Zach’s last posting got me and my wife talking in the car the other night about concerts. There were of course all the great ones: Wilco, U2, Coldplay, Sigur Ros, Starsailor, Damien Rice, Ben Harper, David Gray…
But we ended up forming another list as well. The following is not my Top 5 concert experiences. These are the Top 5 concert letdowns of my life. It’s not that all of these were necessarily terrible…there was just one expectation or another that wasn’t exactly met. With that in mind, here’s the Not-So-Top 5:
5 / Guster – Guster was one of those bands that I discovered before anyone else. Everyone has this experience at some point in life. You find a band before they’re big and you treasure them way beyond their worth because they’re yours and yours only. Then they finally make it and all of a sudden that same adoration turns into annoyance. If I would’ve seen Guster back in 9th grade when I accidentally came across them while listening to internet radio during a creative writing class, I’d probably list this as a legitimate TOP FIVE contender…but instead I saw them some 8 years later. As a Senior in college, they played a show for Northwestern students. It was much too late for me to rehash any of those old memories. My wife didn’t even want to go, but I had to know if I could rediscover that old love. It was exactly like the first time I walked into an American Eagle post-high school. Suddenly the clothes looked cheap and like, well…high school. It was the same for Guster. They just felt dated.
4 / Third Eye Blind – If I would’ve seen Guster in 9th grade, it would have felt exactly like it did for me to see Third Eye Blind in 8th grade. That was my 3EB prime. It was also one of the top concerts of my young life. With Eve 6 opening and nearly stealing the show, this could also start a sub-category of best opening bands ever. But for now we’ll stick to the band at hand. I saw them again a couple of years later. It was my first taste of what it was like to try to rehash something old, and it was more sour than sweet on the palette. Throw in the fact that the band that sang that silly “little black backpack” song opened for them, and it was just a bummer of a show.
3 / Wilco – Wilco is my favorite band. They feel more like home than home, you know what I mean? I saw them in concert before this show, and I saw them again after this show. I’m actually pretty sure that they played a heck of a show on this evening. It was Halloween night. They came out in costumes and rocked! But me and my wife were sitting pretty high up in the balcony. Our sits tilted just a little bit to the left. We were uncomfortable, far away, and worse yet, tired. This one’s on us, not on Wilco. But for the expectation of how much fun it would be to see Wilco on Halloween, this one just didn’t pan out for us.
2 / Radiohead – Radiohead was my favorite band way back in 8th grade (right alongside Third Eye Blind…strange right?). I had Pablo Honey burning up boombox every day. Well seeing Radiohead live is like finding the Holy Grail of music. When you actually buy a ticket, you seriously have to avoid scanning how much they’re selling for on ebay so you’re not tempted to do so yourself. I saw them one summer in college. A group of us roadtripped to St. Louis and knew it was going to change our lives. Well…for my friends that were on some sort of “substance” or another, I think it did. For the rest of us that clearly saw how far away and detached the whole experience was, it didn’t do much. I suppose if you go into anything thinking it’s going to blow your mind away, you’ll be disappointed. Isn’t that why “Semi-Pro” was so funny? I thought, “surely Will Ferrell can’t make this funny!” Then I laughed my head off the whole time. Needless to say, expectation weren’t only “not met”…they were shattered!
1 / Jack Johnson – This makes the top of the list, only because it was the first concert I’d ever left before it was finished (Guster’s 2nd on that list). My best friend and I rode the EL downtown, had a great spot on the bottom floor at METRO and just weren’t into it. Everyone else seemed to be getting it. It was like the happiest, beachiest, most laid back Abercrombie ad you’d ever seen. But we weren’t buying it. We moved upstairs to the balcony. Jack sounded good. The crowd was good. But the venue? Horrible. Not that there’s anything wrong with METRO. But for a Jack Johnson concert, the only venue that would’ve worked was a beach. Any beach really. In fact I think sand was the only essential ingredient. I think if they would’ve poured sand all over the floors and let us dance all barefoot and everything, this would have been one of the best, most chill concerts of my life. Instead it was just plain boring.
That’s my list. There’s nothing quite like a bad concert experience. That ride back home on the EL or in the car, looking at streetlights and staring into the black sky leaves you empty, stuck with more questions than answers. But there’s also nothing quite like a great concert experience. That same ride on the EL or in the car feels epic. Life is like your favorite film and for an evening you felt as connected to ten or ten thousand people as you ever have. Either way, though, as a good friend of mine says, “it all comes out in the wash.”