Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Santa Monica, California
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Sit back, kick your shoes off and I'll tell you a little story. It's a tale of two friends, who will remain nameless, and two shows: My Bloody Valentine at The Palace in Hollywood, California on July 5, 1992 and at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 1, 2008. My Bloody Valentine was born in London (by way of Dublin) in 1984 and, by the end of that decade, became the flagship band in a sea of rock called shoegaze, which is a form of modern psychedelia featuring a pounding, repetitive rhythm section smeared with layers of heavily effected, distorted guitars and serene, melodic vocals buried deep in the mix. After releasing their universally acclaimed masterpiece, Loveless, in 1991, the band embarked on a tour the following year.
A decade before they met, both friends attended the aforementioned 1992 show in Hollywood and were floored by its blissful beauty and ear-shattering volume. Neither friend had any idea that fate would allow them to meet and work together at Altamont more than a decade later. Likewise, no one else knew this would be the last show My Bloody Valentine would play in the United States for 16 years. As the '90s wore on, the band recorded and shelved numerous uninspired recordings, then descended into a decade-long hibernation. Rumors of a new album and a reunion tour occasionally surfaced as a whole new generation of fans slowly emerged from the ether. Although by the late 2000s the band seemed to be permanently buried underneath a glacier, in 2007 they finally announced a comeback tour.
On October 1, 2008, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was a sweltering hot box packed to the gills with several thousand human creatures of all shapes and sizes. OG audience members from 1992 were easy to spot as they hobbled about on walkers with their heads full of grey hair and grey matter, and ears full of plugs. (Too bad earplugs cut out all of the higher frequencies, which hides the guitars and makes it sound like you're listening to the concert from the next airplane hangar over.) Said heads were effortlessly set aloft by My Bloody Valentine's heavenly maelstrom--even more so when their best-loved songs from the '80s and early '90s suddenly gave way to a sustained 20-minute feedback festival of epic, oceanic proportions.
Clocking in at 130 decibels, it was an incredibly loud, dense and corroded blizzard of electric sound flurries. It felt as if the music was coming from everywhere. In fact, a few folks sprinkled throughout the audience were so swept away, they extended their arms skyward with hands open wide like fleshy antennae, mainlining infinite energy direct from the black hole core of the Milky Way spiral galaxy. Amazingly, a lion's share of the audience endured this sonic onslaught to the bitter end, unlike 1992, when most folks beat a hasty retreat out the front door. Maybe the wider world is finally catching up to the avant garde?
Here's hoping My Bloody Valentine finish that never-completed album and come back on tour again really soon. P.S. Since Friend A treated Friend B with a free ticket to the show (a $50 value), it has been determined that Friend B owes Friend A at least five or six lunches, proving once again that nothing in life is free--unless you have a sugar daddy.
Photos by Justin Regan, Randy Randall and Bethany Black.