The Best Show I Ever Saw

I remember seeing Pavement at the Agora Theater in Cleveland with the Dirty Three and Come. While I was hanging out in the lobby before the show, some kid asked me about my t-shirt. I was wearing my blue Archers of Loaf shirt that featured the same picture of a hockey player as their Vs. the Greatest of All Time EP. The kid couldn't get into the show since he wasn't yet eighteen.

I saw Archers of Loaf show was in Columbus, OH at a venue called Stache's. Stache's is no longer in the same location. Within a couple of years, the dark, dingy rock dive would be torn down in favor of a shopping center that would feature a Gumby's Pizza, a tanning salon, and an H&R Block storefront. This was same venue that Sonic Youth played in for the first time with drummer Steve Shelley. The place was a historical landmark of college rock and the indie scene.

It was my sophomore year in college and I was still learning about indie rock. Despite living in Columbus for almost two years, I had yet to attend a show at Stache's. Of course, they were constantly going back and forth between allowing those under eighteen through their doors. In fact, my girlfriend at that time hadn't yet turned twenty. We weren't even sure she'd get in, but it was announced that those under eighteen would be allowed in for an additional surcharge. Nineteen was fine.

Archers of Loaf were unknown to me just a couple of months earlier. I had only learned of them through a random track on the My So-called Life soundtrack that my brother and sister gave me the year before as a joke for my birthday. The song "South Carolina" was constantly played in my dorm room. It wasn't until about a year later that I had heard anyone even mention the band Archers of Loaf. This guy Brad was letting me in on the latest in upcoming shows. I was intrigued as soon as he mentioned Loaf playing Stache's.

The local free paper, The Other Paper, was pushing the Loaf show in the week leading up to the gig. The first local band I followed was the band Earwig. They were opening along with this band called Helium. Helium was getting a lot of attention since signing to the indie-rock label du jour Matador and featuring a member of math rock auteurs Polvo. It was going to be the indie rock happening of the spring.

Being the uncool hipster wannabe that I was, I wore my bright orange Weezer t-shirt and high school ball cap. It was the spring of 1995. My indie rock obsession was about to begin.

Earwig put on one of their more memorable shows that night. It's as if they knew that this was the show that could propel them to greater things...it ultimately wouldn't, but it felt like it could. They rocked through their set and finished with their typical closer, "Wounded Knee". This was one of those three part songs that was made to be a finale. It opened with a sparse guitar riff with plenty of space before rocking with an urgency that riled the crowd into a frenzy. The song finished off in similar fashion to the opening chords before breaking down into a punk rock deconstruction. My heart was pumping. Those around me had these wide-eyed looks of amazement on their faces. This was only the first band.

Our friend (another guy named) Brad who now plays for The Sun was raving about the next band Helium. He was a Loaf fan but was really looking forward to Helium's set. The buzz in the club was definitely about Helium.

Helium was fronted by Mary Timony who has had a solid career of her own over the last decade. The band's video which showed Timony dragging a hoe through a field had been displayed on Beavis and Butthead. The "animated" adolescent twosome of course made some comment about a "ho" as the video played.

My girlfriend bumped into Timony in the restroom. She warned my girlfriend that the stalls were a little scary. Timony later autographed a Helium t-shirt for her while Archers of Loaf played their set.

Helium's set wasn't all that energetic, but it rocked anyway. I still remember the old toy keyboard that Timony duct-taped popsicle sticks to in order to hold a note through one of their songs. I could barely make out her voice, but the band played a loud, raucous art rock. The set was able to live up to the buzz.

Archers of Loaf was up next. I had been anticipating this show for the past month when (the first) Brad had first mentioned it. He had loaned me their two full-length discs which I promptly copied. Icky Mettle and Vee Vee are still two of my favorite records to this day.

I had a spot right in front of the stage, leaning on the monitors. I was so close that bassist Matt Gentling nearly hit me several times over the bridge of my nose with the end of his instrument when he wasn't yelling a drunken "thanks" into the mic after every song. Eric Bachman, an imposing presence with his 6'5"+ frame and throaty growl yelled into the mic 24 inches to my left. Dana Carvey look-alike Eric Johnson was maybe five feet away, shredding the hell out of his guitar and distortion pedals. Mark Price was the most ordinary-looking of a band of ordinary-looking guys, but he could beat the skins into oblivion.

Archers of Loaf played a set that included their hits "Web in Front", "Harnessed in Slums", and "Wrong". During the set, Loaf played "You and Me" which led right into "Might" with a bang of the drums exactly like they had on Icky Mettle. I could see at least two other guys in the audience mouth "just like on the record" as I was thinking the same thing. They played "Audio Whore" and shook the ground beneath my feet as everyone screamed along. The band virtually played every song from their young catalog sans "South Carolina".

I saw Archers of Loaf play three more times after that and have seen Eric Bachman several times as his next incarnation, Crooked Fingers. Never did the band sound as good or rock as hard as they did that night. That show changed the way I looked at live music. There was an entire community of people who lived passionately for these regular guys playing guitars in crap dive bars. I think that I have been searching for a show like that Archers of Loaf gig for the past thirteen years. I want that high again.

So, when the kid at the Pavement show asked what he missed, I didn't have the heart to tell him what that show meant to me. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was the greatest, most human experience of my life. So, I said it was "alright."


ks said...

This post was like a great sugar high. It pumped me up while reading it, but it made me both a little sad & a little "wanting another cup" afterward. I wish I could go back & re-live some of those great moments and great shows of my college years, but I wonder if it would "taste" as good as I remembered if I could actually go back & do it again.

A couple of thoughts of my own....
1) The first time I saw Earwig was actually in the Crusader Club @ Capital. Can you believe it? I bought a cassette of theirs & I still have it. (Although I can't play it...no tape player!)

2) I think Brad C. was really pumped to see Helium because he thought Mary Timony was HOT. I'm not sayin' that's bad or wrong b/c she IS. I'm just sayin'. :)

3) There's nothing wrong with wearing a Weezer shirt. Just say, "But my favorite album is 'Pinkerton'," and you're cool..

4) If only this show were one year later, I'd have been there, too. I'm quite jealous. But I suppose we each have our own time & our own prized memories.

Thanks for sharing!

comoprozac said...

1) I more than likely set up that Earwig show while I was on the programming board.

2) You hit the nail on the head.

3) But this was before Pinkerton, I believe.

4) It's true. Everyone has their own memories. I actually pulled this from lim and edited it a little for this blog. You should sort through the posts on this blog. I have many more stories to add.

ks said...

Wasn't there an Amnesty Int'l show that year, too? I was a freshman and don't remember who played, but I remember seeing another 'show' like that at Capital.

That's when I kept wondering, "Where can I find fellow indie rockers? And more importantly -- with cars?"

comoprozac said...

Yeah, I organized that with Devin Allen, (He was the Amnesty pres.) I don't remember all the bands, but Bigfoot played and were great. They drank beer in one of the stairwells. The show was held in the basement theater of the student center. (Did that building have a name?)

ks said...

I have no freakin clue what the name was, but I remember the basement theater. That's right..Bigfoot. I remember now. Did you see them play at Bernies when Melanie was pregnant? I wouldn't think Bernies was the best place to be while preggers, but oh well.

comoprozac said...

I may have. I saw them play so many times. I remember them bringing the kids to shows once in a while, though.