Review/flashback - The Dandy Warhols Come Down

The only time I've ever seen Dandy Warhols live was at the rock club formerly known as La Luna in inner Southeast Portland, Oregon. I think I was very young, say 15, 16, 17, inundated with some kind of mid-late teen cloud of post-adolescent confusion. I was seeking a free horizon beyond the bubblegum squeaky clean Catholic-school-when-I'm-not-Catholic all girlslesbian-when-I'm-no-lesbian straight-A existence...and the Portland music scene back then promised to have all the answers. Kurt Cobain had probably just died. Eddie Vedder was complaining about stardom. Billy Corgan was baiting impressionable, depressed messes like me into his self-indulgent romanticized anxieties about getting older. Somewhere down the street from La Luna, Elliot Smith was walking around with the moon high on amphetamines. The Dandy Warhols had just released this album. "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" was jumping all over modern rock radio with its lazy organ driving the neo-hipster mantra like it was old news. The sheer momentum of this single drove a sold-out hometown crowd to La Luna. I stood in its midst, waiting for something to knock me out of my teenage doldrums...waiting for the Dandy Warhols to tell me WHY heroin is so passe...WHY the music scene seems so dead, and when, if ever, it will be revived.

That night, the Dandy Warhols took the stage in the dark and started playing in the dark. It was cloudy. The intro to "Be-In" lasted at least 10 minutes before unbelievably rock-star hipster good-looking CourtneyTaylor began belting out, "am only onlyonly friend?" like he was really wondering. I lookedup at Zia McCabe, with her red pigtails, and Iwondered if she was aware of how cool she was...if only I could play the keyboards and be onstage and look pretty and completely disaffected, and sing backup, I would be happy. It might have been the secondhand smoke swirling turning the lights might have been the slightly off-key power of a careless power chord riff in "Boys Better" might have been the cemented appreciation of live music with fuzzy ear-ringing sound and free-flowing movement of shabbily dressed human bodies...but as the concert came to its inevitable climax, ever the bottled up wannabe hipster teenage misfit, I found what I was seeking when I saw the Dandy Warhols live at La Luna. What remains of my memory of the concert has been somewhat replaced by the rediscovery of the band's album Come Down in my early 20s. While the wandering, introspective"Be-in" helps me contemplate life lessons while driving down the 210 Freeway through Pasadena, other songs are more visceral. Hard, heavy hitters like"Good Morning" and "Green" are gorgeous, swirling, unlikely triumphant in a down-on-his-luck-rock-star kind of way. More poppy thoroughfares like "Every Day Should be a Holiday," "Hard On for Jesus," "Cool As Kim Deal." And then there's "The Creep Out," conveniently tacked on at the end of the album, a prime space jam that, like most prime space jams, is really fun to listen to stoned with headphones on. Was heroin ever passe? Well, maybe not--at least not to addicts. And they say most everyone who tries becomes an addict. But in the mid-90s, when rock music was setting many suns to make way for the beats and words of my Generation Y, the Dandy Warhols had me hooked on a throwback sound and hopeful for the sounds to come.


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