Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Two days of Sundays

I've recently started writing about some of my concert experiences that were most memorable for me, and it looks like this might turn out to be a series of many parts.  Although I had planned to write about something else, I've had a request to detail the events of February 19 and 20, 1993.  A crew of my buddies and I saw The SUNDAYS on consecutive nights and went on a pretty memorable road trip to make it all happen. 

We were all in school at Guilford College, all radio station geeks and all really into The Sundays (I never cared for that whole all-caps thing they had).  When we saw that they were coming to the Cat's Cradle on February 19, it was a no-brainer.  They were among our favorite bands.  It was a Friday.  We were college kids.  On that night, I think it was Tim, Christian, Reid and myself.

I think I was the only one of our lot who was into Luna, who was opening for the Sundays on that tour.  I was really familiar with their first record Lunapark, and of course their single from that record "Slash Your Tires".   Sadly, I did not know at that time that Luna frontman Dean Wareham had come out of Galaxie 500.  Nonetheless, I was into this show from start to finish.  Even though I was into both bands, the obvious highlight of the show wasn't those four dudes.  It was The Sundays.  More specifically, it was the privilege of seeing a goddess named Harriet Wheeler lead that band.

Luna played a great opening set, and I was especially impressed by their cover of the Beat Happening song "Indian Summer".  That was the last song of their set, and I think that the twenty minutes or so between their breakdown and when The Sundays finally took the stage felt like an eternity.  While we were all there certainly because we loved the music, every dude in the room was really excited about seeing Harriet.

And she was stunning.  As hot as twelve suns.  I remember at some point very early in the show -- maybe in the break between the first two songs -- somebody in the crowd shouted out:

         "Harriet, you're the spawn of Aphrodite!"

which is undeniably a hilarious thing to shout out at a concert.  She wore monitors in her ears and didn't even notice, but guitarist David Gavurin sure did.  He dropped his pick, chuckled a little bit and then they got back into the next song.

The set was absolutely incredible.  As stunningly beautiful as Harriet was, her band was equally amazing on stage.  Years later, I talked to other people who were at that show and they confessed to getting teary-eyed.  This show remains one of my all-time favorites.  I was unbelievably happy during and after the show.  It was also the precursor for a really amazing road trip and another show the next night. 

After the show, my lot decided that we wanted to hang around and meet the band.  Most bands, after a show, will hang around in the broom closet they call a "dressing room" at the Cradle, or in the hallway or whatever,  making themselves somewhat available to the audience.  The Sundays, however, went straight out the back door (which is now the front door (EDIT: April 2012 -- it's now exclusively the load-in/out door) and onto their bus.  My friends and I were told by their tour manager, who was this big lummox named Scott, that they weren't allowing anybody on the bus and that they weren't meeting any fans.  It's a mystery why I can still remember that guy's name after 18 years.  Slightly dejected, but still riding the high from the show, we headed back to school.

Sometime that night, somebody came up with what turned out to be one of the most brilliant ideas ever.  I have to assume that it was Reid who came up with it.  Reid has an uncle who was living in Norfolk Virginia, working for one of the big concert promotion companies.  Norfolk was the next stop on The Sundays' tour.  Not knowing for sure if any of the pieces would fit together, Reid called his uncle who said that yes, his company was promoting that show.  Yes, he could get us into the show.  And on top of that, he could get us backstage.  We hadn't even asked for that, but there it was!   We rallied our troops early in the morning and packed two cars full of guys for a trip to Norfolk.  I feel like I'm forgetting a major participant, but I  remember for sure that it was Reid, Christian, Alex, Tim and myself.  I'm sure that there was one more person or we wouldn't have taken two cars, but I can't remember that detail.  And yet I can remember Scott's name.    

After a fun-filled road trip, we got to Reid's uncle's house sometime in the early afternoon.  We played some basketball and drank some beer (none of us were of legal drinking age) and relaxed a bit.  The whole crew of us went out to dinner on Reid's uncle's dime, and he didn't know any of us from Adam.  We spent the night in his house, and all he knew about us was that we were friends of his nephew.  And of course we got guestlisted and backstage passes.  All for nothing.  It was amazing enough that it was happening, and even better that Reid's uncle did it all out of the kindness of his heart.

The dinner that we had, by the way, included freshly caught raw oysters.  That was the first time, and it remains the only time that I've ever eaten raw oysters.  Spotting my trepidation, Reid's uncle informed me that I haven't lived until I've eaten raw oysters.  I ate quite a few, and I did like them, but I have never eaten them again.

