Today I’m going into a now distant memory from a show I saw in 1995. It was the “great summer” between the time I graduated high school and went into the US Navy. It was a case of the openers outshining the headliner, and one opener being an act who’d stick with me for many years since.
I had to Google a bit to find the specific date, but the show was on July 7, 1995 at what was then known as the Riverport Amphitheater in St. Louis, Missouri. To my memory, it was the first show I saw at this infamous venue, this was the location of the 1991 Guns N Roses riot show (which was almost my first concert, more info here) I’d see several other shows here over the years but I’m fairly certain this was the first time I set foot on the grounds tainted in the blood of Axl Rose’s tantrum on that fateful 1991 day.
The show in question today was a three-band bill ,headlined by a group who’d toiled in the underground for a long time but finally found themselves strapped to a rocket and riding mainstream highs. It would also be the last year of their existence before the frontman made the (likely wise) decision to go solo.
Being that this show is now 27 years old in the lexicon, I won’t bother trying to recount setlists and tiny details. I remember it, but I don’t recall a ton of very specific stuff. I’ll discuss each band and their set, and how it impacted me on that month in July just before I shipped off for the military.
Babes In Toyland
The show opened with the all-women’s Minnesota-based outfit. This band was a curiosity to me at the time, as they’d had a share of success and moved a few hundred thousand copies of their albums in the grunge prime. They were “grunge,” but not really. They were “punk,” but not outright. They were a name on MTV and on radio if you were on to the more alternative channels, which I was at the time.
I knew who they were, but didn’t really “know” them, if that makes sense. They put on an impressive set, with their own take on the sound of the time. In a hindsight sense the band probably deserves more credit for their contributions to the early 90’s scene than they get. I can’t say volumes about their set from then but I took it in and liked it, I’m sure part of that being a dumb 17 year old not having been within a six-foot radius of a woman watching these badass women crank out stellar tunes on stage.
Today I have their 3 albums in my collection and recall that they were a very underrated part of the early 90’s scene. I’m probably far more lucky to have seen them than I can know or express.
The Reverend Horton Heat
The second act is the one who blew the headliner off the stage and still resonates with me today. I had barely heard of the group when we went to the show, but goddamn did they leave an impression.
If you would have told me what rockabilly was in 1994, I would have told you to go on your way. I was entirely into metal, from the deepest depths of the underground. I didn’t listen to country, I didn’t listen to surf rock, hell, I didn’t listen to a lot of hard rock at that time beyond maybe the Scorpions. But the early evening set in the open July Missouri sun would resonate with me.
There is no arguing with the sheer power of Reverend Horton Heat. Even back in 1995, earlier into their career, they were a force that set a 20,000 seat amphitheater on fire. I was absolutely picking up what they were putting down, and they had the entire crowd engaged in a good time.
I’ve seen the band many times since this show, if I sat and counted it’s possible that I’ve seen Reverend Horton Heat more times than any other band. And if they come to town tomorrow, rest assured I’ll be there. I didn’t entirely comprehend it at the time, but I was watching sheer magnificence that day and I’ve been a faithful disciple since.
The headliners of the day were of another world by this time. White Zombie had long been an underground act, with Rob Zombie making occasional appearances on the set of Headbanger’s Ball as a visual artist. We all knew he had a band but we weren’t paying that much attention.
Then a couple of cartoon idiots came along – the infamous Beavis and Butthead, for all the music they shit on or exalted, no band made hay out of it more than White Zombie. There was no more underground – White Zombie and Thunder Kiss ’65 were now a household name.
This isn’t the whole story, of course – the group was out on tour relentlessly in the early 90’s, getting their name out more with each pass through town. The Beavis and Butthead connection launched them into the stratosphere, but it shouldn’t be said that this band didn’t pay their dues and also weren’t the right band with the right sound for those weird early 90’s times.
The group did not waste time with their newfound fame – they cranked out their double-platinum opus Astro-Creep 2000 and hit the road in what was my most formative summer, the year I got out of school and shipped off to boot camp.
And, just to be brief and get to the point – their show wasn’t that great. The band executed well enough, as far as playing that kind of industrial-tinged sludge goes, I guess. But Rob Zombie was totally not in form that day. I don’t know if he smoked a few too many Luck Strikes before the show or what, but it was “More human than (COUGH) human” on that day in St. Louis. Dude had COVID 25 years before it was really a thing.
Now, when I look back on everything I’ve seen in terms of concerts over time, I won’t call it the worst set I’ve ever seen. To call back to one I wrote about in the beginning days of the blog, somewhere buried in my recounting of Iron Maiden memories is the one and only time I saw Queensryche, who truly stunk up the stage that night. I don’t think White Zombie sucked or anything, but they were not in good form, and they were outshined by their opening acts.
I’ll say it was still a decent show from the headliner, but certainly I recall the openers more from that evening. And especially the Reverend Horton Heat, a band I’ve come to love and follow to dive bars across the land to this day. I had a good run of concerts in the summer before I left for the military, and, well, this was one of them.