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.

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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.

Dio with Dokken

Posted in 1981-1985, Middle School to Early HS on February 3, 2009 by concertproject

dokken001dio_851 Bands: Dio with Dokken

Venue: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland CA

Date: December 1983

When Ronnie James Dio made his way to the San Francisco Bay Area in the winter of 1983, the diminutive singer was on a major career upswing. Having completed successful stints as lead vocalist in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and the Ozzy Osbourne-less Black Sabbath, the early years of the burgeoning heavy metal friendly eighties were prime time for Dio to forge a path as a solo artist. He had two powerful albums to his credit, Holy Diver and The Last in Line, legions of hard rocking and rabid fans, and a headlining tour with arena newcomers, Dokken, in a supporting role.

But enough of the ancient heavy metal history lesson, let me tell you about the Dio/Dokken show from the perspective of a fourteen year old metalhead.

840824_generic_view_22This show was the first concert that my friends Roger Arbelbide and Toby D’elia and I were allowed to travel to on our own. Since we lived on the Peninsula and the show was in Oakland, our parents decided it would be best for everyone involved if we rode on the BART train to the Coliseum. That plan was cool with us because it gave us more freedom than we would have had if one of our folks had actually driven us there. So it was with a newfound sense of independence and maturity that we boarded the train in Daly City, our jean jacket pockets loaded with several cans of Coors each and a tin of Skoal between us for the ride.

840824_ronnie_3We sat about ten rows up from the floor directly behind the sound man. Even though we were near the back of the room relative to the stage, hearing the band was no problem; they were freaking loud. In fact, the only thing louder was the sound of the M-80 that exploded near Roger’s head when Dio first hit the stage. Thinking back on it now, the only person in attendance that evening who was spared the probable likelihood of Pete Townsend-like permanent hearing damage was the guy I saw on the floor below us who spent the entire duration of the concert, from the first note of Dokken’s set to the final power chord of Dio’s encore, hunched over, face buried inside a trash can, vomiting. I wonder what his blog would say about the time he went and saw Ronnie James Dio.

Justin Timberlake with Pink

Posted in 2000-2007, Teaching at LE on January 27, 2009 by concertproject

timberlakemainnotuneingy71Bands: Justin Timberlake with Pink

Venue: HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA

Date: January 2007

I have taken a lot of shit for admitting that I enjoy listening to the music of Justin Timberlake. The figurative flying feces has been flung by my hard rock friends, my heavy metal friends, my alt-country friends, my jazz friends, my classic rock friends, and my hip-hop friends. Even my sports talk radio friends have piled on. And it’s not even as if I can defend myself and my perceived musical integrity by claiming my love of JT’s music as a guilty pleasure. Oh no. I enjoy his Futuresexlovesounds cd so much that if I were to rewrite my top 10 favorite album of all time list, it would easily crack the top seven, at least.

114694510482239e02e8hr2So, it was a complete no-brainer that I would be attending Timberlake’s show when it came around. In fact, I even pre-ordered my front row seat tickets from his website weeks before they were available to the general public. Umm, well, actually, that’s not entirely true. The truth is that my wife Fehmeen has been a major JT fan since his days in N Sync and when she purchased his new cd and played it over and over and over in our car for months on end, I learned to like, I mean love, most of the songs on it. In fact, I dug them so much that I thought it would be cool to see them performed live. Plus, Fehmeen wanted to go, so we bought tickets and went.

justin-timberlake-timbaland-335a032707I remember it being chilly that evening in January because I vividly recall the serpentine line slithering around the entire outside of the HP Pavilion before they opened the doors. Once inside, we found our way to our assigned seats in the upper nosebleed region and prepared ourselves for the show to start by engaging ourselves in a serious game of people watching. We determined quite quickly that I was easily the oldest, non-parent in attendance. Before I could even begin to process that tidbit of information, the lights went down and the show began.

Opening act Pink was blaringly loud and generally unremarkable, save for the circe de soleil-esque acrobatic rope from the rafters trick. JT performed the way one would expect: lots of singing, solo and synchronized dancing, and even some piano playing. Every thing was rolling just fine until about the fifty minute mark when artist/producer Timbaland came out and played records for almost half an hour. It totally killed the show which unfortunately, never regained it’s momentum.

