On August 26th, Jenny Trout, her seven year old daughter, and I drove to Chicago (Well, Jen drove. I covered my eyes a lot and hoped fervently that we’d return home to tell the tale. And that’s nothing against Jen’s driving. That’s because more than three lanes on an expressway and Chicago traffic freak me the fuck out.) to see the Billy Joel concert at Wrigley Field.
On the trip we talked about how her daughter was going to have a great first concert story. I mean, how many seven-year-olds have seen Billy Joel, anyway? Scratch that. How many seven-year-olds even know who Billy Joel is?
Anyway, we also talked about previous concerts we’d been to and decided to do a blog post about them. Jen’s might be in chronological order, but mine won’t be because I’m terrible at remembering stuff. Particularly remembering stuff in order.
But here it goes.
Styx It was the first concert I ever saw. I was a kid – not as young as Wednesday, but pretty young. I was supposed to go with my mom, but she was heavily pregnant and no heavily pregnant person wants to navigate downtown Detroit and the Joe Louis Arena. In retrospect, I completely understand. At the time, I had to go with my then stepfather. We didn’t really get along. This was no exception.
Adam Ant Oh, yes, friends. You read that right. I was a young teen and quite in love with Adam Ant. Yeah…I know. It was the 80s. What do you want? However, I discovered something far better than Adam Ant at that show. And that was the opening act.
INXS opened for Adam Ant, and I learned many important things that night. I learned that a young Michael Hutchence was insanely fucking hot (even with the awful mullet). I learned that INXS should have been the featured band. Most importantly? I learned about lust.
Sister Rosine went on about lust constantly at school. It was a never ending litany of who was going to hell and why. The answer was all non-Catholics and everyone who had lust in their hearts. It was a Catholic high school, so…you know…pretty much everyone. I’d been lectured on the dangers of lust every day for a couple of years at this point and I was lust blah blah eternal damnation blah blah blah.
Then I saw Michael Hutchence. I saw Michael Hutchence sing. I saw Michael Hutchence dance. I saw Michael Hutchence and had a goddamn epiphany in the middle of “Don’t Change.” And that epiphany, you might wonder? It was: “Oh! This is what Sister Rosine was on about. There was lust in my heart. There was lust in my mind. And friends, there was most certainly lust in my pants. If Sister Rosine was to be believed, I was on the fast track to hell. And I was absolutely fine with that.
Marillion You know that show that you end up at because you’re dating a guy who thinks neo-progressive rock is a great idea? This was that show. Hi/lowlight: You pop out to go to the bathroom at the beginning of a song and discover that a bunch of other people had the same idea. It takes 22 minutes to get through the line and wash your hands and you come back and the band is only then moving into the key change before the big finish of that song.
The Who I didn’t actually go to this show. However, I did get tickets for it for my fiance for a wedding gift–he took his best man because I had a paralyzing fear of the Silverdome where they were playing. I now regret this choice. It was back in the day when Ticketmaster had a physical location that you had to go to. And the Ticketmaster employees were grumpy. as. fuck. about opening at 6 am to sell concert tickets to a bunch of people who’d been lined up all damn night. I’m including it because my brother and I spent the night outside in line with a bunch of Dead Heads and bikers and there was some chick in line next to me who’d recently changed her name to Cheyenne. Though, she took great pains to tell me that she’d chosen to spell it a better way. “Shy-Anne”. Shy-Anne, if you’re still out there somewhere, you were a fab line mate and I enjoyed talking women’s studies with you. And Spider, the biker, who saved my place in line so I could find the bathroom I so desperately needed at five am because the three porta potties that were there had been barfed all over – there wasn’t a place to step let alone sit. Spider, sir, you were a true gentleman.
Jethro Tull – It was a husband’s choice show that I ended up enjoying far more than I thought I would. Ian Anderson literally never stops moving.
Tracy Chapman – Syd Vicious, one of my daycare girlies, and I used to listen to Tracey Chapman all the time. As a surprise, her mom got three tickets to a show Chapman did at my favorite venue – the State Theater in Kalamazoo. Seriously, look at this place! It’s small – it only holds about 1500 people. But the architecture is gorgeous and the acoustics are great.
