In the summer of 1995, I was working in West Hollywood for Direct Management, whose roster included Counting Crows. One day, Crows singer Adam Duritz walked in and said, “C’mere Max, you’ve gotta see this.” My dad wanted to name me Max, so I went by it while I worked there since, you know, it was getting confusing with two Adams around. He was great to talk music with, whether it was Lloyd Cole, Jellyfish or Big Star. We walked into the main managers’ office and he popped a VHS tape into a player, explaining that it was DGC labelmate Matt Sharp’s new band, the Rentals. On came this amazing fuzzed-out song with stoic black and white musicians looking emotionless. Russian subtitles, Weezer bandmate Pat Wilson and DGCer Petra Haden from that dog. completed the coldwar look. We both sat there, nodding our heads and grinning when one of the two main managers moaned “That keyboard riff is TERRIBLE!” Two Jewish Adams turned and screamed in unison, “NO, IT’S GREAT!!!!!” We were right.
It was a fun summer working there, going to tons of shows and having my new girlfriend Summer take the train up from San Diego, my hometown. The week of October 16th was typical for me. I saw my friends’ band Getting Red on Monday then went to see Ben Folds Five open for Heather Nova at the Roxy the next night. On Thursday before returning to the Roxy to see Luna, my bosses pulled me into their office and told me that as much as they liked me, I just wasn’t a good front deskperson. I’m surprised it took them three months to break it to me. Still, they really felt I should stay in the music business and started telling me about friends they’d like to refer me to because I actually love music and would probably make a great A&R person. All I could think was, “Can I please leave and go see Luna? Can I please leave and go see Luna? Can I please leave and go see Luna?”
I’d had enough of getting my foot in the door in every part of the music business for years. I was tired and just wanted to go home and be with my new gal. I moved back to San Diego, where I ran my own small publishing company for 11 years. Not a bad run for a guy who couldn’t hack it as a secretary. I’m pretty sure that I stayed the rest of the month in my Hollywood guesthouse to take it easy and go to a few more concerts, including Oingo Boingo’s farewell show
. Five days after I was let go, the Rentals’ debut album, Return Of The Rentals,
was released and Summer and I immediately fell for it. It was around this time that I spotted this Pizza Hut in Redondo Beach (below) and we both had to pose for pictures with it. When I heard that the band was playng their very first show at a tiny club in San Diego, I ditched my plans to finally see Spiritualized and headed south.
Down with P. Redondo Beach 1995
Blurry Casbah ad in the San Diego Reader from their online archives
The show was a kick-off party for San Diego’s fourth Independent Music Seminar, which turned out to be its last year. The indie-centric event was spearheaded by future documentarian Gary Hustwit (Wilco’s I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Helvetica) and local musician Kevin Chanel, who I became friends with years later after reading his genius baseball/rock magazine Chin Music. There wasn’t originally supposed to be an IMS show that night but when the Rentals were looking for a showcase, they were added to a bill at the Casbah with Magic Hour (featuring Damon and Naomi from Galaxie 500) and Chanel’s band Fern Trio. “We made it into an IMS kickoff thing,” Chanel recalls. “It was a real party atmosphere, much more so than a regular Casbah show.”
Going to college in LA and then moving up to the Bay Area meant I’d missed the glory years of the San Diego indie scene, so this was actually the first time I’d ever been to the Casbah. Like most clubs I’d heard about for years, I was surprised at how small it was. Summer was still underage but I saw some friends there and made a few more that night. It felt exciting to be around a cool scene of nice folks and it made me feel all the more sure about leaving LA behind. It’s been the center of my musical life ever since. I’ve seen and played hundreds of shows there in the last two decades. I was even the first person to ever play “Rock The Casbah” there, if you can believe that.
