Pioneertown was a lovely refresher, but Teenage Fanclub at the Great American Music Hall back in San Francisco turned out to be the main course. What a feast it was.
Teenage Fanclub, Great American Music Hall, March 21, 2017: Before the show, I reviewed the previous Teenage Fanclub posts on this blog and found only two (from 2005 and 2010). Because the Fannies don't tour here often, I figured I might as well recap a few of my preblog memories since I don't know when I'll get to do this next.
• Teenage Fanclub has toured with a number of bands that kind of leave you gasping if you didn't already know (Nirvana and Uncle Tupelo, to name two). I happened to catch them when they opened for Radiohead on the OK Computer tour, but we locals got an extra treat: a free show at Jupiter in Berkeley sponsored by Mod Lang Records. I actually videotaped the gig on a nice little video camera I had at the time, but don't ask me where the tape is now. Anyway, the most memorable moment of the day came when someone in the audience passed around a bottle of Buckfast. (I think Norman was the only band member who actually drank it.) I then learned a new refrain, though I can't do it justice. The gist of it goes, "Buckfast makes you fuck fast." Since then, I've shared this nugget of wisdom at every possible opportunity.
• As for the Radiohead gig itself, I sat in the balcony at the Warfield and felt myself getting more resentful as the show progressed. The Fannies' set was good, albeit sparsely attended, and I still can't tell you what happened during Radiohead's portion of the show.
• On another occasion, I saw Teenage Fanclub at Slim's. Per usual, I had arrived too early and, this time, ended up hanging out with a dude who was equally twitchy. We probably weren't the only two people there, but that's how it feels in my memory. Anyway, as we waited, he earnestly relayed his concerns for the Fannies and their livelihoods. As I recall, he was less worried for Raymond, whose wife was a lawyer (maybe?), but he had devoted a significant amount of thought to their prospects. Mostly, I recall his consternation and a real hope on his part that they would do OK.
• I think at the same show, a small group of us (random fans) ended up discussing who was the best songwriter out of the group. After much friendly back and forth, we were kind of surprised to land on Gerry as the favorite. I still believe this to that day.
I had a wonderful time at Pioneertown, but this was more in line with how I do a Teenage Fanclub show. There was no rush, but tonight was not a night to hang to the side. Instead, I took my place alongside Lila and Noreen at the front. The crowd for this sold-out show filled out nicely, and only once did it feel anything like a crush, but that was entirely due to a drunk dude who threw himself at the front of the stage. We were OK, but Noreen got the worst of it.
I've never followed the Fannies' setlists, and in fact, Pioneertown was the first time I've traveled to see them. For some reason, I assumed they stuck to one order, so I was thrilled to hear different songs at this show. I mean, the good stuff was still there, but for one, they finally brought in Man-Made. The most memorable changes were in the encore, where they did the fast version of "Starsign" (as opposed to the slow version at Pioneertown) and brought in "Everything Flows," which got us all jumping up and down.
However, the biggest difference for me at this show wasn't the song selection, but rather the general spirit of being back at the front. We sang along, we cheered like maniacs, and we egged on the band at every turn. Norman has always been the charming and cool one, and he made us smile with a few awkward moments, such as when his guitar didn't work right away. In fact, I loved being so close to the stage to hear each guitar lead. I'm going to sound like a complete idiot, but I haven't appreciated Raymond's guitar skills enough. Also, Norman's big chords on "About You" are gorgeous.
There are no bad songs in a Teenage Fanclub set, but tonight's encore was extra special. As mentioned earlier, we got "Starsign" and "Everything Flows," as well as a Grant McLennan cover, "Easy Come Easy Go." They had done this at Pioneertown, but I hadn't heard it well. In San Francisco, it came through in all its glory, and holy cow, the guitar intro sounds so much like Wilco's "Always in Love"! I've since gone back and listened to the original, which is more distinct, but in the Fannies' hands, it offered a familiar ring -- I mean that in the best way possible.
This account does no justice to the ridiculous elation I've enjoyed since leaving the show. Teenage Fanclub is always in rotation to some degree, but I've been listening to them nonstop since the gig. I'm going to ride this wave for as long as I can, but I hope I get to live it again whenever the band returns to the West Coast.
I should probably also mention Ben Gibbard was hanging out to the side during the show, but alas, he didn't join the band.
Britta Phillips opened for all the shows on the tour, and it was the first time I've seen her live. She was kind of the reason Evonne wanted to see the Pioneertown show, but no matter. She was fantastic, and I now totally understand how she and Dean Wareham have earned a devoted following. For whatever reason, I never got into Galaxie 500 or Luna, but on the other hand, I recall very clearly driving down Beverly Boulevard on the way to Largo and seeing Dean and Britta get out of a car (hahaha). They make great music together, and it doesn't hurt that they're both still insanely cool.
p.s. I hope that guy from Slim's is smiling somewhere and maybe even singing along.
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