Monday, January 18, 2010

My Decade in Rock 'n' Roll Shows 2000-2009, #30-16

We're finally winding down all this blasted nostalgia Picasso Blue. First, we talked up a storm about the top 100 albums of the decade. Then came the top 50 EPs of the decade. Now it's time to color in the margins - live shows. Top 30 of 'em, to be exact. I started going to concerts in 2001. My dad drove my cousin Mike and I to the Electric Factory to see New Found Glory, H2O, River City High, and Rx Bandits. It was a phenomenal night, I geeked out over NFG, and I went home with a headache from all the noise. Since then my hearing has been damaged to the point that concerts don't bother me anymore. Of course, I also have to ask people to repeat things when speaking at "normal/sane" volume. But hey, I'm 24. That's just old age kicking in, right?

Speaking of getting older, as much as I lived for concerts in high school and college - seeing my favorite bands in all their electric splendor - I really do feel like a creepster at concerts now. The highlight/low point was when some crust punk chick who couldn't have been older than 16 tried getting me to dance at an Against Me! concert. I was "only" 22 at that point, but man did it do a number on me brain. It was like, "First of all, I gots a girlfriend. Second of all, you were born after Masters of the Universe came out. On VHS." Rock shows are for the young.

Yet there's something that keeps dragging me out to see my fave-o-rite bands, regardless of personal injury. And hey, there's always a Bruce Springsteen or Tori Amos show to make me feel of median age again, right?

So here's the deal; I tried to remember these shows as best as I could. Concerts I wrote reviews of at the time have been linked; this is a time where documents written "in the moment" can explain so much more than I can right now. Anyway, here's one last attempt to color in the margins and maybe give some insight into why this past decade was actually pretty good, minus the natural disasters, economic pitfalls, terrorist attacks, and other shitty bric-a-brac.

Top 30 Shows of My Generation, #30-15

30. The Secret Machines, Bellmer Dolls, and The Sunshine Recorder at the North Star Bar April 28, 2008

While they didn’t crack my top 100 albums of the decade, the Secret Machines definitely gave me plenty of good tunes during that time period. All three of their records are essential listening of the space rock variety. Likewise, all three shows I’ve seen the band perform have been spectacular. The best night was at the North Star Bar in 2008. I was stressed out from finals and nearly broke. Paul Tsikitas of Poseidon fame convinced me to see TSM in the small venue, but which I mean I said no when he first brought it up and then I realized what an idiot I was for doing so. I’ve seen TSM at the TLA and the Trocadero; both venues have better sound. But North Star offered me the best experience – up against the stage, I could hear every bit of banter from the band members and feel every hit from drummer Josh Garza. That dude has always been billed as the muscle behind TSM’s sound; standing that close to him taught me just how true those sentiments ring. The set list spanned the group’s first two albums, slipping in the occasional new tune from their then-unreleased self-titled effort. I got to meet the band before and after their set, which was cool too. Those guys are really, really nice. Oh yeah, and they played pretty much everything I wanted to hear.

29. AFI, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Nightmare of You at the Electric Factory June 24, 2006

If yer gonna see A Fire Inside, see ’em with Fanboy Prime Eric “Jaen” Crack. That guy loves frontman Davey Havok something fierce. Good thing the bands were as devoted to the music as he is. Openers Nightmare of You and Dillinger Escape Plan sound nothing alike, but they had a common thread in AFI, who expertly balanced goth pop and hardcore on their then-new record Decemberundergound. NoY played through the tunes on their debut album well; can’t say I’m too big on their Cure-indebted melodrama anymore, but I was super-into their performance. Dillinger Escape Plan, meanwhile, melted my brain. Their complex rhythms were a little lost on the Factory’s cavernous room, but their energy got through clearly. The members climbed the long columns of speakers hanging from the ceiling. They blinded us with strobe lights. In short, they thoroughly effed with my senses. AFI, meanwhile, just straight up dazzled me. The set list drew mostly from Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground, although they did work in “A Single Second” from Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes, as well as “God Called in Sick Today” and “Totalimmortal.” They also had a pretty sweet stage set-up – three crates for Havok, guitarist Jade Pudget, and bassist Hunter Burgan to jump to and from. Lo-tech, but it looked cool. Afterwards, Crack and I circled the parking lot like 10 times looking for Havok.

