There is arguably
one "first time" all of us will consider more memorable as we flip
through the chapters in the pages of our lives. But that virgin
experience isn't quite as well suited for relating in a family
newspaper. For diehard music lovers -- our first concert ranks a
nothing quite as indelible as the first time you experience the
unparalleled power of live music: the visceral sensations of feeling
the rhythm in your body and the sound enveloping you, helping you to
transcend your surroundings -- whether those are a dingy basement
jazz club, a giant arena or Symphony Hall.
Many of us were
hooked from the first notes, and we found ourselves destined to a
lifetime of diehard music fandom.
nature of your first concert is as noteworthy for music critics --
because, believe it or not, the love of music is why we do this --
as it is for musicians, industry professionals and the fan on the
street. With that in mind, Sun-Times staffers as well as some
notable Chicago scenesters were asked to relate their maiden voyages
in music-loving. Our responses follow.
Madison Square Garden, 1979
an early fascination with the mysterious sounds of the psychedelic
Beatles -- the first LP I bought was the Fab Four's "Blue Album"
singles collection, "1967-1970," but that's the subject of another
article -- led to a pre-teen devotion to progressive rock: the
ornate and elaborate sounds of bands such as Pink Floyd (my ultimate
fave), Genesis and Yes, which transported me to strange new worlds
via the headphones. The Floyd wasn't touring when I convinced my mom
to let me to see my first rock concert -- though I'd finally catch
the group performing "The Wall" in early 1980 -- but Jethro Tull
placed nearly as high on my personal hit list.
And so it was
that I took the PATH train from Jersey City, N.J. into Manhattan
with my older cousin Douglas to see Ian Anderson & Co. perform at
Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10, 1979, when I was a 15-year-old
high school sophomore.
Tull fans now consider 1979's "Stormwatch" the last really strong
album by the group's best lineup, but I wasn't yet at the point of
scrutinizing such subtleties: I was simply thrilled to witness the
lights and lasers, Anderson's flamboyant flute-twirling shenanigans,
the loud ringing of the guitars in my ears and the feeling of the
bass drum pounding in my stomach. And the set list! There was hardly
a killer tune they missed, and that's not just the rosy glow of
nostalgia: The Internet confirmed that "Aqualung," "Heavy Horses,"
"Cross-Eyed Mary," "Locomotive Breath" and many others well and
truly rocked that night.
On the other
hand, maybe I was already a budding critic: I was also impressed by
the opening act, the progressive-rock trio of bassist John Wetton
(ex-King Crimson), violinist Eddie Jobson (ex-Roxy Music) and
drummer Terry Bozzio (formerly of Frank Zappa's band, but soon to be
of Missing Persons). The next day, I went out and bought U.K.'s
"Night After Night Live!" and I soon harangued all my friends to do
Douglas had been
slumming when he promised his aunt he'd chaperone his clueless
younger cousin that night; he already was hanging out at some place
called C.B.G.B. on the Lower East Side, and as we drove home from
the train station, he did me an even bigger favor. "That was OK," he
said of the Tull show we'd just seen, "but you've gotta check out
this New Wave stuff!" Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" came blasting
from the eight-track tape deck, and if I hadn't already been doomed
to a life of music geekdom, I was a goner from that second on.
DeRogatis, pop music critic
Rosemont Horizon, 1982
It is 1970s
Crystal Lake, before the quiet little northwest hamlet blossoms into
a full-blown suburb. My long-haired boy cousins, who have their own
heavy metal band -- they are soooo cool -- invite my older sister
and I to go see Styx at the local high school ... oops, sorry, that
wasn't my first concert, because our parents wouldn't let us go!
A couple of
years later, the summer before high school, my best friend Kate asks
me to go see REO Speedwagon with her and her older brothers. Her
brothers hate us, but hey, they can drive ... oh, sorry, that wasn't
my first concert either, because ... my parents wouldn't let me
Springsteen circa 1980 is just becoming Bruuuuuuce, and is traveling
to Illinois to play a concert Downstate. Again, Kate's brothers are
driving ... and yes, you guessed it, please don't make me say it.
My tale of woe
ends in November 1982. I have a job; I can drive. Me, Kate, two
other friends go to the Rosemont Horizon to see Rush. It is nobody's
favorite band. We have little to no appreciation for the intricacies
of the music or the band's impact in the rock 'n' roll universe, but
we wallow in the freedom of being unchaperoned in a place bigger
than our Catholic school existence. Properly attired in down vests
and ski jackets, we tailgate with the masses before entering the
arena, up to the nosebleed section, second to last row. No matter.
We rock out, mocking the "uncool" girls several rows in front of us,
raising our arms, screaming our lungs out -- and loving every minute
Budasi, staff reporter
Chicago Stadium, 1975
During the years
I attended Naperville Central High School, bands like Styx, REO
Speedwagon and Jamestown Massacre played the school gym. So you can
imagine what a relief it was to see the Faces at the Chicago
The Faces -- Rod
Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on lead guitar, Ian McLagan on
keyboards, drummer Kenney Jones -- were my first major rock concert.
Truthfully, I can't remember if I saw them once or twice. I do know
I was in the house in February 1975 when the trippy Mahavishnu
Orchestra opened for the band. What a party. It was like getting
stoned and then getting really drunk.
The Faces walked
onstage to David Rose's "The Stripper." They drank Jack Daniel's and
Pimm's No. 1 onstage; Woody fell into Rod while playing vicious
solos, Rod kicked soccer balls into the audience (which he still
does today), and my date's parents were mad at me for taking their
cheerleader daughter all the way to the creepy West Side to hear
these blokes. This experience set the template for the rest of my
rock concert experiences: embrace anarchy, impulse, irreverence and
always fail to take yourself seriously.
