Last night, the Lemonheads played the first of several South By Southwest shows, performing their classic album, It’s a Shame About Ray, from start to finish. The record is being reissued this month by Rhino, 16years after its original release, and judging by the average age of those in attendance — I’d guess most were in their mid- to late-30s — the nostalgiafactor was in full effect. Even the fact that the band’s current incarnationfeatures only one original member, singer and songwriter Evan Dando,didn’t matter to this downright giddy audience.
And justifiably so. Dando was in fine form — seemingly sober, focusedand, most importantly, rehearsed. Things started a little shaky when hehad a hard time reaching the high notes on the opening song, “RockinStroll,” but heading into the set, which clocked in at exactly 30minutes (the perfect length for an album, I’d argue), he hit hisstride. The title track “It’s a Shame About Ray” never sounded better,and with the sing-along that ensued for “My Drug Buddy,” “Bit Part,”where the crowd handled Juliana Hatfield’s part as if on cue, and aglorious rendition of the Hair number, “Frank Mills,” the nightwas a runaway success. There was some chatter among the diehards as towhether the band would play their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s”Mrs. Robinson,” which was recorded to promote the video release of The Graduate (it also appeared on the soundtrack to Wayne’s World 2),then added to Ray on a later pressing. They didn’t.
Which was agood thing and it got me thinking: what is the quintessential song ofthis nearly perfect gem of a record? Is it “Rudderless,” with its eerierefrain, “Hope in my past?” Is it “Alison’s Starting to Happen,” whichwas a modest college radio hit? Is it my personal favorite, “Hannah & Gabi,” with that killer pedal steel melody? Any Lemonheads loyalistsamong you, PopWatchers? Let’s debate like it’s 1992.