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50 Greatest Concerts 1959-2009: Part One (Thowback Thursday)

August 21, 2014

45. Janis Joplin, Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey, Calif. June 17, 1967
To me, Monterey was the announcement that the San Francisco counterculture had arrived. The people in Los Angeles who organized the festival were also the headliners and they were going to sell that “San Francisco Sound” to the world, but it kind of backfired. The performers who weren’t really known – Jimi Hendrix, Moby Grape, Big Brother and The Grateful Dead – were the ones who made the splash at the festival. We probably played to 80 percent capacity, and I thought we could have played a lot better. But just being there and having Janis there made it a good performance – she was so talented and so good that even if the set was a little off, it was shocking to people to see her perform. Sam Andrew, Big Brother & The Holding Company

44. Radiohead, Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, Calif., June 30, 2001
It’s one thing to follow a hands-down masterpiece ( OK Computer ) with a paranoid nightmare ( Kid A ) that arguably eclipses it, and still another when the leftover material from that album becomes a minor masterpiece of its own. Less than a month after the release of Amnesiac, Radiohead stormed into Santa Barbara at the tail end of what was less a tour than a military musical offensive, armed with a live arsenal that mixed riff-vamping fight anthems ( “I Might be Wrong,” “National Anthem” ) with android pop ( “Kid A” ), gorgeous piano dirges ( “Like Spinning Plates,” “Pyramid Song” ) and a few songs ( “Paranoid Android” ) which wove all of those threads together. How do you follow a tune that spins social anxiety into Beckettian beauty ( “How to Disappear Completely” )? An encore cover of “Cinnamon Girl,” of course. Bret Gladstone

43. Rage Against the Machine, Democratic National Convention, Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif., August 14, 2000
There was no permission for this: Rage Against the Machine, one of the biggest bands in the world, protesting the two party system on a flatbed with a PA. I loved the audacity of it: take no prisoners in the balls out way that Rage conducts itself. There was no security, no nothing and they thought, “We may get arrested, but let’s just go for it – the time is now.” Even the camera footage of the show is all shaky. Every Rage show is kind of like a mini-riot anyway, but to have it be more than that – a riot, if you could call it that, with real purpose. When a band ponies up and puts some money where their mouth is it goes back to Dylan or Woody Guthrie playing a concert because of the cause and being a real vehicle for change – beyond their records. Chad Urmston, State Radio, Dispatch

42. My Morning Jacket, Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tenn., June 12, 2004
It was, as they say, a hair-raising spectacle of the highest order. Saturday afternoon Bonnaroo 2004, the festival coming into its own during year three. My Morning Jacket moving from a Friday noon tent slot the previous year to a Saturday afternoon second stage showcase (while music was down on the main stage). And then came the tempest. Yet as the rain flew sideways on squalls of bombastic wind, everything seemed to swell: the band, its sound, its gestures, the moment, the event. My Morning Jacket wasn’t swinging for the fences, it was taking two strides and bounding over them. It was epic. A perfect storm. Dean Budnick

41. The Clash, Bonds International Casino, New York, N.Y., June 1, 1981
When I heard shows were announced at the disco in Times Square where high school seniors had their prom party, I was confused yet ridiculously excited. When the band got into town, they were all over the place. Those amazing yellow posters with the huge pink star in the middle were up everywhere, they were being interviewed on television and in all the papers. It was such an incredible moment. The Clash totally took over. At the show, I left my brother and his girlfriend in the back and I fought my way to the mosh pit and waited for the band to come on. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mayhem that was about to explode both on the stage and around me. It was insane. People were losing their minds. I was one of them. Ken Weinstein

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