Thursday, June 15, 2006

Roundtable: Concert Firsts

Unlike hearing about what someone dreamt last night and dissecting its symbolism or sitting around talking about other people’s dead pets for hours on end I really love hearing about people’s first concert.

The first concert a person attended can tell you more in a few sentences than a poorly construed autobiography could do in months. One’s first concert marks a moment, a period in time, a fad that dates them, dates their parents or older sibling and is often a telling insight into their awkward pre-teen years.

Often the person was dragged to a concert by their parents, which explains a lot about their upbringing. Did their mom drag them to see Neil Sedaka? Or perhaps their father took them to an open-air Cream gig because he couldn’t afford tickets and a babysitter. Notice the completely different feelings these two sentences give. Cookie cutter kook or far-out rebellion on a dime.

Occasionally you hear of the person who went to some concert with their older brother or sister because their parents forced Bill to take little Johnny along with him and his friends so they could have a night to themselves. I always envied these people, as I don’t have an older sibling of my own. They got the chance to go to shows like Blondie, Madonna in her black lace fingerless gloves phase, Twisted Sister. They felt left out by being the tag-a-long little sibling at the time, but somewhere deep down inside they knew that this night would make them that much cooler for the rest of their lives.

Then you have the people who chose the concert all on their own. The actual age of the concertgoer at the time is crucial for this story – it indicates whether they had strict parents or not or whether they were late bloomers. Usually the concert that is actually chosen by the person happens around the awkward pre-teen years. These are the years when good taste has been often abandoned for any popular trend. Debbie Gibson and Tiffany spring to mind.

Technically my first concert was Joni Mitchell somewhere in California. I was four years old, taken there by my parents. My only memory of it is dancing on a hilltop in a sunflower dress while hippies clapped me along. If my parents hadn’t divorced I think there would have been a lot more of these concerts in my upbringing.

My first actual chosen concert was when I was 13 (a late bloomer in my eyes) to see Bob Dylan play at the Riviera in Chicago for my birthday. It was me, two friends and my mom. I felt kind of lame for having my mom there, especially when she refused to pass along an incense stick that was making the rounds through the crowd as if it were some kind of a drug, but I never would have had the guts to go without her.

I wonder if the fact that I chose Bob Dylan shows that I have a vintage philosopher’s soul – more likely it simply shows that the kids I thought were in cool in junior high were into our parent’s music, and with gusto.

What does your first concert say about you? Trendy teenybopper with a laidback upbringing? Late bloomer with a penchant for the oldies?

As I was scanning over the crowd at the Gomez concert last night (who kicked ass by the way) I tried to discern who were the young first time concertgoers. Which of these kids belonged to the tight-lipped parents standing against the wall hoping their child doesn’t get swallowed into the mass of bobbing heads and plastic cups filled with beer.

And what will people think of them when they say: “My first concert? It was Gomez in a dive bar in Sheffield in 2006”


Incurable Insomniac said...

Was the Joni Mitchell concert perhaps in Santa Barbara at the Santa Barbara Bowl? Sounds like a concert I went to back in the early 80s.

My first concert was The Beatles at Dodger Stadium in August 1966.

And yes, it was my idea.
And no, I wasn't a screamer.
I never wanted to marry a Beatle, I wanted to BE a Beatle.

RW said...

John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. Aragon Ballroom. Chicago. 1969. I was 16.

I can't give my best unless I got / room to move.


Joe said...

AC/DC at the Richfield Coliseum on their Explode Your Television tour. It was majorly loud, as we were a little too close to the cannons.

I think I went mostly because the rest of my friends were going. I remember most of them didn't stay in their seats, but walked down closer and stood in sections for which they had no tickets. I sat in my assigned seat. Not a great time, which may explain why I was not a major concert-goer most of my life.

Until, at age 34, I finally went to my first They Might Be Giants concert. Now that was a good time.

Deni said...

My first concert was to see the Zombies and the Shangri-las in 1965. I was 14, a freshman in high school and I went with my friend Kathy. As I recall, my dad drove us there and her dad picked us up.

The reason those were the ones I saw was that I lived in a very small community in central California and those were the biggest stars who would ever perform there. Both Kathy and I would have preferred to see the Beatles, but neither set of parents would have been willing to take us to San Francisco or L.A. We had to settle for the Merced High School auditorium and whoever made it there.

Sereena X said...

