Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Twenty Best Concerts I've Attended

Hello and Toppermost of the Poppermost to you! (ok that sounds lame when it isn't a zombie John Lennon saying it...look up a book called "Paul is Undead" and you will understand). At any rate I hope all are well and good. Last week was an erm...unpleasant week for me. Among other small trivialities I discovered that the breaks in my truck needed to be completely overhauled and had to shell out nearly $1000. I've concluded that Wal Mart is most likely responsible for this but I can't definitively prove it. I was pretty pissed off for a few days. But on Sunday I went for a good walk, listened to 1980s era U2 and felt quite better. Also over the weekend I read "Wind in the Willows." That's a novel to calm the anger if ever i've encountered one.

Today's blog will feature twenty of the finest/most memorable musical performances i've attended. My first concert was Johnny Rivers (he sang that song "Secret Agent Man"), at age 12. My most recent concert was the double-billed Rob Zombie/Alice Cooper show back in October. Below is a full list of the artists i've seen (to the best of my memory)...in relatively chronological order.

Johnny Rivers
John Denver
Kingston Trio
Aerosmith (5 times)
Van Halen (with gary cherone...booo)
Journey (twice...but never with Steve Perry)
Weird Al Yankovic
Eric Clapton
Peter Frampton
Lynyrd Skynyrd (or what's left of them...)
ZZ Top (twice)
Tori Amos
Nickel Creek
Ani DiFranco
Sammy Hagar
David Lee Roth
Bruce Springsteen (3 times)
Bad Company
Peter, Paul, and Mary
Bon Jovi
The Grateful Dead (twice) (Or...rather...I should say, "The Other Ones," and "The Dead")
Dave Matthews (solo)
Bob Dylan
David Byrne (of the Talking Heads)
Steve Winwood
Los Lobos
Los Lonely Boys
Robert Earl Keen (twice)
Iron & Wine
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Buddy Guy
Ben Folds
Andrew Bird
Pearl Jam
Robert Plant & Allison Kraus
Willie Nelson
Les Claypool*
Gogol Bordello*
Old Crow Medicine Show
Stephen Marley (Bob's boy)
Yonder Mountain String Band
Lupe Fiasco
The Coup
Jakob Dylan
Cowboy Mouth
The Beastie Boys
Al Green
Snoop Dog
Eryka Badu
Public Enemy
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Todd Snider
Jenny Lewis
Jonatha Brooke
The Smothers Brothers
Ozzy Osborne
Marilyn Manson
Kenny Wayne Sheppard
Johnny Lang
Ecto 1
Jimmy Buffett (twice)
Dave Matthews Band
Kings of Leon
Stevie Wonder
Conan O'Brien (it was mostly a comedy set...but at the end he DID strap on his guitar and played a few songs, including "The Weight" by The Band...and then he crowd surfed).
Tenacious D
The Dead Weather
Damian Marley & Nas
John Fogerty
Jimmy Cliff
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers
John Butler Trio
Blues Traveler
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Monte Montgomery
Kanye West (ugh...we'll do a special blog on him sometime later...)
The Decemberists (though not their entire set...sadly)
The Lovell Sisters
Levon Helm
The Swell Season
Lez Zeppelin
Serena Ryder
Grupo Fantasma
Bonnie Rait
Sonic Youth
Antigone Rising
Holy Ghost Tent Revival
Rob Zombie
Alice Cooper


*I saw Les Claypool perform with Gogol Bordello and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. They played an entire set of Tom Waits covers. More on that later.

As you might imagine...it's not easy picking the top 20 out of this list. In some of the cases I will be able to actually provide video footage of the shows that I saw...I will point those out. And, without further delay they are, as follows:

1. Aerosmith
At the age of 16, this was my first REAL rock concert. Prior to this i'd seen Johnny Rivers, The Kingston Trio, and John Denver. All good shows; but nothing like this. This was the summer...oh...1997...I think. And, Aerosmith was still on their game. I was very impressionable. After this concert (which I attended with my best friend at the time...and his family) I began to get my hands on as many Aerosmith records as I could manage. It was a superb, magical, bluesy, warm, summer evening full of loud, catchy pop-infused rock n roll. I've seen Aersosmith 4 times since that night; and each time has been memorable. But I have to mark the first time I saw Aerosmith, as not only the birth of my concert lust; but also as one of the best nights of my life up to that point. Additionally...the third and fourth time I saw Aerosmith they were pulling this stunt where in the middle of the set; they would leave the stage, stroll out to the lawn, and get up on a small stage that they'd set up out there, where they would do three songs, and then return to the main stage. I was out on the field for both these occaisons; but it was the fourth time around that I was actually within 5-10 ft of this second, smaller stage; and thus--for roughly 15-20 minutes I was 5-10 feet away from Aerosmith when they played "Same old Song and Dance," "Dream on" and " Dude Looks Like a Lady." They aren't my favorite band anymore...but they were at the time. And after being that close to rock and roll royalty, I very much needed a fresh pair of pants. The link below is of them playing "Crazy" at some other place and time than when I saw them...but it's still super sweet :D


