Chat: Harmony in my head January 9, 2020 7:21 AM   Subscribe

What are the best live music events you've seen during your lifetime, and why?

In the last couple of years I've been super-lucky to see some great shows: the Buzzcocks on the 40th anniversary of "Singles Going Steady" in 2017 (before Pete Shelley's death) and Angelique Kidjo performing her fantastic version of the Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" at Carnegie Hall (again in 2017, it was a great year).

I would consider these two shows to be among the best I've seen, ever: musically excellent, committed performances, crowd enthusiasm, and decades-long love on my part for the artists made them super special. And of course in retrospect I realize how lucky I was to see the Buzzcocks at all.

So, I got to wondering: what about other MeFites? What are the musical events you've loved most, and why?

And by the way these don't have to be big-ticket concerts: it could be the New Orleans street musician you ran into in 2004.
posted by Sheydem-tants to MetaFilter-Related at 7:21 AM (81 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I don't get out to see much live music, which has the downside of not seeing a lot of live music but the upside of kind of always being an exciting reminder of the experiential and performance possibilities of live music. So the best show I've ever been to is usually one of the last two or three I went to, because something probably bowled me over all over again.

I saw New Pornographers live for the first time a couple years back, on the tour they played for the release of the Whiteout Conditions album, after having had Twin Cinema in particular on heavy repeat for years, and it was really exciting to put a concrete band full of interacting humans to their album sound and see the moving parts in person. It wasn't a flashy show, mostly just people on stage playing songs and bantering a little, but they're a ridiculously good band and seeing them just do the thing was great. Having gotten a copy of the album ahead of time and knowing the new songs made being there and singing along that much more exciting. That show ended up getting me going through the rest of their catalogue a lot more thoroughly, which has been wonderful as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:42 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


Juno Reactor with Amampondo. Probably 02 or 03? I didn't see them in Tokyo, I saw them in Pittsburgh. Went out to a rave to dance, and got Amampondo doing their thing and majorly interacting with the ~150 person crowd at Club Laga. There is something to be said for the visceral effects of tribal drumming -- I don't have words for where that performance took me and how it made me feel, no chemicals involved.
posted by bfranklin at 7:44 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


The second time I saw Weird Al, and discovered both "Skipper Dan" (my creed) and the Yoda Chant, which he only does at live performances. Astonishing.
posted by Melismata at 7:44 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I have seen well over 100 Grateful Dead shows, over 20 Dave Matthews shows, only about 7 Phish shows, many Neil Young shows, many Jazz Fest weekends, many ACL festival weekends, and countless one offs at arenas and smaller venues. While I would say that out of the top 10 shows, 8 of them are Dead shows, without question, the best show I ever saw was NRBQ at Biddy Mulligans in Evanston, IL circa 1986-7. The other non dead show was either NRBQ at the Bottom Line or an Allman Brothers show at the Calderone theater circa 1979.

NRBQ is the greatest bar band ever. Their album Live at Yankee Stadium is terrific.

Greatful Dead shows are in a class by themselves.
posted by AugustWest at 7:49 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I think you've hit the mix that really makes a show special, at least for me - a musically excellent performance, an enthusiastic performance, a crowd that loves the show and (usually) a long-term relationship with the artist or band's music.

Lost count of how many shows I've seen since I started going to concerts in the late 80s, but a handful really stand out:

Robyn Hitchcock (with Yo La Tengo) in 2017 at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. I've been a fan of Robyn Hitchcock since 1986 or 1987, and being right up against the stage while he did the full Black Snack Diamond Role album... I was in heaven.

Colin Hay at the City Winery in Atlanta on February 23, 2017. I had seen Colin before and expected a solo show, but missed the memo it'd be a full band show. He went deep into Men at Work cuts and they just tore it up. We had good seats, they played songs I had loved since the 80s and never really expected to hear live, and it was just awesome.

Nine Inch Nails at Club 1227 (now gone) in St. Louis in the early 90s. This was well before most people had even a tiny clue who Trent Reznor was, and it was really my first club show. For a sheltered early 20s kid, it was raw and almost scary. My friend, who glommed on when she heard "concert" despite knowing nothing about the NIN and primarily listening to country and soft rock, definitely was terrified.

Also got to see Paul McCartney in 1989 when touring behind Flowers in the Dirt. I'd been a Beatles fan since I was seven (still am) and being in the same room with a Beatle was a bucket list item for me. They did a great show, I'm sure they did the same show every night more or less, but it was tight and his voice was still pretty damn good. The spectacle of it and hearing some of the Beatles tunes live sung by an actual Beatle was pretty much living the dream.

Also the Rollins Band touring with Helmet, that was an amazing set. And all of the Aimee Mann shows I've been to have been good, but the standout might be the last go-round with Jonathan Coulton. And Mavis Staples last year. I wish I'd have been into Mavis a few decades ago, but she's still powerful and an inspiring human being. Might not have been the best show musically, but damned if I didn't feel 100% better about humanity after her show. World needs more Mavis, lots more.
posted by jzb at 7:57 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Tom Jones at the Orpheum in Boston in 2016. His voice is still as great as ever, the theater was sold out, and the entire crowd was really, really into it from start to finish.

The Klezmer Conservatory Band, New Year's Eve, Portland ME, 1994 (I think). Singing, dancing, laughing, just happy, happy music and people.
posted by briank at 8:03 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I have the fondest memory of Prefab Sprout at a tiny club in Tampa, Florida some 30 years ago.
posted by Glinn at 8:10 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I am not a music/concert type person but Cowboy Mouth puts on a helluva show. Ditto Old Crow Medicine Show. Nicklecreek (now defunkt/split/whatever I think) also was fun but less rowdy.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:14 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I've seen Weird Al five (?) times now and every show was amazing in it's own way. I became a fan of his late in life but I will see him any chance I get from now until he stops touring. When I tell people at work I'm going to see him they usually say something like "Oh... the Eat It guy. Is he still around?" but as his fans know he is a musical genius with the most versatile band in the universe and he puts on a SHOW. The last time we saw him was in Fort Lauderdale Florida. We live in MA but my wife bought us tickets there because we weren't going to be around when he played Boston. She was on the aisle and during Tacky he sat on her lap and sang to her. It was amazing.

Seeing him play the song Albuquerque was probably the single most enjoyable thing I've ever seen performed live.

I've followed a sort of small to mid-level band for a couple decades now, Eddie From Ohio. They don't play out much anymore but once every couple of years the'll come to town (literally my town, we have an old fire station turned into an arts center) and they are so much fun with some of the most beautiful music that really hits my sweet spot.

Phish shows are all unique, they've never played the same setlist twice, and while I've enjoyed every show I've ever gone to I think night two of Providence on the last fall tour has been my favorite so far. The fans, the lights, the whole experience is just sort of sensory overload. For the first night we were on the floor and I'd never been on a GA floor before and it was pretty intense. Standing for four hours is not easy. It's a young persons's game, and I am no longer a young person, so I was very happy to have a seat on the second night. I mean, you don't sit down at a Phish show, ever, but it's nice to be able to sit beforehand and during the set break. The music is amazing, but it's more than the music... the whole experience is just nothing but joy. They're the only band I've ever seen where you get to your seats and introduce yourself and shake hands with your neighbors. It's a shared experience like no other.
posted by bondcliff at 8:18 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]


Concerts I remember fondly would be M.I.A., Prince, and Paul McCartney, circa 2015 or so.

I was in a restaurant in Cape Town back in October and there was a local group who came in and sang like 4-5 songs. It was the last night of our trip and so beautiful. We bought one of their CDs, so I will try to find their exact name.
posted by soelo at 8:29 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Best: Chuck E. Weiss in a tiny LA coffee shop, once a month for two years in the late '90s. The degree to which my world view as an adult is based on having spent time hanging around the band as a starstruck teenager is kind of embarrassing. They were the coolest human beings I'd ever met. Also fantastic musicians and incredibly kind to weird geeky kids.

Second Best: David Byrne in San Francisco, for the "Look into the Eyeball" tour, when the entire Extra Action Marching Band stormed in without warning and arranged themselves throughout the audience for a multi-song collaborative encore.

Worst: Bob Dylan, in the mid 2000s. It was pouring rain and the band insisted on no bags or umbrellas inside, which caused chaos at the doors. They started playing 40 minutes before the line outside ended. The sound was complete garbage, with ear-splitting bass and nothing else at all. I can sing along to nearly every song they played, but I could barely recognize them. It was the most obvious "fuck you" to the audience I've ever seen in a concert, even compared to anarchist punk bands. As far as I'm concerned, Dylan still owes me $100 for that ticket. It was a garbage concert.

