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This Is How I Remind Me

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I don’t display much in the way of obsessive behaviour in my approach to music.

What I do have is a Word document listing every concert / festival I’ve been to – kept simple; just the artist, venue and date.

I’ve got a friend who keeps his tickets as a memento – though technology has dealt a fatal blow he never predicted as most events now use paperless e-tickets.

It wasn’t until well into my 30s that I thought to compile my list. A way of keeping track of who I saw. Looking at it provokes memories, and charts the course of my life with locations changing as I moved.

It also charts changing tastes and the fortunes of the various acts, some keep recurring (Belle & Sebastiansix times) and others appear once.

The Breeders at Leeds Metropolitan University

In some cases as they disappeared without trace shortly afterwards.

I’d put money on none of you having heard of The Blueskins.

At The Cockpit, Leeds.

As I started compiling it some 20 years after my first concert there was a lot of backfilling.

Memory and a trawl through my record collection as a prompt gave me the acts, the venues and a rough idea of the year. The internet did the rest.

Want to find the date that The Boo Radleys played Warrington Parr Hall? Some helpful soul already put this information online (10th June 1995) thereby giving this nostalgist a little buzz of satisfaction.

There was only one result that confused me. I was convinced I saw Mogwai with my regular gig buddy of that period at Leeds Metropolitan University around the time of their debut album in 1997. Except the Internet says they didn’t play there until 18th October 1999. By which time that gig buddy had moved away from Leeds and I have no idea who I might have been there with. Was I even there?! I’m 99.9% sure I was.

The list is also a reminder of the ageing process, or maturing perhaps.

First concert I attended after leaving home for university:

Wedding Present, at Manchester University Students Union.

It was a spur of the moment thing, only found out about it that afternoon and off we went. Back then usual concert strategy was get to the front. Never mind that once there you were tightly packed in and subjected to the flailing arms and legs of crowd surfers passing overhead. All that mattered was getting as close as possible.

Another sign of the times, like the Discman and Tamagotchis; crowd surfing and stagediving were big in the 90s but I don’t remember when I last saw them.

Other than Wayne Coyne being passed across the crowd in an inflatable bubble at a Flaming Lips show, Manchester Apollo.

That night at Wedding Present we were at the front but right of stage.

Directly in front of the speaker stack.

Contrast with my more mature approach. Its now comfort over closeness. I’m an inch under average height which makes finding the optimum viewing spot a little more difficult. Plenty of times I’ve had a decent view ruined by a six footer moving in right in front of me.

With age, my preferred position has moved to the rear. It allows for a more all encompassing view and its easier to sidestep any towering hindrances. You also aren’t hemmed in and subjected to constant jostling from that drunk guy who has lost all sense of equilibrium…

…And social niceties… and is pinballing off crowd members in a world of his own.

Gruff Rhys at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

In the 90s and 00s when youth rendered me invincible I didn’t give a thought to the impact on my hearing. Standing in front of the speakers left a ringing in the ears but it was gone the following day. Tinnitus be damned, that was for old people.

Turns out old = 39.

Ouch.
In solidarity: we are totally cancelling the office subscription to MEL Magazine.

Ride at Leeds Academy was noticeably louder than any concert before.

I didn’t realise how bad it was til I got outside and could barely hear.

Just a disorienting combination of loud ringing from within and muffled sounds from without. Driving home not being able to hear the car engine was disturbing. Waking up the next morning some of my hearing had returned but it was uneven between left and right leaving me feeling weirdly off balance. Thankfully that passed but my hearing isn’t as sharp as it used to be.

Which is why I now wear ear plugs whenever I attend live music.

It seemed a simple trade off between that, carrying on without them until my hearing was ruined, or never going to another concert. One of those things that if I could go back in time I’d tell my younger self of the damage and to always wear ear plugs.

Though the younger me would probably just say, ‘yeah right grandad’.

Maturity has brought with it a family and more considerations.

First concert as a parent: Black Keys at Manchester Arena.

Also notable for the worst hot dog in the history of humanity. I hadn’t eaten beforehand: it was the only option. Turned out to involve a stale dry baguette way bigger than the dog, no sauces available. It was an act of endurance to force it down my throat – another lesson learnt, always make time to eat beforehand. I got home to bed sometime after midnight only to be woken within an hour by a crying baby with a temperature who kept it up most of the night. Who needs sleep anyway?

And then there were concerts I didn’t get to.

A month before Black Keys, I should have seen Jack White; 4th November 2012 at Bridlington Spa. This time Baby J got the disruption in beforehand, with a sleepless night preceeding the concert and necessitating an early Sunday morning trip to an out of hours doctor to get her checked over. Frazzled by lack of sleep and concern at leaving my wife to deal with whatever the problem was meant that I stayed home.

