Would you mind if today’s dispatch was a long one? Hope not! When we got asked to open for Sonic Youth at a pro-choice benefit in Boston, on this date in 1990, we had only one small hesitation: We had no bassist. Tearing a page from our Clint Conley playbook, we turned to Gene Holder, dB’s bassist and guitarist and more importantly (for the purposes of our story) producer of President Yo La Tengo and Fakebook, if he’d help us out. Even today, I’m kinda shocked he said yes. Every aspect of the date made it a big big deal, including that we were the last of four openers spread across a two shows (in our slot at the matinee was James’s first appearance on bass with Christmas), which made it especially worrisome when our set-closing “Mushroom Cloud of Hiss” didn’t go precisely as planned. As that long, loud song reached its climax, Georgia would leave the drums and add to the cacophony on a second electric guitar. Our pal Phil Morrison wisely picked that moment to shore up the floor tom legs that had been collapsing on Georgia all set, while I crossed the Paradise stage to entreat Georgia to make this section extra long (it ended when she decided to return to the drums). A few steps in, I realized my guitar had gone silent. I looked behind me and saw pedals strewn everywhere (I was years away from actually having a pedal board to anchor them). Luckily, I don’t think Georgia knew she was no longer part of a noise duet. I frantically tried to repatch everything, to no avail. In what was probably a matter of seconds, but felt more like my entire life, I remembered that the light that indicated my amp was on wasn’t working–if the amp had somehow gone off, I would have no way of knowing by looking at it. Screaming at the top of my lungs to be heard, I was able to get Phil’s attention to let him know that not only had he disconnected my amp, but he was kneeling on the cable, cutting off my access. He plugged me back in, and the song continued. Georgia returned to the drums, at which point Gene was supposed to restart the two-note bass pattern bringing us into the end of the song. But it was only the third time Gene had played this song with us, and he forgot, so Georgia tried and failed to get his attention, finally taking a drum stick and winging it at him. The look on Gene’s face suggested that Will Rigby rarely communicated with him that way, but the message was delivered. We left the stage, horrified at the utter disaster that had just unfolded, till someone told us that the audience was actually clapping for an encore (the only non-Sonic Youth one of the day). Georgia and I went back out and played Christmas’s “Junk.”
Before I go, I also want to return to the Great American Music Hall in 2000, where Lambchop’s Marky Nevers plays three Ramones songs with us during the matinee encore, and pay a quick visit to Murcia during our tour of Spain, Portugal and (you probably saw this coming) Israel of 2010. If you bet we didn’t play a New York Dolls cover, you lose.