The concert was fantastic, too, and Syd, her mom and I had a wonderful time. I think the thing that surprised me the most was how incredibly tiny TracyChapman is. She’s got this giant, gorgeous voice but she’s downright wee.But she puts on a damn good show.
Tori Amos – I’ve seen Tori 4 times – the Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink, Boys for Pele and From the Choir Girl Hotel tours. All of the shows were memorable. LE because she played the State Theater and there were maybe 200 people there, so she had us all move down front and she sat on the edge of the stage and talked to everyone – it was like having a concert in someone’s living room. For UtP, I was ginormously pregnant with my first child, and I was also a raging hormonal bitch. This concert was where I met one of my very dearest friends. And even though she met me when I was at my literal worst, 22 years later, we’re closer than ever. And the FtCGH was where I very nearly met Jenny Trout. I went to that concert then the next day I went to a writing conference and I was talking about the concert and Jen’s grandma overheard me and said that her granddaughter had been at that concert and she wanted us to meet because she thought we’d be great friends. As it turns out, she was absolutely right.
Rufus Wainwright – He opened for Tori and while he was super entertaining, he was also really drunk. I spent most of his set wondering if there was a way to get him into rehab.
Dar Williams – I’ve seen Dar 3 times and I adore her. Her shows are fun and quirky and thoroughly enjoyable. The first time I saw her, I was pregnant with my second kid. During my second favorite holiday song, The Christians and the Pagans, I felt my son move for the first time. Coincidentally (?), that’s always been one of his favorite songs and it still is.
Ani Difranco – I’ve seen Ani 5 times. Most of those times were with Roxanne, the friend I met during the Tori concert and once was with Jenny and my sister Cait. When I’m in the mood for angry chick music, Ani’s my go-to. She puts on a fabulous show. I do have some serious fucking questions about her opening acts though. I want to have a sit down with her and find out what her criteria is for choosing them, because holy hell, they have been, without exception, the literal fucking worst. Roxanne and I have it narrowed down to one of two choices. Either A.) She wants to make sure she looks amazing in comparison to the openers. Or B.) She feels sorry for them and she’s hoping that on the road, someone out there somewhere will love them enough that they’ll become a real band. I mean, for fuck’s sake, Drum and Tuba was one of her opening acts.
Drum and Tuba – Let me set the stage for you. There is a drum. There is a tuba. There are two gentlemen. One plays the drum. The other plays the tuba. For over a half hour. Maybe even 45 minutes. It’s fucking hard to be sure when your ears are bleeding and you’re praying for an end to your suffering.
Stevie Nicks – We’re not people who win things. Like ever. But somehow, my husband magically won tickets to a Stevie Nicks concert. She was just as delightfully Stevieish as she could be. Scarves. Shawls. Skirts, Tambourines. Spinning. Heels to high to wear safely. 10/10: Would see again.
Catie Curtis – My sister, Cait, took me to this show. It was just a nice little folk concert on the Lake Michigan shore. And I like a lot of Catie’s songs, so that was great. And hanging with Cait is always fun.
Brandi Carlile – Speaking of hanging with Cait, my sister took me to this concert, too. Awesome outdoor concert with lots of singing along and Cait getting the numbers of lots of girls. Literally happens wherever we go. They are moths. She’s the porchlight.
Tony Bennett – Now, I fully admit, this wasn’t a concert on my radar. But Jen really wanted to go and so did her IDK BFF Jill – but neither of them drove at the time. So, I drove and we all went, and it was A.) a really great show. B.) an awesome fun time with Jen and Jill. C.) absolutely fascinating to watch these drunkass 60 year old women hooting and hollering at the stage and threatening to strip. 10/10 would totally do again.
Sarah McLaughlin, Suzanne Vega, and god help me, Miranda Lambert. When my Syd Vicious graduated high school, she wanted to go to Lilith Faire. And she wanted me and Cait to go with her and her mom. I’d never been, so I thought, sure – let’s do it. There were some extra tickets, so Syd’s mom told me to invite someone. So I invited Jen. I believe her response was, “Christ, no! Why the hell would I do that to myself?!” or something to that effect. There were a ton of acts there. But it was hot and beastly humid and you couldn’t bring water into the park and they were charging $9 a bottle for 16.9 oz. I don’t even want to admit how many bottles I bought. But I was dying. And mostly those smaller acts were all on the face of the sun, so we avoided them.
