Catherine Wheel this weekend. A band one-half responsible for renewing my faith in music. And I mean that with total sincerity. The first time I saw Catherine Wheel was during, I believe their first U.S. tour in the early 1990s -they were opening for The Charlatans (the band responsible for the other half of renewing my faith in new music). They played The Hollywood Palladium and, if the hall wasn’t sold out, it was very close. I had stayed pretty much away from live music for a while, having spent the entire decade of the 80s working on music videos and feeling that music had become an image business – the notes themselves were secondary. And maybe that cynicism wore off on me, the feeling of people coming together and discovering music and the exchange of energy between band and audience was long gone. That new bands were facing the “pay-to-play” era up and down Sunset and all over.
Not to sound like someone moaning over the past, but as someone who had spent a goodly chunk of the 60s going to concerts, and experiencing the feeling of community, people coming together and listening to the music; it meant something.
So taking a hunch, having already heard Some Friendly and being reminded of that other Charlatans of Bay Area/Dan Hicks fame, I was at least open to trying one more time to see if anything changed.
Catherine Wheel opened the concert and I was immediately tossed back to the days of the Shrine Expo Hall from 1967. All the way down to the incense, clouds of various types of smoke, stifling heat from no air-conditioning and a general feeling I had fallen into a time warp. Over the next three hours, I had my mind changed, and quickly realized that nothing really had changed; the people, certainly, but the spirit was still there. The bands were committed to their music – the audience was there to listen – it was that great and essential energy exchange and I became a fan ever since.
This concert comes a bit later in Catherine Wheel’s tenure, actually right towards the end of it. This was, I believe the last U.S. tour the band did before going on an extended hiatus, which apparently they are still on, as they’ve never officially broken up.
Their popularity went through ups and downs over the years, as tastes and personnel changed. But the bottom line was, they still represented that change of heart for me – where music went from being communal discovery to big business and back to at least aspects of that energy exchange which makes live performances magical experiences. I don’t think I will ever outgrow that.
Shoot me if I do.
Here is Catherine Wheel, as they were at Bowery Ballroom in New York on April 14, 2000 – straight off the mixing board and into immortality.