I know live music and concerts have a huge place in your life. Which two shows changed your life the most, and why? Also, what are your top 3 concerts of all time?
I cannot even count the number of shows I’ve attended with Chris and Michelle (and my little brother, MG). We have so many memories together involving music. We’ve seen Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails and Tool together more times than we’d probably like to admit to our checking accounts. There was this time Michelle and I were an hour late to a Radiohead show because I forgot the tickets. And no, I’ve never lived that one down, trust me. Chris and I went to see Fiona Apple together once. Over the summer, we (along with my brother) were blessed enough to see Nine Inch Nails perform one of their last live shows at Bonnaroo. Those are just a glimmer of my concert experiences with them. One reason the three of us connect as best friends is our deep love of music. I have also seen a lot of shows with my friend, Ula. We live on opposite coasts now, so it’s basically impossible to hang out.
Anyone who talks to me for more than five minutes will find out that music is probably the most important “thing” in my life. My taste in music is incredibly diverse because I connect with sound in a unique way. I cannot imagine my life without music. My favorite bands of all time will always be Nine Inch Nails and Tool. My favorite female musicians are Tori Amos, Ani Difranco and PJ Harvey. My favorite hip hop groups and artists are The Roots, Wu Tang Clan, Common and Erykah Badu. My favorite Trance/EDM DJs are Above and Beyond, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk and Sasha. Thanks to my hippie music-loving mother, I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and The Beatles. But my grandparents instilled in me a love of classic country music artists like Johnny Cash and bluegrass artists like Alison Kraus. I even love musicals. If you must know, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Guys and Dolls are my favorites. I often have an easier time expressing myself in song lyrics than with anything my little brain could possibly come up with on its own. I used to make mixtapes for people until I got DropBox (and before I became a grad student). I just love music. Enough said.
Seeing live music with friends is my most favorite past time. I feel most at home in my own skin when I see a favorite musician, band or DJ perform. To share that music with close friends and family is almost a religious experience for me. I have seen hundreds of concerts. I’ve seen beaucoups of bands/musicians play in dive bars or small venues before they got famous. I’ve attended a handful of music festivals in my short lifetime. Most of my music experiences have taken place at various music venues in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. Sadly, now that I am in grad school, my budget and busy schedule limit the number of shows I can attend in any given month. I go months at a time now without seeing a show even though bands come so close all the time. It breaks my heart. At the same time, I do my best to save money so I can travel or so I can see a favorite band, musician or DJ play. Now I prefer to wait to see a band I really love, to see a band I’ve never seen or to attend a festival. You can find some of my more recent concert photos at Flickr. Sadly, I have not taken the time to scan my million concert photos like I should.
Two epiphany shows
This is SO hard! I’ve seen so many shows and generally have wonderful memories surrounding them. I think I probably have at least five “epiphany” shows in which I felt something “clicked” in my life. I consider some shows to have been life changing for whatever reason. Maybe the music was just overwhelming or maybe the company I kept at that show made it special or maybe I got to hear one of my most favorite songs live for the first time. In any case, here are two such shows.
- Tori Amos at the Ryman Auditorium in 2002. I was with my friend Ula. I attended my first Tori Amos concert with her back in 1999 and it was the first of a handful of times I was fortunate enough to attend a Meet and Greet before a show and meet and speak with Tori Amos. She is an amazing woman and musician and she is one of my heros. Maybe one day when I get to know you well, I will share my Tori story. Anyway, at this show we had wonderful seats (even though there is not a bad seat in that church turned venue). She played Cooling, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. I had seen Tori Amos many times before and since then, but I had never heard that song live. I am getting major chill bumps thinking about. As soon as she played the first few notes, I burst into tears and cried the whole song. During the encore we ran up to the front row by the stage and it was magical. I realized in that moment that this is cooling, faster than I can…
- Nine Inch Nails. A tie between at the Tabernacle in 2005 (with Chris and Michelle) and in Knoxville in 2008 (with Chris, Michelle and my little brother). We were close enough that we could see the sweat on Trent’s newly healthy and buffed up body, but not so close that we had to contend with the crazies on the floor. While the show at the Tabernacle was more intimate, the latter was brilliant in terms of the production. I have seen Nine Inch Nails a number of times, but those two shows were by far my favorite. Here are videos of live performances of March of the Pigs and Hurt during that 2008 tour. Both songs will always and forever make my heart and brain explode with emotion when I see them performed live. It is almost as if a previous life is seeping from my body. I have come so far from the angsty teen who listened to them ten years ago. Nine Inch Nails is one of the bands that have grown with me over the years, changing and improving as individuals and as artists. I will always have a special place in my heart for their art.
