Photo by Gavin Paul
An interesting question was posed to me back ch’onder ’round August 16th this year:
“What was your favorite concert?”
That’s a loaded question, right there. It has vexed me for some time. My immediate answer was, “Wow, there’s no way to answer that question from one point of view. I mean, my most spiritual concert experience is much different than my first metal or punk show and that in of itself is also so much more different than my first festival experience. So there’s no real angle of attack to such a question.”
It vexed me hard core for a while.
I was brought into the subject during a visit with my mom, her husband and my kid brother in upstate New York for a camping trip. My brother and I started talking about favorite songs, albums, etc. and my mom chimes in with that question. Since then, I’ve been thinking day in and day out to figure out what it is that could be the solid basis for a favorite concert. Do we go with era? genre? atmosphere of the social climate and the band playing conscious of that? guy band? girl band? venue? I mean, the criteria is limitless but there has to be something. How do you have a muddled cloud of “ties for first place, number one best concert ever” sitting atop a mountain of emotion or lack thereof.
I took that incoherent pinch of non-logic with no beginning and no end and I rolled it back in my mind some more and continued on this crocodile death roll in the reeds of my shell-shocked mind and I think… and think… and think… and think…
Then I asked my wife when I got home and clued her in to how vexed I truly was and thought that maybe she can offer up some clarity; un-muddy the waters if you will. She’s a level-headed woman, she’s fairly intelligent when it comes to music (she’s snobby about it, which in a lot of ways validates her opinion because of an inherent emotional attachment to something so personal) and above all: logic is her cornerstone. She’s a female Mr. Spock and I’m her James Kirk who karate kicks his way through space leaving a wake of brokenhearted green bitches and torn fabrics of time that are still toppling far reaching intergalactic societies. But my heart is in the right place.
Remember that time you called me on the phone when I was in New Orleans? Remember the Capt. Kirk cutout? Remember?
I digress. The wifey furrowed her brow thinking in the same camp as me on this favorite concert business and then further clouded the conundrum with this gem: “Well, what’s your favorite band?” Shit, woman! If it were that easy, I’d had it figured out on the spot! So, I think about that and discount the “favorite band theory” on the grounds that it was way too simple. Just because I’ve seen my favorite band in concert, it doesn’t mean that was my favorite concert. See above paragraph for where that whole chestnut starts.
Then I take this new blip on the radar and mash it together with all the other crap that goes along with answering the questions and I think… and think… and think… and think…
Holy crap! Favorite band?! What now? A completely different dimension to musical favorites. It too (the favorite band question) has an algorithm completely to itself that would take a lifetime to completely figure out. A favorite song would also come from the favorite band, right? Or would it? Back to the band, man. We’re getting the band back together. So, now I need to find out which band I find to be tops and then figure out that song probably from that band, maybe therein would define what a favorite show would encompass. But what if my favorite song isn’t from my favorite band? Shit! Questions…
Then I listen to some tunes. I know my favorite band, I’ll start there. But right from the beginning I know my favorite concert was not a Pearl Jam concert although both times I did see them were quite awesome. Both shows were in 2003 when I got home from Afghanistan and was about four months away from going to Iraq. What a rumbustious time. The first show was post Afghanistan in April 2003, I saw Pearl Jam for the first time at the Walnut Creek Amphitheater in North Carolina. I sang every song all the way through, got to second base with a random blond in the parking lot and went home from that show with a new-found vigor in life that followed me all the way through to the end of my military service. The second show was at the Cricket Amphitheater in Phoenix, Arizona about two months before shipping to Iraq. I sang every song all the way through, went all the way with a different blond at a hotel and knew that this was probably going to be my last great music experience ever because I wasn’t going to be making it home from a ground war in Iraq. But neither of those shows were top in my book. They both embody the live spirit of my favorite band but they don’t hold sway for a top concert experience. So there’s no match there.
I go back in my mind and continue to think… and listen to more tunes… and think… and listen to more tunes…
This goes on with a hidden religious fervor and I bounce all over the music stratosphere like a nuclear powered super ball on steroids ricocheting off every music genre, album, artist, geographic location, time of my life ever experienced and I’m coming up nil. But, those who try and fail are doing better than those who never try at all, so at least I can motivate myself that way to stay the course and make good with an answer. Hell, who knows. It may never come, or it’ll be my dying words whispered from my deathbed. Leaving my kids and grand kids confused, “Who cares what granpa’s favorite concert was? Where the heck did that come from?” Ha! My legacy! Like all those who try, persistence is bitter but the reward is sweet.
