Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why I love The Fall, No. 817 in a series...

From the Goodier Session version of "Glam Racket," something I never noticed before:

You are stuck like a little pig on a castle lawn
and say "Look at what happened to my leg."

On and on and on and on and on...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Fall in Hollywood, May 23 2006

The Fall @ Knitting Factory Los Angeles, May 23 2006


Q: People seem to be very excited by your presence. Do you have any idea why?

A: Haha, one guy in England called me the Unabomber! Ah, I don't know; hair stirs people up maybe.

Q: What's it like working with Mark E. Smith?

A: Maybe you should ask Rob that. Technically I work for Rob, he works for Mark. But I'll say this, he has a bad reputation, but that's mostly off the mark. Nice man. He likes to tug on me.

Q: Tug on you?

A: Yeah. Like before the shows he'll give a tug. Smile half-cocked and say, you know, go get em beardy, or this will be a close shave, lads, stuff like that.

Q: Tell us something about Rob.

A: Ah. Me and Rob have been together since...I think he was three. Yep, three years old.

Q: Rob had a beard when he was three?!?

A: He had me. A great big me. Some people would call it a disadvantage, but not Rob. He'd always say "making friends is easy...when you have all this stuff on your face." And it's true! Rob has a lot of friends. The mouth has something to do with that too, I bet. You should talk to the mouth, and the teeth, the teeth part of the mouth. You see Rob, he's walking around with that ridiculous hat, and the big, I mean, hanging off his face. And he's a big fella. But his mouth is giant! And the teeth! Check it out, the teeth. Rob turns that on like a light switch.


Q: Can we talk to the mouth?

A: No, not right now.

--next on E! True Hollywood Story: The Fall, Tim Presley buys new pants and Orpheo McCord's adam's apple sparks raging controversy within the band.--


The Knitting Factory is sweaty and packed and loud. Curses, that reads awkward. It was a dark and stormy night. I'm sweating and my ears hurt. And people keep bumping me. And I'm scared and my pants are kind of little.

The Fall come out, like they usually do, and start banging away at a new song. Yep, a new song. It sounds sort of like ZZ Top fell into a vat full of melted Kratfwerk computers. It's called "Formation F.D.," I discover later, though the F.D. part could stand for anything. Fall Deploy! Forward Destroy! Fallfan Dave! Fop, Dandy! There are no lyrics! No one knows anything! It's like living in Japan all the time!

Smth comes out snarling, two fisting black gloved hands: "Good evening I am Mark E. Smith! (AND I AM ABOUT TO TAKE THE PISS OUT OF THE LOCAL DJ BOY WHO DARES TO INTRODUCE ME! WHO DARES INTRODUCE MARK E. SMITH? EEEEEDIOT!) thank you for the great introduction...from the MC from nowhere, down the long Cheshire Hills." (tip o' the pin to BigCrashingBeat).

I imagined this part: "By the way, the 'E' stands for 'Ey, somebody tell that fucker Coonce I yam sober as an angry nun at a Yanni concert!"

Then the song ends. Show over.

Not really! It's "Bo Demmick"! Smith is acting kind of pissed off! And then it's "Pacifying Joint"! And the band is really, really, really good tonight, completely setting new form; that week in the studio obviosuly didn't hurt any.

Quickly through "Sparta," MES whipping the band through paces. Barbato watches Smith carefully whenever he has to sing his parts, almost like he's afraid of getting pantsed. Tim Presley up in the spotlight more than the last few shows, or at least he's lit better. Orpheo wearing an ugly green shirt that makes me think about third grade a little too much.

Tuffskins. Burgundy tuffskins. It was not a good time to be me.

Now into "Wrong Place, Right Time," which has almost fully returned to the "classic" version. No more spaz out freak my shit right out noises from Presley. Maybe a few. They do the da-da-da-duh da-da-da-duh bridge from the album version, very Oranjy, second show in a row.

Did I mention that the band is T-I-T-E tight like loctite Tupperware hammered down with titanium nails? Did I mention that? It's true.

Smith is not happy, though, and spends almost the entire 10 or so minutes of "Systematic Abuse" systematically abusing his band. Saunters up to the mic a minute in, indifferently mouths the first two lines of the song, then proceeds to fuck up everything he can get his hands on. AMPS. Check! KEYBOARD. Check! DRUM MIC. Check! ROB'S BASS. Check! THE CORD THAT CONNECTS ROB'S BASS TO ROB'S AMP. Check! DID I FUCK WITH ORPHEO AGAIN YET? Check! It's like watching Jerry Lewis in the 23rd hour of his telethon.

They get through it, that's the thing. Smith doesn't walk off, the guys don't blink. They just. keep. playing.

Peck's Bad Boy disappears into the night. The next song is a near flawless run-through of "Mountain Energei," the band completely in sync, and Smith seems happy with his group now, waltzing around and snapping his fingers to the beat. The band is locked together at the molecular level now, bass and guitar in particular melded so closely together it would take a forensic scientist to discern where one ends and the other begins.

The crowd is either mesmerized or deeply dull. This is Hollywood, remember. And by the way, when did all you wimmenfolk start coming out for Fall shows? There's so much Teen Spirit clone fruity perfumy smells and nubile flesh in the place that I am worried, for a split second, that I fell down and broke my head and ended up at a Franz Ferdinand show by mistake.

