On Saturday April 17, 1999 I had the privilege of seeing Ten Seconds play at The Boathouse in San Francisco, CA. It was a troubled appearance, and one that the group members may have considered a failure, but I considered it to be a performance with musical merit. The account below is partly a gig review and partly a personal account of the evening's dramatic events.
This was Ten Seconds' second live appearance, the first having been held at The Martini Lounge in Hollywood on March 10, 1999. The San Francisco performance was lightly attended, with about 25 people present in a space that could hold about 150. I don't know how much the sparse attendance was a result of under-promotion, but aside from Elephant Talk I didn't hear about the date anywhere else around here.
I had arranged with Bill Forth to help haul the band's equipment, and also to record the show to DAT from the audience. Bill told me the load-in was scheduled for 6:30pm, but by the time I got to the venue at 6:15 the gear had already been unloaded, and the band was relaxing in the restaurant. Shortly after, they adjourned to the performance space for a sound check. John Sinks (of extensive King Crimson and Robert Fripp live sound experience) was on hand to assist with the mix. The result was a much clearer mix than Ten Seconds had at the Martini Lounge gig; in particular, the vocals were able to punch through the mix much more clearly than they did before.
(NOTE: Some of the names I'm assigning to these pieces are gleaned from the lyrics, and may not represent the correct titles of the songs.)
The group came out blazing with 'RealSide,' and followed this with a muscular, energetic 'NightWebs.' Next came a short fingerstyle fusion piece, which led straight into the dark, churning maelstrom of 'No Way To Paradise.' This was followed by the most melodic song in the set, the poignant yet powerful 'Blind Street' (which had been played as an encore at the earlier gig.) 'Blind Street' worked particularly well, with Jeff's bluesy, unadorned, Mick Ronson-style Les Paul providing an excellent textural counterpoint to Bill's more highly processed sound. (Jeff just needed to extend his wonderful melodic solo for another 4 bars...it ended too soon, and there was a gap where there should have been the rest of the solo.)
Next, a guitar loop based on parts from Bert Lams' 'Asturias' proved somewhat more problematic, never really jelling into the groove the piece seemed to be aiming for. It's likely that by this time Bill's blood sugar was already taking the nosedive that would result in the fireworks that were to come.
Next the band launched into 'Can't Hold Back The Dawn,' but after the first verse Bill removed his guitar and left the stage, walking through the audience to the back of the performance space. The band continued the groove for a half minute or so, then stopped playing, with Jeff asking the question, 'Bill, are you alright?' Bill's response was 'I don't know what happened, something happened and I started to lose consciousness.' Bill then walked over to a chair, sat down and then collapsed, hitting his head as he fell. Minor pandemonium ensued. The promoter asked the audience for a few minutes of patience while the situation was sorted out.
Bill revived soon, and drank some orange juice, which seemed to fortify him. After about 15 minutes Bill was ready to take the stage again. Some members of the group wanted to abandon the entire effort, but Bill was determined that they provide some resolution to the set. So the band returned to the stage and played the last song from the originally planned set, a piece appropriately enough called 'No Excuses' that talked about not hiding behind unfortunate circumstances as a reason for not carrying out one's obligations. The group 'rocked' on this last number... Bill in particular seemed determined to provide a good show, playing this last number with a band-aid on his forehead where he'd hit it when he fell. The end of 'No Excuses' segued into the closing section of the Beatles' 'She's So Heavy,' which was well served by the fat wall of crunchy guitar that these guys put forth.
Based on my own experiences as a diabetic, I believe that what Bill experienced was a hypoglycemic episode... his blood sugar level crashed through the floor. I have experienced this phenomenon myself many times... it sneaks up from nowhere. This condition can cause mental disorientation and loss of consciousness, the very symptoms Bill experienced, and the fact that he came back after drinking orange juice suggests that this was a low blood sugar event. After the show, Bill did say that he had eaten very little that day, and I'm sure that by showtime he was running on pure adrenaline.
In the aftermath of the show, other band members seemed horrified at the evening's events, convinced that they had embarrassed themselves terribly and asking me to destroy the tape I'd made. Having listened to the tape a number of times, I must disagree with their assessment of the performance; while the show certainly didn't come off as planned, it's evident upon listening that when things worked they worked very well. Jack and Eddie are a formidable rhythm section, propelling Bill and Jeff's retro-vs.-techno guitar pastiche. In this group of players is the makings of a very good band.
As the guys left for their motel, there was talk of cancelling Monday's performance in West Hollywood, with Bill insisting that the show should go on. I learned afterwards that the Monday performance was in fact cancelled... which is too bad. And probably an unnecessary precaution as well, since a recurrence of Saturday's experience could easily be prevented by Bill just making sure to eat something before going on stage.
Exposé Concerts wish to thank Michael for this exceptionally insightful
description of an exceptional show. Michael Fisher is a member of the
Bay Area Guitar Craft crowd, as well as having been aquainted of Bill Forth
for several years.