Jellyfish with Steven Bellamy and the Chronicles
UCLA Ackerman Grand Ballroom
Tuesday, March 5, 1991
I went to my first Jellyfish show in San Diego in February of 1991 and was high on seeing them for days afterwards. I figured I’d probably have to wait awhile before they came through southern California again, but, my good highschool friend Dan Buczaczer called me shortly afterwards to tell me that the band would be playing UCLA in less than three weeks as part of an anti-drug awareness week of some kind. The snag was that the show was only open to UCLA students. We’d need ID cards to get in, so Dan spent the next weeks deciding which of his friends looked like me and the other four or five non-Bruins who wanted to go. He must’ve had 10 or 15 ID cards for us to choose from when we showed up.
On March 5th, 1991, I drove over the hill from Northridge and arrived early to UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom where everyone from the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Guns n’ Roses to Peter Gabriel and the B-52’s had played. I’d recently watched the first two Godfather movies there to celebrate the release of the final film in the trilogy. It was just a short walk across campus from the Wadsworth Theater, where Jellyfish made their LA debut on the first night of their tour with World Party just a few months before. I was supposed to see a Valentine’s Day show at Ackerman with the Charlatans there a few weeks before but when my girlfriend and I split up, I didn’t feel like going. Funny enough, School of Fish opened that show. Ah, 1991.
I walked in to find a celebrity panel talk underway about the dangers of drugs. David Crosby was surprisingly articulate but frail, hobbling on and offstage with the help of a cane. Bob Timmins (“Dr. Detox as seen in GQ”) joined him with Anthony Kiedis, who also discussed addiction very intelligently, though I’d heard from a co-worker that he wasn’t as clean as he claimed. He detailed his difficulties staying sober in his autobiography years later. This was still seven months before Bloodsugarsexmagic, so having to endlessly explain what “Under The Bridge” was about was still awhile away. I was still a pretty big RHCP fan, so I went up to chat afterwards. He was only marginally amused hearing about a friend’s cousin who bought Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits on cassette but when she pressed play, she got RHCP’s Freaky Stylee instead. He said through mixups at the pressing plant, they’d had opera on a few of their albums.
Twas quite the San Diego highschool reunion that night. Dan and Deron Cohen fellow Jew-Crew alumni were both going to UCLA. My buddy Jim, who introduced me to JF, came down from Santa Barbara with a posse, including his future wife, Sonya. Lisa Pondrom was there and told us about how she’d just seen the band at Bogart’s in Long Beach. That show had been taped for radio syndication by Westwood One and I ended up with an unedited copy working at Hits Magazine two years later that I circulated into the tape-trading nerd world. 20 years later, it was given an official release by Omnivore Recordings.
It would be hours before Jellyfish played, so we endured an unfunny host and an opening band called Steven Bellamy and the Chronicles, a midwest styled Mellencampesque rock act. I could barely recall them but, strangely enough, this video of Bellamy playing exactly one week after the UCLA show is on Youtube.
Later that year, I got dragged to the same Natural Fudge Cafe to watch my neighbor’s brother’s band play and be interviewed for a painfully awkward TV show. Sure enough, the Youtube channel is full of those videos. I might be in the audience of one of them, trying to stay awake. Afterwards, one of the club guys was bragging that School of Fish got their start there.
I trim these concert reports I wrote 20 years ago in half when I edit them for YDG. They’re embarrassingly full of mediocre writing, inside jokes and details that wouldn’t interest anyone, like the fact that the Chronicles set closed with a song that copped the ending of an Elvis Costello song that I spent the whole evening not being able to recall. Sure enough, there they are doing it in this video. It was “Radio Radio”, which my own band covered years later. Bellamy went on to be a sports network figurehead, starting channels devoted to skiing and tennis.
After some giveaways and a set change, it was finally time for an intimate show for maybe 150 people in a hall that holds over 2000. Gotta love college gigs. Band gets paid a fortune to play to almost no one. With everyone else sitting in their seats, we walked up and stood right in front of the stage, just as the lights went out. “Look who’s here,” I said to Jim as Jason came walking onstage. We’d unknowingly seen the band with a substitute guitarist just a few weeks before with Jason out of commission after shoulder surgery. We were standing right in front of him and though I’d never met him, I quietly said, “How’s the arm?” He smiled and said, “Great!” “Is this your first show back?” “Yeah.” “Excited?” “Yeah!” and they were off into it.
As the band’s Fanclub explained,,,,
“Well, the biggest news of the month is that Jason is back! Some of you may remember that Mr. Faulkner (sic) was recovering from surgery on a dislocated shoulder during December-February. During his absence, Jason was replaced by Niko Wenner, who one fan in Los Angeles dubbed “stone cold foxed.” Well, this boosted Niko’s ego so much that he hijacked all Jellyshows on the west coast in February and March, refusing to let Jason play. The rest of the band finally succeeded in buying him off with a couple of Donnie Wahlberg action figures and the BAMMIE which they recently won.
Yes, that’s right. Although Jellyfish did not win “Outstanding Group” at the Bay Area Music Awards on March 2nd, they did take home a nifty gold statuette for “Outstanding Debut Album”. (just as Beatnik Beatch had done several years earlier -ed.) Of course Roger is quick to point out that the real treat of the evening was that their dressing room was right next to that of Neil Schon and Jonathon Cain (of Journey, all you nimnuls). Andy was more impressed with the fact that Jellyfish performed that night on the same stage where he once saw KISS.
