A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to land a ticket to the Matador 21 show in Las Vegas -- a 21st birthday celebration for the now-venerable independent record label. The indie all-star (if that's not a oxymoron) lineup included amazing sets from some of my favorite bands, such as Yo La Tengo and Belle and Sebastian, as well as nostalgic rockin' (if that's not an oxymoron) from Pavement, Sonic Youth, Guided by Voices, and Liz Phair.
With artists and audience now well on their way to aged hipsterdom, a knowing air of self-mockery pervaded the show. Phair likened the event to a "high school reunion", while Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian threw the gut punch by noting that most of the audience was too old to dance. Last year I mocked my parents for going to an Andy Williams concert (83 years old and still performing!), but I seem to be following in their footsteps.
Like the old man I am becoming, I left the show reflecting on the concerts of my youth, and here are five of the more memorable:
5) Beastie Boys and Run DMC (1986, Irvine Meadows, Irvine CA): The first tape I ever owned was Falco's "Falco 3". The second was Run DMC's "Raising Hell". So while the vast majority of fans at this suburban show came to fight for their right to party, I came to my first concert ever to walk this way. By the time of the joint finale, the Beastie Boys were so drunk that Run had to hold MCA upright.
4) Erasure (1988, Irvine Meadows, Irvine CA: In addition to being an early "mostest favoritest band evah!", Erasure also has the honor of introducing me to the concept of homosexuality. When Andy Bell performed in a leotard, I was confused. When he emerged from backstage in a tutu, my sheltered, upper-middle class sensibilities reeled. What does it mean? Is he gay? Wait, do I really even know what "gay" means?
3) Jeff Buckley (1994, Luna Park, Los Angeles CA): Despite the consensus around his musical genius, I've never been a Jeff Buckley fan. I went to this show because I had a crush on the girl who invited me, who in turn had a crush on Buckley. As it turned out, she managed to slip backstage after the show to hang out with Buckley himself -- while I cooled my heels in the empty auditorium for an hour before pathetically asking the bouncer if he could find her and remind her I was waiting to give her a ride home. A true low point. But I ended up dating her ten years later. She dumped me a few years after that, but not for Jeff Buckley. He was dead by then.
2) Nashville Pussy (1998 or 1999, Bottom of the Hill, SF CA): Most regular concertgoers have a serendipity show, where by pure chance they experience a mind-blowing performance they never expected. Mine came on a random night out at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill, where my friend T. and I stumbled across Nashville Pussy, a punkabilly band whose cacaphonous live show included a seven-foot Amazonian bassist who spits fire, and a lead guitarist thrashing out while having beer poured down her throat (and all over her body) by her lead singer (as well as husband) while he screams into the mic. It was by far the most rocking show I have ever been to, and I later learned that the bassist was the sister of a high school classmate (who ended up playing in the NBA), and went on to play bass for Hole. Which I guess makes me two steps removed from Nashville Pussy, three from Courtney Love, and therefore only four from Kurt Cobain!!!
1) Depeche Mode, the "101" concert (1989, Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA): You have to remember that before the internet, every little pocket of emo teenagers lived in isolation, linked only by Rolling Stone magazine and the occasional concert (in the rare instance where tickets and parental permission could be obtained). So when 60,000 angst-ridden youth descended on the Rose Bowl with lighters in hand, it can only be described as a religious experience. Throats were screamed hoarse. Tears were shed. Mascara was ruined. And most memorably, on an otherwise completely clear Southland evening, rain poured from the sky *only* for the duration of the pop-heretical "Blasphemous Rumors". A religious experience, all recorded and later sold on the two-tape "101" album. The grabbing hands grab all they can.