From 1993 - 1998, I saw the Archers of Loaf about thirty times. I can't quite remember every show but I remember a good amount of them. With the reunion tour and reissues putting the Archers back on the radar, it has made me nostalgic and damn excited to reminisce.
I had this poster up on my wall for a long time. Then my sister had it. It might be somewhere in her old room. I'd love to find it.
I'm pretty sure I only saw them once in '93 but it was a good one. It was part of the six band "World Series of Rock n Roll" that I put together for WXJM. It was the second show that I had booked. The bill was The Technical Jed (signed to Spin Art that night!), The Nightblooms, Throw that Beat in the Garbagecan!, Slant 6, Small Factory, and the Archers. I don't remember much about this show other than running around a lot, having a good time, and thinking the Archers were great. I'm pretty sure I was more impressed with Small Factory though.
Poster design by the late Jesse Rosenberg. I found this online because it was uploaded by the incomparable Ben Finkelstein.
The second time I saw the band was as part of The Working Holiday weekend at the Black Cat. I was right up front with Jeremy for their set. They completely and utterly blew me away. Perhaps it was being able to actually watch the band rather than worrying about running the show? Or perhaps it was the great sound at the Black Cat over the crap sound at the P.C. Ballroom. Who knows? It was a blistering set and it remains one of my all time favorite shows. From the first song, Fat (which included a most excellent Eric Bachmann lunge of at least six feet to make it to the microphone to sing the first line), to the last second, this show blew me away.
There was that great show at the first MacRock. Where was that? Was it ODU? It was an incredible 2 day or so bill if memory serves correctly. Superchunk, right? Polvo. Archers. Helium. There were at least 20 of us from the radio station there. Maybe more. And there was a huge huge party in one of the hotel rooms one of the nights.
The Archers played a brand new song The Greatest of All Time and everyone thought it was about the recently deceased Kurt Cobain. As in he had been dead for like 3 days or something.
I think Nicole Curry bought the awesome What Did You Expect? 7 inch at this show. How the hell do I remember that? Did that really happen?
They played at the 5th anniversary of Merge Records at the Cat's Cradle. I went down there with a few friends. My girlfriend at the time and I stayed at Eric's tiny apartment while he stayed at a friend's place. The building we stayed in ended up being on the cover of the first Barry Black album.
I think it was during this trip that I began to hatch my plan to move to North Carolina after graduation. Or perhaps that was later. Either way, it was a fun weekend.
They played a great packed show at Tramps at CMJ. The Vs. The Greatest of All Time EP had either just come out or was just about to. Either way, they played all 5 songs and they sounded absolutely unreal. I think they had played a couple at the Mergefest show but hearing them in NY right as the EP was being released was great. Biting the hand that feeds.
I booked them for the 2nd time in Harrisonburg. They played at the late (not so great) Joker's. I had Raygun Theatre open. After the show, the band stayed at the Planetarium and I remember staying up way too late hanging out with Eric on the porch. I'm pretty sure I skipped my morning classes the next day. No wonder my grades weren't so good senior year.
Vee Vee came out and the world went crazy for the Archers. Well, at least the indie rock world that I lived in did. Sometime during this year, I took my 12-year-old sister to see them at the Black Cat.
Saw them open for Weezer and then hung out with the band backstage instead of watching Weezer's set. The next day, I met up with them and got in the van and headed to their show that night in Richmond. Jamie and Marc met me at that show and almost died on the road both on the drives there and back because of deer on I-64.
I booked them for the last time. This time it was at the aptly named Little Grill. It was so crowded that a crowd gathered around outside watching the band through the window. They always were loud but seeing them in such a tiny space completely amplified the craziness. This was easily my favorite show that I ever booked.
Summer and Fall
I must have seen them at the Black Cat at some point this summer, right? And then I moved to Durham and saw them many times. I also saw them in September I believe back at the PC Ballroom.
The shows run together. I was in NC until 8/96. All the Nation's Airports came out in Fall of '96. The Chapel Hill shows I saw at this time were great as they worked on refining the songs that ended up on Airports. It was also during this time that my dad convinced Eric to name an instrumental (Bumpo) on the album after his favorite late cat. But that's another story for another time. Long story short - it was kind of an emotional blackmail tactic if you ask me. One of my favorite shows during this time was a surprise show under the name Amy Carter. The one song I remember absolutely killing it each and every time was Distance Comes in Droves.
