Here’s to You, Lemonheads

So I saw the Pixies perform Doolittle earlier this year and I saw the Throwing Muses early 2009. Last night, I drove up to Sydney for the Lemonheads’ Shame About Ray tour. I’ve been out of the music scene for a long time now, and Triple J don’t care much about the 90s shoe-gazer bands anymore, so I didn’t know who to expect on the bill with the Lemonheads, or even who was going to be in the band last night. Only the day before, I found out the support act would be Smudge. So, I made sure to be there on time.

In the 90s I was a volunteer radio announcer. The staple of my weekly one-hour show consisted of bands like Pixies, the Breeders, the Throwing Muses, the Lemonheads and the Half-a-Cow bands Godstar and Smudge. And last night I was lucky to finally meet one of my regular listeners who is now a rock photographer and sometime journo. Neither of us knew who would be playing in the Lemonheads, aside from Evan, but we both wished that Juliana Hatfield might appear on stage at the Metro to play bass. No such luck. Unfortunately. They were my Charles and Diana of the 90s indie music scene. Not that they’d ever confirmed a romantic connection of any sort, I’d just fantasised about it. Actually, I fantasised that I was Juliana and that Evan Dando and I would make awesome music and babies together. *sigh*

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One song into the Smudge set I was 19 again. Alison Galloway and Adam Yee look pretty much the same as they did back then, but Tom Morgan has lost his long, wavy brown locks and is now sporting a grey crewcut. There’s nothing that makes you feel older than seeing your favourite musicians getting old, too. The Smudge set was thoroughly enjoyable. Though I didn’t know all the words, I recognised most of the tunes. (I wasn’t as obsessed with Smudge as I was other bands.)

In 1993, I was living in Melbourne. (I’ve always said it was the best year for music.) I remember going to see Evan Dando at a solo in-store appearance in Gaslight Records, in March. He signed a CD single that I took along and I can even remember what he was wearing. And then a week or so later he did a show at the Prince of Wales with the rest of the band, (possibly in the same clothes). Isn’t it amazing how some music can transport you back, like time travel?

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Anyway, after the half hour intermission, the crowd was denser and the Lemonheads emerged onto the stage. He still looks exactly the same. Same hair, same sense of fashion. Doesn’t even look much older in the face, really. There was no talk. Straight into the set—a combination of tracks from Shame About Ray and Come on Feel the Lemonheads, plus a few others. It was just down to business but it was rockin’. They shunned Mrs Robinson—the cover that propelled them into mainstream success. But I don’t care, and neither do they, I’m sure. I recall they did the same thing in 1993. More than likely, it was record company pressure that made them re-release the Shame About Ray album in 1992, with Mrs Robinson as an extra track. I didn’t need Mrs Robinson to have a good time with the Lemonheads so I danced and sang along in my retrospective haze. The curtains re-opened to a vibed crowd, wanting more. Evan appeared, sans guitar, and took the stage with Tom Morgan and Alison Galloway for a stripped back, but lacklustre, rendition of Outdoor Type. It was sloppy, with forgotten guitar parts and laughter. A half-assed attempt, at best, But it didn’t matter. Seeing this trio playing together, even poorly, was happiness enough.

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Now I just need Fugazi to come back and tour Steady Diet of Nothing. Their gig at the lower Town Hall in October 1993 was the best. gig. ever. And thus, my midlife crisis would be complete.

And speaking of Sydney Town Hall. I hope you Sydneysiders plan to check out the Christmas lighting this year. It’s beautiful!

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