Did the Fall just get a lot sexier?

["The new guitarist has got some cool pants on," reports Salford's own Gareth Partington, who is furiously hammering Morse code through a pair of tin cans connected by kite twine strung across the Atlantic.]

When they next launch into "What About Us?" I am fully expecting the lollapalooza long version...the one with the poem about drinking deeply the gathering gloom, etc. But the band tries to wrap it up about six or seven minutes in. Lots of confusion for a second, Orpheo's grin goes a deeper shade of goofy, Smith winds them up like an orchestra conductor, and they spin it back up again to full throttle. Wonderful version, too, MES riffing on crap I can't even half keep up with, and then it hits me all at once: the last three songs have lasted a combined half hour.

It's like a Phish concert you can really get into. Except not like that.

A short "Grass" bucks the trend and winds the show down. Smith keeps motioning for Barbato to sing the chorus parts, and Ron and his beard keep pretending not to notice, until right at the end when Rob finally starts singing the part of the song where you need someone to sing so you don't hear Smith so much, which is the preferable thing that you want, and that the old band did really well. Why must they keep doing this song? Caveats, exceptions, blah blah: can't fault the band.

Encore. Ears are ringing so badly that the shrieks and whistles for more sound like weird coyotes howling outside my tent. Wait, I'm not in a tent. Where the hell am I? Where are those coyotes coming from?

bomp bah bompabah Blindness. Starts out slow and groovy, never heard it played so slowly. It's like winding a clock, the tension goes into the spring; the spring keeps winding; when's it gonna break?

Gradually (from Hollywood Blvd, it CAME) the pace of the thing quickens, stomping along at 5 and then 10 mph and now we're cruising along just under the speed limit. And keeps coming, like a pissed off Batman.

Waves of oscillation churn out into the audience; a black hole gradually forms exactly five and one half feet above Orpheo McCord's head, sucking everything back into it that came out of it; not even light can escape it. Not even Rob Barbato's beard. Not even Mark Edward Smith. When it finally ends, everyone still standing sort of slumps forward like a deflated sex doll.

I limp out of there, drained of all energy but that needed for the trek to vehicle, and every particle of sense (and probably objectivity) that ever lived inside my skull. Clearly I am p0wned. How I wrote The Fall made me their bitch in just under seventy minutes.

Last time I'll ever see this band.

I don't know if I'm ok with that.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

something's got a hold of me...

I cannot escape this band, try as I like.

It's the little things that keep coming back. "Bombast," from my all-time favorite Fall album, This Nation's Saving Grace, for instance. Minor song, irrelevant, I probably skipped it a lot waiting to get to "L.A." or "My New House." Probably a thousand times, it flew right past my grasp.

The other day, I'm listening to a 1985 gig from the Schlacthof in Bremen. Leadoff cut, you guessed it: "Bombast." It's really pulling me in. Pulsating, suffocating, shivering, yelping: the lyrics are inconsequential sonic yelps, Smith ranting the everlasting Smith rant about something, bastards and idiots who ignore his bombast. Some kind of warning. The band is playing for their rent money, tightly unhinged on the edge of a vast unseen precipice. As always in those touch-and-go days, you sense that the entire group, Smith included, were racing against the clock, some kind of intensely hard-wired fight-or-die mechanism that informed everything from Live at the Witch Trials until roughly 1/3rd of the way through Bend Sinister, when they finally discovered they could place an item on the singles chart in Britain and have it stick longer than a fortnight.

All those whose mind entitles themselves,
and whose main entitle is themselves,
shall feel the wrath of my bombast!

The lineup is the fairly classic Smith-Smith-Scanlon-Hanley-Burns, with Simon Rogers along for the ride on keyboards and third guitar; you can barely make him out. This song is all about thrust and pump, Hanley pulsing out spiky morse code with his bass, and then drum and guitars come in roughly three seconds later: Burns lays down an invulnerable shuffle beat while Scanlon stabs through the studio walls with the menacing guitar signatures that usually defined his role; an absurdly undervalued guitarist on every level, Scanlon was to The Fall of the 80's what John Entwhistle was to The Who. The guardian, protector of the beat. If the rest of the band fell off that cliff, Scanlon would still be standing at the top, calmly pulling the rest up with a rope while quietly maintaining maximum and efficient sustain through his tube screamer.

And then there's Smith.

Clanging in my heart.
Bastard! Idiot!

He punctuates each downbeat with shrieks and jerks. He's the naughty boy, hiding in the bushes, pointing fingers and making threats. Spasmodic and unrepentant.

Feel the wrath of my bombast!

The band goes into double-time, Scanlon and Brix raising their guitars up to meet in a duel to the death over Smith's extortions/exhortations. The rhythm section finally responds to the call, grudgingly ramping up to 1.5X speed, the whole mess is flailing and churning and you wonder at the wreck of it all, but it somehow stays upright, like an impossible house of cards. Everything is one hair's width from complete insanity. Exactly and no more.

Feel the wrath.
Those who dare mix real life with politics
And go on regardless of the..of the discoveries
Will feel the wrath of bombast
clanging in my heart

All those whose mind entitles themselves
and whose main entitle is themselves
shall feel the wrath of my bombast!

