Concert Reviews

Andy Lester on Bad Religion, PJ Harvey and Playing "Jazz" with the Blurries

Dallas five-piece The Blurries are riding high from the accolades of last year's Paper Cuts. With upcoming appearances at Dada and 35 Denton, bassist Andy Lester took some time out to talk about the first shows he saw and played, including when PJ Harvey scared him.

What was the first show you remember seeing? Were you with your parents? My parents are symphony musicians, so growing up I went to concerts as soon as I was old enough to sit still. To other kids, that was only cool when we went on a field trip to hear "Peter and the Wolf," and I got to act like a big shot because I knew someone "in the band." That hook-up stopped being impressive around the sixth grade. Being symphony musicians, my parents didn't like rock and roll, so my first rock show wasn't until 1995 when I saw Pearl Jam with Bad Religion opening at the Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee. I'm pretty sure my parents spent that whole night worrying that I would come home drunk, stoned, or both. While I was introduced to the seedy virtues of a Midwestern summer amphitheater rock show, I did not come home a drug-addled loser.

What was the first show you paid money to see? That Pearl Jam show, with money I made mowing lawns.

What was the first show that made a major impact on you? That would be a show I saw later that summer in 1995. It was a Live/Veruca Salt/ PJ Harvey bill. At the time, I was a fan of the only pop-rock band to ever chart a hit with the lyrics "her placenta falls to the floor." The day tickets went on sale, a friend and I got up at 4 a.m. to camp out at a grocery store on the south side of Milwaukee. Pop-rock music fans don't frequent Ticketmaster outlets on the South side. It was awkward, but we scored fifth row, center. The night of the show, we got there right when the doors opened.

First, Veruca Salt played, which I don't remember, and then PJ Harvey strutted out on to the stage in a skin-tight, purple spandex one-piece leotard with nothing on underneath and proceeded to roar through material from Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love. It was loud and noisy and, at times, barely melodic. It was both rock show and anatomy class with this purple-suited banshee shrieking and writhing about the stage 15 feet in front of me. At the time it was more frightening than sexy, but I knew then that this was rock and roll, much more so than the tripe I was there to see.

So far, what's the worst show you've seen? Dave Matthews Band, Milwaukee Summerfest 1996. I hated the band but went because a girl I had a crush on was going.The DMB was awful and the girl loved it. Needless to say, she and I never panned out. Thank God for that, or I would probably have at least one extra string on my bass.

What do you remember about your first show with the Blurries? It was at Pastime Tavern with RTB2. I moved into a new place earlier that day so I was pretty tired by the time we played. My side of the floor/stage was dark so I couldn't see my fretboard. I spent most of the show chasing chords and singing off key. I played a lot of "jazz" that night.

The Blurries play Dada on Friday, February 17.

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs