The End of the Line … For Now

Posted in Information on April 11, 2009 by concertproject

In order to better focus my attention on the writing of my memoirs, I have decided to put the Concert Project on hiatus for the time being.

Thank you for your support.

Journey with Loverboy

Posted in 1981-1985, Middle School to Early HS on April 2, 2009 by concertproject

journeyBands: Journey with Loverboy

Venue: Cow Palace, San Francisco, CA

Date: December 1981

Back in the early eighties, the period of a school child’s life now known as middle school was referred to as junior high school. I don’t know when the nomenclature changed but since I used to work at a middle school, I do know for sure that it has changed.

Even though the name has changed, the general composure and demeanor of a junior high school student has not. In 1981, I was a nervous, straight A earning, no girlfriend having, rocker wannabe whose taste in popular music was just about to grow it’s first root on it’s own, without parental assistance and/or pressure. Even though I was a few albums and concerts away from an adolescent level of musical independence, this was the time and place that it began.

I remember for my birthday in sixth grade I received as a gift from my Dad my first “real” rock album. It was the Eagles’ “Hotel California”. Before that I was listening to lots of 50s and 60s rock and roll (1955 to 1965, American Rock and Roll, to be precise) on our family’s jukebox, Sha Na Na, Elvis Presley, Star Wars soundtrack albums, and various Disney lps. This album, “Hotel California”, was the first record I could actually proudly display and show off to my friends.

One day, months later, I was hanging out with my friend Matt Berry and he played for me Journey “Captured”, a double live album that featured all of Journey’s major hits at the time. I loved the harder rocking edge that this disc featured and so I cajoled my Dad into purchasing that record for me as well. I listened to this record over and over and over again, until, in 1981, Journey released the follow up record, “Escape”.

“Escape” was freaking huge. As popular as Journey was during the “Evolution”, “Departure”, “Infinity”, and “Captured” era, “Escape” dwarfed the success of those great records and garnered a massive new fan base. Suddenly everyone was singing “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Who’s Crying Now”. Junior high school cafeterias that doubled as dance floors on select Friday nights were jam packed with hormone crazed adolescents looking to get close to members of the opposite sex.

And the best thing was, I was there on the ground floor because I had the record (and the one before it; I was no poser). I knew all the song lyrics by heart; I even had the sheet music. In fact, it was the aforementioned songs “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Who’s Crying Now” that catapulted me into getting noticed by girls. I remember hanging out at lunch time near a piano one fateful day at school and I sat down and began to play those two songs. The next thing I know, I am surrounded by all these girls asking me to play them again. It was pretty much then and there that I realized that all those years (since first grade) of taking piano lessons from Fred Cadiente at ABC Music were worth every torturous scale and fingering exercise I had endured, if the payoff was going to be female attention and hopefully, affection.

So, here I was, feeling like I was riding a personally discovered wave of cultural popularity, what with being like the hugest Journey fan ever, when one day my Dad came in and made an announcement to me that set me on a path that I am forever grateful; a path that I still travel to this day. He informed me that we were going to go to see Journey in concert at the fabled Cow Palace. He had arranged for us to go to the show with his buddy, Stubie, who was at the time a rock critic for a local newspaper. Not only were we going to the show, we got to sit in a special press section, which included a super cool, cloth material press pass sticker. save_the_cable_cars_ticket_0011

jrny81Even though my memory of the show is pretty much forgotten, I do vividly recall where we sat; so much so that if I were to go to the Cow Palace today, I could most likely lead you to the exact area we occupied for those three and a half glorious hours that Journey and opening act Loverboy played. I’m sure that Journey played all their hits from albums new and old alike, but I honestly do not remember any of it. They could have played middle c for the entire time, it wouldn’t have mattered. What matters was that I had arrived on the scene. Going to concerts and shows would remain a vital and important part of my life from that moment in time forward. Just like Steve Perry sang, “Don’t Stop Believing”, I didn’t then and I haven’t now.

