Monday, December 31, 2012

Why I Show

My first real concert was Billy Joel at the old St. Paul Civic center when I was in college (April 7, 1984).  Oh sure, I really wanted to go see the Police on their (farewell) Synchronicity concert in 1983, but somehow I lost my paycheck that would have paid for it (fell behind the fridge, undiscovered for the next two years, and how I was even going to work out the details before I lost the check, I have no idea), but it wasn’t until college that I started to go to shows.  And even in college, surprisingly we didn’t go to that many shows (which is odd in retrospect, because my dormmates and later, housemates, all were into music.)  Too many other distractions I guess (we did have a pool table instead of a dining table, so there is that) added to the fact that we all were rather poor.  I think we saw the gear daddies somewhere in there in the basement of Coffman union and there was a wallets show and Sussman Lawrence (suicide commandos too if I’m not mistaken).   

Shockingly, no Husker Du, no Replacements, no Prince.  Loved them all but never got around to it.  And sorta ambivalent about that, guess I was making a conscious decision in each case; husker du crowd was a little bit weird for me, replacement shows were so unprofessional, even in hindsight I would pass, and although I’d heard about a bunch of late night prince shows at first ave and elsewhere, the whole making me wait until 2 in the morning to hear him just sorta chaffed my thighs.

Then I graduated college and had money and time and a new crowd (and a friend who had a friend who worked for WEA) and I saw a lot of shows, (darden smith and boo hewerdine at the fine line was such a charmer although I saw the bodeans at first avenue way way WAY too many times).  Midnight Oil at first ave circa Dust and Diesel was the peak of that phase of my concert going period up to the early 90’s. 

Early to mid 90’s were a fallow show going period.  I bounced around geographically (Eau Claire, Mankato) for grad school, I broke my pelvis and there was the whole coming out thing, so I was spending my evenings (and afternoons and morning and late nights) on other things.  Still listened to music OF COURSE, but very little show going.

Started back on the bike by the late 90’s.  Slowly at first.  A block party here, a killer show at the 400 there, dabbling in first avenue.  By 2001, it was on, greater than ever.  The Irish had moved over here, Melloy and I were regulars at First Ave (and at the Soul Caliber AND Galaga video games) and there were lots of super fun shows.  Grandaddy, Ben Folds (first time, although the second time when I had to turn around and tell the chick behind me that I came to listen to Ben and not here…..and that her singing was flat was pretty memorable too), the Doves (they were so loud it the soundwaves rippled my t-shirt and drove Melloy back to the bar…or maybe he just needed another red bull and vodka), Concrete Blonde, Bob Mould, first time seeing Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (and watching the BFG squirm).  Lots of fun nights up until everyone up and got deported or ran off to Phoenix (not that I’m bitter or anything).

A little divot then for a couple years.  A recalibration as it were, not so much a re-tooling as an expansion of sound and vision before the next great step forward.  Which brings us to now.  Or at least now as in 2007 to current.  Greatest show phase ever.  Lots of shows; great shows, truly memorable moments), a new mix of show friends, and an even wider array of venues. Love, love, love the varsity, and still a little sad about the 400, but maybe that just means we’ll get something new and cool out of those ashes.

Course, there are moments I wonder where it’s headed.  Sadly, I can see the road signs for 50Town (I’m not saying how many miles ahead) and I do feel kinda old at some shows (thankfully there will always be a Paul Simon show where there are more walkers than backpacks which is helpful and positive).  And god knows I was never a fan of closeness, so people flinging their hair in my face, rubbing their greasy sleeves on me or bopping in my underwear is now super super annoying (and what is with the backwards moving people?  Move forward people, move forward; stop being so republican!   

And I don’t like to know what the late night shows and a regular work schedule are doing to my sleep cycle (actually I know that and it’s not good, although the benefits still outweigh the costs at present).  Those Monday and Tuesday night shows are still killers and I can honestly say I avoid any band like the church and broken social scene who I just know won’t get started to 11 and keep going up til bar time.  My autobiography will be titled 6:15 Comes Early (apologies to Bob Welch, the pitcher, not the departed singer/songwriter) and it’s the chronicle of my struggle with sleep deprivation and insomnia.  A heart rending tale of having too much fun in real life and resentment that I’m not a bonus baby and can sleep until 9am every morning instead of dragging my sorry behind into work each day.  

 And did I mention the tinnitus?  High pitched ringing in my left ear.  Low volume, but pretty constant.  New thing just this year.  Not happy about this at all.  Guess it’s part of the aural landscape now according to my doctor (and another doctor, less handsome, but an ear,nose,throat guy (no idea if he’s a leg, chest or ass guy) Guess I should have worn more earplugs.  But really, it’s no ones fault.  These things happen and Dr. Clarkson said it would have happened regardless.  So it is what it is.   

Besides, I’m not going to go to shows?

Shows are where my perceptions of a band/performer get turned on their heads; positively (Sea Wolf) or negatively (Julian Casablancas) or just in some strange way that I can’t define but that makes an act different more than they were on record (every Peter, Bjorn and John show I’ve ever seen).  Some acts charm me so utterly that I’m still wordless.  Frightened Rabbit.  Varsity Theatre two years ago.  You know what I’m talking about.  The performance was great, but the love the audience gave the band and the genuine appreciate Scott and the band returned.  That was pretty amazing.  So true and how hard is it to find genuine truth when there is commerce involved. 

