“And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world”
“Mad World”, Tears for Fears
Here we are, near an almost half-complete 2022, can you believe it? The New Year’s Resolution: To See Bands I’d Somehow Never Seen” has been quite satisfying, and this show would contain one of the most head-scratching-est ones….. yes, I had never seen Garbage! I frankly don’t know how this happened. As a ’90s rock chick, Garbage was always around and appreciated, I just never made it to a show.
It was my first time back in LA in over a year, and it truly gets worse every time I go. It’s like the city has devolved into ’80s LA but with Teslas and iPhones. The shimmer has turned into sadness. Or maybe it’s just me. The Forum has always been kind of a nightmare to get in and out of, so we stayed in the weird bubble that is Culver City in an odd historic hotel. As a person who’s lived in and out of the city all my life, I’m hyper aware of all of the time that’s just wasted in transit in cities like LA, or figuring out where and how to park places, or dealing with shitty people. Is it worth it? Sometimes. But I like my desert hideaway.
I was happy to have my usual side stage seat at The Forum; I don’t know why- I just like that perspective of things. We arrived just as Garbage came on stage and I have to say, the whole thing was just iconic. Shirley Manson is a goddess; her stage presence- beyond the oversized what I would presume was a Vivienne Westwood dress- is the epitome of everything I would have wanted to be if I could have sung in a rock band. And just as crazy to me was seeing Butch Vig on drums- he produced Nevermind and Siamese Dream and Bricks Are Heavy! And then on bass was Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction. Somewhere around “Stupid Girl” I had unanticipated tears streaming down my face due to some unexpected memories. Somewhere amidst the ’90s nostalgia, being starstruck, and, perhaps, a little buzzed, I remembered my friend Christie.
I met Christie in 8th grade, when I had just moved to a small town in rural Texas from Houston. I was pretty quickly identified as weird and she was already labeled as weird, so naturally we were put together. Everyone needs to have that friend they can be weird with when they’re growing up, and she was my person. In today’s terms, she was probably the first person that made me feel “seen” as I saw myself. She was a wild redhead; we were intellectual rockers who read a lot, wrote a lot, watched a lot of cult movies, and of course listened to a lot of music. Her mom was the town social worker, so she also had access to lots of pharmaceuticals, which we dabbled in a bit, while working on weird art projects and talking about a future far away from there.
In high school, Christie went away to the infamous Miss Porter’s, and we would write each other. The most precious, tangible thing I have from her is an entire journal – let’s call it a zine- Christie made about me and my future life. It’s one of the coolest gifts anyone’s ever given me. In that book, Christie is represented as photos of none other than Shirley Manson.
While Christie was smart and excelled in many ways, she was not without problems. Always wanting to see the best in people, I don’t think I could ever wrap my head around exactly what was going on. She lied a lot. But that wasn’t a big deal right? After Miss Porter’s, she came back to Texas, and was around. When I did see her, things were great- it was like we went to our own planet no one else was cool enough to visit. But then there would be times when we’d be hanging out, and then she’d take a left turn. We went to see Aerosmith and Stone Temple Pilots in about 2000. We were having a great time, but then she hooks up with this group of people to party. She wants to leave with them, but I do not- they seem like trouble, and not the good kind. I go on my way- I am in college at this point. I got calls for a couple days while she went on a bender with these people. And then another time, I went to her ranch to hang out, and we were drinking and having a great time, and then her mom comes home and the shit hits the fan because Christie’s drinking had become so bad that she wasn’t supposed to be touching alcohol. And I’m in the middle of a family war zone and I have to sneak out and leave. That’s the things about addicts- sometimes you don’t realize they didn’t start when you got there and they don’t stop when you leave. After that incident, I had to draw a line, as I did with several people where I came from. It was a dark place, and I was trying to break the cycle of ‘stay home-work for the family-get married-get stuck’ thing… but even worse. So many of my friends fell into bad drugs, poverty, abuse, criminal behavior… it took a lot to get away from that crowd. They did not take to it kindly. And it doesn’t feel good.
I would hear from Christie from time to time, but it never seemed right. Especially the last couple times I talked to her… she was bitter that I had become a writer when that is all she ever wanted to do. She had talked about ‘the book’ since we were 13… this book she would write that would change the world. It breaks my heart it never happened.
And then, in 2015, I got the news that she passed away.
