HFSmas holiday nutcracker concert review

In Bud heaven? Yeh, right; alcohol is for DNA and the dweebs.

I attended the HFSmas Holiday Nutcracker festival which featured acoustic versions of Freedy Johnston, Pete Droge, and Evan Dando, and electric versions of the Go Go's, Simple Minds, Veruca Salt, Big Audio, and Live.

Freedy Johnston went on first and he was rather mellow. As he himself said, it's hard to rock the place without drums. He played songs from his CD This Perfect World, which included the radio hit Bad Reputation and the title track.

Pete Droge was next and he put on a more inspired performance. I had never heard him before, but I really liked the song Northernbound Train.

The show was sponsored by a local radio station here, WHFS, and one of the things that annoys me the most about the station are its DJs. They talk too much, and the conversation is really insipid. The funny thing was that before they finished introducing Evan Dando, he started playing, thus cutting them off in mid-sentence. For this, I give him my thanks. He started off by doing Whitney Houston's How Will I Know, which I thought was pretty well done. He also played other popular Lemonheads' tunes like Into Your Arms and It's a Shame about Ray ("Gosh, my voice sounds loud"). His last comment was "I'm going to play How Will I Know until they drag me off the stage."

That pretty much wrapped up the acoustic part of the show. Margaret, the person I went with to the show, made an astute remark: alternative done acoustic sounds like folk. During the intermission, we got to witness Elvis on stilts doing All Shook Up and one more song (which I forget), which was really hilarious! Definitely one of the highlights of the show.

Before Natalie Merchant and Kristen Hersh, there was one female voice I was in love with, and that's Belinda Carlisle's (I also like Jane Wiedlin's voice). And age certainly hasn't diminished it; in fact, I'd argue it has gotten better! They were definitely my favourite among all the performers, as they took everyone a trip down nostalgia lane with songs like Head Over Heels, Vacation, Our Lips are Sealed, and They got the Beat. They introduced one new song called Good Girls. The versions of the song had more emphasis on the guitar and this has transformed their songs, to some extent, from the pop mold to better fit the alternative sound.

Next up were Simple Minds, who I didn't know were still around. Like the Go Go's, these guys were another group that I listened to during my teenage years. In retrospect, their songs are more "alternative" than a lot of crap that is out there. They played hits like Don't You Forget About Me and Alive and Kicking. The keyboards were particularly excellent I thought. The whole group reminded me a great deal of U2.

Veruca Salt, a group from Chicago fronted by a female vocalist, were up next. Again, this was a group I had never heard before, but they were the loudest of them all, and they rocked the place well.

After Mick Jones left the clash, he went on to form Big Audio Dynamite. Big Audio have dropped the "dynamite" from the name, but it is still there in the music. I really got into them, especially since the songs all had a techno groove to them and a reasonable amount of punk mixed with noise. The songs were very poppish, especially the one new tune they played, and it is a far cry from the stuff that The Clash did.

This was the third time I was seeing Live. Groan. While the music is okay (Kowalcyzk sounds more and more like a REM clone, especially given REM's latest), the preaching really turns me off. I quote Kowalcyzk from the WHFS Press (Winter 1994): "I'll remember 1994 as the year that rocked my band's world while we struggled forthrightly to make it a better place through loud guitars and hymn singing." Almost every group out there preaches, but somehow this group gets to me. All the songs they played were from Throwing Copper: Selling the Drama, Shit Towne, I Alone, All Over You, and Stage, which was a bit of a disappointment for me. One wonders why they don't introduce more songs from Mental Jewellery---surely they don't hate all their previous songs, do they?

There is a distinctive 80s sound dominated mostly by electronic instruments, and a distinctive 90s sound (alternative) which blends buzzing guitars and electronics (sometimes) in a mellow fashion, and this was a great show, mixing the music of the 80s and the 90s in a rather effective way.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org || December 15, 1994