We all knew this day would come.
Ever since we launched the Five Shows feature a year-and-a-half ago with our profile on Anastasia Johnson, I’ve been thinking about my own Five Shows article. A lot of my inspiration comes from the 50 music industry executives who have already compiled their five favorite shows and shared their story about getting into the music industry. Five Shows resonates because it gives people a chance to reminisce in youthful nostalgia, share notes on their favorite artists and brag a little bit about their time in the business.
My time in music is limited and nearly all of the shows I’ve attended have been as a fan or as a member of the media (which basically means a fan who didn’t have to pay for their ticket). In the ten years I’ve worked in music, I’ve only been involved in helping to organize two concerts. The first was a showcase at Maggie Maes in Austin. The lead organizer signed off on a plan to offer the band $500 since they were playing a private event for clients. The band showed up and I was handed an envelope with only $250 in it. When I pointed out the envelope was short, I was told “tell them the rest of the money comes in the form of ‘exposure.'” I had to go to an ATM machine and withdraw the other $250. I got back at that person by creating an ad for free puppies and listing their phone number. That’s how I like my revenge — petty and harmless.
I also once “co-promoted” a show by a pretty decent band at a San Francisco venue during an industry conference. I kicked in some money to help cover the nut and when the night came to an end, I was told my “co-promotion” was actually a “sponsorship.” I also opened a tab at the bar and a mystery person — you know who you are — charged $300 worth of drinks on it. I’m still developing my revenge plan for that individual.
So my hand at promoting and booking has not been profitable, but I’ve attended so many free shows in my life that those two gigs were the least I could do to give back. Yes, I still buy tickets too and I’m a bit aghast at how much concerts cost today. I wish there were more all ages shows that cost $10, $20 or $25. With fees and all the other bullshit, it’s hard to get into a concert for less than $50 a person. When I was growing up in the mid-90s in the suburbs outside of Berkeley and Oakland, internet ticketing had not yet been invented by Al Gore and Andrew Dreskin. If you wanted to see a gig, you showed up with cash in your pocket and after the show, you usually had enough money left over for a t-shirt or a 7-inch. For the big shows, you would stand in line outside of Rasputin Records and after the scalpers were let in to buy all the good seats, you were given a crack at what was left.
This was at a time when BASS tickets handled all the big shows and we found out about concerts from The List — a printed double-sided, single-spaced show list this old burnout punker would print and hand out at concerts. In a way, I felt better informed about shows then than I do now. As a music journalist, it’s my job to know what tours are coming through town, but I always seem to learn about events after fact, usually when someone posts a photo from Facebook.
Part of that is traffic — there are far more shows going through LA now than there were in the 90s in San Francisco and Berkeley. And there’s such a diversity of tastes. People love to give millennials shit, but this generation knows far more about music than the kids I grew up with. Perhaps it’s because of streaming and the internet and the general availability of music. When I was a kid, you stayed in your lane — punk, hip hop or classic rock (hippies were still a thing). Now, young people listen to everything — the kid with the neck tattoo and David Bowie shirt at Starbucks might go home and listen to A$AP Rocky, watch a Florida-Georgia Line video and buy tickets for a HAIM show.
That’s a real love of music and those are the kind of fans we want to cultivate in 2017. That’s also what I love most about this Five Shows feature — when people’s musical picks surprise me. We’re always looking for new individuals to participate in this feature. Want to be profiled? Email [email protected] and we’ll get you started by answering a simple questionnaire, followed by an interview with one of our reporters. Need a little inspiration? Check out all the Five Shows features here and read my picks below. Thanks!
Redemption 87, 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley
I was a freshman at UC Santa Cruz and was starting to finally expand my horizons beyond punk and hardcore, but I was still a huge fan of Redemption 87 and their lead singer Eric Ozene. Redemption 87 broke up for a while in the late 90s before I ever got to see them perform and Ozene went on to form a pretty decent hardcore band called the Nerve Agents — great band, but they didn’t have the same energy as Redemption 87.
From Santa Cruz, I started hearing rumors that Redemption 87 might be uniting at 924 Gilman — an all ages punk rock collective that charged five bucks to see five bands play, plus a $2 dollar annual membership. They’d give you this little yellow card with a date stamp and your signature to show you were a member in good standing. One time the Gilman bouncer accused my buddy Nelms of using someone else’s card — the bouncer screamed “I just saw that signature an hour ago!” He didn’t. Somehow we still made it in.
Redemption’s first reunion was a typical Gilman show — fist fights, sweaty stage-diving and lots of standing around between sets. This is the kind of place where bands would soundcheck for 45 minutes before playing. There was a sign in the bathroom that warned “even if you stand on the toilet, the Gilman Street crabs can jump ten feet.” You’re either going to love or hate going to shows after spending an evening at the Gilman. Of course I freaking loved it. The band played three encores and finished the evening with the sing-a-long “You Can’t Break Me.” For a moment I felt invincible — I’ve been chasing the feeling ever since.
Flaming Lips and Spoon at Monolith Festival, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Denver
My dad moved to Colorado when I was in college and about a year after accepting a job at Venues Today, I scored some media passes to the now defunct Monolith Festival at Red Rocks outside of Denver.
