Fugazi, May 3 1998, Newport Music Hall, Columbus Ohio


Fugazi was a great band that put out some great records. I still listen to 13 Songs and Repeater a couple times a year and I still love them.

The band could play great live shows, too, though it seemed like they never had fun doing it. They’d play a killer punk song that would get the crowd going, then singer Ian MacKaye would stop and tell everyone not to stage-dive or mosh. Then they’d play another killer song and people would start getting riled up, then MacKaye would stop and tell people to cool out again. Repeat(er).

The band had some kind of rule, or at least a goal, of never charging more than $5 or $6 for its shows. It also was big on being anti-corporate rock and anti-establishment. So I thought it was kind of funny that the tickets for this show carried a service charge that pushed the $6 face value up to about $15, and that the tickets list Bud Light as a sponsor. Oh well, at least they tried.


Fatboy Slim, October 29 1999, The Warfield, San Francisco


I had a lot to learn about DJ “concerts” when I went to this show. I didn’t know whether he’d have a band or a series of samplers or what, but I thought Fatboy Slim would be performing songs from his albums one way or another. So it was a little bit of a surprise to find out we’d paid $25 to watch a DJ spin records, with only a small number of those records being his own. I’ve since embraced the DJ culture and quite enjoy going to DJ sets by folks like Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, 2ManyDJs, Diplo, etc., but it was all new to me on this night.

I also had a bit to learn about San Francisco when I went to this show. It was my second time in the city and I was there with a friend for a little vacation. When we got to The Warfield and found out the doors hadn’t opened yet and there was a line to get in, we decided to find a nearby bar and have a drink or two. So we walked a few blocks and popped into a place called Grady’s that had a beer-and-shot special for $3.


What we didn’t realize was that we’d crossed into the South of Market — or Soma — area, which was not exactly a tourist destination in 1999.

As we walked into Grady’s, a man who was on his way out stagger-veered in my direction, stopped and shook my hand as if he knew me. We sat at the bar and ordered the beer/shot special from the bartender, an old guy who was missing some teeth and part of a finger. Next to us was a Bukowski-type character drinking whiskey, mumbling and scribbling notes non-stop in some kind of journal.

Knowing that I should know better, I couldn’t resist reaching into the bowl of Doritos sitting on the bar. I ate one chip, which had a surprisingly soggy consistency and a surprisingly hot taste to it. I decided not to eat any more of them. A few minutes later a guy walked up and grabbed a couple chips for himself. “Hey, who poured beer in the Doritos?” shouted the man, who — unlike me — had apparently realized the chips were soggy before he put them in his mouth. “It’s tobasco sauce!” the bartender shouted back. The man paused, looked at the bowl, said “That’ll work!” scooped up a couple handfuls of chips and walked away.

A few minutes after that, the Dorito-eater got into a fight with another patron. The bartender shouted “Take it outside!” at the men, who complied and went outside to fight on the sidewalk. The bartender and other patrons went outside to watch.

The fight didn’t last long. Everyone came back in the bar. The two men who’d fought were talking to each other in a reasonably civil manner. I don’t think it was the first time they’d sparred, nor the last.

The Breeders, November 22 1993, Bogart’s, Cincinnati


When I see this stub, I think not about the concert itself but about spending the night with a man I didn’t know very well in a cheap hotel next to an adult book store off the freeway. Wait, it’s not what it sounds like.

1993 was a good year for The Breeders. They released their Last Splash album in August and had their first (er, only) radio hit with “Cannonball.” Because I was living in Columbus and The Breeders were from nearby Dayton, I’d had a couple chances to see them before this show and counted myself as a fan.

I went to this concert with a guy who was a friend of a friend. We went on to become good friends, but this was the first time we went on an excursion without our mutual friend, who couldn’t make it for some reason.

The concert was a typical Breeders show from that era. A little sloppy, a little uneven, but ultimately endearing. We had fun.

On the way back to Columbus after the show, I pulled off the freeway near Jeffersonville to get gas. Then my car wouldn’t start back up. It was after midnight, too late to be trying to get service, so we used the gas station’s pay phone to try to find a friend to come get us. The guy I was with called his roommate, but she was too drunk to come get us. Then he called our mutual friend, but he was asleep like most people would be after midnight on a Monday.

We pushed the car to a spot where we could leave it overnight, and walked to a hotel. I somehow didn’t notice until we were in the dingy hotel lobby that it was right next to a giant adult book store. So there we were, two men booking a cheap room next to an adult book store in the middle of the night on a Monday. Sigh.

U2, March 2 1985, Los Angeles Sports Arena


When principal Skinner said “Oh God, we’re at the corner of Cesar Chavez Way and Martin Luther King Boulevard” on The Simpsons the other night, I couldn’t help but think of this concert.

I went to this show with my brother. I was 18 and he was 16. We were living in San Diego and drove to the show on our own. Our directions for getting to the Sports Arena had us exit on Martin Luther King Boulevard, which we were naively surprised to find out was in the middle of a pretty, um, urban area. Unsure of where we were going, I pulled into a gas station to ask for directions.