Frank Jones, now a tasty cold beer

I did not know there is a beer called me. There wasn't, for a long time, because that Frank Jones was dead and stuff. But then someone said, Hey, what about that Frank Jones beer and whatnot, shouldn't we make some more of that? So now there is, once again, a beer called me.

From the Portsmouth Herald, in Portsmouth, NH:

Frank Jones lives again

By James Buchanan, Portsmouth Herald Staff Writer

The happy little city that grew with the "King of Alemakers" has its beer back.

Thursday at bars around the Portsmouth, kegs of Frank Jones beer were ceremoniously tapped by Frank Jones descendant Don Jones and Jim Killeen, owner of Nutfield Brewery in Derry. This means that the distinctive English-style ale recipe of the man who made Portsmouth the "ale capital of the world" from the 19th century to Prohibition is back in production.

The short history of Frank Jones is that he was a man of many passions. Born Sept. 15, 1832, he served two terms as mayor of Portsmouth, was a U.S. Congressman, was nearly elected governor of New Hampshire, and was owner of the Portland & Maine Railroad and the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel. The hotel, ironically enough, is also scheduled to be brought back; but that's a different story.

In 1859 Frank Jones was a tin peddler without many prospects. But after working with English-style ale brewer John Swindell he developed an adeptness for the craft. A year later Frank took on the business by himself.

The reconverted brick mills along Islington Street in Portsmouth are testament to the success he had in building the business into what many considered to be the largest ale brewery in the world. According to Don Jones, the brewery on Islington Street employed approximately 250 people in its heyday.

Dying in 1902, Frank's brewery lingered on without him until Prohibition struck in 1920, which took the wind out of the entire industry, sort of.

Defunct since Prohibition, Frank Jones beer eructated back into existence briefly in the late 1980s, but then disappeared again to age a bit longer, waiting for the right time to re-emerge.

"In 1986 I thought it was about time to bring back the family business," said Don Jones. "We paired up that time with Catamount brewers and started Don Jones Limited, the first beer distributor in New Hampshire since Prohibition."

The rest of the story goes that Jones with his partner built a brewery and began brewing and selling beer here in Portsmouth. In 1993 things weren't working out for Don, so he sold the facility to its current owners, Smutty Nose Brewing Company.

Meeting with Killeen approximately three years ago, the two of them discussed the possibility of bringing Frank Jones back to life, so to speak. Biding his time for the right moment, Killeen began brewing the beer earlier this year, and released the finished result Thursday night. The bottle form of the beer will be available later this month, but the draft form is available now at bars across the city.

Nutfield Brewery is a perfect match for the aged English recipe, as Killeen produces other English-style brews and imports up to 20 tons of grain every six weeks from England.

"Frank Jones Ale is hand-brewed with imported English grains and top fermenting yeast just like the original recipe," said Scott Watson, head brewer at Nutfield.

Killeen adds, "The color is a deep ruby with a wonderful hop fragrance. In essence we are bringing back a rich piece of Portsmouth, New Hampshire's history. It's something we're very proud of."

cat. mistake. cat mistake.

I dunno what happened.

The Fall in San Francisco, May 14 2006

The Fall @ The Independent, San Francisco May 14 2006

Introduction: San Francisco is...screw it. You all know San Francisco, whether you've actually been there or not. Bridges, bay, quaint, postcard views, freaks. My favorite city. My least favorite place to live.

The Fall are...

But first. I drove home this afternoon. Started out as a beautiful day by the bay. 100 degrees on the other side of Livermore. A German helpfully pointed that my car was overheating in Kettleman City. He said, "Steam is coming from the engine compartment!" I guess driving 90 mph while running the air conditioning at full blast for three hours is not a good idea. Hunh. Had to drive the next 100 miles with the windows rolled down and the heat on, venting the engine all the way up and over the Grapevine...but then: LA is nice and cool and smells nice. It really smells nice at night. Really.

I wanted to tear my shirt off, pour some beer all over my chest. Facilitate the tanning process and whatnot. There might have been snow in the mountains, though, so I didn't. (California is like that, y'all.)

The Fall. Repetition. Repetition.


After a sort of lackluster show the night before in LA, the Fall hit the stage in San Francisco pretty much on fire, white-hot from beginning to end. Tightest show yet from this new group, and Smith has really drilled the repetition concept into them nicely. The songs they're playing simply have no point other than getting deep inside your brain and making you think about them for the next 72 days, constantly.

In that sense, "Bo Demmick" is the perfect opener for this bunch. Good move shifting it back to the leadoff spot by Smith, who is clearly doing this shit on purpose now. The boys are very obedient on this one, no "rock star theatrics" here, as some have complained about. This is Smith's equivalent of lining his students up against a wall and having them recite a speech from memory. And it works.

The followup, "Pacifying Joint," shreds the tension from the previous song apart and then introduces a completely new horror: the one-finger insistent riff. Must follow riff. MUST OBEY RIFF. There is no getting around that riff. They avoided it once, in San Diego. Now they are compelled to follow without question or be stabbed with a fork. Again, very tight version tonight; it rocks, it swings, IT OBEYS AT ALL COSTS.

