So, this post is almost three months overdue but I feel like I need to commemorate attending my 100th concert. (Erm, I'm at 101 now but no bother, it's okay, we can still talk about the 100 that came before it.)
I was holding out for a big show from one of my top five (my musical Avengers, what have you) but the only one who seems to really be touring is Damien Rice. And I did have a ticket to see Damien Rice back in April, so I figured "alright, he's a good enough 100, that's fine." The ticket eventually fell through. I finally thought, "well, fuck it, I just want to go to a concert" and trekked through snow to Williamsburg to see Dry the River. It was a weird experience but kind of an amazing one, and well, I think by now we all know how I feel about DtR. It was kind of the perfect 100th concert. Why? Well, DtR falls in line with Andrew Bird, The Frames, Frightened Rabbit, The Felice Brothers, and The Twilight Sad (among others) as artists I saw in concert without really knowing much of their music. They're in very good company.
But this post isn't about that show. No. I've written about that already. It was special and I loved it and I love DtR and have basically given up on other music for the time being. No, this post is about the other 99 concerts I've attended (well, at this point, the other 100 but we'll leave Mika out of this for now. He was very, very good nonetheless.)
Anyway, we won't go into all 99. I have forgotten a good many of them (what? I've seen The Polyphonic Spree live?) Let's talk about the important ones.
The First: Blink182/Green Day/Saves the Day at Madison Square Garden
I loved Blink182 went I was in junior high (we all did, right?) I really believed they were the epitome of good music, and was quite proud of myself for liking something other than the boy bands my peers liked (rest assured, I had my time in the boy band fandom and liked both Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, depending on my mood). I was pretty psyched to see them live. I knew a handful of Green Day tunes, mostly because my brother liked them a lot. And well, Blink actually headlined the night and much to my dismay, Green Day wiped the floor with them. It was almost embarrassing. But it made me a Green Day fan (ah, see, it started way earlier than I thought) and I went home and sought out their entire catalog (stealing my brother's CDs along the way). Green Day are a lot of things nowadays but no one can deny that they put on a great show. Blink182 was pretty much a disaster. Tom DeLonge couldn't sing live, and their songs sounded like exact replicas of the album tracks. Only with worse vocals.
You can do a lot worse for your first concert. I however, had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute of it, regardless of Blink182's half-assery.
The First One That Mattered: Death Cab For Cutie/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at The Theater at MSG
I spoke about this show in more detail in my Death Cab For Cutie post but this was the show that really started it all for me (consequently, DCFC is truly the band that started it all for me.) It was actually only my third concert ever (we will not talk about the second one; I was young and impressionable and I went with my friends and...that's enough) but it was the one that made me realize concerts weren't just some elite events that sold out in three seconds (I mean, I came from the world of teen pop where that was almost always the case). Real people could go to concerts too, you know? Well, DCFC were great (at this point, you'd be hard pressed to get me to say something negative about them) and I really enjoyed myself but it just opened up a huge can of worms that has yet to be closed nearly ten years later. In fact, I actually bought tickets to see Damien Rice the next morning. The impact was instant. I liked concerts a lot and wanted to go to as many as possible.
The First Fantastic One: The Frames/Michael Brunnock/Brendan O'Shea at Webster Hall
This was a lot of firsts: my first SRO (I was so turned off from the idea of standing all night. Imagine!) and my first show at Webster Hall. This was not, however, my first time seeing The Frames. It was actually my third time seeing Glen Hansard so I knew what the man was capable of. This show was two and a half hours, a non-stop barrage of great song after great song. For a long, long time this was my favorite concert ever, and to this day Glen Hansard is one of, if not the best performer I've ever seen on stage. What he does on stage, how he takes command of it, and how he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, is practically unparalleled (although I think Scott Hutchison and Frank Turner come close and make noble attempts.)
The First Religious Experience: Andrew Bird/Calexico at Radio City Music Hall
This show had a lot of things going against it: primarily that fact that I didn't feel well and my seat was terrible. (I truly hate RCMH.) In fact, I dealt with bouts of boredom throughout this show. I really didn't know what I was getting into with the venue and with Andrew. I think he's very accessible for someone who could be a little experimental and doesn't always adhere to the rules of mainstream indie pop but his shows aren't exactly straightforward. Anyway, I left the show feeling somewhere between "meh" and "OH MY GOD!" and kind of began an Andrew Bird listening binge that lasted, oh, I don't know...three, four years? I think you know the rest. But to me, it's pretty bizarre that a show I felt lukewarm about created that big of an obsession.
