with The Champs
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco • 4.11.98
Now that I look back on this night, I realize that it was the last night spent alone with someone I had been seeing off and on for nearly a year. And there wasn’t really much said by either of us, which I can now, in retrospect, attribute to things falling apart. Actually, wait. Yeah there was, but then the Champs came on stage, and I recognized them and knew to expect heavy metal. The Champs, however, are clever and know that you can’t just play heavy metal anymore (unless you’re in the Melvins), you must play instrumental heavy metal to pass as post-heavy metal, which for some reason is tolerated by the same kids who would otherwise scoff at Black Sabbath. While they were fun, I began wondering how someone could show up at band practice with a new song and say “Here’s how our new song goes. We can play out right after the song that sounds exactly like this one and right before the song that sounds exactly like this one.”
Eventually, Trans Am made their appearance all decked out in wife-beater T’s and translucent instruments. I am happy I decided to leave Chapel Hill, as are Trans Am. Unfortunately, in the transition, Trans Am decided to take what they are doing seriously. Gone are the moments when it was plainly obvious that the sounds Trans Am were pulling from the asses of their decrepit Casios surprised them more than the audience. Gone are the shows in which it looked like they were having tremendous fun. Trans Am is now bent on entertaining you, and I’m not so sure that’s such a great thing. Sure, all the obvious things were in place: the repetitive rock onslaughts, the electronic blips stolen from Space Invaders, the drum machines. And there were some fancy little surprises – like singing (well, actually singing filtered through one of those effects that Midnight Star used. You know: “Freak-a-zoids, robots, please report to the dance floor”). But the whole thing just left me a bit empty. Am I getting too old for this? Was it possible that I couldn’t enjoy myself because subconsciously I was suffering through pre-break-up depression? Well, after seeing Terrastock II the following week, I will sadly have to say that this show was not one of the best I’ve seen in a while.