A few of my students and I talk about concerts quite often and I thought it might be fun to compile a list of all of the shows I’ve seen. This is purely for my own fun and enjoyment- as I try as often as possible to go to shows with good friends. So, I have a lot of fond memories. What follows is a list and a few short details for each of the shows that I’ve been to that I can remember- I’ve tried as much as possible to list chronologically as well. (Disclaimer: I’m certainly forgetting at least a few.)
A Christian band that a few youth group friends and I went to see in high school. Please don’t fault me. I had been playing drums for a few years by this time and seeing the bass player run around, jump, dance, etc. made me want to pick up a stringed instrument for the first time.
My favorite band during my senior year. For senior trip, we went to California and MAE happened to be opening for Sugarcult (blech) at the House of Blues Anaheim at the same time as we were there. I practically coerced my teacher into letting me go. I only stayed for MAE’s set- as who would really stay for Sugarcult?
My uncle took me to this show when I was in Eugene touring what would become the college I would attend (though I was dead set against it at that point). It would be several years before I would even consider the mandolin as a legitimate possibility. Now, of course, I can recognize what Grisman is going for, but as an eighteen year old drummer- not so much. Combine this with the overall atmosphere of “Jerry Lives, Man!” and I was o-u-t out.
Shut up. They were HUGE my freshman year of college. “Ocean Avenue” had just come out and they had/have a pretty incredible drummer. I bought a pretty girl a ticket to this show and we trekked from Eugene to Portland as part of a massive group. I can still remember the drummer’s fifteen second solo.
Jimmy Eat World
The pretty girl returned the favor for this show and bought me a ticket. We’re still friends and no, we’ve never been anything more. This show was on election day 2004 and the lead singer kept us informed of what states had been turned in and who for, etc. While I can’t stand anything they’ve done post 2007, their string of “Bleed American”, “Futures” and “Stay On My Side Tonight EP” are among my favorites.
The band that probably should have been a LOT bigger than they were. I had heard their debut album through some little known source and a select few friends and I saw them in a small Portland club where they absolutely slayed- of course, “slayed” is a relative term and one would have to like emotional, piano-driven rock to think so. So, in hindsight, I don’t think they slayed, but at the time, I certainly did.
Warped Tour 2005
I was in a band and we thought it would be great to take a road trip to Washington. It was a typical “four dudes in a car” road trip. We camped and had a great time. Hanging out in a Borders the night before the festival, we were mistaken for a festival band and as much as I wish I could remember the band this guy and girl thought we were, I can’t. I distinctly remember Relient K and the banjo, Thrice, Bedouin Soundclash and their cover of U2’s “New Year’s Day”, MxPx hurling their instruments across the stage, listening to the Dropkick Murphys over lunch, Underoath and the drummer having a Muppet on his bass drum, etc. Oh, and we left as Fall Out Boy was playing “Dance Dance”.
Emery (and countless other screamo/emo/hardcore shows in dingy clubs)
I still like this type of music. In very, very small doses. Once, maybe twice a year. But between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I really, really liked it. A pretty girl was involved again. A different pretty girl- one I was pretty hopeless for, but never got the courage to say anything to. We never danced at these shows. We stood on the sides of clubs/venues and watched the bands. She played guitar. Again, I was hopeless. Oh, and around this time, MAE came through Eugene as a headliner. She and I went as a part of a larger group. I was SO embarrassed when she told me later that she watched me more than the band because of how I reacted to the music. She said that I was “swaying like I was in love”. This, of course, has given me a permanent complex whose defining characteristic is planting my feet and never moving at any show ever.
Countless nameless jazz combos/quartets/etc.
About this time, I started venturing out in and around Eugene trying to find different music. What I found was a jazz club called Jo Federigo’s. Well, a friend told me about it. I have seen lots of live music there and even played in a few sessions- but I’m a miserable jazz player, despite my fervent desire to be better.
MAE w/ Mutemath
I had seen MAE twice by now and still liked them quite a lot, but I went to this show to see Mutemath whose debut EP entitled “Reset” had so transfixed and elated me that I could listen to little else for the entirety of several months. Their drummer is still a hero of mine. If I ever had the opportunity to meet him, I think I’d be speechless. Strike that. I KNOW I’d be speechless. I can still remember him duct taping headphones to his shaved head. He put the headphones on, checked the levels of various instruments and then pulled out a roll of duct tape. He began at the top of the headphones and then went under his chin. Back up to the headphones and around his chin. Eight times at least. By the end of their furious, brilliant set, he has perspired so much that the duct tape had lost its tack. The headphones slipped right off his head. It should be known that Mutemath is still a great band- consistently so. They’re the Tim Duncan of the musical world- so good and so consistently good that it’s almost boring. But at this point in their career, they were a force of nature. You could not help being shocked, awed and completely amazed by their sound.
