Not Fade Away

After last night’s sort-of-a-bust show, I thought it would be appropriate to relive some of my more exciting concert memories to cleanse the palette. There’s been plenty of Hold Steady references here, so we’ll leave them out this round. Here’s four standouts that are seared in mind indefinitely.

Radiohead – August 1, 2008 – Lollapalooza 2008 – Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois

Their shows are of legend. The story’s always the same: anyone that’s seen Radiohead returns from the show changed: blown away and without words. My only experience with them so far was just the same. After a ten hour wait in the August sun, we had a front-row (off to the left side, natch) look at one of the biggest bands in the world. They didn’t disappoint. The LCD lights. Thom Yorke’s unusual contractions. Johnny Greenwood’s retro shoegazer look. Colin Greenwood hamming it up with a CTA shirt on. That’s just the visuals. The songs, so crisp and concise on record, are elephantine in person. They charge, sweep and attack, and not let you down until the final note. A totally unforgettable experience I’d relive again and again without a second thought.

The Strokes – April 23, 2004 – Aragon Ballroom – Chicago, Illinois

The beautiful thing about the Strokes, is that after all of these years, and through their hiatus, they’ve maintained a cloud of mystery. There is something unpredictable – an intangible element to their sound and persona that leaves you questioning why you might even like them in the first place. Bar none, they’re one of the most important rock bands to come out of this decade. Their first two albums – Is This It and Room On Fire are two sharp, immaculately produced discs of seventies punk that are just as authentic as the records they ape from, instead of making what could just be a really strong tribute record.

This tour, for the latter record, combined all of these elements to make for a completely transcendent experience. A non-smoker (I’ve never had a cigarette), there was so much smoke at this show in the pre-smoking ban era, that I craved a cigarette for three days. It’s more of a series of images in my mind than a setlist. Julian Casablancas emerging through the haze. Albert Hammond Jr.’s hole burnt into the headstock of his guitar where he placed his cigarette. Nick Valensi’s irrepressible cool, and Nikolai Fraiture’s steadfast bass playing. It didn’t seem real, but it most certainly was. The physical pressure from this crowd literally took my feet off the ground as I floated weightlessly through it. I eventually came down to the floor, but I don’t think my brain has yet.

Weezer – July 11, 2002 – Tweeter Center (now First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre) – Tinley Park, Illinois

I’ll always remember this show fondly as the first time I actually felt a connection to live music. Music was just something I watched until then. This gig, more than anything, was the first time I saw a band I truly loved, and could sing my heart out to. We sat thirteenth row, center – as close as I’d ever been to front row at the time – as Rivers Cuomo (when he was wearing suits), and company appeared on stage, and started a jam that segued right into the authoritative “My Name Is Jonas”. Three songs in, we heard the Pinkerton classic, “Butterfly”, one of six songs off of that then-maligned album that evening. At that point, many of those songs were rarely played. My favorite record at the time, and still to this day, completely overwhelmed me. For three days after this show, all I could do was smile.

Three years later, I discovered a bootleg of the show on the Internet, and it made it able for me to relive it any time I want. Incredible.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – October 21, 2007 – United Center – Chicago, Illinois

My New York born/Jersey raised mother likes to tell the story about how she ‘did the lights’ for Springsteen at some point in the 1970’s. That’s a true story. She’s seen him twice, once at a college show when the dude was getting his start, and once again in the 80’s at the Rosemont Horizon. I’m going to credit her for introducing me to the idea of Bruce Springsteen, but not necessarily the music. She generalized to me the songwriter’s populist, everyman approach, and that his shows had been likened to religious experiences.

When The Rising came out in 2002, we had discussed going to see him and the E Street Band play. For whatever reason, we didn’t go, but made a promise that if he came around again, we’d see him together.

That took five years. We almost didn’t go, but I reminded her of our pact, and for my birthday, she bought two first level tickets for the first of two nights at the United Center. We had dinner first, then we went to the rock show. My then (she’s gonna be pissed I divulged this) fifty-three year old mother and I. It was perfect.

Bruce played a smattering of classic songs, new tracks, and hit the peak with – well, what else? “Born to Run”. The show was a complete affirmation of life, wonderful music, and great times. Being there with my mom made it all that much sweeter.

Collectively Uninspired

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I know I’ve reached that age where I’m not really impressed that easily. Especially with music. I’m sure there’s bands out there I would have gobbled up four or five years ago, like MGMT, that kind of power pop that I kind of give a half a shit about now.

This is not about MGMT, instead, it’s about seeing one of my current favorite bands, Animal Collective, live, and how let down I am after seeing them.

In the past two and a half years, live music has changed for me from a spectator sport, to a breathing, visceral, transformative experience. There’s a whole raft of them that do that for me.

Animal Collective didn’t do that for me tonight. They were staid, stale, and relatively uninspired. That’s so odd to me. Their records brim with inspiration and contain this almost tangible quality. It invades your ears, nose, mouth and your imagination.

Tonight just felt like three dudes with samplers and delay pedals, playing for themselves.

There was a rather large heaping of their material off of the just-released “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, but it wasn’t proportionally placed throughout the setlist. Case in point: Excellent tracks “Summertime Clothes” followed by the classic “My Girls”. I feel had they been seperated, they would have resonated with the audience a bit more.