The end. White Trash Heroes came out and people didn't really seem to care. The album was pretty uneven but it did have some truly great songs on it. I saw them on a Saturday night at Tramps. It was a good show but nothing incredible. The next night, they played an unannounced show at Brownie's. And THAT show was great. I saw the writing on the wall. It was pretty clear that this was the end. I had a great time and savored every song knowing that it was probably the last time I'd see them. "This isn't fun anymore. It's not as fun as it was."
Yes! The time was definitely right for a reunion. I watched every song that surfaced on YouTube from their surprise reunion show in January. Sujan got me tickets for four of the shows this summer. And I went to all four. They were even better than I thought they would be. They sounded fantastic. I would have liked a little more variation in the song selections but the songs they did play were good ones. I love that they wrote their reunion song (Nostalgia) 16 years before they really needed it.
Jeremy wrote about the two New York shows in an e-mail.
brooklyn - music hall of williamsburg - sat. june 25
it was sold out so there was no room to skank due to wall to wall hipsters. the crowd was rabid and knew every word, shouting along to every song including what did you expect. it was kind of amazing to see so much passion 13 years after their dissolution and the band was visibly taken aback by the hero's welcome. the started with audiowhore and ripped through the rest of their set with an intensity and energy that shocked me. they all looked so happy to be up there and so healthy. matt and eric johnson looked as fit and trim as they were 15 years ago and while mark and eric bachmann show their age a bit more they both never flagged in energy and together they made such a wonderfully cacophonous sound. they played most of the hits and i was amazed anew at how amazing their songs sound live and how revved up they are. they had a short midtempo section of 2 or 3 songs but even those had the crowd in a frenzy and then they finished it up with two encores, the second of which was the perfect ending to the night - smokin pot in the hot city followed by bacteria. some were annoyed by the chanting crowd, mooky dudes giving high fives and clueless ladies in little black dresses who appeared completely out of place but dan and i didn't care. it was great but not simply for nostalgic reasons, it was simply an amazing show.
manhattan - webster hall - sun. june 26
a larger venue featuring beautiful chandeliers and $8 bottles of budweiser. the crowd here was more subdued and the sound wasn't as cruching but it was still an amazing set and the crowd was so excited to be there. they didn't sing along with every word, i actually noticed no one singing along to waht did you expect, but the band was excited to see the size of the crowd and their enthusiasm. they started this show with strangled by the stereo wire and then launched into a similarly paced and energetic set. there was a lot of overlap between the two nights but when you get to hear harnessed in slums live two nights in a row you don't complain. in brooklyn, they played 4/5 of greatest of all time but here they played the whole thing ending encore one with all hail the black market and setting my heart a flutter. the final encore of scenic pastures and form and file left me wanting more and a better final encore but that's a minor quibble. what's next for the band?
The Black Cat show was great. Mike Lyxx, of Raygun Theatre fame, was with me. We were really close to the stage (not 1994 close but 5th row close). We were so close and it was so loud that I was able to sing along to every song without even hearing myself. It was perfect. The next night at the Trocadero in Philly was a bit of a letdown because it was so damn hot and we couldn't get too close to the stage and were stuck under the balcony. But it was fun to go with Sujan for the 2nd time and I'm glad my sister enjoyed it. She was able to snag a balcony seat which definitely added to her enjoyment.
The band was exactly the way I remembered if not a lot less drunk. Matt still was the wild card with one funny comment and story after another. After the Manhattan show, I ended up catching up with Eric and their manager Shawn (who I interned for for a few months back in '95). I also spoke a little to Mark who remembered me as the guy who introduced him to Space Ghost. I love that. There are worse things to be remembered for.
Sam and Otis have become obsessed with them. They have moved on from Harnessed in Slums to Web in Front as their favorite. They call that one Backbone, of course. Their other favorite is Underdogs of Nipomo which they call The Beep Song. For the past three months, the only songs they want sung to them at bedtime are Archers songs. Who needs the ABC's when you have Throat Song?