Thursday, March 10, 2005
It was late 1992, living in Vermont and inhaling independently released music faster than air, when a stylishly designed 7-inch from upstart Boston label Pop Narcotic caught my eye at the record store. Two songs by a band I'd never heard called Versus, 'Bright Light' backed with 'Forest Fire'. The a-side was rockin', super-catchy, energetic, and sung by a guy, the b-side was female-fronted and hauntingly beautiful. It sounded like two different bands, both damn good, and I was hooked. I spun the thing to death, tracked down their other earlier 7'', and waited patiently for the self-released 'Let's Electrify' EP to come out the next year.
But my Versus obsession peaked in mid-94 when Teenbeat Records released their first full-length, 'The Stars Are Insane'. It was my summer soundtrack, I played it incessently, and imagined seeing them on stage. It would be years until I did, and while I loved pretty much everything they did in the meantime, it was that first album that lodged itself forever in my brain. (and I'll never admit that I fell for Amie 'cuz she had a copy of it on her cd shelf, although it certainly didn't hurt.)
While I'm a big Unrest fan, it was the prospect of a Versus reunion that really sold me on a trip to DC for the Teenbeat 20th Anniversary shows. I'd last seen them in 2003, so they hadn't been out of commission all that long, but for my money they're one of the most dependable live bands out there. Though they're not offically broken up, the prospect of another record happening anytime soon, while not impossible, is fairly slim with all the other active projects they're involved in (Patrick & James in Plus Minus, Richard's Whysall Lane, and Fontaine in The Fontaine Toups). So I needed a full-on Versus fix, and DC was the only place I was gonna get it for awhile. Hell, if I was really lucky, maybe they'd even play something from 'The Stars Are Insane'...
Well, they played the whole. damn. thing.
Yes, Versus played the entirety of 'The Stars Are Insane', start to finish, note for note, from Thera through I'll Be You. I'm still in shock.
But more on that later. Just had to get it outta my system.
So this third and final night started off with a slight letdown, as many were expecting an opening live performance by Trevor Kampmann, aka hollAnd, but instead got an on-screen projection of the DVD that comes packaged with his 'I Steal and Do Drugs' disc. Not sure if this was planned all along or if hollAnd just couldn't make it, but odds are it would have just been him and a laptop anyway, right?
Soon the video screen came down, the crowd moved to the stage, and the three ladies who are Hot Pursuit appeared to much applause. Evelyn Hurley (ex-Blast Off Country Style), Margaret McCartney (ex-Tuscadero, who were closing out the evening), and drummer Ginger Crockett presented us with a six song set of pretty pleasing pop. Here's three of 'em...
Hot Pursuit - 'Hawaii' (live)
Next up was Aden, a band I was only semi-familiar with, having heard and liked a few of their songs on compliations. Frontguy Jeff Gramm seemed genuinely honored to be a part of the lineup, and I really wanted to get into their set, but something just seemed... off. I knew the songs were there, a couple really stood out as excelllent, but I gotta say, hopefully without sounding too mean, I was pretty darn distracted by the guitar noodling of the long-haired gent on stage left. His amp was too loud where I was, and his meandering lines sounded straight out of the grateful dead-zone. Not really my thing. (case in point: I once took a few guitar lessons, and as soon as the instructor said with a smile that "the first song you're going to learn to play is 'Casey Jones' by the Dead!", I walked out and never came back). Admittedly, I enjoyed going through my recording of the Aden set more than I did that live experience... they sound much better than I remembered at the time...
Aden - 'I Knew You Would Go' (live)
And then came my biggest musical discovery of the entire event... Flin Flon. I'd until then missed the Flin Flon train, but I'm happily on board after what I saw that night at the Black Cat. They physically moved me, their amazing rhythm section barreling along with a dancey Joy Division-meets-Six Finger Satellite feel, Teenbeat honcho Mark Robinson peppering the songs with his familiar voice and guitar notes. The crowd was way into it, and I was right there in the middle. Listening to the recordings reveals to me just how much you need to see this band live... the audio is not enough, doesn't capture quite what we got hit with. But it's a start...
Flin Flon - 'Swift Current' (live)Now I just need to pick a Flin Flon disc or two.
At last, my personal main attraction... the quartet that is Versus. They started out with a simple 'This set is for Mark', dedicating it all to Mr. Teenbeat, the very man who released their first album. Three songs later I realized they were going to play every freakin' track from that record, and I don't think I stopped smiling until well after they left the stage. Like I said, it was a little dream come true for me. Here's the first half of the set, the first half of that brilliant album...
Versus - 'Thera' (live)... and I'll be posting the second half of them on Monday. Their whole damn debut album live, songs that are over a decade old, every single one. Can you tell I was a little excited? What a gift, and we actually have Mr. Robinson to thank for it. He asked the band if they'd do it, and whaddya know... they obliged. So cool of 'em. Again, just... wow.
It'd be kinda hard to follow that up, right? Well, a reunited Tuscadero did their best, closing out the celebration with a thirteen song set of their hook-filled bubblegum-poprock. I'd seen them a couple times when they came up to Vermont and played the Burlingtonitus fest, and while they were never the most exciting live band, they were pretty together for having packed it over five years ago. The crowd ate it up and sang along to many of their familiar songs, getting just a little louder during their 'Centerfold' cover. Here's five for ya...
Tuscadero - 'Mt. Pleasant' (live)
So that's it for my Teenbeat anniversary posts, at least until I post the rest of that Versus set on Monday. And a reminder, you can find a bunch more pictures from the shows in this Teenbeat Flickr set I pulled together, along with other peoples' pics when you click this Teenbeat Tag search link.
Thanks, Teenbeat. I had a blast.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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