Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Decade in Rock 'n' Roll Shows 2000-2009, #15-1

I learned how to get around Philadelphia thanks to going to shows. I needed to get to the Trocadero, so I learned my way to and around Chinatown. TLA - South Street. Johnny Brenda's, The Fire, and The Barbary - Fishtown. If it wasn't for my ill-placed need to have bodies crashing down on me and sweat pouring out and amps causing permanent hearing loss, I'd never have learned my way around the "Big City." Thank goodness for that; I love Philadelphia a lot.

Top 30 Philadelphia Moments of the Rockin' Variety, #15-1

15. The 2002 Vans Warped at The Tweeter Center Aug. 9, 2002

Say what you will about it ruining underground music, but when you’re young, the Warped Tour is an ideal show for checking out music. The low ticket prices mean more money for merch (and fluids. Set aside at least $30 for water, kids). There are like a hundred bands at each stop. And if you’re lucky, Warped’s tastes and your own will overlap perfectly. The 2002 tour brought with it a Drive-Thru Records stage – Allister, Rx Bandits, Starting Line, Homegrown, and New Found Glory all played that year – plus a poop-ton of other bands: NOFX, Less Than Jake, Flogging Molly, Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Sure, I got the shit kicked out of me – I was sunburned an hour in, a kick to the face during the Bosstones’ set nearly knocked me out – but it was fun. I saw some great bands, scored some sweet merch, and my boss at Duke’s Carwash took pity on me the next day and sent me home early. The last Warped I attended was 2003. Since then, I’ve told myself that I would go again if I could find a bill with at least 10 bands that I want to see. It hasn’t happened yet, which is one of the drawbacks to the Warped Tour – it belongs to the very young.

14. Nine Inch Nails and The Dresden Dolls at The Electric Factory May 18, 2005

My buddy Doc camped out at a computer for hours to score his doppelganger George Giles and me pre-sale tickets to Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor was riding some positive buzz from his comeback album With Teeth, and to celebrate, he was touring smaller venues with the mighty Dresden Dolls. Sounded too good to be true, but Doc came through. NIN fans weren’t too into the Dolls, but that’s their problem. The set was pretty good despite early technical difficulties, they played a solid cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” and I got to meet the band after the show. Then NIN came out and slaughtered. I started off stationed in the middle of the Factory’s floor. I made no effort to get up front, but thanks to a huge tsunami of bodies, that’s where I ended up. It’s been said hundreds of times since 2005, but seeing T-Rez all types of Hulked out was scary at first, especially when he charged the crowd. It was like a rhino! A rhino that just so happened to love Joy Division, David Bowie, and Gary Numan! Seriously, though, tunes like “Wish” and “March of the Pigs” are damn near deadly live, although the tender kiss off of “Hurt” will stay with me for a while, especially now that NIN is done as a touring act. Epilogue: After the show, I sped home to catch the midnight premier of Revenge of the Sith.

13. The Mountain Goats and Kaki King at The TLA Nov. 7, 2008

12. The Mountain Goats and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers at a motherfucking cabin in Swarthmore Oct. 22, 2005

While I’d been a Mountain Goats fan since high school, I didn’t see them live until college. Through the magical well of information that is the Internets, I stumbled upon a college tour that John Darnielle and Peter Hughes were conducting, hit up Drew Stephan and his lady friend Liz, and off we went down I-476 to Swarthmore College. After stumbling around the campus for a bit, we found the venue – a log cabin. Openers The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers were already tearing through their set when we arrived. Their sound reminded me then of Modest Mouse and Decemberists. I stand by that notion today, although I’d like to throw John Vanderslice into that mix as well. The Goats came out, and my brain went nuts. What’s crazy too is that Darnielle barely played any songs I knew. The majority of the set consisted of Tallahassee, which I was still a few months away from purchasing. I remember thinking how ballsy it was to walk up to a stomping, shouting, throbbing mass of people and open with something as quiet as “Tallahasse.” I’ve since seen him tame unruly crowds with such numbers as “Shadow Song,” “You or Your Memory,” and “Wild Sage,” but at the time, it seemed insane that he could wield so much power. The Prayers helped him rock out numbers like “This Year” and “See America Right,” but it was a solo song that made the biggest impression: “Going to Georgia.” I didn’t own Zopilote Machine yet either, so I didn’t fully appreciate how rare or amazing the performance was, but the Swarthmore student who requested it for her birthday sure did. Later, I met Hughes, bought a T-shirt, and picked up the Prayers CD. This was the first of many amazing TMG shows in my life.

11. Ben Kweller and Death Cab For Cutie at The Trocadero April 13, 2004

To fully appreciate how long ago this show was, consider this: Ben Kweller headlined over Death Cab for Cutie. No matter; both bands put on a great show. I remember DCFC mostly playing numbers from Transatlanticism, which I still feel is their best album. The title track is epic enough on record at eight minutes; live the band jammed it out even longer. There was a loose charm to the performance – drummer Jason McGerr didn’t seem completely comfortable with the older songs, but that lent the performance a more “real” element. It was an amazing set, and then BK came out and matched it note for note. This was during the height of my Kweller fandom, and I still swear by Sha Sha and On My Way. The set drew evenly from both albums, with a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” improvised because they were playing somewhere else in Philly. I’ve seen BK a few more times since then, and while all of his shows have been good, the setlist will never again cover my absolute favorites – those first two albums.

