Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Top 15 Shows

DOWN AT THE ROCK & ROLL CLUB—In Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found I write briefly about live albums, and about some of my favorite shows over the years. Here’s a list of my top 15. These are of the ROCKING variety and, like all “best-of” lists, this is bound to be fluid:

The Rolling Stones @ Capitol Center, Landover MD, 1981

Through luck and kinda-connections my brother scored first- and second-row tickets for this stop on the Stones' Tattoo You tour. Jagger flew over my head in a cherry-picker, my brother shook Bill Wyman's hand, Keith painted on his jeans and drank from the bottle, Charlie rolled his eyes. Great stuff. And to think that they seemed like an old band then.

Hüsker Dü @ Psychedelly, Bethesda MD, 1984

One of the loudest shows I've ever witnessed. The Pyschedelly was a cool, lo-fi place, and a great roster of bands came through over the years. Bethesda was a kind of Mecca to me in my raised-in-Wheaton ways, and that the club was across the street from the seminal WHFS progressive radio station only made the place cooler. Some local punk kid jumped onstage at Bob Mould's invitation and promptly forgot the lyrics that he was supposed to yelp. I still feel bad for him.

The Ramones @ Wax Museum, Washington D.C., 1984

My first time seeing the Kings of Queens. The Too Tough To Die tour. Johnny Ramone had just had his clock cleaned in NYC by Seth Macklin of Sub Zero Construction, and was sporting slightly shorter hair; I could be wrong. They were fantastic, of course, and because we showed up late we had to stand along the wall by the stack of Marshall amps. My ears rang for a week. (UPDATE: I think I got some details wrong, unsurprisingly. More here.)

The Fleshtones @ University of Maryland, College Park MD, 1984

In all honesty, I can say that I've never seen a disappointing Fleshtones show, and I've seen many. This one ranks especially high. They played an absurdly extended "Girl From Baltimore," and opener Barrence Whitfield joined for a sing-along/chant through the crowd and out of the room to who-knows-where. They played forever that night in front of a great college crowd. Afterward, my friend Marty and I and some girls joy-drove drunkenly and stupidly through the campus parking lots. That kind of night.

Government Issue @ University of Maryland, College Park MD, 1984

At the time, loving the grins and groove of Mod and 50s R&R/60s garage, I wasn't much of a Punk fan. My friends took me to this amazing show, where for the first time I experienced the ferocity of moshing and the intensity of the D.C. Straight Edge scene. Around this time we saw G.I. in D.C. at the Sanctuary Theater on Columbia Road, where afterward a locally-legendary skinhead named Lefty chased us up 15th Street and (good-naturedly?) threw rocks at me, denouncing my sport jacket and skinny tie. "This ain't prom night!" she yelled. The rumor was that she put a guy in the hospital in Philly. Ah, D.C. in the 80s.

Madness @ Warner Theater, Washington D.C., 1984

What I remember most from this really fun show was the No-Standing policy at Warner, when we just wanted to dance to Madness' pop ska. That, and the guy who had the entire lyric to the Jam's "Carnation" written on the back of his jean jacket. I conflate this show with another ska concert from around this time, Bad Manners at the 9:30 Club; afterward on F Street Marty and I removed our thrift-shop old-man baggy suits and wrung the sweat from them as if we were pouring out water.

The Oysters @ 9:30 Club, Washington D.C., 1986
One of the great shows I've seen, mostly for its randomness. I have no idea what happened to this Boston band, and it might be that I saw them on a night when everything clicked for them. They were tight, loose, intense, sloppy, fun, and funny. Riffs, beer bottles, grins—a great night of rock & roll at the old 9:30.

The Dictators @ 9:30 Club, Washington D.C., 1991

My buddy Steve and I caught the Dictators on one of their reunion tours before they re-formed in the mid-90s. They deliver every time; this show ranks high as it was the first time I saw them, and they were particularly tight and stomping, from the mock-heroic opener "I Stand Tall" to "Two Tub Man." The place was packed and the legends vibed off of the good-will.

New Bomb Turks @ Union Bar and Grill, Athens OH, 1994

I'd dug the Turks' records, and was happy to see that they were playing in the tiny Union, my favorite bar in Athens, where I was living. The top of my head lifted off at their mid-Ohio rawk: energy, anger, noise. Singer Eric Davidson leapt about for his life as if he was dodging the guitarist's riffs and shards. One of the more scintilating performances I've seen, all the more intense for my lack of preparedness.

The Woggles @ Local 506 (Sleazefest), Chapel Hill NC, 1997

A band that always delivers live. I saw them for the first time here, at the late, lamented three-day Sleazefest, at Local 506, one of the all-time great divey places to see rock & roll. Good sound, happy bar maids, black interior, barbecue and sweet Appalachian air outside. And go-go dancers in cages. Worth the drive.