My dad Chuck had never been to a modern rock festival and you couldn’t have picked a weirder lineup to delve into indie rock. This band called the Brian Jonestown Massacre had opened Monolith, just a few years after the movie “Dig” had come out. The film showed how incredibly unstable the band was and during Monolith, people hurled insults at lead singer Anton Newcombe, trying to elicit a temper tantrum. He got super pissed and started yelling back at the audience. Some people thought it was funny, but to me the whole episode was kind of sad and pathetic.
Thankfully, Spoon co-headlined Monolith and they were incredible — to this day, I consider Britt Daniel to be one the best frontmen in rock. My buddy Adam and I saw them headline a huge hometown show once with Broken Bells at Stubbs in Austin. Incredible live show…but back to Monolith.
I had never seen Flaming Lips before and they put on one of the craziest live shows I had ever seen. They opened the set with this video of this Japanese woman screaming, and then shot off these huge confetti canons. My dad thought it was some weird shit, but I could tell he kind of dug it too.
I wasn’t 30 yet and I remember being really freaked out that someone might smoke pot around us. That never happened, but as we were leaving, a hippy approached us and insisted we take a bite out of her burrito. “But it’s soooooooooo good,” she insisted. Uh, no thanks super stoned lady.
Oh, and one more detail that probably should be noted — as I was walking up to show, I almost stepped on a massive rattlesnake. Like inches away before seeing it and jumping back. My dad, always the observant outdoorsman, commented: “wow, Dave that was a full grown rattler you almost stepped on.”
So yeah guys. I almost died.
Prince at Coachella, Indio
It was the end of the Bush Administration, the beginning of Facebook and my second chance at love with my former college flame Kristen (now my wife of five years and the mother of my child).
Kristen and I met our senior year of college and dated for two years in Santa Cruz before fate would pull us in different directions. For me that meant moving to LA to pursue journalism — for Kristen, that meant moving to a remote island in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati to begin a nearly three-year-long assignment in the Peace Corp.
We reunited by accident at our best friends’ wedding in 2007 and started a long-distance relationship. I remember Coachella was kind of a test for us, three days together in Palm Springs to see if we could make it work (spoiler alert: we did).
Prince played Coachella that year and we camped out for hours near the main stage to get a spot close enough to see the expressions on his face when he rocked songs like “Raspberry Beret,” “Get Off” and even “Creep” by Radiohead. We enjoyed Coachella as fans, not busy bodied music industry b-listers trying to get backstage (that would happen the following year). The festival brought us much closer together and it has been romantic bliss ever since – marriage is easy, right?
Jason Aldean at the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville
I had been to Nashville several times before, but this was Kristen’s first trip, about a month after we got married. Our friend Lauren Simpson worked at the Opry at the time and set us up with amazing seats on the stage — we actually sat behind the performers and looked out into the audience. I grew up listening to the Opry on the radio and it was an incredible experience to be there to see Jason perform his new single at the time “Take a Little Ride.” While most of the Opry feels like a variety show packed with Americana and kitsch, Aldean’s set was loud and devastating, practically melting our faces off with his crazy guitar solo. After the show we got to meet Jason backstage and my wife took a picture with him. The lighting was terrible, but we got the job done.
Estereo Picnic in Bogota, Columbia
March 10-12, 2016
Joe Reinartz from Pollstar set this one up for me — at the invitation of the Bogota Department of Culture, I flew to Columbia to attend a three-day festival partially backed by C3 Presents. I remember on my way down, I emailed Gary Smith and told him that if I got kidnapped, he needed to fly down with a bag full of money and save my ass. He never wrote back.
I arrived in Bogota very late in the evening and this kid with a home made sign and a beat-up Peugeot was there to drive me to my hotel. Instead of stopping at a red light, he would speed up and honk his way through the intersection to avoid late night car thieves. “This is my kind of place,” I thought to myself.
The next morning, I met up with my crew for the weekend — Daniella from Rolling Stone Mexico, American writer Robert Ham from Paste, American freelance photo Chris Carrasquillo and our amazing local guide Adriana Rodríguez, a Venezuelan living in self-imposed exile. Each morning we’d cruise around taking in the many cafes and cute villas of Bogota and at night we’d head out to a large soccer academy on the edge of the slums for this incredible three day festival with Snoop Dogg, Florence + The Machine and a bunch of other American and Columbian bands. We drank 50-cent beer, ate dozenss of empanadas and got rained on every night. I showed up expecting a third world event and was blown away by the quality of the festival, the preparations made at the site and just how friendly everyone was.
When I got back, everyone asked me if I did a bunch of cocaine while I was down there. No, I didn’t do any cocaine. This isn’t the 80s and I’m not Charlie Sheen filming on the set of Platoon. Columbia is a rich country with 500 years of post-colonial history, a vibrant indigenous community and incredible contributions to art, science and civil society. There’s more to the country than hookers and blow.
That’s my long winded way of saying don’t do drugs. Hugs, good. Drugs, bad.