The show was a place called The Boathouse in Norfolk.  I think it might have shut down a few years ago.  I might be making this bit up, but something in my memory tells me that the club had a chain link fence right down the middle to separate the over- and under-21 folks.  I'm making that up, right?

The show was identical to the show the night before.  Amazing.  The set list might have even been exactly the same.  It didn't matter.   It was phenomenal.

After being pointed in the direction of the backstage area, we were told to wait for a little bit before going in.  A girl who couldn't have been more than 15 years old spotted our backstage passes and handed one of our lot a package and said that we had to deliver it to Dean Wareham.

This is where it gets weird.  

The "package" was a hand-written letter on loose-leaf notebook paper that was, for some reason, wrapped around a carrot and held together with a piece of string.  This was a really strange thing, but we decided to oblige.  Once we got in the room, we found Dean, explained the situation and handed him the package.  He opened the letter and started reading.  It was, I think, two pages, but Dean didn't even read ten percent of it.  It opened with "I listen to your music every night while I'm in bed.  Your songs come to me while I'm sleeping", at which point the carrot became a really nasty thing.   He dropped the carrot and didn't say anything else.

Although we were all radio geeks and we would later conduct dozens of interviews with bands, none of us had at that point.  We didn't know what we were supposed to do in the backstage area.  We didn't even know if other people would be there.  It turned out, there were a couple of girls who had traveled from England to follow the Sundays for at least the first bit of their North American tour.  There was a 12-year old boy who had won the ticket/backstage pass on a radio station contest.  He was learning to play the drums because he loved the Sundays.  His mother embarrassed him a little bit, but after a while, he was okay.

We didn't want to hassle the band, but we definitely wanted to meet them, so we were just hanging out by ourselves waiting for a good moment.  At some point, before any of us were ready, David Gavurin walked up to me and commented on the t-shirt I was wearing.  "Throwing Muses?!  Fucking brilliant!"   Right away, we were friends.  After that ice was broken, we all hung out for a couple of hours until the band called it a night.

At some point during the night, one of us asked David about the "Spawn of Aphrodite" incident, and this became a little joke for the rest of the night. 

I had the cd booklet of Blind signed by the band, and if you enlarge the photo on the right, you can see that David Gavurin signed it to: "David.  Spawn of Aphrodite" and from: "David (Venus)".  The other signatures are "Paul (Penus)" -- that's his misspelling, not mine, "Harriet (Anus) haha" and the simple "Patrick".

I took a bunch of pictures of the band, but none of me with the band.  We were actually told expressly that they would not allow any pictures to be taken of a fan alone with Harriet.  That was fair enough, and I respected that, but I took it too far by forgetting to get one of me with the whole band.  Or any of the guys with the whole band.

Up to then, that was probably the coolest thing that had ever happened to me.  I was floating on air for a couple of weeks, and I would often search for an excuse to tell and re-tell the story.  It's been a really long time since I've told it.  


Reid said...

Aw, man....thanks for writing that up. That's a great moment in my music-going history as well.

Good memory, too: the Boathouse did indeed close down...I think over a decade ago. And it did have a beer garden separated from the rest of the place by a fence, though it wasn't right down the middle. It was off to one side.

I do remember that the Boathouse show was at the height of the moshing days, and the fact that there was a large mosh pit at a Sundays show just went to show how out-of-hand it had gotten. Though at one point backstage, I asked David Gavurin about it and he said that it looked awesome and he loved it. I did not.

I still have my signed copy of Blind (and the backstage pass) and that will be one of the few CDs that I'll always hang on to.

d-lee said...

Shit. That's a brilliant detail that I forgot to include. In that conversation about moshing, somebody remarked that they'd even seen it, and stage diving at a Slowdive show. David's quick-witted response: "If you're going to stage dive at a Slowdive concert, it's really got to be a SLOW dive."

xtianDC said...

This is excellent! You remember so many details I had forgotten. I just looked at my copy of Blind for the first time in ages. "Cheers m'dears" it says.

I believe it was also on this trip that we invented our fictitious British band, the Parsnips, taking the joke as far as creating our own legal id for the college radio station. Always got a kick out of hearing that!

Hans said...

Fantastic read. Something about this story sounds so familiar, like I've heard it before, but I can't imagine who would have told it.

luis said...

Wow! such an amazing expirience, I was digging my recorded shows, and I got Lisner auditorium 1993.02.21(the next show on the tour). Almost I got your expirience taped and uploaded.

Would be really cool if we can see your photos. Mail me mithluinluis@gmail.com if you want some live stuff.