Daevid Allen's University of Errors, Need New Body, Dead Meadow, Dean Swagger
Millvale Industrial Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
16 August 2000posted: 01 July, 2021 15:22
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I organised this show for Daevid Allen of Gong and Soft Machine, who was touring in a new project that was pretty lively –– much in the spirit of chaotic psychedelic that made the best Gong records so great, and doing a few of his old hits, but also improvisatory, spacey, and built around Allen's personality.
The high (for the time) ticket price was no doubt needed to cover the guarantee for Allen, and I also remember that I had to confirm that the could stay at my house, but he would need a bed (so I gave him mine). It was the bassist of University of Errors, Michael Clare, who really booked and managed the tour and I found him to be a really friendly guy who I stayed in touch with; the drummer I also remember was really young by comparison, based in NYC, and by coincidence had then just eaten at a sandwich shop in Manhattan that my cousin had opened. Allen himself was as expected –– a strong and goofy personality, but actually easygoing and not at all intimidating despite the fact he was a legend of prog/psych who after forty years was still playing to small audiences and crashing at the house of a 20 year old. But I don't remember any stress, just a good time; maybe that's my memory being selective.
This is also notable for the opening acts, all of whom went on to bigger and better things. Dean Swagger was a local band that consisted of three friends, two of whom also played as another band without the bassist that became more successful (The Modey Lemon, themselves later expanded to a three-piece with a different friend). This was probably near the end of the Dean Swagger era. This was garagey, brash rock built around catchy hooks and personality; the type of new-garage that would thrive in my consciousness more about a decade later when I was more fully embracing rock sounds.
Dead Meadow were a very heavy psych rock band, relatively unknown at this time, but later I think amassing quite a following. And then Need New Body were at their peak I'd say; I originally called them up on a friend's recommendation to get Bent Leg Fatima out to play, as I thought they would fit well, but was told by Dale that BLF had broken up, but Need New Body now existed. So they came across the state to play, and blew my mind –– this was when they had the saxophonist and played insane rhythmic Kraut-influenced post-punk with free jazz solos, the occasional perfect pop song, and a real spirit of dark, goofy chaos. I immediately begged to release a record for them, and did, which turned into a complicated relationship involving a disasterous tour, some bad vibes later resolved, and ultimately me getting married via Dale's connections, though only many years later.
University of Errors definitely played 'Fohat Digs Holes in Space', working into it coming out of some improvisation, and a song about Allen's penis where he did in fact whip it out. I think Allen was only doing vocals throughout the set. Turnout was OK; if I lost any money it wasn't much, and Manny was a pleasure to work with at MIT as this was the type of show he really wanted to have there, and I now (with many years of hindsight) agree.