After attending shows out of town on Friday and Saturday, and resting on Sunday, I looked forward to Monday and a local show where I truly had no idea what to expect.
How did I end up going to see Lydia Lunch in concert? The answer to that question is easy: My friend Anne. I admit that my knowledge of Lydia Lunch’s discography was minimal at best. I had a friend who brought in her debut album (‘Queen of Siam’) when I was doing a Halloween show at a college radio station and asked me to play ‘Knives in the Drain’, which I did, but it didn’t really resonate at that time (which I will simply say was a long time ago).
Fast forward to Fall 2017. Lydia Lunch played RVA in October. I seriously considered buying a ticket, but did not. Even though that show saw Lydia open for another band (which, after seeing her perform, I can’t imagine her opening for anyone), I promised myself that if Lydia returned to RVA, opener or headliner, I was not going to miss it. I also discovered a lot of her back catalog on Spotify, beginning late last year, so whenever the next show happened, I wasn’t going in totally clueless.
In July, I saw where a show was scheduled at Strange Matter and Lydia Lunch was the headliner. I bought a ticket without even realizing it was going to be on a Monday, and without seeing that their were not one, not two, but three opening bands!
So, on a rainy Monday night, I made my way to Strange Matter. I walked in while the first band was still sound checking…and saw a room full of people who looked just like my friend Anne. So I found a seat at the bar and waited for ‘the real Anne Soffee’ to find me.
‘I’m in a room full of your doppelgängers! They all look just like you!’ I said as she asked me my thoughts on this.
‘Well, that’s because we’re all trying to look like Lydia.’ she laughed.
I sat at the bar drinking Guinness and making friends while the openers played. After the third (and in my opinion, the best) opener finished and began to move their gear offstage, I turned to my left to see none other than the evening’s headliner standing beside me, in all of her Goth Glory.
‘Hello! Thanks for coming back to Richmond!’ I said as she waited for the bartender to bring her a white wine.
She laughed, her voice sounding like a wonderful hybrid of Tom Waits and Kathleen Turner.
‘I fucking love this strange city. I’m thinking…I’m thinking of coming back soon!’
We chatted a bit about the opening acts, which, as I suspected, she had no hand in selecting. The bartender returned with her white wine and in one motion she took the large glass with her left hand and offered me her right hand to shake.
‘Show the openers how it’s done,’ I offered as she turned toward the stage.
‘Fuck yeah!’ she half yelled and half laughed.
At some point in the 70s, probably while she was in the band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks or soon after they disbanded, Lydia Lunch was christened ‘The Queen of No Wave’, and she has had projects that were ‘Noise Art’ and not what you would call melodic. The irony of the evening was that it seemed the three openers were tying to ‘out noise’ The Queen of No Wave, but when Lydia and her band RETROVIRUS took the stage, they had two immediate things that the openers were missing: Melodies and choruses. While it was not ‘pop’ or anything hook-laden, the songs were recognizable and unlike anything I had heard over the previous two hours.
And, in a word, it was wonderful.
Lydia and her band did in fact show everyone how it’s done, and for seventy minutes, everyone forgot it was past midnight on a weeknight and no one cared that the morning alarm clock was waiting to go off sooner than humanly acceptable.
I only have a partial setlist based on previous set lists I’ve read and the titles Lydia introduced from the stage. Here’s what I recall in no particular order:
Love Split With Blood
Afraid of Your Company
Something Witchy In The Air Tonight
Call it No Wave, Post Punk, Goth Blues, Noise Rock…the one thing I did not expect was that it was fun!
Special thanks to Anne. Because of her numerous posts about Lydia over the last year, my interest was piqued to attend a show, when everything including the weather provided a legitimate excuse to stay home on my couch. Thank goodness I didn’t. Mondays spent with a legend are much more fun.
Lydia Lunch is a rock star. If you were there, then you know. If you are one of the uninitiated, consider this your engraved invitation. Lydia will be back at some point in 2019. Believe me when I say you do not want to miss it. Whether she’s the opener doing a twenty-minute spoken word performance, or the headliner delivering a full set with a rock band, Lydia Lunch is a unique artist, writer and performer unlike anyone else, despite the dozen or so doppelgängers in attendance Monday night.