When Veruca Salt announced a reunion tour a few months ago I made sure to put two separate dates on my calendar: The date the tickets went on sale and the date of the actual show. Unlike other reunion shows I have attended, this would be a smaller, more intimate affair. Brighton Music Hall – formerly Harper’s Ferry – a standing room only, 476 capacity club in Boston – would be the final stop on their three week long US Tour.
The first time I saw a show at BHM was back in May when myself and 75 others spaced ourselves out to watch a breathing taking performance by Mirah. Seeing the space that severely undersold bummed me out, though I was grateful for the personal space and sight lines. Knowing that Veruca Salt would be playing a sold out show there pumped me up for an entirely different experience.
You’re probably think that I’m some super hard-core fan that has been waiting forever for them to reunite. That I wore red converse all stars to their shows at Mama Kin in the mid 90’s, but I didn’t. At the height of their popularity I was fifteen years old and listening to WFNX in to the wee hours of the morning hoping to tape “Volcano Girls” on my boom box. I followed Nina Gordon’s brief solo career and dug that a little bit more, but I pretty much forgot about them. Their two radio mega hits (“Seether” and the previously mentioned “Volcano Girls”) remain on my work out play list and serve as a bit of junior high nostalgia on the elliptical. As I grew older my music tastes shifted and broadened. I’ve always tried to take advantage of the opportunity to see the amazing and diverse acts that roll through Boston. My goal is to average 12 shows a year, but I hope to avoid General Admission shows at all costs.
I’m old. I hate getting bumped into by people and have them spill a drink on me (bonus douche points if it’s mine). I hate it when people push their way to the front and act like dicks when I’ve been standing there forever. I’m short and someone taller than me always manages to shift right into that little sliver I had been able to enjoy the opener through. I hate standing for long periods of time because my back is bad these days. Every time I go to a GA show I forget about these things and just before the show starts I’m usually boiling with rage and a hatred for everyone born in a year I actually remember.
Yes, of course it happened this time, but it’s so not worth getting into – as the gentleman on the street told me when those girls tried to get into it with me again. Anyway, we were standing about three people deep and just off stage right. They took the stage. Man, even their drummer was close to me. Nina, in an updated baby tee showcasing the lyrics of a song by her own band, mostly hung to our side while Louise Post, wearing flannel, played a little more to the crowd on the opposite side. It was loud. They sounded fresh. Their harmonies were on point and their riffs sharp. What they acknowledged they lacked in verbal onstage banter they made up for in just straight up rock goddess stage presence. The hatchet was buried. I always love watching people have fun on stage regardless of the medium. Their clothes, equipment, and overall style was a slightly updated grunge version of who I knew them to be 20 years ago. They remained true to themselves all these years later.
(As I sit here writing this I am listening to Veruca Salt through my tv on my Spotify. I’ve been having trouble with the forward button on the remote. Instead of skipping tracks it’ll just skip a few seconds of the song. My remote isn’t stuck and I’ve deleted and reinstalled the app multiple times. It’s some dumb glitch I can’t control and spotify can’t seem to solve. I am growing even more nostalgic for my mix tape of WFNX mid 90’s gems.)
The venue was perfect and it made me wistful for something I never even was able to experience. It is what I had imagined shows would be like when I was growing up. I always hoped for an all ages Liz Phair or Letters to Cleo show, but everything was always 18+. I saw clips of intimate, hard rock performances on MTV News and 120 Minutes. It sucked that I wasn’t allowed to see these bands. I wanted to be in the smoky depths of the Middle East downstairs and see Tracy Bonham. Just before I turned 18 Mama Kin shut down. Artists that I had loved, like Tori Amos, were growing in popularity and playing sold out shows at the Fleet Center. Tickets for shows started carrying several additional fees skyrocketing the overall cost. Avalon became the nightmare now known as that barf bag House of Blues. Great Woods and Harborlights have had several corporate names and I actually had to use my google to discover they’re now the Xfinity Center and Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. One of those sounds nice, but is about 20 miles away from Blue Hills and on the ocean. Beyonce is one of a few people I will shell out big bucks for because she’s going to zip line across the TD Garden to my absolute delight. That’s a show that I want to be staged, because it’s intricate and more of a spectacle. It requires pyro and dancers. Veruca Salt required instruments and just being there.
Additionally, I felt wistful for a decade of third-wave feminism. Though not part of the Riot Grrrl movement, Veruca Salt fell into that category along side other female artists who were singing about whatever they wanted to in whatever emotional tone suited them best. It wasn’t complicated. They screamed and growled about what it was that made them feel good. They sang about complex relationships with significant others. Explicitly demanding what they expected from others and what they could offer in return.
When I wrote about what the ladies were wearing above the thought crossed my mind that someone would read that and think “Why is that important?” I felt it was an important observation because their clothing was a nod the decade they came from and in no way the focus of their act. No one gave a shit about what women wore during the grunge era. Baby doll dresses, flannel, corduroys. No one gave a shit about their personal lives, their “Cribs,” or their social media outreach. The focus was on the music they produced.
I feel like I missed the decade where it was about the music and putting on a good show. The whole reason an album was made to begin with was so that there was something to send the fans home with after they played the shit out of it. Veruca Salt still feels like a small time operation that just wanted a good old fashioned jam session with 476 of their closest friends. They were doing it for them and for us only.