Second worst: The B-52s, in the early 2010s, in a horse-racing stadium at a big city county fair. They weren't even phoning it in. They were bored. We were bored. It was deeply depressing. I wasn't even angry about having bought a ticket. . . I just felt bad for the performers. It was such a degrading, musically bankrupt, unpleasant experience, that I find it hard to enjoy their music now without feeling a little bit embarrassed on their behalf.
posted by eotvos at 8:40 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Every Mountain Goats show I've been to has been incredible. That said, my fandom was really launched by attending a solo Darnielle show at the Somerville Theater uh... Some years ago? I sort of enjoyed his albums prior to that but I was Brought Into the Cult upon that day.

I went to a Horse Feathers show at an incredibly tiny venue here in Maine I think last year and they had recently switched to a bigger, more electric feel, resulting in a wall of sound that made me feel happy for about a week.

Also, I dragged my wife to a Kamasi Washington show last year and it activated her latent jazz programming and now I regularly hear insane Fusion noodling coming from the living room speakers. We're going to see him again next month.

Honorable mention to the amazing Celtic singer we saw randomly in a tiny chapel in Ireland a decade ago. I think it was Pauline Scanlon. She was doing a stand there and we went back the next evening as well.
posted by selfnoise at 8:44 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


I've seen so many over the last forty years and probably have forgotten about a few. Some standouts that come to mind:

- The Police at MSG in 1981. They were still pretty scrappy and played a great stripped down set. The Tom Robinson Band opened and Jools Holland played piano during the set break.

- Jerry Garcia and John Kahn acoustic at Eisenhower Auditorium at Penn State

- Rick Danko in Crazy Carl's Brickhouse Tavern in State College. A bar about the size of an efficiency apartment and Danko was drinking juice glasses of Jim Beam but he sounded like an angel.

- David Crosby at St. John the Divine at a homeless benefit concert in the late 80's. He did a few songs with amps and then said, "lets try out the acoustics of this place" and belted out a song without his mike and managed to reach the whole cathedral with it.

- Michelle Shocked and Poi Dog Pondering at Graffiti in Pittsburgh

- Tracy Chapman and Johnny Clegg at Star Lake in Pittsburgh

- Burt Bacharach at a $100 a plate dinner at some hotel in Pittsburgh. My ex- was volunteering for the charity that was the beneficiary and got comp tickets.

- Sonic Youth at The Three River's Arts Festival. They were so loud that a medical helicopter went right over us at the outdoor show and I couldn't hear it at all.

- The Black Keys at The Three River's Arts Festival before I'd ever heard of them.

- Better Oblivion Community Center at Mr. Smalls last year.
posted by octothorpe at 8:52 AM on January 9


Mine are mostly no-name stuff at house shows; big concerts aren't entirely my jam, which I keep remembering every time I go to one.

Of stuff other people might recognize:

The Frogs at Bottom of the Hill in SF c. 2003 - the bros. Flemion were really at the height of their powers (RIP Dennis). Looks like Jimmy is "reuniting" for a tour with Evan Dando this year which is . . . interesting.

The Melvins at a free show at the Haight St. Amoeba Records mid-afternoon in the early aughts. Buzz's hair was like an amoeba of its own.

Federation X in the kitchen of a packed house party in Oakland. It was just so sloppy and rowdy and electric.

Earth at Great American Music Hall, they had just started doing their even-more-droney melodic arpeggio shit, which is somehow even more metal than the old distorted metal stuff.

Freakwater at DC9 in DC a few years back; I feel like they just get better with age.

Thinking back on it, although I've been to see tons of both house shows and bigger bands in DC, almost everything truly memorable has been at the Black Cat:

Wire, maybe six years ago. This band never stops writing. Holy shit. I had seen them before but the feel at this show was incredible.

The Makeup - just last year. One of the most energetic shows I've ever seen. No idea how Ian keeps it up, dude's well into his fifties.

The Swans. I now realize all these people are over fifty and have no idea what that means. It was a genuinely disturbing performance.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:59 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]


I guess I'll be the stick in the mud and admit I don't much care for live shows. I am not a fan of crowds and loud noises. Inevitably people singing along are either drowning out the music I'd like to hear or else the music is loud enough to damage my hearing.

I have been to a few that I enjoyed a bit though. I am trying to find the name of the festival, but I went to a show sometime around 1998-2001 that had A Perfect Circle and The Smashing Pumpkins which was all right.

We have a decent folk festival up here which I would like to go to more than I have been. I did go to the first one in 1980, so I feel a bit of a connection to it, but it's gotten so damn expensive lately. The festival is a little more chill than other concerts I've been to and one bonus (at least from previous years) has been getting musicians from different bands up and talking/playing with each other during the day on the smaller side stages. Most memorably one year right as the Odds were getting somewhat big, they seemed to be having a really good time chatting with random locals and jamming with bands like The Holmes Brothers and some northern musicians. They had their scripted set with their album art banner hanging in the background and everything in the evening, but during the day they it seemed like they were really charmed by the small town feel and community. I'm probably projecting a bit, but I bet if you asked them about it they'd remember it fondly.
posted by ODiV at 9:03 AM on January 9


We sorta just did this back in July, but I'll reprise the comment I made there because I think it's a good one:

So when I was in high school, a bunch of my friends wanted to perform at an open mic night at a coffeehouse run out of the basement of a local church. The deal was that the open mic happened after their booked show, and you had to attend the actual show if you wanted to get on the open mic. I went with them, as moral support. The performer was a mostly unknown folk singer, but she had a great vibe, was a fantastic songwriter and lyricist, and was very very funny, so I bought her cassette, but mostly forgot about her.

Until, over a year later, my friends wanted to play the open mic at the same venue, so I got a ticket - sight-unseen - to the show before the open mic, and this time I brought my new girlfriend. By a cosmic coincidence, it was the same folk singer! My girlfriend loved her too, so we bought her new cassette (and my girlfriend bought a copy of her old cassette) and one of her songs actually became "our song". At this point, I knew I was a committed fan and it was exciting to watch her gain a little fame - her song was on Dawson's Creek, and she won Album of the Year at the Gay and Lesbian American Music Awards!

She toured a lot in New England, and we were able to see her a few more times, including once in Dartmouth NH. She took requests at the end of the show, and I shouted out the name of "our song". She peered into the darkness and said "Is that my uncle? That song was on my first cassette." She ended up playing it as her encore, and it subsequently showed up on her acoustic greatest hits album (and I like to think I had something to do with that).

Years later, after our daughter was born, we found out she was playing a show in the atrium of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and it seemed like a great chance to bring our 3 or 4 year old daughter to her first ever "grown-up" concert - by now she was a fan of hers as well. We had to warn her, though, that she probably wouldn't play our daughter's favorite song - a cover of The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues (she loved the "woo hoo HOO") - and she was OK with that. Of course, she did play that cover, and my daughter was glowing like the sun.

The artist is Catie Curtis, and our song is Dandelion. I only recently learned that she is mostly retiring, as she is going to grad school for mental health counseling, so we probably won't have a chance to see her again (though if $500 drops into my lap, I am definitely hitting up her Patreon to get her to write a song for us).

Also of interest is the time we went to see Harry Connick Jr right after he had ditched Big Band for New Orleans Funk, and the furious old people storming out of the venue after two songs were worth the price of admission.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:10 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


One more! A few years ago I backed a Kickstarter for Eliza Rickman at a level to get a house concert. She played my partner's living room with a bunch of our local friends, it was the first "your friends meet my friends" type thing we did. I was full of anxiety about whether our friends would mix well together (they did) and if she'd be as nice in person as she seemed to be on stage (she wasn't -- she was even nicer!).

It was a really magical evening. Everybody we invited turned up, and she played in the living room on the family piano (which hadn't been tuned lately, but she said that was OK and fit her aesthetic) and sang. My goodness she has a beautiful voice. Hearing it in such a small and intimate space was beyond amazing. Aside from my partner, she was new to everybody who attended, but everybody seemed to really enjoy the show. And she closed with a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and that was really fun.

Can't believe I forgot this one, but aspersioncast's mention of house shows sparked a neuron. I probably didn't file it as a "live music event" because it was more of a party with a delightful guest.
posted by jzb at 9:50 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


That sounds awesome, jzb.

Hm... I wonder if I can get a jazz trio or something to play my house for my 40th birthday.
posted by ODiV at 10:03 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I have three favorite live concerts. Two of them - Everlast at Irving Plaza and Clutch at the Starland Ballroom both in the early aughts - just happened to be two shows that clicked for me. They were special to me but am not sure I could articulate why.

