Last night at the Teragram Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, myself and many others scratched a longtime item off our bucket list. Lauded by fans and musicians alike, as one of the most influential post-punk rock bands, Television kicked off their first night of two back-to-back Los Angeles dates at the Teragram Ballroom. As part of their small run of North American tour dates, the show was packed with a mature crowd. There was definitely more gray hair and dad shoes in the house as opposed to your typical hipster beards and plaid flannels.
As Television took the stage and the crowd roared with enthusiasm, I had a surreal moment where I couldn’t believe I was about to see Television live for the firs time. Like many fans, I wasn’t even born when Television were playing gigs at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. But my eldest brother was a fan and I had listened to their music through him. Growing up listening to Television along with many other bands out of the ’77 punk scene, and reading books like “Please Kill Me,” I was beyond thrilled for this experience. I was amazed at the consistency of Tom Verlaine’s unique vocals. They sounded just as ripe as they did when Marquee Moon made its debut. Pair that with the tightness of Billy Ficca on drums, Fred Smith on bass and Jimmy Rip on guitar, and you have yourself a triumphant return to the stage.
Playing every song from their prolific Marquee Moon, Television also played some unreleased tracks. While songs like “Elevation” and “Prove It” had fans singing along and relishing the nostalgia, things got a little heavy with Television’s unreleased and mystifying track “Persia.” Our minds soon imploded with the exotic near 15-minute jam. I found myself stuck in a psychedelic daze and completely mesmerized by Television and the Phrygian Dominant beauty of “Persia.” It probably also helped that I was now at the peak of my buzz after taking down three vodka sodas (although this song might have been better suited on mushrooms). As heads banged and hips swayed, everyone was lost in a moment of unworldly splendor. With a driving bass line that kept you in suspense, Television fleshed out an array of mesmerizing sounds. And what better way to wake us from our willful daze than with “See No Evil.” As one of the favored tracks from Television’s influential 1977 debut, Marquee Moon, fans were singing along to the chorus as Verlaine led us through an upbeat journey of punk fun.
With not much stage banter (except for some facts about the planet Jupiter and his dismay for red lights on stage), Verlaine and the band were still just as engaging in between songs. Watching these guys tune their guitars on stage as they readied to blow our minds was impressive. Unlike most artists these days, Television weren’t using any loops to create their repetitive and hypnotizing jams. It was all done the old fashioned way (with their hands) and all done superiorly.
The song that really got the cogs rolling, was naturally, “Marquee Moon.” As their final song before their encore, Television took us on masterful jam session. It felt like the iconic track never ended. It was the perfect end to a remarkable set. As they exited the stage and the crowd began to hoot and clap, Television quickly returned to their places and graced us with two more songs: the blues-driven 1974 unreleased track “I’m Gonna Find You” (from when Richard Hell was in the band) and “Glory.”
With tired legs, fans made their way out of the venue, thrilled to have seen one of their favorite bands live once again—or thrilled to have finally seen Television live for the first time. Put another scratch on that bucket list.
Opening for Television was singer-songwriter, Phoebe Bridgers. Upon arriving at the Teragram Ballroom and looking at the unlit marquee, I had no idea who the opening act was, and I wondered how was she so lucky to get booked for this coveted show.
Bridgers was charming on stage with a lovely face and blonde hair. She too was amazed that she was opening for Television. Wearing a sparkling black jacket that matched the sparkles on her guitar capo, Bridgers took the stage solo with all but her acoustic guitar and an incredible voice. I’m not the biggest fan of the singer-songwriter genre (it’s just no my thing), but Bridgers was stunning live. Her well-crafted lyrics (although morbidly depressing) and powerful vocals dropped jaws. It’s no wonder Ryan Adams has took Bridgers under his wing.
Words: Sandra Burciaga
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