Suzanne Vega was good. So was Sarah McLaughlin. But JM&J, Miranda Lambert sounded like someone was trying to teach a really angry cat to sing. I mean, okay, I admit country music really isn’t my thing. But this was a whole ‘nother level of painful. You might wonder why we didn’t wander away to anywhere else during her set. Well, I’ll tell you. There was shade. There was shade and we were trying to keep from dying. The price of life? Miranda Fucking Lambert live with zero autotuning. Never again the Miranda Lambert times.
Fleetwood Mac – While Stevie Nicks was great and also free, I’ve always wanted to see Fleetwood Mac. I finally got my chance a couple of summers ago when my mom, Cait, of Cait’s BFF, Laura, and I drove down to Detroit. We ate supper in Greektown in my favorite dive restaurant that looks no different than it did when we lived near there when I was a preteen. And while we were trying to find our way to the Joe Louis Arena we drove by Mariner’s Church aka the Sailor’s Maritime Cathedral which meant we all simultaneously broke into song and sang that verse from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (There’s a reason Cait and Laura are BFFs.) Laura belongs in our tribe. But anyway, the show was absolutely amazing. I was surprised by the really diverse age range of the crowd. There were as many teenagers there as there were people my mom’s age. Sadly, I also discovered that my vertigo in places like that is worse than ever. I was probably right to skip The Who at the Silverdome.
Counting Crows – Counting Crows gets a bad rap, particularly from Jenny Trout. But I don’t care, I love them anyway, and I always will. So there. However, when they were doing lots of touring in the 90s, we were broke as fuck and there was no Counting Crows for me. However, the same summer I saw Fleetwood Mac, I also got to see Counting Crows with Kayleigh Jones, because Kayleigh, unlike Jen, knows what’s up.
It was such a great show. The new stuff was surprisingly just as good as the old. Even the admittedly bizarre mash up of Round Here and Oh, My Darling Clementine worked. I’m not exactly sure how Adam Duritz’s brain works, but I find it fascinating. And I still think he’s brilliant fucking lyricist.
Toad the Wet Sprocket – Toad opened for Counting Crows and they were fab. They also had new songs to go with the old and they were great, too. But I’m pretty sure the lead singer is a vampire. I don’t think he’s aged at all. And I had a really great time with Kayleigh at the show.
Walk Off the Earth – My sister introduced me to WOTE in hopes of getting me off a Mumford and Sons kick because she loathes them. I still love Mumford and Sons, however, thanks to Cait, I love Walk Off the Earth, too! They’re innovative, fun, they write catchy as fuck music, and I absolutely adore them. My daughter and I went to see them a couple winters ago. We had to sit through three fucking AWFUL opening acts (I can only assume they’re following the Ani Difranco school of thought when it comes to choosing their openers.) However, the concert was so great that it erased almost all the memories of the openers from my mind. I remember being annoyed, but I can’t remember by whom. If you get a chance to see them, definitely do!
Billy Joel – Which brings us back to where this post started. I’ve loved Billy Joel since high school, but again. I’ve never been able to see him. That changed in August. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about seeing a concert at a baseball stadium. It seemed like it would be too big and crowded to really feel any connection to the music. It was big and it was definitely crowded, but there was an amazing sense of community there.
Despite my decidedly Catholic upbringing, I’m not religious. Pretty much the only thing I miss about church is singing with a group. I just really enjoy that. There’s a sense of connection that you don’t experience with too many other things. Because nearly everyone in the crowd knew all the words, everyone was singing. I was worried that it might detract from the concert experience. Not even a little. Honestly, I think it made it more fun. And it made it feel a lot like singing with a choir.
And holy shit, can that guy perform. He’s funny, charming, and he honest to god sounds just like he sounds in recordings.I would go see him again and again. But the best part of all was hanging with Jen and her daughter and the look on her daughter’s face when the show started–that was just magical.
Here’s Jen’s concert list. Who have you seen? What were some of your faves?