The first concerts I attended were park events, with my parents and brothers. The music was from various genres.

The first live shows I attended on my own (with my friends) were mostly local bands in the suburbs of Detroit. We were underage for most of the places, so I had the task of flirting up the doorman. It worked 99% of the time. And we had fake IDs just in case. Very fake IDs.

I've never attended a big name concert. Those large venues and annoying swarms of people just don't interest me.

Donny B said...

My first concert was with my family when we went to see Harry Connick Jr. Although for the life of me I can't remember where that was. I was nine maybe?

Then, the first concert with a friend was when I was in sixth grade and he chose to see George Michael for his birthday. His mom came along and sat with us, which was cool cuz she bought me a program which was $15 and way too expensive for a 12-year-old to afford on his own.

And then, of course, I saw Janet Jackson was I was in eigth grade, bought the Rolling Stone cover T-shirt (you know, with that hands over her boobies) and it was all downhill from there. I still haven't fully recovered musically, emotionally or spiritually.

Atul said...

If you count the one I went to as a young child with the parents, my first concert was at Blossom Music Center (in the Cleveland area near the Richfield Coliseum), and embarrassingly enough, it was to watch Up With People.

My first real concert was for Anderson Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, (people from Yes, Asia, GTR)

at Blossom again, on my 18th birthday under a full moon. It was nice, but I was with a buddy so it wasn't as nice as it would have been if I was with a date. It was a great experience and of course I had to buy a concert t-shirt.

Stephen V Funk said...

Of course my parents dragged me to classical concerts at a very young age. Thanks guys... really -- I mean it!

The first rock concert I was dying to go see was -- brace yourself -- STYX. I must have been about 10 years old. I almost convinced my parents to take me. Almost. Damn.

The first rock concert I actually DID go see -- without chaperones -- was Pink Floyd... circa 1988 (post Roger Waters, unfortunately) at a big stadium in Madison, WI. Couldn't see a damn thing and the sound sucked, but the sweet smell of pot smoke was everywhere. I was with my semi-girlfriend. My hipper younger sister also tagged along, and she bought a bunch of expensive souvenirs and then forgot to take them home. Blame it on the contact high.

Either slightly before or after that I saw Sun Ra -- alone, since nobody else was interested, of course. Their loss... it remains probably the greatest live concert I've ever seen.

Somewhere around this time I also clearly remember my parents taking me to see the Philip Glass Ensemble as a birthday surprise -- which for me was akin to seeing The Rolling Stones at the time. Pathetic, I know. That almost made up for the whole STYX thing, though.

The other early-ish one I remember clearly was going to see The Residents with my pal Dave during the Cube-E tour, early 1990s I think. We could hardly believe we were actually at a Residents show. It's still kind of hard to believe. But I have the T-Shirt to prove it.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling comment... I'll stop talking and start drinking now...

B said...

Aerosmith at Cal Expo in Sacramnto, CA in '94. I was 14.

Prego said...

Great topic. Last year I took my 3 1/2 year old son to see his 'favorite' band the Supersuckers open up for the Reverend Horton Heat. People walked by us with smiles from ear to ear.

One guy asked me how old my son was. I bumped it up to 4 years old, so I didn't look like such an a**hole, out with a 3 year old kid in a club.

Instead, he replied, "That's awesome. My three year-old daughter loves the Reverend. I wish I would have brought her!

To make the evening more interesting, vocalist Eddie Spaghetti made his way towards the stage from the bar and says "I like what I see here." He was, of course, referring to the O-Dog, wearing his little black cowboy hat.

I'd imagine that had my parents had any such foresight, I'd have experienced a Three Dog Night or Guess Who billing at a tender age. Drat.

Ville said...

Technically my first show was "The Doors" at the Whiskey a gogo in LA. I was still inutero at the time, but damnit it counts :-)
The first extrautero show I went to was Adam and the Ants at the Santa Barbara palladium, when I was 16. My brother took me. I was a HUGE "antperson" and my bro got the tickets specifically for me. No cohersion by the parents. He got them simply because he wanted to do this for me. He was all sly about it too. He had tickets to see Billy Squire, so when he asked me if I wanted to go to a concert my reply was "Sure, I wouldn't mind seeing Squire." So he grinned and said "Well, no. It's to see Adam Ant" I remember squealing ( I don't squeal) and I jumped up and threw my arms around his neck and kissed his face all over. "Oh my god. You are the BEST!!"
It was a great show and I will never never forget it.

