Eyes Adrift on Friday night was about what I expected. I was thrilled, but I suspect the majority of the crowd were rather disappointed. Eyes Adrift was not Nirvana, Meat Puppets, or Sublime. They were much closer to the spirit of bands that were traveling around before the pre-packaged punk in the wake of Nirvana started filtering onto the air waves. The show had a lot in common with that period of time in the late 80s when people actually played music because they liked it, instead of as a stepping-stone to being a corporate lackey.
As a fervent indie band supporter of the late 80s/early 90s, what I mean by saying that the show had a lot in common with that time is that it was fucked-up. The small venue quickly filled up with the all-ages crowd of grunge wannabees, with their knit caps and flannel. Laguardia (the Philadelphia one) took the stage and nauseated me with the sort of whiney college-band crooning that drove me from the scene way back when. But they got better. When they weren’t trying to be Wilco, they were actually pretty good. It was the keyboards that got me most of all. The natural sound of a keyboard is a drone. I don’t go to a club to be droned to death— I like rock, not atmosphere. Mercifully, after droning a bit, they picked up guitars. The next tunes were reminiscent of the paisley underground crowd, Rain Parade in particular. It was a cool tone, and fair tunes. I just tired of the self-involved nasal whine that never seems to go out of fashion. They were just on the loud side of what the house PA could handle, but the sound was good overall.
When Eyes Adrift came on stage, it all went to hell. They were much quieter, and the guitar was nearly non-existent. Curt Kirkwood couldn’t hear himself either, and the drums sounded like beating on polyethylene tubs. They stopped partway through the first song to get the guitar working, then soldiered on without much ado. It took until halfway through the set before the sound was passable. But the tunes were strong, and the desire to play them was stronger. Once I could hear him, Kirkwood’s guitar playing seemed as good or better than ever. Novoselic was his usual dry self, though he did loosen up before the end with some of his signature clowning. It was punk rock. I don’t think the crowd was ready for that. I mean, it was sloppy, heartfelt, touching, and not factory-fresh perfect crunching. I had a great time. The crowd was cool and distant, until the last Grateful Dead style guitar freakout. They loved it. I could have survived without it.
Still, it was a great break from the plastic music world of today, with its strings and horns and drones and whines. It was a good set of tunes, played under the worst of circumstances without complaint. I don’t know what happened. The sound guy at this venue is usually great, but something got screwed. Laguardia got a better go of it, and it makes me sad that there was an opening band at all. Laguardia fit with “today’s sounds” and Eyes Adrift were completely out of step with the market trend. That’s why I loved them. I don’t care for much of what I’ve heard in the last few years, because it all sounds the same. Eyes Adrift don’t sound the same as their previous bands, or the current crop. While I’m not going back to the club to pick up my jaw from the floor —I brought it home with me intact— I did have a good time, fuck-ups and all. It seemed more like real music that way.