My third favorite is Smokey Robinson at the Syracuse Jazz Fest in 2005. Somehow my dad convinced my husband and I to wait all day at the community college where Jazz Fest was taking place to save our seats - this was a bring-your-own-chairs event. He dropped us off in the early afternoon, mumbled something about my teenage brother needing him, then sped off till the evening showtime. We were both so hungover and it was so hot. Eventually we went inside one of the open buildings and napped on a hardwood bench just to be horizontal and in the air conditioning. My god it was one of the longest days of my life. Finally my dad showed back up, the beer tents opened, and the show started.

Smokey rose from the depths of the stage in a cloud of smoke, in the sharpest hot pink suit I've ever seen. At 65 he could still hit every note and charm the crowd. The torturous afternoon somehow made the evening that much more worth it - we had paid the price, and here was our reward. The final ooooh ooooh ooooh OOOOO of Ooh Baby Baby just floated away on a perfect summer breeze and in that one moment I was in the presence of sheer musical perfection.

I hope to never forget that moment.
posted by lyssabee at 10:04 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Tops has to have been Leonard Cohen at the Paramount in Oakland, 2009. An incredible show; I was hesitant because his music meant so much to me over the course of my life and he was getting pretty old at that point - but it was magical.

Other transcendent shows: The Clientele at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco, early 2000s; Suzanne Ciani at the Don Buchla memorial in San Francisco; Beck at the Capitol Theater, Olympia, in 1994?
posted by niicholas at 10:12 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I'm going to limit it to five situations that immediately come to mind.

1. Yes - 1975 - Relayer tour. This was the first time my mind ever got properly blown by a so-called rock show. I was fifteen and just didn't understand how profoundly, astonishingly beautiful live, loud music and vision could be.

2. Einsturzende Neubauten - EXPO 86 - Vancouver. This was music/noise as weaponry, meticulously and savagely applied. The enemy in question (to my acid drenched consciousness) was complacency, the whole plastic ugliness of the World Fair in question. Neubauten tore all that down, set it on fire, killed hundreds, maybe thousands (I'm pretty sure that last part was hallucinatory).

3. Public Enemy - 1989 - Toronto. A small hall, packed. Fight The Power had yet to be released but it was the show's climax. There was a lot of concern beforehand about racial issues. Door security was insanely tight. The crowd was roughly half-and-half black and not black, with a lot tension in the room beforehand. But then Public Enemy hit the stage (brought the noise) and everybody quickly forgot about all that and got to partying for their right to fight.

4. My Bloody Valentine - 1991 - Vancouver. The Loveless tour. Simply the best sounding anything I've ever experienced. Loud beyond reason and yet not too loud. Forever clarified to me that the best music (like the best anything) is felt, it transcends any one sense, it speaks to the notion that reality itself is some kind of harmonic structure. And I wasn't even high. Not that high anyway.

5. Sigur Ros - 2013 - Vancouver. Deer Lake Park to be specific, found in the suburb of Burnaby. The rain was hard but the music was stronger. The show started a little before dusk, then carried us into night, the surrounding beauty of the park slowly giving way to just the fierce and beautiful experience of the music in question, which spoke its own unique language.

What did all these situations have in common? They changed me.
posted by philip-random at 10:27 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


This is Extremely My Jam.

I lovelovelove live music, both performed and mixed. I love to dance to music that moves me, settings and audience be damned (which has lead to people asking me for drugs, but the music is enough for me). But I'm tall, so I often awkwardly dance on the fringes, because I don't want to block someone's view and limit their experience. Tall people of the world, step it back. :)

I saw Radiohead twice in a week, both times for free, if my memory isn't mush. First a friend invited me, day of the show, to drive almost 5 hours, because a friend had a pair of tickets he couldn't use for the Shoreline Ampatheatre in the SF Bay Area, then another friend had tickets to the Santa Barbara Bowl, a much more intimate setting. I've seen The Cure there, and Beastie Boys, and ZZ Top, in the rain, with my dad.

I'll seek out music wherever I go. On a family vacation to London, I walked across what felt like the entire city, just to get to Fabric. I was clearly an odd one out, wearing shorts and not drinking or smoking. It was decent, and I can't recall who was spinning that night, but I made it there. I also saw Ra Ra Riot on a whim, trekking across Salt Lake City, thanks to a MeFite's suggestion. At first I was mixed on them, but after a few songs, it mostly clicked for me, and I danced in the back, enough so that two people complimented me on my dancing. One person asked if I had seen them before. Nope, I just like dancing.

I loved Coachella, back in the day. I went to 4 of the first 5 (or 3 of the first 4), from the very beginning, when no one had any idea what was going on, and artists sold their own merch in tents. I love the space and the sprawling sounds, and for someone who didn't have a ton of big-name groups come through my little in-between college town (it's hard to sell a big name on a college town, when they could go 2 hours north to San Francisco, or 2 hours south to Los Angeles). But there were some fantastic shows as local bars. I saw Sharon Jones there the first time, before seeing her again at Coachella. She was amazing, and I'm so sad she's gone.

Back in high school, I was into Ska, or at least my brother and his friends were, so I drove them out to youth shows, and tried to skank. Still haven't made it to a proper rave, but I don't think there are "proper" raves any more, at least anywhere near me. I get all nostalgic for times I didn't experience (or missed), listening to old tapes.

My crazy goal is to go to Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda (previously, on the collective and their festival). Maybe, some day ....
posted by filthy light thief at 11:22 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Janelle Monae. That's it, that's the whole comment.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:25 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


You know what? I have another concert that was really amazing. My good friend Jeff, who is also a Mefite (though I will not call him out... he can chime in if he wants) plays keyboards and other instrument for The Phil Henry Acoustic Trio, which I think are now the Phil Henry Band (they added a fourth, I think) and I had the pleasure of being invited to a couple of house concerts where they performed. They are a real fun folk group.

I have seen concerts just about everywhere, in every size venue, but something about seeing a group play in someone's living room was really, really special.

Go see a house concert if you can, especially if it's those guys.
posted by bondcliff at 11:26 AM on January 9


I reiterate my previous answer.
posted by saladin at 11:29 AM on January 9


Talking Heads, Canada's Wonderland, somewhere near Toronto - Aug 12, 1983.

Great fun at an outdoor concert on a summer lawn.
posted by pracowity at 11:34 AM on January 9


Also copying my comment from the July thread:
First big concert was The Who, back in the 80's. A friend in my high school mentioned that she really wanted to go. I loved them, too, so I called my dad and talked him into standing in line in front of Tower Records for hours to buy us tickets (we were literally in the school when the tickets went on sale). Still don't know why he did that for me, considering I'd gotten myself arrested just a week or two earlier. Except that he was (is) all kinds of awesome.

Also back in the 80's, saw Todd Rundgren's Utopia play a 3 hour set that was amazing. A friend threw my hat on stage, and Todd actually wore it for a song, then threw it back. Inexplicably, I actually got the hat back, but I gave it to the friend who threw it.

Saw Adam Ant back then, too, which was fun.

Favorites... so many. Radiohead, In Rainbows tour. U2, several times in the 90's. Pearl Jam last summer in Seattle. War on Drugs a couple of times (Phoebe Bridgers opened for them the first time we saw them). Gorillaz. Jack White. Florence & The Machine WITH St. Vincent AND Lizzo! Yes, back in the day. Peter Gabriel and Sting put on a good show together. Beck a couple years ago at Marrymore Park was great. Alt-J. Tori Amos. Dizzy Gillespie blew my mind (pun intended). I think the band we've seen the most is Galactic. Music is the Best!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 AM on January 9


2nd row for Tom Waits during the Mule Variations tour - I left covered in dust from the box he stomped on throughout the performance.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:54 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


A few come to mind:

Pearl Jam opening for Tom Petty at Summerfest. Every song a huge sing-a-long.

Weird Al (I'm a medium fan, but it was the most entertaining show I've ever been to).

I've been lucky enough to host two Eef Barzelay home concerts which were both so magical. Highly recommend home shows as a super intimate way to experience live music.
posted by Twicketface at 12:02 PM on January 9


Sigur ros supporting Godspeed You Black Emperor! in Aberdeen in early 2000. One of their first gigs outside Iceland.

Paddy Moloney playing with some locals in a pub in Roundwood, County Wicklow in 1984.

The Smiths at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester in 1984.

New Order, with support band James, in Hanley in 1983.

To get those memories, though, meant listening to an awful lot of boring, loud garbage.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:13 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I was working at a small-ish county fair events space in the early 2000s, and we got a lot of older acts who, I figured, could kind of be forgiven for phoning and resting on their laurels a bit. That was sort of what I expected from James Brown. I was wrong.

