Back From Vacation With Memories of San Diego

I'm back from my vacation in San Diego. Boo, hiss. What happened to the weather in New York? Oh yeah, it decided to be normal. I left the beach for sticky subway platforms and armpit sidewalks? Who is the fool? As my two previous posts indicate, I did nothing more than watch World Cup matches and lazy about with the family on my trip. I barely picked up my iPod or even thought about music. Actually I did reminisce about one of the most memorable concerts I ever saw, which happened to take place in San Diego some 16 years ago.

Consider this for a lineup: New Order, Public Image Ltd., Sugarcubes, and De La Soul. Today this bill seems almost unmatchable. In 1989, the legacies and impact of these acts had yet to be fully considered. Bjork was still a singer in a band and De La Soul were just on the cusp of a critically acclaimed career. New Order had yet to fade away into a hiatus state, which allowed full appreciation their creative output. John Lydon's second band, P.I.L., were spinning around the creative loo, almost ready to drop fully into the sewage. But I was a fan, sold on the day-glow 9 and its predecessor Happy?

Having seen New Order and P.I.L. live earlier in the year, I was most curious about the Sugarcubes. Other than Post and Homogenic, the `cubes Life's too Good is my favorite Bjork-based record. Her devilish wails and mad pitch runs entranced me. I was in love with her voice. I was in love with her, period. Laugh all you want.

So on that hot June day, I pushed my way forward to the front of the Aztec Bowl, a decrepit stadium on the San Diego State University campus. The crowd seethed and waved, a sea of steaming flesh. I was a mere body or two from the stage when the Sugarcubes took the stage. There was Bjork, right in front of me. As they bashed through a short set, the crowd in the front turned hostile, jeering the band for reasons I couldn't understand. Perhaps they took exception to Bjork's unshaved arm pits? She responded to the hecklers by coughing up a wad of phlegm onto us. I had withstood the heat, the sweat, and the SDSU jocks only to be spit upon by Bjork. It was the highlight of my day.

The crowd was crushing me. So I raised my hands and was lifted out by the bouncers. I wandered to the back, bought a Sugarcubes t-shirt and found a seat in the stands. I wasn't sure if I had liked the Sugarcubes' performance that much. They seemed to despise themselves and their songs, playing them with little regard. Later in the year, the band released the vastly inferior Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! My faith was shaken, my love for Bjork tempered down to admiration and frustration.

The sun was drifting down towards the misty horizon when New Order took the stage. This was not your little brother's New Order. They had yet to get over themselves, live. Bernard Sumner stood in one spot, sang the songs and then left the stage. Only Peter Hook moved about on stage, bass slung to his knees in trademark fashion. Forget hearing any Joy Division material. No "Your Silent Face", "Love Vigilantes", or "Thieves Like Us" either. They offered up plenty of reasons to despise their act, but I was still engrossed.

I continue to profess Technique as my favorite New Order record, so I was delighted by a setlist that pulled heavily from this album. Or perhaps it was hearing them jaunt through "1963", or open the night with the beautiful "Ceremony" that made me go away tired, but happy. New Order could never play one set with every song I love of theirs. Expecting that is reason for disappointment. New Order never aim to please.