Death Cab for Cutie w/ STARS
I fell head over heels in love with Death Cab for Cutie sometime in my junior year of high school but, because of the town I lived in and the people I hung out with, admitting that I loved (or even knew) about Death Cab meant instant social isolation. No, wait- I merely liked Death Cab my junior year. It was my senior year when I finally got my hands of “Transatlanticism” and heard the title song’s lead guitar arpeggio. I was driving and I actually had to pull over on the side of the road because that guitar line was so perfect. It still gives me chills. So, when I finally got the chance to see DCfC my sophomore year of college, shortly after they released “Plans” (which is still probably my favorite album of theirs- probably), I leapt. My best friend had, unbelievably, scored tickets on eBay (back when eBay was still useful!) from a guy who, as I recall, didn’t make a profit on the tickets and she invited myself and my roommate (who was also the lead guitarist for the band I was in). For a bunch of broke college kids, this was HUGE. In fact, we couldn’t believe our dumb luck and I couldn’t believe my best friend’s prescience in actually looking for tickets when I had given up at “SOLD OUT”. The show was three hours and both bands were incredible- and I do mean that in every sense of the word. That we saw them at Portland’s famous Crystal Ballroom only made it all the more so. The floating floors reverberated and amplified every note, shaking both my friends and I to our very cores.
Relient K w/ MxPx
Good G-d, I’ve seen Relient K and MxPx two too many times. “Mmhmm” is the only album I like anyway. Still, this was with my little sister (oh, The Shesh!)- how could I deny her?
I know, I know. Sting? As in “Desert Rose”, “I’m A Tantric Lover” Sting? Yes. He had decided to play a string of shows at universities and the University of Oregon was one of them. My roommate, the guitarist had two tickets and he asked if I’d like to go along. At the time, I figured it was because the two other guys in the band had no interest whatsoever in anything that was “rocking” and I was a last resort. As it turns out, the latter part was true- I was a last resort. His dad had bought the tickets for him so that he could ask a girl he really liked (and would later marry) to go. But he couldn’t muster up the courage. Still, in hindsight, I really wish he had. But the show was amazing. One thing to note- Phantom Planet opened the show. Phantom Planet. The only song anyone knew of theirs was that awful “California” tune that was the theme song for the dreadful show, “The OC”. Guh.
I’m a sucker for a girl with a guitar. This band has two of them. Actually, I just really like their fairy tale-esque pop tunes. They’re really quite good. The show? Not so much. However, I think that was due more to being a third wheel than the show itself. Word to the wise: don’t go to a concert with a couple. That cannot end well and never does.
Victor Wooten Master Class
I had the privilege of sitting ten feet away from Victor Wooten as he gave a private concert and master class to a group of students at the school in Colorado that I transferred to. How I managed to get in, as a non-music major, astounds me. I learned more from him in two hours than I ever did in any/all private lessons.
mewithoutYou w/ Manchester Orchestra (and others not worth naming)
My girlfriend at the time and I drove up to Denver to see this show. mwY had just released “Brother, Sister” (which is in my top twenty albums of all time list) and despite seven too many bands on the bill and the dingy club/bar/pizza joint it was held in, we had an amazing time. This show proved to me that there is nowhere that the presence of G-d cannot be. If He can be in a church, than He can be in a dingy bar, too.
Death Cab for Cutie
A few friends and I went to Red Rocks to see DCfC after they released “Narrow Stairs”. I call these two guys my “music nerd” friends, as they think about, critique and dream about music, bands, etc. as much as I do. It’s a seven hour drive from Durango to Denver and we conversed deeply all the way there, stopping only at a road side hot dog stand whose building was indeed shaped like a hot dog. Death Cab at the Crystal Ballroom was one thing. Death Cab at Red Rocks Amphitheater is quite another. It helps that, despite all odds, my friend, Colin was able to get into a discussion with the soundman who, once the show started, allowed us to move from our crappy, all-the-way-on-the-right-side-can’t-see-anything-ever seats to dead center, right in front of the sound booth and no more than fifty yards from the stage itself- and with nothing in the way of our vantage point. No one’s head to stare over, no one raising their hands and dancing. Nothing. I could see Ben Gibbard’s hands playing chords. I could see when Jason McGerr broke a drumstick and the satisfied smile it gave him. I still can’t believe that we were able to do that.
