Monday, 7 July 2014

Memories of a thousand gigs #25

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#25: Hole
The Lemon Grove, Exeter University - 11th Dec 1991
Support: Therapy?, Daisy Chainsaw, Spar
Also in attendance: Wayne

‘Twas a chilly night, but then it was mid-December. Even so, you wouldn’t dare wear a warm woolly jumper on a night like this – not to see three loud, noisy alternative rock bands at a tiny little place like the Lemon Grove.

The posters advertised a fourth band, Spar. I had no idea who they were and I still don’t. They must have played really early as by the time we arrived they had been and gone. Instead, opening the night for us was a peculiar punk troupe called Daisy Chainsaw. You may remember them – they had the shock-hit of the year with Love Your Money. They looked a complete mess, and to be fair, they sounded a complete mess too. They were the real deal, alright.

Daisy Chainsaw proceeded to play perhaps the most chaotic performance I’ve ever witnessed. Singer KatieJane Garside reeled around the stage in a stupor. Sporting a dirty, torn dress, she drank from a baby bottle and physically assaulted the guitarist at any available opportunity. They only ever had one memorable song but stone me, you’d never forget their live show!

Wayne and I were aghast at such antics. When Daisy Chainsaw had finished, we needed a drink so retreated to the bar. Whilst there enjoying a beer and a chat, we were stopped in our tracks by a sudden trembling of the earth, the sound of glasses rattling behind the bar and a deafening rumble. Thunderstorm? Earthquake? Neither – Therapy? had just begun their set. To be honest, I don’t remember what they played, it was just a wall of industrial-strength NOISE! I wasn’t ready for it and decided I didn’t much care for it. A year or so later though and I rediscovered Therapy? through their records and this time I was taken in. I saw them again in 1994 at Exeter Uni’s Great Hall and enjoyed them immensely, though they didn’t seem quite so LOUD in a bigger space. I still love Therapy? to this day.

The main draw of course was Hole, fronted by one Courtney Love. This was just a few months after the release of their somewhat disturbing debut album ‘Pretty On The Inside’. I bought it – and its lead single Teenage Whore on pink vinyl, no less – not really knowing what to expect. It’s not a particularly cheerful or tuneful record, described by Love herself some years later as “unlistenable”. It was rooted in the underground punk and sludge metal stylings of the Melvins and Swans. Love has often cited Fleetwood Mac as a big influence, but I’m buggered if I can hear that anywhere on that record.

It certainly wasn’t present at the live show either. For all her greatness, Stevie Nicks could not have fronted Hole; only Courtney Love was up to that job. The set consisted mostly of songs from ‘Pretty On The Inside’, and just like the record, the performance was noisy, ugly, offensive and VERY LOUD. Those are all good things, by the way. I like my rock stars to be uncompromising, and that’s what we got that night from Courtney & co.

At one stage she jumped into the crowd, guitar and all, and proceeded to snog members of the audience. On returning to the stage, she remarked what better kissers we were than London guys[1], but lamented the loss of her shoe which was then dutifully lobbed back on stage. And that wasn’t all she had lost in the melee:

“Can I have my sweater back?” she pleaded. “My boyfriend gave me that sweater!”

Little did we know that the boyfriend would subsequently become her husband, a reluctant spokesperson for a generation and ultimately tragic rock icon. Courtney on the other hand would become a figure of hate, revulsion and ridicule who, somehow in the midst of it all, would also make a couple of bloody good records (‘Live Through This’ and ‘Celebrity Skin’).

Studying Courtney Love that night I couldn’t make my mind up whether I liked her or not, or even if I wanted to like her at all. I wasn’t exactly wild about her, but she intrigued me that’s for sure; she was certainly a formidable character. Over the next couple of years, she would become much more well known through the press, though rarely for her music. To be fair, she hasn’t done herself an awful lot of favours, but you have to give her credit – the girl could definitely do rock ‘n’ roll. A lot of bands would give anything to make just one record as good as either ‘Live Through This’ or ‘Celebrity Skin’. Love her or hate her, she couldn’t/wouldn’t be ignored. Never a dull moment with our Courtney, and at least I could leave the show with a smile on my face, even if it was accompanied by a ringing in my ears.

Emerging into the cold winter air drenched in sweat, it was easy to forget Christmas was but a fortnight away. One thing was certain though – I was in no mood for some nice carol singing; it would take a week for my hearing to return.


Love Your Money – Daisy Chainsaw (from ‘Eleventeen’)

Meat Abstract – Therapy? (from ‘Babyteeth’)

Teenage Whore – Hole (from ‘Pretty On The Inside’)

Good Sister/Bad Sister – Hole (from ‘Pretty On The Inside’)

  Here's a very rare video clip I just found from this actual show, including the bit where Courtney loses her clothing...

[1] I say ‘we’ – I never got to snog Courtney. I still can’t say for sure whether that was a good thing or not…

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