It was a no-brainer coming to see the first ever U.S. show of the somewhat legendary and reunited Vaselines. Two bonus add-ons being that it's at Maxwell's, where their No. 1 fan, Kurt Cobain, once tore up the joint. The other being the backing support of Stevie, Bobby and Richard of Belle & Sebastian.
With that all in mind, it was just a special night to witness something remarkable. Granted, the band has only about a dozen songs ever recorded and they would be the first to admit that they are not the best musicians, but the songs are just about as perfect live as one would hope. These songs were done around 20 years ago, and they were about 10-15 years ahead of their time.
- Son of a Gun
- The Day I Was a Horse
- Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam
- Oliver Twisted
- Molly's Lips
- Let's Get Lucky
- No Hope
- Sex Sux (Amen)
- Rory Rides Me Raw
- Dying For It
- ENCORE: You Think You're A Man
Despite needing help tuning their guitars, you would have never have guessed that the Vaselines have been dormant most of the past two decades. The songs are basic, but damn, they are fun, lively and full of wit and Scottish insight. It's the offbeat combination of jarring guitars and sweet boy-girl vocals that makes the band worthy of attention.
The original duo of Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly are not rock 'n' roll in the traditional sense, but rather poets and authors who use music to portray people and places. With that, they are a bunch of randy folks. Frances made sure that everyone knew that Molly's Lips is not about oral sex. Eugene joked that before the encore that he should get some man-on-man action with Jon Bon Jovi. Finally, Eugene invited people to smell Frances's banana-scented undies for 5 pounds. As you can see, there was a great deal of sexual tension in the air.
With their setlist, you pretty much got what you came for, unless you wanted Teenage Superstar. Their set was about 45 minutes long, focusing on their top songs. Their voices haven't aged at all, even though I'd like to meet the person who saw them back in the day and remembers how they played. I can't emphaisze more how unique and special the night was, and then having it be a tribute to the indie rock of 20 years ago. It seems like it could be made today and not feel dated.
The year 2008 might be the year of the obscure indie band reunion. You got Vaselines, Feelies, Big Dipper and Swervedriver. Any one want to get the Spinanes together? Maybe Zumpano, That Dog, The Cucumbers? With most reunions, it's done for some cashola. With the Vaselines, it seems to be, "Heck, why not? We're not doing anything." Also it was chance to play the Sub Pop 20th Anniversary show in Seattle.
If you had to write a brief history of the band, it would be that they were a well-respected, unknown indie rock band from Scotland, who disbanded after they released their first album. Then Nirvana covered three songs, Cobain was obsessed with them and now they are part of music lore. You can't name another band that has a trajectory like that. If the majority of music lovers think of them as a Nirvana footnote, so be it. I would hope they'll be known for being one of indie rock's innovators along with R.E.M. and Sonic Youth to name a few.