A musical history and current show review (By Dave H Cromwell):
Upon hearing that The Jesus & Mary Chain were reforming for the Coachella Festival in April 2007 – after being disbanded for over 8 years – I found myself somewhat in a state of shock. Could this really be true? This was only the band who’s songs were permanently etched on most of the major passages of my life. From the late 1980’s until their last album in 1998, the music of the Reid Brothers served as a soundtrack to my life. In fact, it never really stopped, even when they ceased making records as a band. Because I never stopped listening to it. From cassette tape, then CD’s up to every form of MP3 player I owned and currently possess – the music was always transferred over. It had to be. They were the single greatest musical influence on my life.
Cut to last winter – lets say somewhere between October and December (2006). Having been an active member of the MySpace phenomena since 2004 (tipped to me by the band The Raveonettes – more about them later) I discovered that Jim Reid had a page. Quickly adding him as a “myspace friend” I devoured all the info on it. There I discovered Jim had been a member of a band with longtime JAMC bassist Ben Lurie called “Freeheat”. Seeing that their album was easy to order from a local (US) record label called “Planting Seeds Records” I immediately sent for my copy and was completely blown away by what I heard. It was like having another JAMC record, with all new songs. Jim is out front and center and the songs rock like the best of the MaryChain, but this time Jim’s lyrics are more mature. It’s a fantastic record and every fan of JAMC should own it. Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/freeheat.
Cut back to 2003 – I’m reading one of those “men’s magazines” – this one called “Stuff” – you know the kind that is supposed to show you all the things you should own and how you should act. Sure a lot of it is commercial crap – but they are usually a fun, lightweight read. They often do quickie music blurbs, and one particularly caught my eye. It was a small photo of a band called “The Raveonettes,” and the text description on them included a sentence that was something to the effect that “if you like the Jesus & Mary Chain, you might like this.” Having been starved for new music in this style for nearly 5 years, that was all I needed to read. I immediately bought their record “Chain Gang of Love” and have been a rabid fan of them ever since. Certainly that album has elements of what the Mary Chain did in it. Do they “sound like” The Jesus & Mary Chain? Hardly. They have a unique sound of their own, and anything said to the contrary is simply the victim of a lazy thought process. However, a gap had been filled for me, and it was most satisfying to me to see that the influence of The Jesus & Mary Chain was far reaching. In recent years I would discover “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” and now apparently dozens of MySpace bands who all point to the JAMC as a major influence and starting point for their own unique musical journey – much like the Reid Brothers looked to a twisted hybrid of The Velvet Underground and The Beachboys as their own sonic starting point. Its all cyclical and everything that has come before influences what is now new. There is simply no denying that.
Cut to April 25th, 2007 – just two days before the much anticipated Coachella reunion, I get an email bulletin from Webster Hall (yes, I’m on their mailing list as pretty much everything they present, either there or at the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge is something I might be interested in) – announcing The Jesus & Mary Chain are coming to New York on May 21! I am at once in shock, but quickly snapping out of it I leap into action (which at this point in my life usually requires a computer keyboard) and immediately purchase a ticket for the opening night (they are announced as doing two consecutive). This was all too much for my head to get around. Were the legendary Reid Brothers actually coming here?
As it turns out, the JAMC added a “warmup to Coachella” show on the night before (April 26th) in Los Angeles. So there is where the “first time back together in 8 years” will actually take place. Already being linked in on the MySpace network that is surrounding the band (various MySpace pages have sprung up for the band, such as the Official Coachella music festival page). This is where it begins to get even more interesting. A Los Angeles resident by the name of Rob Dobbs captures the entire April 26th Glasshouse show on his digital video recorder and immediately begins to spread it around YouTube, MySpace and all of the other internet outlets that now keeps fans connected worldwide. Recognizing a kindred spirit, I make immediate friends with Rob. However, due to what initially appears to be an unfortunate circumstance, Mr. Dobbs is unable to attend the Coachella show (something about a police investigation). However, none of this is Rob’s fault and he proceeds to recount his sorry tale on the internet and the various places where, say a member of the Jesus & Mary Chain might read. As it turns out, Jim Reid does in fact read about this misfortune and offers Rob full access to both upcoming NY shows, since he had bought an expensive ticket to Coachella, and saw none of it. The only hitch for Rob is, where to stay. As the offer from Jim is for Rob “plus 1,” it becomes instantly apparent that he should stay with me. And so it is with this gameplan in motion that we both set out on an amazing two night adventure.
