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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.”

Lemon Jelly, March 2 2005, Manchester Academy, Manchester


Not only did I fly across the Atlantic to see Lemon Jelly, I did it twice. The first time was in 2003, when Mrs. Stubs and Stories and I planned a UK trip in part around seeing Lemon Jelly. Unfortunately, the band canceled that tour after we’d booked our trip, so we didn’t get to see them then.

The second time was the charm, though. This show, in Manchester, was a rollicking good time. If you know anything about Lemon Jelly, you know that they have ways of making things special, whether it’s their album artwork, gatefold covers, colored vinyl pressings and more. Just look at the ticket stub — a bit nicer than your average slab of cardboard (though not as clever as when the band did shows where the tickets consisted of special T-shirts that concertgoers wore to get inside).

For this show, the band had a chalkboard set up near the entrance where attendees could scrawl messages that were displayed on a big screen inside the theater. There also was a stand selling old vinyl records that Lemon Jelly’s Fred Deakin pulled from his personal collection of thrift-store finds. Before the concert, the band held a brief quiz game, with audience members getting prizes for shouting out correct answers.

Then there was the concert itself. Playing before an elaborate light show that cost enough to render the tour unprofitable, the Jellies served up many favorites from their catalog. Some tunes were reworked with new instrumentation played live. Others incorporated new samples, notably the mashup of “Ramblin’ Man” with a Giorgio Moroder number.


After the concert, Fred Deakin played a hastily arranged DJ set at a student union nearby. His eclectic selection was great fun to hear.

Club MTV tour, July 7 1991, Capital Music Center, Columbus Ohio


 The stub says “MTV Dance Party” but this was really the Club MTV tour. The lineup was pretty good for its time: Bell Biv DeVoe, Gerardo, Tony! Toni! Tone!, C&C Music Factory, Tara Kemp and Color Me Bad.

It was a fast-moving show. Some of the acts played only 20-30 minutes, which was just fine by me. I mean, how many songs that aren’t “Rico Suave” do you want to hear from Gerardo?

Bell Biv DeVoe was the headliner, and they got the crowd moving with “Poison” and other hits. My favorite act of the evening was Tony! Toni! Tone!, which I think was the only act to feature live people playing real instruments. They had a good-sized band and created more of a groove than the other performers, who used a DJ or backing track, and maybe a live drummer, for their accompaniment.

Boston, February 26 1979, San Diego Sports Arena


I think it was at this show that for the first time I felt bored at a rock concert. I’d bought Boston’s first album when it came out and loved “More Than a Feeling,” “Long Time” and so forth. Played it to death. This tour was in support of their second album, Don’t Look Back, which I didn’t buy and wasn’t familiar with, aside from the title track. I remember this concert featuring way too much from Don’t Look Back and not enough from their debut, and the songs sounding too much like the record and not very “live” to me.

I also was disappointed that the opening act was Sammy Hagar, who I didn’t know at the time, instead of The Knack, who’d opened their date in San Bernardino a few days earlier. I enjoyed Hagar — this was well before he couldn’t drive 55 and turned into a caricature like he is now — but would’ve loved to see The Knack.

It seemed like every person in the arena (except my friends and me) was smoking pot at this show. The whole place was filled with smoke. I bought a tour t-shirt and put it on at the show — hey, I was 12 and didn’t know it’s uncool to do this. I wore the still-unwashed shirt to school the next day and people could still smell marijuana smoke on it, especially when I said, “Hey, smell my shirt.” I thought it made me cool.

Modest Mouse, September 16 2000, Newport Music Hall, Columbus Ohio


Modest Mouse can be a little bit hit and miss in their live shows, and this one was no different. Some of the time the band seemed to be into what they were doing and played well, other times they seemed disengaged or bored.

I wish I could say something about how The Shins played that night, but unfortunately I didn’t get there in time to see them. That was intentional because I didn’t know The Shins yet and therefore didn’t know I’d like them. Oh well.