Okay, they’re not completely guilty: Avey Tare had moments of genuine enthusiasm and attempted to connect to the audience, may it have been a small hop or dramatic cymbal crash. That excited me. The new songs were enjoyable, but didn’t do enough for me to enhance my concert experience.

There was no material off of 2007’s superior “Strawberry Jam”, and a one song encore – Panda Bear’s “Comfy In Nautica”. It was Avey-less – apparetly he blew out his voice during the set. Or maybe he just wasn’t up to it.

The show wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t what I was expecting from one of the most exciting bands making music today.

Perhaps it was an off night. I’ll give them another chance. Let’s hope it’s different then.

Regrets, reminiscing and other embarrassments

Live music has become one of the cornerstones of my life as I creep into my mid twenties. There’s been countless great shows I’ve been to over the years, and I could write several posts about how amazing they all were, but let’s be honest – that’s not always that fun. Instead, I’ll engage you with moments of my musical repentance.

Here’s some concert experiences that I’d want a do over.

February 20, 2003 – Phish. For the most part, these guys blow chunks. Before this current breakup and reformation, Phish was dormant from late 2000 to late 2002. This was their first tour back , and being a junior in high school, thinking that jam bands were totally where it was at for two months, I thought it would be cool to try and snap up GA tickets for their show at Allstate Arena. Somehow, I did, and managed to piss off all the hippies I went to school with. Example:

Like, come on mannn, I’ll totally give you a hundred bucks for those tickets. That version of “Chalkdust Torture” on A Live One is the best thing I’ve ever heard! Totally dude, like, I totally, like, love Puh-hish. I mean, come on man, do you even smoke?

I forgot to mention some of them were pissed of the mediocre review I gave Round Room in my high school’s newspaper earlier that winter.

My best friend Jordan, who probably got an even worse dressing-down than I did, was my companion for this gig. We spent the night making our way through a sea of patchouli, hemp necklaces with those cute little blown glass trinkets, and my personal favorite – fainting hippies. I was not impressed, but Jordan didn’t seem to mind. He was totally groovin’ his way through tried and true classics like “Gotta Jibboo”. Really?

May 16, 2005 – The Mars Volta at the Riveira Theater. The Riv is a shitty venue, with piss-poor sight lines. It didn’t help that I actually payed to see the kings of pretentious art-rock. What’s equally embarassing? This glowing review of Amputecture I wrote a year later. Humiliating. You want a new Floyd or King Crimson? Listen to these turds. I’ll pass. Thanks.

October 3, 2005 – Foozer tour at the Allstate Arena. It was a dream bill – two of my favorite bands at the time, Weezer and the Foo Fighters – playing together at one show at the premier suburban arena. If only I could remember it. Largely incapacitated due to some incredibly strong prescription medication, this is more just a collage of moments than what should have been one of the happiest moments of my life. I remember next to nothing of Weezer’s set, save for their cover of ‘Big Me’, and that the Foos opened with “In Your Honor” and “Cold Day In The Sun” was somewhere near the end of the set as I wandered around the arena. Also, if you ask the right person, apparently I wanted food at a a ‘sit down place’, despite not having any money. I do not recall this.

August 6, 2006 – Missing the entire 17-member lineup of Broken Social Scene at Lollapalooza 2006 for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Lolla ’06 was my inaugural festival experience, and I was still figuring out the ropes of how it all worked. I realized that you can’t see everyone you want, no matter how hard you try. So, I opted to see the Chilis, a group I had been “totally jamming to” since the summer of 2000. The show was alright, from what I remember, but because of the steel toe boot to the head from an errant crowdsurfer things are sort of fuzzy. According to my friend (and fellow obviate-er) Evan Thorne, who attended the show with me, he heard the THUD of when the boot kicked me in the head, and then turned around to see me down. I remember still feeling like i had control in my feet, but it was just easier to fall. I think I got pulled out of that one during the encore.

October 31, 2007 – Shouting “YEAH!” very loudly in a quiet room after Craig Finn explained before the live debut of “Lord, I’m Discouraged” that it was a “sad song”. Man, talk about a buzzkill. The dude next to me patted me on the shoulder and said “nice job” as I sunk my head into my shoulders. Ouch.

My Bloody Valentine Tour Dates

My Bloody Valentine has announced tour dates in North America. Here’s the rundown. September 27 in Chicago!

09-19-21 Monticello, NY – Kutshers Country Club (ATP New York)
09-22 New York, NY – Roseland
09-23 New York, NY – Roseland
09-25 Toronto, Ontario – Ricoh
09-27 Chicago, IL – Aragon Ballroom
09-30 San Francisco, CA – The Concourse
10-01 Los Angeles, CA – Santa Monica Civic
10-02 Los Angeles, CA – Santa Monica Civic

Oh, Coachella Coverage…

Hilarious bit I saw on The Daily Swarm where they quote IGN’s coverage of the fest. This, easily, is my favorite line.

What can be said? This is the soundtrack of college boning. It’s mellow, not too interruptive. No wonder it sells in the trillions. If the lithe, tanned honeys dancing to it are any point of reference, this music works… it just doesn’t work at Coachella. Although the crowd seemed into it, this is the smallest Friday headlining crowd we’ve ever witnessed at the event.

Read it here.