Edgar Winter Group

Posted in 1993-1999, Post College (pre teaching) on March 25, 2009 by concertproject

edgar-winter-pictures-1974-ds-3067-016-lBand: Edgar Winter Group

Venue: The Gift Center, San Francisco, CA

Date: Oct 31, 1994

This show marks the first and, to date, only time I have ever attended the Exotic Erotic Ball. A venerable San Francisco tradition, the EEB was an event I had always heard (and wondered) about growing up but it wasn’t until I was living in The City during the mid-nineties that I mustered up the courage and motivation to get my Halloween freak on at the annual event. And to be completely honest with you, seeing the Edgar Winter Group perform that night was akin to eating an appetizer in a steak house. Sure, those potato skins may be tasty but you know you came for the porterhouse. And for the record, I think I remember the band played “Frankenstein” that night and that’s about it for them.

carnivalofsinAs for the rest of the spectacle known as the Exotic Erotic Ball, it’s one of those events that looks better in pictures than in person. For every scantily clad and sexily attired male or female “hottie” in attendance, there were easily three times as many similarly dressed “notties” slithering around the Gift Center that night. And that’s not to say that I was much better off: I recall dressing up as a super obscure literary anti-hero named Bernard Mickey Rangle from the Tom Robbins book Still Life with Woodpecker and being annoyed that no one knew who the hell I was. Props to my friends Traci and John who dressed up as Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, complete with exit wound.

Other assorted and unpurgable memories from that night nearly fifteen years ago: An endless river of alcohol (more than I’d seen in five years as a frat boy). Girl on boy, girl on girl, boy on boy make-out sessions as far as the eye could see. More men with (pre-digital era) cameras than a paparazzi convention. A naked man on roller skates being dragged around the venue like a pull toy. (Process that one for a while, I still haven’t shaken it loose from my brain).

Umm, sorry. Lost focus. That’s all for this one.

Hot for Teacher with Generation Swine

Posted in 2000-2007, Teaching at LE on March 17, 2009 by concertproject

l_3dd7cfc78d6124d1e59e359e40e65834Bands: Hot For Teacher with Generation Swine

Venue: Little Fox Theatre, Redwood City, CA

Date: Sept 2007

Before I bit the proverbial bullet and saw these two bands perform live, I had never personally attended a tribute band show before. Sure, I was aware of the tribute band phenomenon (Super Diamond, AC/DShe, and Blood Pollution from the movie Rock Star), I just never visualized myself being in the audience for the aforementioned spectacle. But as I was about to find out for myself, sometimes the audience is just as interesting a part of the whole concert experience as the band.

11To their credit, the boys in Generation Swine really had the look and swagger of Motley Crue in their heyday. Right down to the clothes, the wigs, and the original band’s individual performance postures, these guys did their homework. The only area that I recall being less than spot on was the actual playing of the music. Granted, Vince Neil’s voice is a bit difficult to effectively emulate and some of Mick Mars’ guitar solos may be tough to pull off in a live setting, but come on, I didn’t show up wearing earplugs!

hot_for_teacher-bandBy the time Hot For Teacher hit the stage, I was ready for some good ol’ David Lee Roth era Van Halen rock n roll. And that’s exactly what I got, right down to the last musical, nuanced detail. In fact, the band was so musically accurate that they probably didn’t move as many cds as they imagined they would on this cd release party because all the songs sounded exactly the same as the Van Halen originals and I would assume that a vast majority of the crowd owned their own copies or else they wouldn’t be here. Hell, most of the songs even appeared in the order on the actual disc.

hft_cd-smlBut as I alluded to before, the most memorable aspect of the evening was the audience. The only way I can think to describe it is in this fashion: Since there were a couple of bands going through the motions and rocking out to the best of their ability like the real deal, so, too, must the audience perform their role in this macabre masquerade. There was the drunk before the show guy, the old and awkward out of place guy, the just hooking up for the first time so forgive us our inebriated primal urges as we tongue each other the whole night couple, and the tall, scary guy that dressed up like Gene Simmons in full demon make-up and costume. Just like the performers on stage, the members of the crowd were caricatures of who they not-so-secretly wished to be.