Living Colour

Posted in 1986-1992, Late HS to College on January 22, 2009 by concertproject

rs590-rs1Band: Living Colour

Venue: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis campus, Davis, CA

Date: Early 1989

I vividly (get it?) recall the hype surrounding this show as being immense and the collective anticipation of the on the cutting edge of the college music scene hipsters as being downright palpable. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? Not only was the new vanguard of the not yet mainstream hard rock/funk acts coming to town, they were going to be playing on campus. What’s your favorite color, baby? Living Colour!!!

So we partied like it was 1989. A bunch of us had gathered at my friend Martin Taxera’s apartment to drink cheap and bitter beer and smoke slightly more expensive yet harsh on the lungs weed from a four foot water bong. Having achieved the appropriate (for a concert) level of intoxication and inebriation, we headed off, on foot, to the center of campus to catch the show.

50786610vernon-reid-living-colour-1991-sizedBecause the band had only their debut album’s material to draw from, I remember the concert being relatively short in length. They even included, as a part of their repertoire, covers of popular Tracy Chapman and Talking Heads tunes. Vocalist Corey Glover bounded about the stage in his signature Body Glove wetsuit and guitarist Vernon Reid positively shredded it up on all of his mind-blowing leads.

As the lights turned on and people began filtering towards the exits, I was stopped in the lobby by a friend. Apparently, the word had been circulating that I was looking to score a bootleg vinyl copy of Prince’s legendary and unreleased Black Album and he knew someone who had one for sale. My friend then introduced me to the owner of a downtown record store and I quickly made arrangements to secure my copy the next day.

Twelve hours and twenty-five bucks later, the album was mine. (I still have it, too).

prince-the-black-album-37436-9911

Loverboy with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts

Posted in 1981-1985, Middle School to Early HS on January 20, 2009 by concertproject

Bands: Loverboy with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts

Venue: The Cow Palace, San Francisco, CA

Date: September 1983

cow_palace_front1

This Loverboy/Joan Jett show back in 1983 was personally historically significant to me for a number of different reasons. I believe the title of Loverboy’s hit song, “Turn Me Loose”, adequately describes the sense of freedom I was feeling that night at the Cow Palace for this concert marked the first show I attended sans chaperones. Up until this point in my concert-attending history, I was deemed too young to see a band perform live without the maternal and/or paternal parental unit in tow. But this time was different, I was in high school now. Granted, my friend Matt Berry and I were dropped off to and picked up from the Cow Palace that night by the mom and dad taxi service but at least the time spent in between the arriving and departing was ours alone.

loverboy A second reason why this show carries the weight of personal and historical significance for me is because this show marked the first time that I was more excited to see the opening act as opposed to the headliner. Sure, Loverboy was a bigger band at the time (they had just released their third record and had a string of relatively big hits) but I had already seen them open for Journey a year ago. I was way more interested in checking out Joan Jett and The Blackhearts instead. At the time, she only had two records out but her song “I Love Rock n Roll” was blowing up the airwaves and there is always just that something special about being into a band before they get too big and sell out, man. Plus, Joan Jett was a former member of the female rock band called The Runaways so she had that tidbit of notoriety going for her as well.

joan-jett1The third and final reason as to why this show is memorable to me is because of what happened after the show. Since we were too young to drive ourselves, my mom had dropped us off at the concert and Matt’s mom was going to pick us up and drive us back home. Earlier that afternoon we had arranged with Matt’s mom to meet us a few blocks away from the Cow Palace on Geneva Avenue in order to avoid any potential traffic nightmares of her having to enter an all cars are exiting parking lot. Being the geniuses that we were (and still are), Matt and I decided to avoid the traditional parking lot exit, coincidentally marked exit I might add, and forge another pathway out of there: we tried to hop the six foot tall cyclone fence.

Long story short, Matt made it over the fence and I didn’t. Unfortunately for me, the back of my newly purchased grey and black Joan Jett jersey style t-shirt got snagged on the top of the fence and I was left with my feet dangling a good foot above the ground. After a few minutes of panicking at my affixed to the fence state, we figured out a way to reunite my shoes with the earth and we were on our merry way home. I proudly wore my battle-scarred and ripped concert t-shirt to school the next day and whenever I run into my friend Matt, we always share a laugh about the time I got stuck on the fence after Joan Jett and Loverboy.