Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Look back in wonder, part 1

Being on the anal-retentive side has its benefits. One of them is that since 1989 I've been keeping records of every performance I've attended. At first I wrote down only rock shows, then I added theater, dance and opera, along with films and videos for good measure. "You might as well use this stuff" said the Sheila, looking at my old notebooks. And so here it is: the first installment of an occasional series in which I will look back at something I saw on the same date x number of years ago. I hope this won't be mere nostalgia but a look back at a thin slice of time, often in a now-gone venue, with a now-gone band.

Ten years ago exactly, I saw Joan of Arc and Danielson at Brownies; on September 4, 1998, it was a triple bill of Magnetic Fields, My Favorite and Kiki & Herb at the Knitting Factory, while in 2001 it was Urinetown on Broadway. But it's September 4, 1996, that kicked the most ass.

Thread Waxing Space, a performance/art gallery space that used to be on Broadway and Broome, felt like a furnace that night. There was no air conditioning and a small fan only churned the fetid air around. I vividly remember stepping in the main room and feeling as if I'd just hit a wall of heat; many people just fled. I was there for the High Llamas (who may even have been making their eagerly awaited New York debut), but I don't remember much from their set because they had the misfortune to play after Prolapse, whose show that night was one of the best I've ever seen—we're talking all-time top ten here.

Prolapse was a band from Leicester whose existence almost neatly coincides with the 1990s. (Typically for a band with such a surreal sense of humor, someone—either a former member or a dedicated fan—has set up a Prolapse MySpace page that announces a reunion for 2073.) Musically it mixed the locomotive drive of krautrock mixed with quasi-psychotic unpredictability and a My Bloody Valentine–like wall of sound, but the group's most distinctive trait was the volatile, highly theatrical interaction between its two singers, Mick Derrick (he of the impenetrable Scottish accent) and Linda Steelyard; together, they turned Prolapse gigs into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf performed by Mark E. Smith and Rita Tushingham. The best recorded evidence of their unique rapport remains "Tina This Is Matthew Stone," which explodes/devolves into a barrage of insults.

They were so incandescent that night that I returned to see them two days later, opening for the just-reformed Raincoats. The Raincoats were absolutely fine, but once again Prolapse walked away with the show. YouTube has a small but decent selection of Prolapse videos, with some choice live performances like this one from 1995; even though it's shot from afar, you can still tell the band produces thermonuclear energy.

Here's a small selection of songs covering the span of Prolapse's career:
"Tina This Is Matthew Stone" (from Pointless Walks to Dismal Places, 1994)
"Flex" ((from backsaturday, 1995)
"TCR" (from the US version of backsaturday, 1996)
"A Day at Death Seaside" (from The Italian Flag, 1997)
"Fob.com" (from Ghosts from Dead Aeroplanes, 1999)


Mike W said...

Also: Linda Steelyard, top ten best rock names ever.

Anonymous said...

Please make this feature more ocassional! Such diligence record-keeping and vivid memories.

One of my landmark anniversaries approaches: September 18. As in 1981, the band X at the Peppermint Lounge, on the "Wild Gift" tour. Would you have been there?


Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

I wish! X is one of my favorite bands of all time but I've never seen it live. In any case in September of 1981 I was starting my senior year of high school in France, very far from the Peppermint Lounge.
Stay tuned, another installment of Look Back in Wonder is coming up soon.

andrea said...

I had no idea that Prolapse played Thread Waxing Space (one of my favorite venues EVER) but I do remember that Prolapse/Raincoats show with great fondness.

I've posted my Puncture interview with Prolapse online. There's also a lengthy new interview with them over at Delusions of Adequacy.

As far as I know, the band run the Myspace page themselves.

Such an awesomely great band. They never got their due. I hope more and more people discover them via reminiscences like this one.