Tuesday, October 21, 2008



Wow - Another really busy day.

10/11/87 - R.E.M./10,000 Maniacs @ Rec Hall - Penn State University

My all-time favorite R.E.M. show.

I actually had a ticket to see R.E.M. on 10/10/87 at The Patriot Center, but I ended up giving that ticket to a friend of mine instead. I had just graduated from college in the Spring of '87. I was torn between seeing R.E.M. at The Patriot Center and returning to PSU for my first Homecoming as an alumni. That dilemma was solved when they announced that R.E.M. would be playing at PSU for Homecoming. And lucky me - I didn't even have to do anything. My friends who were still in school had already bought me a ticket before I even knew about the show. My friends rule.

Not only do they rule - but they're also R.E.M. freaks. About 10 of them camped-out in line for tickets. Between them all, we pretty much occupied the entire 4th-5th rows. (The first few rows were always reserved for the concert committee, special guests, etc.) Excellent.

10K Maniacs hadn't quite broken yet, but a bunch of us had the new record and were pretty much the only people dancing throughout their set. Stipe came out and sang on "A Campfire Song." It didn't suck.

The lights came down for R.E.M. and we all immediately rushed the stage. I found myself pressed right against the barrier, just between Michael and Peter. So here I am - as close to the stage as physically possible, literally surrounded by about 30 of my best friends, watching my favorite band on the planet. It doesn't get much better than that.

No big surprise - I loved the show. I don't remember the setlist (and this is oddly one of the 3-4 from 1987 missing from the R.E.M. Timeline), but I remember a few things. They opened with "Finest Worksong" and went right into "These Days." That's a helluva 1-2 opening punch. "Feeling Gravitys Pull," "King of Birds," a silly cover of Lou Gramm's "Midnight Blue" and a raucous cover of Television's "See No Evil." "Begin The Begin" and, of course, "It's The End of the World As We Know It...". I don't think that had been released as a single yet. We thought we were so clever screaming out "Leonard Bernstein!" I remember everyone along the barrier doing the "Superman" move - where you slowly raise your arms over your head like you're about to take off, while Mills sings "I am, I am Superman." I wish they'd bring that song back. I remember them playing a song that none of us knew. Being right against the stage we asked Peter what the name of it was. Turns out it was "Orange Crush".

Somewhere near the end (maybe during ITEOTWAWKI) Stipe came down front and started shaking hands. He eventually got to me, grabbed my hand and HE didn't let go for a good 10-15 seconds. I swear to God it wasn't me holding on. I didn't want to be "that guy," but Stipe was hanging on to my hand. All my friends were jealous. sigh.... Before the show was done I'd end up shaking Mike's and Peter's hands too. I don't think Bill ever came to the front. It seems pretty corny now, but I was thrilled at the time.

So that was my favorite R.E.M. show. More about the people and setting than the actual show - although that didn't suck either. Potentially my favorite concert ever.

10/11/94 - The Grateful Dead @ USAir Arena - Landover, MD

The last show of the final Cap Centre run. I will call this place the Capital Centre until the day I die, so don't bother correcting me on that. Great seat - The first row off the floor, halfway back, right on the aisle.

I liked this one better than the night before. They picked up the pace a bit and played a bunch of stuff I didn't get to see a lot - "High Time," "It's All Over Now," "If The Shoe Fits," "Lucy In The Sky," "China Doll"... Not necessarily my favorite songs, but they were always welcome. The second set opened with "Eyes of The World". My aisle seat in the front row of the section gave me tons of dancing room and I took full advantage of that. I caught the usher kind of making fun of my dancing, but I didn't care. I walked over and started dancing with him. He got a good chuckle out of that. "China Doll" was nice, but seemed a little rushed, like the "Comes A Time" from a couple nights ago. It was ok, but you could tell Jerry wasn't putting all that much into it. The ballads made it easy to tell he was starting to fade. I think that's why he sometimes rushed through them. At least he got all the words right and hit all the high notes. It ended up being the last time they'd ever play that song.

