Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Searching for Evan Dando



The first time I heard Evan Dando was when I was in middle school. I was visiting my grandparents in San Luis Obispo, where I would spend whole afternoons tape recording radio shows off KCPR. The song that struck me was a track from the album Creator called “Your Home is Where You’re Happy,” written by Charles Manson. I promptly took some of my paper route money to Boo Boo Records and bought the full-length cassette. The album, which was more Boston punk than acoustic ballad, became the soundtrack to my transition into high school.

When I went away to university, the Lemonheads had transformed themselves into a post punk phenomenon, recording the college radio classic, It’s a Shame About Ray, featuring guest vocals by Juliana Hatfield and a video starring a brooding Johnny Depp. The track that ended up getting the most airtime was a cover of “Mrs. Robinson,” which was no doubt the weakest song on the release. The standout for me was the sparse, desperate “Drug Buddy.” From there, Dando became an indie rock sex symbol, appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone shirtless and picking up a crack cocaine habit that would plague him for several years.

During that era, I drove up from Eugene, Oregon to watch the Lemonheads open for Hole at La Luna (as a side note, it seemed like Dando was pretty chummy with Courtney Love, which was pretty disappointing). But what stood out for me as a fan was Dando’s ability to craft a pop song and strip it down to its essentials. Vocals echoing from his chest and power chords that translated perfectly to an acoustic encore.

Flash forward 15 years to last night, when I heard Evan Dando was playing at a little Porltand venue called Doug Fir. On my way out the door of a meeting earlier, I mentioned to a 30-year-old girl if she had ever heard of Evan Dando. No. How about the Lemonheads? Blank stare.

The show was nearly empty. Maybe 20 people standing near the stage. But the sound was the same as ever. Straightforward. Clean. Honest. Resonant. Nostalgic. Good.

The movie projected behind him (see video above) was shot from the front seat of a car, first going through a car wash, then driving up I-5 through Oregon. During the set, which was filled with songs that triggered some pretty intense memories for me, the car actually drove by the exit to my hometown at dusk, then Eugene with rain hitting the windshield, then into Portland at night. Finally, as the show ended, the car exited the freeway and drove up Burnside, slowing down in front of the venue where we were standing at that moment.

25 comments:

Otis said...

Crap. I can't really believe I missed that. You nailed it w/ your observations. "Drug Buddy" is a hauntingly good track, and stands the test of time--I've actually been listening to it recently, matter of fact. A little too prescient, given his later bottoming out. Great post.

G said...

Looks great. Wish I could've peeled myself off the couch to check it out. Thanks for the video.

Chum said...

Now that you mention it, I remember seeing some Lemonheads in your iTunes when I commandeered your desk a couple years ago... Along with another obscure fave, Red House Painters.

erik said...

Chum

Consider me taken back. That has been a forgotten album for me (stolen from the honda prelude on a crazy night on Lake Shasta ). Reading your observation, I only made it as far as "your home is..." and all the words were right there. I/we must have listened to that album a million times. Upon re-purchasing the album (15 minutes ago) Every song is as clear to me as the first time we listened to it in the SLO RV on our first surfari. I even remember how one of those songs helped me get through losing my best friend to a girl! The bitch had dingle berries. I wish I had made the show, I even new about it.

Thanks,
Ebb

Chum said...

Dude. Ebb. You're choking me up here. Don't worry, I'll make up those years we lost in high school down in Mexico.

And for the record, she didn't have dingle berries...

Anonymous said...

I still can't get past the crowd being so small. Cool to see he is still hangin' around.


--pushingtide

Candi G. said...

Oh man, you liked Juliana Hatfield too? Did you like the old Blake Babies stuff?

Chuck Z. Vespucci said...

awe man. nice post. caught me outta left field. now i am on a dando/heads-athon. i am glad you posted this but bummed i missed them in LA last week.

Anonymous said...

Sissy guessing youre about 10 years older than I would of thought. Blast from the past.

Maren said...

How do you know that "blank stare" wasn't a moment of reflection back to the good ole' days when that 30 year old anonymous girl used to listen to the Lemonheads in her dorm room?

Chum said...

That anonymous girl has way better taste in 90s post-punk than I thought.

Jessa said...

This is too funny. I'm 31 and my friend's and ex's band just opened for Evan a few weeks ago in Boston. Some of us do know who he is.

Andrew Kidman said...

http://ether-kidman.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-11-02T14%3A47%3A00%2B11%3A00&max-results=7

Chum said...

Thanks for stopping by, Andrew. I'm a big fan. Let me know if you want a bootleg of a few songs I recorded that night.

janie said...

Oh, man...multi-dimensional nostalgia on this one as an exiled Eugenean and then Portlander. Missed him at The Tractor in Seattle. Curses! Thanks for the video, Chum.

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A new self-titled Lemonheads album, produced and engineered by Stevenson, was released September 25 in the UK and September 26, 2006 in the United States. Since then, Dando have toured extensively in the UK, Europe, Australia and North America with bands such as Vietnam and Hymns.

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