Its gotten easier as she’s gotten older. But those baby years also induced a desire for an early finish. It used to be that an 11pm curfew was the norm.

There became a trend for concerts on a Friday or Saturday to start earlier and be done by 10pm as the venue would turn itself over to a club night. Double the income stream for them. Teenage and twenty something me would have felt short changed by a 10pm finish. But when you know you’ll likely be woken at some point in the night by a baby / toddler with its own wonky internal alarm clock? That early finish and the prospect of an extra hour in bed was a big positive.

Fatherhood also put paid to festivals.

My first was the Phoenix Festival.

Held at Long Marston Airfield, outside Stratford Upon Avon.

It was hot, dusty and with lousy facilities but over four nights had headliners David Bowie, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Bjork and Sex Pistols. Most memorable part was on the way home having to quell a panic attack on the platform at Birmingham train station. Four nights with little sleep, a lack of food with any nutritional value and rounding things off with vodka soaked drinking games until the early hours of Monday morning caught up with me.

There were many more festivals.

Most notably Glastonbury, which is a glorious city come to life in the rolling Somerset fields.

A bewildering number of stages featuring a diverse range of genres (we headed to the Pyramid Stage for the English National Opera performing the final act of The Valkyrie from Wagner’s Ring Cycle). Glastonbury was a week long event. Arriving Wednesday when the campsite opened, staying until Monday. And needing a day of recovery before going back to work.

2007 was a mud year. By Sunday my feet were in agony from the constant damp and being stood up all day. Crawling into my tent each night and pulling off boots and socks, steam would waft up from my feet and my soles were lined with painful ridges.

It was the first Glastonbury I went to after meeting the woman that would become Mrs J.

Returning home to our flat afterwards she recoiled at the sight of the unshaven, mud spattered tramp in front of her. I needed a shower and then a bath to get clean. I’d already binned my tent rather than bring it back, as it was unsalvageable but having got me home I had to bin my boots as they grew mold.

That vision put her off coming with me for several years, finally giving in and giving it a go in 2010. We basked in unbroken sunshine all week long. It was the perfect send off, Mrs J said there was no need to go back as she wouldn’t get that lucky again.

I haven’t been back either.

Junior J came along in 2011. And I decided that family came first. Leave from work was precious and using a week for me to go off and have a good time without them didn’t seem a fair deal for them.

The very last act I saw at Glastonbury was Stevie Wonder.

OK, so it wasn’t his 1970s peak but still, not a bad note to sign off on.

There’s history in the list with the names of venues that have long since closed down.

Newcastle Mayfair, where I saw Ash and Orbital.

And Arrested Development. Who we came away from feeling short changed, as they were over and done with inside 40 minutes. The highlight was actually support Me Phi Me playing Black Sunshine, which sampled Another Brick In The Wall in a reggae style. Sadly, The Mayfair was demolished in 1999 to make way for a shopping complex.

Then there was The Cockpit in Leeds.

A dark, damp, sweaty venue built into the railway arches underneath Leeds train station.

It had three rooms ranging from tiny (125 capacity) to… not much bigger (the big room held 500). It was the place for indie and alternative music in Leeds. Spoon have always been a little known secret here. In the same year Transference was a #4 album in the US. Getting to see them in such an intimate venue was a joy. It closed in 2014 for refurbishment and never reopened as it was realised the scale of renovations required wasn’t financially viable.

There have been surprises along the way, I’ve always been one for getting there to see the support act.

Often they’ve faded away into obscurity but there are notable exceptions.

British Sea Power at Joseph’s Well, Leeds.

BSP were chaotically brilliant but they would soon be overshadowed by their support that night: The Killers. Seven months before they released Hot Fuss, none of us had any idea who they were.

Or had the foresight seeing them that night in the 375 capacity venue, that within a year they would be massive.

There’s a notable gap in the list covering 2004/05 as a reminder of my year of adventuring abroad.

Which features the lone entry of Ben Folds at Sydney Enmore Theatre.

While I was in Sydney, Nick Cave was played in a circus big top at the Luna Park theme park. I was sorely tempted but on a tight budget decided that I couldn’t justify the cost. I’ve still never seen him live. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Here’s to plenty more additions to come.

Another change I’ve noticed over time; in the 90s the crowds were generally younger heavily skewed to the under 30s.

Whereas now its normal to see plenty in the audience that are older than me.

To quote the immortal Austrian pop rock standard by Opus:

Live Is Life!