I don’t know what happened to Christie, and I don’t know that I want to know. I just know it’s been a difficult one for me to process. She helped me become the person that I am today; both by being that person to be weird with when we were young, but perhaps also, as we got older, showing me what not to become, even though it always tried to draw me back.
And that’s the beauty of Garbage. I’m going through all of this heavy shit in my head and these songs are all a perfectly relevant soundtrack as Manson croons along like the rock ‘n’ roll Madonna. “Stupid girl… All you had you wasted…I thought you were special… I thought you should know…” I mean this band really harnessed the zeitgeist of the longing lost teenage rock chick. During “Wicked Ways” there was a short interlude of “Personal Jesus” to memorialize Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode who had just passed away. Then LA got a special treat- “The World is Not Enough”- a splendor for every Bond fan and a song they never play. “Only Happy When It Rains”… we are deep in ’90s referential nostalgia in TV and film and this song is definitely on the shortlist for music supervisors trying to evoke that time period if there is a strong female character in the shot. I really feel like most music supervisors are not creative. But while on the surface I have always felt like this song is wildly ubiquitous, in reality if I were a doll were made of me where you pulled the string to play a song…. wouldn’t this be it? It’s perfect.
So I’m singing and crying and dancing and just a general mess and we’re on to “Cherry Lips” and then “Push It”- dedicated to the younger ones always challenging the ideas of the ones that came before them. I laugh on the inside because girls these days have no idea that where I came from me and my weird friend were made fun of in school for painting our nails black….which was done with a sharpie by the way because in the ’90s in rural Texas you couldn’t buy black nail polish outside of Halloween. I also wore a dog collar to school. I was edgy and blazed trails.
The set resolved with a little bit of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” dissolved into “You Look So Fine”, which was a melancholy song to end with, but I also was reminded that I still had a whole other band to see…
This was a huge show; there’s a lot to be on edge about in large crowds these days. They can also just be annoying…. everyone around us was eating which is just not normal concert behavior to me. They were bored and seated during Garbage. But when Tears for Fears came on stage, instead of becoming a worse crowd, the night became a welcome communal experience after weeks of experiencing the dirty underbelly of humanity.
I don’t usually go to pop concerts, so it takes a minute to get used to the generally different vibe of Tears for Fears. Everything about the performance just seemed elevated, the crowd was nice and well-behaved, and everyone was happy. I’d guess my entry-point to Tears for Fears was “Shout” which has much more of a proxy to Depeche Mode- a band I know a lot better- than the rest of their material. I also used to go out dancing in the ’00s to a lot of ’80s/early ’90s themed nights like the Cat Club in San Francisco and Tears for Fears were definitely a staple there.
By the time they hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, people were literally jumping for joy in the front few rows. They were swaying for “Sowing the Seeds of Love”. When the back up singer was introduced, I recognized the name Carina Round– I had seen her with Puscifer before many years ago. She was really cool to watch.
They spoke a fair amount between songs, even getting emotional talking about their decision to release new material after such a long time (2004!). The crowd sang happy birthday to Roland Orzabal’s wife I believe. There was even a cool phone flashlight “lighter” moment that spontaneously happened at one point – normally I would think this was kind of cheesy, but after the barrage of terrifying news the world is having to intake, I actually felt myself feeling a bit of hope in that moment for some weird reason. I mean, perhaps every person will leave the show and try to murder me in the parking lot… but for that brief moment, bathed in artificial light, there was a breathe of peace and community. And isn’t that was concerts are kind of supposed to be about?
The highlight of the set for me was “Pale Shelter” I think- but it would be hard to choose. Their material is dynamic and fantastic… like the last show I saw, The Cult, this band is another soundtrack staple due to their songs’ ability to transport and emote in a simple stanza. And who could forget that cover of their song “Mad World” in Donnie Darko? That’s the kind of weird movie that Christie and I would watch together.
“Break It Down Again” came next. Then “Head Over Heels/Broken”, and it’s the kind of one-two punch of songs where you can’t believe one band captured lightning in a bottle like this multiple times.
Off and back for the encore, “Change” into “Shout” were a great ending to this show. It felt refreshing to step out of the norm, even if it was tinged with sadness.
Then it took like a million hours to find a ride back to the hotel.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we live in very strange times. Why don’t you take a little time this week and look up that friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time that made a big impact on your life, and send them a note, check on them. It could do you both a lot of good.
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