I saw Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails on the same bill back in 1991, at the first Lollapalooza. I was 17 years old. Last month, I turned 35. This all feels fairly weird.
I’m only partially embarrassed to admit the degree to which both JA and NIN shaped my musical life. Oh, fuck it — I’m not embarrassed at all. Trent Reznor has been, at various points in his career, a certifiable visionary — musically, technologically and otherwise. Jane’s Addiction, at their best, were/are one of the few bands in the rock pantheon that can truly make a venue pop — be it a club or a stadium.
Of the two, JA is my more beloved band. They’re also the biggest disappointment. Jane’s only managed to release two studio albums with their original lineup, and have spent the years since their 1991 disbanding pooping on their legacy in any number of ways: Dave Navarro with his cheesy reality shows, Perry Farrell with his “space-yoga/hippie/stoned-uncle-at-your-bar mitzvah” schtick. It all became so very clownish, particularly in light the band’s art-metal origins. In their heyday, Jane’s was a dangerous band burning pure nitrous in the pursuit of a tribal rock ‘n’ roll orgasm. They ended up being just another buncha L.A. douchebags.
Unlike Nine Inch Nails, who have kept releasing new material despite the occasional protracted break, Jane’s basically only has two studio albums on which to pin their legacy. When they finally did get around to recording more music, it was with a replacement bassist. Until this tour, JA reunions have not included Eric Avery — the man behind the band’s signature low end grooves. It’s long been my view that Avery is also the guy who keeps the rest of the group honest. Every band seems to have one, and it’s often the bassist — John Paul Jones and Led Zeppelin; Matt Sharp and Weezer; Gene Simmons and KISS (just seeing if you’re paying attention). With Eric A. back in the fold, I can finally feel somewhat OK about being an active participant in my youthful rock memories.
So I’m going to the show at Merriweather Post Pavilion. As an added bonus, I’ll also be hanging backstage with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), who is opening the show with Street Sweeper Social Club — his new group with The Coup mouthpiece Boots Riley (another fave). I’m hoping I might bump into some JA fellas; we shall see.
I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube clips from the tour so far, and things are sounding pretty good. Jane’s tunes down a half-step now for the benefit of Perry’s pipes (he did turn 50 this year), which is more noticeable on some songs than others (“Three Days” and “Pigs in Zen” come immediately to mind), but the musicianship is still fierce. Check out this clip of “Ocean Size” from a few nights ago:
I’ll write more tomorrow. Maybe Ethan can give us the Sonic Youth report, to round out the nostalgia.