Ringing Ears, Smoke Machines, and Drum Solos

Do you remember you first concert? I do. It was a 1977 show by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia at the Calderone Theater on Long Island. This was the band’s legendary Ra tour, featuring a 20 foot gold Sphinx and lots of smoke and lasers. The highlight was Mr. Rundgren playing a guitar solo on top of a giant steel pyramid —and then tumbling through the air and landing on stage. It was awesome —and thanks to YouTube you can get a taste of what it was like.

It all came rushing back when I took my 13-year-old son Zack to his first concert Friday night. We went to see The Decemberists play at the Amherst College gym. Since it was general admission I led him to a spot against the barrier in front of the stage and imparted a little advice from the old man: “At a show like this you get right up front.”

Despite the smelly and annoying guy next to him, an atrocious opening act, and a long stretch of time on his feet he had a great time. I’ve seen enough concerts from Row Y or Section 301 to know that there is absolutely nothing like standing right in front of the band you’ve spent so many hours listening to on your iPod —or your turntable.

There were no pyramids or laser shooting Sphinxes but The Decemberists rock out live; they opened with the same song seen in this video from a performance in Austin last month.

7 thoughts on “Ringing Ears, Smoke Machines, and Drum Solos

  1. I was able to see U2 at the SUNY Albany Mayfest in 1982 in 8th grade. (My very first concert! on my Birthday no less!) I was squished right up against the stage! It took a while for the chain link marks to fade away from my stomach!

    Robert Hazzard and David Johansen opened. they were great too!

    1. U2 SUNY Albany Mayfest was 1983. It was great. Bono climbing the speaker tower and swaying like he was going to fall. Maybe you were in 9th grade?

  2. I wrote this on AOA (where this post was linked), but I’ll cross post here 🙂

    It’s funny that you brought your son to the Decemberists @ Amherst. I played a similar/opposite role, because I brought my Dad to the same show! I try to get my parents listening to current music, and my dad really enjoys The Decemberists – we had a lot of fun despite the hot and smelly venue, ridiculous security and as you said, the atrocious opening act.

    If you haven’t heard – the Decemberists are coming back to Northampton in August for an outdoor performance of ‘The Hazards of Love’!

  3. That’s really cool, Paul.

    What was up with that security, anyway? It was like getting in to see Barack Obama.

    I hadn’t heard about the Northampton show —the Pines is supposed to be a good place for a concert. I just checked and found that tickets aren’t on sale yet!

  4. I went to my first concert with my dad too. It was only slightly less hip than the Decemberists: Kool and the Gang, the old Starlight Theater in Latham, 1983.

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