In a musical rite of passage, musicians recall first concerts
I was late to the music party, as I didn't attend my first concert until I was 16.
But what a first concert it was: the 1993 Lollapalooza festival, with the main stage featuring Primus, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Arrested Development, Front 242, Tool and Rage Against the Machine.
It was held in Indio, Calif. now the home of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on an intolerably hot day in August, with festival organizers spraying fans near the stage with high-pressure firehoses. I remember the then-unknown Rage Against the Machine electrifying the audience in its opening set, encouraging everyone to shoot middle fingers into the air. I remember being puzzled when Primus came onstage with the crowd yelling "Primus sucks!" (I later found that the slogan is a term of endearment for the band.) I remember Dinosaur Jr. playing the loudest music and sound my ears had ever endured.
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of that first concert for me, which prompted my colleagues and me to consider the relevance of first concerts and what they mean to music fans as a musical coming-of age. Over the past few months, I have asked the musicians I have interviewed for memories of their first concerts, with sometimes-surprising cross-genre results. Many, like Al Green and Chris Squire of Yes, didn't remember. But most did.
So, here goes: What was your first concert?
Geoff Tate, Queensryche • Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Babies" tour. It was completely over the top and bizarre. It made quite an impact on me. I try to incorporate theatrics into our act, and I think Alice Cooper was the instigator for that.
Tyler Glenn, Neon Trees • James Taylor. One of my church leaders took me.
Rachel Crow • Miley Cyrus. I was so excited I was shaking. The Jonas Brothers opened.
Hank William III • My first official show was Adam Ant. It was very intense for me.
Erika Wennerstrom, Heartless Bastards • Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" tour. She had that tough Joan Jett sense about her. My musical tastes have morphed over the years.
Joshua James • Three Dog Night in ninth grade. We had the worst tickets. I couldn't even see them.
Dave Simonett, Trampled By Turtles • Bouncing Souls. I was 14 and it was an all-ages coffee shop. I was an angry young kid, and punk spoke to me.
Benjamin Davis, Bad Veins • When I was 18 or 19, went to see Possum Dixon and The Continentals at [Cincinnati music venue] Bogart's. We played there with Interpol several months ago.
Greg Laswell • Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl with my parents. I must have been 12 or 13. I remember a four- or five-minute piano intro.
Walter Parks, Swamp Cabbage • Yes, with opening act The Eagles. It was fantastic.
Cody Simpson • I saw The Wiggles when I was 8, and Keith Urban when I was 10. I grew up a lot in between those.
Chris Cagle • Johnny Nash at [Six Flags] AstroWorld. He sang "I Can See Clearly Now." I mowed three lawns to be able to buy a ticket.
Jessica Stavely-Taylor, The Staves • Paul McCartney. The Beatles are our favorite band. It was incredible. It was as close as we could get to seeing The Beatles.
Joshua Radin • My mom took me to see New Edition when I was about 5 years old. The next one was the Jacksons' Victory Tour. They gave the first 10,000 people a white sequined glove, and I got one.
Nick Loss-Eaton, Leland Sundries • Paul McCartney. I was 10 years old, at Foxboro [Stadium]. I had terrible seats, but I didn't care. Seeing Paul McCartney in person is great.
Rick Allen, Def Leppard • The Trammps. It was fantastic disco. Then I discovered rock, Bad Company, Black Sabbath.
Keller Williams • Cameo with Zapp & Roger. I had a posse of 12-year-olds who went. It was at King's Dominion. There weren't a whole lot of white people.
Mike Love, The Beach Boys • Kingston Trio at Shrine Auditorium. They did "Sloop John B" first. Al [Jardine] and I asked Brian [Wilson] to arrange "Sloop John B" [for us].
Rudolf Schencker, The Scorpions • Tony Sheridan with The Beatles. It was fantastic. It was amazing.
JJ Grey • The Johnny Van Zant Band on the "No More Dirty Deals" tour, at the Jacksonville Coliseum. I was only 12 or 13. My sister and brother-in-law took me. It was awesome, I see [Van Zant] all the time flying Delta. I always fly Delta, from Jacksonville to the hub in Atlanta.
Nels Cline, Wilco • The Byrds in Central Park in 1968. My brother and I had been wanting to go to shows since we were 11 and 12. I was beside myself. They were my favorite until Jimi Hendrix was my favorite. I thought it was absolutely great.
