Around about the time I turned 15, I discovered that “going to shows” was a great way to spend my time. Tickets in the 1990s were pretty cheap, and the TLA was a great venue for teens: it featured all ages shows, it was easy to get to, and it was in the middle of hip South Street. Throughout my teens and 20s, I saw (and met) a number of really great bands there: Catherine Wheel, PJ Harvey, Garbage, Hum, G Love and the Special Sauce and many more. The TLA has long been my favorite venue, and I’m excited to be going to two upcoming shows there: Ingrid Michaelson and Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls).
I just saw this morning on Facebook that Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions are releasing a new album and are touring in support. In case you don’t know who Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions are, click over here to find out. Or, you may know Hope from the group Mazzy Star: she was the singer before they disbanded. Mazzy Star was one of the bands I saw at the TLA in high school, and I remember that concert more clearly than most (which is amazing, considering the fact that the concert took place more than 10 years ago, and I ingested a fair amount of herbal intoxicant that evening). I remember it so clearly because it was one of the worst concerts I’d ever been to.
I was accustomed, after 2 years of concert-going, to high-energy shows. I’d seen the Toadies, where I crowdsurfed (and got dropped); I’d been to festival shows at large ampitheaters and participated in mosh pits; I’d joined the crowd jumping in time to “I Want to Touch You” during Catherine Wheel’s set. I was not at all prepared for Mazzy Star’s performance.
The theater was dark, and the stage was backlit with very dim lights. When Mazzy Star came on to the stage, they entered silently from stage right, and Hope Sandoval walked quietly up to her mic while the rest of the band tuned up. She stood there silently, staring at the ground, not speaking or moving. During the entire set, she stood in one place, with one arm behind her back, not moving in time to the music or anything. She never spoke, only sang, and she looked either at the ground or the ceiling. There was no interaction between the members of the band, and no interaction between the band and the audience.
I was entirely confused: PJ Harvey regularly banters with her crowds, Amanda Palmer has been known to actually enter the crowd. Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel once directed the spotlight into the crowd (I know this because he directed it to my friend and me, after we tossed something on stage – a story for another time). But Hope Sandoval barely acknowledged that there were other people in the room.
At the time I was pissed. I felt shafted in some way. Now I’m not so mad – people cultivate personas, based on actual or perceived circumstances or desires, and Hope was probably doing just that. And clearly, it’s a style of performance that she has adhered to for the length of her career. I still respect her music, though I’ve mostly grown out of the shoegazery ambient genre – it tends to make me feel melancholy when I have no reason to.
I’d almost like to see her perform again, though. I wonder how different she is now, almost 15 years later, and how different I am.