PJ Harvey At The Masonic SF

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Just the other day I was talking with my wife about certain aspects of the old music scene we experienced in our youth (circa late 80’s-early 90’s) she on the West Coast (LA area) and me in Buffalo in the heart of the East Coast Hardcore scene. Growing up in LA she got to experience some of the best years of the LA punk scene as it was then and I also got to catch some of the tail end of the early HC scene on the East Coast just as it was becoming overrun with jocks and squares curious about all the energy and noise and tattoos and the punks with the funny colored hair etc. I came across this cd at work the other day and it just illustrates the time perfectly (1993) 2 years after The Year that Punk Broke 

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This was from a Biohazard cd and it was one of the bands we had just been talking about. I remember when every show I went to after a certain period was dominated by these line-ups of aggro, testosterone driven muscle guys with guitars. I was 18-19 at the time and it was glaringly obvious that there was very little room for girls in this scene and that was a drag. The Riot Girl movement was underway by then but that was also an aggro and exclusive sort of subscene that didn’t fully encompass or embrace all women in indy/punk or the Hardcore movement unless they were openly a part of it. Spitboy  were a perfect example of this.

Anyway, I remember being pretty disillusioned around this time about all of it, by 1993 I had pretty much stopped going to shows for fear of being beat up by Nazi’s who by then had infltrated much of the scene and mostly went to shows to start shit. A while before this time I started sneaking into the 21 and over ‘New Wave and Goth-Industrial’ club and experiencing different more interesting music and a much more gender balanced world where I could meet and socialize with girls for once! This was also a more mature scene without all of the BS of the all ages shows. The shock value of the punk stuff by then had worn out and the homogenization of alternative ‘culture’ had begun, so to get into bands with names like Christian Death and Alien Sex Fiend was quite appealing as it put off even the most outwardly ‘alternative’ people around at the time…

I remember one day driving around with a good friend when he popped in a mixtape, one of the things we loved most was driving around listening to cleverly curated tapes made from our recent record purchases. At some point he goes ‘check this out’ and 50 Ft Queenie comes on the car stereo and in my mind put a stake in the heart of the male dominated alternative music world as it was in 93′. It was fast and aggressive and lo-fi but still somehow feminine and sexy and if it wasn’t on Island would have been an indie staple. Either way, for a track like that to make it above ground added much needed color to the sterile post-Nirvanabe era of music saturating the college radio stations at the time. It was, for me, a much needed salve for the previous few years of my disappointment in the scene. PJ was weird and interesting and wrote short catchy songs with odd arrangements that stuck in your head, she was embraced by a wide array of people, even if it took some time.

24 years after initially hearing that song I finally got to see her live with my wife. Her set was mostly new material which I haven’t fully explored yet, so it was pleasant but unfamiliar. She had a very full band including Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds) 2 drummers and there was quite a bit of instrument switching as everyone up there was a multi-instrumentalist of some sort. The sound at The newly remodeled Masonic in SF was excellent and we were in the balcony as opposed to the floor which was where we saw Diamanda Galas from a few weeks prior (she also sounded great!). We enjoyed the new stuff but she really made it worth it by playing ’50 Ft. Queenie’ ‘To Bring You My Love’ and my wife’s fave “Down By the Water”.

Enjoy!


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11 thoughts on “PJ Harvey At The Masonic SF”

  1. Great stuff! To Bring You My Love is a top 10 album for me, I love every second of it – I’m less keen on her last few albums I’m afraid.

    I love everything about PJ, she’s cool as hell.

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    1. Same, I lost interest in what she was doing years ago as far as her albums, but she loses no points in my book for that. She said what she had to say in those first few albums, the rest is the result of a more mature songwriter which has it’s positives but, yeah, not quite my thing.

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      1. I find that when I try to go back and get into bands from back then that I missed, it doesn’t do much for me…I’m sure I would’ve liked them back then, but I got burnt on that angular, discordant guitar thing 20 years ago. Also, if I missed it back then, it doesn’t have all of those memories attached to it as does the music of that nature I was listening to at the time. This would just make me want to pull out those records. That being said, I do have a Squirrel Bait record! 😉

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  2. Every time I’ve seen her, she’s blown my mind. You can’t *not* watch her when they’re playing – she’s absolutely riveting. A few years ago I saw her at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz and she was wearing a dress made of Spice Girls tee shirts. And about two days later, I saw Patti Smith at the same place. That was an amazing pair of shows, and for completely different reasons.

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    1. I never had the chance to see her and I’m so glad I finally did. Similar with PJ and Diamanda Galas, we saw them at the same venue weeks apart and they were both very different yet riveting performances in a great space.

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