Steve Miller Band

Posted in 1986-1992, Late HS to College on March 10, 2009 by concertproject

steve-miller-bandBand: Steve Miller Band

Venue: Cal Expo Amphitheater, Sacramento, CA

Date: Summer 1990

Whenever I hear a Steve Miller song on the radio, I think about my college days at UC Davis. Bike circles, the Coffee House, the Grad, and Chem 194. But if I was to listen to Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits cd, a more specific, yet certainly less wholesome vision of my past filters into my hazy memory. Fraternity brothers, sticky green bud, bong hits, high. Ah, to be young and wasted. And with our stoner soundtrack dutifully playing in the background of each group gathering, the hits, both musically and inhaled, kept on coming.

steve_miller_act_300xWhen the fellas and I heard that the Steve Miller Band was coming to town over the summer, those of us who were still in Davis decided to attend the show. As cruel fate would have it, we were completely out of weed the day of the concert so we decided to pair up and scour the rapidly filling Cal Expo parking lot in hopes of finding anyone willing to sell us a bag, a joint, a bud, anything. All we were able to score was a pathetic excuse of a roach, which when we tried to smoke it, yielded barely one miniscule toke before turning into ash.

steve-miller-band1So, here we were, at arguably the summer’s biggest party this side of a Dead show, and my buddies and I were stone cold sober. But by the time Steve Miller hit the stage, my state of mind became a mere afterthought. As the band churned through hit after hit after hit, I began to take notice of the people singing and dancing around me. Men and women and children of all ages were grooving along to the music that warm summer evening, having the time of their lives. It was only then did I realize that I didn’t need to smoke anything to get high that night. All I needed was the music.

A joint would have been nice, too.

Willie Nelson

Posted in 1969-1980, Pre-Birth to Elem on March 4, 2009 by concertproject

willie-flores1969-lrgBand: Willie Nelson

Venue: unknown

Date: late 1968 to early 1969

I have always had an inexplicable affinity for the music of Willie Nelson. Sure, my dad used to play his records for me all the time when I was growing up, but my love for Willie’s songs seemed to run deeper than merely in my ears and into my brain. It almost felt like I connected to the music on a near cellular level. And although it wasn’t a necessarily pressing question as to why that was, it always bugged me a little.

Well, several years ago, I got my answer.

Apparently, at some time several months before my birth, my mom attended a Willie Nelson concert with my dad while she was pregnant with me.  No wonder I’ve always felt the amber current of a whiskey river flowing through my mind. It’s because Willie Nelson was my first ever concert.

Earliest photo of me, circa 1969

Earliest photo of me, circa 1969

Scorpions with Bon Jovi

Posted in 1981-1985, Middle School to Early HS on March 2, 2009 by concertproject


hband32Bands: Scorpions with Bon Jovi

Venue: The Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA

Date: April 1984

The Scorpions were really the first band that I remember getting obsessive about. And before you get to thinking that I had built a shrine to lead singer Klaus Meine or that I had wall to wall posters of lead guitarist Mathias Jabs adorning my room or that I owned drummer Herman Rarebell’s solo album, allow me to clarify what I mean by the word obsessive. Starting with Blackout and Love at First Sting, I began collecting every Scorpions album that existed. I picked up Animal Magnetism and Lovedrive (both the American version and the naughty and gummy original European release), as well as all the half dozen or so earlier albums. I was so into the band that my friend Roger Arbelbide bought me Lonesome Crow, the available as an import only debut album, for my birthday one year. And yes, I did, and still do, own Herman Ze German’s solo album.

So, needless to say, when I read in the Sunday Pink section (of the SF Chronicle) that the Scorpions were coming to town with some band called Bon Jovi, I was so going to that show.

16144All I knew about Bon Jovi at the time was what I vividly recall hearing some random caller to a local radio station say about how they should change their name to Bon Gerbil because the singer looked like a small rodent. All appearances aside, I was impressed enough by their short set to go out and purchase their debut album the very next day.

hband2I remember the Scorpions played nearly every song that I wanted to hear that night. In fact, if you give their World Wide Live album a spin, you would have a very good idea of the quality of the show I witnessed.