They mentioned the Bammie award at UCLA, since it had only happened two days prior. They played live at the awards show, too, that being Jason’s actual first time back playing with the band. At Ackerman, Andy & Roger both simultaneously said how lucky Jason was that he got to play with Night Ranger. Somehow it came up in an interview I did with Jason a few years later….
Jason: ….I like arranging everything. I play drums, so, there was a lot of overlapping and-
AG: Here’s how I remember you play drums: You were playing with Jellyfish at UCLA and you’d just played the Bammies and you were like, “I just played drums with Night Ranger!”
JF: (laughing) Yeah!
AG: …and no one knew it. You were like, “No one knows Night Ranger?” and I said, “Sister Christian” and you were like “Yeah!”.
JF: That was awesome because those guys were so….I don’t know what kind of drugs those guys were taking, but, they were in the back and there was this poor guy trying to organize it. He ran up to me and said, “Do you play something?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And he goes, “You play guitar, right?” and I go, “Well, I’ll only play if I can play drums” ’cause I never get to play drums with anybody. So, he’s like OK, we’ve got, you know, whatever those guys names are, Brad Gillis or whatever, “We’ve got these dudes from Night Ranger and they’re gonna play. They’re gonna jam with you and the bass player from Faith No More wants to play.”
So, the Night Ranger guys were back in this little room, just hanging out with some, like, metal chicks, y’know and this poor guy was running around trying to find guitars for them and they were like, “I have to have an 80’s Les Paul with a locking tremelo, Floyd Rhodes. I’ve gotta have that,” and this guy goes and finds a classic, like a ’62 Les Paul, and brings it and opens the case. “Will this do?” One of the guys says, “Get that piece of shit out of here, man! I only play locking tremelo, man.” It was like, come on! It’s just a little jam session, y’know….at the Hyatt! Get over it! (laughing). So that was entertaining….
AG: What’d you guys do?
JF: We did “Highway To Hell” and, um, what’s the other song we did? (thinks a second) Oh my God, we did “Freebird” and “Highway To Hell” and I didn’t even really know how to play “Freebird” on drums. So, I think I played “Do You Feel Like I Do” over “Freebird”, kinda like that Will To Power thing. (both laugh) I pulled one of those.
Years later, I saw Jason and he said, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was rockin’ with Dokken?!” He started to tell me about this time he was wearing this furry shirt and they were at this awards banquet and I stopped him and asked, “Did a writer ask you about this recently?” He stopped and said, “Yeah! How’d you know?” I said, “He read about it on my site! It was Night Ranger, not Dokken!” Nerd alert.
With Jason away for months, he was obviously itching to rock. This was one of the best shows I ever saw them play, if not THE best. After the solo in “She Still Loves Him”, the song stopped and Andy yelled some kind of astonished “Welcome back!” There was some kind of technical problem at one point and they were looking for ideas to fill time. I yelled out “Chris Isaak!” because Roger had done a great impression a few weeks before. Andy looked all excited, “Yeah! Do it!” and Roger complied with a bit of “Wicked Game”. The only other thing I remember from the set was Chris throwing out a stack of JF stickers rapid fire before his bass part started in “Baby’s Coming Back”.
After their main set ended, the band exited and a girl that our friend Stan brought ran onstage and grabbed Andy’s sticks right off of his drumset before security could stop her. She hand’t even heard them before, so props to her. They came back on and went into “The Man I Used To Be”. When it came time for Jason’s first crunchy guitar part, he made an appropriate rock face, but, somehow, his guitar had been unplugged, so it looked pretty damn funny when no sound came out. Everyone in front of him was laughing, as was Jason. When it started working again and we all cheered, Andy and Roger were looking at each other wondering what the hell was going on. They closed with “Go Your Own Way” with Andy screaming, “Ladies and gentlemen, Stevie Nicks!” while Chris kinda danced around like a gypsy. Great show.
We sat at the front of the stage waiting to say hi to the band and could see people breaking down the gear underneath the bottom of the curtain. I noticed a setlist within reach, so I reached back and grabbed it. There is a piece of tape over the word “TODD” and their unreleased original “MR. LATE” is written over it. I didn’t know what it meant for years, assuming it was a Todd Rundgren cover. I eventually found an article mentioning them covering “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” but I never saw or heard them do it. Last year I finally found a recording of them doing it at an SF show on the Jellyfish Media Archive and put it on Youtube.
While we waited, the show’s host gave me some of the band’s 8×10 promo photos since he’d earlier put a Bellybutton poster in my hand during a contest and then changed his mind. With the band being MTV darlings and pop-culture-centric, I wasn’t too surprised when Ken Ober from Remote Control walked by. I got his autograph, not knowing that he hosted a cringe-worthy MTV Spring Break show that the band played around this time. I finally met and talked to Jason for awhile and he was the nicest of the bunch, signing a sticker for me that none of us could decipher (“Adam, Thanks for ????????? Jason”) so I showed it to him a few months later and he couldn’t figure it out either, laughing and saying, “I was probably drunk or stoned.” Did I mention the earlier seminar was called “Drugs in the Entertainment Industry”?
I ended up having to drop my television production class at California State Northridge to go to the show. Missing one night wouldn’t have been too much of a problem but I also ditched two nights later to go to a special salute to the Simpsons at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Sure, I met Matt Groening, but attendance was such a big part of the grade that I wouldn’t have passed the class. Pop culture before education, right?
I saw them a few more times on the Bellybutton tour but this was the last full headlining set I saw them do until Spilt Milk a couple of years later. Once again, I walked away wanting to see them again, ASAP. Exactly one month later, they returned….