Mono Men @ Empty Bottle, Chicago IL, 1998

This was Mono Men's last show, and they hand-picked the Bottle for their sign-off venue, a thank-you of sorts to the club's owners and clientele of loyal fans. I liked the band's Estrus releases, but had never seen them live. Being "last show ever," the Men played long and loose, the evening both tempered and warmed by the fact that it was the final time the guys were going to be onstage together. Loud and raw, boozy and fun.

Electric Frankenstein @ Fireside Bowl, Chicago IL, 2000
Great super-charged riffs from this New Jersey band in front of a packed crowd of teens and Old School Punks. The long-gone Fireside was a working bowling alley that hosted mostly punk shows at night. E F didn't get to the Midwest that often, and I made sure to check it out. The show was of the coming-apart-at-the-seams variety, held together by an amped-up crowd and the band's ruthless energy and spontaneity.

The Mooney Suzuki @ CBGB, New York NY, 2001

Just before their ascension (?) to major-label ranks, Mooney Suzuki schooled a raucous crowd at CBs on their home turf. I was there with friends, and we were digging what felt like CB's last stand (that came a couple of years later). The place was packed and Mooney drank it up. I remember the MC5-channeled break in "Singin' A Song About Today" like it was, well, yesterday.

Reverend Horton Heat @ The Hideout, Chicago IL, 2002
I've seen a lot of great shows by the Rev. This makes the list because of the venue, one of my favorite places to see bands in Chicago. He played a four-night stand in the city, visiting a different club each night, and I knew that the Hideout gig would be special. It was my first visit to the place, and I drove past it twice, thinking that it was some family's home tucked away in an industrial strip. Turned out the be the Hideout (appropriately), and the show felt as if we were in the Rev's basement for a party. I don't know when again I'll see him in such an intimate, ramshackle place. Great.

Elvis Costello @ 9:30 Club, Washington D.C., 2007
Supporting his Hip-O First 10 Years compilation, Costello played over 30 songs in front of a sold-out and knocked-out crowd at the (new to me) 9:30. With 2/3 of the original Attractions behind him, Elvis seemed committed, and ripped into his past, revisiting the well-known and the obscure, singing and playing with intensity and sincerity. His recent "Country Darkness" felt ageless and lived-in; I'd wanted to hear him sing "Riot Act" for years. We were close to the stage and it felt historic. Once-and-gone.

What are your favorites?


Alex V. Cook said...

REM @ Saenger Theatre, New Orleans, and Siouxsie & the Banshees @ Tulane, both 1986. Both were at the last stages of being mysterious

U2 @ LSU, 1987 - Thanksgiving Day of my freshman year, we had to camp out for tickets months before and tell our parents we were skipping a holiday dinner to go to a concert. U2 has become a cartoon since but were at the height of their powers and were the biggest rock band in the world, right there in front of us

Love & Rockets @ Tipitinas, 1987 - the night after U2, Bauhaus was my favorite band besides the Smiths and this was as close as we were gonna get. A very hungry Janes Addiction opened up and we hated them with all our might. Still kinda hate them residually from it

The Cramps @ Tipitina's, ca 1989 - Lux stripped to a g string and climbed atop the nasty stage speakers to dry hump them and emerged with decades of bar filth caked on him.

Public Enemy, Digital Underground, Kid n Play, Queen Latifa @ Cajundome, Lafayette, LA - Fear of a Black Planet Tour, PE were veritable enemies of the state then and were tight as a trip wire. Digital Underground was like a bomb at the circus. I still know every word of the Sex Packets album fwiw. Also my gf and I were the only DJs at our college station that would play hiphop records and were in the vast minority in the packed arena, totally thrilling.

Melanie said...

I'm pretty sure Andrew & I were at the Electric Frankenstein show in 2000. We had just started going out, and we brought our friend, Manish, whose favorite kind of music is "classical". Andrew went up to the front and got his socks rocked off, virtually abandoning Manish and me in the back of the room. We had our first fight that night, but we did make up, and then we got married 8 months later. Haha. He will have to confirm, but EF could not have been playing twice in Chicago in 2000, could they?

As for my favorite live show? Probably The Dave Matthews Band at Soldier Field, circa 1999. Andrew will probably pick a fight with ME over that one b/c he HATES DMB.

hintofdisaster said...

Actually, we saw EF at the Double Door, November 18, 2000. Monster Trux and Pistolero opened. Steve tossed me the mic to sing at least one verse, maybe a chorus as well, of a song, but I have no idea which song it was. Haha, I brought a Dave Matthews fan and a tall Indian dude who can't stand heavy metal to an EF show!

hintofdisaster said...

So, some of my favorites, aside from the aforementioned EF show...

