LIVE: Jesus and Mary Chain @ The 9:30 Club - 9/9/12

To be a noob among a roomful of The Jesus and Mary Chain lifers and devotees -- like a virgin, as it were, slated to cover a band so seminal, so personally and rock-historically poignant, so infamously and iconoclastically LLLLLOOOUUUD -- is a bit like forgetting my earplugs for this show. Color me full of Original Sin (and also, perhaps, Biblically Olde).

Uninitiated, unindoctrinated and arguably unworthy, I arrived nonetheless to receive my holy communion, armed chiefly with a respect for Psychocandy and a high-school love affair with The Crow soundtrack. The fantastic and set-opening “Snakedriver” would in fact be among my only sing-along moments in and despite a show peppered quite liberally with JAMC’s greatest hits, then topped with a three-song straight Psychocandy encore to close out the show.  

And so it went on this fateful night, ending as it first began in the early 1980s when the Brothers Reid emerged from Scotland to deliver their candy to all corners of the world, in the form of a revelation:

  • Thou shalt crank thine guitars to 11, especially when it isn’t depeche mode to do so.
  • Thou shalt be anointed with an eternal disaffection, unmoved by time or celebrity.
  • Thou shalt consecrate this bond with feedback, drugs, controversy and total deafness.  


Their second track, “Head On,” another JAMC classic later covered by The Pixies, delivered the goods while reminding the faithful of that much younger band once virginal themselves. (The video for this song, by the way, is fantastic.) Their set continued fairly straightforwardly, each album to some degree represented, coming together to paint a very loud and accurate (and did we mention loud?) sonic portrait of the guys who practically invented “alternative” back when the MTV grunge generation was still in diapers and/or grade school.

Disciples of The Jesus and Mary Chain are no doubt familiar with the stories -- modern-day evidence of which can still be found:

  • Rioting (Check, if you count moshing in 2012);
  • Back-turned aloofness (Quasi-check: Forward-facing these days, and with exceptions made for younger brother Jim’s stage cocktail of wry accent, witty banter and earnest thanks);
  • Criminally audible elder Reid, William, quitting the band by walking out mid-gig (same crazy loud, check; same crazy hair, check; an air suggesting he could wander off at any minute, check).

Though to William’s credit, he never stopped playing that iconic hollow-body through the Orange double-stack ever-blistering -- unlike the other touring guitarist who, visibly frustrated, epically failed at playing off technical difficulties with grace midway through the set. Perhaps he was just bitter that Reid’s was the only stringed instrument we could ever hear... and may ever hear again.

Point being, by all measures, this was the same band that raised a generation of outcast cools, here to reunionize all over their faces most elated and nostalgia-tinged. And that they did.

Acceptance, submission, communion, veneration: Spending our Sunday night bearing witness to these legends channel epic noise all through the club, until it dripped “Just Like Honey” off the farthest reaches of our deep-inner earholes, we’d be forgiven for feeling like we’re on hallowed ground, in a church of sorts, where cathedral reverb is mandatory and mosh pit participation is optional (at least until it swallows you whole into its elbow horizon).

Leave knowing that the ringing in your ears is your price of admission, your beast of burden.  Know that this was only the beginning -- that you will suffer again as you try in vain to recapture and recount that which you cannot grasp. Only then can you begin to approach salvation. So make peace with your suffering. Continue pushing far past the regret, all the way through and into to the light, even if it means only being able to see it clearly after it’s all behind you.