Sunday, January 20, 2013

Twenty years ago this year: Missing Paul Westerberg

Now that it's 2013 we can start the retrospective looks at 1993, officially two decades in our rear view mirror. (It's 20 years since Pearl Jam's second album, Vs., came out with the song "Rearviewmirror," as a matter of fact.) Over on I Will Dare Jodi posted something recently suggesting '93 may have been the banner year for Gen X music-wise, listing many notable albums released that year (including that Pearl Jam one).


Glancing at that list... it's not that I didn't like many of them, nor that I didn't buy at least some of them, but for whatever reason personally that year's offerings (both then and when I look now), while certainly including good ones, don't hit me with the Oh yeah that was the year feeling.

It's only from the vantage point of twenty years that we can survey the pop culture landscape and declare what year was "the best" in a given category; in the moment we are too caught up in its immediacy to appreciate it.

If one is so inclined. Maybe I'm just not as inclined to think in such terms. So let's instead focus on something about the music from that year noted on Jodi's list that I do recall, still quite well.


Having been a fan of the Replacements (who'd played their last show in '91), not surprisingly I was excited about the '93 release of Paul Westerberg's first official solo album, 14 Songs, and was equally excited when I learned he would tour in support of it.

I'd seen the 'Mats the last time when they played the Hollywood Palladium, a large ballroom, but for his first solo tour his L.A. stop was at the Whiskey, a much smaller club.

I knew the Saturday tickets went on sale, and headed over to Tower Records (where the Ticketmaster booth was) around noon, only a few hours after the on-sale time. I got up to the counter and asked for two tickets to the show. The clerk typed something into the computer, and promptly announced it was already sold out.


The worst part was not only that I'd missed out but it was only due to my own stupidity. I could have gone earlier; I simply chose not to because it never occurred to me that the show would sell out that fast. I drastically underestimated his popularity in L.A. It wasn't like the 'Mats were selling out venues like the Palladium, nor did he get played on the local radio much. However, clearly the fans that were here came out with enthusiasm, and I'd dilly-dallied my way to being on the outside looking in.

And it was entirely my own fault.

On the night of the show my companion at the time and I actually went to the Sunset Strip and hung out around the Whiskey, open to buying from scalpers. However, there weren't any around. There were plenty of others also standing around behind the building in our same boat, but no one to supply our demand. At one point the two of us walked around front, to nothing, and then we walked back to the rear and someone we'd seen before mentioned that we'd just missed a scalper, now gone.

Eventually we simply gave up and went home. It seemed clear fate wasn't going to let me off the hook for my earlier imprudence.

Twenty years on that incident still bothers me. It's not an active wound or anything, but when it comes to mind I'm still stung ever so slightly by that same disappointment. I imagine it's not so much that I lament missing that specific show—there's plenty of concerts I didn't see over the years—but the fact I so easily could have seen it had I simply gotten my ass over to the ticket counter in the morning.

(And even getting the chance to see Westerberg on subsequent tours—always buying tickets early—has not caused that regret to completely subside.)

Take nothing for granted, kiddos. You won't know at the time what will haunt you twenty years down the road, when the inclination to reflect will strike.

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