Concert Review: Throbbing Gristle – San Francisco, 4/23/09

I got to the Ballroom a few minutes before the opening act started, due to a bike rider delaying my BART ride from Pleasant Hill. I don’t care. I made it on time, and managed to get up close to the stage. The whole evening was videotaped, so if this ever gets released, you’ll probably see me. I was just slightly stage-left of center, and just behind the first row of people pushed up against the barriers. Yes, there were barriers.

The opening act was good, but even she knew we weren’t there to see her. “I’m going to play one song for you,” she said, “and then another band is going to come on.”

And she did. Granted, the song was about 25 minutes.

Russ-from-San-Diego (the guy who was standing in front of and to the side of me) has been following the Throbbing Gristle tour so far up the west coast. After complimenting me on my Nurse With Wound t-shirt, he told me that I could expect much loudness, and to probably see Gen’s breasts, as he’d bared them quite a bit at Coachella. While I’ve seen more nude Gen than a lot of people (long story), I wasn’t sure I was up for seeing more. Fortunately, Gen stayed dressed.

And boy, was he dressed. Bright red tights, a skirt, an orange top, and, well, I’m sure there’ll be pictures on Flickr before long. Or, maybe I can finally figure out how to get stuff off of my camera phone. Chris and Cosey were dressed relatively normally, and Sleazy was wearing a t-shirt and trousers, along with an amazing cow-print robe. As one person remarked, it was kind of odd seeing the utter lack of equipment on stage. 28 years after their last S.F. gig (Mission of Dead Souls, if anyone wants to hear it), they’re all more or less playing laptops now. The stage and the audience remained close to fully lit for the entire show. They opened with “Very Friendly.”

Ian Braaaady…Myra Hindleeey…very friendly…

Gen related an amusing anecdote about how when he was a child, his parents had warned him that if they stayed out after dark, Ian and Myra would get “people like him”. Cosey, too.

“Fortunately, they didn’t get me. Or Cosey. Now, can you imagine what would have happened if Ian Brady and Myra Hindley had met me and Cosey?”

Laughter from the audience, followed by someone shouting “You would’ve won!”

After either the first or second song (I don’t remember), a girl in the front shouted out to Gen, and asked him if she could give him a present.

“Of course you can, love.”

She then tossed something on stage.

Gen looked at it, and saw that it was a note. He proceeded to read it to the entire audience.

“Dear Gen,

“I would very much like to create something with you. Please call me. -Stephanie.

“My number is 510-xxx-xxxx”

He read her number out to the audience.

“So, if you’d like to create something with Stephanie, don’t forget… her number, once more, is…”

I’m curious to know how many calls she gets. Probably even more, if this comes out on audio and/or video.

Other songs from the evening included “Hamburger Lady,”Almost a Kiss,”Endless Not,” and more.

The band seemed to be having a good time, though Gen more or less monopolized center stage. Fair enough, I suppose, in that (s)he is more or less the front-person.

Gen’s daughter, Genesse was also there, and was introduced. Apparently it was her birthday the other day.

Sonically, the show was brilliant. Russ-from-San-Diego mentioned that a number of times at the other shows he’d been to that he felt like he was being crushed with sound. I can’t say that happened for me, this show, but I did find it interesting to note that I could distinctly feel a lot of the sound in various chakra points. One stretch had deep vibrations in my heart and crown chakras. These were distinct and simultaneous, with no vibrations between them. Other times hit my lower chakras, exclusively. Given the band’s backgrounds both collectively and individually, I can’t say I’m too surprised. I’m very curious about technique in how, specifically, they did this. Gen also brought out Thee Alchemical Violin, and gave it a go.

The show lasted only 75 minutes (which makes me suspect there’ll be another TG24 type set in the future), but it was a load of fun. I wish I could’ve gotten to talk to Sleazy after the show, but such was not to be. Perhaps I’ll drop him a note of gratitude on MicePace.

Best show I’ve ever been to? Not really. But it did have some amazing moments, and I’m tremendously glad I went. I’d like to say I was old school enough to have seen them back in the day, but let’s face it – there’s no way I would’ve gotten to see Throbbing Gristle the last time, which was when I was 11. I do strongly suspect that a good chunk of the audience tonight was there last time, however.

A few familliar faces in the crowd from my other recent concert-going adventures. And I’m about 99% sure I saw V. Vale in the crowd after the show.

This is a show I’ll never forget. I never thought I’d get to see TG live.

I hope that they do release a video of the evening.

I’d like to go back and see it all again.