It’s 3 pm on Monday the 21st of May and I picked Rob up at Kennedy Airport. Having been planning this for weeks, we have a meeting place picked out for everyone involved in the internet network to gather. The pub is called The Village Pourhouse, and its right across the street from the venue. We grab a table and soon the others start tricking in. Neil, Linda and Tiffany from Planting Seeds records are much anticipated and very welcome guests. Various people we are meeting for the first time show up – all tipped to “the spot” by reading the bands unofficial (official) forum: http://sct.amniisia.com/
We are all charged with pre-show nervous energy and the chatter is laced with excitement and anticipation. Serious long-time fans begin to queue up outside the venue quite early – many hours in fact, before they open the doors. The first one online is a longtime follower of the band that we immediate dub “Superfan”. Well why not? I’m sure he’d love the title. Once the line begins to move Rob and I saunter on down to the “guestlist” table, confirm our presence on the sheet and enter the venue. Never mind that I had previously bought a “will call” ticket to this show – I merely chalk that up as a “donation” to the cause.
Inside the place is abuzz with anticipation. We head upstairs to the balcony to view everything from a panoramic perspective. The opening act comes on, and are mildly entertaining. No disrespect to them, but the anticipation of seeing the JAMC after all these years is far too much to allow any concentration on another band. Sensing their set is almost over, Rob and I head down into the pack and begin to worm our way up as close as possible, without pissing anyone else off. There is an art to it, and most experienced concert goers know how to do it. With position established slightly to the right side of the stage, it’s just about showtime.
Having already seen Rob’s videos from The Glasshouse gig in Los Angeles a month earlier, there is less of a shock in seeing them come on stage. William looks a bit different now, a tad more robust. Jim looks perfectly trim and in prime fighting weight. They lunge into their perennial show opener “Never Understand” which was the side 2 opener (back when there were sides) of the groundbreaking debut “Psychocandy”. The crowd is thoroughly excited and I’ve got my own recorder rolling. As they haven’t played live in nearly a month, this first song acts as something of a soundcheck. But its all good and to my ears goes off well. William takes an extended riff out to the end, though there really isn’t any definitive end. The band just sort of fizzles and stops. Still its a good performance. However, the next song they play, the immensely popular “Head On” (from “Automatic) starts out well, but then develops problems. With the adoring crowd singing along with every word, the first two minutes of the song goes off flawlessly. But at some point William and the rest of the band find themselves unaligned rhythmically, and it is only through the perseverance of Jim that they all get back on track by conclusion. However, I’m somewhat concerned at this point, that this may be how the rest of the show is going to go.
Fortunately, my worries are unfounded as the very next song – “Far Gone And Out” is delivered in a precise and cohesive fashion. The crowd is loving it, as well as we all sing along in between Jim’s lines “She’s the sickest sick” (crowd: “Hey, hey hey!”) “She’s the blackest black” (us again: “Hey, hey hey!”). A perfect stomping rock n’ roll moment. Next up was “Sidewalking” which has always been one of my faves. With lyrics that go “Talking like I'm on and I'm the only one, I'm making like I'm done and staring like a gun, And I got to get a car, And I got to get a ride, Gotta get a car, with Jesus on my side” I’ve always been partial to this songs dirty, down-low groove.
They followed that with the absolutely amazing “Snakedriver”, where Jim testifies that “I won't roll my bones for every little girl who gets on down, I got space and space got me I should be selling it by the pound.” I’ve always loved that turn of lyric. The show continues to build at this point. The band is clearly hitting its stride now. The crowd has been worked up into a frenzy, and some of the more energetic fans have taken to body slamming into each other – though it appears that some are unwilling participants. Since I have a camera to protect and a show to chronicle, I make sure I remain “just out of reach” of all that mayhem.
At this point, the band hits its high point, when it puts together the one-two punch of “Happy When It Rains” and “Some Candy Talking”. Two of the greatest songs ever written. The former being the pop hit from their second album “Darklands”. It is performed to perfection. Everything is just so right about it. A very gifted singer and songwriter in his own right has been quoted as saying “Why is that not one of the top ten best songs ever written? It goes through all these great melodies within one song.” I can’t help but agree.
However, it is their rendition of “Some Candy Talking” which was the transcending moment for me. The lights went low and then there was a starry sky behind the band. Jim took to the mic to deliver the familiar tale, “I'll go down to the place tonight, To see if I can get a taste tonight, A taste of something warm and sweet, That shivers your bones and rises to your heat.” Structurally the song is so simple. Yet on delivery, with passion and emotion, it takes on a power that is immeasurable.
“Should all the stars shine in the sky, They couldn't outshine your sparkling eyes,” Jim continues.
