Remembering A Half-Weezer Show

1997 was not exactly a fun time to be a Weezer fan.

The band’s second album was a critical and commercial bomb. Despite the creativity and rock found on Pinkerton, people instead were listening to the Wallflowers and the Verve Pipe. The founding members of the Weezer fan club died in a car accident and the band was taking some time off due to creative tension, with rumors that one member was about to leave for good.

But near the end of the year, some rumors started popping up on fan-run news sites. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo, who was in Boston attending Harvard, had formed a side band backed by local musicians and had been playing shows at local venues. The songs played at these shows were both songs never intended for Weezer and possible future Weezer songs. The final one of these shows took place 20 years ago today. Joining Rivers and local musicians was drummer Pat Wilson, out from LA in an effort to find some common ground with Rivers. Bassist Matt Sharp was also supposed to appear, but was not able to make the trip.

The eight-song set was a tight show, featuring three new songs (Rosemary, Baby, The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World) and five Weezer entries (Getchoo, No One Else, Say it Ain’t So, Undone and Only in Dreams). Rivers and Pat would find their common ground, and would end up (as Rivers said at the start of the show) going out to LA to make a new record. But a whole set of challenges would meet them when they reached the West Coast, including the loss of Matt, recruiting a new bassist and Rivers being unsatisfied with any creative direction developed despite his prodigious musical output (A few years back, I wrote a rather lengthy article on that, check it out here). By the time Weezer released their third album, it was a new century and the band was going in a totally different direction.

As I mentioned earlier, news of this and the previous Boston shows hit Weezer fan sites pretty much right away. Back in January of ’98, I had just started the second semester of my third year of college. I e-mailed one of the attendees, who said he would do a 2-for-1 swap for a recording of the show (in other words, if I sent him two blank tapes, he would send me one tape back with a recording of the show). I sent off the tapes and days later, I received one back. The guy (I don’t remember his name) had written up an essay about the tape- he attended three of Rivers’ shows and recorded all three. The essay was heartfelt about his time as a fan of the band.

I listened to the tape and fell in love with the songs- both the ones intended for future Weezer use as well as the “goofball, country” songs Rivers penned. The sound quality was a little rough and in the years since a few of the songs have had official releases (in either full-band or demo form), but two of the more intriguing ones, Baby and Rosemary, only exist in the recording from this show.

Still, these songs and this show will hold a special place for me, because in a time when everyone was singing along to Tubthumping or MmmBop, I had hope that Weezer would be back. It would just take a while.

 

Weezer’s Pinkerton Still Brings Home The Turkey And The Bacon

Seventeen years ago I was a sophomore in college. On this day back in 1996,  I walked a few miles between classes to the one record store near Seton Hall University to pick up a CD that was coming out that day, Weezer’s Pinkerton.

Once I purchased the only copy of the CD in the store, I walked/ran back to my dorm room, but was only able to listen to the first three songs before my next class began. All I remember about the class was not being able to wait to hear the rest of the album. Pinkerton was so different from the Blue Album (which was by then, my favorite thing to listen to), but not in a bad way.

The sound of Pinkerton was more raw and the lyrics more emotional, which were a bad news/good news thing for the album’s fortunes. The rawness and emotion, combined with the public’s changing musical tastes meant the album didn’t do well commercially. In the year after Pinkerton’s release I was incredulous as songs like One Headlight and The Freshmen were played constantly on the radio, while Pinkerton‘s songs were ignored.

At the same time, fans loved this approach and the public rediscovered the album a few years later after word-of-mouth and file sharing attracted more listeners, leading to the band’s resurgence in 2000.

But by then, it was too late for Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, who abandoned the approach that made Pinkerton what it was and sought out a more generic way of crafting the perfect pop rock song (this approach, which led to the Green Album, also was responsible band’s fascinating, yet vague (and too minimal) output in 1998). The band has also embraced (or re-embraced) the album, even releasing Pinkerton Deluxe Edition three years ago.  The highlight of this special edition was Tragic Girl, a song originally demoed at the last minute then promptly forgotten.

