Over at Liz's blog, there's been much talk about favorite songs and playlists, that started to veer into talk about favorite concerts - so I'm volunteering to host an informal open call: what was the best concert you ever attended?
I'm not as bad as the characters in Nick Horby's High Fidelity - I don't make lists of five by theme, but I can't pick just one, so here are five stand-outs off the top of my head:
Best Concert With Heavy Police Presence in the Crowd: Jane's Addiction, Ford Amphitheater, Los Angeles, 1989. The only time I've ever been frisked *and* given the once-over with a metal detector. It was a multi-night date and someone had been stabbed in a huge brawl there the night before. There must have been 40 LAPD officers there and no-one was allowed to move from their seats. And Jane's Addiction still rocked our socks off.
Best Concert With Heavy Police Presence on the Stage: KMFDM and Ministry, the Avalon, Los Angeles CA, 1989? Remains the only concert I've ever been to where someone has burned a flag onstage and the Five-oh tried but failed to stop it. Unbelievable show though.
Best Nostalgia Concert: Madness, 9.30 Club, Washington DC, 1999. Twenty years after I managed to evade my mother's ban on a buzz cut via an "accidental" English to Dutch translation issue at the barber shop, I finally managed to see the more-or-less second wave ska legends... and unlike The Who at the Coliseum, they were fantastic - just as much energy and humor as when they first hit the scene.
Best Opportunity for Permanent Hearing Damage: Ultra Bidé and the Specials, Lupo's (I think), Providence RI, 1995. The Specials were on a reunion tour minus Terry Hall, and because Japanese band Ultra Bidé had a tuba in their song "La Lee Lou Ley Lo" they somehow were booked as the opening act. The place was full of rude boys and rude girls all hanging to the side until the main act came on, and while the three slight members of Ultra Bide set up, one of the bouncers told me to stand back because they were the loudest band he'd ever heard. He wasn't wrong; flushing the toilet was giving me the Pete Townshends over 24 hours later. The show that finally convinced me to start wearing earplugs. Most of the time. Honorable Mention: Jawbreaker at Pomona College, January 1994, which had me thinking that the Northridge Earthquake later that night was permanent inner ear damage...
Best Multimedia: Super Furry Animals, 9.30 Club, Washington DC, 2002? This was the tour for the Rings Around the World album, for which there was a complete companion DVD of animation. The entire show was done in 5.1 surround sound with the songs tied perfectly to the video. Not as mad and loose as their usual efforts but an incredible effort for a indie band playing smallish venues. (But then I'd pay money to see SFA play the Yellow Pages, so take this for what it's worth.)
Friendliest: Firehose at McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA, early 1990s. A show by the successor band to the Minutemen, in a room off the back of an actual guitar shop, with maybe 75 people on folding chairs. Great songs, up close and personal, and the band shook hands with everyone before they left. Mike Watt is the bass bomb.