Thursday, June 10, 2004

Over at Otto's Coffee Shop, Otto had the fun idea to list your top 10 favorite concert memories. I always write too damned much anyway so I'm only going to do my top 5 and they're off the top of my head and probably would be different an hour from now, but here you go:

1. Elvis Costello, September 2002, Eugene, Oregon. One of the best songwriters of our time put on a show that would've worn out the Energizer Bunny -- nearly THREE HOURS of solid tunes, from "My Aim Is True" to "When I was Cruel," all done with impeccable showmanship, amazing singing by Elvis and a band that wouldn't quit. The show left me wrung out and exhausted for days afterward, but it still sticks in my mind as the best example of a performer giving his absolute all, no matter who he's playing to. Amazing stuff. Wish I had a tape of it, I'd listen to it still.
2. Blue Mountain, too many shows to count, 1995-1997, Oxford, Mississippi The late great Blue Mountain were a wonderful rock/country/folk band with two good friends of mine, Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt, and a constant in my college days. Singer/guitarist Cary was guaranteed to put on a barnburning show no matter the occasion, singing his heart out and making the music matter. I saw them one last time in San Francisco in 2000, and not long after that they broke up, after putting out a half-dozen or so fine CDs. Alas.
3. Sonic Youth, September 2002, Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle I've seen them twice now and Avril's seen them more than that, and they're always great, but this show was particularly spectacular to me. I remember hearing the chiming shards of noise of "Rain In Tin" echoing around the walls of the stadium, seeing the Space Needle in the sky, and thinking, ah, this is bliss.
4. Son Volt and The Old 97's, 1996, Oxford, Mississippi. I saw a lot of good shows in my college days -- Morphine, Uncle Tupelo, The Connells, R.L. Burnside, Dick Dale and many more -- but for some reason I often think of this excellent double-bill of alt-country acts from before most people knew what "alt country" was. When Uncle Tupelo broke up everyone thought Son Volt, led by Jay Farrar, would go on to bigger things than Jeff Tweedy's Wilco, but Son Volt fizzled out while Wilco is still going strong into new and stranger places. But for a moment in '96, Son Volt was on fire with their excellent, haunting hoedowns, and The Old 97's were this spunky yee-haw Texas band nobody had heard of. Together, they were a bill that lit the joint up and put on a show I've never forgotten.
5. I'm embarrassed about this one. Billy Joel, spring 1990, Oakland, Calif. What can I say? Billy Joel's a guilty pleasure and I think he's written some decent songs, although I don't think I'd be as interested in seeing him today as I was at 18. This is one of those though where the company and the experience meant more than the music, which in truth I barely recall. But it was a fun trip down to the Bay in a motorhome with my old high school pal Scott Reeves (Scott, where did you go in life?), Jennifer Hurst and others, and the first real "big stadium show" I ever went to.

And the worst, not counting lame bar bands that couldn't play a note: Smashing Pumpkins, spring 1994. They gave a very short, very lousy, very angry concert at my college, The University of Mississippi which ranks as the epitome of rock-star snottiness. Über-diva Billy Corgan apparently didn't like the venue or the crowd (which admittedly included a lot of bonehead moshing frat boys) so he staged a tantrum and left after barely 40 minutes. Smashing pumpkins, sucky concert.

Your favorite concert memories?

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