After my class, I rushed back to my room and listened to the whole of Pinkerton. I realized it was no Blue Album, but that was not a bad thing. It was an amazing, personal, rocking album. And it’s still amazing all these years later.

Weezer in the Rain

I found out something important last week. If concert tickets say ‘Rain or Shine,’ that means the concert will take place outside.

Also, that means there will be rain.

Last Friday, I saw my 12th Weezer concert outside the casino in Cincinnati (the outdoor concert was across the street from the county jail). The Civee graciously accompanied me despite the rain, which started as the opening band (Cincinnati’s Daap Girls) got their set underway. The Daap Girls weren’t the worst Weezer opening band I saw, nor were they the least memorable, so that’s a bonus. Although, the most entertaining part of the Daap Girls set was the dancing of the world’s biggest Daap Girls fan who was standing next to me. The rain let up for a bit before Weezer got started, but ramped back up to torrential levels about four songs in.

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Even with the rain, I enjoyed the show. The set list was along the lines of the greatest hits set they’ve been playing lately (don’t they have a new album they should be working on?) with the addition of No One Else, which was great to hear. They sounded good, and changed up arrangements on some of the songs, including (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To. Plus, they played No One Else.

Something different about this show- the crowd felt older. A lot of the people around us were talking about their kids. There was a family right in front of us, with two kids who looked to be about eight or nine. Seeing that made me think that I may be able to bring Hope to the next show, although I may not be able to get as close as I did Friday night.

Even though we was soaked by the end of the show (more accurately, soaked after standing there for 10 minutes), it was a fun show. The outdoor area of a casino across the street from a county jail made the location interesting. And while I could have done without the rain, it was certainly a memorable show.

Ten Awesome Weezer Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

Weezer’s first album came out 18 years ago last month. Since then, they’ve released eight (or nine, depending on who you talk to) more, along with a plethora of b-sides and other songs that never even made it to an album.

I’ve written before about the large amount of material the band has produced but never released. But there’s a whole other category of Weezer song I’ve never really written about before: those songs that never made it to an official release (album, compilation, b-side or official digital companion) that somehow ended up in the hands of the fans.

Ten years ago, while working on their fourth album, Maladroit, Weezer put multiple versions of each album contender up on their Website for the fans to download. But they didn’t stop there- they also uploaded early versions of their fifth album demos (which never made it to an official release) and lead singer Rivers Cuomo shared many of his home demos with fans.

The reaction to the songs being shared was mixed. Fans debated the quality of the material, but most appreciated the chance to hear the songs throughout their development. To those who became fans after the Maladroit era, many of these (and other unreleased material) remains a surprise. And that’s the point of this list, to look at a number of Weezer songs that haven’t been “officially” released but are readily available.

In addition to the list above, I’m not counting Rivers’ solo demos or songs from his Boston shows (that’s what the Alone series is for). Nor am I counting early versions of songs that ended up on an album (if I were, the “doo-doo-doo-doo” Burndt Jamb and If You Want It would be on the list). Most of these songs were recorded between 2001 and 2002. That era is so heavily represented because that’s the source of most of the unreleased songs. Also, I’m relying on YouTube here, and the only available versions of these songs are from concerts, so I apologize in advance for the quality.

Here we go: Ten Awesome Weezer Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard (unless you’re a die-hard crazy fan):

10) 367

Put up on Weezer.com sometime in April of 2002, after the Maladroit sessions, but before the album was released. It featured what seemed to be a more personal theme than anything on Maladroit and some great instrumentation. The band would revisit this song later that year, but this is the best version.

9) Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone

From an acoustic session in the fall of 2002, released along with a version of Private Message (keep reading). The lyrics (seemingly involving choking) are a bit…different.

8) Saturday Night

Recorded with a slew of other songs in the summer of 2001 in Washington, DC, with Mikey on bass. Not sure what the song is about exactly, but it sounds like they’re having fun here. Weezer later attempted this during the Maladroit sessions, but it sounded differently.

7) My Brain is Working Overtime

Yes, a demo version of this song was available on Alone II. But this version is from the summer of 2000. This was one of the first new songs played by the band after coming back from their 1998-2000 hiatus. A poor version of this was available immediately after that first show (which took forever to download back in the days of dialup). Thankfully, better versions still surfaced.

