Let’s talk about music

July 20, 2011

Atticus Tour @ 9:30 Club

I was talking to a friend this weekend about concert memories, and again today the “what was your first show” conversation popped up on Twitter. Craig’s was Primus, at the 9:30 club; mine was Lilith Fair in Hershey. Jim chimed in about the week in 1993 when he saw both Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, prompted by my own memory of a really shitty Pumpkins reunion show at 9:30 Club about four years ago–one that taught me an important lesson about revisiting things I had loved as a teenager. (Also, because DC is the world’s biggest small town, it turns out Jack recorded that show from directly below where I stood on the balcony, resulting in a clip that I watched a few dozen times years before I even met him.)

But the other night, I was listening to Dismemberment Plan’s “Emergency & I,” an album I associate with all things DC: the 9:30 Club balcony, friends at afterparties with the band, hearing first-hand memories of the songs’ origins in the ’90s, J. Robbins’ Office of Future Plans opening, Travis in a Frager’s t-shirt. That weekend, everyone I knew saw one of the D-Plan shows, including the many friends who stood on the balcony with me. There was drama there, too, that I mostly wanted to ignore, so I could stand there, hold the familiar rail, and think, “This. This is what I love.”
(That was also the show that helped cement my plan to move away from DC. I love the place, but for someone nursing a craving for a little more anonymity, that room seemed awfully small at times that night.)
So still, that show’s probably in my Top 5. Last summer’s Delta Spirit show at 9:30 is probably secure up there, too. They’re just these nights that you walk out of knowing you got more than the sum of your ticket and service fees.
And so now I’m curious. I have friends spread out across Facebook and Twitter, thus the resurrection of this mostly dead blog space, because I want to hear from both of them, and I want them to hear from each other, in a space that isn’t limited by character counts. So come on team, tell me about your favorite show.

5 Responses to “Let’s talk about music”

  1. Tom Bridge said

    Foo Fighters/At.The.Drive.In at Bowery Ballroom, September 1999.

    This was a show I got talked into going to, and we waited in a line for literally six hours before we got in on a hot fall day in New York. It was maybe 300 people. It was amazing. Dave Grohl got down IN the crowd and played Everlong as the encore. Awesome.

  2. Craig said

    It’s funny: I’ve only recently hit that point where DC feels like a small place, and I love it. So it goes.

    Every Plan show I’ve seen is special, but seeing them in pouring rain at Fort Reno (at what was supposed to be their last show) was something else. The right time in my life; the right people; the right songs; only passionate fans staying through the weather. I’m not sure any other band has made me feel as much like part of a community as they have.

    Another obvious high point was Magnolia Electric Company at the Black Cat backstage, with Grand Buffet opening. Two totally disparate acts who brought their A game to a tiny but completely packed space (& played Running With The Devil together for an encore),

    Or Sunn O))) at the Ottobar. So much smoke and bass, I felt high even though I wasn’t, and my heart felt like it wasn’t beating right afterward.

    Or Stars Of The Lid at Iota, where I dozed off for a bit but it was perfectly in keeping with the music and didn’t feel disrespectful at all.

    Or the handful of solo Ben Folds, pre-Songs For Silverman, shows where I was struck by how funny and personable he could be.

    Or most of the times I saw Cex. Or most of the shows at the Warehouse Next Door. Or Atom and his Package being hysterical and awesome at the Black Cat backstage. (really, most shows at the backstage.)

    / maudlin nostalgia; thanks Erin

  3. Craig said

    Fuck, I would’ve LOVED to see At the Drive In.

    Oh! And that reminds me about last year’s Whartscape, where my dream of finally seeing Arab On Radar came true! and I also saw Lightning Bolt for the first time, which was also a priority.

