I've never been much of a fan of seeing shows in arenas or stadiums. And yet, I've still seen my share—David Bowie at Irvine Meadows, Garbage at RIMAC, an FM 94/9 Christmas show about four years ago, etc. But sometime between having to squint to see Beck and straining to hear Vampire Weekend, I had more or less quit cold turkey. With the exception of Bowie, almost none of these shows were worth the baffling ordeal, questionable acoustics and parking nightmares one would have to endure just to hear the hits.
When Nine Inch Nails announced they'd be coming to San Diego, however, I thought I was ready to give it another shot. I've been listening to the band since the depths of my most awkward junior-high years, and though I have little interest in going on a nostalgia trip for the sake of itself, there are enough good songs in the band's catalog that a giant spectacle of a show—one whose scope would make sense only in the context of a giant arena—might actually seem worth it.
The show, held at Coors Amph... I mean Cricket Wirel... make that Sleep Train Amphitheatre, was in fact a double-shot of 1994 mania, since it also featured grunge icons Soundgarden, who played an almost-headliner-length set in an opening slot. They stacked the hits high and wide: "Outshined," "Blow Up the Outside World," "Spoonman," "Fell on Black Days," "Black Hole Sun" and "Rusty Cage," to name a few. And they pretty much nailed it each time, holding on to some of their youth while looking slightly grayer than we remember them (guitarist Kim Thayil has an awesome Fidel Castro-meets-Hulk Hogan look at the moment).
I didn't stay in my seat during the whole of Soundgarden's set, instead taking the opportunity to shell out $9 for tacos and $13 for one beer from the one cart in the venue that wasn't plastered with the Budweiser logo. And it's a good thing, too—someone sitting directly behind me unleashed a torrent of puke shortly after I left, instead hitting the ankles of the bros squatting nearby.
I was ready to forget all of the tacky business around me once Nine Inch Nails started, and for a time, I did. With no warning or fanfare, Trent Reznor simply walked onstage and started the 2013 single "Copy of A," joined by his bandmates gradually during the course of the song. Their set was stark but vibrant, a high-tech series of light displays and simple backdrops inspired more by Kraftwerk than, say, Nine Inch Nails circa 1994. Though that doesn't mean that things didn't kick into higher gear soon enough, with a blistering performance of "March of the Pigs" transitioning into "Piggy," and a booming version of 1989's "Terrible Lie" transitioning into a cool take on "Closer," mixed with elements of Pretty Hate Machine deep cut "The Only Time."
But, as strong a live band as Nine Inch Nails is, it was hard to escape the frustrations that had built up in just a few short hours: The price gouging, the vomit pool, the creepy 50-year-old bro on pills who didn't and couldn't realize I didn't want his company, the nagging reminder that I'd have to leave early to avoid being stuck in the parking lot, the people in the VIP seats literally looking down on me and the promoter's senseless bureaucratic rules—when you photograph a show, you usually have to leave the pit after the third song; here, they make you leave the fucking venue.
All I could think of was Sun Kil Moon's song "Ben's My Friend," in which Mark Kozelek describes seeing The Postal Service at a giant amphitheater: "Ben's my friend but getting there's the worst / Trying to park and getting up the hill / And finding a spot among the drunk kids staring at themselves." I'm not nearly as old and grumpy as Kozelek, but while I enjoyed watching the show—or most of it anyway—being there mostly reinforced what I already knew going into it.
And I left with a shrug.
It's finally happening. After 20 years, Drive Like Jehu has announced that they're getting back together. Pretty much since the local post-hardcore outfit broke up in 1994, fans have been clamoring for a reunion—and that includes me—though the best we ever got were some pretty frustrating hoaxes.
It's San Diego Music Awards season, and this year's nominees have just been announced. There are a lot of worthy entries on the long list of nominations, including local MVPs The Burning of Rome, Little Hurricane and The Midnight Pine, as well as newcomers like Soft Lions and hard-working underdogs like Eukaryst, who are profiled in this week's CityBeat.
And then there's Jason Mraz and Switchfoot. It wouldn't be the San Diego Music Awards without a few ringers, no matter how cliche it is for Switchfoot's name to show up—again. But Jason Mraz seems a little more of a stretch. Is Mraz even really a "San Diego artist" at this point? I'm inclined to say no, considering he's only scheduled three shows here this year, all in stadium-sized venues and all sold out. That, to me, doesn't say "local artist," but your mileage may vary.
In any case, here's the full list of nominees:
This week’s CityBeat features an overview of the experimental, shape-shifting Tokyo trio Boris, whose new album Noise was released last month via Sargent House. The group’s sound is a bit difficult to pinpoint, since all of their albums sound pretty radically different from one another. But the one (almost) constant in their sound is heavy rock ‘n’ roll—in various shapes and forms.I conducted an email interview with the band’s guitarist Takeshi and drummer Atsuo through a translator, in which the group discussed their changing sound, different versions of their albums, and the departure of fourth member Michio Kurihara.
After months of setbacks, The Che Café got a victory during a court hearing today, which allows it to remain in its current space until September. A judge ruled that the Che can remain in possession of its space while engaged in a legal dispute with UCSD over the university's action to evict the collective that runs the all-ages venue. The ruling allows the Che to continue operating for another 60 days, which strikes down the university's order to vacate the venue by July 14.
According to a press release issued by The Che Café, a preliminary-injunction hearing will be held on Aug. 1, and if the Che prevails, it will be able to continue operating in its current space until a final resolution has been reached. A post from the Che on Twitter this morning reads, "In essence we've been granted 60 more days to operate in this space to fight to keep it."
Prior to this ruling, the Che had no choice but to cancel all of its upcoming shows. This allows many of the shows to continue, though it's not yet been announced which shows are back on, or if any of them have been moved to other venues.
The Che Café has also launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to pay for the repairs that are at the heart of its dispute with UCSD. It has raised $900 so far.
The UC San Diego University Centers Advisory Board (UCAB), a student-run board that oversees how student fees are spent, voted today to cut The Che Cafe’s maintenance costs from its 2014-2015 budget, putting the future of the long-running, all-ages DIY music venue in doubt.
Some of the best musical theater of the last 40 years has come straight out of hard rock and heavy-metal concerts: King Diamond’s ghoulish presence and operatic vocals; W.A.S.P.’s meat-pelting and models-on-torture-racks spectacle; and, of course, Alice Cooper’s death at the end of every show. Sure, there are plenty of earnest, plain-clothes metal bands that rely on musical performance over high drama, but to some degree, metal has always been about escapism. And no band in recent memory has embodied metal’s escapist tendencies better than Sweden’s Ghost.
Tomorrow—Saturday, April 19—is that chaotic, frantic, lines-around-the-block, limited-edition geek-out celebration of mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar retail that we call Record Store Day. Some people love it, some people hate it, but whether you’re an eBay pirate looking to make some cash on reselling limited-edition Dave Matthews Band box sets or just looking to take advantage of some sidewalk vinyl sales and maybe grab a David Bowie picture disc, it’s at least worth checking out.