6) The Victor

I can’t find a version of the best take of this song -released along with 367, the song features the same instrumentation and real point of view. Additionally, the April ’02 version started off with a near-minute long instrumental jam. This take, from later on in the year, isn’t as good, but is still pretty decent.

5) Sandwiches Time

Weezer recorded three different versions of this oddly-named tune, in the fall and winter of 2001. One version featured Rivers singing in his normal voice. The other two, well, you can hear for yourself. I also have to mention this is Hope’s favorite Weezer song title.

4) So Low

This goes without saying for all of the songs on this list, but I really think Weezer missed out by not putting So Low on an album. I first heard it at the Detroit show in September ’01 and got chills listening to it. The band played this a bunch of times in the fall of 2001 and then forgot about it. It resurfaced in the summer of ’02, but was changed to Mansion of Cardboard, a song about homelessness, and the magic was gone.

3) O Girl

Another one of the Summer 2000 Songs, or the first batch of Post-Pinkerton new songs. The song is energetic with a crazy (in a good way) chorus. There’s probably a better-sounding version of this out there, but it’s great to see this one being played.

2) Private Message

This is from the same acoustic session as Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone. This is actually the fourth version of this song we have (but I couldn’t find a video of my favorite, the original from April ’02). Personal lyrics and a great sound here, with the electric version featuring an energy that was only touched upon in the songs that made up Maladroit.

1) Baby

Some would say I’m cheating here. This song is from a show Rivers performed in Boston in January of 1998. However, bandmate Pat Wilson played the drums at this show. Additionally, the band would attempt this song in the spring of ’98 as they tried to get their third album off the ground. This was one of those songs Rivers wrote as a reaction to Pinkerton, a quasi-romantic repetitive song with lyrics that were poetic, but not personal. I’m not sure what this song is about (some interpretations of the lyrics are downright creepy), but I love it.

As I mentioned, most of these were released around 2002 and were recorded during an era where the band shared everything. Even with what we have, there are a number of good songs that didn’t make the list. While they don’t share as much anymore, they have opened up the vaults slightly. Other bands are using digital distribution streams to make money off their unreleased songs. If Weezer ever does the same, I might as well just send them my paychecks directly.

My Test of Wills With a 22-Month-Old

Tonight, I was tested as a parent like never before.

Recently, during dinnertime, Hope has finished eating much quicker than The Civee or I. And she repeatedly lets us know she’s finished. Sometimes she will sit with us as we eat, but many nights, she wants to get out of her chair and play, often asking for us to leave the table and play with her.

The Civee and I usually don’t give in. We’re fine letting her down early, but it’s our goal to finish our meal, hopefully impressing upon her the idea that as a family, we sit together until everyone is done eating. I should probably also mention that one of her favorite commands is “come,” and she will say this as she reaches for our hands to take us somewhere to show us something or to play with us.

Well, tonight, she finished early. And The Civee and I were enjoying our pork chops and conversation, so we let her down. She stood by my chair and looked up at me, grabbing my hand. “Come,” she said. To which I replied, “Hope, I am not done. We will play when mama and dada are done eating.”

She went away and came back after a few moments. Still with a big smile on her face, she looked up at me; “Daddy…come.” This started to weaken my resolve. The Civee and I had always taught her to refer to us as Mama and Dada. I don’t know where she got it from, but within the last week, she’s started calling me Daddy instead of Dada, and it just sounds so cute. But still, I stayed seated and continued my meal.

She pouted a little, went into the living room and came back a minute later. She grabbed at my hand, pointed to the couch with her other hand and said as she smiled and looked into my eyes; “Daddy….come. Watch…..Weezer.”

And there it was. This little girl knows my weak spot. We don’t watch a lot of television with her (and I’m pretty sure that Weezer videos are the only thing she and I watch together), but we do enjoy the many kid-friendly videos Weezer has. The Civee was looking at me too and I knew I had to stay put. I could not give in at this point. I simply said, “Hope, no.”