New Bomb Turks and Teengenerate, Empty Bottle, 11/2/95
Teengenerate actually played Fireside Bowl the same night with the Problematics, if I remember right. My friends and I walked down Western from Fireside to the Bottle in the coldest November wind I think I have ever felt. I was only 19, but HAD to see this show. The Turks helped us in, and I am grateful. Both bands tore up the stage, then joined forces for a sloppy, crazy rendition of Teenage Kicks. I have some awesome photos from these shows.

Helmet and Quicksand, Riviera Theater, Nov 19, 1994
This is a show I had to wring my shirt out after. I don't think I have ever been sweatier.

Thee Headcoats, the Makers, Chinese Millionaires, Empty Bottle, May 2, 1997
I have no idea what we were thinking. This show was way sold out, probably over-sold. They promised some tickets would be sold the day of, but we were way too late on those as well. Thankfully, my buddies and I had recently struck up a friendship with the Chinese Millionaires, who somehow got the three of us into the show. I swear Thee Headcoats played until 2 in the morning, and the floor might as well have been tiled with glass from beer bottles. It was so good, we followed the tour to Green Bay and Columbus, OH.

I will have to post some others later. Thanks to the archived Chicago shows list for helping me down memory lane!

Evan said...

I am jealous of every one of those, especially the Husker Du and New Bomb Turks gigs. But for the record, here are some of mine.

Vertical Horizon @ the Riviera, 2001
I've loved this band for years, and this show was just barely into their "Everything You Want" mainstream success. They played mostly songs from their James Taylor-esque first few albums, and Matt Scannell's guitar work was astonishing all night.

The Hold Steady @ Metro, 2005
The gig was recorded for the "A Positive Scene" live album and DVD, and it was completely out of this world. The band cooked all night, played songs from their entire career, and being my live introduction to the band, I was in heaven. Catfish Haven opened, and their live show shouldn't go without mention.

The Foo Fighters @ United Center, 2006
I'd seen a bunch of live shows at this point, and while I've always loved the Foos, I figured they'd play a bunch of hits and leave the crowd with exactly what they expected. Instead, they blazed through some unlikely mid-period tunes, with drum solos lasting however long it took Dave Grohl to chug three beers. Even though it was a stadium, the band made it feel like a raucous dive bar.

The Flaming Lips @ the Aragon Ballroom, 2008
So far the only time I've seen the Lips live in their element. I don't remember much about their 2-hour set, except being happier than I've ever been in my entire life.

Smoking Popes @ the House Cafe, 2008
The band was beginning their tour for their new album, and playing as much new material as they thought they could get away with. This meant they were fiercely thrumming through the very songs that made me fall in love five years before, as well as a number of newer songs that went with the flow of the night. The Rikters opened, and to this day are the single best opening act I've ever seen for any band, ever.

Butch Walker @ the Majestic Theater, 2010
My first trip to Madison, WI was based around the indie/alt-troubador's only midwest weekend show supporting the phenomenal "I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart." After songs from his entire career (and a great Hall & Oates cover), I left feeling more satisfied than I've been in years after a gig.

The Hooten Hallers @ Widow's Peak 2010
Two guys, a drummer and a guitarist, from Missouri, playing dirty blues-rock while asking the audience to throw anything not bolted down at the stage. Rock and roll at its finest.

Steven Church said...

The Sin City Disciples @ The Crossing, 1988, Lawrence, Kansas (?)

My first bar show. I was 17. The crossing was a tiny wood-shingled shack and SCD was led by 300 lb. harmonica wielding maniac, Ernie Locke. They nearly tore the place down.

Superchunk @ The Bottleneck, 1994, Lawrence, Kansas

Recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, whacked on pills and beer, a nearly religious experience for me, a longtime Superchunk fan.

Phish @ Liberty Hall, April Fools Day, 1991 (I think), Lawrence, Kansas

OK, I know. Phish? But I'd never heard of the band before this night. I went with my roommates because they had an extra ticket. Old Theater. Wood floors and by the second set, you could feel the floor bouncing and waving, condensation dripping from the ceiling. Amazing energy. They played for almost 4 hours.

Hum @ The Bottleneck, Lawrence, Kansas

This was right around the time their single "Stars" got big radio play. 3 tiny dorky guys. One of them was a teacher, I think. Another was doing an MA in math or something. Holy crap, they rocked sooooo hard and loud.

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Let's Find H-Man A Wife said...

In no particular order.

Bongos at 9:30
Rank and File at 9:30
Chemeleons UK at Metro in Chicago
Blue Angel for 3 bucks at the Bayou in DC with lead singer Cyndie Lauper
Rick Danko and Levon Helm at the Bayou
NRBQ at the Bayou
Bruce at the Capitol Centre