July 4th, 1995Stale Urine's 4th of July concert was, by anyone's definition, certainly an historic event. It marked the debut of Alex Dunn playing for the Urine in concert, the debut of Benedetti and Villani on guitar, the debut of Radford and Villani on genuine drums, the debut of discernable vocals in concert, and the debut and final performance of SU 2000 (TM). These changes to the standard Urine presence had both positive and negative effects, but I feel that any change can only be for the better.
The concert began nearly an hour late, due partially to the new concept of instrument tuning which the band is only beginning to master. The band was also slowed by various sound checks while testing the massive array of amps, speakers and microphones. Apparently, Benedetti is now a jam room member or something. This is probably where they got the drum set and other equipment. They actually made an effort to balance the speakers so that all the vocals were audible. This was probably the best thing the Urine could have done, and I'm surprised it took them this long to figure it out.
When finally ready to perform, three band members were present, Mike Benedetti, Mike Radford, and Adam Villani. Adding a new dimension to the SU sound was freshman saxophonist Alex Dunn. The audience numbered around seven. (Benedetti argues that it was closer to eight.) Their first song was an amazingly pathetic (even for SU) version of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. Even I was astounded at how bad this was. They performed as though none of them had heard the song before, although I cannot hold this against them. The only bright spot of this performance was the stunned realization of the crowd that Benedetti was, in fact, playing the guitar. This destruction of our collective Weltanschaung kept the audience an appropriate state of shock throughout the rest of the concert.
Immediately after this debacle, Radford announced that the song had been so bad, that they would change their name back to Stale Urine. Blindly trusting the band members as I do, I sensed no hint of any sort of media ploy here . . .
Next, in the spirit of the 4th and in an attempt to regain the enthusiasm of the crowd, they launched into a Rage Against the Machine/Public Enemy-style rant against the English. Due to the exclusively red-blooded American composition of the audience, (Momo, a known communist, had been kicked out before the show) this went over well, despite the unusual attempt at some sort of R&B/hip hop type backing music. The sax and drums sounded as though they were backing some kind of 50's beat poetry instead of the anti-Anglo rage of Villani's vocals.
In a further flailing attempt to appeal to the orthodox Urine fans in the audience, they next played Untitled (A Sea Shanty). The entire band seemed slightly uncomfortable with their parts. This was, of course most obvious in Villani's struggling acoustic guitar during the ``pop'' part of the song, which perhaps confused Benedetti a little. The ``pirate'' part was a little better, but everyone seemed constantly on the verge of forgetting their lines, which, at the end, everyone did simultaneously. This normally inspiring song fell quite flat.
In desperation, the band turned to a sure winner: Wax Man. Radford's percussion was, surprisingly, enhanced by the presence of real instruments, Benedetti's accordion was robust and familiar, Villani's execution (and memory) was perfect, and the addition of Dunn's clarinet was exciting and flavorsome. This was perhaps one of the best Wax Men ever performed live.
Feeling bold again, the Urine felt they could try something new. Using some sort of funky voice effect, they launched into a disturbing grungeish rendition of Heart of Glass. I thought it pretty cool and interesting, much the rest of the audience was indescribably put off by this torture of one of their favorite songs. Alex, perhaps wisely, sat out for this song, Radford's drumming was standard, Benedetti's guitar and voice were impressive yet bizzare, and Villani's constant groan/growl in the background was an ingeniously disturbing touch. One must admit that this was certainly the most affecting song of the entire concert.
Apparently, the band had forgotten about their earlier attempts to please or entertain the crowd, and chose to try (yet again) Bleed. This song has never been done well in concert, in about 4 or 5 attempts. This time, however, after a brief intermission to allow Neal Dalal (from whose room they were recording the concert) to check his messages, they came close to success. Benedetti's vocals were much more energetic and violent than the studio version. Apparently (judging only from facial expression) he had been singing like this in the previous live attempts as well. His guitar was much less faltering than Kurt's attempts, and the audience had nearly become accustomed to the idea of Benedetti playing this well. Alex's sax was confused and sometimes overpowering, but was succesful thoughout other parts of the song. The dual percussion of Radford on drums and Villani on metal sheet was intense and fitting.
The next song was also a new one, perhaps SU's other ``good song'' from Black Milk of Dawn: You'll Be Alone When I Throw You In Jail. Here Dunn's sax was perfect and inspired, although when Radford's well done Axl vocals began the song suffered a slight case of schizophrenia. However, the song was so well executed that this didn't seem to harm it. It was all kinda neat.
The final song of their 4th of July concert was, perhaps fittingly, an a capella version of The National Anthem. It was pretty neat too.
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