Show and Tell: Artists’ Favorite Live Shows (Part Two: Hood to Popper)
Patterson Hood (Drive By Truckers)
When I was 16, I ran away from home to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band play in Starkville, Miss. It was The River Tour, and to this day, the greatest concert I’ve ever been to. My best friend and I told our parents we were going camping and drove the four-and-a-half- hour drive in his ‘72 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible. We had terrible seats but when we arrived, they had released floor seats and we sold our tickets and scraped up the money to buy two seats on the fifth row on the floor.
When the encores kicked in, they turned the house lights up (“Born To Run”) and the whole crowd started spontaneously throwing drink cups in the air. From the floor, you could look up and see 20,000 cups flying through the air, as soon as one would land, someone would pick it up and throw it again. This continued through the “Detroit Medley” until the end of the show. When the show was over, the girl standing next to me fainted and landed in my arms.
I’ve seen Springsteen 25 or so times and been to literally thousands of shows, but Friday, Feb. 13, 1981 was the date of the all-time greatest show I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and I didn’t get caught. If they happen to be reading this, I’m Not Sorry!
Ben Harper at the UCSB Hub in 1994 or ‘95. The place was packed with a few hundred people. He was controlling the feedback from his slide guitar in this cosmic way. I had never heard anything like it.
Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band)
I have had the great pleasure of watching many amazing bands play live over the years, but one show and band that I had the opportunity to watch that really blew my mind was Tool in 2006 at the Target Center in Minneapolis after the release of 10,000 Days. It was my first time seeing Tool, a band I idolized. Tool’s live show proved to be the most unique, thought-out and tasteful rock show I had ever been to, and their level of musicianship and playing was world-class. The Lucha Libre wrestler dancing onstage in a tutu during “Vicarious” was just one of the extremely awesome moments during the show.
Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello)
In ‘91, as soon as I arrived in the States, punk kids that I met took me to see Fugazi. It seriously marked a new chapter for me. I saw the most progressive music full of European and worldwide influence with beats and guitars of Gang of Four, Joy Division and dub basslines, but merged with energy so uncharacteristic of Europe, where pretentious and ironic attitude was predominant. This resonated with me deeply. It was a burst of the freshest wind ever. Especially considering that show was held in basically a dorm cafeteria, next door to a proper venue, where I saw so many terrible shows. Also, the energy of having two singers brought Fugazi to another level—they created an atmosphere of dialogue, as opposed to monologue, in which the frontman usually is so trapped, so convinced of the importance of his internal drama. Instead, Fugazi created a bubble of collective, positive, best kind of drama, a social catharsis where the line between band and audience was erased. Until this day, I’m most proud and excited when guys from Fugazi come to see us play. It reminds me that what we set out to do is to create not sickly separation but healing unity.
Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits)
I’ve had my fair share of absolutely transcendental concert experiences, but
Paul McCartney this summer at Bonnaroo was absolutely magical: like a manatee fucking a unicorn. I proudly walked there straight from my stage after an epic Conspirator set, joking about how I just “opened up” for Sir Paul, and laughing at my dad’s question from the day before, “Will you get to play with Paul?” Upon finding myself ridiculously close to the stage with a crowd of 80,000 behind me, I suddenly realized how special it was to hear these timeless songs played with absolute perfection by the maestro himself. By “Ob-La-Di,” I found myself as giddy as one of the girls in those pictures from Shea Stadium in 1965. These were classic Beatles songs— flawless and ageless, mixed with modern production.
The line “and of course Henry the horse dances the waltz” melted into fucking laser beams. The symphonic stabs of “Live and Let Die” were augmented by perfectly choreographed pyrotechnics and fireworks. Every musician can cite their varied influences but, if you play any form of rock, it is all rooted to The Beatles. These songs are almost 50 years old and, that night, their perfection just got more magical.
Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)
The only band I have ever seen multiple times is U2. I have seen them something like 14 times and we played with them five of those nights. I have seen them from the War album on. There’s something there that people gravitate toward and it is important to them, as it is to us and for that, I am grateful.
Rob Derhak: It must have been 1989 or ‘90, and I think I must have been 20 or 21 years old, back when I was in college in Buffalo, N.Y., and moe. was just a college band that played infrequently at SUNY Buffalo house parties. I got my hands on a tape labeled “fish” (that’s how it was spelled), from this girl named Becca, whom I am now married to. I really liked this song “Contact,” it was so inane that it cracked me up every time I heard it. So when I heard that this band “fish” was playing at a bar in Syracuse, my friend Phil and I got tickets for like $10 to go see them. It was an underground bar with maybe 200 people there. I remember waiting in line outside, and this older woman was walking to the front of the line. She stopped to ask my friend and I if we were waiting to see the band Phish because she was amazed that so many kids were waiting to get in. She then let us know that she was the drummer’s mom.
Well, nothing really could have prepared me for what I heard and saw that night, and no, I was not pharmaceutically enhanced. I was left standing in awe because I’d never seen or heard musicians weave music like that before, and haven’t since. It was like they were sharing one brain. I forget a lot of things nowadays but I’ll never forget that night.
Al Schnier: One of my favorite concert memories has to be when I saw the Jerry Garcia Band at Rocky Glen Amusement Park in Moosic, Pa., in the summer of ‘84. This was the classic JGB lineup and an early ‘80s heater of a show. I think the second set was only four songs! In between sets, I remember all of the Deadheads swimming and paddleboating in the pond. It was very laid-back, but still quite a scene. The “Tangled Up in Blue” encore still gives me chills.
Bill Payne (Little Feat)
Live music is about expectations as much as anything. One of my favorite shows was based on my expectation of hearing Jeff Beck play guitar with The Yardbirds in the central California town of Pismo Beach at the Rose Gardens. It was between 1966 and 1967 (long and far away). My friends and I were shocked when the band hit the stage and Jeff Beck wasn’t there. They began to play and we all looked at each other with, “Wow! Who is that playing lead guitar?!” It was Jimmy Page.
Zach Miller (Dr. Dog)
One that has always stayed with me is Charles Bradley at Utopia Fest 2012, a small festival in the Texas hills. We were scheduled to close the night and Charles and his band were to play before us, but the afternoon brought a huge Texas rainstorm and soon the grounds were a soup of mud. We decided to trade time slots, and it was a good thing we did. Charles is such an engaging and energetic performer. He completely upstaged us. There were so many memorable parts of the set but the kicker was at the end of the last song, when Charles, in his one-piece sequin jumpsuit and leather boots, stepped down off the front of the stage and into the mud and rain and began hugging everyone. It was such a joyous, loving and genuine gesture, and so true to his nature. I’ve never seen anything like it. By the time his band ended the song, Charles had long disappeared into the night.
John Popper (Blues Traveler)
My favorite live concert was a Fishbone concert I had to sneak into at Brown University in 1986. I was still in high school but my friends and I snuck into a frat to see them and that added to the excitement. Being a band geek, I was no stranger to horns and brass but I had never seen anyone play a trombone so well while jumping through the air or sliding across the floor. The band was tight, fearless and downright ferocious.