Say what you will about James Brown, the man didn't phone in a day in his life. That show was a religious experience.

I went to a Santana concert back when Smooth was a thing, one of my first concerts as a kid. It was a drizzly night at a partially-outdoor amphitheater. Santana was cool and all, but the opening act was Ozomatli. At the end of their set, Ozomatli announced that they were playing an extra show for the folks in the back getting wet, and the came out to the nosebleed seats and had like an unplugged dance party thing up there in the rain while Santana was setting up. I don't know if that was planned or what, but it was awesome.

Bay Area mefites may also share my fond teenage memories of the walk to the donut place up the street from the Gilman between bands. Not a musical performance, but a distinctly musical experience, in a way.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:15 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


ani difranco, acoustic with just Andy Stochansky, in my college's theatre in 1993. 94? one of those.

(The answer to this question shifts around. Today it's this.)
posted by wellred at 12:17 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I saw Muse last year and it was a blast. If it had just been the 3 band members on an empty stage it would have been a very good concert but there were costumes, lights, video screens, people coming from the floor and ceiling, and a big robotic skeleton - I don't think the band takes itself very seriously.When the skeleton popped out I started laughing because it was ridiculous and awesome. As far as I'm concerned the graphics on album the tour was for, Simulation Theory, were all of the things a kid in the 80s would think is cool, and the concert kept on going with that, which as a former kid in the 80s was pretty fun to see.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:41 PM on January 9


The Big Shows:
Indigo Girls, 1/29/98. They opened with the song that made me fall in love with them, that I'd never heard them do live (Secure Yourself). This was the song my friend (who I was with that night) bonded over, and we turned to each other and burst into tears. The rest of the was as though they asked me what I wanted to hear, it was that perfect.

The Smashing Pumpkins, with Garbage as opener 12/10/96. Garbage was spectacular, I remember the crowd was thin and thinking how much all those people were missing. The Pumpkins were good, they played really loose, and did two encores before going offstage and bringing the house lights up a bit. I was seated directly behind the sound board, and although everyone started leaving, the sound guy hadn't moved, so I waited. Maybe 7-10m go by and then they come back out and Billy says something like "Okay, now that all the posers are gone we can start the real show" and they played for another 45 minutes.

B.B. King with surprise guest Eric Clapton, sometime in 2000. They were recording the Ridin' With the King album and B.B. was playing at his Blues club in LA. Clapton was just there to see him perform, but got pulled up on stage and they did some of what they were working on.

Paul McCartney on the Back in the US tour, 10/28/2002. There was an intermission, and he came back into a full set of Beatles songs and here's the thing: I understood the crying and screaming thing at an intellectual level, and I myself have cried at concerts (see above), but I didn't get it until I was standing there experiencing it and suddenly there are tears streaming down my face in a visceral expression of joy.

Foo Fighters, opening for The Police, 06/26/2007. Anytime you get to watch someone fulfill their childhood fantasies has the potential for magic, and Dave & Taylor and the boys killed it.
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:00 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Ooh, fun thread.

I went to college with Lake Street Dive and got to see them a bunch when they were just getting together and figuring themselves out. It's fun to see them live now in huge crowds and see how far they've come.

Rite of Spring at the NY Phil with James Levine (now disgraced, but a great conductor and performance).

Mahler 8 with the CSO at Ravinia.

Sondheim accompanying Bernadette Peters singing Being Alive at a Dramatists Guild event in like 2004.

Premiere of Lee Hyla's Trans, probably his last huge piece before he died (RIP).

Elliot Carter's 90th Birthday Party concert at the Phil.

Claudia Quintet on the lower east side high on shroooooms.

Frightened Rabbit at the Wonder Ballroom. Instead of clapping for the encore everyone stomped their feet. Only time I've ever seen that. Whole place was rumbling. It was cool.

Conor Oberst in an old barn on a farm in the middle of nowhere Iowa.

Nils Frahm at the Englert. A Winged Victory for the Sullen at the Englert.

Most surprising: won free tickets to see Taylor Swift during the Red tour. Went kind of as a joke but, uh, it was awesome. I am now a huge fan.

Does my own music count? My first string quartet played by the (now Grammy award winning) Parker Quartet at Jordan Hall in Boston.

How about my least favorite? I went to college also with Vampire Weekend and my band was in a Battle of the Bands with them and they played this dumb song about Cape Cod and I was like who are these popped collar assholes playing this terrible song and I hate them to this day (and NOT because they creamed us in that competition...well...)

Good memories.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:10 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I grew up in the woods under a rock. In 1985 (wow, forever ago!) I was standing in the lobby of St. Andrews Hall in Detroit waiting to see the Pogues. The guy next to me said something, and we started chatting; I asked him if he'd heard Rum Sodomy & the Lash, as it had recently been released and was the first or second thing I'd heard from them, and he said yeah, his girlfriend was actually with the band. I remember saying, "Oh cool!" I wasn't a big fan of the Pogues yet, but I loved her voice for sure and said as much. We chatted about Detroit and the venue and who knows what else, and I could see my friends all staring and acting like freaks about fifteen feet away, and I assumed they thought I was trying to pick up or get picked up by a guy, so I tried to ignore them and just kept up with our small talk for a few more minutes before sort of rushing off once it sounded like the Pogues were about to go on. Turns out I was talking to Elvis Costello.

Ha! I had an album of his, of course, but I didn't make the connection at all since he was standing in the lobby talking to me and no one was approaching him, you know? The Pogues concert was really great, and I got a nice story out of it.
posted by heyho at 1:24 PM on January 9 [12 favorites]


Pink Floyd, dark side of the moon tour, Paris, July 1974, with the airplanes crashing into the circular screen
posted by growabrain at 1:36 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings; she was a tiny lady but she just OWNED the stage from the moment she walked on until the moment she danced off.

(She was also an early fatality of the Trump presidency, had a stroke on election night and died from it ten days later.)
posted by Paragon at 2:24 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Snooks Eaglin, live at the old Antone’s blues club in Austin in 1990.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Also wandering in on Melveen Leed singing for tourist tips at a shabby tourist joint in Honolulu after hearing her voice from the street and knowing it instantly.
posted by spitbull at 2:41 PM on January 9


James at The Paradise in Boston. They really know how to work a crowd. It was also the first time they performed Hey Ma in the US and they were sweetly nervous about how an American audience would react to the 9/11 references in the song. The crowd energy was amazing and the band hung out in the front bar after the show. I saw them again there two years later and my best friend was clever enough to bring something for them to sign after the show. What she brought was a mini decorative pumpkin that I had in my car. That night, we thoroughly confused the band, most of whom had never seen a mini pumpkin before. ("Can you eat it? What's it FOR?" Andy asked, turning the pumpkin over and over in his hands as he carefully inspected it.) Oh, and that reminds me, Andy Diagram is an absolutely lovely man who provided encouragement and guidance via email when Kid Ruki later took up trumpet in the school band.

They are my absolute favorite band to see live. So good.

Honorable mention goes to Green Day. When Kid Ruki was 15, I took her to see them. This was very sentimental for me, as the last time I had seen Green Day live, I was 15 myself. That first show was quite memorable. I mean, there wasn't much show to remember, but I will never forget looking down from the dangerously packed pedestrian bridge to see Storrow Drive flooded with people instead of cars. It was nice to eventually see a full Green Day show, with my kid, at a venue with seats, with no riot.
posted by Ruki at 2:45 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


max roach, solo with a high-hat (maybe a snare too, but pretty sure it was just the high-hat), small venue, 1996 or 1997. fascinating, entrancing couple hours with a luminary of drum.

michael hedges, earlier in the '90's, magical.

negativland, early '90's. nuff said.

marcel khalife orchestra - big ensemble, fancy lute, exciting percussion, flashy accordion, some pianist excited about manually plucking strings.

john boutté once performed in my home.

also notable: public enemy and the sisters of mercy, 1991.
posted by 20 year lurk at 2:46 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Drivin N Cryin at The Fox Theater in Atlanta - sometime in the mid 90s. They opened for themselves. They did a 45 minute acoustic set, took a break, then came back out and rocked for 2 hours.

Dan Baird with the The Del Lords opening for him at the Iota in DC in 2014ish. The Iota is basically a dive bar with a good sound system, so seeing those two bands together there was amazing. I think the ticket was $15.

Every Butch Walker show I've been to. He has a connection with his fans unlike any I've experienced with another artist. Last time I saw him (DC - 4 years ago I think) he opened the show with 4 tunes off his not yet released new album, and he didn't even need to sing because the audience knew all the words to the songs already.
posted by COD at 3:31 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


There are two shows that always tie whenever this question comes up.