Katherine Nelson (Star of "Emma Smith: My Story") • The Aquabats in Pasadena.
Joshua Ledet ("American Idol") • BeyoncÃ© in Houston. I remember how amazing she was and how she kept everyone entertained.
Tony Foresta, Municipal Waste • The Beastie Boys. It was the first show of the "Check Your Head" tour. I was obsessed with them. I was that kid in the front row, holding onto the barricade, not moving at all, even though I had to pee. I was devastated when MCA died.
Mark Rivera, Ringo Starr's All Starr Band • The Blues Project. I wanted to see Al Kooper.
Logan Henderson, Big Time Rush • My older cousins took me to see Creed. It was very cool. That was the start of me becoming an artist.
Justin Pierce, Motion City Soundtrack • Guns N' Roses in 1991. I was 14. Soundgarden opened. We had to wait four hours between Soundgarden and GN'R. That's a pretty good first concert.
Raphael Saadiq • Rick James and the O'Jays when I was about 10. I saw Bob Marley and the Wailers when I was 12, by accident. I was looking through the fence at [Greek Theatre in Berkeley].
Chris Difford • David Bowie was doing his "Hunky Dory" tour. I wanted to be him.
Steve Berlin, Los Lobos • Blue Cheer in New Jersey. They were known to be the loudest band in the world, and they were.
Louie Anderson • Alice Cooper's "School's Out" tour. He represented everything your parents didn't want you to see.
Oz Noy • The legendary Israeli rock band Kaveret.
Keith Moseley, String Cheese Incident • In eighth grade, Aerosmith after the "Rocks" album.
Garrick Smith, Chicago Afrobeat Project • Barbara Mandrell with my grandmother. In junior high, my mother took me to see Branford Marsalis.
Mary Chapin Carpenter • Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. I got to do a concert with Paul several years ago. Life's one big concert.
Gary Larsen, Royal Teeth • Staind and Papa Roach. My stepdad was a metalhead. I'm sure others have much cooler stories.
Mac Powell, Third Day • Dallas Holm. I was 10 or 12 years old. It was a Christian concert, though I didn't listen to that music at the time.
Mayer Hawthorne • Kenny Loggins. I was excited. That was around the time "Footloose" came out. I remember thinking music was all I ever wanted to do.
Blake Mills (Fiona Apple's guitarist) • My dad took me to see Eric Clapton in Phoenix for the "Pilgrim" tour, at age 13. Lenny Kravitz opened.
Curtis Salgado • Count Basie. I was 13. I told my father that's what I wanted to do. That opened up everything.
Mark Foster, Foster the People • My first show was when I was 7, the Beach Boys at Blossom [Festival] in Cleveland. David Cassidy opened the show.
Eric Earley, Blitzen Trapper • Doc Watson. My Dad took me to a bluegrass festival.
Todd Snider • Eric Clapton and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. They looked like they were from Mars. I never thought I could do that.
Matt Helders, Arctic Monkeys • The Vines. Alex [Turner] and I went to that show when we were 16. It was an adventure, getting on a train. It was a big deal.
Kasey Anderson • Dead Moon. Shortly thereafter Stone Temple Pilots and Meat Puppets.
Noelle Scaggs, Fitz & The Tantrums • Wu-Tang Clan at The Forum [in Los Angeles]. I was in my early teens. I grew up as a hip-hop girl.
Josh Ritter • In ninth grade, I saw Arlo Guthrie. It was a formative moment. He had a way with the crowd. I felt like I could talk to him.
Monica Pasqual, Blame Sally • We used to go to a lot of classical concerts. My dad was head of the board of the Utah Arts Council. My first rock concert was Bad Company at The Salt Palace. I was 14. I was young and overwhelmed. I got more into popular music in my late teens. When I was younger, I was a classical music nerd.
John J. McCauley III, Deer Tick • My mom and dad took me to Los Lobos in 1990. I had to be excited. They were one of my favorite bands. "La Bamba" definitely helped. When it came on the radio, I would freak out.
Lindi Ortega • Sonic Youth in high school, grade 9 or 10. My friend was really into them and it was the first time I was caught in a mosh pit.
Matt Maher • Platinum Blonde in sixth grade.
Peter Bauer, The Walkmen • Aerosmith with my dad. He was a good sport.
David Cassidy • A closed-circuit show of the Beatles in Washington, D.C. [in 1964].
Aloe Blacc • A Power 106 [radio] show with Jodeci and Wu-Tang Clan.