28. Paint It Black, Pissed Jeans, Cloak/Dagger, and Shutout at La Salle University Feb. 17, 2006

I was involved in the BackPAC organization at La Salle, which booked shows for students. Given how much work was involved, the lineups were pretty much determined by our music tastes. How Taylor Auclair convinced Paint It Black, whose frontman and former La Salle employee Dr. Dan Yemin swore would never play for the Christian Brothers, to show up I’ll never now. But somehow he snagged PIB, Pissed Jeans, Cloak/Dagger, and La Salle’s very own Shutout. Four bands, all hardcore. The crowd was kind of beat, but that’s because La Salle forced us to hire a security team for all events. The slightest notion of moshing resulted in expulsion. Also worth noting: The guys from Jade Tree Records almost weren’t let into the show, despite being responsible for the headliner and, later, Cloak/Dagger. It was still a good show, though, and it marked the first of many times I caught Paint It Black. Yemin spat fire throughout the set. Even though I wasn’t allowed to move much, I was still nearly out of breath by the time the band closed with “Memorial Day.”

Oh yeah, and Eric Crack will be mad if I don’t tell this story: After the show, I forced myself to talk to drummer Dave Wagenschutz. He’s one of my favorite drummers of all time; he just pounds away at his kit in such a perfect yet primal fashion. I didn’t know what to say to him, though, I just walked up to him and hoped that inspiration would strike on the way over. It didn’t.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m in the organization that, uh, put this show on. Do you need help?”

“…no,” he replied.

“Oh. Do you, … need that set list?”

“….uh, no.”

D-Wags gave me a weird look, I made off with some PiB memorabilia, and then he quit the band like two months later. To this day, Eric and I laugh about the time I ruined punk rock for Dave Wagenschutz, which has hilariously given me a crippling fear of meeting my idols.

27. The Bouncing Souls, The Explosion, The Loved Ones, The Ratchets, and Let It Burn at the First Unitarian Church April 24, 2005

In what became a tradition thereafter, I attended a rock ‘n’ roll show around finals. Eric Crack and I caught a set from the mighty Bouncing Souls, backed by a slew of other bands. In what soon became a habit, I made an ass out of myself in front of BS drummer Michael McDermott by screaming, “Hey, is that Michael McDermott?!” Unlike the Wagenshutz debacle, though, I didn’t seem to ruin punk rock forever, which is good. The Souls put on an insane, sweaty show later that night, and I was front and center for it. I got my ass handed to me - a couple kicks to the head, plus one crowd surfer thought it would be a good idea to grab me by the neck in an effort to get to the front. I let it all go though, just to hear some of the most life-affirming, melodically delicious punk rock tunes of all time. The band played plenty of choice cuts from How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Anchors Aweigh, Maniacal Laughter, and more. McDermott almost gave us an encore performance of the rarely played “Olé,” but security, provided by douche bag hardcore street gang FSU, vetoed that idea. Still, though, it was a great show. I survived freshman year of college, and with it some of the worst people I have ever known (a.k.a my frosh roommates and their shitty friends). I lost old friends, I made new ones. I had more angst, but angst is OK. Punk rock is OK. The Bouncing Souls reminded me in high school that there’s always another day worth exploring, and they certainly reminded me of that again at this show.

