I saw Faith No More three times in Wellington, three different venues, three different line-ups of the band (different guitarist each time) between 1993 and 1998 and all three gigs were great. This band never let me down. But they often tell you the first time is sweetest, you certainly never forget your first time. And the first time I saw Faith No More really meant something to me. In fact it meant a lot – many things…
You see it was the first band I saw live that I discovered – all the other gigs I’d seen were stadium gigs; bands I saw with my folks, things like Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton and Dire Straits – and nothing wrong with that. All good gigs. In fact I started this series by proclaiming the Clapton gig the best ever. But even when I saw Guns’n’Roses, this same year, start of ’93, I went along with my older brother and my uncle and aunty.
Faith No More was the first time I got to call the shots; a gig I wanted to see. Me and a mate went down. My mum drove us down to Wellington, her sister had moved there so it was a chance for them to catch-up, good sport my mum. We asked if she’d drive us down, let us go to a gig. And next thing we’re in the car and on the way…
A handful of formative musical and cultural experiences made themselves known on that trip. Little things – you probably don’t care about them, but this is as much about me as it is you (more so me actually; I’m the one writing it) so I’m going to tell you anyway; going to remind myself.
I bought my second Max Roach tape on this trip. It was far more important than my first Max Roach tape. The first one got me hooked, sure that’s something. The second one made me stop in my tracks – I hadn’t heard anything like this in terms of range, a compilation double-tape that had Max playing composed drum solos one minute, performing with M’Boom his nine-piece percussion ensemble the next. There was a jazz band with chorus and full orchestra, a double-quartet (that’s a jazz quartet and string quartet working together). Man this tape was everything to me. For so long.
But the real find of this trip was Angel Dust. The album the band I was going to see were touring in support of. Nuts as it might seem I hadn’t heard it before the gig. I was going to the gig on almost a whim. I liked Faith No More. Epic was huge; a big song for me and The Real Thing was one of those albums – along with Appetite For Destruction and the first two Beastie Boys albums and the second and third Public Enemy albums – they all formed a cluster; the first really great albums I discovered on my own, away from the influence of my older brother and parents. I loved all the stuff they taught me about – still do. The Beatles and Stones and Dylan and Zep, The Doors and Lou Reed, The Who and Split Enz. What an education. So good. So crucial. So many wonderful building blocks. But it was when I started listening to the stuff that was happening at the time by bands my friends were discovering also that I really started to enjoy music on a new level; I’d done all the listening to the old stuff so I could make parallels, could see the connections. War Pigs by Faith No More might have been great anyway, but it was really great if you knew the Black Sabbath song already (which I did).
So I was going to see Faith No More for Epic and the album, The Real Thing. And the earlier song We Care A Lot. That was what I knew of the band. On the way down, in the car, listening to Doobie Brothers or whatever, we pull over and find a music store just out of Wellington and I buy Angel Dust. It’s the tour-edition CD, comes with a bonus live disc with Easy and another earlier (older) song or two. There’s the theme from Midnight Cowboy on the end of the album too. Lovely.
And so we had a quick listen to a bit of the album before going to the gig.
I’ll tell you now what I almost knew then: Angel Dust is just about the best fucking rock/hard-rock/metal album of all time. The only bad mark in its margin is that it might have had a hand in inventing nu-metal. Between it and Rage Against The Machine there’s some damage done. But hey, they’re both great albums so we can’t really blame them.
Anyway, the gig. The gig. Let’s get to the gig.
It’s the first time I’ve been in Wellington’s Town Hall. In 1993 I’m in the sixth form at Havelock North High School, I’m a hockey star – and that’s what I’m known for, that’s what’s known about me. I’m like some sort of prodigy, or close enough to it. But I love music.
Why am I telling you this? Because whenever I walk into the Town Hall in Wellington now to experience a gig – and I’ve seen a few hundred there, some of the best gigs ever and a few stinkers – I always think about that first time I went there. That Faith No More gig was amazing. Sure, I would have loved it wherever it was. But it sold me on the venue too. Venues are important. The Town Hall in Wellington is the best place in the country to see a great kick-ass rock band. And I’ve seen some ripping-good shows there. And Faith No More started it.
I walk in to see them. A hockey guy. And I’m a fan of the band and all but I never quite knew what was about to hit me. And fuck did it hit me. Mike Patton is relentless – he squeals, he screams, he cusses and spits and snarls. He darts about the stage and bows down with his microphone held aloft, a trophy, a sceptre, an object of devotion. He screams bloody-murder through Be Aggressive and Kindergarten and Land of Sunshine and all these killer songs from Angel Dust. And he does Epic. And We Care A Lot. And so many killer songs that aren’t on Angel Dust. And then he steps up and nails Easy; the Lionel Richie cover, back before it was obvious to do a novelty-cover. And he smooth-soul slick-croons it. After all that screaming. I couldn’t fucking believe it. This was some magic act to me. It was a revelation. A mirror ball drops and spins and that hairy fuckin’ guitarist nails the solo.
It was all magical, all wonderful. I was – at times – almost frightened.
Now – many years on – I walk in and out of the Town Hall in Wellington. Sometimes I’m gone halfway through the show. Often because I have to be. Sometimes because I couldn’t think of a worse place to be. Sometimes I stay for the encore, but hardly ever. But I always, every time I walk in and out that door, think of hearing and seeing As The Worm Turns and Surprise! You’re Dead! And that haunting, enchanting Woodpecker From Mars and all those Angle Dust songs, I’ve played them all so many times now. They’re part of my soul. But back then they were new friends, the cool kids I wanted to hang out with, was just meeting, somewhat nervous, hopeful…wanting it to work out if it did…
RV – so funny, that mumbled monologue. And Midlife Crisis with its near-enough-to-a-hip-hop beat.
It was the school holidays and we struck it lucky. Boy did we strike it lucky.
That gig made me a lifelong fan of Faith No More; I’ve followed most of Patton’s art and shenanigans (he serves them in equal measures) and I’ve never ever tired of hearing Faith No More. Angel Dust, to this day is my favourite record by the band, but I love all of the albums they offered. The other shows were good but I’d never have made it to them without this. I sometimes wonder if I’d ever have stayed as any sort of FNM fan without this gig.
What it also did – another milestone and memory – is make me a fan of gigs. Every great gig does that – but the others were all sort of obligations. Wonderful experiences, but your folks offer you a ticket to Paul McCartney and it’s more a no-brainer (must attend, you grew up with his music) than it is any sort of rite of passage; any sort of fuck-my-life-is-so-very-wonderful feeling.
Faith No More was the first time I felt alive and electric and pulsing, so charged – so alive, so thrilled, so wound up from it all.
We – my buddy Sam and me – were staying at my auntie’s house. A little place just out of Wellington central. We crawled into sleeping bags, ears-a-ringing and were so buzzed about that gig. It was kinda frightening, so very thrilling.
We whispered a bit about the gig and then woke up the next day eager to relive it.
The ride home saw us stop at Woodville for food. My mum and I ordered our chips and moved to the table with drinks and pies and cakes or whatever. My mate Sam joined us after paying for whatever he had chosen.
“I think I just got told off” he said, almost sheepishly.
He then explained that he tried to order some hot chips.
“No”, the woman at the counter said. “Your friends just ordered some. So when their ones arrive you can have one or two of those”.
Ah Woodville, I would say don’t go changing. But it never has/never will.
Ah, Faith No More. I think about that first time all the time.
For it was – of course! – The Best Gig Ever.