17 Aug 1991
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23 Aug 1991
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07 Sep 1991
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28 Sep 1991
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19 Sep 1991
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17 Oct 1991
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15 Nov 1991
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27 Nov 1991
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07 Dec 1991
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1991​ show dates

aug 18 — blue lamp, san francisco ca

aug 25 — mama coco's, san francisco ca

sep 7 — el rio, san francisco ca

sep 19 — bottom of the hill, san francisco ca

sep 20 — mama coco's, san francisco ca

sep 22 — brave new world, san francisco ca

sep 28 — spike's, san francisco ca

oct 12 — cafe claude, san francisco ca

oct 17 — spike's, san francisco ca

oct 25 — mama coco's, san francisco ca

nov 15 — brave new world, san francisco ca

nov 27 — hotel utah, san francisco ca

dec 7 — peacock lounge, san francisco ca

dec 10 — brave new world, san francisco ca

1992 show dates

feb 15 — el rio, san francisco ca

feb 27 — spike's, san francisco ca

mar 20 — elbo room, san francisco ca

apr 16 — spike's, san francisco ca

apr 25 — brave new world, san francisco ca

jun 12 — spike's, san francisco ca

jun 19 — brave new world, san francisco ca

jul 11 — cafe claude, san francisco ca

jul 20 — paradise lounge, san francisco ca

jul 31 — spike's, san francisco ca

aug 2 — chameleon club, san francisco ca

aug 29 — starry plough, berkeley ca

oct 11 — morty's, san francisco ca

oct 21 — hotel utah, san francisco ca

nov 6 — al's bar, los angeles ca

nov 7 — raji's, los angeles ca

nov 9 — largo, los angeles ca

nov 10 — ice, los angeles ca

nov 19 — elbo room, san francisco ca

dec 18 — spike's, san francisco ca

dec 31 — cafe claude, san francisco ca

 

1993 show dates

jan 21 — dna lounge, san francisco ca

feb 6 — bistro clovis, san francisco ca

feb 9 — berkeley square, berkeley ca

feb 12 — spike's, san francisco ca

feb 20 — elbo room, san francisco ca

apr 8 — nova lounge, san francisco ca

apr 29 — french kiss, san francisco ca

may 1 — berkeley square, berkeley ca

may 22 — spike's, san francisco ca

jul 10 — cafe claude, san francisco ca

jul 16 — cactus club, san jose ca

oct 17 — spike's, san francisco ca

Claude Lane, San Francisco, California L N Cavendar photo 1991

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Burke-Lewis Apts, San Francisco, California Clair Bright photo 1991

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Pier 70, San Francisco, California Carlos de España photo 1993

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Claude Lane, San Francisco, California L N Cavendar photo 1991

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myself a living torch

san francisco ca 1991-1993

The demarcation between Darke County and Myself a Living Torch was not drawn with a sharp line. For instance, the eponymously titled, 4-song demo captured in the first half of 1991 at Tom Mallon's 350 Bryant Studios began as a Darke County project and was finished as a Darke County project, but was rebranded as an introduction to the band's new identity. The sound of this recording was not distinctly different from the band's other demos made in 1991 — in fact, one keystone Darke County song, "Between Me and My Grave," was recored again to emphasize the new spirit. However, the ensuing year would mark a decided change in the band's path and musical attitude. (See "The Curious Case of Myself a Living Torch" blog post for a deeper look at the band's evolution from DarCo to MaLT.)

 

In a significant gamble, singer/lyricist Bright tapped all available resources to finance a 24-track studio project aimed at surpassing all previous attempts. The effort launched in late October 1991 with a series of 8-track demo sessions engineered by Joshua Heller at Guerrilla Euphonics in Oakland. Then in February of 1992, Myself a Living Torch committed a set of six highly produced and arranged songs to 2-inch tape. The band's promotional bio read as follows:

 

Self-released on CD and cassette, the 6-song Citizen Self was produced by Norman Kerner at Brilliant Studios in San Francisco. For their debut recording, the band wanted the analog warmth of a 50's Presley side with the digital fidelity of a 90's Madonna cut. Brilliant was chosen for its acoustically unique live room and its compliment of vintage and new recording gear. And Kerner had recently achieved local fame producing well-received records for Sister Double Happiness and American Music Club, two fast-rising stars on the West Coast scene.

 

On Citizen Self, the Torch's music is at turns painful, beautiful, challenging and surreal, while fusing several genres into a sound not easily categorized. This provides an effective platform for Bright's lyrics, which he describes as "exploring the meaning of love and the role of sex in a failing, depersonalized culture." His musings on the body politic are complimented by diverse instrumental settings. "Orson Welles," the powerful opening track, combines a haunting pedal steel, gritty electric guitar, Bright's deep vocals, and lyrics of existential abandon. In "Life is too Short but Death is Forever," Bright contemplates the inevitable while a string ensemble plays a score written by guitarist Schulz. And, in perhaps their most anthem-like song, "Do Big Men Really Run the World?," samples of [iconic celebrity voices] collide with a "hyperdelic" vibrato guitar sound in an ironic articulation of contemporary male roles in America. One track, "Mermaid of Marin," an environmental statement set to a wash of swirling guitars, has been included on Doctor Death Volume VI, [titled Floribundus] the current installment in the respected compilation from C'est la Mort Records.

 

Myself a Living Torch possesses the rare quality of literate songwriting, tuneful enough to be pop and relevant enough to matter. Their vision is dark, but not without humor or hope — or at least a sense of drama. "Requiem for a Gold Digger," beneath its sarcasm, is a forgiving love song and "Devil-Ache on O'Farrell," the record's closing track, is an episodic piece of angst-ridden, urban blues that asks as it fades: "Is it ever enough?" As we dodge through the media overload of the decade, finding our own answers to this question, Myself a Living Torch will be a band to watch.

 

Perhaps they could have been…

 

Citizen Self found minor coverage on college and modern rock radio and seemed poised for at least a modest run up those respective charts. But San Francisco and Los Angeles live shows failed to generate the requisite buzz. Aside from a few sniffs, the overall response from both larger label and independent label A&R was complimentary ambivalence.

 

After dedicating the majority of 1992 to promotion and support of Citizen Self, the band again dove back into crafting new songs and recording new demos. What resulted were two LP-length collections, both wrapped up in 1993, that likely represent the best the quartet had to offer — and sadly were never heard beyond the band's closest circle. Informed by the rigorous work of making Citizen Self and fueled by a newfound confidence and aggression (i.e, frustrated by Citizen Self's lack of success), Instant Karma Cannot Get Me* and The Human Condition represent the pinnacle and subsequent phase-out of Myself a Living Torch. THC's closing song, "Let's Get Drunk and Talk About Marriage," served as an end to one chapter and the start of another, hinting strongly at yet another change in the band's musical direction. 

*Released in 2021, Instant Karma Cannot Get Me is now available worldwide on all major streaming platforms, as well as in a deluxe CD edition.

 

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