26. The Who at The Tweeter Center July 27, 2002

This one almost didn’t happen. When bassist John Entwistle died June 27 from a cocaine-induced heart attack, I don’t think anyone expected The Who to follow through on their tour itinerary – which was scheduled to start a day later, by the way. Somehow, original members Peter Townshend and Roger Daltrey pulled it off, thanks to fill-in Pino Palladino. A month later, they were were, rocking a two-and-a-half hour set at the Tweeter Center (formerly known as the E Center, now known as the Susquehanna Bank Center). I don’t care how ironic it is that Daltrey still sings about hoping to die before he gets old; “My Generation” is still a kickass song. Daltrey broke two tambourines with his bare hands. Townshend did the whole windmill guitar thing. The other players were adequate. And they even dropped in a loving video tribute to Entwistle. My only regret: They couldn’t play “Boris the Spider” without him.

25. Caution! at La Salle College High School March 26, 2004

While I briefly considered listing the time my high school band Caution! played the TLA (No seriously; that happened), my favorite C! show was a few months later, at the last La Salle mixer. We headlined and played pretty much everything we knew, including songs that we never got a chance to record and, hence, do not know anymore. The show didn’t feature all of our hallmarks – no fire breathing, boxing, mead, etc. – but I remember being really excited about our performance, as I could finally show my peers what I had been up to for four years. I still think some of our songs – “Where You Are,” “Clearview” – hold up. Of course, our live shows were just as packed with covers as they were originals – Bush’s “Machinehead,” Something Corporate’s “Hurricane,” and a few Green Day and MxPx covers rounded out our sets, and they certainly went over well here. Afterwards, I talked music with the younger students and just generally celebrated the art form. It felt good.

24. The Bouncing Souls, The Casualties, My Chemical Romance, Strike Anywhere, and The Arsons at the Electric Factory Sept. 20, 2003

Let me tell you about the best week I experienced in high school. On Sept. 20, I saw my favorite punk band, the Bouncing Souls, in concert for the first time. The openers weren’t really my thing, except for Strike Anywhere, who I didn’t realize were on the bill until they took to the stage. They were on the verge of releasing their second full-length, Exit English, and were selling it early at the show, though the majority of their set drew from their fierce debut Change is a Sound. I can proudly say that Strike Anywhere is the first band to cause me to hurt myself via headbanging. After the Casualties started late and sucked hard, the Souls came and blew my mind. I fought my way to the front, but the crowd was moving around so much that I kept getting knocked back. I eventually anchored myself to the barricade between frontman Greg Attonito and guitarist “The Pete.” They played everything I wanted to hear (well, except for “Olé” and “Shark Attack,” but when is that every gonna happen?). If I was reborn the first time I heard “True Believers” on Punk-O-Rama Volume 6, then hearing it live was the baptism, the official confirmation that I had found my new religion: punk rock. The personal highlight was watching the band close out their encore with “Night Train,” though. It’s a quieter song, and Attonito doesn’t even sing it, ceding mic duties to bassist Bryan Kienlen. The tune is about needing to pick up stakes and explore the continental U.S. Some people found it to be anti-climactic, but I thought it was the perfect ending. Since then, I’ve walked away from several Souls shows thinking I’ve just witnessed the best thing ever. The next morning, my band I crammed into a car and drove back to Philly so we could play the TLA.

23. Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Elliot Morris at The Tweeter Center Aug. 25, 2006

22. Strike Anywhere, Paint It Black, The Riverboat Gamblers, and Higher Giant at the First Unitarian Church March 5, 2008