May, 18, 1978, Circle Theater, Indianapolis. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Nick Lowe and Rockpile, Mink DeVille.

December 6, 1979, Vogue Theater, Indianapolis. The Ramones.

The Costello show was a real game-changer for me, in terms of my musical tastes, but I kind of give the edge to the Ramones only because seeing them live is utterly unlike any of their studio recordings. The studio stuff is ok, but kind of tame. Live, though, they were an unrelenting, high-speed, sonic buzzsaw. It was beyond wonderful. Easily the loudest show I ever went to. They played straight-through with no breaks. Here’s the setlist.

I took my then-bride-to-be. Nice, upstanding, church-going girl, she. She gets the oddest looks from people when she tells them she saw the Ramones.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:50 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


The Prodigy at Parc des Princes, late nineties. All the RATM fans from earlier in the lineup had fucked off (love RATM) and everyone was dancing like utter maniacs, Keith was in the crowd fighting people, and some fit lad was walking round painting faces.
(China Drum in Munich, ADF at Sankey's, Alabama 3 in Camden,....)

Sufi icon Abida Parveen at the Barbican this summer. Four hours of intense devotional music for a religion I don't follow in languages I don't understand, passed like minutes. Audience were hanging on her every word, her accompanists were out of this world, she was just magnificent.

Leonard Cohen, early 2000s, at the Waldbühne in Berlin. I had to be dragged there kicking and screaming cos literally all I knew of his was the ?Pixies cover of Everybody Knows off the "Pump up the Volume" soundtrack. Well of course I fell in lurrrrve. And things. Guy was FUNNY, could WEAR a fedora, and was so COURTEOUS to his incredible backing singers and band members. Sigh. And the venue didn't hurt - open-air sunken amphitheatre, all you could see was stars, sky and trees, and the beer came ROUND to your seat.

Barmer Boys in Berlin - Rajasthani folk with beatboxing. They always have SUCH a good time, crowd goes bonkers.

And just because: Smashing Pumpkins at Sendai, Japan in 2000, cos I was ded excited to see them but also cos Keanu Reeves was in the row behind us and said "helloooo" in a very deep voice and we were not the slightest bit cool about it.

Honorable mentions: Savages - electrifying, the genuine article. Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton. Separately unfortunately. Both just such stars, working their absolute WHATSITS off to entertain you. Both funny AS, and mindblowingly talented obvs, and the iconicness was just sliceable. Motorhead, with Lemmy also lovely, cracking himself up with the Northern grandad jokes, everybody twirling in circles and carefully stepping over the bodies. Seeed - German pop dancehall - really putting their backs into the choreography. Ash and Therapy? countless times for the dorky joy and catharsis.

Jesus I love live music.
posted by runincircles at 3:54 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


In no particular order:

A smallish Ingrid Michaelson show in Salt Lake City in 2009 or 2010-I didn't know any of her work at the time and was completely enchanted.

A Great Big Sea concert at the Orpheum in Boston with an INCREDIBLY drunk but happy crowd. For the last encore they completely unplugged and sang a sweet, simple folk song acapella and it still gives me chills thinking about it.

The Beyonce Mrs. Carter world tour. No other big arena show I've been to has touched it (I would have LOVED to see her again after the visual album or Lemonade, but, alas.)

The Decemberists at the House of Blues in Boston, both because it was a great show and because I went with my sister and she found out, like, the next day that she was pregnant with her first kid (who naturally also likes the Decemberists.)
posted by LadyNibbler at 3:56 PM on January 9


I've been to many significant shows (personal and/or historical) in my years, but a recent one was seeing Yo La Tengo at the Masonic Auditorium in SF in 2015. There's a certain kind of band that I wonder how everybody doesn't love them and they aren't the most popular band in the world, and YLT is just that perfect to me.

I had not listened to them in years, but that week I had randomly gone on a YLT YouTube bender, and on that Sunday, a day of no particular significance, I thought to myself, "I should go see them next time they come around. I wonder when they're touring." I check their website, and it turns out they're playing at the Masonic that night! Reader, I am not given to spirituality, but the thought occurred to me. I had also never been to the Masonic, which was a glaring blankspot in my local concertgoing history.

Lonely, bored, and depressed for months, it turned out that the best ticket available from the evil Ticketmaster dispensary was in the front row of the balcony. Not bad! and suitable to my desire not to even risk having my sightlines blocked. Before I could talk myself out of it (the venue was all the way over in the middle of town next to one of my favorite bars, after all), I bought the ticket, traveled over, sat down, and parked my chin on the railing in front of me.

The show was both a good YLT show and just what I needed, not to mention that while all of their songs are great, they played THE ONE SONG I was specifically hoping they would, and I'm NEVER a setlist-hoper. But like I said, everything they've ever done is perfect so it probably didn't stick out for anybody else as much as it did for me.
posted by rhizome at 4:07 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I saw NMH on that tour in Toronto.

It was a music festival located sort of under a highway, with a lineup that was kind of amazing given the relatively small scale of the thing. Andrew Bird, the Strumbellas (also a favorite!), Jeff Tweedy, and, somehow, the Violent Femmes... Oh, yeah, and NMH. Who played on the main stage, following up for... Gogol Bordello, who had just stomped around the stage screaming and throwing wine on the audience, as they are wont to do.

The NMH set was, indeed, transcendent. I didn't have much in the way of expectations: they split 15 years previous, after all. But it was clear that the whole band had really matured as musicians since recording 'Aeroplane.' It was gorgeous.

And there were a bunch of Gogol Bordello fans who had no idea what they were seeing, occasionally yelling about Jeff's beard between the songs. I may have punched one of them.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:24 PM on January 9


Yo La Tengo at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, 2007: they were doing some odd tour that they said on their website was kind of like "Storytellers" on VH1, and were playing a bunch of different types of venues, hence the art museum (still in an auditorium). It was kind of an unplugged show, but the highlight was a version of "Autumn Sweater" that was quite different from the album version (which is a favorite of a lot people but I've never really cared for). If I had that version recorded I would listen to it all the time.

I went to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Brick By Brick in San Diego, maybe in 2002. When I got there, the opening band was onstage, backlit in green and drowned in a sea of fog. I couldn't see many details, but I could tell that there were something like 8 people on stage, with two drummers, so I figured that BRMC (only a trio) was some kind of cool band that was friends with their openers and decided to play with them during their set. But no, that band was the Warlocks, who have since gone through many lineup changes and reductions in size and are still one of my favorites.

I went to Coachella in 2002 and 2004, back when you could still get single day tickets. In 2004, it was insanely hot so I ducked into one of the tents where they were showing Dig!, a movie about the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. This was also the Coachella where the Pixies reunited for the first time - I was about 50 feet from the stage during the band that preceded them (Sparta), but could tell that I was going to faint if I didn't get some water, so I abandoned my post to get some beverages, and when I came back I had to be content to be way at the back. :( Radiohead closed. I left, got in my truck, and sat there for 20 minutes while nobody in the parking lot moved, so I climbed into the bed and took a little nap. I ended up getting back home after sunrise.

I also managed to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Casbah in San Diego a few times. The first time, they were ON and completely dialed in. Anton Newcombe said about halfway through their set that they had about 50 more songs to play, and they damn near tried. They finished their encore by leaning their guitars against their amps while the bass and drum player rocked out to the feedback.

Morphine at Trax in Charlottesville, VA, 1996-ish: Everyone was into it, and after their halfway point, Mark Sandman started referring to pretty much every song as an encore.
posted by LionIndex at 6:54 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Despite the fact that I have seen Phish many dozens of times, I don't otherwise get out to see live music a ton. Maybe once or twice a year. I'm a homebody.

Nick Cave puts on one hell of a show. I've seen him maybe 4 times? Five? He's got a message for you and he'll be damned if you walk out of there without recieving it. We've seen him at the Black Cat in DC (Neko Case opened), two nights at the Roseland in NYC, and most recently at the Carnegie Music Hall here in Pittsburgh.

We saw Puddles Pity Party last year at another Carnegie Music Hall and that was probably the most singular live show I've been to.

Of the various Very Old Dudes, Roger Waters was a good time. I saw Martin Carthy in the back room of a pub in Sheffield and that was sort of a dream come true though he didn't really play the stuff that I love him most for. But we all had a Bright Phoebus sing-along and it was grand.

I've seen Bob Dylan three times and two of them were a couple of the worst concerts I've ever been to. I don't know why I kept going back. Last time Mavis Staples opened so I didn't go away unsatisfied, but, ugh, Bob why?

