The first concert I ever attended was at Kent State University. It was a double bill, with Tesla and Great White. Some band called Badlands opened. Shut up. It was the 80’s.
I remember that I didn’t wear my glasses because I thought I might lose them and probably because I thought they were severely uncool, which I would have been right about. The venue at Kent State was big, but it was all the bigger for an 8th grader who couldn’t see very well. The bands were blurry little shapes on a supposed stage down below.
It might be hard to believe, but this was not when the live music bug bit me.
No, that would happen a few years later, when I started listening to a band called The Afghan Whigs. An awful lot of components went into that show to make it great. It was Friday, June 24th, 1994, the summer after I graduated from high school. The Ass Ponies opened up. I drove to Cleveland with my best friends in the whole world to see a band that we all really liked and who happened to actually be from Ohio. During the show, someone in the back threw a beer at the stage and it covered my friend, Tony, who then had to drive us home smelling like beer, which would have been fine, had we not gotten pulled over about two minutes from my house.
I didn’t actually own any music by the Afghan Whigs. At that point, I think I’d been listening to a tape I dubbed from someone else, which was, I would imagine, of questionable quality. Before leaving for college, I went to a record store and decided I needed a Whigs CD. I bought the single for “What Jail Is Like” because it featured two live tracks.
A year later, those same friends and I went to see the Afghan Whigs in Cleveland again. Eddie Murray hit his 3,000th hit that night (June 30th, 1995) and Greg Dulli, the lead singer for the Whigs and half the reason why their live shows are so amazing, actually stopped to say something about it.
Live music played a big part of my life after that first Afghan Whigs show. Four or five hour drives were nothing for me if a band I liked was playing. I saw my favorite bands multiple times, sometimes over just a few days. It became something of an obsession with me. I collected ticket stubs. I made lists of the songs I saw live, in the order they were performed. It got to the point that I could predict what song a band was about to play based upon which guitars they were using.
Los Angeles was great for live music. The Troubadour is the best music venue I’ve ever been to and I went to my fair share of shows there. And, of course, everyone came through Los Angeles. No matter how big or small the band, they all played a show somewhere in Los Angeles when they were on tour.
I went to Coachella in 2005. I was done with festivals after that. I’d already given up on really big shows, and while the side stages at Coachella were nice, there were just too many damn people.
That should have been the first sign.
I started getting old. Standing through opening bands, the main band, and an encore was becoming harder and harder for my already fragile frame. My feet hurt. My lower back hurt. I just wanted a nice, comfy couch.
A few weeks after Nicole and I moved to the Bay area, we went to see Blind Pilot play at the Great American Music Hall. I think it was my effort to ease the pain of leaving a city and moving to the suburbs. The show was on a week night. We got home late and got up early for work. I was still young, dammit. I was still going to shows.
It would be another five years before I made it to another live show and it was entirely due to a visit from our friends Matt and Meghan. These were friends we’d made in Los Angeles, friends we’d been to shows with before. Their visit happened to coincide with a Nada Surf show in San Francisco, and Nada Surf just happened to be a band we all had in common (entirely my fault).
That was almost two years ago. It was the last show I went to. A part of that is because we don’t live in the city, so we’d have to drive a good ways to get to shows. That could be the thing I miss most about living in Los Angeles: everything was conveniently located.
Then there’s the simple fact that my priorities have changed. I love being able to say goodnight to my son when he goes to bed, just as I know he loves saying it to me. And my night time hours are so precious now, almost too precious to spend going to a show which will only make my ears ring and my back hurt.
It seems to me that the older I get, the more I streamline my life. Live music didn’t make the most recent cut. At the very least, my feet are thankful for that.