Lauren said...

Oh I love hearing about all these concerts. Insomniac, i think that probably was the Joni Mitchell concert I was at. And your first concert kicks ass. I went through a massive Beatles phase. massive as in you can still see the faint scare of P.M for Paul McCartney on my forearm from when I carved it into my skin from a sterilised needle from a bunson burner in 8th grade science.

Athlynne said...

Insomniac sent me to embarass myself, which I will now do. My first concert was New Kids on the Block, when I was nine or so. I really, really hope that doesn't say anything about me...I was a completely different person as a child!

Sanity Lost said...

I too was sent by Insomniac and I went to see Tony Orlando and Dawn. I was 15 and went by myself. My mom dropped me off and picked me up..... Oh tie a yello ribbon round the old oak tree..... I had a MAJOR crush.

Danielle said...

What does it mean if you don't remember your first concert?

Kelli said...

I love that Prego took his kid to see the Best F***ing Rock Band in the World! That was my dog's first concert in seattle - it was outdoors and a bit too loud for Betty the bulldog.

I have to say thanks to my sister -I spent my summers with her when I was growing up. When I was 13 she took me to see UB40 with special guest Chrissie Hynde. Midnight Oil opened for them. It was an outdoor stadium and my sister, her boyfriend and I were all hanging out in the last row with the picnic area behind us. Some teenagers came up and asked if I wanted to get high with them. I said "no" and was horrified because my sister might hear. They walked off and my sister looked over and said "Kelli, did they offer weed? Why didn't you get some for us?"

stacey said...

the first concerts i ever went to my family brought me to. they were at Ravinia (a Chicagoland outdoor concert venue), on the lawn, with a bucket of fried chicken, a frisbee and my brothers.

the first concert i went to without my parents, i was a freshman in high school. i went with my best friend who was dating a senior, and all his friends. we saw widespread panic. i had no idea who they were at the time. strangely enough, they were on david letterman last night?!

Coral said...

My first concert was a Jimmy Buffet one with my parents when I was maybe 12 or younger. Lots of drunk people and one guy with an actual smoking volcano hat.

Dop said...

My first concert was Huey Lewis and The News, at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside Baltimore. It was July 1985 and I was 19. I attended with my friends John, Dave, Leslie, and her boyfriend Jude. The Neville Bros. were the opener.

Claire the sister said...

remember when we saw paul simon with mom at tinley park and she was stuck in a cloud of potsmoke? that was hilarious, and then there was the time we went to see the dead, dylan and widspread with diane and all her UGA friends? that may have been my gateway concert to concerts of a similar caliber. mostly i appreciate those lame but hilarious concerts we endured along the french riviera on warm summer nights in our youth, -that and when we saw bowie and macy gray, except we walked in oblivious to the fact that macy gray was actually playing live, and that we had seen jesus christ super star there with mom previously and afterwards we went to the wendy's drivethrough and we started laughing so hard at the concept of a 'biggie' fries or drink that the teller could barely understand our order. Our awkward teenage years were plentiful, i'm still recovering

Lauren said...

Thank you so much for reminding me of that Biggie fries episode at Wendy's. You grow up knowing that Wendy's serves you Biggie Drinks and Biggie Fries and then all of a sudden you hear it as if for the first time and it is so foreign to be sitting in a car speaking to a giant talking menu and saying the word Biggie over and over again. The three of us had a massive laughing fit over that one.

Sorry for the private trip down memory lane with my sister...

I'm getting all such interesting images about who you all are... One day I'll share over a round of cold vodkas with ice and a slice.

Trish said...

Mine are so random, Lauren. My very first concert was Peter, Paul and Mary -- courtesy of tickets I won on the local oldies radio station. I was 18 and the youngest there, by FAR. Everyone else was upwards of 40/45....

Then, it was the Indigo Girls. And Chris Isaac (yum!). And Barry Manilow. And that's just about it. I'm not a huge concert fan. Don't like the crowds.

And for the record? Manilow was the most fun. No question.


shpprgrl said...

My first concert was Rick Springfield. My mom and her friend took us. Of course we loved it, except for the fact that his super tight leather pants zipper popped open and my mom had the binoculars. It was her bonus for having to take us I suppose. He actually was closer to her age anyway.... ;)