This was my last Dead show of 1994. My last Dead shows at the Cap Centre. I saw them there 19 times. More than anywhere else - though not by much.

10/11/2003 - R.E.M. @ Philips Arena - Atlanta, GA

Still high on that Bill Berry guest appearance the night before - we headed down to Atlanta for the last show of the US tour. Hopes were high that Bill might make another appearance - or even play the whole show - but neither of those happened. Really, really fun show though. We got the first "You Are The Everything" in over 12 years. Pete Yorn came out and sang Patti Smith's part on "E-Bow The Letter." The highlight of this one had to be the encore. First of all - it was 10 friggin' songs long. Yowza. But the killer part was the batch of songs in the middle of the encore:

Gardening At Night/Wolves, Lower/Sitting Still/Radio Free Europe/Permanent Vacation

Holy Crap. That's just sick. 5 of the oldest songs in their catalog. I thought my head was going to explode. Did I really just see "Radio Free Europe" two nights in a row, after seeing it only one other time in the last 18 years? I was smiling the whole 12-hour drive home. And by "smiling" I mean "sleeping while Dinger drove." He was a real trooper for this trip.

Finest Worksong / Begin The Begin / So Fast, So Numb / Drive / Animal / Fall On Me / You Are The Everything / Bad Day / The One I Love / Electrolite / E-Bow The Letter / (Don't Go Back To) Rockville / Find The River / Losing My Religion / At My Most Beautiful / She Just Wants To Be / Walk Unafraid / Man On The Moon

encore: Life And How To Live It / Nightswimming / Final Straw / Gardening At Night / Wolves, Lower / Sitting Still / Radio Free Europe / Permanent Vacation / Imitation Of Life / It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

10/11/07 - Mickey Hart's Global Drum Project @ Lisner Auditorium - Washington, DC

I hadn't been terribly thrilled with Mickey's more recent percussive efforts. They just left me cold. But when I saw the lineup for this one - I know there was no possible way it could be anything other than amazing. I was right.

Mickey Hart (all sorts of things)
Zakir Hussain (tabla and all sorts of things)
Giovanni Hidalgo (congas, timbales and the like)
Sikiru Adepoju (talking drum)

It's like a stripped-down version of the original "Planet Drum" tour. Amazing doesn't begin to describe it. They opened the show with Mickey and Zakir making this mind-boggling music by hammering on this old, dead tree they wheeled onto the middle of the stage. The tree was heavily miked (sp?) and they threw a few weird effects into the mix, creating this bizarro mix of percussion and electronics. All coming out of a big tree. I guess after that it got a bit more "traditional". At least as traditional as you can get with such a weird mix of instruments. They added a bit more electronic trickery to sample and twist the sounds in different ways. That's usually the kind of thing that bugs me about some of Mickey's efforts, but this time they managed to do it without taking away from the organic feeling of the music created by the actual performers and instruments.

These four musicians are each fantastic on their own. Putting them all together is just magic.

Easily one of my favorite shows of 2007. Did I mention we were in the front row?

10/11/2008 - Wire @ 9:30

Another band I know more by reputation than by actual music. I've had Pink Flag for years, but that's really all I know by them. My college roommate had The Ideal Copy back in the day, but I never really listened to it much. I remember liking "Ahead," but that's about it.

So I didn't really know much of what they played this night. It all sounded really good, but nothing revolutionary. To be honest, they were kind of boring to watch. At times they sounded great. Other times I was looking at my watch. The very small crowd (the curse of the early show?) made it easy to wander around and catch them from different angles - which I love. I ended up on the side, looking straight down at the band. Great view.

I'm sure people that know Wire far better than me probably thought it was a fantastic show. Maybe it was. I'm glad I went, but I doubt I'll go out of my way to see them again.

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