Friday, November 21, 2008
The Dream Syndicate, Live, Ann Arbor, 1986 or 1987
No question that The Dream Syndicate’s Days of Wine and Roses was one of the landmark lps of the 80s. Starting with their follow up The Medicine Show, the band took a rootsier direction and by the time the third lp Out of The Grey hit the streets, original band members and fan faves Kendra Smith and guitar hero Karl Precoda were no longer in the band. Post Days of Wine and Roses, none of the Syndicate records generated as much heat within the fan base as did their stunning debut. I was big fan and went down the path for the long haul, and while The Days of Wine and Roses is still my fave, there was clearly gold later in the career. I saw the band in their Precoda incarnation, as well as with Paul Cutler, who took over on Out of the Grey. I saw the band on the Out of The Grey tour in 1986 or 1987 and, by far, that was the most explosive I’d ever seen the Syndicate.
And hey, I got the tape to prove it. My girlfriend and I decided to bring a couple of super 8 cameras to the show, interview the band and shoot one song on film. It was all we could afford since film cost a lot. We interviewed Cutler before the show and filmed That’s What You Always Say on black and white super 8 (4X film stock me thinks). The film had to be shot silently and we recorded the audio separately on a little hand held piece of crap tape recorder (definitely not a walkman!). We then transferred the film to ¾” umatic video and tried to sync the audio to the picture. We tried for about an hour and then gave up. What a frickin’ disaster. It was impossible. The footage has been sitting in my garage for about 20 years and I decided to give the syncing another chance given the advent of non-linear editing. And wouldn’t you know it, success!
I’ve included the footage here. It’s pretty smoking. First off it’s a blistering, string-shredding version of the song. One thing that's interesting, is that there is little great live footage of indie bands from that era. Of course, a lot of that had to do with technology. Video cameras were bulky and unwieldy, so rarely would one take them into the pit in a club, which basically left the documentation of that era to 1-3 camera video shoots from the back of clubs or cable access tv performances. Each of these set-ups had a pretty cold, canned feel to them, no matter how hot the the performance. Very distancing stuff. Plus most of the video from that era has degenerated in a pretty bad way. Very few people ever shot film because it was so damn expensive or impossible to sync up if you didn't have the right gear or enough money. As for this footage, we were right there in the pit, backs of heads blocking the way, focus fading in and out, light flares galore. The result is footage that matches the energy of the performance. The footage is by no means perfect, very rough around the edges, but then again, that was the vibe of the music at the time.
We audiotaped the whole set which I’ve posted below. As I already mentioned, it’s a barnburner of a set and a testimony to the power the band was still channeling in 1987. The old songs are great and the new songs bristle with an energy not quite captured on the studio recordings. The sound quality is surprisingly good given the recorder that I used. There’s a little bit of distortion, but I think it sounds good. It sounds LIVE!
From an archivist standpoint I do, however, need to apologize. The band launches into an encore of Light My Fire which I chose not to record. Not sure why. I can only guess that the 21 year old me didn’t like the Doors and I decided that I could use that 5 minutes of spare tape for other purposes. What an idiot. Enjoy.
Here's the track listing:
1. Danger Zone
2. Tell Me When It's Over
3. 50 in a 25 Zone
4. Now I Ride Alone
5. Daddy's Girl
6. That's What You Always Say
7. Free Bird
8. When You Smile
9. Still Holding Onto You
11. Light My Fire
Thanks to Chris Xefos for helping me extract and futz with the audio.
Also, my buddy Pat Thomas just had his mid-80s zine, Notebook, pubilshed on the web. Check it out for some hard hitting looks at the Paisley Underground as the scene was unfolding.