“And I talk to the filth and I walk to the door, I'm knee deep in myself, But I want to get more of that stuff Of that stuff - Some candy talking -- Talk
At this point I’m getting the chills. The entire rhythm section is just pounded down in a straight 1-1-1-1 as William’s guitar soars over it all.
“I love the way she's walking,” Jim sings as it returns to the calm plateau. “I love the way she's talking, It's just the way she's walking, It's just the way she's talking” Full band pounding in again now, raising it all to a crescendo – “And I need, All that stuff, Give me some, Of that stuff, I want your candy. I want your candy” Truly a magical moment.
The band then pulls out two classics from their “Automatic” album – “Between Planets” and “Blues From A Gun,” and the crowd eats it up. Next up was “Cracking Up” from “Munki” with the eternally endearing lyric “Some said I was a freak --I am a freak.” Following that was a brand new song called “All Things” (on the setlist page) but also referred to as “All Things Must Pass” It’s a cracking good new tune, and one they performed on The David Letterman show earlier that evening. One hopes this signals the beginning of a new creative period for this band. They followed that with two songs from the “Honeys Dead” album “Teenage Lust” and show closer “Reverence” sandwiched around the song that started it all “Just Like Honey”. Much had already been made about how Annie Hardy and Scarlett Johansen respectively had come onstage during their first two shows in California to sing the female background vocals on this song. Tonight it was Nicole Gehweiler from second night opening act “The Comas” handling the “honey” parts. To my ears it was a brilliant rendition. Once they finished the sonic rave-up that is “Reverence” and walked off stage, it was obvious to all in the crowd that they would be coming back on. Of course we did our part, stomping, whistling and hooting for them to return. When they did come back on it was the biggest surprise of the night as they performed their most obscure recording of all, the Syd Barrett cover “Vegetable Man”, which originally graced the b-side to their first ever single (“Upside Down”). I only knew of the song since it was on the Downtown Beirut jukebox back in 1990, and I used to play it frequently.
So the first night ends with Rob and I grabbing some shuteye, in preparation for the second night show. Early Tuesday afternoon Rob makes a few phone calls, and through some well-placed connections, manages to get JAMC second-guitarist Mark Crozer on the phone. To our delight he agrees to meet with us for a pre-show drink and interview. So we head back down to the designated meeting place at the Pour House.
As it’s still early, there isn’t anyone around yet, that we know. While we’re sitting there, eating our burgers, I look up and suddenly see some familiar faces getting out of a cab, right in front of us. It is, in fact, the full Jesus & Mary Chain band. When I point this out to Rob, we quickly conclude they are headed into the venue for a soundcheck. Silence follows as we both continue to eat. However, I know what he’s thinking, because I’m thinking the same thing. It is possible we can get in to witness the soundcheck? It is our good fortune that Rob has been dragging a guitar around with him for the last two days, in the hopes of getting each band member to sign it (which he eventually does). With this prop in hand, we head up to the venue, and bang on the side door. It is buzzed open and we walk in, and up to the reception desk. Spotting guitar in hand, the girl motions us towards the main floor, where the Jesus & Mary Chain are in fact on stage, doing their sound check. It’s an amazing turn of events, as we slide up next to the other opening bands, who are setting up their own equipment, while watching the JAMC go through their paces.
Since we previously had made contact with Mark, it was a quick matter of catching his attention once the soundcheck was done, and as promised, he accompanied us across the street to the Pour House for some casual beverage consumption and a bit of an informal interview. Things are going exceptionally well as Mark fills us in on his musical past and present. He spots their stage manager, a fine fellow by the name of Hugo, and he joins us for a bit as well. As the two of them have some errands to do, thy head out to parts unknown. Shortly after than, more fans begin to show up and join us at our table. It’s a spirited hang, as everyone chatters about shows past. It’s amazing to learn how many of the same shows we’ve all attended.
It’s time then to head up to the venue, for show. As we head up to the guestlist table, confident in our gaining entry for the second consecutive night, it is a stunning shock of disappointment to discover our names are nowhere to be found. Despite assurances to the contrary, it appears we have been omitted by mistake. Now we are freaking out a bit. How will we get in? Mulling over the option of trying to buy a ticket (the show has been reported as a sellout, but there is a busy ticket-reseller working the corner), Rob gets the brilliant idea to call the hotel (where Mark and the rest of the band is staying) and ask for either of the Reid brothers. Jim is not there. William is. Rob quickly brings William up to speed on our predicament, and gains assurances that it will be taken care of. However, while waiting for William to show, we spot Mark and Hugo outside. As we recap our present dilemma to them, Mark asks Hugo to see if he can do something. After going inside for a brief period, Hugo comes back and tells us “sorry guys, but the guestlist is all full”. We are stunned and have that look on your face that is priceless – for those who are pranking you! As Hugo busts up laughing he tells us he’s “only kidding” and of course you can get it. Needless to say, we were so relieved by the results, we couldn’t even be bothered that we had just been made fools.