Lucinda Williams • I was 12 or 13 and saw Peter, Paul & Mary in New Orleans.
Robert Aaron Ellingson, Young Empires • Edgefest, a big Canadian festival. I was 14 or 15. You really see how a band can emotionally affect you. It showed how universal music can be.
Kaskade • New Order, The Smiths, Ministry.
Israel Nebeker, Blind Pilot • In middle school, I was really into Naughty By Nature. But The [Grateful] Dead came to Eugene, and my dad took me. I was reluctant. It grew on me by the end of the show.
Lita Ford • Black Sabbath at the Long Beach Arena in 1971. It changed my life. I saw my future that night.
Brandi Carlile • The Judds at the fairgrounds with my mom when I was 7. It affected me massively. We had to leave early to beat the crowd.
Andy Patterson, The Expendables • R.E.M. in the seventh grade at the Shoreline Amphitheatre.
Tycho • Rush and Primus. I was like 15 or something. I was just spacing out to lasers.
Robert Earl Keen • Cream in 1968. As a sixth-grader, we got backstage. [My friend] Byron the Retard had the gift of gab.
Kev Nish, Far East Movement • The first concert that really inspired us was Dilated Peoples and Kanye West. It was on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. We just felt the energy. We felt the power.
Anna Wilson • I was 6, and it was Donny and Marie at the Valley Forge Music Fair. Isn't that crazy? I watched them every Friday night.
William McLaren, Delta Spirit • My parents would drag me to operas. In fifth grade, I saw Bad Religion and Blink-182. My older brother took me. I thought, "This is awful." Then they got a lot better.
Fletcher Dragge, Pennywise • The Adolescents and Wasted Youth back in 1970. That show changed my life.
Chris Robinson, The Black Crowes • Andy Irving at the Unitarian Church.
Peter Yarrow, Peter, Paul & Mary • The Weavers at Carnegie Hall in 1955. They were blacklisted. They changed my perspective.
Dan Haggis, The Wombats • Bryan Adams. My dad took us and we listened to "Reckless" and "Waking Up the Neighbours" in the car. We knew all the words.
Richard Edwards, Margot & The Nuclear So & So's • I am sure I went to some gospel show with my parents.
Mike Reno, Loverboy • My parents drove down to Disneyland from British Columbia. It was the Lovin' Spoonful. I was 12. I remember the drummer had chrome drums I was a drummer then. They sparkled. That's all I remember.
Rosie Thomas • Bette Midler. My parents were fans and I adore her. I related to her quirkiness. She can break your heart and make you laugh in one fell swoop. [After that] I wanted to make people feel good, feel better.
Mike Ness, Social Distortion • Rod Stewart at Angels Stadium. It was the first time I saw someone with purple hair. It was great. It was a transitional period.
Graham Fink, Milo Greene • I was too young to appreciate it. I went with the whole family to see the Allman Brothers. We saw Sheryl Crow and Big Head Todd, the openers. I was probably 8. After two acts, we packed up the station wagon and left. We missed the Allman Brothers.
Aaron Neville • Sam Cooke. It was definitely inspiring.
Christopher Porterfield, Field Report • The Oak Ridge Boys in Rochester, Minn., with my dad.
Gavin DeGraw • Van Halen, or Van Hagar. It was great.
Neil Giraldo • The Who in Cleveland. They played for 20 minutes and then they destroyed all their instruments.
White Buffalo • I saw country shows with my family. The first was George Jones.
Mike Kennerly, All-American Rejects • Pink Floyd in 1994, on their "Division Bell" tour. It was definitely a spectacle. It blew my mind.
Jonathan Cain, Journey • Chicago.
Tim Rice-Oxley, Keane • U2 at Wembley Stadium on the ZooTV tour. I knew nothing about U2. It was funny going to the gig, with the multimedia overload. I thought every show was like that. Every show since has been underwhelming.
email@example.com Remembering your musical coming of age
This story was prompted by Tribune writer Kathy Stephenson, who remembered hearing Sean Cassidy as her first concert. Years later, she was embarrassed about her musical taste ("It was the '70s," she says) and trained her own children to think about their first concert as a rite of musical passage.
So we want to know: Whom did you hear at your first concert? Send your comments about this list and your first concert memories to firstname.lastname@example.org with "first concert" in the subject line. A few of the most unusual or interesting responses will be published on the "Burger with Relish" music blog.
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