Next, "MidnGURK. Uh, Sparta. Those who have been paying attention gasp excitedly! Hey, maybe we'll get some new songs tonight! This version heavy on the bass...which has become undeniably the lead instrument in the Fall again, at least this month it has. Mark steals Rob's microphone away from him halfway though the song, playfully, I think. Maybe. Later he gives it back and turns away from the crowd, laughing, and stands there shoving it into the big bearded bloke's snout. A frightened Rob starts singing every part, even the parts he didn't know he was going to have to sing--I'm still not used to hearing "English Chelsea fan this is your last game" with an American accent, though. The crowd is bouncing up and down like yo-yos.

(The audience tonight, though another packed house, is totally different than the LA crowd. There is a real good-timey current running through the whole place, a specific kind of San Francisco hivemind crowdthing that really doesn't exist anywhere else in this country, not this reliably at any rate. It's like everyone is expecting Prizes and cake at the end of the show.)

(I like everybody here. Except for this one weirdo in a gold lamé jacket who's dancing around like he's auditioning for The Gong Show, freaking everyone out by imitating "I Think We're Alone Now"-era Tiffany with the face-boxing thing, and doing really elaborately dorky bowing/prostration things in front of Mark and Elena. At the end of the set proper, he tosses his stupid jacket over Elena's keyboards and promptly gets kicked out of the place.)

(Also I'm drunk.)

(Because I have a lot of friends here tonight, and beers keep appearing in my hand, automagically, even though I didn't ask for them. I spilled an entire cup of beer early in the show, however, while I was "dancing". It's OK though! Someone gave me another!)

"Mountain Energei" follows, just a sublimely beautiful version. I'd love to hear this group record a version of this in a studio, of which the chances are: fat and zero. Really cool addition in the middle, when the bass drops out, the drums go very soft, and the guitarist jangles the main riff over MES's vocals, before everything comes back up to the upright and bolted position. Very long rendition, too, with Smith still singing well past the seven minute mark, and not much vamping from the band beyond that, mainly just crushing the groove relentlessly.

(Speaking of Orpheo McCord, some people have pointed out his tendency to do the rock-star flourish vamp thing, and I can understand why a lot of folks wouldn't like that. Me, I think he's a fantastic drummer, and I forgive his occasional mis-steps. Don't know that Smith will put up with that sort of thing for very long, though.)

"Wrong Place, Right Time," driven by the bass, exceedingly. Tim Presley's freak-out guitar is way lower in the mix on this tonight than it's been. The whole thing builds nicely, though, creating a fine tension throughout.

After this song, Smith does a crazy "ahhhh ah ahhhhhhahhhahahhhhhh" acapella thing, standing on the edge of the stage.

Then a raucous "I Can Hear the Grass Grow". I still don't like this song, sorry. Again, though, a nice version of a song I don't like. Lots of people were singing along with it, loudly, so apparently at least several people like it.

How about a ten-minute "What About Us?"? OK, let's. Here the central repetition theme re-asserts itself, grandly. If one absolute comes out of the chaos that is the U.S. Fall tour 2006, it is the complete transformation of this song into anthem and statement of purpose in a way it's never had before. The way it's being done now, it simply thrusts itself into your face while clamping your head face-forward and not letting go of you. FOR TEN MINUTES. You can squirm all you want, it's not going anywhere. It's exhausting and rewarding and an utter expression of joy, and as much as I liked all the different ways Ben, Steve and Spencer used to play it, this is going to be the definitive version for me from here on out.

On the other hand, I still don't understand the lyrics much. Why would a rabbit from East Germany be depressed about Harold Shipman knocking off old ladies? And if he was so haaaaa-py back home, why does he want to immigrate?

HOP HOP HOP! I don't care. I'M HOPPING! I'm a rabbit, look at me!

Pretty soon the entire show will be a fifty-minute "What About Us?" It will rock so hard that your nose will bleed, and make you so tired that you won't be able to clap for an encore, but they'll give you one anway, except it will just be 15 more minutes of "What About Us?" I'll still be happy. Sorta happy. Hop.


When you assume it will be "You Wanner", you are a hume. First version of "Assume" for these guys, and it's nice and compact, though I'm really missing Ben's guitar here. Ben's version: punky and assertive. Tim's version: floaty and indecisive. He needs to really stab the lick here. Not bad, though, and I'm sure it will improve with time.

Closing out with, of course, "Blindness." Another massive version. Very dark, throbbing and intense, fueled by that old repetition. "Bo D" and "Blindness" make perfect bookmarks for this edition of the Fall. You enter a room, someone pounds on your head for ten minutes, then spins you around in circles for the next half hour, then goes back to pounding on your temples for the last ten minutes. Lovely symmetry.

Finis. Great show. Everyone leaves happy, except gold lamé jacket man.

Smithwatch: on point. He might have been a bit, ah, tipsy the night before. He's quite good tonight. No gloves, no walkoffs, very little knob-twiddling.

Elenawatch: she's wearing a polka dot dress, just like Minnie Mouse. It matches her polka dot bag (what is in that bag, anyway?)

Shortness: set is only about 55 minutes. I assume the long drive up the coast had something to do with that...scheduling back to back shows in LA and SF is dumb.