The Best One: LCD Soundsystem/Sleigh Bells at The Wellmont Theater
What can I say about LCD Soundsystem other than James Murphy is a god? This was the most fun I've ever had at a concert. The band was on fire, and it was just a huge, two hour dance party. Amazing, and unparalleled. And I've seen a lot of great acts.
Total Effing Surprises:
1. Devendra Banhart/Little Joy at Music Hall of Williamsburg: this was the perfect concert, from opener through Devendra's main set. Absolutely incredible, and totally unexpected. Backing band was tight as hell, and Dev played over two hours. I will never say bad things about him simply because of this.
2. tUnE-yArDs at Central Park Summerstage: tUnE-yArDs actually opened for St. Vincent at this show and I wasn't expecting much from her set, even though I had really liked "Birdbrains." Well, Merrill Garbus embarrassed Annie Clark that afternoon, and made me a fan for life. She is one of the most talented people making music today, and truly one of the best live acts.
3. The Felice Brothers at The Bell House: I bought tickets to this show simply because I had always wanted to go to The Bell House. I didn't know much about The Felice Brothers' music, and yet, this ended up being my favorite show of 2011 (in a year where I saw Andrew Bird, The National, Cloud Cult, etc.) The Felice Brothers are a ton of fun live, which is probably why I've basically seen every one of their NYC shows since. They never disappoint. And the funny thing is, I don't even listen to them on a regular basis. I just like to go to their shows.
4. Japandroids at Webster Hall: (We won't even talk about DIIV. NOPE!) Was this much a surprise? I don't know, considering I was very, very high on Celebration Rock and it ended up being my favorite record of 2012. But for a band that sounds like Japandroids, a live show could be underwhelming. And it turned out to be one of my favorite concert-going experiences ever. Any show where I can scream a long to songs with 1500 people is going to be a very good time.
5. Animal Collective at Terminal 5: I was really expecting this to be a disaster but AnCo was incredible. They are much better live than you would ever suspect from watching YouTube videos.
6. Dry the River at Music Hall of Williamsburg: Shaker Hymns, etc., No Rest, etc., Peter Liddle has a great voice, etc., etc., etc.
Look, I didn't really want to bring negativity into this post, and I'm not saying all of these acts were terrible, or even bad, just...disappointing. And sometimes, it's not the band themselves. It's you. Sometimes you're just not in the mood to be at a concert, or the crowd is awful, or you can't really see very well, or they're not playing a set of songs Anyway, here are some disappointing acts:
1. Chad VanGaalen at MHOW: Um, no, this wasn't me. It was him. Which was so disappointing because Soft Airplane is one of my favorite records ever (I just listened to it the other night and it still holds up, my goodness) but he is...odd live. And off-putting. It didn't help that I didn't care for the record he was promoting. Oh well, you live and learn.
2. Patrick Watson: I've seen him three times (once as support, once for free, so technically I've only paid for him once) and he has never blown me away. I don't know what it is but there's something about his live show that leaves me cold. I'm beginning to wonder if it's just the fact that I don't like his music as much as I think I do.
3. M83/Sun Airway at The Hammerstein Ballroom: Yeesh. This had a lot of things going against it, the first being the AWFUL crowd. And look, I'm not trying to be a snob and be like, "hey, you kids, get off of my lawn and out of my concert venue" but once a band hits the mainstream, they attract...a certain type of person. And I was surrounded by them. Combine that with the fact that I once read a rumor that M83 doesn't play their instruments live, which was all I could think about during the show, and I just stood there wanting it to end. Which is a shame because a) I loved their last record and b) I waited a long time to see them live. Never again. (If you ask me, no, it didn't look like they were playing their instruments.)
4. Sigur Ros: I've seen them twice, once at MSG, and they just leave me so cold live. Everything is technically beautiful, but I'm not really into the "now you play, and I'll watch" concert-going experience. I like to feel like an active participant. But what can you do when Jonsi is singing in a language you don't understand? For me, Sigur Ros is a great listening experience, and they can make me feel things through my headphones but not live. Not live.
5. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala at Terminal 5: Full disclosure: Tame Impala were TERRIFIC. Really wiped the floor with The Flaming Lips. This was probably the most disappointing show I've been to, simply because I waited A LONG time to see The Flaming Lips, and I somehow managed to see them for the first time during their "Terror" tour. And Jesus Christ, a terror is right. That album is pretty fucking unlistenable if you ask me, and it doesn't not come off better live. All the confetti and stupid costumes and lights could not save this one. I couldn't wait for it to be over.
Anyway, I wish I could write about all the great shows I've been to, and there have been many, but I just don't have the time or the space. In a way, they're all special.
Here's to 100 more...