And maybe that’s the thing too.  Yeah, there’s money to be made and product to be moved, but I do feel like a lot of acts are doing it because they love it and we go because we love it and all the economics of it are inessential, byproducts of a process fundamental to human existence.  Frightened Rabbit would have been happy playing to ten people, to one person, to no one but themselves (and it would have still been a great performance) and that’s a lot of the reason I go (and a lot of the reason I don’t go see Aerosmith and Pink Floyd and Taylor Swift, because I don’t believe the same situation is true).  Which also, isn’t to say I don’t appreciate professionalism….again, I’ve avoided the replacements/ryan adams immature brattiness all my life, because that self indulgent, jokey, lazy stuff (especially when it’s done on purpose as opposed to being under the influence) is worse than a generic by the numbers plastic performance… “Thank you Minneapolis/st. paul….you’re the best audience on the tour by far.”  Although I suppose Julian Casablancas WAS sincere in his contempt for the audience.  So he’s got that in his favor which I can appreciate.

Shows are a never-ending font of happenings and stories (remember that time we saw the Phoenix at the Varsity.  There was a guy out front offering over $100 for a ticket and NOBODY was selling.  And the show was beyond amazing, even though (because?) it was ungodly hot and we were drenched in sweat after the first song and yet we couldn’t stop bopping up and down.).  And even though the age of the crowd makes me feel old (or at least getting older, feeling my age, my mortality), sometime at shows, I don’t exactly feel 22, but I feel….timeless, ageless, in some greater communion with the music and the performance, outside of my body, my mind (that first Yeasayer show for sure).  Ok, yeah, I’m saying it live shows give me religion.  I’m definitely not saying I’m getting in the space ship with my fellow dirty stinking hair dancers, but I have escaped the surly bonds of this earth at a few shows (and not because there is always some d-bag who’s gotta light one up as soon as the lights go down).

And yes, I may not ever be one of them (or one of anything, and of course, by them I mean the rest of the crowd, not EVER my special group of friends, show and more) but there are moments, wrapped within mind expanding moments of pure musical and visual (but please, no more strobey lights or turning the house lights on the audience please, strobe lights give me migraines, and turning the house lights on the audience, just makes us scuttle for cover like the eventual cockroaches we all are) bliss when I actually might feel a little love for the collective audience and might momentarily feel a little sense of community (but I’m still not talking of the jerks who have to lift their iphones to the sky and record the show….live in the moment my friends and enjoy the show, otherwise your memory (and my memory) will be of you recording the show instead of SEEING/FEELING the show)

Hell, there are some bands who not only surprise me and show me something in their live performance that I never saw/heard in their records, they show me something I never even knew I had in me.  Me?  Raise my fist in the air and pump it to the rhythm (out of time of course)  who am I?  What is this place?  Is this my life?  HOW DID I GET HERE?  (oh yeah, through the one two punch of hot chip/arcade fire, through the genius intricate drumming underlying every single national song, through the arch look and pose of Robert Forster as he strums the last chord of an obscure b-side, through the warm, genial witticisms of nick lowe as he regretfully (but not too regretfully) rues the wild days, wild ways of his callow youth)

So I suppose this is all just a long way around getting to the shows 2012.  There weren’t that many of them, and I’m sure I’m missing some (I had a post it note at work listing them all out and of course, I left it there when I went off on holiday and there’s no way I’m running in to grab it, so caveat or correct me in the comments)

Howler –Triple Rock-January 14, 2012 (brats but I loved them)
Soviettes (and a whole pile of shitty metal bands)-Triple Rock-January 28, 2012
Craig Finn-Triple Rock-February 4, 2012 (are you sensing a triple trend here?)
Dr. Dog-First Avenue-February 17, 2012 (love them, their audience now?  Not so much)
Elliot Brood-7th Street Entry-February 28, 2012
Roger Hodgson-Grand Casino-Hinckley-March 2, 2012 (not the best venue in the world mind you, but he was in remarkably generous voice)
Kasabian-First Avenue-April 3, 2012
Nick Lowe-First Avenue-April 18, 2012
Al Stewart-Dakota-June 4, 2012 (ooh, I messed up the dates on this one so we ended up going on the wrong night, but the Dakota folks were kind enough to find us seats and we ended up sitting right next to al as he was have a pre-show bite to eat.  I tried not to ogle)
Ramona Falls-7th Street Entry-June 5, 2012
Walkmen-First Avenue-June 30, 2012
Youth Lagoon-Varsity-July 15, 2012 (confession, I only went for the opening act, then left)
Twin Shadow-7th Street Entry-August 7, 2012 (extra added bonus, Poolside as the opener)
Rufus Wainwright-Minnesota Zoo-August 11, 2012 (ok, he was great)
Yeasayer-First Avenue-August 24, 2012
Sea Wolf-Cedar Cultural Center-October 26, 2012 (they surprised me. really enjoyed this show)
Magnetic Fields-First Avenue-November 12, 2012 (how could i forget this?)

Best show of the year for me was the Father John Misty.  And he was the OPENING act for Youth Lagoon.  He was funny, swaggerific, and maybe even a little sexy.  He belted out those songs like an old time (70’s) rock icon troubadour.  And I believed (and loved) every minute of it. 


  1. I can not even begin to explain how much I love this. So well said! When I started reading this I thought "oh no, he's going to say he is not going to shows anymore". But if you don't go to shows anymore, how I am supposed to find out about the Nick Lowes of the world?? The "how did I get here?" is one of my favorite parts of the whole concert journey. And sharing the wealth, which you do so well! As long as the shows outweigh the hair in the face, I'm soldiering on. If I get all the must see shows out of the way now, maybe I won't feel like I HAVE to go see Paul Simon when I'm 70? Maybe....

  2. Egad, this is lovely. And how the heck did I forget I saw (and, surprisingly, really liked) Rufus Wainwright this year?
    Please continue to share the wealth.
    And the Vaccines are going to be SO good!