Going to concerts isn’t something I like to do anymore. There was a time when I liked them… I think, but I can’t be sure.
A quick explanation for not liking something the vast majority of people love is that I’m a recording studio person. Since I first played with a 4-track cassette recorder, I’ve absolutely been in love with the magic that can be created in a recording studio. It’s more interesting to me than seeing somebody play the songs live.
And that’s another reason I don’t really care about live performances: they’re rarely as good as the studio recordings, and I’ve only seen one exceed them once. I’m not interested in jazzed-out, slowed-down or improvised versions of songs I love. It’s usually a disappointment.
Finally, seeing a concert requires you to mingle in a crowd of people I don’t know. People who at times it seems to me are more interested in seeing the people and being seen by other people than they are by the performance taking place. My inferiority complex doesn’t need to be reminded of how uncool I am and how I’m not going to get laid that night. I’d rather just stay home and listen to the songs through my favorite headphones.
All of that being said, I’ve been thinking to myself lately, “If I could travel in time and see any bands from any time periods, what would they be?” I’m most interested in bands in their infancy, when they were hungry and had real passion for music, before they became massively popular and/or disillusioned. To me, Sick Boy was right in Trainspotting: Bands almost always evolve to make less and less interesting music as they go on.
Below is my wish list of bands I would have liked to have seen throughout history. I tried my best to boil it down to one band per decade, but settled on a primary choice and a runner-up. Enjoy!
My favorite band is Pink Floyd. Their catalog has bad periods, but overall their music has made the biggest impact on my appreciation and creation of music. While most people are familiar with their post-1973 catalog that began with The Dark Side of the Moon, their most interesting era was at the beginning when the enigmatic Syd Barrett was Pink Floyd. He was their front man, he wrote all their best songs and he was bananas. I would have loved to have gotten to see them play UFO in London in the late-1960s at the height of their power before Barrett went over the edge and sank into the deep end of the pool.
In the summer of 1996, after my sophomore year of college, I traded-in a big chunk of my CD collection in order to get The Velvet Underground’s “Peel Slowly and See” boxed set, which I pretty much listened to exclusively while living in Sag Harbor, New York, with a friend, where I worked and finished recording my first two albums. The liner notes told all about the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”, a series of multimedia events that Andy Warhol hosted at The Factory in the late-1960s where The Velvet Underground were the house band. It was so inspiring that when I returned to college that fall, I put out flyers around campus declaring that I wanted to start my own performance art group. That never really panned-out, but I did meet one of my best friends through the flyer, who went on to form another sort of experimental music project with me. The EPI is something I would’ve liked to experience.
This wasn’t a simple decision. My favorite era of music is the punk/new wave scene that took place around CBGBs in New York City in the mid-1970s. I would’ve liked to see Television, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, The Heartbreakers… seeing any of those bands perform there during this era would be a dream, but I’d have to go with the Ramones, who pretty much defined the movement for me. The film and video clips of their performances are so intense that I can imagine what it must’ve been like to see in person.
While Pink Floyd is my favorite band, David Bowie is my favorite musician. How he managed to produce so much great music in so many different styles blows me away. I wrestled with when I’d liked to have seen him perform, but there’s no way around having a chance to see him as Ziggy Stardust. I would be like having to choose to get to see only one of the original Star Wars trilogy movies again and NOT choosing “The Empire Strikes Back”. It’s just the logical and rational choice.
If you were to have met me in the mid-1980s, you would’ve met a chubby kid with a mullet who played guitar in a heavy metal band. All I listened to was metal music, and, while Los Angeles was producing the more popular hair metal variety of music, the stuff that had ties to the San Francisco Bay area was what I preferred. There were Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus and Testament, but my favorite was Slayer. While all of the other bands were doing fancy shit with ballads and classical-music inspired intros, Slayer was just doing it fast and loud and it was awesome.
The Cramps kick-ass and they give free concerts at mental institutions. ‘Nuff said.
I missed seeing Jane’s Addiction, twice! The first time was in the fall of 1990 which would have been the one to see. I think they were playing the Agora in Cleveland, after “Ritual de lo Habitual” was released, but before their video for “Been Caught Stealing” became a popular item on Mtv. My brother was going to be home from USMC basic training and I tried to get tickets but they were sold out. Then, I missed-out on going to the original Lolapalooza in the summer of 1991 and never got to see them being it was their farewell tour. I got to see Porno For Pyros a few years later, which was a great show, but I’d have traded that experience (and a few others) to have gotten to see the original line-up of Jane’s Addiction in their prime.
The best band you’ve probably never even heard of: The Brian Jonestown Massacre! My friend tried to turn me onto these guys many times and it’s unfortunate that I resisted as long as I did. The band is pretty much Anton Newcombe who’s one of the most prolific musicians of all time and the vast majority of his catalog is great. They were featured, along with The Dandy Warhols, in Dig!, a fantastic documentary that followed the two bands in the mid-1990s. They would’ve been a great band to have seen during that period.
The first time I played the album “The Teaches of Peaches” will remain in my memory forever. I had no idea what it was. A friend had made me a copy and I decided to give it a listen at work. I was caught completely off-guard. I couldn’t work, I just sat there with my mouth hanging-open. This is one person doing this?!? It was so amazing to me, so cool, so badass! I don’t know if I’d fit-in well in her audience, but I’d love to have seen her in some tiny club rocking these tracks.
Ever heard of a band called Sleep? It was a night at the Burrito Buggy in Athens, Ohio, when a coworker arrived with their album “Jerusalem” which was comprised of a single, 52-minute long track that was the heaviest thing I’d ever heard in my life. Sleep broke-up after that album (which was actually a trimmed-down version of “Dopesmoker”) and I thought that’s all there was to it. Nope. About six years ago, when Pandora was the new thing, while listening to a metal station, two bands stuck out to me: High On Fire and OM. Do you know what these two bands have in common? High On Fire is the band Sleep’s guitarist created, and OM is the band the drummer and bassist formed. They’re both fantastic bands, but for me it’s all about OM. A drummer and a bassist who sings, that’s it. Songs that sound like some mystical thing is about to happen in the room while you listen to it. This would have been a great thing to see live.