And just like that, the answer came to me.
I was dancing around the house blaring tunes with the Rude Dude one morning and it came on; the one song that – no matter what, no matter where – when it comes on my mood immediately gets better. When this song comes on, I never skip ahead. If it has been on and I catch it part-way through, I finish the song and then replay it so I can hear it through in its entirety. This song cheers me up when I’m down, gets me amped when I’m low and when I’m in a great mood, this song takes me to the next level.
“Monday Morning Ant Brigade” by the Bouncing Souls; a song that any working class person can wrap their head around. It’s a snarling-tough, covered in tattoos and stinks of beer and whiskey kind of song.
This song is a middle finger to any who try to make someone else’s day total shit, it puts a middle finger up to regular authority/conformity and outlines how truly shitty it can be to wake up from a raucous night out – hung over or still drunk – striking out with every woman from the night before and having to face a Monday at work.
Good, bad, awesome, shitty, rebellious all wrapped into one song. Tits! But that’s where it started. I figured out my favorite song. Not a tie for first or a mixture of music that fits my mood, nope this one is the multifaceted, all encompassing, all being, all knowing song that is the crown jewel in my music collection. That got the ball rolling and I thought about it deeper and realized the album that song is on is tits as well.
The album is Hopeless Romantic and it’s packed to the hilt with timeless punk anthems from the ’90s on. “Fight to Live” and “You’re So Rad” are two ends of a spectrum loaded with hard-hitting riffs that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up from opening note to the last drip of sweat poured out from album closer, “The Whole Thing”. It’s an album that I don’t necessarily worship so much as I appreciate. The musical talent culminating on one collection of songs, Greg Attonito’s voice, the message, it all makes sense – it’s my favorite album. It was a go-to for the jukebox when we would post-up at the standard watering hole back in the day. Once we got our quarters in the machine it was ours and the sing-song American hooligan anthems on Hopeless Romantic topped the list on most occasions. “Bullying the Jukebox” and “Ole!” were bar faves as was the bop-y anti-love ditty, “Wish You Well.” With pints hoisted high and our music playing soundtrack, we’d drink to the best days behind us, better days to come, friends long past and new acquaintances just the same.
I get lost in the lyrics and moved by the change-ups and bass lines; I transport to a different world, like the night I saw them at the Metro in Chicago with my wife – who was my fiance at the time.
I can honestly say I’ve seen some decent bands at the Metro: Streetlight Manifesto, The Aquabats! and the Tossers – to name a few. Each time was great, I never really had a complaint about the venue. Sometimes the audio can be a little distorted, but I’m not so much an audiophile or music snob, it just has to be loud and fast (most of the time). But by and large, when the wife and I saw the Bouncing Souls there something inside of me was changing. I was seeing a band I’ve been wanting to see for some time and it was going to be fairly intimate; right up to the barriers, loud, obnoxious and completely kick-ass! I was in a city that put these things – these live shows – at my finger tips. I hadn’t yet been much of a music critic and had yet to really experience a huge festival or blow-out big show. This was our time, our moment to listen to some punk tunage and just let it all hang loose. And we did. There was much drinking, my favorite songs were played and by shows end the wife was lined up to beat the crap out of some wank beotch from the suburbs.
The fight never happened, the rest of the night was a bit of a blur as most of my concert experiences have been.
But that show tops them all. It wasn’t the most moving. It wasn’t an evening of ground breaking new music. It was loud punk music in a place that I liked, with a person I was completely in love with (and still am to this day, XOXO A). It was hot, sweaty, loud – crazy loud – and we didn’t really have much of a care in the world. We didn’t have to go to that show, we wanted to. There was no social obligation involved other than we wanted each others company during a live show we were both completely in to.
And that, as a long answer, was my favorite concert. All things considered, I’m not done going to live shows and I still have a number of bands I still need to see live. But that is where I stand as of right now and I’m pretty alright with it.