She started to cry. Which made me want to cry. All because I’m trying to teach her a lesson. We’ve had a great weekend so far, spending a lot of time playing and even taking a trip to COSI while The Civee studied. There will most likely be a time in the future when she won’t want to hang out or want my attention as much as she does now. And as tough as it may be to believe, she may not always want to watch Weezer videos with me.

Still, she does have to learn about mealtime. And I can’t give her the idea that I’m putty in her hands. It’s tough, but I’d like to think that what I did tonight was good for both of us.

It’s Time to Watch the Movie

It was a rainy day and The Civee and I had to do something with Hope this afternoon. We decided to take her to a movie.

We went to see The Muppets. It was age appropriate for her, The Civee and I wouldn’t be totally bored and Hope is familiar with the Muppets from Weezer’s Keep Fishin’ video (Weezer has a surprising number of kid-friendly videos).

We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to last the whole movie. Hope gets vocal and likes to move around a lot, but we were willing to try.

The theater wasn’t that crowded, so we got seats near the aisle. There were a number of trailers and a Toy Story short before the movie started. Hope seemed to get the idea of watching what was going on on the big screen, although she often stood on her seat and talked (asking for more popcorn, mostly).

We did have to take her for a walk a few times and she got real antsy towards the end (damn those previews and the short feature!). But overall, she enjoyed the experience. The Civee and I liked the movie. And I’m glad to know what happened to the world’s supply of New Coke.

Also, when we were on our way into the theater, I saw a poster for the next movie I’m taking Hope to see:

Weezer’s No One Else: And if You See Her, Tell Her It’s O-hey-hey-hey-hey

I first got Weezer’s The Blue Album sometime in December of 1994. I was already a fan, having heard and enjoyed both Undone and Buddy Holly earlier that fall.  But listening to the CD was an eye (or ear) opening experience.  Opener My Name Is Jonas was a solid melodic rocker. The second song on the album was even better.

No One Else sounded like the perfect rock song. At first listen, I knew an album with songs like this, Buddy Holly and Undone was special. And I was right- the rest of the album was great. All these years later, No One Else is still electrifying.

The reason I’m writing about this today is that 19 years ago today, Weezer first played No One Else during a show at the Coconut Teaszer in LA. As Karl Koch explains in the Weezer Recording History:

Unfortunately no recording has turned up for this show, which was in my opinion , a turning point for the band. They played tighter than ever before, had a better sound, and (after internal debate) debuted “No One Else”, a song that started to steer the band in a previously invisible direction.

A few years back, I e-mailed Karl to ask what he meant about the debate and new direction. Karl replied; “Rather than sticking with a heavy Pixies-influenced sound, “No One Else” was one of the first songs to have the band wondering whether they were going in a “‘pop’, [or] too ‘commericial’ sounding” direction.

It is easy to see a slight Pixies influence (and a much heavier one in the band’s earliest demos) in Weezer’s material. But while that influence is still there, Weezer is much more melodic and pop-friendly than the Pixies.

(I always got a kick out of that unofficial video)

No One Else was played regularly by the band through 2002.  My favorite live version of it comes from the summer of 2000, where for a few shows, they began the song with an extended intro. I was lucky enough to be at one of those performances and later get a recording. Even though the quality is suspect, you still get an idea of the intro in from this recording of the Cleveland ’00 show.

No One Else was eventually shuffled out of the band’s playlists in favor of singles and more current songs (although it has enjoyed a bit of a comeback during the Memories Tour). Even though it’s no longer in the band’s current repertoire, it’s nice to know they made the right choice all those years ago on September 15 at the Teaszer.

Hope has Excellent Taste in Music

Even though most of our music is on our computer, The Civee and I still have a shelf of CDs in our dining room. The other day, Hope and I were playing when she went over to the CD case. I told her to pick one out, so she took CD and started waving it around to no one in particular.

For those who can’t tell what it is:

This proves a hunch I’ve had for a long time: Hope’s a Troublemaker.

And to those (namely, Hope’s mom) who would say this picture is staged, don’t you think I would have gotten a better shot of her face?

Either way, I’m very proud of her choice. I have a feeling The Civee is not.