Support Live MusicClever Manka, · Categories: Manka's Posts · Tags: music, personal
I attended my first concert in 1984. My mother took me and three friends to Kansas City to see Huey Lewis and the News. I would have rather made the four-hour trip to see Duran Duran, but Mommy actually liked Huey Lewis, so Huey Lewis it was. It was fine. Other than being a first-time arena concert experience it was not particularly notable. The second most memorable moment of the evening was when April (a pocket-sized girl whose body could not keep up with her heart’s desire to be at the front of the crushing crowd) was lifted over the barricade by security when she started to faint. The most memorable moment was returning to the car afterward and finding all our purses had been stolen out of it. I have little memory of the concert itself.
I didn’t see another concert in Kansas City until 1990. KC was too far away for my parents to allow me and my girlfriends to drive ourselves and short of miraculous ABBA reunion tour, there was no chance in hell of Mommy driving us to anything again (I think she was pretty burned by the purse thefts).
Growing up in Southeastern Kansas, I had little access to live music—at least not the Top 40 stuff I knew and loved (unashamed life-long fan of shitty pop music, right here). I knew concerts were amazing, magical things, though, because I had MTV. I also watched my copy of Blue Silver (taped off MTV) about once a week. I knew what I was missing. The closest town of size was Wichita though, 45 minutes away and barely over a quarter million people. No big names came to Wichita, and the bands that did tour through weren’t bands I knew from my limited music exposure.
I did see one amazing concert in Wichita, over a decade later, when Tool played at The Cotillion (max capacity 2,000). My boyfriend and his two brothers stood in a triangular guard around me and the plywood wall that also protected the sound guy and his board in the middle of the floor/mosh pit. I was close enough to see the sweat running down Maynard’s face. It was probably the third loudest concert I’ve ever attended. I am pretty sure I didn’t wear earplugs.
The second-loudest concert (so far) was Night Ranger at the 1987 Kansas State Fair. I get to claim this proud fact because the state fair is located in Hutchinson where I lived so it was only a fifteen minute drive from my house. Instead of the tour tee shirt, I bought a white sweatshirt with their logo in spectacular 80s pinks and purples that matched my favorite eyeshadows. After three washings the interior pilled so badly it was unwearable. The hearing damage lasted longer. It was the first time (but not the last) that I left a concert hearing the outside world as if it were under water.
The loudest concert I ever saw (and I honestly don’t think anything could possibly top it, decibel-wise) was The Cramps at The Granada. I was closing in on 30 by that time and knew to bring earplugs. Even with them shoved in as far as possible, I still had to occasionally cover my ears with my palms. Short of Isolate earplugs (which are, as of this writing, still unavailable for purchase for people who didn’t find out about them until after their Kickstarter ended damn it), I don’t know that anything could have sufficiently muffled Lux Interior fitting an entire microphone bulb in his mouth and screaming into it as loud as he could while perched on a 15-foot high Marshall Stack.
The Cramps and Tool probably shouldn’t be included in an amphitheater concert retrospective, but their sound systems would have argued otherwise.
The first Kansas City concert I drove myself to was David Bowie in 1990. I had barely enough money to attend the concert, and only afforded the ticket because the lawn seats were incredibly cheap. The ticket stub tells me it was $23.50.
I’ve tried to save all my arena concert ticket stubs. I hate electronic ticketing’s lack of sentiment.
The farthest I have traveled for a concert was The Stray Cats reunion gig at L.A. House of Blues for a Carl Perkins memorial foundation show. I have no idea how I managed to score tickets for this show. They went on sale the morning of my birthday and I was on the phone to Ticketmaster the instant lines opened. My call went through immediately, I got my tickets (it was all General Admission) and hung up feeling pleased with myself. It wasn’t until I was talking in line with all the other fantastically turned-out hepcats at the show that I realized I might have been the only person who hadn’t had to get her tickets from a scalper. Even the friends I met there, who lived in San Francisco at the time, bought theirs second hand. Everyone was talking about how much they’d paid and how tough it had been to get them at all and I was like “I just…called Ticketmaster?” A guy named Sal pulled me out of the line, pointed at me and yelled to everyone “She’s from fuckin’ Kansas and didn’t buy her tickets scalped! Can you believe that?” Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have that level of luck with tickets again until Hamilton, nearly 20 years later.
It was money not luck that got me good seats to concerts during my roaring 20s. A college drop-out who enjoyed living frugally even with a well-paid IT gig, I had money to burn and my parents had a friend in Denver who was a ticket scalper. What a delightful combination. With that much money (and grown-up vacation time with no grown-up responsibilities) I saw bands I wouldn’t have otherwise. Even if people skip KC they always play Denver and even if I was only marginally interested in a band I sometimes attended a concert as a cultural experience.
I went to an outdoor R.E.M. show where the weather was so unseasonably cold and wet my traveling companion and I had to buy extra clothes at a nearby Walmart and layered them over what we already had on in the parking lot. It was one of the early shows for the Monster tour and Michael Stipe didn’t know all the lyrics yet. He had them printed and sitting on a music stand.
It seems a strange thing to say I’m glad I wasn’t stoned for Pink Floyd’s Division Bell show. I don’t think I would have absorbed all of it in an altered state (although who knows, perhaps I would have absorbed more). The fellow IT nerd I went with was impressed and excited to see (during the pre-show set-up) that they were using Cray computers to produce the graphics. I was in love with the giant (I mean fucking giant) inflatable pigs.
I saw The Rolling Stones but to be honest I don’t remember much. I don’t know if they weren’t very good or if I wasn’t very into it. Or both. The biggest impression it made on me was the realization that these were Not My People, I was terribly uncomfortable, and I think I left before the show was over. I don’t even remember for sure who I went with.
At the opposite end of the Not My People experience was The Indigo Girls at Red Rocks. Lesbians. Lesbians everywhere. I made the drive to Denver with a (girl)friend whom I desperately wanted to be a girlfriend and I spent the entire concert pretending in my head that we were a couple and imagining how soft her hands (probably) were and how much I wanted to put my arms around her like literally everyone else was doing with their concert companions. She was tall and wore vintage clothes and looked like Norma Jean Baker and I wanted her so bad I let her smoke in my car as I-70 rolled underneath us there and back.
Amphitheater concerts took a back seat to local shows when I went back to college, but small venue shows are a different animal for a different article. These days I mostly avoid giant concerts. The crowds annoy me and I can’t often bear the expense and the hassle. I have, though, ponied up for the Beastie Boys (worth it) Lady Gaga (very worth it), Nine Inch Nails (not), and Rob Zombie (outstandingly worth it, and the most polite audience ever, for real). I saw Pink and Lady Gaga (the second time), thanks to generous friends who wound up with extra tickets (but would have been worth the money if I’d had it at the time).
My favorite (and most expensive) concert experience was Peter Gabriel on the 1992 US tour. I had the album So in high school, but a college friend clued me in to Gabriel’s amazing post-Genesis back catalog and I became A Fan. Thanks to the connection in Denver, I scored two first-row tickets at $360 each. Even without adjusting for inflation, that’s the most I have ever spent on a single ticket ( but $584.57 if you’re curious). It was worth it, though, oh so worth it, for the ten seconds that Peter Gabriel looked straight down at me from the stage, met my eyes, and sung right at me while the spotlights singled me out. My parents, watching on the other side of the arena in vastly more reasonably-priced seats, said they could see me crying.
I don’t even remember what song he was singing.
Clever Manka is your site host. Her Eat, Pray, Love would be titled Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.