Me: this is my last review for a while. I had to leave today to get back to work tomorrow. I briefly entertained the notion of staying over another night, then driving all night to get back home. I'm feeling a bit sapped, though; emotionally draining week with all these shows and all these changes, but it's been a fantastic time, and thanks to everyone who sent compliments on all this crap I've been spewing. I'll probably see the second LA show on the 23rd, so I will likely have something to say about that one. Should be very interesting after everybody involved gets to rest for a few days.


The Fall in Hollywood, May 13 2006

The Fall @ Knitting Factory, Los Angeles, 5/14/06
bushes were in disagreement with the heat

Preface: Hollywood is a shit town. Don't let anyone tell you different. The last movie star moved away approximately 7,000 years ago, as recently proved by carbon-dating Mickey Rooney. It's not even a town; it doesn't have police or fire services, it has no city hall, no mayor. It's just a "neighborhood" within Los Angeles. All it has is a dirty boulevard and 10,000 trinket stores selling Laurel and Hardy t-shirts, 3 for $10.

On the other hand, Saturday night it had The Mighty Fall, and whatever else you might want to say about the place, its denizens certainly appreciated the touring extravaganza du Mark E. Smith.

The Knitting Factory was packed to the rafters. The posted capacity of the place is 350, but they were surely squeezing a few more than that inside. I'd guess 400, maybe 450. Squeezing room only, and as I write this I am stewing in an uncomfortable mixture of other people's smells, cheap cologne and "smells like" knockoff perfumes predominant amongst them.

Three opening acts tonight. I missed most of the first guy, whose name I did not catch (although the Knitting Factory's website suggests he calls himself The Robot Ate Me). Weird, drugged-out roots music, from one guy with an acoustic guitar and a phase shifter, who looked like a mutant cross between Elvis Costello and Randy Newman.

Next was Fielding, who suck. Totally anonymous sounding emotionally wistful delicate bullshit that will soon be available on Music From "The O.C.," Volume 200. They talked a lot and I hated them and I wanted them to shut up. Dude, your band sucks, no one likes you, and your girlfriend isn't that hot. La la la I'm not listening.

Mark clearly needs to work on the support acts.

Finally Safi the video guy, after an introduction from a college radio DJ ("after this short multimedia presentation, THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME..."). Safi was not well received. By the time Barbra Streisand came up on the screen, the audience was openly hostile. It ended...eventually.


The beginning of Bo D is messed up some. Tim Presley couldn't find the right patch chord or something, leaving Elena, Rob and Orpheo to repeat that riff without any guitar in it roughly 500 times before Tim plugs in. MES takes his time getting on stage, then completely sabotages the intro and the opening lines, and the band can't figure out when it's supposed to go to double-time, because he does "The CD in your hand" bit way before he was supposed to, and that's their cue. The eventually get back on track, but the whole thing is sort of sloppy and they never really get into the groove of it.

"Pacifying Joint" is next, and it's also sort of shambling. The Pomona version was quite clean, but this one is very rough around the edges. Also one of Smith's mics starts cutting out, something that will keep happening intermittently throughout the set. (Eventually he decides he likes the way the mic sounds when it's BROKEN, so he keeps coming back to it.)

Should mention at this point, it's the exact same set from Pomona. No changes. No "You Wanner". Yet. (Unless you count the drunko near the stage who won't stop hollering "play 'A Figure Walks'!" as a "set change".)

"Aspen" next, the guitar is still I think this is a planned thing. It's very nice, though. Smith, probably noticing that the first couple songs were sloppy, really picks up the theatrics here, enunciating very clearly throughout, and making dramatic hand gestures to emphasize the lyrics. It's kind of unsettling, actually.

Now, a rollicking "Sparta". Totally amps up the crowd, fists are pumping, heads are bobbing, Smith practially shouting most of the choruses. Rob and Elena are miked very well this time, you can hear them perfectly. Elena seems to be having a really good time. She's grinning and smiling several times this evening, something you don't always see from her. She does the Greek parts, too. Very fun song. The way this band does it is's like a Spectoresque Wall of Sound (thanx Bob, perfect description)'s also clearly cadged off the US version of COTC as opposed to the more deliberate, less dynamic version that the old band played live. Smith brings the boys to the front of the stage with him during the choruses, something he does again several times during the show. He didn't do this at Pomona, but he did do at San Diego. Maybe he yelled at them earlier today and feels bad.

Now comes "Mountain Energei," which just keeps getting better and better. This was probably the best one yet (er, since Tuesday...which feels like a lifetime ago, to be honest), mainly because Smith was so deeply into the story inside the lyrics, and also because he sang (I approximate) "M-m-m-m-m-m-m-mountain Energy!" at one point. Good times. The bass player from the hated Fielder is standing off to stage right, headbanging the crap out of this song. Also, he's real drunk.

Then comes another "Wrong Place, Right Time" on drugs. Presley is elaborating the main riff a little more, and the freakout effects only come at the end of his guitar signatures, instead of completly replacing the usual riff. It's a little quicker tonight, working its way back to sounding like the "normal" WPRT, except, as I mentioned, on drugs.

Another rip-snorting "What About Us" completes the set. Also a little sloppier than I'd like, but still, it goes on a good eight minutes again, and really has that classic Fall repitition working hard inside of it.

Encore one: "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," a very good version. I suppose I'll just never love this song, but it's played really well tonight, very tight and compact.

