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.