  4. Dalton Fleming said

    Dylan at Wolf Trap, August ’97.
    I know, you’d expect me to say Dylan. But this show was special, and he was just part of it. The openers were BR549 and Ani DiFranco.
    I first heard BR549 when someone gave me a mix tape with “Little Ramona’s Gone Hillbilly Nuts” on it, and I had checked out one of their CDs before they landed the gig opening for Bob. So I was excited to learn they would be opening, and their performance was a bona fide hoot.
    I knew Ani only by reputation, mostly a few good reviews I’d read, and she was a revelation. She was on stage about the time the sun was setting behind the audience, and at one point she said, quite giddily, “I don’t know what you’re looking up here for; the show’s back there, man.”
    I was in love.
    It turned out that the highlight of the show – and it was a fine, energetic Dylan performance, ending with a rollicking encore of the Dead’s “Alabama Getaway” — was Ani, accompanying herself on banjo, doing a gorgeously frail rendition of Dylan’s “Most of the Time.”
    Apparently, even Dylan was impressed; it was the only time I’ve ever heard him acknowledge the opening acts AND lavish praise in the process. (In fact, he liked BR549’s steel guitarist so much he stole him for his own band and still hasn’t given him back.)
    As a footnote, I later acquired a bootleg of Dylan’s performance that night, and searched in vain for years for a recording of Ani doing that song. Some time after I started working in DC, the show came up in a conversation with a co-worker who said, “I think I have a recording of that song!”
    She did, and it ended up on a mix CD that I still treasure, along with the memory of that magical night.

  5. Brittany said

    I think I felt like the first Dismemberment Plan reunion show, back in 2007, was more emotional and intense for me than the 2011 one. It was strange how the timing worked out for that 07 show, to be only a week or so before I graduated college; one of my most vivid memories from my high school years was going to see the Plan’s last show at Fort Reno with friends, which had been a really giddy experience itself. It made for these perfect bookends of that phase of my life. After that, I really did not listen to the band much until this winter before the Black Cat show – and I cannot say I have returned to it much since.

    Right before I moved from DC to California, I saw Matt & Kim play at a space that was then called Borf Mansion. I was not a super-fan for them at the time or anything, but the show was 100% perfect. It was winter outside, but in the little back room where the bands played, it was pretty warm with a few dozen or so other people there. Halfway through Matt & Kim’s headlining set, the power went out. In true DIY style, they kept playing on – eventually with the aid of a single light bulb on a cord, running from some back-up power. Drums and vocals only – unless you count exuberance and sheer force of personality as instruments.

    In 2006 I attended SXSW for the first time and saw the Flaming Lips play a “secret” show in a parking lot. There were giant balloons and they brought this whole elaborate show to this small, warm, outdoor space. Everybody seemed to be high and covered in glitter and I do not even really care about the Flaming Lips but it was pretty incredible.

    Where I lived in Santa Cruz, there are only two places to see music unless you want to drive to San Francisco (about 60-90 minutes away). One is a larger theatre and the other is a cafe called The Crepe Place which has been serving crepes and beer to the college crowd since the 1970s. They move the tables out of the front room where the bar is and let bands set up there. I saw a series of shows in that space that were pretty fantastic. Bands who could fill spaces much larger (often the same bands would sell out an 800-capacity club in San Francisco the night prior) but for one reason or another would play in this little bar for about fifty kids. (N.B. I think the reasons might have had something to do with Santa Cruz’s beach, hot kids, and easy access to drugs.)

    We saw Best Coast open for the Vivian Girls on the tour when they shared a drummer. A drummer for whom I was mistaken for a moment by a distracted bartender/”sound guy” – a moment during which I felt very cool – and a roster of other shows. In particular, I saw Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, which was a stunning experience. I had been listening to his first record for months at that point and it had become part of me the way some records do. When I found out that he would be playing the Crepe Place I was confused, but totally stoked. I bought tickets in advance which was pretty unheard of there because the whole thing was fairly casual. In the end, I was one of maybe a half-dozen people who showed up to hear him sing. I stood maybe a meter from him, on the same level, as he filled the room with these songs that had become so important to me. I kept having to look away because it felt too intimate and intense. I barely kept from crying.

    Oh, and there was that one time that there was a record-release show at Warehouse Next Door for the record my boyfriend put out on the record label I had opened and put so much time and dedication into that I almost risked failing out of school for a moment. There was a banner across the stage with the company logo in huge white letters and every musician who had anything to do with the label played. Everybody I knew at the time was in the room. I know I wore this bright emerald green eyeliner that I bought for the occasion and never wore again and I remember drinking a little in the back even though I was too young to do so, which made that a terrible, unprofessional move. There I was, trying to sell actual, physical CDs at the last moment in history when that was even possible, but all my friends were so supportive of each other and the scene that it was a totally positive experience.

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