Six Live Shows That Truly Changed My Life
I may not be speaking for everyone, but I am definitely speaking for myself when I say there is something undeniably spiritual about seeing an amazing band live. It just seems like every nerve ending reacts to hearing and feeling the sonic resonance of the music as it travels through the air. And sometimes there are other elements, which are completely out of your control, which can add to one another to make the show even better, whether it’s drugs or an electrical storm. Or even better, taking drugs at an outdoor show during an electrical storm. As scary as that may sound, you pair that up with one of your favorite bands putting on one of the best shows of their lives, and you have all the elements of a life-changing moment. The following are six shows I saw, and the circumstances in which I saw them under, that forever etched them into the wall of my subconscious.
Radiohead And Pink Lightning
I swear I must have left my body three times that night.
I make it quite clear that I love Radiohead because, well, I love Radiohead. I think of them as an alien collective who somehow got together out in the cosmos with the intent of making the most amazing music ever. No, seriously. I think that , I honestly do. And it took me WAY too long get to see them live. But when I finally did for the first time in 2004, it seemed like fate and nature wanted to ensure that I would never forget the show, and I haven’t.
Allow me to set the scene for you. Radiohead are playing Paranoid Android. It is about halfway through their (amazing) set, and you can see the sky clouding over. The song is bringing everyone to a frenzy, and the energy at the show is absolutely insane and positively electric. Radiohead get to the halfway point in the song, right when it gets to the bridge. For those who don’t know, this part:
And the minute the song slows down, and the “rain down” line starts, it starts to rain, with streaks of pink lightning darting across the skyline over the band’s heads. You could FEEL the awe in everyone. No one was upset by the rain and the fact they were getting wet. No, we were all moved to silence by the fact that this magical band just did a rain dance for us. Truth be told, I have goosebumps up and down my arms just talking about it. I have seen the band many times since, and every time, something surreal happens that ensures I never forget the show.
Buckethead Being Buckethead
In all my life, for all the solos and guitarists I have seen, not a single one can touch what this guy does.
Listen, if you don’t know Buckethead, than you have no idea what you are missing out on. Buckethead is a guitarist who dons a mask and a KFC bucket on his head, and plays some of the most polarizing, jaw-dropping guitar music you will EVER hear. One song might be Spanish acoustic guitar (check out the Colma album. Trust me) that lulls you into a sense of peace, and the next song could be a guitar song, so intense and heavy it makes your ears pee their pants. Yes, that can happen. You add to that, the fact that he gives away presents and toys to the audience, does nunchuka solos throughout the show, and has some of the most brilliantly creative opening acts you will ever see live,(like this dude right here) and you have a show you will never, ever forget.
Last show I went to I got a severed arm to bring home. Not joking you. Come over and ask me to see it.
ALL OF Lollapalooza 1992
I think back to the nineties and I weep for the last great decade.
Listen, you can say what you want about bands like Pearl Jam, and about grunge in general, but to see a show that had its finger this on the pulse, at a time when that pulse was skyrocketing like it was, will always stick with me. I mean, you really need to see the list of all the bands that were playing the show to truly appreciate what I was lucky enough to witness at its prime.
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Ministry (this live show blew my tender, little mind)
Jesus and Mary Chain
Oh, and also, the big selling point? Crowd went apeshit during Chili Peppers set, started ripping down pieces of the fence and making massive bonfires. People were stripping and jumping over the fires. RHCP were on stage, asking people to cut the crap, and people started tearing up chunks of the lawn and whipping them in the air. I was young and partook in none of this, but I stood there, mouth hanging open. It felt like we all went back to our primal roots. Like I was in Lord Of The Flies with a live soundtrack. It was amazing. Until that one drunk girl jumped into the bonfire by mistake. Yeah, that wasn’t so good. That is half the reason I don’t really drink, truth be told.
Nine Inch Nails And The Falling Screen
Yes, you see that angelic glow? Yeah, well it makes you feel like you just died.
I have to be completely honest with you, I think this memory might be drug fueled. Because I talk to people about it and no one can confirm or deny it to me. When I saw the Nine Inch Nails Fragility tour, there was a moment where Trent was singing, and this massive screen behind him was lowering, almost like a cat stalking him, from behind. So as he is singing, this giant multimedia screen they use throughout the show begins to slowly drop down, toward him. But he just keeps singing, like he is unaware. And it looks like it may crush him at any point. The odd thing is, it falls slowly (which is why I used the cat reference) and it stops inches from his head, right as the song stops. I remember being awed at that spectacle. Again, there is a pretty big chance I was on LSD and the screen thing never happened, but either way, I was standing there, in awe, with my mouth hanging open. I remember that much.
And if it was a hallucination, I have no complaints at all, because it was awesome and fit with the show perfectly. Also, the images they flashed while he sang The Great Below (a girl, slowly drowning across the course of the song) fucked with me really badly, and I know that part did happen. Trent Reznor is a vastly misunderstood musical genius, and to deny yourselves the experience of one of his live shows is to deny your life something incredible. Just skip the acid. Trust me.
Caspian (Because I Had No Idea)
I know you may have never heard of this band. And that is something you can (and should) amend right now.
Shout-out to my buddy Jared, who was gushing about how brilliant these guys were for years before anyone jumped on that bandwagon. The first time he dragged me to a Caspian show, I remember being vastly under-prepared for how amazing the show would be. They are an instrumental band out of Massachusetts, whose music can best be described as, well, indescribable. Think Explosions In The Sky, only more progressive and emotionally moving. I went to this little club in Cambridge and was truly knocked on the floor by how intense and emotional the show was. These guys FEEL their music, and it is impossible not get swept up in that energy. It was a club show that could have been a stadium show, that is the best way I can describe it.
I actually fucked up a few weeks ago and was supposed to go cover one of their shows and didn’t get the chance, but I intend to fix that on December 7th, when they come back around. Check these guys out now, before they ARE filling stadiums.
The Roots Play A Bob Marley Set At A Dave Mathews Show
If you have never seen The Roots live, you done f*cked up. Honestly.
Anyone who knows music at all knows that Carson Daly knew what he was doing when he chose The Roots as his house band. The guys can do anything, musically speaking. Seriously. From ill hip hop to pop to jazz, whatever they touch, they perfect. And the fact that I knew I was never going to be able to see Bob Marley live only made this have that much more of an impact on me. I was witnessing one of my favorite bands play a whole say of Bob Marley songs, as the sun was setting at Gillette Stadium (they were opening for Dave Mathews). Do you even realize how perfect that is?
The show only got more surreal when later on, joined by The Roots on stage, Dave Mathews began catching grapes in his mouth that an audience member was throwing. Cut to later in the show, Dave forgets he missed some grapes and is doing his Dave Mathews style of insane dancing and he slips on a grape and falls down. He breaks a rib, but none of us would know that until days later. And honestly, he got up and finished the show amazingly, and none of us had any clue.
That is the kind of thing you just never forget. Pretty much blows the mind.
Note the visually (un)subtle word play.