I don’t remember anything about the first two bands. I just remember being pretty excited to see the Rentals and making sure I was up front. I wasn’t sure what to expect and thought they’d stick with their fake backstory and look of being a reunited 80’s synth act from Prague. Instead we got a soft-spoken, nervous looking band of teeshirt wearing indiekids. We definitely didn’t know we were in the presence of two future TV stars, future Saturday Night Live
cast member Maya Rudolph and Cherielynn Westrich from Overhaulin‘
I was surprised that Kevin remembered the party atmosphere because I definitely remember my first taste of the awkward Casbah arms-crossed silence. Despite the packed house, it was drop dead quiet in between songs and the band wasn’t saying a word which didn’t help ease the band’s obvious nervousness of doing their very first live show nine days after their album was released. At one point, I finally yelled “Where are yer accents?!” to try to ease the tension. Matt let out a huge, sarcastic “HA!” and everyone breathed a little easier before they went into the next tune. They might’ve barely moved but they sounded incredible. I was right up front and remember Rod Cervera’s guitar being so ridiculously loud that when the songs went from quiet to loud, it practically tore my head off.
One song from that night ended up on Youtube and it shows them destroying “So Soon”, the “Friends of P” b-side that became “The Cruise” on their second album. Matt also alluded to the first show in an interview with SingingBassist.com
and sent them a photo from that night (below) with him sporting a shirt he no doubt got when Weezer played the Jon Stewart Show in 1994
℅ Matt Sharp & SingingBassist.com
SingingBassist: Was it daunting to play the first time lead and bass, without an issue, or you just did it? Matt Sharp: Ah, Well, I think less so at that point because like, I was doing back-ups and I have vivid memories of that show, but I don’t have any sort of vivid nervous memories of that show though I’m sure I must have had some. But I had already been playing with Weezer, and, I was already singing back-ups and honestly, past a few kind of weird little moments in the beginning of performing, I’ve never been somebody to get nervous when performing.
Another blurry scan from the San Diego Reader online archives
Above: “Friends of P” two nights later in San Jose
With their first show under their belt, they proceeded to do 18 shows in their first month
. When they rolled back through town just six weeks later for 91X-FM’s A-Caustic Christmas show at Golden Hall downtown, they were like a different band. The two girls who had barely moved an inch at the Casbah were jumping and dancing through their entire set. This time, Summer could be there and you couldn’t not be excited for the band with the huge reaction they got.
This ticket stub is now the only proof online that this show happened. Starring Rocket From The Crypt, Love & Rockets, the Rentals, Tripping Daisy, Mike Peters from the Alarm and Dave Wakeling from the Beat.
The band only lasted a few more years but when they decided to play again in 2006 with Rachel Haden on bass, they chose the San Diego area again for their first show, playing at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Watching them do “I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams” and a seamless “Walk On The Wild Side” into “P” sure was something. Just last year on the 20th anniversary of Weezer’s Blue Album, Matt returned to the Casbah to play several bluish songs and “Friends of P” with We Are Scientists. Their new album, Return To Alphaville, is my favorite thing in years. They’re back in San Diego this Thursday night, two decades after their debut. 20 YEARS?! Eek. Can’t wait. In an interview to plug the show with the San Diego Reader, Matt recalled the first show….
“The first Rentals show ever was at the Casbah…. Weezer had a very traditional way that you go about being in a band. We started in clubs. There was nobody there. We played for five people a certain amount of times, and eventually it got to ten people, and then 15 people. Rivers [Cuomo] and I went out and flyered every show, every night. We didn’t have a car, so we got on a bus and passed out flyers every night…and nobody would show up. The Rentals, on the other hand…‘Friends of P’ was already on MTV before we ever played together. Our first show with Maya [Rudolph] and everybody else was at the Casbah, and we were already in a bus…and we paid no dues. We didn’t have very many songs. We were headlining. We didn’t know how to play a real show. We were trying to stretch stuff out; it was just weird. I think our shows were, like, 11 songs long, so our set, with encores, was probably, like, 40 minutes,” Sharp said.
BACK TO BEST…DEBUT…FAREWELL…REUNION…SHOW…EVER ALSO SEE CONCERT SCRAPBOOK (1984-94) SHOW MEMORIES 1994 TO SEMI-RECENTLY TOO OLDE FOR SHOWS GEEZER My grandpa’s band who recently recorded “Friends of Pee” and “Baby’s Got Depends” for a successful adult diaper ad campaign