Edited by Brett Buchanan
Earlier this weekend, Alternative Nation owner, reporter, and all around rock star Brett Buchanan and I attended Jack’s 11th Show at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, formerly known as Verizon Wireless Amphitheater during two 7-year sponsorship contracts with the cell phone provider. The venue, consisting of a larger than life settlement of paths, stairs and an iconic amphitheater for a capacity of around 16,000 people. Unfortunately, the venue will be closing in late October. The Irvine Company will see its demise to make room for more housing as the City of Irvine continues to expand its gentrification process.
For those of you unfamiliar, Irvine Meadows is a beautiful place that has its own distinctive place and history as a significant West Coast venue and amphitheater. Just outside of Laguna Canyon and alongside the San Diego Creek, since its opening in 1981 the venue became a favorite of many seminal acts during its thirty five year history, across all genres but particularly favored by ’90s alternative rockers and their predecessors in the ’80s. The iconoclast group spearheaded by Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo, held their annual Halloween concerts here from 1986-1991 as well as 1993. Another 80’s staple, The Smiths, landed there during their 1986 American tour. The Grateful Dead and Michael Jackson also gave several performances in the ’80s, but famously Irvine Meadows was home to the KROQ Weenie Roast, Southern California’s most influential rock radio stations. Stone Temple Pilots, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Third Eye Blind, and the Offspring all played the festival multiple times, adjunct with countless other incredible vessels of music played well past sunset.
Of course, the first Lollapalooza tour saw a stop here at Irvine Meadows. Nine Inch Nails, Body Count, Living Colour, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Fishbone, the Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, EBN, and last but not least Jane’s Addiction, whose frontman Perry Farrell founded the event as a leg of a goodbye tour for his band. Jane’s Addiction is a prime subject of study to compare and contrast Irvine Meadows history as it was and what it is. They headlined Jack’s 11th Birthday show, supported by the Cult, Garbage, the Violent Femmes, Everlast and House of Pain, as well as Taylor Hawkins’ Chevy Metal cover group as a side stage opener. As a part of their Sterling Spoon tour celebrating 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual, they bring the party with them as they did in 1991, with both friends and enemies tagging along.
Garbage, who played 2016’s infamous Weenie Roast which featured a last minute cancellation by the Chili Peppers due to Anthony Kiedis’ intestinal flu, returned in full form back to Irvine Meadows. They, along with all the acts performing Friday, were saddened by Irvine Meadows’ all too soon foreclosure as the 2017’s lease will not be renewed. But it did not stop the Shirley Manson led band from tunneling through old and new material, crossing electronica and alternative angst, as they support their new 2016 album Strange Little Birds. The Cult, led by enigmatic Ian Astbury and brooding Billy Duffy, also were out supporting a new album Hidden City, playing new tracks “Birds of Paradise” and “Deeply Ordered Chaos”. These tracks stuck out to me most, as pervasive yet more threatening than classic hits like “She Sells Sanctuary”. A crowd well divided in age reaped the seeds of songs old and new.
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins joins Jane’s Addiction onstage.
What’s interesting here is the relationship with some of the bands that performed. Current Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney contributed the bass tracking to the Cult’s 2016 Hidden City. Eric Avery, the founding Jane’s Addiction bassist, is now Garbage’s live touring bassist as well as infrequent studio contributor, recording several of the bass tracks for 2016’s Strange Little Birds. Dave Navarro himself addressed Avery’s presence on the lineup in Dark Matter’s first 2016 podcast, noting that Garbage’s appearance at Jack’s 11th Show “could prove to be very interesting because Eric Avery, formerly of Jane’s Addiction, is now in Garbage…and we did not all part on good terms”. Though neither Garbage or Jane’s Addiction’s set featured jabs at their ex-members (much to the world’s disappointment), it demonstrated the fluidity of band structure and personal evolution over twenty five years. The original Jane’s Addiction lineup played Jack’s 11th Show, though separately. Even twenty five years later, Jane’s Addiction still plays in support of Ritual de lo Habitual.
“Jane Says” live at Irvine Meadows, 1991 on the Lollapalooza tour. Featured on the 1997 compilation Kettle Whistle.
“Man, I’ve had so many good times here with you all”, Perry says as “Ain’t No Right” interrupts the reverbed vocals. “Dave, I’d say that I’m a different person than I was back then, wouldn’t you? That’s okay to say, right?” Farrell was in a very sentimental mood Friday, as the band plowed through a somewhat similar set they played 300 months ago to the day. Ritual was an album dripped in controversy, Jane’s Addiction’s third album in a row to depict nudity on the cover, but the first to depict sex as well. This gained the album a ban at several retailers, so censored versions included black and white text of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Today, as it was back again, is a fierce and tenacious piece of work tackling individuality, the death of those closest to you, the intersection of love both sexual and romantic, in whole Generation X’s say-anything platform to bring the entire Baby Boomer generation and their parents to scream and hiss. Today, it only makes the crowd scream in awe and appreciation.
A poignant farewell the venue was his dedication of the song “Three Days” to Irvine Meadows as “I miss you my dear Xiola” became “I’ll miss you Irvine Meadows”. Xiola, the subject matter of “Three Days”, was Farrell’s ex-girlfriend of the early ’80s who had a spicy menage-a-trois with Farrell and his girlfriend at the time, which inspired the song written shortly before her untimely death. The venue likened to an old lover, a vivid metaphor for how artists love the stage. Navarro’s three time solo pieces shock the crowd voraciously as his guitar ripped over the sonics of Afro-Caribbean gone, trance percussion parts through the song.
Pyrotechnics, spiritual rock, sexy dancers, Perry’s off-the-cuff rants, everything you’d expect at a happy celebration. Yet their fantastic set at Jack’s 11th Show is as much as a goodbye to Irvine Meadows as it is a prelude to Generation X’s end as the guard of music’s revolution. “I think I see a teen in the crowd!”, Farrell expressed in jubilee. Farrell praised Generation X as having changed the entire world for the better, but still couldn’t wait for “our kids” to make the world even better. A change in music, the “death of rock”, all subjects debated hotly over today. Who will survive? What will emerge? Jack’s 11th Show, one of the last at Irvine Meadows, remembered an incredible period that was the reign of alternative rock, but as the sun set and rose that day so will the successors of Jane’s Addiction, the Cult, Garbage and their contemporaries will propel the world in a better place.
If you are interested in the cause to save Irvine Meadows, visit Save Live Music Irvine.