Yes, it’s been 25 years since my first concert. My dad got the tix and took me to see Rush at the Capital Centre. He went to the ticket counter right at 10AM as requested, and no one else was buying tix in Crystal City, so he scored third row seats. It would take me nearly 20 years to do better than that, and considerably more money. Opener Helix didn’t make much of an impression (other than the idea that singers in a metal band aren’t very impressive when they use a trampoline), but Rush was mindblowing.
For the first couple years, I mostly went to Rush shows, then slowly started branching out. It wasn’t until 15 years ago when I deliberately made a goal of seeing 100 different artists that year that I really got into concert going as a full time hobby.
My current total of different artists seen now stands at 1153. The most shows seen by a single artist is local band Eddie From Ohio at 81 (including solo appearances), close behind is locals emmet swimming at 71 with Todd Wright (from local bands The Excentrics and Getaway Car) at 49. For nationals, Dave Matthews (with and without his band) is at 36, while Rush is tied with locals Pat McGee Band at 18 (though the latter will break that tie on Saturday).
I thought about making a top 25 list with the best concert from each year, but it’s pretty thin the first couple years, so I’m just going to select my favorite concerts ever:
25. We’re About 9/Girlyman/Da Vinci’s Notebook at the Oh Sweet Harmony workshop at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival on July 26th, 2003
It’s not often I can point to a single moment that made me a fan of a band, but Girlyman showing how the chorus to “Postcards From Mexico” worked was it. And I’ve got it on video.
24. Great Big Sea at Wolf Trap on August 21st, 2009
Sometimes it’s about where you are. Like front row for a band who know you can sing along on every song with, and they don’t let up for a solid two hours.
23. Tori Amos at Pier Six Pavilion on August 24th, 2005
Partly just because we managed to be walking around early and caught the soundcheck, partly because it was a nice summer night, but mostly because she put on a great show.
22. Eddie From Ohio on Carnival’s Holiday in Doc Holiday’s for Edhead Cruise III on November 14th, 2003
I can’t forget the show we got engaged at, can I?
20. Mike Clem’s Traveling Harmony Revue at Camp Edhead at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival on July 23rd, 2005
Mike Clem (from Eddie From Ohio) leads a raucous singalong until early in the morning steps away from our tent. One of my favorite FRFF memories.
19. Rage Against The Machine at the Patriot Center on August 21st, 1996
The most energy I’ve ever seen in one location. They refused to turn the house lights off the entire show, and the crowd still tore the barricades apart.
17. Smashing Pumpkins at the 9:30 Club on January 6th, 1996
For the grand opening of the new 9:30 Club, they got the hottest band in the land, and my co-owner at the record store managed to get tickets from the record company. It was my first experience at an overpacked 9:30 Club (and not my last), but still incredible.
15. Extreme at Bank Of America Pavilion on June 30, 2006
Their original lineup back together for the first time in 10 years, in amazing form, plus one of the last concerts with Boston’s Brad Delp.
14. Paul Simon and friends at the Warner Theatre for the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song on May 23rd, 2007
An incredible roster of artists, but most meaningful to me was getting to see Paul play “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
13. Sarah McLachlan/Barenaked Ladies on NCL Jewel in Stardust Theater for Ships and Dip V on February 5th, 2009
They really gave it their all – at the time we thought it was because it was the last night of the cruise, but it turned out to be Steven’s last show with them, a tart but sweet memory.
12. Billy Idol/Coldplay/Foo Fighters at M & T Bank Stadium for the HFStival on May 14th, 2005
11. R.E.M./Pearl Jam/James Taylor/Dixie Chicks/Dave Matthews Band/Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at MCI Center for Vote For Change on October 11th, 2004
10. Nine Inch Nails/Metallica/Aerosmith at Woodstock ’94 on August 13th, 1994
9. Dave Matthews Band/Kelly Clarkson/Bon Jovi/Smashing Pumpkins/Roger Waters/The Police at Giants Stadium for Live Earth on July 7th, 2007
I love festivals, and it’s the chance to see artist after amazing artist that really make it memorable.
8. Aerosmith at Foxboro Stadium for the WBCN River Rave on May 26th, 2001
This was also at a festival, but a single moment. When they play “Sweet Emotion”, Tom Hamilton plays a long bass intro, and just as they broke into the main part of the song, lightning split the sky directly behind them. Best light show ever.
7. Brian May at Hammerjacks on March 5th, 1993
The solo CD had not left my CD player for nearly a month when I heard on 98 Rock the Queen guitarist was doing a last minute show in Baltimore. Amazing show with all his great solo songs and a number of Queen ones. I went with a girl I worked with on the school paper, and she ended getting us back stage just in time to meet him before he left.
6. Jimmy Page & Robert Plant at US Air Arena on March 23rd, 1995
I’m sorry I didn’t make the Zep reunion in 2007, but the pair of shows they put on in 1995 felt like a reunion (I recently found videos for both shows, gotta give the edge to the second one).
5. Pearl Jam at Patriot Center on April 8th, 1994
I don’t know if I can ever properly describe what it was like before this show. We had just gotten the news that Kurt Cobain had died and this show was his wake. Eddie Vedder can surf a crowd like he can surf a wave.
4. Rush at AmSouth Amphitheatre on August 14th, 2002
I vowed to see these guys from the front row, and it was cheaper to buy airfare to Nashville, rent a room and a car and buy a front row ticket there then just buy one front row ticket in DC. Oh well, still an incredible night, plus I made it out of the venue so fast I saw Neil’s van leaving.
3. Paul McCartney with Ringo Starr at Radio City Music Hall for Change Begins Within on April 4th, 2009
Never got a chance to see George, wasn’t passing up a chance to see the last two Beatles together. Totally worth it.
2. David Gilmour with Richard Wright at Massey Hall, April 9th, 2006
I did see the Waters-less Pink Floyd twice, but “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Echoes” in a small theater blew the top of my head off.
1. Queen + Paul Rodgers at Continental Airlines Arena on October 16th, 2005
I was hoping for a show like this for years. I saw U2 for the second time a week later. They might as well been a tribute band, this show set the bar so high I wonder if it will ever be hit again.