Dean and Britta vs. Damon and Naomi

Dean and Britta setlist

That’s a photo of the Dean and Britta set list for Saturday night’s show in Chicago. My cousin got to see them as they revisited Galaxie 500’s material for their latest tour.

Like Jim DeRogatis mentioned in his blog, I had a little trepidation when I heard that Wareham decided to return to the Galaxie 500 catalog, but without Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang being present for the unveiling. I’m sure he has his reasons for not considering a complete reunion, but none of those possible reasons seemed to be as legitimate as what Damon or Naomi might have considering how Galaxie 500’s breakup went down.

To consider Wareham’s own explanation of the event, he was tired of being in a band with the couple. Their relationship created an unspoken alliance, a scenario where – as a functioning democracy – the rhythm section could filibuster any idea posed by the primary creative force.

That influence didn’t set well with Wareham, and it soon became an environment where any amount of criticism was perceived as a conspiracy of control.

“I had a hundred reasons, ranging from petty annoyances to major structural problems in the band,” Wareham noted in his autobiography, Black Postcards. “The bottom line is I quit because I couldn’t stop thinking about quitting.”

It wasn’t until the eve of a Japanese tour when Damon called Dean to make sure he had purchased his tickets when he finally had to admit to his drummer that he hadn’t bought his tickets because he wasn’t going.

In fact, he wasn’t going anywhere with the band ever again.

The years since that breakup have smoothed over the resentment to some degree, and Damon and Naomi have continued on with their work, demonstrating that the idea where Wareham should somehow be responsible for their well-being is no longer a valid issue.

What is a valid issue is how Damon Krukowski bought back all of the Galaxie 500 master tapes during Rough Trade’s bankruptcy, thereby ensuring that Galaxie 500 albums remained in print for all of the years after the band’s breakup.

Doesn’t that deserve some acknowledgement when Wareham decides to bring back the catalog instead of a quick grab for a few more bucks than they’d normally receive on a typical Dean and Britta tour?

Because you know that a traditional Dean and Britta show would not have created enough fervor for two nights of capacity shows like those over the weekend did.

Don’t think for a moment that I wouldn’t be a part of those fans who – if my family schedule would have allowed – shelled out money for a trip down memory lane for a night.

Galaxie 500 - Tugboat

That’s my original pressing of “Tugboat” in that picture, the single that was released prior to them even getting signed to Rough Trade. If given the chance to see that song performed live in any Dean Wareham configuration, it would be hard to resist.

But to see it being performed by the original lineup would be impossible to resist.

Galaxie 500 is one of my favorite bands from the ’80s, and their catalog has found a place in my own life, deep enough for me care about their integrity and placement – even when their primary creator has the ultimate say.

Wareham certainly has that, and his own life provides ample evidence to suggest that control is an important part of his career. It must kill him to recognize that as soon as his art is delivered to the public, he has no way to actually control how it is interpreted.

And my interpretation of “Tugboat,” “Strange,” or any other Galaxie 500 song resonates deeper with the original members than with the lineup that Wareham used for this tour.

By all accounts, the performance(s) were great, with Luna guitarist Sean Eden still in Wareham’s good graces enough to join the band for a few Luna songs. I was told that Britta Phillips did a great job with the cover of “Listen The Snow Is Falling,” but I couldn’t help remembering that some of the original cover’s appeal was Naomi Yang’s tentative delivery.

It got me thinking how surely enough time had passed since Galaxie 500’s breakup that the members could be civil enough to each other to rekindle a bit of the same magic from happier times.

But let’s face it: It was easier for Wareham to bring out his wife and the rest of the musicians for this tour to play Galaxie 500 songs than to try and rebuild his relationship with Damon and Naomi in order to do the same thing.

And for me to think that Wareham would consider the emotional impact that a real Galaxie 500 reunion would have on fans in 2010 is completely naïve.

After all, he sure didn’t consider it when he broke up the band almost twenty years ago.

