Terminal City has ever had) to at least two sold out Commodore Ballrooms, to some impromptu acoustic messing around off the edge of a movie set – it was never pretty, always somehow beautiful. And I’m pretty sure they did War In The East every time, their only reggae song, because it slowed things a touch, clarified a few key points. Fighting one another – killing for big brother. Same as it ever was.” (Philip Random)

DOA-live-1980s

615. Synchro System

“My immediate King Sunny Ade memory is summertime 1983, way the hell up the trails of the North Shore mountains. The acid is kicking in nicely and Motron decides to put Synchro System on the blaster. The now sound of Nigeria suddenly imposed upon the melting, lysergic edge of western civilization. And it worked, like displaced tourist music, which is generally what you want whilst tripping the beyond within. The live show was also transcendent a few weeks later, Commodore Ballroom, the King and twenty-odd of his African Beats working grooves within grooves within … well, you get the picture.” (Philip Random)

KingSunnyAde-1983

642-41. eleven o’clock tick tock + the ocean

“Two in a row from way the hell back in the U2 story (and as eventually found on the R.O.K. 12″), way before all the fame and riches and boredom. My boredom, that is. I blame Joshua Tree. Though I guess it wasn’t the songs so much as the environment. They just weren’t as good anymore in those huge stadiums. Give me the Commodore Ballroom any day, 1981, three dollar ticket, maybe a thousand curious punks and new wavers. I’m pretty sure they did Eleven O’Clock Tick Tock as the encore that night, and the whole show actually began with The Ocean. But either way, the place went mad. Or as a friend said at the time, it’s like they weren’t playing songs, they were playing us, the audience. The songs were what we sounded like.  He’d dropped acid.” (Philip Random)

U2-1981

656. move me

“It’s maybe 1986 and the Commodore Ballroom is packed – some big deal band about to play. But first there’s a warm up act, a new British outfit nobody’s ever heard of called Wood-something. They open with a pumped acoustic thing that proceeds, over its three or four minutes, to amp up into something so extraordinary that we all know exactly who they are by the time it’s done. The Woodentops, who it’s sad to say, never really got any better, but man were they great that night! I don’t remember who the headliners were.” (Philip Random)

Woodentops-live

973. when you sleep

“The problem with any My Bloody Valentine record is, however brilliant it may be, it can’t exist in same sonic universe of that same song performed live. Case in point, When You Sleep from Loveless. On record, it’s a superbly textured experimental pop song with a pronounced dreamy edge. Whereas live, in the Commodore, 1992, it was a gauntlet thrown down by the gods. Swoon in our psychedelic power and complexity, it demanded. And maybe half the crowd did.  The other half were gone by shows end, complaining about the noise.” (Philip Random)

mbv-live