Erasure - 07/20/1990

Erasure 1990

I had already seen Erasure once on the Wild! tour (bought the poster, in fact) but the chance to see them again seemed like one I shouldn't pass up since records like The Innocents and even relatively crappy Erasure knock-off bands stayed in heavy rotation in the Walkman in those days.

It has to be said that I was in denial about Erasure being a gay band, even up until this show. Though I had seen Vince and Andy kiss onstage earlier in the year at the show at American University, I just felt like maybe it was all a gimmick.

It's important to provide a little background here: though I was quickly becoming a socialist, leftist pinko, I was still barely into my teens and I had been raised in a conservative military household. I had only recently had the balls to ditch the weekly trips to a church I didn't believe in, so I was still struggling with the idea of accepting homosexuals. Nevermind the fact that as a 14 year old, my bedroom walls were plastered with homoerotic posters of Depeche Mode in leather and the Erasure boys in soft focus--somehow I was still holding out hope that they all went home to their wives and girlfriends at the end of the tour.

Maybe it was this second trip to see the kings of gay synth disco in a year that did it, or maybe it was the time I was spending with my childhood friend who insisted that he was bi-sexual even though I only ever saw him with girls, but somehow around this time I started to actually grow up on the subject. It would still take several years for me to dig myself out from my "gay people are sinners" upbringing, but I'm happy to say that I eventually came around, and I probably owe at least some of that to an undying love for cheesy, theatrical synth pop a la Erasure.

Now the real story of this show should be this: if you look at the ticket, the opening act is WIRE. I am almost 100% positive that Wire canceled and that we were stuck with Louie Louie instead, but is it possible that I saw Wire and I don't even remember it? I was obviously too distracted by Andy's green satin hotshorts!

Depeche Mode - 06/06/1990

Depeche Mode 1990

The Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb show in 1990 couldn't have been a bigger event on my social calendar. Though I had been to see Erasure earlier in the year with some friends from school, the Violator tour was the kind of event where I had been counting calendar days. My mom had driven me all over the place to pick up the "Enjoy the Silence" single on the misinformation that it was released when in fact it had not been. She did the same when Violator hit the shelves and I'm pretty sure that around the same time I was picking up Nitzer Ebb's Showtime and Belief so that I could see what that was all about. Of course my forward-thinking friends at school had a cultural head start on me since I'd been stuck on a US Military base in Japan for the last three years and the good word about bands like Nitzer Ebb or Front 242 had to wait for the lucky chance that someone stateside would move to Japan and happen to be a fan. My friends would proudly exclaim that they were only going to this show for the opening act--something I would catch myself doing years later--but not that night.

My mom came to the rescue once again when the tickets for this show went on sale. Of all things, they went on sale at 10 AM on a school day and I wasn't about to get the go-ahead to skip school to stand in line. My mom graciously volunteered to hit up the Ticketron in the mall and she told me that when she got there well in advance of the opening, there was already a line. My mom, not being someone with a lot of experience camping out for tickets, was probably at Lord & Taylor's Ticketron outlet early enough to get us great seats, but she somehow wound up in a line of people getting anything BUT Depeche Mode tickets for 45 minutes and didn't figure that out until all of the good seats were gone. The heartbreaking news when I got home from school was this: we had LAWN seats at Merriwether Post pavilion. I guess it could have been worse--we could have missed out altogether.

Somehow I managed to smuggle not only a microcassette recorder to tape the show, but also a 35mm camera with full zoom lens! I remember being pretty nervous about this as we went through security, but thanks to the "hammer pants" that were popular at the time, I was able to strap most of the gear into an area that the security were not apt to pat down. Nevermind that my pictures of the event are utterly unrecognizable as anything other than specs of light and that my recording features my friends and I singing much more prominently than Dave Gahan--I was proud of the accomplishment.

When I look back on a long history of going to shows, I can definitely see this one as an early and nearly unbeatable high point. Despite the lawn seats, despite the failed recording, despite the fact that Nitzer Ebb went on during the daylight when people were still filing in--there was somethign naively magical about thousands of people all singing Depeche Mode songs together. This was one of the few times where I'd get all nervous and giddy about being in the proximity of a band, even though I'd be MUCH closer to bands many times later. There's something about the awe and spectacle and innocent, youthful adoration for a band that I just lost somewhere along the way. I don't know if that's a bad thing, but I'm pretty sure that I'll never be able to sit a hundred yards away from a band and get goosebumps ever again.