Now Smith has the gloves out. Literally, he's wearing not just one black glove, but two of them. Then they're off again. Where did they go? I don't know. (One of them makes a return appearance during "Mr. Pharmacist.")

Next, a whoop-ass version of "Blindness". It just goes on and on and on. Smith pulls out every trick he's got, amps on/off, switches down/up, knobs turned to eleven and then zero and back again; pushes Elena out of the way and controls synths, with his back to audience, using only one hand, for minutes on end. The band has the lockstep groove down tight, and read the changes Smith is making on the spot really well; the whole thing feels like something organic, an organism, fully alive. It adapts and evolves and constantly shifts inside its own reality for something like 12 minutes, until in the end there's nothing else alive in the whole universe except that insistent riff. Fielder guy is going crazy. I think he might have started break-dancing.

It's astounding, this "Blindness". It's vast. It contains multitudes and shit. It's perfect music for dropping dead on the spot to: there's really nowhere else you can go to beyond it. The Outer Planes are just an icy shimmer beyond its cracked and cold windows.


Also, Smith starts dancing at one point about ten minutes in. You read that right. Dancing. Mark E. Smith. Although to be fair, when he does it, it looks exactly like one of those bobblehead dolls you can buy in novelty shops.

"Mr. Pharmacist" closes the set, the same funky, slowed-down tempo from Pomona. Terrific.

I'm tired. And satiated. And I have to drive to San Francisco in eight hours and do it all over again.



Bo D
Pacifying Joint
Midnight in Aspen
Sparta FC
Mountain Energei
Wrong Place, Right Time
What About Us?

Encore one:

I Can Hear the Grass Grow

Encore two:

Mr. Pharmacist

Duration: 1:04

The Fall in Pomona, May 11 2006

Introduction: Pomona (pronounced Puh-MO-nuh) is a mid-sized industrial city set near the foothills ringing Los Angeles. Early Pomona Man had a simple, pastoral culture, and cultivated vines and berries of great potency to trade with other tribes. Unfortunately, Pomona Man tended to eat most of his crops before selling them, which is why, say, nearby San Dimas Man had much nicer huts and tended not to sweat as much in cold weather. This trend has sadly carried on to the present day. Pomona's main exports are crystal meth and colorful knit caps; Pomona's main imports are crystal meth and AC/DC records. The city is notable for achieving complete invisibility in the late 1960's; no one can see it, except when the Los Angeles County Fair comes to town, because everybody loves deep fried Snickers bars.

I kid Pomona, though. They make a great funnel cake.

Now, about the Fall...

The show got pushed back an hour from its start time and they didn't open the doors until well after 8 PM. This seemed to confuse many people who were standing outside. Geez. Doesn't anybody pay attention? Anyway, Safi the video guy eventually got his stuff set up and going, but 45 minutes later than he was supposed to, according to the hastily tacked up flyer outside announcing the schedule change. Whatever. He cut his thing short by several minutes, and without even giving him time to clean his crap up, The New Fall walk out at promptly 10:30, just like the flyer said, plug their stuff in, and launch into "Bo Demmick."

Not much different from the San Diego version, except Smith comes out almost immediately and doesn't keep them churning out the riff over and over. Fashion report: Smith is dressed in all black again, except tonight he's wearing a short sleeved, button-up shirt. Like a lay minister, without the white collar. Another good version of this song, much more concise than Tuesday's.

Next, Elena plays the opening "Pacifying Joint" bars, and I think me and two or three other people in the room were the only ones to tense up. Marvel of marvels, however: the band has learned the song! Not only have they learned it, they've learned it real good. Still not my favorite song, but this is a totally presentable version of it, made all the more remarkable by the fact that this is the first time the fill-ins have played it live, not counting the abortion at Tuesday's show in San Diego.

And then, to add to the jocularity, we next get a complete, discrete version of "Midnight in Aspen." The guitarist is a little off-key here, and the bass player keeps giving him the dirty eye, but Smith seems pleased with it, singing into two mics at the same times and sort of crooning his vocals, and it gets huge applause from the audience.

Next up is "Sparta". Huge improvement from Tuesday. Vast improvement. It sounds just like Ben, Steve and Spencer used to do it, right down to the "Hey!" parts, which come from the heavily bearded bass player. He's right on cue with Elena, the drummer and guitarist are right on top of their parts, and the whole thing just rocks. Thoroughly.

Smith isn't messing with stuff so much tonight. Very little knob twiddling, no making messes of the mic cords. He's looking sort of grim, but not in an unhappy way. I'd say he looks extremely proud of himself. ("He's...uh...he's not a very nice man," the lady at the ticket booth confided to me before the show, her eyes sort of darting around nervously as she blurted it out. I assured her it was nothing she'd done. Probably. "His band is very nice, and very young," she added. "And his wife is gorgeous." The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?)

"Mountain Energei" next, a pulsating beast of a version. Orpheo McCord, the drummer: he is the shit. I think I now believe he's the best drummer the Fall has ever had, and he's only played two shows. -> here is an imaginary picture of me shrugging helplessly. He's merciless and powerful and I bet he could carry tree trunks around with his bare hands. He looks sort of skinny and goofy, too. He does these random machine-gun fills that are just thrilling beyond words, and whenever Smith stalks up to his drum kit, he starts grinning so hard it looks like his head is going to split in two, like a South Park Canadian.

