Backstage of the Roxy with my Bondies. The conversation went from fascinating to silly to downright awkward. But we all had make up sex afterwards. Enjoy the lunacy of me and the Von Bondies!
It’s a bit difficult for someone with a hearing problem, such as myself, to try and explain my love of prog rock to others. Especially when the math rock co-title gets bandied about. Several high school tutors and a SAT prep teacher can attest to the fact that I sucked at math. My brain doesn’t really think in linear terms. I’m bad with numbers, negligent with bookkeeping, and will take twice as long as any normal gimp to put together a piece of Ikea furniture.
So perhaps that’s why the recent faces of current prog rock make me feel at home. Though a verse chorus verse song is easily digested, the meandering and epic songs of Radiohead, Muse and The Secret Machines transport me to a science fiction world where rules of mathematics need not apply.
Ok, yes, I realize there’s a lot of synthy math involved here. But to me the sound is more like freedom and space; an ethereal musical landscape rather than constrained strains of notes forced to fit in a 3 minute ditty with a hook.
I was an enormous fan of Secret Machine’s Now Here Is Nowhere album. It accompanied me on long road trips up the California coast line and seemed to quell any travel squabbles my boyfriend and I were having. Their second effort, Ten Silver Drops, while not as beloved to us as their first album, was a psychedelic way to start our Sunday mornings. Tickets for their fantastic live shows, would hang on our fridge, urging us to keep it together until the concert, so we could rock and sway at the show together.
The brothers Curtis and drummer Josh Garza sort of held our relationship together, at least in my mind. I was even once invited by TSM to go to a party with them after a show. I demurely declined, thinking of my boyfriend sitting at home waiting for me…and all of the TSM songs he and I had listened to together. Even when tempting the party girl within, The Secret Machines had solidified the bond with The Boyfriend and me.
But then there was a gap in space rock continuum. The departure of guitarist Ben Curtis panicked Warner Brothers, TSM’s label, creating somewhat of a rift and a recording delay. It also left The Boyfriend and I trying to hold it together with records by Leon Russell, Bowie, and Gang Of Four. Not to mention fighting over Jethro Tull…I’m of the staunch opinion that my home is my haven, and that means it should be a Tull-free zone.
With the wars of the record label, the war in Iraq, and the Tull war on the home front going on, the future seemed bleak. When former fellow Tripping Daisy member Phil Karnats was inducted to support vocalist Brandon Curtis and drummer Josh Garza, TSM was up and running again.
The latest album, the eponymous The Secret Machines, just dropped on my birthday - a sort of cosmic gift for me. Knowing that TSM was released on their new indie imprint TSM Recordings through World’s Fair, made me proud of the lads for getting all mavericky on WBR’s ass. And hearing that the album was supposedly a lot more dark and moody only excited the gothic girl in me that much more.
Upon arriving at the Key Club, we were handed a hot pink pair of 3D glasses. Was this going to turn into a weird Floyd laser show? Though I enjoy prog, I’m not the burn out, black light poster type. The set, designed by Kanye West’s set creator Es Devlin, was being quickly erected with twisted white ribbon tape, winding around the stage like an MC Escher painting. I was beginning to get concerned that there might be a geometry pop quiz after their set.
As the Machines took to the stage, they set up in their usual triangle formation, which allows the audience to focus on each part of the musical blend and gives the drummer a chance to come out from the back of the stage and be heard and seen by crowd.
The lights dimmed to almost pitch dark and I popped my psychedelic shades on. A beam of light bounced off the tape, setting off a blaze of starburst streaks. Smokage was pumped out in mass quantities and gelled spotlights silhouetted the trio against the neon strips of ribbon. I was at a light show all right, but this time no drugs were needed.
Karnats, standing statuesquely in the center, seemed more than up to the task to fill Ben’s shoes. He ripped through crunchy Zeppelin riffs that crescendoed into a mind blowingly loud implosion, perhaps rivaling the now infamous My Bloody Valentine reunion shows.
The fact is, there was very little about the new songs that fell into the ethereal category. No, this was more like the math rock version of Mastodon. It was so loud and crunchy that my friend and I risked admitting we were too old to rock, by moving from the floor -front and center- to seats in the upper balcony. We could still enjoy the multi colored lights with our 3D paraphernalia and our ear drums were less likely to burst.
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. It’s just that The Secret Machines have changed. I guess that is the current climate of the country…no more 2004. We’ve all prog-ressed. The Boyfriend and his Tull records are long gone and nearly forgotten. The nation has come out of it’s reality TV induced coma to get involved with it’s government once again. And the luscious, hypnotic aural landscapes that TSM once painted, are now more of a Goya-esque sound, spiked with punky Gary Numan slivers and metallic Jackson Pollack riffs.
They say it gets darkest before the light…perhaps that means that the TSM future will be bright. Even with out those shades.
MAY DAY! Weiland’s Pilots crash at Jimmy Kimmel
The mid nineties remind me of crazier days, when I had a two seater beater sports car that I drove way too fast. My friends and I wrote on our arms, riot grrrl style and picked fights with poor unsuspecting bimbos at clubs. I was doing stand up back then and moonlighting as a writer at MTV, when I could make it into the office sans hangover…you see, coming up the comedy ranks doesn’t pay well, unless you use the currency of drink tickets to your advantage; dinner was often dirty martinis with extra olives.
