By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER
THURS., SEPT. 18
You know you've arrived at a Dead show when there's some obviously frying, ecstatically grinning Deadhead merrily flailing his limbs near the parking lot entrance, in a way welcoming you back to the kind of communal atmosphere that hasn't really existed since Jerry Garcia kicked in '95. Naturally, the bazaar was back, too—acres of tie-dyed Deadheads hawking veggie burritos, incense, shirts and Guatemalan bracelets, not to mention the creepy people who were selling nitrous oxide balloons out of their vans.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the class spectrum (and lest you think that only dirty old impoverished hippies go to Dead shows anymore), we pulled into a space next to a pickup truck and overheard this from a woman lounging out in the bed: "I can totally afford a million-dollar house now!" Yeah, we were back home, wallowing in the reflection of our early-to-mid-20s selves. The drum circles! That familiar old scent wafting in the air—a curious blend of pot, patchouli and armpits!
But then there was the music. How much would we miss Garcia's transcendent guitar licks? Not a whole lot, since Gregg Allman look-alike Jimmy Herring filled in beautifully, often sounding as if Garcia's nine fingers had somehow been transplanted onto his hands. (Bob Weir, with his mangy, graying beard, is looking a lot like Jerry himself these days.) So they started with a fairly anonymous jam that launched into the familiar intro of "Help On the Way—Slipknot"—but what's this, no "Franklin's Tower," with which they always used to follow? Instead, we got Joan Osborne and Bob running through Pigpen's old "Hard to Handle" standard. Well, this was different.
It was weird but fresh, a band aurally untethered to history and habit. If Jerry were still around, would the Dead have ever dragged out "Mountains of the Moon" again? They did this night, with Phil Lesh handling vocals (Phil also seemed happier and more energetic than we remember him—coming close to death were it not for a kidney transplant a couple of years ago will do that, we suppose). Would they be doing "And We Bid You Goodnight" for an a capella encore if Jerry were still here? Would Mickey Hart be allowed to sing a couple of songs? We'll never know, but this night at least, it was pretty fucking awesome.
Less awesome was the yeah-whatever "Strawberry Fields" cover and the always-dreary "Drums/Space" combo. "The Wheel" was terrific but went ignored by two teen boys near us who used the moment to smoke what had to be their very first parking-lot pot (it's called oregano, kids, which is why you didn't get high).
And there were our old friends "Bertha" and a stunning "China Doll" and "Throwing Stones" and then they drop in "Franklin's Tower" at the end, sweetly coming full circle. And it was sacred and amazing and spiritual. May the long, strange trip never stop again. (Rich Kane)
HOT HOT HEAT
HOUSE OF BLUES
SUNDAY, SEPT. 21
From our Dec. 12, 1999, review of Hot Hot Heat's second-billed show at the old Santa Ana Koo's Art Café:A lot of their set just felt like recycled new wave, like one day they came upon their older brothers' worn-out Depeche Mode albums and thought they had stumbled across something new.
Four years on, that assessment still stands. The only difference now is that Hot Hot Heat have a monster song on KROQ with the incoherently mumbled "Bandages" (and we aren't the only ones who thought spazzy singer Steve Bays was singing "bag o' jiz" when we first heard it, either). That hit sold out the Mouse House for two nights, so we were curious as to how this band of Canadians has progressed.
Not much. They're more energetic and quirky than we remember, and Bays herked and jerked all over the stage and sang in a fey pseudo-Brit voice he probably thought sounded cool and superbitchen to the throng of horny teen girls who grabbed at his crotch. But aside from "Bandages," a genuinely good single, the Heat are mostly lukewarm—like Canadian beef, they're gray and funny-tasting, something you have to settle for instead of 100 percent USDA-inspected choice. Their sound these days is more Sparks than Depeche—a good thing—but we were still appalled at the number of kids in the crowd who looked as though they'd never take time to research their new wave history and seek out the visionaries who spawned pale imitations such as Hot Hot Heat. Such is what happens when you let corporate radio cement your listening habits for you. Will the Heat be around beyond "Bandages?" We doubt it. We even would've bet money that, had they played their big smash earlier in the set, a lot of fickle people would have left right after, satisfied that they got to hear their Favorite Song of the Week. So Hot Hot Heat were shallow and recycled—but hey, everybody, we tried warning you back in '99, and you ignored us. You deserve them. (RK)