THROBBING GRISTLE May 29 1980 San Francisco
In my life I've been to many a concert but in many ways a live performance by the British group, Throbbing Gristle, is different. I got there early and noticed Genesis standing near the sound board that was situated in the middle of the hall, I was almost tempted to play the part of the rock fan and run over and fall at his feet but that's not what TG is all about so I carried on. In watching him talk with the sound people there seemed to be an air of relaxed authority about the man. As if he knew exactly who he was and where he's going. (So enough bull shit now to the show).
Two S.F. punk bands opened and I was not impressed, to the extent that I put some cotton in my ears to dull the din. The only excitement was when the bassist broke his guitar and Genesis had to load him his.
Finally they ended and the stage was cleared. The cotton came out of the eras and I was ready. The stage was sparse, considering TG's music, there were a few black cases that seemed to hold different boxes of knobs and dials. Cosey had a case set down in front of her which held five foot pedals, her guitar was an odd shape hardly and body to it and her horn connected to the control panel was present. Peter had a few more dials to play with plus some noise makers and four Sony cassette players that seemed to be connected to a switching network. Chris was a bit back stage and I couldn't see exactly what he had. Genesis had his bass guitar which seemed to have an extra pickup at the bottom of the strings and also had some foot pedals to play with.
The music, well as usual it's hard to distinguish the new songs from the old. Devastating is probably the best word to describe the music. It overwhelms you, from the screams and blasts of 'Heathen Earth' to Genesis' soft voice echoing back and forth across the hall. I don't know what to make of Genesis, I guess you could say he puts 100% of himself behind his music and vocals but there's something special in the way he delivers a song in the way his emotions seem to flow from him and into the audience. The band as a whole were very comfortable on stage although Cosey looked a bit bored with it all. But towards the end she seemed to be playing more and I did see her smile once or twice.
During one break between songs a member of the audience yelled out 'What A Day' and a nice little conversation ensued between Genesis and the audience. With Genesis saying he'd forgotten some of the words the audience pretty well sang the song themselves. But Peter had already started the tapes for the next song and 'What A Day' died before it started.
You know for the life of me I can't remember anymore about the actual music. I can remember closing my eyes during one piece and floating off into the 4th dimension (no drugs here just TG). I can remember jumping up and down because of the intense beat, and I can remember screaming along with the rest of the audience as they yelled back at Genesis during 'Heathen Earth'. The show ended within the usual 60 minutes with a short version of 'Discipline'.
At the end there was no screaming for more. I think the audience was too mesmerised by the last 60 minutes to really do anything. The group stayed on stage and started packing things up. Genesis talked with the audience for a while and I spoke with peter for a few minutes. As I said at the beginning it wasn't your average rock concert, it was more a happening, an event and one I'll remember for a long time to come.
So in closing I'd like to thank Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson for coming to the States. God knows I doubt if they profited from this trip but I do hope they come back again. I don't worship them but I do feel they're above most musical groups and I hope they stick around for a few years yet.
Throbbing Gristle have ceased to exist. They are now pursuing solo projects.
Vox 7, August 1981