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JJ Live At Leeds

From across the ocean, a middle aged man, a man without a plan, a man full of memories, a man like JJ.

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cstolliver
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cstolliver
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December 1, 2022 5:43 am

Wow! That’s an awesome array and depth of artists, JJ. I had a similar experience with temporary hearing loss after covering a Journey and Bryan Adams concert for my newspaper in the summer of ’83. Scary moment. (These days my partial loss is permanent, but thank goodness for technology.) Thanks for sharing your memories with us!

Phylum of Alexandria
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December 1, 2022 7:28 am

We’ve got a concert officer on deck! I am but a Corporal, and you a Colonel. Sir, I salute you.

How was the Wedding Present show? It’s great that you could see them, and fairly close to the Seamonsters era (my favorite album).

I think I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been to a pop/rock/rap concert since 2014! Well, I did see Angelique Kidjo, but that was a sit-down event for a crowd of fuddy-duddies like me. Other than that, I’ve just been going to classical performances. (Speaking of which: just got my tickets to see The Rite of Spring! Woot!)

I’ve been to a fair amount of shows though. 1996 to 2006, that was a very proactive decade for me in terms of concerts. Then I got distracted by grad school, research, job hunting, a wife who’s more into classical and jazz, etc. So I essentially joined the Reserve forces.

Maybe I’ll be called back into duty, but more likely I’ll retire first!

Pauly Steyreen
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December 1, 2022 7:32 am

During the 1992 – 1998 timeframe I saw so many concerts. I wish I had kept a list. Definitely the band I saw the most was Archers of Loaf, who I saw 5 or 6 times (they were local to the Raleigh-Durham area when I lived there).

I also saw the likes of Sonic Youth and Public Enemy at a very small venue (the legendary Cat’s Cradle: capacity about 600) when they were both at the height of their fame in 1992/1993.

After Nepal I went to a handful of concerts, including 2 or 3 from Eric Bachmann’s post-Archers projects (e.g. Crooked Fingers). But since we had our son, concerts dropped to zero, which is running up over 16 years now…

However, one of my early Christmas presents is a concert I’ll be attending in March: The Beths!!! My favorite kiwis!!! Really looking forward to it! 😃

https://youtu.be/1XriDeVHO8w

Last edited 1 month ago by Pauly Steyreen
Pauly Steyreen
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Pauly Steyreen
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December 1, 2022 6:14 pm

Honestly both of those shows were amazing! I got there at Doors Open so I was right against the stage for both shows. Clasped hands with Chuck D and bumped fists with Flava Flav. During a break in the Sonic Youth set, Thurston was interviewing people in the crowd to pass the time, and he spoke with a couple of my friends I was there with. Just as he turned to speak to me, Kim kicked him to let him know the technical difficulty was averted and they returned to the set. (Which was fine, I was nervous more than excited about the prospect. I was 17 at the time, underage for an 18+ show.)

That Sonic Youth dream sounds awesome. Too bad you couldn’t record it like in the movie Until the End of the World. Would be so cool to hear your brain’s SY composition. Reminds me of a PJ Harvey concert dream I had once. Which I will NOT elaborate on! 🤐

Virgindog
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December 1, 2022 11:20 am

At 6’2″, I’m always aware that I’m blocking someone’s view. It’s one of the reasons I get annoyed at people in the first row who stand through the whole show. You paid for seats. Use them! Don’t force everyone behind you to stand, too. Yeesh.

Sorry. Rant over.

Of the ten best concerts I’ve been to, six were The Who. I’ve seen them more than any other band – seven times. Guess they had an off night. The others in my top ten are The Police, Minor Threat, Garbage, and Nine Inch Nails.

Ear protection is a must. EEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEeeeeee….

lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 1:05 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Did you see the Quadrophenia tour in Nashville?

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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December 1, 2022 1:36 pm

In 2012? Yes, I was there. Were you?

lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 2:54 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Yep. We were definitely in the same building at the same time.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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December 1, 2022 3:03 pm

Sorry if I stood in front of you!

lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 3:15 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

It would definitely have been a problem because I am very short. But I’m sure that you were too polite for such behavior.

dutchg8r
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December 1, 2022 1:13 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Ironically my dad was an acoustical engineer. Always had boxes of free samples of earplugs everywhere. Always was told growing up to make sure I put my earplugs in if around power tools or the mower, etc.

So what happens? The Walkman. And 10 year old me goes – headphones will be just as effective I’m sure, earplugs schmearplugs, oh, hold up, I gotta turn the music up so I can really hear this bass part…..

