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Top Five Live Musical Experiences

Top Five Live Musical Experiences

Before I begin: I am not counting experiences I actually participated in, which for Your Humble Blogger would date back to high school. Well, or singing to my Perfect Non-Reader. That sort of thing. Not what the question is about, as I understand it.

It will become obvious that I don’t go out to see music very often. Well, I don’t go out at all very often these parental days, but even before the little alibi, I was too (1) lazy and (b) cheap to go to concerts very often. Actually, a fairly high percentage of my experience listening to live music has been in and around the Harvard Square T station, and a fairly high percentage of that has been lousy. Banjo Bob Sundstrom was always a treat, of course, and I may be the only person in the whole world who still listens to that Katie & Arina demo cd. Oh, and I saw John Kiehne in front of the CVS, and recognized him. How cool am I?

...anyway, I doubt this Top Five will be chock full of gosh-I-wish-I-had-been-there moments.

  • The Klezmatics, at the Somerville Theater. I think it was the Somerville that was the great concert, and the Newton JCC that was the pretty good concert. Anyway, they were amazing, and when they played Shnirele Perele, I was afraid they really would bring the Messiah.
  • Escape from New York tour, the Tower (Philadelphia). Debbie Harry opened, and people treated her like an opening act, walking around, chatting. The Heads (Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison) came next, and were better than I had expected, playing mostly non-TH stuff. The headline act was the Ramones, and they were ... the Ramones.
  • David Byrne, the Tower (Philadelphia). This was the Rei Momo tour, and he didn’t play much TH stuff, either. Still, damn it was funky.
  • The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Great American Music Hall (San Francisco). I’m pretty sure that this was the first show of the too-old-to-dance-all-concert days. I was exhausted by halfway through. It was the Jelly’s Jazz tour, and they kicked ass.
  • Dave Frishberg, some church basement on Noe in San Francisco. Just him at the piano. It was hella funny, and afterwards I just went up and said hi.

On a different day, I might have mentioned the final exam of the Berklee College of Music Big Band (seeing an undergraduate conduct with his ass while playing the tuba is not easily forgotten), either the Philip Glass solo piano concert (in a high school cafeteria) or the Philip Glass Ensemble live Koyaanisqatsi show (very loud indeed), Jim’s Big Ego opening for The Nields at the Somerville, Zap Mama at the Somerville, Arturo Sandoval in Copley Square when the power went out, Sweet Honey in the Rock at the college theater, or the time Richard Bob wore my hat.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


All concerts New York except as noted.

Joe Jackson, Paolo Soleri (Santa Fe)

Bill Frisell (solo), Roulette

Dismemberment Plan w/ Regina Spektor opening, Bowery Ballroom

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Bowery Ballroom

Andrew Bird (solo), Southpaw

Special lifetime achievement award to They Might Be Giants for many years of quality performances. Can't possibly pick a single show to highlight, although the Summerstage performance featuring the Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein", the b-side "Ondine", and still their best live performance of "The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas" might be a good call.

Honorable mention to Fela Kuti (Paolo Soleri, Santa Fe), the Soft Boys (Bowery Ballroom), and David Byrne (Bowery Ballroom -- points deducted for unpleasant interaction with jerks in audience; not DB's fault, but did affect my enjoyment of the show).

only 2 worth noting, i don't get out much and i'm usually a lot more interested in the audience unless the band is beyond belief -- which these were.

sonic youth
warfield, san francisco, 1996

linda tillery & the cultural heritage choir
cowell, SF, 1997

... and then there was enormous sadness and all the music disappeared from everywhere except a couple folk festivals which were fun but who remembers which bands played!!!

Oh yes...Joe Jackson was on the Blaze of Glory tour, and Bill Frisell was in 1989. The others (except Fela, which was sometime in college) are all from the past few years.

Devotchka puts on an outstanding live show. I've been meaning to write up reviews of the two times I've seen them live, but as OHB notes, it's so much harder to write puff pieces than hatchet jobs.

....annnnnd it turns out I haven't seen enough live music (or at least enough really good live music) to make a top five list meaningful.

I forgot that I saw Joe Jackson ... twice? Once at the Somerville on the Seven Deadly Sins tour (which was pretty good, and probably should not have been left off the just-left-off list) and once somewhere in downtown Boston (which was OK, but not as good as the other).

I should probably have mentioned that the two Philly concerts were probably from 1990 or 1991, the two Ess Eff concerts were somewhere between 1991 and 1993, and the Klezmatics concert was probably in 2000, give or take a year. I saw one concert in the last eighteen months (Bagels and Fraylox at the coffeehouse in town), and one concert in the eighteen months before that, I think.

allison and i went back through dozens of concerts we've seen, and reminded me of some that i've seen that i forgot. fishbone at the warfield was pretty good. madison square garden was amazing; we're 90% sure stevie ray vaughan was one of the well lit dots down in the middle. and there was some kind of ska-swing band at the elbo room.

francis i'd happily trade my mike & the mechanics college concert for having seen fela.

Joe Jackson in downtown Boston was at the Orpheum. Saw that one, and his Seven Deadly Sins at the Somerville Theater, but neither held a candle to his Blaze of Glory show in Philly many moons ago.

The Blaze of Glory show really was tremendous. Played the album in full (and it's really the last Joe Jackson studio album I still care to listen to all the way through; like, there's some good stuff on Night & Day II, but some of it is kind of deathly), plus over an hour and a half of heavily rearranged older material. And I was in, like, the third row. Perfect.

If you're in the area for it, Big Bad Voodoo Daddies is giving a free outdoor performance as part of Arlington, VA's Arts al Fresco. And opening the event is Da Vinci's Notebook in a only-once-this-year reunion. Sunday, June 12.


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