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Feb
24
2009

Rock of (Bygone) Ages: Soundgarden ’91 and ’94

I was rooting around today in the storage cabinets in my studio, looking for a good place to stash (or stuff) the bundled mess of receipts and invoices that pass for my 2008 tax records, and I discovered a long-forgotten envelope of old concert tickets.  I’d forgotten I still had these, and they’re an odd thing for me to still have since I’m by nature neither a pack rat nor overly-sentimental; I thought, though, that they might be worth digging though for a few blog posts before they fade away (literally) or I decide to ditch them.

The bulk of them are largely uninteresting–and frankly, the best live shows I’ve seen have mostly been at venues small enough that one needn’t have purchased an actual advance ticket, rather than just arriving and paying at the door.  I don’t know how many posts I’ll do on these, but perhaps they’ll be of some interest to the few folks from my halcyon days as a young rock-and-rollist who occasionally check out this blog.  First up:

Soundgarden ’91 and ’94

soundgarde

These two stubs struck me as a good place to start since they represent one of the best rock shows I’ve seen, and one of the worst–and both by the same band.

The first stub chronologically is the red one at the bottom.  It’s from a show that Soundgarden headlined at the 13 13 club in Charlotte.  Nirvana is clearly the ’90s band as far as most folks are concerned, but I was never really into them.  I’ve come around to them more now, over a decade later, but at the time they seemed to me like “The Melvins Light.”  A “grunge” band I was really into, though, was Soundgarden.  I’d first been introduced to them when I’d listened to their record Louder than Love that had arrived as a promo at the college radio station I worked at in 1989.  By the time of their sophomore major label release, Badmotorfinger, I was a rabid fan.  When they came through Charlotte, NC in November of 1991 the first single off the record, “Jesus Christ Pose” had hit MTV and stirred some low-key interest, but it’d be a bit longer before the band hit real pop fame with the single “Outshined.”  Lucky for those of us at the show, the band was still at a point in their career where they were being booked in small clubs like the 13 13, which had a capacity, I’d guess, of maybe 800 people (assuming the fire marshal didn’t show up).

The Soundgarden show at the 13 13 was phenomenal.   The band was on.  The crowd was on.  I recall someone from the band (most likely, singer Chris Cornell) commenting on the lively crowd–and commenting in a way that seemed to me (at least at the time) as genuine, rather than in a “hello, Cleveland” way.  The opening band was pretty much unknown at the time: Blind Mellon.  Yeah, the “bee girl” band from the ’90s.  I remember commenting to the friends that I’d come with about how much the opening band pretty much sucked and sounded like a lame, slightly hippie-er version of Guns-N-Roses.  Clearly some record producer talented at crafting hit singles had gotten a hold of the band between then and whenever that “bee girl” song came out (what the Hell was the name of that song, anyway?) since they sounded pretty much nothing like they did on that single at this show.

Cut, though, to a few years later.   Now Soundgarden’s had a huge hit with “Outshined” off of Badmotorfinger, but more importantly they’ve released their breakthrough album, Superunknown, which would spawn a string of big singles for the band: Black Hole Sun, Spoonman, Fell on Black Days, and more.  When they’d returned to Charlotte, they’d outgrown the 13 13 and instead were playing at the Charlotte Colosseum.  Also, they’d apparently become huge douche-bags–particularly their bassist, Ben Shepard who was apparently angry that the crowd in this huge, ugly, fluorescent light-lit, sports colosseum weren’t sufficiently “into” the show.  When the band starts acting like a bunch of dicks, a viscous cycle ensues in which the crowd gets even more irritated and responds even less to what’s going on on-stage.  Thank god the Reverend Horton Heat was opening up, or the whole evening would have been a lost cause!


3 comments

1 ping

  1. John says:

    The draconian security at the ’94 show was a sure sign that the “new alternative/punk revival” of the early 90s had been consumed by the corporate monster. I guess they thought all my fan letters to Chris Cornell were cause for suspicion.

    All I can recall of the whole sordid affair were the thuggish stage-front security guards, some inspired riffs from the Rev, and some baby-wah-wah antics from our heroes. Sort of a nightmare experience. Of course, there’s much that I forget from those days, for some reason. I blame Triple Peach.

  2. Ben says:

    Oh, yeah… I’d totally forgotten about what dicks those security guys were. Add that to my list of gripes…

    I guess Randolph must have unearthed the Triple Peach and its contents, which I recall we built into the walls of our practice space, which is now–what–the master bedroom of that house?

  3. chicago replacement windows says:

    Man, what a great band. I wish i could’ve went to the shows when i was younger and they were around. Soundgarden was just such a rockin unique band.

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