True, in the past I’ve had my issues being burned by ill-advised “import” purchases (see here and here, for starters), but I’ve also had some real wins, and with my recent eBay purchase of Unida‘s well-regarded show in Vienna, March 6, 1999, I feel like I finally reached an acceptable compromise point. I paid $13, and for that, I received a full jewel case, a red-backed CD-R, and decent-looking inkjet artwork. There are no gaps between the tracks. I feel like I got my money’s worth.
Of course, it helps that Unida — John Garcia‘s ill-fated post-Slo Burn, post-Kyuss, semi-concurrent-to-Hermano outfit with Scott Reeder, guitarist Arthur Seay and drummer Mike Cancino, who’d later develop the project (sans Reeder) into House of Broken Promises — absolutely killed in Vienna that night, and that the 12-song set was captured with beautiful clarity and thickness. Garcia himself announces that they’re recording, and I don’t know if the plan was to use it as a live album or what, but they play all of that year’s Coping with the Urban Coyote except for “If Only Two” and three out of the four tracks from the 1998 EP, The Best of Wayne-Gro, so if that was the intent, it’s a solid showcase of what they did in their time, which was cut short by label politics surrounding their second, Rick Rubin-produced full-length, For the Working Man (2003).
That album remains without official issue to this day, though it was eventually self-bootlegged by the band and some of the material showed up on their self-released El Coyote compilation. Cuts like “Wet Pussycat” (with which they opened in Vienna), “Human Tornado” and the heady “Vince Fontaine” were re-recorded for that album, which was to be their commercial breakthrough, but also appeared on Unida‘s earlier offerings, and listening to this set, it’s clear their live dynamic was coming into its own in 1999 — they were developing their own character within desert rock. Seay‘s tone and riffs lead the charge, Reeder‘s warmth vibrates the speakers, and Cancino and Garcia seem to be in lockstep even as the latter veers into his trademarked boozy jam invocations, yeahs, whoas, and so on. Unida‘s is a story of potential left unfulfilled, and that’s no less true here than anywhere else.
But even so, had this disc shown up with some shitty label, or with two-second spaces between these tracks, I’d be pissed. As it is, I’m not. And really, it’s that simple. I know my days of buying a $25 professionally-printed silver-CD bootleg are by and large over, and roughly half that cost is, I think, a fair price to pay for a product like Live in Vienna, which sounds stellar and shows that at least a bare minimum of effort was put into the presentation. $13 for that and I get to put it on my shelf? Well, shit, why didn’t you say so? That’s all I ever wanted.