Hoekstra, staff reporter
OF KNIGHT, IDES OF MARCH, NEW COLONY SIX
Village Green Shopping Center, Park Ridge, 1967
For a brief
period, the WLS Silver Dollar Survey was populated as heavily by
Chicago groups as British Invasion and Motown outfits combined. We'd
soon be taking every opportunity to see the Flock, Mauds, Cryan'
Shames, H.P. Lovecraft and Amboy Dukes, but the biggest local bands
all turned out for this free late-afternoon show (exact lineup is
blurry after four decades), which took place outside our
neighborhood grocery store.
Larry Lujack emceed, his bored, satirical mumblings adding to the
surreal nature of the unlikely event in this sleepiest of bedroom
communities. When he introduced the Shadows, riding high with
"Gloria" and "Oh Yeah," Uncle Lar cracked, "Get a load of the bass
player! His hair is longer than Jesus Christ's." "Redneck!" we
shouted at the radio rube. But there's nothing quite like hearing
the songs that helped define your youth played live for the first
Poplar Creek, 1984
girlfriends wore their sleeveless black T-shirts and went for the
up-and-coming opening act, INXS, squealing about how hot the Farriss
brothers were. But I went for the hot pink concert T. Forevermore,
it announced to the northwest suburbs that I had been witness to the
bubbliest moment in bubblegum pop history. Let's just say that the
"Talk Show" tour involved many, many beach balls. And what better
role model could there be for me -- not a girl, not yet a woman --
than Belinda Carlisle? She fronted an all-girl band, wore a tutu,
never missed a meal and dated Rob Lowe.
A Detroit club, 1985
My first concert
was Crystal Gayle at the Michigan State Fair at the age of 9. I did
not go willingly. I'd prefer to remember the first concert I
actually paid to see with my own money. It was 1985. I was 16. The
location was a seedy little bar in Detroit on Gratiot somewhere.
Suffice to say, it was in a bad enough area that the bouncer didn't
bat an eye when a group of four high school kids from the suburbs
showed up in a light blue 1980 Chevy Malibu.
We were there to
see one of the most underappreciated college-rock bands of the
1980s, Guadalcanal Diary. There couldn't have been more than 30
people in the club that night. After they finished their set, the
band not only made small talk with everyone there, bassist Rhett
Crowe actually bought a round of beers for us under-age teenagers.
Ah, the '80s.
Davenport, staff reporter
Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington, Minn., 1970
In the hot
summer of 1970, small-town Wisconsin felt about as far away from
live rock 'n' roll as you could get. Sulking in the town I was
determined to get out of, I harbored a studied love of the music of
Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Then two of my brothers convinced me to see
the Who. Fortunately, that directive called for a road trip.
herbal-smoke-filled arena my heart skipped a beat as the lights went
out and the crowd went nuts as a purple spotlight revealed Roger
Daltry singing the opening lines of "We're Not Gonna Take It." As
far as I can recall, the boys played most of "Tommy," as well as a
hefty number of other tunes, all the while accompanied by the roar
of the audience.
On that summer
evening, the virtual life force of rock 'n' roll revealed itself to
me. I've been to hundreds of shows since but not one has duplicated
that first electric power surge, that bolt of lightning that
revealed the essential power of music fueled by crazy, talented
Buck Lake Ranch in the mid-'60s
"You broke my
will/But what a thrill/Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!"
gracious, what kind of parents would take their young impressionable
children to a Jerry Lee Lewis concert? Mine, that's for sure.
his jail-bait cousin, the Killer was on the skids, careerwise.
That's how he ended up playing the perversely named Buck Lake Ranch
near Angola, Ind., in the mid-'60s. As longtime rock fans, my
parents decided, hey, why not bring the family?
The first glance
of Jerry Lee pounding away on the 88s, bellowing about balls of fire
and a whole lotta shakin' going on scared yet fascinated me. I'd
never seen anything like this in kindergarten. And when he started
attacking his glisteningly white grand piano, I even clambered up
into my mom's lap. Despite his fire-and-brimstone delivery and wild
man demeanor, I decided right then that whatever he was selling, I
wanted in. (Or, in Killerese: You came along and moved me,
later, during a Web search, I happen to chance upon a listing from
the Steuben County Tourism Bureau (conveniently located in the
former Steuben County Jail): Ol' Jerry Lee will return June 18-19 to
Buck Lake Ranch for "A Legendary Rockin' Weekend."
Lloyd Noble Arena in Oklahoma City, 1983
1982: I saw
Ashley standing at her new sixth-grade locker in her fuzzy white
sweater, and I was "Stone in Love." She looked right through me, but
I told myself, "Don't Stop Believin'"! Weeks later, best friend
David slept over at my house the same night Ashley slept over with
his new reason for living, Stephanie. We got the girls on the phone
and played them "Open Arms" over and over.
1983: David and
I are still bachelors -- we'd gone our "Separate Ways" with the
girls -- but we're seventh-graders: Rock is all that matters now
and, dude, no one rocks like Journey! The "Frontiers" tour
put down for three nights in our town, and we were, like, totally
there. Alas, so were David's parents. The band played "Faithfully,"
and suddenly my gut ached, and I felt like crying.
Eighth-grade dance in the cafeteria. Ashley, me, slow-dancing to
Conner, Sunday Show editor