My very first concert was Disney at the Hollywood Bowl. I was a kid, it was a fun kid event. Next, my family saw a series of Grateful Dead concerts in Las Vegas. I was in junior high. That went about as well as you would expect, for a junior high kid going to a rock concert with her mom. Meaning: I hated every minute of it. I clearly had no idea how rare of an experience it was for someone of my generation to see the Dead live, but I was in junior high. It is what it is.
I remember the first concert I picked. My friend Karla somehow convinced her dad to take us to see TOOL at the Hollywood Palladium on their Aenima tour in 1998. I didn’t even know much about TOOL at the time, but I was ALL into anything Karla was into, and away we went. I remember that show so vividly. We rushed up at the front, right by the stage. It was booming. I remember seeing 20somethings in leather jackets coming in after the opener, and thinking “You bought tickets for this, why would you miss any of it???” I learned to boo the opener. Maynard had some sort of crazy suit getup at some point. I got kicked in the head by some crowdsurfer’s boot.Camera phones were not around at this point, so sadly, the internet isn’t littered with pictures from the show like they are today.
The day after the show it hit me like a rock to the chest, I could see my idols in the flesh. Like with most high school kids, i built my identity on my music choices. I was big into Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Cake, The Offspring, later on Tori Amos. Somehow your music preferences turned into this complex calculation of your social standing in the high school pecking order. Or at least in my mind. In retrospect, it may have all been a massive construction in my mind. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized I could openly listen to Britney Spears and really, no one cared. But this is all a digression.
I grew up in Southern California. About 60 miles from Los Angeles. Every tour came through LA, but for me it might as well have been on another planet, because I was broke high school kid. For most of the time I had no way to get to and from LA, and then once I had my own car, I didn’t have enough money to go anyway, so it was irrelevant. My mom’s boyfriend one year did take me to a Jane’s Addiction show, and again, amazing. Mom took me and my friends to Lilith Fair, and my friend drew the logo on my back. I got sunburned, badly, with the outline of a naked woman etched out.
Pittsburgh is hardly the live music capital of anything. Plenty of tours come nowhere near here. But when I started college here, some tours DID come through, and in the 15 years I have lived here, I’ve tried to catch every show I can. I devour them. Maybe I’ve even turned into the leather jacket latecomers, because why would I waste time on an opener? Sometimes it’s a fun night out with friends. Sometimes I go by myself, surrounded by people I ignore as the music throbs. Bad Religion at Club Laga my freshman year, I just had to walk a few blocks down from the dorms. TOOL again (twice, actually, once at the Civic Arena and once at the Pete). Dave Navarro at Rosebud. Too many Clarks shows to admit to with any dignity. When I studied abroad in Germany– the Rock im Park festival with Placebo, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Marilyn Manson (the most entertaining live music performance). Tori Amos in New York and in LA. Indigo Girls in LA and then in Pittsburgh, twice. The Violent Femmes in LA and Pittsburgh, too (the worst live shows I’ve seen, ever). Jane’s Addiction a couple more times, and then once alongside Nine Inch Nails (my dream concert). Stevie Wonder. Billy Joel. That summer that I had Britney Spears AND Christina Aguilera tickets and then they both cancelled their shows. The Avett Brothers. Death Cab for Cutie, twice (oh, my heart). Arcade Fire. 311. Lady Gaga. Eric Clapton. Fun. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Veruca Salt, twice. The Smashing Pumpkins (at 7 months pregnant). Built to Spill. I have to be forgetting some.
I fill my Pittsburgh summers with sound. When I was a kid, I had a friend who moved to Las Vegas, and I asked him what he could possibly like about Las Vegas. “Every concert tour starts or ends here,” he said. I didn’t get it at the time. I do now.
There aren’t many concerts here in the cold months. There aren’t many concerts anywhere during the cold months, for that matter. But this summer, I am again filling my months up with song. Janet Jackson. Weezer. Beyonce (TWICE). Ellie Goulding. Maybe even The Avett Brothers. Oh I am ready for summer.