Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"There really was no show like that that we ever did again"

I've written about Sonic Youth's January 1985 performance in the Mojave Desert before, prompted by a Dangerous Minds article - but this new piece by Daniel Dylan Wray has the added bonus of incorporating recollections of the gig from someone who was not only there but was also one of the select few people not to be totally out of his mind on acid: the band's guitarist Lee Ranaldo.

Under the name Desolation Center, promoter Stuart Swezey had previously put on al fresco desert events featuring Einsturzende Neubauten and performance art provocateurs Survival Research Laboratories, so on paper a four-band bill that also featured the Meat Puppets, Redd Kross and Perry Farrell's Psi Com didn't look quite so extraordinary.

It was Sonic Youth's West Coast debut, though, and the sheer novelty of their particular mode of aural attack and those freely circulating 500 tabs of LSD meant that it went down in legend, and rightfully occupies a place in the Guardian's 20 Iconic Festival Sets series.

Ranaldo refers to the whole event as "completely guerrilla style" and "an anything-goes situation" with "an element of danger" - in other words, a total contrast to the "sanitised" corporate festivals of the present day. I wonder what Swezey and the attendees would make of the Virgin Money Unity Arena?

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