I took my little sister, Caitlyn, who I am very close to, to see lovely lady Feist for her first concert. That it was in a small theatre just as “1234” was beginning to get hugely popular was even better. We stood twenty feet in front of the stage as Feist put on a magnificent, intimate concert that was equal parts music and performance art- with “artists” throwing paper snowflakes, drawing in sand on a projector behind the stage, etc. It was beautiful and whimsical and wholly memorable. At one point, Feist separated us all by our ages and directed each group to sing a specific note. The 18 to 23 year olds sang a high part, the 24 to 30 year olds sang a middle note and the “everyone elses” (her words, not mine) sang a low note. When we sang them together, it was a perfect chord that resounded throughout the small theatre. We held it for a long moment and as it began to die out, she sang the first lines to “So Sorry”. Caitlyn looked at me as though she had just been slapped in the face and couldn’t be happier about it. “If this doesn’t work out for her, she could be a GREAT choir director!” she said, laughing.
This was as truly awful as it sounds and I only went because I was on a “business trip”. I used to work for a musical instrument store and there is a bi-yearly convention called the NAMM show where new products are debuted, demonstrated, etc. For music nerds such as myself, this is a EXCELLENT time. It’s like Mecca or Jerusalem- but without the constant fighting. Professional, big name musicians are everywhere- as are the pot bellied and ponytailed music store owners (though it should be known that the owner of my store, Jim was neither pot bellied, nor pony tailed- he’s a man of taste and style). The NAMM show is a HUGE deal. As one might imagine, with so many professional musicians in town, every venue tries to get big shows together. One of them was entitled, “GUITAR HEROES” and featured every big name 80’s guitar rock god. As one of the guys who came along on the trip with Jim and I only listens to 80’s rock, he bought us tickets and we went. It was brutal. Painful. Everything I can’t stand about guitar. The pyrotechnics, the overly flashy, the… well, quite frankly, masturbatory. But our friend was in seventh heaven and how could I deny him? The one part of this show that sticks in my mind is a couple that I stood a few feet away from. The man stood behind the woman and kept his arms around her as they bounced, swayed and sang along to songs that they grew up adoring. Being in their mid-forties, they were both probably a hundred pounds heavier than when they had first married. The man’s hairline had gone due north and the woman was beginning to look more and more like her mother. But as I watched this couple and watched as they reminisced about each other and the music that they made the soundtrack of their youth, it was as though I could see the pounds fall away, the wrinkles fade and their youthful exuberance return. Who knew that 80’s rock could work such magic?!
It had been a long while since I had been to a concert and my roommate and friend, Meg and I were both jonsing for a fix. I had introduced her to St. Vincent via a song from her debut called “Apocalypse Song” and Meg had, as I had, fallen head over heels for her and her particular brand of angular, blender-running-with-the-lid-off guitar pop. When St. Vincent released her second album, “Actor” and was coming through Denver, we dropped everything. Two of my best friends, who are married to one another, happened to be spending that summer in Boulder as Annie (the wife in aforementioned couple) was recording what would be her first professionally done record. Meg and I called them, demanded that they get tickets and meet us at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver. They, no doubt intimidated by our demands, obliged. Small theatres are the absolute best places to see shows, in my estimation. Red Rocks is fantastic, no doubt. There’s a grandeur there that can’t be topped. But small clubs offer that sweaty, gritty, everyone for everyone feel that provides an intimacy that can’t be reproduced any other way. St. Vincent’s show was all that and more. There wasn’t a trace of theatricality, nor a trace of posturing. She just ripped into her guitar and sang like a dove and a banshee- whichever the song called for. The only way the show could’ve been any better is if St. Vincent had asked me to marry her.
St. Vincent REDUX
I was able to see St. Vincent again six or so months later. Meg had bought me a ticket for my birthday which was, as it happened, the day of the show. So, because they are lovely and obliging, my “music nerd” friends and I went up together as a retread of our Death Cab adventure the year before. It was, again, a great time. St. Vincent, now a bit more tired of her own songs that she had been playing for six months straight, treated us to a bevy of covers- her version of the Beatles’ “Dig A Pony” is absurd. My desire to marry this woman has not waned.
Meg and I moved to Austin together (as friends, thank you) on Labor Day 2010. Having both graduated college, we wanted to move to a more metropolitan area that afforded more direct contact with the arts. We were there no more than four days when I found a poster advertising the Punch Brothers (a new favorite of mine) playing at the Austin Performing Arts Center on the UT campus. Though Meg is not a fan of bluegrass, I convinced her that the Punch Brothers are not at all bluegrass and would be a spectacle that she’d appreciate. We bought balcony tickets and went. Though their guitar player was violently ill, they put on a show as a quartet (upright bass, banjo, fiddle and mandolin) that was as musical as anything I’ve ever seen. This musicality peaked when Chris Thile, mandolinist extraordinaire, stepped away from the microphone the band shared (ever the traditionalists with progressive tendencies, as they called themselves) and stood on the edge of the stage in a beautiful room that amplified a pin dropping. He spoke at a normal volume and announced that he wanted to see what capacity the room had acoustically. He then proceeded to treat us to the most tender and, alternately, fiery version of a Bach suite that I have ever heard. The entire room was mute, not wanting to miss a note. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was in tears.