Next is "Wrong Place, Right Time." Now this is a very interesting version. It's got some of what was going on in San Diego, but all the parts fit together really well now. The bass player is strumming hard on all four strings to make a really meaty, rhythm guitar-like part, while the guitarist is playing weird effects, like echo chamber stuff and industrial noises and nothing but weird stuff. It all works really well. It's a really interesting take on this old warhorse, like nothing I've ever heard them do before.

The guitarist is doing an interesting thing tonight. For several songs (and most noticably on "Energei,") he's playing his guitar parts like Scanlon would have played them, not Pritchard. All sinewy muscle and nervous energy. Not the workmanlike garage band sound that Ben is really great at. Not totally Scanlon either, he's definitely got his own thing going on.

I have to be honest, I'm becoming emotionally attached to these new guys. It's going to hurt when they get sent back to their day jobs, or LA bands, or whatever it is they do. On the other hand, Darker My Love just minted themselves a new fan, and I haven't heard a single thing they've done.

In fact, I should call them by their names. Tim, Rob and Orpheo next launch into the second straight absolutely shredding version of "What About Us" in as many nights. The lads have this one utterly figured out. When MES and Elena come in on the chorus it's just thrilling on every level.

Then Smith walks off after about five minutes of the song. Rob (the bass player) looks alarmed and goes over to Elena. Reading his lips, he roughly asks "Now what do we do?" She roughly replies, "We leave." She picks up her bag, the boys stop playing and put their instruments down and they all leave.

The Glass House has this, well, glass partition that you can look through and see what's happening backstage. I peer through this thing and see that they're all standing around smoking and joking around.

Two minutes later, back onstage! "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," a competent and professional take, and then I'm thinking next is "Mr. Pharmacist" and we all go home.

But wait! Those are the opening bars to "Blindness"! My prayers have been answered. It starts out a little sloppy, a little formulaic, but the boys soon get the hang of it. Smith is totally inspired, doing the whole "Blindness" thing, the high-pitched "I was only on one leg," etc. Halfway through the musicians pick it up and clamp down on that crazy groove like nobody's business. They're moving with it, too, really getting into that song. It's a great song, and they're totally aware of it. Then Smith walks off again. Rob the bass player, who is emerging as sort of their leader, looks at the other guys and tells the drummer to stop playing, then he and Tim improvise for about three minutes alone, and then the drummer comes back in and they slam the crap out of the song. But then Smith comes back onstage with a slightly annoyed look on his face, turns off the guitar amp, and gestures them all offstage. They hep to and get out of there.

Wait wait wait. House lights not on yet. Second encore! They come back and do "Mr. Pharmacist," a really funky version with a slowed down tempo, and then the middle part, which is just breakneck speed. Amazing and spectacular, one of the finest versions of this song I've ever heard.

And that's it.

I'm really enjoying these shows. I know it won't last, but these new musicians have made the Fall menacing again, something that has been sorely lacking, in my opinion. There was a swagger in Pomona that just hasn't been there in years. We are The Fall, goddamit. Cast out, cast out; as if from heaven.

Notebooks out, plagiarists!

Full setlist, in case you got bored reading all that crap:

Bo Demmick
Pacifying Joint
Midnight in Aspen
Sparta FC
Mountain Energei
Wrong Place, Right Time
What About Us

First encore:
I Can Hear The Grass Grow

Second encore:
Mr. Pharmacist

Duration: approximately one hour. Attendance: about 200

The Fall in San Diego, May 9 2006

Introduction: San Diego (pronounced San Dee-AY-Go) is a vibrant, prosperous town, known for its colorful Republicans and other wildlife. Its main exports are camoflage and screwing the poor. The center of San Diego culture is undoubtedly the Gaslamp Quarter, which the town likes to think is California's version of New Orleans's French Quarter, which is a quite accurate representation, that is to say, if the Vieux Carre were filled with almost entirely white people and chain restaurants. Nevertheless, here we are and there we go....

Summary: No The Talk. There was no Talk. Talk, The: None. The band played eight songs, and the set lasted approximately 45 minutes. Full setlist will follow.

But first, I would like to express my hatred for House of Blues. Especially HOB San Diego, which is like a dungeon. It is. It just is. It's not even attached to the main House of Blues part, to see live music, you have to go through this weird security detail where a woman takes your ticket and scans it for viruses, and then another guy waves a big wand all over your body while groping you. Then you go inside, and you can't come back out. No-reentry. No-reentry, no smoking inside. No smoking inside, no smoking outside. No smoking, no happy. Also it's just completely dank inside the place, no matter how much "naive art" they plaster the walls with. And there are no chairs. None. Unless you bought the "dinner package," and then you get a folding chair directly behind the sound board, where you can't see anything. In short: fuck the House of Blues.

OK. Video guy doing his video stuff. Pretty interesting, but goes on way too long. I think he did his bit for about an hour. Fortunately the bar sold Stella, and I was able to quickly and efficiently intoxicate my way through it. He finishes and slides his compter table thing off to the side. Stage is pretty bare, the FHR logo is (dimly) on the backdrop behind the drums.