For this night, we had access to the very exclusive “VIP” area. It was too good to be true. Rob took his position for maximum video capturing and I began to mill about and chat with the popular New York scenesters. There was BP Fallon and his entourage in one spot. We had a lovely chat. There was Hugo, the stage manager who had just pranked us – giving that smirk that said it all. Most exciting to me was seeing Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes strolling in. I game him a big hello and we chatted a bit about the previous nights show. It was a privilege and an honor to be standing next to Mr. Wagner as the JAMC came on and did their amazing set. As good as night 1 was, the second night was even better. For the most part, they did the same set, but added the great “Catchfire” to it. I loved every minute of it, and judging by the rhythmic gyrations (and liberal beverage consumption) of the great Sune Wagner – he appeared to be enjoying it as well. In fact, at one point he laughed and said he was going to “stage dive from the balcony, and body surf across the fans hands”. As it was clearly a 15-20 foot drop, everyone in listening shot suggested this might not be such a good idea. Of course we knew he was kidding, but it captured the excitement of the moment perfectly.
A word about the overall sound of the band. Much has already been discussed across the blogosphere about how the shows weren’t loud enough. How the sound at Webster Hall is muddy and bad. How the band itself decided to dial down the overall volume level. Personally I found the overall volume level just fine. I’ve never been a big fan of the ear-splitting experience. I will say that I would have liked Williams guitar to have been a bit more dominant overall. At times it seemed a bit buried in the mix. I also wish he would have used more of the feedback and reverberation that made their early records so great. I get the sense, though, that as the band progresses through this reunion tour, that these sound issues will be worked out.
After the final encore and the band took time to cool off in their dressing room, Mark once again proved what a friendly guy he is. As various friends of each band member were allowed entry into the inner sanctum that is the dressing room, Mark let us know that we might be able to meet Jim. We waited patiently and chatted with the other friends and fans hanging about. The time finally came and we were allowed into the room. Who do I see first off, but its William Reid, just hanging by himself in the center of the small, first room. Other people are obviously nearby (these dressing rooms tend to be small and crowded) but no one is actually talking to him. In fact, William is standing over a large trashcan in the center of the room, which is filled with ice and beer. As he chugs from a bottle, he leans forward and in a downward pose lets out a belch, aimed at the floor. Everyone laughs. I walk up to him, extend my and say what I always say – “great show tonight”. He is casually friendly, and mumbles the obligatory “thanks”. Sensing this is a once in a lifetime moment, I attempt to get a picture with the darker haired Reid brother. Just as I am asking him, Rob slides up to us and asks the same thing. It’s kind of funny – this dual echo “can I get a picture with you?” More amusing was Williams reaction – he points both of his index fingers in the air (one to me, and one to Rob) and with a bit of a smirk on his face says – “at this time, I’m going to say – no,”. He gives the reason that he’s just finished playing and is “all sweaty” so would rather not. Of course we completely respect that. It was actually kind of funny the way it went down.
Mark then says we can come back to the room further behind that one, to meet Jim. As we enter, the fairer haired Reid is sitting at a little table, almost holding court. Its like meeting the Godfather at the “Fish & Game Club”. Jim has no problem taking a picture with us, and was also kind enough to sign a few things as well. For me, getting to chat with him was truly the highlight of the night.
After leaving the dressing room, we were fortunate to meet with the band’s bassist, Phil King. Another extremely friendly and chatty member, I was left with the impression of a very sharp-witted, knowledgeable and thoroughly talented musician.
It’s safe to say that the events of these two days are going to be hard to top. However, that won’t stop me from trying.
Sunday, 3 June 2007
A musical history and current show review (By Dave H Cromwell):
Posted by lostmusic at 15:12
Monday, 28 May 2007
Here's a round up of blog posts I have found in the past few days:
Culture Bully :talks about the Letterman performance.
Medication: A Buddyhead Blog : Links to MP3 of 'All Things Must Pass' and 'Glasshouse' gig.
Losanjealous : Video clip of 'Just Like Honey' at the Glasshouse.
Indie Selections for your Erections : Letterman video and small write up.