The Tallest Man on Earth
Only a week later, I found out that my newest musical obsession, The Tallest Man on Earth was going to be in town, but that his show at the world famous blues bar, Antone’s was sold out. I went on a desperate search to find tickets and did, finally, on Craigslist. I overpaid a scalper by at least $20 a ticket, but it was completely worth it. Every song was pitch perfect and I was amazed to see that, even in a town like Austin, the live music capital of the world, people are usually more concerned with drinking than they are listening. TTMoE became so aggravated by this that on two separate occasions, he stopped playing and asked the crowd to quiet down- because even he couldn’t hear what he was doing. “I don’t mean to be an asshole,” he said quietly, “But you can drink anywhere. Why’d you pay the $20 or so bucks to get in to hear music if all you wanted to do was drink? Doesn’t that extra $20 mean, like, at least 2 more drinks for you or some girl who isn’t going to go home with you no matter how hard you try?” I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to have an aneurysm.
I had purchased a ticket to see Sufjan Stevens several months before I moved to Austin knowing that he would probably sell out as he was playing a tour that exclusively visited small and/or historical auditoriums. I purchased the ticket with fervor, not really caring what it cost, as Stevens had been on my “must see” list since I first heard his 2005 album “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” during the year of its release. Of course, I neglected to realize that he was releasing new material and it would be THAT material that he was touring behind. I didn’t know of, nor did I even care to listen to the new stuff. “Sufjan!” I thought, giving him single-name status. “I’m going to see Sufjan!!!” The show was in Dallas, a several hour drive from Austin that, quite frankly, terrified me. There is nothing quite like driving 90 miles and hour down the freeway next to a truck so large that it is indistinguishable from a small tank. Still, the auditorium was beautiful, ornate and intoxicating. I took my seat and waited (quite impatiently) through the opening act. When Sufjan finally took the stage, I realized what a vantage point I had. Being an antiquated auditorium, we were all seated- so I could see him clearly. For me, this is akin to winning the lottery. He began by donning an acoustic guitar and playing “Abraham” from his “Seven Swans” album. Once finished, he practically threw down the guitar with barely repressed disdain. “I’m sure you all expected to see me strum my banjo all night,” he began. “But I’m afraid I just can’t do that. You see, I’ve spent a LOT of time doing that. So much time that I grew to really hate doing that. It became so… so second nature to me that I just- well, I couldn’t do it anymore.” He then launched into a ten minute soliloquy about his new material and why he was doing what he was doing. He said that he knew that if he was really going to pursue music and not just retread and redo himself, he’d have to try something completely new. “So I essentially gave up all of my ‘superpowers’. I took all of my acoustic instruments and I rented a storage locker and I locked them in it and gave a friend the key and then I surrounded myself with synthesizers!” He sounded giddy, bordering on lunacy. What followed was two hours of synth-driven, angular and inexpressible cacophony. I hated it. I hated what it sounded like. I felt as I imagine a schizophrenic must feel like- as though the two sides of my brain were actively trying to separate themselves from one another. But, I respected him for what he was trying to do- for his fervent desire to not repeat himself, to not stagnate and to constantly push ahead, even if fewer people like the results. I still can’t listen to the albums “All Delighted People” and “The Age of Adz”. But, I’ll never forget his attitude toward music and stagnation and creativity. It was an incredible night- and one I still haven’t stopped thinking about.
The Wailin’ Jennys
My little sister, Shesh took me to this show for my birthday. I had never really gone through much of the Jennys’ catalogue besides “Lonesome Traveller”, which is still one of the most remarkable a capella songs that I have ever heard. The night did not fail to impress. They were angelic without being saccharine, proud without being “girl power”-y and a lot of fun to listen to. They can’t help but write really solid, excellent songs. It’s also worth noting that I was completely entranced by the Jenny named Ruth all night. Again- women with guitars.
So there you are, dear friends and delighted people. The list, as I can remember it, of the concerts I’ve been to. Please note that most of the quotes from the performers are paraphrased and taken from the notes that I take down while at shows. Yes, I take notes during shows. Set lists, equipment, pithy sayings, etc. My sisters tell me that I look like a reporter and that I’m not having any fun. However, that could not be further from the truth. Taking notes during a show and looking for every possible detail is as close to elation as I have ever come. I’ll admit that it’s nerdy, but I’ll also maintain that I remember these shows better than anyone who doesn’t- because I’m cataloging pleasures and taking proverbial pictures to keep for the rest of my life and I’m also having a very strong desire to check and see which bands are coming to town because I haven’t been to a show in nearly a year- which is far, far, FAR too long.