About ten minutes after video guy goes away, three scruffy looking guys come on stage and plug in their guitars. Who are these guys? I dunno. I thought maybe they were The Talk. Without any kind of fuss they launch directly into "Bo Demmick". They have it nailed, spot perfect, just like on the album, and then Elena comes out with her big polka dotted bag, places it next to her keyboards, and starts tapping along with the song. (I should mention here that Elena looks way hotter in person than in photos, and that's saying a lot. Most of you lucky bastards probably already knew this and weren't telling me.) About five minutes go behind, and these weird dudes are just grinding that riff.

I'll set up the new fellas here. The guitarist is a skinny guy with sort of a moddish haircut, like something you'd imagine every member of the Vines probably has. The bass player is a big lumberjack looking guy with a neck beard (or meth beard as people in these parts have started to call them... think Will Oldham with dark hair. The drummer is totally normal looking with short blond hair and looks like he enjoys long walks on the beach and playing dominos.

Oh yeah, they all look scared shitless.

Then Smif walks out, all scary black like. Black pants, black shirt, black jacket, like he was going to a funeral. Casually saunters out, as if he opened the backstage door and forgot he was supposed to do a concert. He gets to the mic and ("Good evening we are the Fall, from the land of bees [?] and [unintelligible] where [?] Harry Potter!") starts hollering "Hey fatty!" over and over. Good groove on this one. As good as most of the other live versions I've heard. Crowd goes crazy (audience is about 125 people, I'd estimate.)

Then the weird thing happens. Elena starts playing the intro to "Pacifying Joint" and the band looks totally confused. Apparently they did not get the speed learning course for this song earlier in the day. They know they're supposed to play "Midnight In Aspen," though, because they're looking at the setlist and it says right there: "Aspen." So they look at each other all question marky like, and start playing "Aspen." Elena refuses to give up on "Joint." MES isn't helping, and starts singing "Aspen," at which point Elena switches to the correct song and everybody is happy. Except Smith decides to make things weirder and inserts the chorus to "What About Us," except instead of those lyrics he's singing "What about drugs"...crazy...also Elena randomly goes back into "Pacifying Joint" a couple of times.

Next is "Sparta," and it's a shambling mess. I just can't even discuss it. It's all out of key and everything is in the wrong place and for the first time I'm really missing the old guys doing the "Hey hey hey" parts. Wah.

But then, the drummer lopes into the opening slams from "Mountain Energei," the rest of the band follows right along, and the whole thing is muscular and tight and freaking fantastic. It goes on for seven or eight minutes, just pure bliss. About ten percent of the crowd (including me) start pogoing for no apparent reason.

Also during this song, Smith starts fucking with the microphone stands. At one point he completely tangles himself in the cords while singing into two mics, somehow gets himself out of it, then creates a giant spider web across half the stage with all the mic cords. He seems pleased with it and leaves them like that for most of the rest of the set.

Next is "Wrong Place, Right Time." I see where Big Crashing Beat thought it was fantastic. I'm not sure. I thought the band couldn't figure out how they were supposed to play it. It was pretty good, but I'm almost certain it was a horrible mistake that got saved through gutsy improvisation.

Here I'll mention that Smith seems relaxed and in good humor for the whole set. He even tells a joke:

MES: And the next number is called... where can I get some bi-i-ig shorts from?
Audience member: In the mall!
MES: In the mall. (chuckles)

Now here comes the stunner: an absolutely amazing version of "What About Us." It's this set's "Blindness" and goes on for almost ten minutes. The band completely finds the groove and digs hard into it, Smith is into it, Elena is into it, the crowd is hypnotized. Smith starts fiddling with Elena's keyboards halfway through, then goes over to the bass player and turns the bass almost all the way off, doesn't like what he's hearing, so he turns all the knobs all the way up, then he wanders over to the guitarist and turns him completely off for about 30 seconds before bringing him back into the mix. Also, a pack of Marlboro Reds has magically appeared in his hand while he's doing this. He wanders offstage, comes back on, sings a few more verses, then tells the band to wrap it up, and just like that the set proper is done.

After Smith has his smoke, the band comes back on and does "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" (above average) and "Mr. Pharmacist" (great) and that's it. They leave and the house lights come up. Most of the crowd is confused, but not me, because I have super sekrit Fall knowledge (that "knowledge" like "know," a ledge filled with knowledge: a whole lot of knowing of stuff) and I knew what to expect.

Overall: just brilliant, considering the circumstances. I don't know where they found these guys, but all three of the musicians are outstanding, as good as (and it breaks my heart to say this) Pritchfordwistle in almost every way possible. Sure, they'll probably have to turn in their Fallgruppe union cards come June 2, but they have me really excited for the next few shows I'll be seeing...if they can do this on one day's notice... Color me impressed. By the time they get to Chicago (hiya Kris!) they should be one shit hot band.

I'll save the corny "always different, always the same," except, you know, it's true. The Fall. Amazing and bizarre, the eternal forkout....


Bo Demmick
Midnight In Aspen/Pacifying Joint
Sparta FC
Mountain Energei
Wrong Place, Right Time
What About Us
I Can Hear The Grass Grow (encore 1)
Mr. Pharmacist (encore 2)

Thursday, April 27, 2006


My foot hurts.