As much as I enjoyed both bands that evening, the real action happened on the ride home. Since my mom had dropped Roger and I off at the Cow Palace earlier, Roger’s dad, Pascal, picked us up to drive us home. Apparently, Pascal had been hitting the wine a little bit hard that night because he drove us the ten miles or so home on the freeway at a slow and steady rate of twenty-five miles per hour. To make matters worse, he kept turning around to face me and ask me how it was that I was able to get good grades when Roger couldn’t. Over and over again. I will never forget saying, “I don’t know, sir,” repeatedly to his question as cars whizzed past us on the left.

Wayne Toups & Zydecajun

Posted in 1993-1999, Post College (pre teaching) on February 12, 2009 by concertproject

wayne_toupsBand: Wayne Toups & Zydecajun

Venue: Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA

Date: Sometime in 1996

Not unlike you, oh faithful reader, I had never heard of Wayne Toups before I saw him perform in concert. To be honest, I highly doubt that I’ve listened to his music since, either. No offense intended, but Zydeco/Cajun music, while toe-tappingly good and fun to groove to, isn’t exactly a mainstay in my personal music collection.

So, why the heck would I go to a show and see a band that I quite literally knew nothing about? Because I was on the guest list, of course. At the time, my dad worked for Dean Markley Strings, a major guitar string manufacturer, and he was doing his civic duty by bringing strings and assorted other swag up to Wayne Toups’ guitarist who was most likely an endorsing artist of the company’s strings. Being the good son, I gladly accepted my dad’s invitation to accompany him to the concert and once the doorman confirmed that “John +1” was on the list, we were in.

wayne-toups2_wm_wm1While I am fairly certain that the band played well and Wayne performed admirably, I have absolutely no recollection of what occurred up on stage that night because I was utterly transfixed by the seemingly singular event that was happening with the audience on the dance floor. Of all the shows that I have had the pleasure of attending throughout the course of my life, I had never seen the crowd behave in this fashion. As soon as the lights dimmed and there’s that good minute or so of darkness along with a palpable feeling of anticipation in the room, I noticed that nearly everyone in attendance paired off on the dance floor. The very second the band started playing their first number, all of the assembled dancing couples began two-stepping around the room. To my eyes, they appeared to be moving in unison, as if they were all a part of some synchronized dancing routine. It looked like a lot of fun to be moving around like that; I wish I had joined them but I didn’t know how to dance like that. I have never forgotten the crowd from that night. They were magnificent.

Los Amigos Invisibles

Posted in 2000-2007, Teaching at LE on February 10, 2009 by concertproject

los-amigosBand: Los Amigos Invisibles

Venue: The Edge Nightclub, Palo Alto, CA

Date: August 2003

Like dozens of bands in my personal collection, I discovered Los Amigos Invisibles completely by accident. For years, I would routinely spend a significant portion of my paycheck on cds at the now-defunct Tower Records. One time while browsing the Latin music section of the store, I stumbled upon a specially priced double cd entitled Zero Accidents on the Job. It was a sampler of sorts released by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s label Luaka Bop and it featured a song by this Venezuelan band named Los Amigos Invisibles. After obsessively listening to the song at least fifty times, I hopped into my truck and headed back down to Tower to purchase anything they had in stock by this amazing disco/acid jazz/latin pop group.

d4ed8296-1125-4920-b2f3-8c3ede42e3761About two years later, I was absently flipping through one of those free bi-weekly newspaper magazines you see displayed in racks in front of heavily trafficked businesses and who did I see coming to town at the end of the summer but Los Amigos. I immediately called my friend and recent Amigos convert Kathy “Flake” Romelfanger to see if she wanted to accompany me to the show that was taking place in about a month or so and upon hearing her say yes, I made the call to BASS and secured two tickets.

latinfunkfest2005_18Two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the show, I got sick. Really sick. Pneumonia sick. The kind of sick where my doctors were asking me if I had recently been in contact with anyone who had been exposed to SARS (remember that health scare?). A week of bed rest and a round of antibiotics was just what the doctor ordered for I was finally (but just barely) up and around on the day of the concert. Even though it was contrary to my doctor’s wishes, I was bound and determined to attend the show. Living up to her nickname, my friend Kathy bailed on me so it was with no small degree of health-related trepidation that I arrived to the nightclub, for the first time in my lengthy concert-going history, alone.

