The soundtrack of my life is very eclectic, and it’s constantly evolving. If you saw the playlists on my iTunes, you would probably question whether I was a teenage break dancer or a senior citizen. Srsly.
These days, I find myself listening to a lot of techno and dance music, but that’s mostly by happenstance. See, I participate in a wide variety of fitness classes (boot camp, strength and interval training, cycling), and nearly all of them are set to the songs of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Pit Bull, and a bunch of other odd-named Top 40 performers I had never heard of until I started suffering through burpees, deadlifts and squats along with the driving beats of their music.
When I am not trying to keep up with my insanely fit instructors or stay on pace during a short run through in my neighborhood, I don’t seek out that kind of music. I mean, it’s great to keep me motivated during a workout, but I have no desire to hear “Timber” pulsing on my iPod when I’m trying to edit a book on estate planning law.
Anyway, the above diatribe was intended to illustrate that I am open to ANY genre of music, under the right circumstances.
Having been a musician at one time in my life, I tend to favor singer/songwriters who don’t top the pop charts. But I also like everything from the Stones to Sinatra, the blues to bluegrass, metal to Mozart and punk to polka. I am especially partial to the 1980s — my affinity for Talking Heads is equal to my love for Motley Crüe.
Speaking of which, I already have my ticket for that iconic hair metal band’s final world tour stop in Louisville in October, and I am so friggin’ excited about it, I nearly can’t stand it. I never caught them live back in the day, so seeing Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy at the Yum Center this fall will be a longstanding dream come true.
Oh hello, awesome segue to what really got me on this topic in the first place … I went to the Arcade Fire show at the Yum Center last week, and it got me to thinking about the upcoming Crüe show, of course, but also about my love for concerts in general, not to mention the many, many exceedingly awesome shows I have seen in my lifetime so far.
From basement barrooms to outdoor stadiums, there is something intoxicating about seeing a band live. It almost doesn’t matter to me who it is, as long as they have skills.
My wonderful friend, Greg (a dedicated Arcade Fire fan), invited me to go with him to their show on Thursday night. I gratefully accepted, but not because I, too, love their music. I know a few of their songs and like them fine, but it was the prospect of seeing a concert in good company that appealed to me more than the band itself. (Greg and I had seen them together at the waterfront six years or so ago, and I remembered having a good time.)
This particular iteration of the band reminded me of Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the 1980s… all metallic and mirrors, and lots of theatrics. Bottom line: Arcade Fire is a very talented modern orchestra of musicians, and I enjoyed the performance.
But it was not my favorite concert of all time. (That would be Buckeye Lake, Ohio, 1993, when Sting opened for The Grateful Dead. That deserves its own post at a later date. But I digress.)
I don’t need theatrics and pyrotechnics to enjoy live music, though. It’s truly about the music and quality of the performance to me. Case in point: Saturday night’s Crosby Stills and Nash show at the Louisville Palace. I got a last-minute invitation from another dear friend (after I had written most of this blog), which I also eagerly accepted.
The style of the CSN show, the music and the audience could not have been more incongruous to those of Arcade Fire, but I felt equal levels of enjoyment at each show. Same deal for this classic band: I knew some popular songs, but it was the overall live music experience that made me jump at the chance to attend.
The Palace Theater is a jewel of a venue, much smaller than Yum, at about 2,000 seats. I’ve seen Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, The White Stripes, Ani DiFranco, Loretta Lynn and Amos Lee there. Excellent shows, one and all. (Note: I will be writing about some of the CSN show's unfortunate logistical challenges in next week's post.)
Another great place to hear quality performers is Headliners Music Hall. It has a capacity in the realm of 600 or so, standing room only, but I have seen some phenomenal bands there over the years: Old Crow Medicine Show, They Might Be Giants, Old 97s, My Morning Jacket.
(An aside about MMJ: The first time I saw them was in a treasure of a basement bar called Barretones in 2003-ish. Jim James and Co. were so drunk they couldn’t stay in tune. They sounded like shit and therefore did not leave a good impression on me. It was a long time before I was willing to give them a second chance, but I’m so glad I did.)
My son went to his first concert at Headliners (an 18-and-over venue) a couple of weeks ago, and we were both super excited that he was finally able to participate in this Louisville music scene rite of passage.
My first concert as a teen (that pre-dates Headliners) was Bon Jovi and Skid Row, in 1989. I still find it funny that my mother allowed me to go to that show, awash in alcohol and exposed breasts, yet she wouldn’t let me see INXS and REM the year before because I was only 15. (The rule in my house was 16 for concerts and car dates.) In mom’s defense, this was long before the Internet, so she couldn’t Google the bands to find out what kinds of crowds they drew. Probably for the best.
On the other end of the sound spectrum, I’ve seen singer/songwriter Patty Griffin four or five times now, most recently at The Brown Theater last fall. Her most memorable gig was in the early 1990s, when she played the back room of the old Guitar Emporium.
I got there late, so the only place left to sit was on the floor, directly in front of the stage. As far as I was concerned, Patty and her guitar were singing only to me that night, and I will never forget how that made me feel. She will always been one of my favorite artists, even though the sound quality at her last show was heinous. I blame the techs. (Get your act together, guys.)
I’ve seen Jane’s Addiction and Henry Rollins at Deer Creek near Indianapolis (which has a corporate sponsor now, but I will be damned if I ever call it by its new name), De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, Billy Joel and Elton John at Freedom Hall, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters at Rupp Arena, The Rolling Stones and The Police at Churchill Downs. And many more.
Some great local acts I am always glad to support include my friend Heidi Howe, Johnny Berry and the Outliers, and Bodeco. My favorite local original will always be Tim Krekel, may he rest in peace.
On that note (ahem), I deeply regret not seeing the Beastie Boys before Adam Yauch passed away, not to mention The Man in Black, Johnny Cash.
I know I’m not alone when I say that music has lifted me up when I was down and made the stellar moments in my life even better. But live concerts … now, those have shaped some pretty damn extraordinary moments all on their own. I’ve got a long list of concerts I would still like to see, which I'm certain will create more amazing memories.
Soooo, to all the bands I love… set up your drum kits, check your mics, tune your guitars and dim the house lights. You can bet I will soon be in the audience, singing, swaying and be-boppin’ along.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.