My top three concerts
- Ani Difranco at the Ryman Auditorium in 2000. Again I was with Ula. The best part of the show was when she played Angry Anymore. The crowd was singing along so beautifully. She stopped singing at one point with a huge grin on her face as if to tell us she was seriously loving that moment. It was what some might call a religious experience when they are in church singing hymns or feel overcome with emotion. That kind of unity during a concert has not been duplicated for me outside of Trance DJ set.
- Tool in Birmingham at Oakwood Ampitheater in 2002. I was with Chris and Michelle and an ex-boyfriend. A handful of old friends were present, but not sitting with us. It was pouring rain. POURING. We were soaked to the bone and freezing even though we had on ponchos. At one point during the show when they were performing Disposition, Maynard James Keenan sang “watch the weather change.” And the sky cleared and we were able to enjoy that track without the sky opening its wrath upon us. It was definitely a moment I will never forget.
- Ghostland Observatory at the 9:30 club in DC in 2009. I was with my friend Tamara. We went into the show knowing we would be blown away with their presence and musical style, but we had NO idea just HOW blown away we would be by the end of the night. No words can describe the “aha” moment I had while watching and listening to them, dancing my butt off and singing at the top of my lungs. I was fortunate enough to see them again live at that same venue a year later with Tamara and her husband, Jonathan. Ghostland once again delivered an epic show. I consider this an epiphany show because it was one of the first shows where I felt truly happy in my own skin. I was HAPPY in the purest sense of the word.
Top three favorite DJ sets
- DJ Sasha and John Digweed at Bonnaroo in 2007. They played a set that lasted from 11pm until sunrise. It was absolutely without a doubt the most amazing DJ set I have ever seen. Watching the sunrise over the Ferris wheel as they finished their set was definitely a life changing moment. The rest of that trip was horrible, unfortunately, but that eight hours was well worth the entire trip. I honestly can’t tell you what was happening behind me because I was right up against the stage most of the set. And I forgot to take pictures during the set because I was having such a blast. I could have touched Sasha and Digweed. Alex was in Alex Heaven.
- Armin van Buuren at Opera in Atlanta in 2008. Let me first explain that I went to see Radiohead this same evening with my cousin and a friend of mine who was his girlfriend at the time. So the evening began with Radiohead and ended with Armin van Buuren. I know, right?! All I can say is that show completely changed the way I felt about Trance sets. End of story.
- Above and Beyond at Fur (Club Glow) in DC in 2009. These guys are so good. I know you hear my blab all the time about them and their podcast Trance Around the World and their record label Anjunabeats and their side project Oceanlab. But I’m telling you, if these guys come to your city, you need to do yourself a favor and see them. And if you want to know what albums/tracks to check out, just email me. I’ll hook you up. My favorite moment of that night was when Paavo spun On a Good Day. I was grinning ear to ear the whole track while dancing and clapping like I do at these types of things. Now I always go back to that moment when I listen to it.
Below is a video of Alex Heaven. In case you were wondering what that might be like.
What are your epiphany shows? Can you think of three shows that are in your top five favorites of all time? Do you enjoy live music like I do or does it not phase you either way?
The title of this post is a reference to a Tori Amos song, Concertina.