2. Bruce Springsteen.
I think my previous ramblings about Bruce speak for themselves. If you like The Boss, and you've never seen him live...I strongly urge you to. It's a spiritual experience. I hazard to say that the third and final time I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, in the summer of 2009; was the finest performance, of anyone, i've ever seen....EVER. I saw him that summer at Bonnaroo. Below is a clip


3. John Fogerty.
I've been listening to, and loving, the music of John Fogerty and CCR since the sixth grade. Seeing him finally this past summer was a pilgrimage of sorts. Below is a clip of the show I saw


4. Alice Cooper.
Except for the fact that i've been listening to Alice Cooper since oh...the third grade instead of the sixth grade; please see the above caption ;) As of October 2010, this was the most recent show i've attended, and below, is footage of that glorious, glorious evening


5. Weird Al Yankovic.
Saw Weird Al and his band the summer of 2000 at King's Dominion with an old friend. This was mesmerizing entertainment complete with costume changes. Not only did he play all his most famous songs...but he did a huge medely of smaller hits so that you got to hear almost everything. It should also be mentioned; that his band is EXTREMELY tight. Think about it...they have to be able to play virtually every style of music at the drop of a hat...and they do it without blinking or missing a beat. I've only seen Weird Al once...but I pine for the time I get to see him perform again. Also, as Al was a childhood icon of mine...the evening was extra cool. :) There is totally not any footage of this performance on youtube. I didn't expect there to be. But check him out below anyway performing "Amish Paradise." :D


6. Eric Clapton
Is God. ;) Seriously though...this concert was so moving, electrifying, mind-blowing, and inexplicably astounding that it brought me to tears. There isn't any footage of the show I saw (that was in the days before youtube) but check out this video of Eric jamming with Steve Winwood on "Voodoo Chile."


7. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
He played a Traveling Wilburys song when I saw him. Obviously this is gonna be on my list. :) It is also worth mentioning that halfway through his show Stevie Nicks came out and made a surprise performance. They dueted on "Don't come around here no more" "I Need to Know" and "Stop draggin my heart around." Below is a short clip from that night when he played "Learnin' to Fly."


8. Gogol Bordello
East European Punk. I had a ball :) Below is footage of when I saw them in the summer of 2008


9. The Beastie Boys
Summer of 2009. A life changing experience. I can't express how exquisite this performance was...in terms of intensity, musical tightness, and all around awesome. I need to see them again...like...now. This was a wild, wild, exuberant, manic, adrenaline filled musical party--led by three white guys with gray hair rapping their asses off. Please see below. I was in the middle of that crowd...somewhere


10. Tenacious D
I love The D. :) And I love that I was able to be at this performance. It was theatrical, hilarious, and it rocked my socks off. Please see below. For this is the greatest and best video in the world...


11. Stevie Wonder
One word: Legendary. Did I really see Stevie rocking a keytar? Yes, yes I did. See below.


12. Jimmy Buffett
I'd originally made plans to see Buffett (for my first time) in september of 2009. Imagine my extreme delight when I found out that one of my top 5 favorite artists was a surprise addition to the line up for bonnaroo 2009? They announced this 24 hours prior to the start of the festival (which was the second weekend in June). I screamed. I pranced. I danced. It was only going to be a one hour set. But that was alright with me. Jimmy was scheduled to play at noon on saturday of the festival. I made sure to get to the stage early enought to be right up front. I can't express the joy and happiness that I felt...of not only finally getting to see one of my heroes, and getting to see him twice in one summer; but also getting to be up close and personal at one of those two shows. His full show, that I saw in September was just as delightful. It was the whole "Parrot Head Experience." I had my picture taken with a middle aged dude dressed up as a pirate, and his wench. This performance was two and a half hours long, and he covered "Yellow Submarine." :) The clip below is of the september perfomance. The song is "Tin Cup Chalice," one of my favorites...and it was the last song of the evening; and as Jimmy played his sweet ballad I looked up at the stars in the clear summer sky, and took great comfort in the fact that some one very special was doing the same thing 250 miles south of me.


13. Peter, Paul, and Mary
This is one of my dad's favorite bands. I took him to see them at the Wolf Trap ampitheatre in Northern Virginia back in 2003 for Father's Day. It was a very special performance...and aside from Clapton, this is the only time i've tear'd up at a concert. It was when they played their version of "Where have all the flowers gone." I wasn't able to find a clip of the show we saw...but this gives you some idea. R.I.P. Mary Travers; November 9, 1936--September 16, 2009


14. Bon Jovi
Similarly to the above entry...this was a concert I took my mom to see, that same summer; for her birthday. Bon Jovi in it's current state may have sadly evolved into something of a cheezy wuss-rock incarnation of its former self; but when we saw them in the summer of 2003 they put on a damn fine show. And my mom had a BLAST. And that's what matters most :) Also, Richie Sambora is a pretty under rated guitarist. Unable to find any clips of that particular show...but check out the guys DESTROYING "Wanted Dead or Alive" in this video from London in 1995.