800px-los_amigos_invisibles_2008_austinI found an empty seat at a small table on the edge of the dance floor. The opening act came and went without much fanfare and soon after they exited the stage, a deejay began playing some typical upbeat dance club music. As the grooves played on, several couples began dancing on the dance floor. About twenty minutes into the deejay spun dancing, a guy with a guitar casually walked on stage and began playing along with the record. A few minutes later, another guy strolled on stage and started playing the keyboard along with the record. One by one, dudes were hitting the stage, getting behind instruments and jamming along with the groove. Eventually, the entire band was up there and before anyone in the audience knew what was going on, the house lights had dimmed and Los Amigos Invisibles had launched into their two hour long, high energy set of Venezuelan disco dance music. I quickly abandoned my seat and joined everyone else in attendance on my feet dancing. I even bought a copy of the band’s new cd which hadn’t even been released in the States yet. I had such a good time at this show, I would not hesitate to rank it in my top three most memorable and enjoyable shows I have ever attended.

The Pandoras

Posted in 1986-1992, Late HS to College on February 9, 2009 by concertproject

c4083747061Band: The Pandoras

Venue: The Coffee House, UC Davis, Davis, CA

Date: Sometime in 1989

Okay, all right, I admit it: I was a frat boy in college. In fact, ten days into the start of my freshman year, I was a pledge of the Theta Omicron chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity. And it’s not like there’s anything wrong with being a member of a greek organization in college, it’s just that anyone who knows me at all doesn’t figure me for the prototypical frat boy. I suppose that’s one of the main reasons I joined the brotherhood known for having members of “different temperaments, talents, and convictions”: for a fraternity, they didn’t seem to fit into any overall category (jocks, nerds, pretty boys, etc). Either that, or they threw a kick ass toga party during rush week , I can’t remember which.

Anyway, it was sometime during my third year of college that one of my brothers, Dominic Hanchette, roamed around our cleanliness challenged fraternal community dwelling looking to recruit some of the fellas to join him in attending a concert on campus. Dominic managed to persuade several of us, such as Paul Jacobson, Jon Lee, and yours truly, into heading out to the Coffee House to check out this all-female hard rock band from L.A. called the Pandoras. In my case, it wasn’t a real tough sell to entice me to go: several hot and trashy looking women playing loud rock music in the place where I usually ate my bagel and cream cheese while reading my California Aggie newspaper. You had me at hello.

pandoras_roxyAs far as the show was concerned, the Pandoras certainly didn’t disappoint. The tunes were catchy, the energy was high, and the view was unobstructed (since all one hundred or so of us in attendance had nearly front row seats). I even went out and purchased their EP-length cd entitled Rock Hard from a store in town the next day (I still have it, btw).

But the real excitement came after the show. You see, at the time Dominic was a deejay at KDVS, the local college radio station, and it was his assignment to deliver the ladies in the band to the station’s studio for a post-gig, live, over-the-air interview. Being the thoughtful, concerned, and caring brothers we were, Jon, Paul, and I offered up our highly refined entourage services and accompanied Dominic and the girls to the studio. My chivalrous and gallant nature really shined through that night when I carried lead-guitarist Rita’s guitar for her from the Coffee House to the station.

I recall the evening coming to an abrupt end as soon as the interview wrapped and we said our good-byes near their tour bus slash van. And although the Pandoras most likely won’t even remember the starstruck twenty year old fanboy in Davis with the look of admiration in his eyes that seemed to be saying, ‘wow, you were playing music for a living’, I know that I will never forget the experience. I mean, how could I? It was the only time I have ever been a groupie.

Cue Tiny Dancer.