That thinking has continued for 40 years. I’ll wear earplugs at movies, because that is just too ridiculous these days (so much in the upper frequencies during whiz-bang sound effects, literally feels like little knives stabbing my eardrum), but at least my headphones are noise canceling now so the competition of noise isn’t as pronounced.

For some reason larger venues don’t bother me for concerts, those sound guys usually find great balances for the larger arenas and rooms. But I have learned earplugs are a must for the smaller venues, oy!

reggie
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December 1, 2022 12:08 pm

I also was an avid concert goer but never kept any momentos. Wish now that I had but I do have the memories locked away in my head somewhere. Your column is inspiring. I may have to sit down and make a list; it could take awhile.

Last edited 1 month ago by reggie
thegue
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December 1, 2022 12:45 pm

Love this!

What I DON’T love is that I’ve lost track of my concerts as well – I never saved the tickets (at least, most of them), but when I joined FB back in 2006, there was an app called iLike, and it worked similarly to MySpace’s wall. I kept track of bands I “liked”, and the concerts I attended.

It worked well enough, until Apple decided iLike was a little too close to its own branding, and it went away, taking all of my information.

I’m tracking my alt rock songs from 2003 forward, and I can identify the artists I’ve seen, but I couldn’t share the dates.

I’ve never seen Belle and Sebastian, let alone 6 times.

My rule is three times, and by then I’ve moved on. There’s only a few artists I’ve seen that many, and they belong in my personal HOF…but there is ONE artist I’ve seen many, MANY more times than that:

https://youtu.be/bWurqD68u70

dutchg8r
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December 1, 2022 12:48 pm

That would be a fun scrapbook to put together to keep track of all the live acts you’ve seen. Hooray for mysetlist.com.

I read your Black Keys concert comment that it was your first as a parent, and took that to mean that’s Little JJ’s first show, am I’m thinking, “right on, that would have been a hell of an introduction to live music!!! Oh wait…”

Which leads me to ask – has she gone to one yet? And if not, what one would she want to be her Inaugural experience??

Cause, you know, a certain gig in Leeds next spring was just announced….. [casually drops link into post, turns away whistling innocently]

https://www.firstdirectarena.com/events/detail/duran-duran

Last edited 1 month ago by dutchg8r
lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 12:53 pm

I have a list of concerts that I have seen, but not by date or venue. Instead, I have them arranged alphabetically. Practically no overlap with yours, though. Lots of classic rock acts, but then I am classic rock age.
The C’s are pretty representative of my taste.
Cage the Elephant
Ray Charles
Cher
Chicago
Chicano Batman
Eric Clapton
Coin
Alice Cooper
Robert Cray
Crosby, Stills, and Nash
The Cult

And, no, I don’t hear as well as used to, and I blame concerts for part of that. I still attend live shows, but I use ear protection now to protect myself from further loss. (Not to exaggerate, I don’t have a huge amount of hearing loss, but it is noticeable to me.) Fortunately, no tinnitus yet.

lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 2:45 pm

I saw them open for Vampire Weekend and was unfamiliar going into the show, but I enjoyed them very much. How wrong can you go with a group that is inspired by Cesar Chavez and Batman?

LinkCrawford
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December 1, 2022 1:31 pm

I’ve probably gone to at least as many concerts as the average 52 year old, but far fewer than a lot of you. I have kept a list here, but the music is way, way less rowdy than most of yours.

My claim to fame is that I saw Elvis Presley live just before I turned 4. My last concert was Herb Alpert and Lani Hall just a couple of months ago.

I don’t remember the loudest. The BRIGHTEST was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas show. The light show was so crazy vivid that I should have brought welder’s goggles. One of the best was sitting only a few yards from Billy Cobham’s drumset for his concert.

lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 2:48 pm

Also have McCartney in common with both of you.

lovethisconcept
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December 1, 2022 2:50 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

My daughter warned me never to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, as flashing lights can trigger migraines for me. I have to close my eyes or look away for part of most shows, but she said that I could never open them at that show.

cappiethedog
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December 1, 2022 9:00 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Signs of Life is a great album. “Dirt” should be in a road movie.

cappiethedog
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December 1, 2022 8:49 pm

“(Belle and Sebastian) six times.”

You’re killing me.

“I’m Waking Up to Us”, “We Rule the School”, and “Judy and the Dream of Horses” would be enough to call it a successful career in music.

If You’re Feeling Sinister is just insanely good.

What? A dissenting opinion?

Talk to the hand. Talk to the hand.

“I’m Waking Up to Us” is what Belle and Sebastian performed on Late Night w/Conan O’Brien. So maybe I’m overrating a song that doesn’t seem all that popular with its core fans.

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