There are few feelings in life better than seeing a band you absolutely love live in person. Everybody remembers their first… actually, I don’t. I was about three and my parents took me along with them to see Alabama and The Charlie Daniels Band. I imagine it was awesome, though.
Seeing your favorite band live is a rite of passage among American teenagers. It gives older generations a chance to relive their youth. A good rock and roll show can change a life in such a profound way – young kid sees favorite band, buys guitar next day, grows up and forms Nirvana (I don’t know if that’s how that actually happened, but it feels right).
(On the flip side, the profound change could also be: teenage girl goes to concert, meets teenage boy, 20 years later their child finds out they were conceived at a Poison concert. Rock and roll means well…)
Reading Blaine’s excellent CD-reminiscing series got me to thinking about the many concerts I have seen in my life, and I tried (damn hard as it was) to come up with the best concerts I have ever seen/remembered.
Al Green, Little Richard, B.B. King. Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore, summer 2007 – Reason #45436 I love my mother: earlier that summer, she plainly states to me over dinner one night, “Hey, I have two extra tickets to see B.B. King, Al Green, and Little Richard in August. Wanna come?”
City Stages 2008. Birmingham, summer 2008 – Among the many wonderful acts I saw that weekend: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Roots, The Wailers, Shooter Jennings, and the Dexateens. Oh, and I managed to get backstage for Al Green.
5. Lucero. Bottletree Café, Birmingham, summer 2008 – I had heard a Lucero song or two via my roommate at the time, and they piqued my interest. But then she invited me along to this show, and Lucero completely won me over. Packed house, everybody singing at the top of their lungs, loving every minute of it, and the band gave the love right back.
4. Powerman 5000 w/ Shinedown and Reach 454. Shakey’s Bar, Hershey, PA, summer 2003 – Reading that lineup, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “uhhh… say what?” Let me explain: I was 19, and still in my “I really love mosh pits” phase – and it really didn’t get any better than a Powerman 5000 pit. Also, they were probably my favorite hard rock band at the time, and happen to be really cool guys. Below is a picture of myself with lead singer Spider (little brother of Rob Zombie), in the summer of 2006, when I had the pleasure of meeting the band at an exclusive XM radio show in D.C. But I digress...
The bar had a ceiling about two inches above your head. The amps were stacked high and wide. It was about 103 degrees, so before the show even started everybody was covered in sweat. After one unmemorable band (Reach 454), some little unknown band took the stage and really caught everyone’s attention (little did anyone in the audience know they just saw a band who would go on to make two platinum albums).
Then Powerman took the stage. For the first four songs of their set, the ENTIRE crowd was a mosh pit. You didn’t have a choice. Bodies collided, sweat poured, ear drums burst. We assaulted by rock and roll for an hour and a half. After the show everyone just stood there, as if waiting for the roof to collapse because we sure as hell couldn’t find anything better outside the bar than what we just witnessed.
Bonus story: On the way back to my friend’s apartment in York, PA, we stopped at a Denny’s to chow down at about one in the morning. The four of us were all still soaking wet, and the restaurant was ice cold. We devoured our Grand Slams while shivering like the dickens, yelling at each other because our ears wouldn’t stop ringing for a week. We couldn’t have gotten more “oh my god, look at those crackheads” looks even if we busted out a pipe and sparked up right then and there.
3. Alabama Farewell Tour. Hershey Park Stadium, Hershey, PA, summer 2003 – I grew up listening to Alabama and nothing else. It’s all my dad would play in his vehicle, and it’s all I would listen to in my room. I’ve seen them more times than I can count. So naturally, there was no way I was going to miss their last tour. About 30 minutes in, Randy Owen informs the crowd that there is lightning on the way and we have to break for safety. 30 minutes roll by. An hour passes. 90 minutes gone by, and nothing but rain, thunder and the sky falling. Finally, while ignoring the pleas of those wanting to give up and go home, I hear the crackling of a P.A. system. They tell us the show will go on. The boys from Ft. Payne get back on stage, and finish their entire set, time be damned.
I’ve seen them play tighter shows. I’ve seen them with the cowboy from the second season of the Real World opening. I even got to go on stage with them once. But that show will forever stay with me because of their dedication to their fans; and appropriately enough they finished with “The Fans.” The only reason my favorite show from my favorite band isn’t #1? They didn’t play “My Home’s in Alabama,” and I'm still disappointed to this day.
2. Crush Cancer Benefit, featuring Dexateens, Model Citizen, Carroll County Picture Show. Egan’s Bar, Tuscaloosa, AL, spring 2009 – For the first time ever, Egan’s asked me to pay a cover. But, it was for a great cause, so I didn’t mind one bit. What I didn’t know was that I would get a show I would’ve gladly paid $50 to see. Model Citizen opened and blew the doors off the way they always seem to do, almost daring those who followed to even come close to their performance. CCPS followed and gave everyone a breather.
Then awoke the sleeping monster that was the Dexateens live at Egan’s. I had never seen them there before, and I probably will never get to again. But their show that night reassured me that rock and roll is meant to be loud, fast, and oh so dirty. It was nasty, it was sweaty, and it was everything our parents warned us about. After the show I ended up at someone’s house shooting guns in their backyard, then drinking whiskey in their hot tub. Any other night that would’ve been the highlight. That particular night it seemed like a formality.
1. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers w/ The Black Crowes. Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD, summer 2005 – Earlier in this post, I mentioned the concert as a rite of passage. If you grow up around Baltimore, you absolutely must see a show at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Physically, it’s a huge amphitheater tucked away in the woods. Spiritually, it’s where a young adult growing up in central Maryland goes to experience life at its fullest… by dying. I don’t know who started it, or why; but when you see a show so amazing that it makes you forget the life you knew before you heard the opening note, then you’ve died at Merriweather.
In July 2005, my friend Ben and I went to see Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers play with opening act The Black Crowes. We danced in the mud with complete strangers. We drank overpriced beer, smuggled liquor and euphoria. We sang arm-in-arm with whoever was in reach. I was even told “you look like a guy who knows about some shrooms.” (I didn’t.) We compared stories with other concert-goers. We wished it would never end.
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