LIVE Failure by Joshua Grafstein 2


The long-awaited return of one of the most underrated rock acts of the ’90s was a unique and memorable affair. Eschewing the traditional opener/headliner show format, Failure chose to open their show with a brief film before launching into their first of two sets. The footage was a collection of film clips which the L.A. band drew inspiration from throughout their brief but fruitful career. The opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me, a clip from the Ren & Stimpy episode “Space Madness,” along with footage from Rene Laloux’s surreal 1973 film Fantastic Planet were highlights.

Opening with the shimmering “Another Space Song,” it was clear within seconds that Failure were picking up exactly where they left off. Throughout their 17-song set, Ken Andrews’ vocals matched if not surpassed his performance on record. Nobody complained that the majority Failure’s set drew from their sophomore release Magnified and their magnum opus Fantastic Planet. Greg Edwards and Andrews traded off bass and guitar duties throughout their set while drummer Kelli Scott was rock solid, the fills on “Wet Gravity” continuing to impress.

After a brief intermission, Failure upped the ante on their second set. While the giant projector screen was woefully under-utilized in the first set, the band made up for it in the second half. Swirling footage of outer space added a sense of weightlessness to songs like “Blank” and “Heliotropic,” while film footage of a woman grieving over a terrible house fire added a harrowing quality to “Smoking Umbrellas.”

While the older crowd was largely subdued, many were enthusiastically singing along to their favorite songs. The dramatic pause before starting “The Nurse Who Loved Me” was brilliant. Andrews flubbed the odd lyric, glaringly so on “Stuck on You,” but mistakes are bound to happen considering they haven’t played these songs together in almost 20 years.

The three-song encore was a treat as the band played two cuts from their Steve Albini-produced first record, Comfort, before fittingly concluding the night with the lurching majesty of “Daylight.” It was a special night for the band’s patient fan base. Contrary to the group’s name, Failure’s reunion show was an overwhelming success.

By James Olson
Photos by Joshua Grafstein

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