There's a local band here in Pittsburgh that was Big In The 80s who recently reformed and started playing out again and I had a great time seeing then in high school and I'm having a great time seeing them now even though we are all old.

As far as Phish is concerned, I can't really rank. I've seen them so many times, it's so wrapped up in friends and travails (when you put so much effort into just getting to a show, the objective quality becomes sort of immaterial), it's all kind of a happy blur. I didn't see them for about 15 years, but they came round in December and played the arena at the university I work at so I figured what the fuck and I went, by myself. It was great! They were great! I still remember every stupid word to AC/DC Bag!
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:12 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


First concert I went to: Boxcar Willie at Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, 1979.

First time I was allowed to take the train to London without parents, two weeks after my high school graduation: INXS at Wembley Arena in London, June 1988.

First time in a moshpit: the Dead Milkmen at the Rat in Boston, 1989-ish.

First time seeing Ed's Redeeming Qualities: Ed's Redeeming Qualities at the Middle East in Cambridge, 1990.

First time seeing Ani DiFranco: Ani DiFranco at the Iron Horse in Northampton, 1993. It was just her with an acoustic guitar and I paid $5.

First/only time seeing Morphine with whom I continue to be in love: Morphine at Pearl Street in Northampton, 2006.

First/only time seeing a semi-obscure punk band *in* LA (OK it was suburb but whatever): Lazy Cowgirls at some tiny suburban dive bar in a suburb, 2001 or 2.

First time going to NoisePop: Moldy Peaches at the Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, 2002.
posted by bendy at 8:17 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


The Grateful Dead, 1973, Iowa City, IA.
The Keith Jarrett Quartet (KJ, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian), 1976, Missoula, MT.

The 90 minutes of KJ pretty much equaled the mind-bend of the 4+ hours of the GD. Mind very well-bent on both (and just on the music :) ).
posted by ClingClang at 8:17 PM on January 9


I once attended a Who concert, with two other strangers. They were the warm up band for Herman's Hermits, and were on a side stage. I was right at the edge of the low stage, they broke their instruments at the end, as was their style. They were great then, and will always be. I once attended a Taj Mahal concert, which introduced me to transcending time, and the intimacy of the musical experience, he was and is a master.
posted by Oyéah at 8:26 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I have more answers to this than I thought I would!

For the full experience, in 2006 I went to see the 1931 Dracula screened with Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet performing the score live in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Right as it was starting, a bunch of bats flew over where my friends and I were sitting. About fifteen minutes in, there was a huge crash of thunder, the sky opened up, and everyone was hustled out of the park as a spectacular thunderstorm dumped buckets of water on us. I was disappointed not to hear more of the music, but it's a good story.

I saw the original School of Seven Bells twice, once outside in Manhattan where the music ricocheted off buildings in an interesting way and once in an enclosed space where we were just immersed in sound. Both were gorgeous.

I went to see Sweet Honey in the Rock at Carnegie Hall many years ago and it was like a religious experience. The friend I was with says their music is what she does instead of therapy.

Watching Florence and the Machine live a few years ago, I was blown away by her showmanship and ability to sing on key at the top of her lungs while RUNNING.

And my ex and I went to see the Arcade Fire in the Gorge Amphitheater when she was seven months pregnant with our daughter. This was the tour where they asked everyone to dress up , so we got fancy and spent a night in a very surreal crowd, floating on music and not thinking about where we were going to put a baby in our small house.
posted by centrifugal at 9:28 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


hmmmm - I thought this was a post about live music concerts, not necessarily pop/rock/rap concerts, so maybe I'm in the wrong room, but a few highlights in a lifetime of music concerts:
- Seeing/hearing Aaron Copeland conduct the Denver Symphony (sometime in the 60's?), they played "Quiet City" and I was moved to tears
- Seeing Doc and Merle Watson in a tiny venue (The Denver Folklore Center) in the 60's. He was so funny and so damn good. I think my mouth was just hanging open most of the concert.
- Seeing Jimi Hendrix on his first album tour (also in Denver) - rocked my 14-year-old mind
- Seeing Liz Carroll play set after set of fabulous Irish fiddle music in Killarney (at The Gathering). She was having such a good time, and is such a great, expressive player and composer
- Hearing a brass quartet play in the St Thomas Cathedral in Denver - the acoustics and music selections were celestial
- Seeing Annie Lennox at the EMP Grand Opening concerts, right after an incomprehensible Alanis Morisette. Annie ruled the stage in ways Alanis could only dream of.
posted by dbmcd at 9:48 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


May, 18, 1978, Circle Theater, Indianapolis. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Nick Lowe and Rockpile, Mink DeVille.

Hey, I saw the Buffalo show of that tour, April 25.
posted by pracowity at 12:49 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't really listen to music so this is weird, but I have had some good concert experiences.

In maybe 2001 I went to see Cyprus Hill at the Philadelphia Spectrum (or was it gone by then? Maybe it was - God I just googled it - the First Union Center) and Linkin Park opened for them. I had no interest in Linkin Park at the time, but they were amazing. Cypress Hill was... Fine I guess.

Around the same year I saw Tom Petty at the Camden Waterfront. We actually had seats for once rather than GA tickets on the grass, and it rained like I had never seen it rain before. Petty was (obviously) awesome, but the combination with the wild weather was divine.

In hindsight, a show I saw in maybe 1993, House of Pain and Cypress Hill at the Drexel Armory. I was a high school freshman at the time and was more excited about being at a show unsupervised than I was about the musical experience. Oh well.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:14 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Acid Mothers Temple at a tiny club 2 years ago. Mind-boggling, they’re playing here again this Spring.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:54 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Every Mountain Goats show I've been to has been incredible. That said, my fandom was really launched by attending a solo Darnielle show at the Somerville Theater uh... Some years ago? I sort of enjoyed his albums prior to that but I was Brought Into the Cult upon that day.

I came here to say this exact thing! The first time I saw the Mountain Goats it was just Darnielle. Without the rest of the band, he was very chatty, told a lot of stories. It was wonderful. I've loved every show I've seen since then, too, but I really hope I get a chance to see him solo again sometime.
posted by Orlop at 5:35 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Most of my favorite live shows have been Jason Webley shows. He got his start as a busker around Seattle, and is an amazing musician, showman, storyteller, and performance artist. He plays piano, guitar, and a jug filled with coins, but is mainly known for his spectacular accordion work.

His shows are often planned and choreographed for months. Back in the early 2000s he used to have an annual "death-day" show where he would symbolically die at the end of his show and wouldn't be seen locally for months (this is when he usually went on tour). Then he'd be "reborn," often with new songs and gimmicks, at a springtime show.

We fans were devoted, especially in those days. I was in high school and college in the 2000s and went to every one of his shows I was able to. When I attended University of Edinburgh during a year-long exchange program, I skipped classes to travel to the south of England and catch him touring in Brighton. I still see him occasionally, but I live on the US east coast so it's not quite as frequent as when I lived in Seattle.

One of my favorite Webley shows was here in DC a couple of years ago. He played a show at an anarchist collective house. He only played two songs--which were woven into a bizarre, and entirely true, story that was ostensibly about giraffes. It was two hours long. Everyone was on the edge of their seats the entire time. The man has a real talent.
posted by sugar and confetti at 6:32 AM on January 10


I posted about my #1 last year here.

Other than that, probably Sonic Youth at the Fillmore in S.F. in 2002. We got there a little late, but people in S.F. are very non-violent so we just pushed our way to the front (people seemed bemused by our lack of manners). Imperial Teen opened, they were great, then S.Y. comes on and I finally understood (like a mefite watching Cats high) what they where about, man, you know? I got the textures, the spatiality, the interplay, the physicality of their sound, much beyond simple harmony. It can't really be captured on record, you had to be there.
And I wasn't even on anything, swear to god.
posted by signal at 8:05 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Soundgarden in 1991, the same show mentioned at item 2 here. The audience was about 30 people, most of whom were in the respectful mosh pit. It was amazing. Walking back to my dorm, I noticed a drop or two of someone else's blood on my shirt.
posted by exogenous at 8:49 AM on January 10


I forgot my first concert. John Miles and Boz Scaggs opening for Elton John, Rich Stadium, Buffalo, Aug 7 1976. We were 14-17 years old and it was more exciting than our gang of teenage brains could handle. A football stadium packed from bottom to top, field and stands, a giant bowl of surging people thumped by a wall of speakers -- it was the "Louder Than Concorde (But Not Quite As Pretty)" tour -- that surely did no one's hearing any good. We knew almost every Elton song by heart because we were serious fans. We had Elton John on vinyl for home and Elton John on 8-Track for the car.