10. New Found Glory, H2O, River City High, and Rx Bandits at The Electric Factory Oct. 27, 2001

Oh hey, look, it’s the first concert I ever attended. My dad drove my cousin Mike and I to the Electric Factory. I couldn’t believe I was a real music venue. I couldn’t believe I was in a mosh pit. I couldn’t believe was totally seeing my uber-favorite band of all time (well, at the time), New Found Glory. I was bummed Rx Bandits only got to play for 15 minutes, but at least they played “VCG3” from their then-new album Progress and did some tricks involving fire. FIRE. My memories of River City High are fuzzy. I remember that one of the members wore a cowboy hat. My friend Andrew Chiarello met the band later that night, and I think Cowboy was the one who hit on his girlfriend. So, uh, that’s cool. H2O blew my mind. I didn’t know anything about the band, but I knew I liked them after they hit me with a bevy of melodic hardcore/pop punk songs like “Role Model” and “Guilty By Association.” Aside from “Guilty,” the set consisted of songs from their much maligned major label debut Go – including a cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” I’ll be honest; Go is now my least favorite H2O record. But at the time, I thought it was a revelation. Speaking of revelatory tunes, New Found Glory put on a phenomenal set that night. They didn’t have many songs in their catalog yet, so the band played almost everything from what was available: Nothing Gold Can Stay, New Found Glory, and From the Screen to Your Stereo. I screamed the words along and probably looked like a dork the whole time.

9. Bloc Party, The Noisettes, and The Maccabees at The Tower Theatre June 5, 2007

While my girlfriend and I were underwhelmed by Bloc Party’s sophomore album A Weekend in the City, we were still pretty stoked to catch them on tour around the time of our one year anniversary. Michelle picked me up from my internship at Wonka Vision Magazine, we ate at this ridiculously awesome vegan restaurant in Philly called Horizons, and then tried our hardest not to get lost on the way to the Tower Theatre. After two openers (Maccabees were kinda good; Noisettes played way too long), Bloc Party came out and played for like two-and-a-half-hours, including two encores. They whipped out obscure B-sides – so obscure that frontman Kele Okereke forgot the words to “Two More Years.” No matter; the group tore through a number of stellar cuts from Silent Alarm, and Michelle and I got some couple-y during “This Modern Love” (it’s one of our songs, ya see). The City songs got a bigger reaction, oddly enough, but I’ll be honest: Those cuts do sound better live. Oh, did I mention that we were in like the second row? We have yet to match that proximity at Tower shows, as I swear we psychically communicated with Okereke via eye contact. How else would he know that “Two More Years” was another one of our songs? It was a good night for new romantics.

8. The Rentals at The TLA Aug. 25, 2007

7. The Cure at The Wachovia Spectrum May 10, 2008

6. Against Me!, The Epoxies, Smoke or Fire, and The Soviettes at The Trocadero Dec. 1, 2005

I’ve seen Against Me! quite a few times with a wide array of bands (Mastodon, Sage Francis, Blood Brothers). This was the best set. Part of it was because of the bill – all Fat Wreck bands, as this was the Fat Tour, all of which were awesome. I became a Smoke or Fire believer that night. Against Me! was touring behind Searching For a Former Clarity, the album that officially made me pledge my fidelity to them. Don’t get me wrong; Reinventing Axl Rose is tops, but Clarity proved they could keep their momentum going. Side note: Clarity is their Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround. Anyway, AM! played a perfect set. I fought my way to the front, eventually ending up beneath frontman Tom Gabel’s mic stand. Dude fought demons for 90 minutes on cuts like “Problems” – “Sometimes it feels like conversations are a waking dream / From a third party perspective / An audience to the self / You can almost hear the sound traveling / A constant feeling of anticipation / While of the sudden you know what’s gonna happen / These are the paranoias that have built your world / They neither eat nor sleep / They have no name you know / Here in the worst I will become the best of them all.” Sorry for the long quote, but I couldn’t bear to cut it off. Even quiet songs like “Joy,” in which Gabel uses to music to keep himself from collapsing under existential dread (please refer back to the “Problems” quote), floored me. In that moment, I thought Against Me! was my Clash. Of course, The Clash fell apart after their fifth album (Cut the Crap being the sad aftermath), so we’ll see if White Crosses makes that comparison more sadly accurate. Until then, hey, I could go for another AM! show. It’s been a little while.

5. Tom Gabel and Emilyn Brodsky at The Barbary Nov. 19, 2008

4. Bruce Springsteen at The Wachovia Spectrum Nov. 9, 2005

Bruce Springsteen occupies two slots in my top five concerts of the decade, and rightly so. While right now I feel that his Hershey show with the E Street Band was superior (He played freaking “Rosalita”), there’s something to be said for his Devils & Dust tour in 2005. The guy played a two hour acoustic set by himself at the Spectrum, which, in case you forgot, is really fucking big. I can’t think of another artist that could’ve kept such a large gathering of people quiet. Even more impressive – he busted out obscure live favorites like “Thundercrack” and “Santa Ana.” Neither song was ever released on an album, and the latter hadn’t been heard live in 32 years. He played a surprising amount of his lo-fi acoustic masterpiece Nebraska – “State Trooper,” “Reason to Believe,” “Used Cars.” He had a running conversation with his audience, discussing the meaning of songs like “The Rising” and “Matamoros Banks.” He talked about his Catholic upbringing and his Irish-Italian-American heritage. These are all things I can relate to. The Hershey show was more boisterous, obviously, but the Spectrum show felt so much more intimate despite being, you know… at the Spectrum.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Can't believe you saw Going to Georgia live you lucky bastard!! Cara and I also saw a show on that BK/DCFC 04 tour (in Chicago), and we still have posters framed from the tour up on our wall. Did you get those? We have both, the angel in the boat paddling on clouds and the devil in the boat paddling on flames. Awesome.