Sugartown : Reaction to first Webster Hall perforamnce 21st May 2007.
Posted by lostmusic at 00:41
Sunday, 27 May 2007
BACK IN THE CHAIN GANG
Posted by lostmusic at 14:09
Friday, 25 May 2007
Parasites & Sycophants has a another fine review with a cool picture of Jim from 21st May 2007 New York show.
Posted by lostmusic at 01:02
Posted by lostmusic at 00:51
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Photos by Rob Trucks
The Jesus and Mary Chain
By Rob Harvilla
Good lord, the disdain. "This is almost as good as seeing the Black Crowes!" chirped the dude next to me as the house lights dimmed and the East Coast leg of the Jesus and Mary Chain's We'd Just as Soon Kill You as Look at You reunion tour finally began. Yeah, dawg. Exactly like the Black Crowes, if the brothers in the Black Crowes looked like the buddy cops in Hot Fuzz and totally hated you. Disinterest and diffidence are crucial aspects of the sneers ’n’ feedback JAMC experience, of course, but Jim Reid grabbed the mic and seethed the opening lines to "Never Understand"—"The sun comes up/Another day begins"—as though wishing the vilest of oaths upon our mothers. My god, the effort it must require to look so thoroughly bored.
The crowd took great pleasure in such dourness, of course, joyful blurting out the backing hey hey hey's to "Far Gone and Out," part of an early burst of scuzzy radness ("Head On," "Sidewalking") that actually peaked with, of all possible songs, “Snakedriver.” The damndest thing.
Reasons to love "Snakedriver," by the Jesus and Mary Chain:
3. Its opening line is “I got syphilitic hetero friends in every part of town.”
2. It’s so surly, sleazy, and unseemly it seems capable of giving you syphilis, too.
1. It survived being buried on the second half of the Crow soundtrack, alongside Pantera, Helmet, For Love Not Lisa, and fuckin’ My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult.
Perhaps “Snakedriver” resonated because it adroitly struts the great awesome half-assed vs. terrible half-assed divide, a construct familiar to anyone at this show. Is Jim’s groggy, pancake-flat delivery a product of masterful cool or shameful disregard? Is William's wah-pedal assault on "Blues from a Gun" intended as catharsis or sabotage? (“This is technically a solo, I suppose, but I wish he’d move to another fret," you think. William then moves to another fret. "I wish he'd stayed on that first fret," you think.) Louder! Turn it up! demanded the crowd after every tune, a request JAMC seemed to begrudgingly request as the set finally peaked with “Just Like Honey” (no Scarlett Johansson cameo, alas) and the mighty "Reverence," featuring the finest, most casually offensive opening line (“I wanna die like Jesus Christ”) since “I got syphilitic hetero friends in every part of town.” Ol' Jim's ears perked up long enough to shout “I wanna die! I wanna die! I wanna die!” a buncha times. The encore that followed was truly appalling.
Overall vibe: brashly sloppy. An affront to our usual expectation of moderate onstage enthusiasm that I guess we were somehow hoping for. Cruddy-sounding in a moderately appealing way. Watching reunited dudes totally not give a fuck isn’t exactly a transcendental experience, though. But you get what you pay for. (Offstage whispers.) $45 a ticket?!
Parting thoughts from the photographer:
3. “Do they know the ends to any of their songs?”
2. “It’s hard to look cool when you’re old.”1. “I need a [Mountain] Dew.”
Posted by lostmusic at 05:43
Again taken from Some Candy Talking (poster Lactose) - Here is the set list for the 2nd night at Webster Hall in New York City.
Far Gone and Out
Happy When It Rains
Some Candy Talking
Blues From a Gun
All Things Must Pass
Just Like Honey
You Trip Me Up
The two new editions this night being 'Catchfire' and 'You Trip Me Up'. I would have loved to have been there to hear these two songs dusted off.
Posted by lostmusic at 05:31
A whole host of pictures have appeared on www.brooklynvegan.com
Click here for pictures and video footage from the 2nd night at Webster Hall, New York - 22nd May 2007.
Searches for Jesus Mary Chain and Jamc over on Flickr bring back these results of the new york shows:
Flickr Search One
Flickr Search Two
Posted by lostmusic at 05:23
Here is the set list for the first New York gig on 21st May - as reported on message board Some Candy Talking
Far Gone and Out
Happy When It Rains
Some Candy Talking
Blues From a Gun
Just Like Honey
'Vegetable Man' being the only new addition to the sets performed in California last month.
And here is another picture taken of William (again by Dave H Cromwell).
Posted by lostmusic at 05:14