Asbury Park, New Jersey is a beach community past its prime. The Stone Pony is the only living monument on a desolate strip of beach lined with the empty shells of pastel-colored hotels. It was in this legendary Stone Pony where I experienced Hole live. As my brother and I joined the line, an overwhelming sense of community flooded me. I didn’t see any “Top 40” kids there to sing along. Hole never gets any radio time. Instead I saw the beautiful faces of those who were there to experience something magical.
We entered the oversold club and waited. There was a seemingly endless swarm of teenage boys in Nirvana T-shirts there to gawk at the widow of their hero. The moshing began even before the music did, making it seem as though someone had pressed a mute button. The floor rumbled under the feet of the few standing observers, as the monotonous hum of the very mediocre opening band, Madder Rose, played. As soon as the dim orangy lights came on overhead, the sardine-like cramming began. As if possessing one brain, the entire crowd seemed to take a simultaneous step toward the stage. The stage crew began to set up, strewing parts of plastic baby dolls and lighting chunky white candles all over the amps and floor. The lights dimmed.
A single violet spotlight rested on the center stage. Possessed with her aura, the entire crowd stared as she stepped gracefully into the light. The bleached-blonde was attired in her trademark red velvet baby doll dress and Mary Jane shoes, flashing a
fragile, almost sarcastic smile.
Courtney Love strummed the first notes, and the now red spotlight reflected off the golden wedding band she still wears. The audience surged upward with the music, mesmerized. Hole’s power and strong stage persona as a band, not just a woman, had clearly taken over. No one tried to control the spotlight. The newly implanted bassist, Melissa, was still warming up to the structure of the band, but her playing was clean and inventive; her harmonizing meticulously in tune.
Through mid-show, Courtney picked up a ratty-haired, pathetic-looking Barbie doll, and displayed its warped idea of femininity to the crowd. “This … is the enemy,” she said, hurling the plastic controversy toward us.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the show was Hole’s rendition of “Asking For It.” Courtney repeated one haunting line painfully, letting the scars and still-open wounds bleed through the music. Looking off to stage right where her almost three-year-old daughter stood, she repeated: “If you live through this with me, I swear that I would die for you …” She also added a disturbing line onto “Miss World,” referring to herself as “the one who should have died.”
Courtney Love sang like she was talking to each one of us through her battered soul.
Hole finished their hour and a half set with “Beautiful Son.” Consisting of only three chords, it rang with a rage that few songs can emulate. The song is a searing tribute to Kurt’s habit of wearing a dress on-stage to taunt critics and to confront the narcissism and virile attitude accompanied with being a rock star. His feminist view was as strong as his wife’s.
As Hole left the stage, my ears rang, and my mind flooded with pictures. I would never forget that moment, standing on the dirty concrete floor. Hole had proven one thing that night amid the hype and controversy that forever follow Courtney Love: they will rock for whomever will listen, and shine with an opulence that could dim any diamond