That must have been right around when I first heard Changesonebowie.
posted by pracowity at 10:20 AM on January 10


I went to high school with Johnny Lytle's son, Marcel. As a graduation gift, he brought his band to school and played a fantastic concert. It was a fantastic concert, very personal.
posted by Mom at 10:38 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Think it was 1994 or 1995. Saw Rush and the Chili Peppers opened so I use the restroom. I see a payphone and called my friends to say hey, made it and my friend says:
"IS THAT FLEA DOING A SOLO....what are calling me for... LEAVE THE RECEIVER, TAKE A SEAT."
posted by clavdivs at 8:22 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Johnny Guitar Watson at the Paramount 1979.
Grateful Dead at Eagles Auditorium 1968: Saw the Dead several times thereafter but that time it was with Pigpen still alive and amid a crowd of 300. A hypnotic slow lava flow Viola Lee was the high point.
Jonathan Richman 8 or 9 times over the past few decades.
Bob Dylan and the Band at the Arena in 1972.
Son House at the Medicine Show Tavern on Pike Street in 1969. Son House: what else need I say ?
I also saw Bukka White and Mississippi Fred McDowell in the 60s.
Taj Mahal solo and the Mahavishnu Orchestra at the Paramount in the 70s. Now that was a double bill...
Ramblin' Jack Elliott at the Sky River Rock Festival in 1968 and seven or eight times since.
Laura Nyro solo at the Paramount in 1970.
John Fahey at Kane Hall in 1970 something....
Oh, I could go on... But those stand out tonight.
posted by y2karl at 10:04 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Jethro Tull Songs from the Wood Tour at Radio City. Amazing lighting and sound. Good LSD.

Queen at Cobo Arena 1978. Two nights.

Frank Zappa Halloween 1977. Great LSD, freaky show.
posted by Splunge at 10:19 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


I forgot about Ivor Cutler in '87?
He played auditorium 2 at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. At the time those two rooms were the best venues acoustically in the city and each could hold an audience of maybe a hundred people.
The night Mr Cutler played Psychic TV were playing auditorium 1 at the same time. The sound proofing was good enough we weren't irritated by whatever racket they were making next door but both concerts had an intermission at the same time so we IC fans got to look down on the spiteful little balls of leather and spikes for their pedestrian and bourgeois musical tastes.
Mr Cutler was wise and clever and funny of course. Also a thousand times weirder than PTV.
Here's Gruts for Tea for those who don't know him
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:58 AM on January 11


Splunge, you and I were on a similar tack back in 77-78. Different towns. Same shows. Though I wouldn't be mixing with the lysergics until a little later.

And speaking of that Tull Songs From The Wood tour, this is a great document.

cued to the calm before a storming climax.
posted by philip-random at 11:18 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Just saw Mavis Staples. Show ended 30 minutes ago. That was intense. It was all amazing, but my favorite moment had to be when they played 'Slippery People' from the Talking Heads, because it was so unexpected and so perfect. The band was very tight, and her voice is so fierce and so gorgeous. Hour and a half flew by.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:37 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


71 comments and not a single mention of a Springsteen show? I have never felt so alone on Metafilter.
posted by she's not there at 12:19 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Clapton (1996?) at the Alamodome in San Antonio was quite an experience, but exactly what you’d expect. I saw B.B. King in 2000 at a small outdoor venue off the Concho River in San Angelo, Tx. He was 75, and slowing down. Only played about an hour and sat the whole time, but still electrifying with a guitar in his hands. Willie Nelson sometime around 2003 or 2004 in El Paso, a show I loved so much it made up for how much I hated David Allen Coe’s opening performance.

Those are the big names. The most surprising fun I’ve had was when I took a chance on The Bills, whom I’d never heard of, and just had a blast. Their lead singer brought amazing energy to the show, and the band hung around and talked to everyone afterward.

Finally, I see Trout Fishing in America every chance I get, starting in 1991. I’ve taken my kids to their children’s shows, which they are best known for, but it’s their grown-up music I really love. I’ve probably played their “Over the Limit” album more than anything else I have. Check out Sam’s Last Boogie for starters.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:20 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Paramount in Seattle, I think it was 1986. It was after he sobered up. He was infectiously joyful playing music, and the way he interacted with his band mates was lovely. Bonnie Raitt opened, and he brought her onstage to jam on a few songs. It really felt like he had personally invited the audience in to share something special and meaningful.

Los Angeles Philharmonic performing the complete Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel, conducted be Essa Pekka Salonen, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Perfect venue for a piece that has delicacy. The music was mesmerizing and to me it became this morphing crystalline entity hovering above the stage. I have never been so transported by a classical performance as I was at that concert. Several years ago, I don't remember exactly when it was, but more than 12 years ago.

Dudley Moore performing a Mozart piano concerto and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Seattle Symphony, followed by a solo act with him performing several of his classic bits at the piano. He was an amazing performer. The Mozart wasn't exactly his string suit, but the Gershwin was stellar, and his comedy was brilliant.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 12:03 PM on January 12


71 comments and not a single mention of a Springsteen show? I have never felt so alone on Metafilter.

if I'd allowed myself more than five choices, his 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town concert in Vancouver would have made my list.
posted by philip-random at 12:22 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Oh man, so many shows. A lot of my favorite shows aren't what most people would recognize as a concert.

These range from experimental noise shows where the artist played nothing but effects pedals and the self-noise of a small mixer so frenetically he bled rather a lot.

To a hardcore techno DJ set at an outdoor party where his fans were pissed that he was both late and also demoted to a much smaller sound system, which his fans decided to (very carefully) pick up both strapped and tied stacks of speakers (about twice the size and 5x the weight of a large upright luxury fridge) and collectively keep them both in the air shaking to the 150+ BPM beat the entire length of the DJs set. This was one of the wildest things I've ever seen. People were even sitting up on top of the speakers while they were being collectively held in the air and the hardcore techno fans danced around them like some kind of spontaneous religious ritual with the speakers as an idol.

There's also a lot of ephemeral moments, being deep in the middle of deserts or forests with just a surreal amount of speakers and loud music and beautiful people of all shapes and sizes just smiling and enjoying being together and dancing all going on with the glorious backdrop of being deep in nature. Especially when surrounded by people who were almost violently "leave no trace" and knowing we'd only leave a lot footsteps, and further would leave with more trash then we arrived with.

But one of my favorite shows of all has to be Windy and Carl for one of the Optical showcases with Decibel Festival in Seattle. I've talked about this somewhere before on MeFi. For this show, Windy and Carl basically came out of retirement to play what was collectively understood to be - theoretically - one last, last show.

This requires some history.

I volunteered with Decibel for a few years, and it was a lot of fun but it's also a ridiculous amount of work. I think the last year I did it, some of the math came down to like 30 hours of logged volunteering, 15-20 hours of unlogged volunteering (picking up trash, jumping in at random with other teams, ambassadorship in the field, misc) and then attending something like 30-40 hours of shows, educational panels, events or other social engagements on top of the volunteering in the space of about five and a half days.

For the Windy and Carl show, thankfully I wasn't volunteering. Even better, it was going to be at the Triple Door - a really rather nice dinner/concert venue with a bunch of stadium seating booths, great sound and acoustics and is like something out of the swanky jazzy 50s and a bygone era. Even I was going with a bunch of friends and we were going to get dressed up and really enjoy ourselves.

Even better than that, the friends that I was going to be attending the show with I'd known for a long time going back to childhood. And about 20 years before this show, Windy and Carl had played a little art gallery show we'd put together as young adults. They played for our little shows a couple of times and visited the community radio station we were involved in and similar very small shows.

That show was in a very dusty, dim and mostly unfinished basement of a sprawling Victorian era building converted to art studios and galleries. For speakers we had a very basic set of very old EVs and mobile DJ we often borrowed from the radio station. We didn't even think of providing seating back then, or much more than having a few jugs of drinking water available. If someone wanted to sit they were welcome to sit on the floor wherever they wished or lean against the blank, dirty walls. We had a couple of old metal shaded clip on shop lights with gels. We basically had nothing back then and it was pretty much held together with hopes and dreams, and it was basically all about the music and nothing else really.

I think it was attended by, oh, 20 ish people. Maybe 30. Most of those people were just us and our friends, some of whom were also going to perform. There were some curious local artists from the building, and then there was a maybe a couple or even a few random Windy and Carl fans who didn't fit into those first categories that managed to hear about the show.

That show ended up being just totally magical as far as the music was concerned because of the accidental acoustics of the location and utter lack of furniture and very sparse attendence. The whole unfinished concrete basement room was a giant reverb tank. Windy and Carl play with guitars and amps and long delay reverb. It's a pretty ideal combination, like chocolate and peanut butter, or maybe just chocolate with more chocolate.

