We at I GO HARD NOW are a bunch of music snobs. We can usually be found talking about different bands we’ve seen. In fact, blog founder Mike has even seen Nickelback live (before they were cool).
Anyway, oftentimes we find ourselves discussing concerts that we have been to and it so happens that we independently attended the same show. For example, Mike, Erin and I all saw Radiohead in Lakewood, Ohio in 1997.
I thought it would be fun to ask the simple question of “what is the best show you have ever seen” to the bloggers and share their results with our readers:
On May 1, 1996 I saw what was announced at the time to be The Ramones final show in New York City.
I had this horrible sinus infection and was heavily medicated but I wore a leather jacket even though they crammed like 500,000 people into the 400 person venue and it was hot as hell. Coney Island High had these benches on either side of the stage and I was standing on one. I was on the left side of the room facing the stage, pretty close to Johnny Ramone, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t yelling out the words to every song with every other sweaty maniac.
I saw the Roots once back in 2005 at Ohio State University (where I didn’t go). I had been taken this medication that didn’t react well to alcohol at the time, and I spent the entire day drinking with these OSU students I didn’t know. They were friends of a friend. They got into the show for free and could bring a plus-one, so that was the scheme.
As soon as we got in the crowd, I sat down on the pavement and threw up all over the front of my shirt. I threw the shirt out in a trashcan nearby and spent the entire show shirtless and dancing badly.
As for the actual music, I was extremely drunk, but I remember it as the rap version of a Grateful Dead show. Songs stretched out into a perfect infinity. Every musician got his moment to show off and have a piece of ragged memory all to himself. The front man, Black Thought, was engaging, leading the audience in cult-like call-and-responses he sprinkled throughout the show.
My puke ruined a perfectly good pair of sneakers, and I didn’t care. That’s the best endorsement I could give to a show.
Sometimes you can look into a musician’s eyes and know they are locked in.
On Thursday, July 31, 2008, at the Cleveland House of Blues, I saw Gov’t Mule in a groove of a lifetime. Guitarist and lead singer Warren Haynes was especially on his axe work that night. I remember making eye contact with him during end solo of “Time to Confess.” I swear he connected with my soul.
Aside from the amazing guitar work, the setlist was also off the charts. Not only were we treated to Gov’t Mule staples like Rocking Horse and Banks of the Deep End, but diehards like myself also were able to hear Wine & Blood, a seldom played cut. They also tossed in amazing cover versions of “Lucky” by Radiohead, “Maggot Brain” by Parliament Funkadelic and “After Midnight” by J.J. Cale. I was shocked when the encore didn’t end with “Thorazine Shuffle.” Nah, Warren wasn’t done. Next thing you know he and the boys dialed up a nasty 15-minute version of Red House as a little parting gift. I still listen to the concert on the regular and it takes me right back to standing in the second row, sweating and have my face melted by a complete guitar master. Oh, what a night.
The best show I’ve ever seen wasn’t the best show I’ve ever seen.
When I think about going to a concert, just as much as the music, it’s about the company you keep and the process of getting there. The process of traveling to see a show with a close friend turns a something into a transformative evening that’s ingrained into your memory. A shared experience of road trip, meets night out, meets live music.
In October 2004, I went and saw the Mountain Goats in Detroit with my friend Steve. I was just out of college and this was my first year back home, and it was spent reconnecting (read as: going out and getting fucked up) with my buddy. Steve and I both were pretty much obsessed with the Mountain Goats and I’d never had the chance to see them, so he demanded we make the drive to see the band as soon as they played somewhere close. This is the kind of shit you did when you are in your early 20s, bored and not invested in your life.
It wasn’t a far drive from Cleveland to Detroit, but just having the buildup of the drive makes me remember everything from that day a little sharper. From ditching out immediately after work, to what was on the radio on the drive, to the weather of a cool fall afternoon… I just can’t escape that day.
It was my first of many times seeing them live (at least seven that I can remember) and the show was really fucking cool, but it was just so much better because of the experience and who I was with and the trip to get there. Subsequently, Steve and I went and saw them play in various other cities (Asheville, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago), but it just never was the same. That day was magic that can’t be recaptured.
There’s a recording of the show floating around on the Internet. You can hear Steve and I scream after every song and annoyingly make requests. John actually played “Rockin Rockin Pet Store”, which Steve badgered him to play (back when John played requests, idk if he does anymore, but he didn’t the last time I saw him). This show was awesome and it’s incredible that there’s a fairly decent quality recording in existence, but I don’t really need it. That day is burned into my memory like it was yesterday, and that’s what made it the best show I’ve ever seen.
If you had asked me as a teenager what I thought the adult version of me would have considered the best show she’d ever attended, it wouldn’t have been one where I spent a good portion of it feeling scared. Seeing Kanye West’s YEEZUS show, heavily asterisked as my best choice because what? And really? And this is where I’m at now? But yes. This is where I am. A stage show with choreography and costume changes and masks and a person in a monster costume.
No show had ever made me feel so many things about the performance, the performer, creative process and myself. Even though I’ve seen Radiohead in a high school auditorium and Spiritualized in a tiny club with 150 people and countless other shows that mean a lot to me, YEEZUS tour, at this point is the best. He’ll give us what we need, it may not be what we want.
I estimate that I have been to approximately 500 concerts in my life. Most shows have 3 bands on the bill. I have also seen a decent amount of music festivals. That’s a lot of live acts.
Seriously, I took this picture. And that’s awesome.
I’ve seen a lot of bands. I spent my early-to-mid twenties going to as many shows as possible. I felt most comfortable hanging out at clubs like the Grog Shop and the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. I’ve seen bands perform on their way up, bands at the pinnacle of their career and bands who should have quit long ago.
With that said. it’s nearly impossible to pick a best show that I have seen.
But one stands out above the rest and that is when I saw Radiohead in Athens, Greece in the summer of 2000.
It wasn’t even the best Radiohead show that I have seen, but this night is beyond special to me.
The first reason is the setting. It took place at a theater on top of Mount Lycabettus, which is the highest point in Athens. The scenery was stunning with the Acropolis being visible from the venue. The only comparable venue I have personally been to is Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, and Mount Lycebettus put it to shame.
The setlist was memorable because it took place during a European mini tour that they did about 4 months before Kid A was released. I vividly remember Thom York dancing around like a mad man during “The National Anthem” and how weird “Everything In Its Right Place” and “Kid A” sounded to my 19 year old ears. This is impressive because these are songs that were not released yet and that I hadn’t heard until that night. This was a great point in Radiohead’s career to see them perform. Put it in that setting and you have yourself the making of a special night.
The show was general admission, so I was able to grab a spot right against the stage, which was something that was unheard of at a Radiohead show past the year 1997.
The most important reason that show was so memorable to me was the point that it happened in my life. I was 19 and spending a month in Greece with a bunch of my closest friends. These are guys that I have very close bonds with to this day. We all live all over the country now and only get to see each other once or twice a year. The naïveté of youth propels this one to the top of my list. I re-live that night in my head on a daily basis for a multitude of reasons.