I was a complete maniac. A twister that even Bill Paxton would have trouble keeping down.
Back then everything seemed possible, yet it was cool to grouse about how reality bit and how some day everyone would be sorry when we had our own sit com.
Obviously things have drastically changed. Kurt is gone, Courtney went Hollywood, My Toyota bit the dust and well, I’m not drinking my dinner anymore. But since this is the day and age of the “Comeback tour” , The Re-union Tour” or the “I’m so completely fucked I’m going to dance with the stars or be watched by Big Brother, Reality Tour”. So if these guys can bring back the grunge, whether in Marc Jacobs jeans and flannels or in person, then I surely can have a couple too many. Right?
Backstage at Kimmel is always a freak show or Jackass parade. The green room is set up for debauchery with it’s free sushi and free booze, playstations, pool tables and hungry eyed groupies. I have the fortune of being friends with the writers, some old MTV/VH! pals, and the booker, Scott, so I can walk a couple blocks for a show every now and then. I don’t go that often now, unless I know the band, because frankly the crowd bums me out. That might sound like class A snobbery, but it’s just the plain truth. They’re not there for the music, they’re there to touch the band or push something on them. Hell, if I’m being completely honest, sometimes I’m there for the sushi, but I digress.
Tonight the crowd could be distinctively divided into two camps. The “Dude! STP! Sweet!” camp and the “P. Diddy in the hizzouse!” camp. It was like the jets and the sharks on ABC turf. Wildly entertaining. Though the only people who were in danger of getting cut were those who stood in the way of the food table as ravenous post grungites descended upon it like zombies on a naked co-ed.
The crowd got restless as P. puffy diddy combsey sat for two or three interview segments. He fascinates me for only one reason: the man has successfully infiltrated the music, fashion, movie and vodka industries and is worth more than Midas, but still sounds like he has to prove himself. Every interview I see him do, his bravado swagger sounds more like begging to be part of the cool crowd. It’s like a pop psychology playground, getting in that ego and playing around in all the dark corners that seep out as he promotes his latest dvd/cd/clothing line/distillery. A true example of success NEVER BEING ENOUGH if you don’t love yourself. Diddy, you now have a star on the walk of fame. I know you want an Oscar. Then what? When can you rest? When can you just take a moment and say, “That’ll do, Puffy.” True, you’d be talking about yourself in the third person, but you seem to be comfortable with that anyways.
My friend and I joined the fray when the rental gaurds cleared the green room guests to walk outside. Security is very tight in the green room. However, outside one could disembowel a few toddlers and it’s all good. As the grunge natives and 909ers milled about outside, finally the reunited STP took the stage.
Now, I was more of a Pixies fan, Radiohead fan, Nirvana and Soundgarden fan back in the day. But it amazes me how I knew all the words to all of their songs. You can chalk that up to a steady diet of KROQ back in the day (my car tape deck was often broken) or perhaps I’m a true Pilot fan deep underneath…I think it’s the former. But watching skinny Scott Weiland, dressed like a Bret Easton Ellis Less Tan Zero casualty, slither around with a Jagger finger waghere and there combined with a weird Travolta shuffle, and it took me right back to that time when the true essence of my posse was “I drink, therefore I am.”
The brothers looked ecstatic to be back onstage playing their songs. And the crowd was going nuts…as for Scott? Scott looked like a man who was on a binge before he was headed back to prison. Yes, before he goes on his big reunion world tour, Scott is spending a few weeks in the slammer.
I honestly think that might be the best thing for him. With hundred of thousands of people screaming his name and dozens of enablers ready to help him wallow in excess, a few weeks of solace might just be the thing that keeps him alive on this tour.
After an encore, the band joined hands and bowed before the crowd as chants of STP rang out through the Hollywood air. Then the band lef tthe stage…errr, most of the band. Scottie just stood there, smoking a cigarette. The crew wasn’t sure what to do. ‘Can we strike the set with a rock star still standing on it?’ The band looked back at their lead singer and a bit of panic rose in their eyes…what is he going to do? How will this be spun on TMZ or Blender.com tomorrow?
Scott just gazed out at the crowd, almost like we were the act of the night and he was the sole audience member. Maybe he wanted to get a good look at all the faces he;s been missing over the years…or maybe one of the pills just had kicked in…
Finally he wandered off stage, as one would after being spun around on a tire swing at the park. Immediately the guards went in lock down mode and all of us vip wristbanded guests were turned away at the green room door. “The Green Room is closed for the night!” an overzealous guard yelled. The subtext scrawled under his thought bubble “So the publicists can get the band in a secure location and start spinning this shit into a golden yarn of rock god proportions.”
Yeah, he was pretty fucked up.
If I come off as a teetotaler wimp, don’t write me off yet. I had three glasses of something containing alcohol and the effects will wear on my immune system for days. Every headache and every grouchy phrase I utter will bring me back to my days as a riot grrl wild child and will ultimately make me think “Jesus, I hope Scott Weiland is going to be ok.”