In my memory, every single customer and employee at the gas station, as well as every passer-by on the street, was a black man wearing a shower cap on his head. I later learned that the caps were part of jheri curl maintenance but at the time had no idea what was going on.

You’d think that a man wearing a shower cap in public would look like a wuss, but somehow it made these guys look more intimidating to me. It was like they were so bad-ass that they could wear a ridiculous-looking thing on their head, practically daring you to laugh at them.

I made my brother get out of the car and ask directions.

The concert was great fun. It was a sold-out show, the first of three nights at the arena. I was a big U2 fan at the time, and Bono was years away from becoming annoying to me. He was still very earnest, of course, and when a male fan climbed on stage and was grabbed by security, Bono instructed the bouncers to let the fan approach him for a hug. Awww.

Here’s the set list, pulled off the Internet:

11 O’Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Seconds, MLK*, The Unforgettable Fire, Wire, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Electric Co., A Sort Of Homecoming, Bad, October, New Year’s Day, Pride. Encore: Knocking On Heaven’s Door, Gloria, 40.

* It’s not true that Bono introduced the number by saying, “I wanna give a shout out to the men in shower caps on MLK Blvd.”

Toots and the Maytals, June 30 2005, Newport Music Hall, Columbus Ohio


I don’t listen to a ton of reggae, but when I do, my favorite act is Toots and the Maytals. I’ll admit I haven’t delved too deeply into his catalog, but I quite like a lot of the songs that are always on his “best of” collections. So I was excited to see him peform, even if he’s past his prime.

It was cool to see Toots on stage, and it was cool to hear songs like “Time Tough,” “Monkey Man,” “Pressure Drop” and “54-46 That’s My Number” played live. And it was cool to be in a hall full of people who like this stuff.

But the show wasn’t as satisfying as it could’ve been because I could barely hear Toots’ vocals. I don’t know if it was because of the Newport’s notoriously muddy sound mix or because his voice was thin that night, but it often seemed like I could hear the vocals in my head more than in my ears. If you’ve seen him in recent years, I’d be curious to hear whether his vocals were strong.

Ray Charles, November 13 1981, Mershon Auditorium, Columbus Ohio


I had the good fortune of seeing Ray Charles perform twice, and this was the first — and far more memorable — of the two.

The concert itself was killer. Ray was backed by a full jazz ensemble, plus backup singers the Raelettes, and the stage was full of energy and excitement. They played well-known tracks like “What’d I Say?” “Georgia on my Mind,” “Take These Chains From my Heart” and “Hit the Road Jack,” as well as songs I wasn’t familiar with. Thanks to my close relationship with the promoter, I was able to sit in the 6th row, center section, to take it all in.

As memorable as the concert was, the real highlights for me came before the show. Because of my connection to the promoter — OK, it was my dad — I was able to hang out for a couple hours before the show to watch the sound check and other preparations. I also got to meet and shake hands with Ray Charles himself — something you can bet I mention if I’m talking to someone and the topic of meeting famous people ever comes up.

While meeting Ray was certainly a thrill, the thing that impressed me the most about that evening was watching the sound check. When Ray first arrived backstage, he was treated like the legend he was, and seemed to enjoy all the glad-handing and fawning he got from people. But when the sound check began, he was all business. He repeatedly would stop mid-song and tell a horn player to come in earlier on the stabs, or tell the bass player to loosen the groove, or tell one of the Raelettes to sing louder or softer. Sometimes he would run the band through a particular measure four or five times before he was satisfied. I was amazed at how he could focus on each element of the orchestra, picking out things that the audience never would have noticed. It was then I realized I wasn’t just watching some famous guy, but a real musical genius.

The Cult, Jan 21 1990, Veterans Memorial, Columbus Ohio


In January of 1990 The Cult was one of my favorite bands. I listened to their “Love” and “Electric” albums all the time. I scored sixth-row seats to see this show. I couldn’t have been more excited. What could possibly go wrong?

About five days before the show, I got a call from a company where I’d applied for a job. They wanted to interview me! Yay! But at 8 a.m. the morning after this concert! Ugh! I had just graduated college and this was my first interview for a “real” job, so I didn’t want to blow it. I also was used to sleeping until, well, a lot later than 8 a.m. The idea of waking up, putting a suit on, making it downtown, finding a parking place and getting to an interview by 8:00 was pretty daunting.

So instead of letting loose and having a great time at the Cult show, I was distracted by thoughts of how to answer questions like “Where do you hope to be five years from now?” and “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” Hey, it was my first job interview; I didn’t know what they’d ask. I also didn’t have my then-customary pre-concert beers, as I didn’t want to have a hangover or be extra tired for the interview.

So I didn’t enjoy this show as much as I’d hoped, but it was still a good time. The band was in good form and played all the songs I hoped they’d play. I saw them again a few times after this one, most recently a year-and-a-half ago at the Del Mar racetrack, and always enjoy them.

As for the job, I didn’t get it. Oh, well.