If you had told me back then during that show that in about twenty years that I would be seeing Windy and Carl perform at one of the fanciest music venues in Seattle I wouldn't believe you. Further, that I'd be looking forward to getting dressed up nice and putting on my best shoes, coat and jacket. If you told me that I might actually have reacted poorly and even got mad about it. At best I would have thought you were bonkers.

But there I was in the Triple Door in my nice clothes having fancy cocktails and dinner with my friends, lounging in the overstuffed comfy booths letting waves of warm, soothing sound wash over us and just feeling really mellow, warm and smooth. The sound and acoustics were absolutely amazing. The audience was very attentive, rapt with attention, reverent - not talking or chatting all over the relatively quiet and subtly of the droning ambient, whispering mouth to ear if they did chat.

And as the show progressed, I was looking around me and seeing so many familiar faces. Not just at my booth, all around the theater. The experimental/ambient music scene is really small and close knit, and if you did a degrees of separation map on everyone in the room it probably wouldn't ever climb past two degrees of separation between any two people there. If they didn't already know each other, they had a mutual friend or other direct connection. I was recognizing faces from entire other decades, people who would have traveled some distance to be there.

I remember noticing that I wasn't the only person noticing this and starting to crane their neck to look around at the audience more and more, people waving at each other excitedly or even getting up to (quietly) rush across the venue to give someone a hug and join their booth. All over the venue people were trading booths and joining other tables to visit each other for a drink.

I have no idea how the servers and ushers managed this chaos. At this point in show I remember seeing the lead host just roll her eyes and shrug with the universal palms-up and say something like "I have no idea what the fuck to do about this. At least they're awfully polite and friendly."

So, it wasn't just the concert itself. I remember feeling really at home and just validated, that we'd made it or something. That we weren't just nerds with weird musical tastes, outsiders looking in at the popular music industry.

And it was also that it was a family reunion.

And I remember the last song they played and how they just very quietly and reverently put down their guitars from their laps and turned off the guitar amps next to them and the house lights came up basically half the house immediately stood up and rushed the stage as a huge friendly mob. It was a huge hug fest and people were crying in joy and it was just absolutely amazing.

If I recall it took the Triple Door at least half an hour to maybe a full hour to clear the theater. It just couldn't be helped, there no where else we could go and all be together for a moment. There was like 150 people trying to say hello to each other as well as Windy and Carl and vice versa.
posted by loquacious at 2:08 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Devo played a free live outdoor show at Lower Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley Campus in the early nineties. Utterly delightful. One classmate could not stop singing "Girl U Want" all day.
More recently, I saw Morton Subotnik debut "As I Live and Breathe" in the Mission. Lively piece based around samples of him breathing and humming into a live mike. It ended with a callback to an earlier piece of his, "A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur," an old favorite. Paired with some really beautiful abstract images projected on a screen behind him. Good serotonin boost for a middle aged experimental music nerd.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 3:07 PM on January 12


I realized I forgot two concerts that also blew me away. That I must rectify. And hereby toss in two more shows for lagniappe. The Police and Specials at the Showbox in 1980 for one, the Skatalites and Bad Manners at the UW Hub sometime in the 90s for another.

Lagniappe includes Burning Spear at the self same Showbox because, well, Burning Spear. Need I say more ? And Al Green at the Colosseum at one 80s Bumbershoot some years back, because, well, Al Green. Need I say more ?

In the case of Al Green and Winston Rodney aka Burning Spear, concerts came after interviews for the Rocket. In person for Spear and over the phone the the night before the Reverend Al Green. And speaking of Bumbershoot, Clifton Chenier in 1973 or so was the bestest of Bumbershoots than ever. This was a year or two before the auto accident that left him playing seated forever after. When he hit the opening riff on his accordion, long haired hippie after long haired hippie started pogoing stagewards in paroxysms like spider monkeys on cantharides. Zydeco at that time was like color TV in the 1950s -- everyone had heard of it but never had seen it.

But where was I ? Back to Le Ska Nouvelle. And, ah, yes, the Specials. Man, way back when, they were on fire. Everyone in the line up chugging double time, running in place and came with a dedicated dancer in an iridescent shark skin suit who demonstrated head banging up close for the skataliciously deprived local audience. Who had never seen a flat top crew cut deployed as a bohemian hair style before. Seattle still being into the lefty mullet of whacked in front and hippie in back in those days.

The Specials were, simply put. Whereas the Police were simply Meh. Mehsters of ceremony, as it were. A ceremony of lame. God, Roxanne took forever.

And as for Bad Manners, that Mr. Fatty Buster Bloodvessel came as advertised with shaved head in transparent rain coat, combat boots and black jock strap. He just tore the place up from Wooly Bully on. Man, those 80s English ska groups were something else -- like giant hummingbirds on steroids. Incroyable.

But, it's funny -- the kids at the Bad Manners/Skatalites concert at the UW gave the latter the knee clutching props the venerable OG latter deserved but overall seemed lost by the supple grace of their groove. Hummingbirds they were not. Masters they were.
posted by y2karl at 12:06 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I forgot: 2001 Tool, in Sacramento, touring off of Lateralus, with frikkin' Tricky as the opening act.
posted by signal at 1:16 PM on January 14


I just saw Heilung in San Francisco and they were magnificent. Part concert, part theatrical performance, all ritual. Plus they invited local tribal elders to purify the space and lead everyone in a prayer instead of having an opening band.
posted by ananci at 7:39 PM on January 16


One of the first shows I ever went to made all my synapses fire at once. It exposed me to the power of high volume, goofy theatrics, a shtick with costumes, catchy melodic hooks and repetition. It changed my horizons of the thinkable.

When I was eight, the local high school kids would go door-to-door to sell tickets for their pops concert, so we went as a family.

I know now that the warm-up band for the school jazz band was a devo cover band, but at the time, I thought they were from Mars. They came out in coveralls and welding masks from shop class and played a blistering version of Uncontrollable Urge with its opening salvo "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah, yeah!" I was totally transfixed.

After they played a few tunes, the jazz big band came on, and played Birdland by Weather Report (which now makes me think--kudos to that high school music teacher for getting kids to that level). I had no reference point to know that it was an emblematic fusion tune, and arguably kinda cheesy--or that maybe, if I liked the devo, I shouldn't like the Weather Report too. All I knew at the time is that I got completely caught in the hooky melodies of that tune, and the way it builds up into this jaunty, syncopated, sunny loop at the end. It just kept building until it was almost unbearably pleasurable.

The devo softened me up, and the weather report finished me off, and I left that show with those tunes in my head for weeks. OOooh. So this is what music can do to you.
posted by umbú at 9:35 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I too remember hearing Birdland for the first time and loving it, which would have probably been about 7th grade. I don't want to deflate you, but I remember that being the age because I think my Junior High Jazz Band (8th graders) played it. As a former School Jazz Band member, I'm almost certain that the arrangement we used did not include the Jaco parts, which simplifies the song greatly. Kids can also be quite good musicians, you might be surprised!

This brings up my first first concert, which was Maynard Ferguson in the summer of '82. My cousin and I were big band buddies and friendly with our Junior High music teacher, who we were alway pestering for jazz recommendations because we were hep 13 year olds. Being also bored (pre)adolescents, we spent a couple weeks after 8th grade repainting the band equipment room and adding a jaunty stripe. It took us a couple weeks, and after it was finished, our teacher said "hey I got these tickets to Maynard Ferguson," whom we knew of because we played another young Jazz Band favorite, "Gospel John."

It was a seated show at the Great American Music Hall in SF (the only seated show there I've ever been to, and I've gone there a lot), and to get there we walked through early-80s Tenderloin, a mustachioed 30ish man with two 13 year olds in tow obviously not his children. That was the first time I saw predatory looks from strangers on the street. It was great! My tastes progressed past Maynard as the years went on, but he'll always have a special place in my music history.

But my conversational first concert was Stray Cats a couple months later. My brother and I really had to work our parents for permission on that one (he was a few years older, already going to shows for a couple years). You don't have to dislike Lenore Skenazy to go "wow" at a couple of 16 year olds taking a 13 year old to a nightclub show in the big city! Now that was sensory overload. I had never seen punk culture before, and that was the Stray Cats' crowd in the beginning. It was also a small club, and I got quite close and had almost no idea what was going on. "This is much more than The Clash on Fridays," I might have thought to myself. I remember smelling pot for the first time there, too.
posted by rhizome at 11:09 AM on January 17


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