Oh look, two of my favorite punk bands on one bill, plus an early performance from Higher Giant, Dave Wagenschutz’s new band! Punk shows at the Church basement are always a treat; seeing them for free with a friend are even better. Friend, bandmate, and secret lover Nate Adams and I were promised two spots on the guest list so we could cover the event for City Paper and Collegian, but when it turned out the publicist we spoke with hadn’t come through, I whipped out my rarely utilized dad voice and talked our way in. Once there, we got another typically awesome set from Paint It Black, this time with new drummer Jared Shavelson. In my opinion, though, headliners Strike Anywhere put on the better set. Their last album, Dead FM, was pretty awful (but it would’ve been a great EP). Turns out they still rule live, even when playing newer songs like “Prisoner Echoes” and “Sedition.” Obviously, the highlights were the older songs, especially closer “Sunset on 32nd Street.” Strike Anywhere has written some of the most uplifting, galvanizing politi-punk jams of the decade, and they still make me want to fight and fix the world. After the show, I met Paint It Black frontman Dr. Dan Yemin in spite of the disastrous Wagenschutz Incident (see #28). He was selling merch, I made a quick joke and bought some records, got him to smile, and then got the fuck out of there before I made a fool out of myself.

POST SCRIPT: About a week later, I ran into Dr. Yemin at Repo Records, but I lost my nerve and couldn’t say anything to him, which was pretty embarrassing given that A) He gave me a look of recognition. A look. From Yemin! He was in Lifetime! B) My credit card got declined like 10 minutes later. Fail.

21. Tori Amos at The Tower Theatre Oct. 15, 2007

Here is the one article I got my girlfriend to write for my college newspaper, Collegian. It is, of course, a concert review for Tori Amos.

20. X and The Detroit Cobras at the TLA March 22, 2008

19. Against Me!, Ted Leo/The Pharmacists, and Future of the Left at the Electric Factory October 9, 2008

18. PJ Harvey and John Parish at The Trocadero June 7, 2009

17. forgetters, Onion Flavored Rings, and Amateur Party at the Barbary Sept. 29, 2009

16. The Dresden Dolls and Regina Spektor at the TLA Feb. 4, 2005

It’s hard to believe this show ever happened, but I caught the Dresden Dolls at the pinnacle of their cabaret punk rock prowess and Regina Spektor before she was, well, beloved by thousands of shitty, pseudo-indie teenage girls. Not only that, but Spektor opened for the Dolls. The gothic crowd had never heard of her before, myself included, but Dolls fans are surprisingly open-minded. Spektor won the audience over with her cutesy charm and fun songs. Throwing in some participatory sing-alongs helped too. Then the Dresden Dolls came out and ruled so hard. Frontwoman Amanda Palmer is so fierce live; I keep waiting for her to break her keyboard, herself, or both. Same could be said for drummer/guitarist/back-up vocalist Brian Viglione. Together, they played most of their self-titled debut, as well as a shit-ton of covers and rarities. Two highlights: “Night at the Roses,” from an early seven-inch. Story-wise, it’s a typical Palmer composition – girl in a bad scene with awful people, but it hits so hard, condemning anyone who’d want to get close to her as perverted and weak before uniting everyone under the words “Put your hands together / And they’ll hurt / Make a sound that no one’s ever heard.” Interestingly, Palmer switched to tambourine and Viglione to electric guitar. The other knockout was a quiet cover of Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” It was football season at the time of the show, so Eagles chants from the bar kept interrupting the show for some stupid reason. Palmer tried to tame the crowd with this number, which just made me angrier in a way, since the drunks still wouldn’t shut up even though the singer onstage was playing one of the most beautiful, placid songs I had ever heard. Oh sure, I associate the Dolls with raw feelings and punk outbursts, but they can surprise me every so often with a softer side. As I write this paragraph, I hope they tour again soon.

TOMORROW: A lot of Mountain Goats and Against Me! shows. And some other bands that were OK, I guess. #15-1.


Paul Tsikitas said...

That Who concert was pretty amazing. As was the Secret Machines show (the only two on this list that I also attended.) I was thinking of doing this kind of list as well, but haven't gotten around to looking at all my old stubs and piecing together which shows were better than others.

Joe said...

This was the hardest of the three lists. I needed to jog my memory for 2005-2009. I used to keep scrapbooks in high school and early college, which was a huge benefit for 2001-2005. I don't think I would've been able to get the dates/line-ups right for some of these shows without my journals.

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