15. Old Crow Medicine Show
Out of all the concerts i've been too (aside from when I saw Conan O'Brien do it) this is the ONLY time i've seen people crowd surf. I saw Old Crow at Radford University in the spring of 2009. And i've rarely seen people lose control of themselves so grossly at a show. PEOPLE....LOVE....THIS BAND. Check out this brief clip of their song "Wagon Wheel" from that particular evening; and listen to the crowd going NUTS.


16. Bob Dylan
Duh. Or...as the Germans would say, "Naturalich." Dylan was scheduled to play at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival in the summer of 2004. He is the sole reason that I began goig to said festival. Unfortunately there seem to be no videos of when I saw Dylan in 2004. In fact...it's difficult to find any videos (live or otherwise) of dylan on youtube. So please enjoy this clip of his duet on "Girl from the north country" with Johnny Cash. One of my all time favorites.


17. Steve Winwood
This was during the same afforementioned 2004 music festival. To be perfectly honest with you...I didn't know a whole lot about Steve Winwood, other than that he was a buddy of Clapton's and was one of those classic guitar dudes. His performance was scheduled for 5:00 saturday afternoon...but it got pushed back, and delayed, due to a TORENTIAL rain storm, that lasted at least two hours. By the time Steve finally came on, I was soaked, cold, and sort of miserable, and I didn't know any of his songs. Then he played "Back in the High Life," and everything changed. It's a beautiful song, and it depicts triumph over adversity. everyone was getting into it and it didn't matter that we were all soaked and cold. Only the music mattered. It's lovely, when music can take away your discomfort...be it little or large...music is always there to ease your sorrows. And I am eternally thankful for it. i wish with all my heart I could find a clip of that performance...but...no such luck. The one below will just have to suffice.


18. The Grateful Dead (Or when I saw them, they were simply calling themselves "The Dead."
Interstingly enough, I saw The Dead immediately after Steve Winwood on that same wet, chilly summer evening. They were the Saturday night headliners. One of my favorite bands in high school, this was something of an extra special show. Not only did they play many of my favorite dead songs, but by this time the rain had stopped completely, and there was a large amount of heat lightning lighting the Tennessee summer skies. It was, in one word, gorgeous...between the music and the night. My spirits were now soaring, and my clothes were dry(ish). And, as if things couldn't get more amazing, they came out to do their second set...and opened it with an EXTRAORDINARY cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine on you Crazy Diamond." GEEK. OUT. To experience that performance, please click on the link below. :)


19. Marilyn Manson.
No. Really. Have you seen him live? It's the most intense shit i've ever seen. I'm not necessarily saying it was one of my most FAVORITE concerts i've ever been to...but it's aboslutely one of the most memorable. This was, the summer of 2003, and I went to Ozzfest with my good buddy Bear. Below is just a small taste of what we experienced. Behold.


20. SUPERJAM 2008
Superjam...is something that Bonnaroo USED to do. The festival goes thursday through sunday. Late night on friday, after the friday night headliner, they used to have SUPERJAM. Superjam always consisted of a handful of artists thrown together that wouldn't normally play together, and the madness would then ensue. I wasn't there in 2007, but the SUPERJAM that year consisted of: Ben Harper, Questlove from The Roots, and John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin. 2009 featured a very small impromptu superjam at the tail end of the festival...when Bruce Springsteen came out to do a few songs with Phish, which was cool. 2010 was sans SUPERJAM. But it was the 2008 SUPERJAM, that will always be tatooed on my brain. The 2008 friday late night Bonnaroo SUPERJAM featured renowned bassist and Primus frontman Les Claypool, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, and the afforementioned East European punk band Gogol Bordello. Their entire set consisted of Tom Waits covers. Between the fact that the music itself, being born of Tom Waits was something like Vaudeville on opium, and that I saw this in the middle of the night, with a bunch of weirdo hippie kids, and that it was POURING rain (i was under cover of a tent this time...thank the Good Dude) i can only describe this experience as black magic personified through music. I only wish, you could've been there to drown in the ethereal quirkiness with me. :) Check it out


I don't know what the future holds for concerts. But I do know, that they will all thoroughly kick arse. :)

Next week's blog: Music from my high school years


1 comment:

  1. Kirk Hammett and Tom Waits....two names I would never have put together. Yet, after hearing you talk about that jam for almost three years, it was quite incredible to watch that performance via our old buddy youtube. Thanks for that!