Galaxie 500: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, MOG, wiki

4 thoughts on “Dean and Britta vs. Damon and Naomi”

  1. Interesting post – it is a tricky problem my knee-jerk inclination was always “don’t go back” but then I always loved when Luna threw a Galaxie 500 track into their set so, it was probably more “don’t go back except when it suits me”.

    But ultimately I have to consider the following…

    * They don’t get on so they shouldn’t try

    * The songs still hold up

    * The tour will sell records/downloads/t-shirts etc which benefits everyone

    I pondered this back in June and came to a mostly positive decision

    Tomorrow night I’ll be seeing the show in London – and I’m fairly sure it’ll be wonderful and I’m also fairly sure it won’t damage the memory of the three wonderful Galaxie 500 shows I saw and that it won’t make seeing the Damon & Naomi show a couple of weeks later a problem!

  2. It’s such a strange responsibility we foist upon a group. “Your music has meant so much to me. Please, don’t ever change or grow.”

    Even though a group is a relationship like any other relationship. It grows or doesn’t. It changes. It sours. It doesn’t stay the same at any rate.

    A few years ago I was surprised to see a reunited Camper Van Beethoven didn’t look exactly the same as when I first saw them in 1987 or so, even though I know that statement is absurd. Yes they sounded more or less than same, and seemed to have gotten over their acrimonious split way back when, but that doesn’t mean they are the same as they were when “Telephone Free Landslide Victory” came out.

    We have this idea in our heads that Galaxie 500 would and should sound exactly the same as the first time we heard them, and yet it is impossible for two reasons. They’ve changed. And we’ve changed. So I’m not even sure a Galaxy 500 reunion would do much for the band as a whole, or us as listeners, excepting perhaps a beautiful but fleeting nostalgia trip.

    Perhaps I’m easily pleased, but for me, it’s enough to know they had a few years of magic together, and then went on to create some magic on their own.

  3. I understand and agree with most of the points brought up, and I feel the need to point out how and when this article was written: almost immediately after getting that picture of the setlist and going “Wow. That looks like a good set.” So my feeling of sour grapes (even though my cousin filled me in on this Chicago date some time back, giving me at least an opportunity to attend) translated into the article that you see.

    The growth point that Evan makes is interesting, considering how (creatively) there was very little growth within the short amount of time G500 were around and-to some extent-with Luna. That’s not a complaint, that’s a compliment here. I remember the news of the break-up, thinking “Well that didn’t last long enough!” a feeling that resulted from not getting a chance to really see the band grow creatively.

    The exception that I see is that Galaxie 500’s demise seemed rooted in personal things-items which may have only addressed with breaking up the band, but also items that would have a chance at changing over the years. The example that Wareham gave concerning Damon’s issue with Dean walking in front of his drum kit, or the “star frontman” image that resulted from someone putting a spotlight on Dean during a guitar solo-these all seem so trivial now that several years have passed. I just felt that if this was the root cause of G500’s break-up, a reunion tour would have been a great idea to address my selfish desire to see them one more time-and to maybe build a bridge between band members to end everything on friendlier terms.

    Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t give a shit if the three of them hate each other-just give me one more chance to see Galaxie 500!

  4. If Wareham wants to include the songs he wrote back in the day in his current musical endeavors, fine. Now, to make it a night or two of G500 music while leaving out his former bandmates comes across both petty and opportunistic. Not to mention selfish towards the band’s fans. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from Wareham.

    As someone who has temporarily reunited w/former bandmates with whom I still have differences, I can tell you it doesn’t take that much to get on board for a gig or two or even a brief tour. Maybe knowing it’s a temporary situation helps. In any event, it’s pretty sad when 2 decades later people can’t/won’t get together for a couple of concert dates, due to unresolved differences that probably weren’t that big a deal to begin with.

    I think I read somewhere that Bob Geldof encountered opposition from both sides when trying to get Pink Floyd to reunite for Live 8. He finally said something along the lines of “If your differences are more important than this cause, then by all means don’t do it.” G500’s fans could’ve used someone like Geldof in their corner.

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