underground since'89

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Friday, November 27, 2009

writer's block: the go team

photo by kathleen hanna (1989)

writer's block was one of the fanzines i read in the 80's.

check out this go team feature written by editor mike applestein from writer's block #6, which came out in 1990:

Let us now observe a moment -- not one of silence, but preferably one of pure crashing joy -- to commemorate the passing of the Go Team. After five years and a bunch of cassette releases, the Olympia, WA threesome broke up this past September, following a cross-country tour. Founding member Calvin Johnson shrugs it off with a simple "Oh well, five years is pretty long for any band." But for me, having the Go Team break up is kind of like meeting this great friend at the beginning of the summer, and then having him or her move away a few months later.

The Go Team got compared to Beat Happening a lot, largely due to the obvious similarities: Calvin plays in both bands, both recorded for the K label, both hailed from Olympia, and they both cranked out their songs with an infectious, hey-kids-let's-play-band enthusiasm. But there the similarity ends, for as good as Beat Happening are (indeed, one of my very favorite bands), they have never come anywhere near the depth and diversity of the Go Team. Part of it might be due to the revolving-door lineup changes, and myriad guest stars, on each release. Each song sounded completely different. One moment they were crashing through three-chord slices of pure pop, the next moment it was several guitars interlocking and creating a quiet tension, followed by crushing, near-industrial textures.

The first Go Team project, Recorded Live at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, was literally a tape of construction sounds as recorded by Calvin, who lived across the street from the theater as it was being built. Your Pretty Guitar, with Calvin and Steve Peters, and Donna Parker Pop, with Calvin and Tobi Vail, were more song-oriented. But it was Archer Come Sparrow, released early in 1989, that really turned my head around toward the Go Team--pure, direct and utterly addictive, all for less than half the price of a CD.

The only time I got to see them live, in September of 1989, was a rock experience like few others. For this tour, the lineup was Calvin, Tobi and Billy Karren, who were already onstage by the time I made it to Maxwell's. Calvin was plucking out a simple, tinny guitar line, staring the crowd down underneath his K baseball cap. Billy was wailing away on rhythm guitar and Tobi was hitting the skins with abandon. Three very distinct personalities at work hare. Tobi and Calvin then switched places, which all three members would continue to do in between nearly every song, and things really kicked into high gear. They seemed to be playing as hard as they could, fueled by adrenaline as much as what could have been sheer nervousness. At other times, they were on the verge of falling apart completely, but amazingly stayed in control. Calvin recited Black Flag lyrics before careening into the final song, which was highlighted by Calvin and Billy throwing down their guitars and dancing wildly. Twice. And finally it was over. It all added up to a performance that not only blew away headliners Yo La Tengo, but every other band I saw in 1989. Absolutely incredible.

to read my writing on the go team, check out my tour diaries from 1987 & 1989 on punk tour blog


Mike said...

thanks for the nice words. i checked out your punktourblog diaries and enjoyed them. finally i understand why calvin and billy would periodically drop their instruments and dance around wildly!

Larry-bob said...

I looked at the tour diary. So I guess this wasn't the tour where you played in Duluth with Babes in Toyland? That must have been the Fall 1989 tour. I drove up to Duluth with Robin Edgerton and then apparently also saw you guys the next day in Minneapolis (I don't remember the venue, though.) I'd like to see that tour diary.

Sometime later there was a Beat Happening show at the Sons of Norway Hall in Minneapolis where I got a copy of the Bikini Kill Color + Activity Book but I don't think I figured out the connection to the Go Team until later.

m~fischer said...

an ex-room mate "borrowed" all of my go team tapes... borrowed them FOREVER. i am still so so sad about it.

i still have one 7" in my possession and i'll not be loaning it to anyone. ever.