Tag Archives: concerts

Why a Morrissey concert is like a timeshare vacation

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I had the honor of seeing Morrissey perform in Austin at the Austin Music Hall last Saturday night. It was kind of a miracle because he didn’t cancel, he didn’t flounce off the stage at some unknown insult, and he didn’t cut any songs short due to crowd misbehavior. Anyway, the show was a delight, and of course I was in awe of someone who is Godlike to me.

I’m pretty sure Morrissey (or at least his marketing team) is aware of his Godlike status, because I purchased this shirt at the merch stand:

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Morrissey’s merch stand is insane. If I had known how many amazing shirts would be for sale, I would have started saving six months ago. There were probably 20 different shirts. Tongue held firmly in cheek, there was a tee shirt with Oscar Wilde thinking “Who is Morrissey?”, a shirt with the legendary picture of Moz with a cat on his head, a poster of Moz in the England shirt, a mouse pad with the photo of Moz in the bath, etc. etc. etc. This serves as a warning to anyone seeing him on this tour – be prepared to make tough choices or else spend a lot of money.

Of course, before Moz hit the stage there was the opening act. The same opening act he’s had since 2007, which means I’ve seen her several times. The same opening act that most of the audience would walk out on if they weren’t held captive by the fact that the legendary Morrissey is playing next.

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Kristeen Young is like a talentless Yoko Ono. She tries too hard to be “weird”, cacophonous, discordant, strident and unlistenable. That’s what she WANTS to sound like, I assume. It’s like a circus calliope gone off the rails while a banshee cries in the night. It’s everything you hate, and more! My friends and I have been trying to figure out why she’s been his opening act for so many years. Maybe she’s one of the few people he trusts in the world…although there are some salacious rumors going around. After all, Morrissey did reveal in his book that he is bisexual. Well, there is a lid for every pot, I suppose…if the rumors are true…

Having survived Kristeen Young for the umpteenth time, I was ready to hear some actual music from Morrissey. He did not disappoint.

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Here is the set list:

  1. Encore:

The band were all wearing shirts that say FANCY MAN, which is funny if you’re familiar with British slang.

What I love about seeing a Morrissey show is the realization that he feels the music as much as you do. I always get angry when I sing along with Speedway, and I saw that rage reflected in his expression. Hand In Glove followed by I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris packed a surprising punch. I ended up crying, but that’s to be expected at this show. If you don’t at least tear up a little bit during a Morrissey concert, you might want to check the dose of your meds.

The highlight of the show was Everyday Is Like Sunday. The crowd was joyous, and sang along loudly. Everyone was smiling, cheering, raising their hands in the air, dancing and laughing.

The low point of the show came during Meat Is Murder. The film Meet Your Meat was shown on the backdrop, as it has been for years. I have learned it’s better for me if I just look down at the floor or watch the crowd rather than seeing that film. Yes, I do eat meat, but not as much as I used to. I don’t like being visually assaulted. This is why a Morrissey show is like a timeshare vacation. If you want to see the entire performance, you have to sit through this demonstration film for a few minutes. I watched the faces in the crowd and saw expressions of disbelief, horror, shock, and disgust. Some were like me and looked away.

The song finally stopped playing, and I looked up to see that Morrissey and the rest of the band had their backs to the audience and were watching the film as it silently flickered on the backdrop. I have to hand it to him, he had the strength to actually watch it and I did not. Things got incredibly awkward as the minutes ticked on and the film still played. The crowd was murmuring to one another, a swell of rumbling discomfort that rose in volume as time went on. I think some people walked out. Finally, the film stopped and the show went on, minus some of the goodwill that Morrissey had earned with the crowd.

The next song was National Front Disco, which seems rather upsetting considering the election results in Europe this weekend. I don’t think that the crowd really forgot about the horrors of Meat Is Murder, but finally the energy was back to the usual levels when Moz came back out for the encore, singing Asleep. I’ve never heard him sing that at a concert. It’s one of my favorite Smiths songs, and it means a lot to me. Hearing and watching him sing it really transported me back to some sad times in my life, and I wept openly. My heart broke open. What a wonderful moment…

During the final song, there were a few people who rushed the stage to tackle/hug our hero. He was encouraging them to come up, holding out his hand and waving them up. Sometimes security intervened and the moment was lost, but there were a few who achieved their goal. The one I remember the most was a gentle and sweet-looking ginger-haired boy, who clasped Moz by the waist and rested his ginger head on Moz’s chest. The look on Moz’s face was one of surprise, then acceptance, then reassurance as he patted the boy on the shoulder.

The whole evening seemed surreal. I had a good spot in the crowd and could see his expressive face as he sang. It’s been a long time since I was that close for a Morrissey performance. Considering the health scares he had last year, it was pretty amazing that I got to see him again. I hope he will come back around…but somewhere in the back of my mind I always worry that every time I see Morrissey, it will be the last time.

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What I did last summer (Martin Gore – twice! and Fat Bob)

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Last summer, everyone who was involved in writing this blog post met up in Chicago to see (worship at) a Depeche Mode show. The three of us (me, H and K) have all been internet pals for a long time but we’d never all been in the same city at the same time, and we are all huge Depeche fans. We had lots of adventures in Chicago, but the main event was seeing Depeche Mode, and Martin Gore, our favorite.

I’m an extremely anxious person and so I wanted to leave really early on the day of the show. The venue wasn’t that far away, but I get nervous. I was literally shitting bricks so finally H agreed to head towards the show. It turned out there was horrendous traffic getting into the venue, so we barely made it in time. All three of us had panic attacks in the car by that time.

I have to say that the venue we went to was one of the most poorly planned venues I have ever seen in my life. We ended up parking in VIP and not paying for it (shhhhh it’s our secret),and running to our seats just before Depeche Mode hit the stage.

Finally, we were in our seats and ready to go. All of us had our anxiety amped up to maximum levels and so it was inevitable that we all had emotional breakdowns during the concert. Martin Gore, sensitive and elfin as ever, stepped into the spotlight in his silver suit to croon Shake the Disease, and our collective knees buckled. We all held each other up while we sobbed our hearts out. I am not kidding. We were crying like babies. When people say, “I cried like a baby,” they may not mean it, but I totally mean it.

For the rest of the night, we each took turns bawling our eyes out over Depeche Mode, especially when Martin was singing. They had two set lists on that tour, and I was praying he’d sing But Not Tonight, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still, the show was incredible and we all agreed it was better than we had hoped for. There was a magic in the air that could never be recaptured. Thanks, anxiety!

Tickets for Austin City Limits (ACL) were going on sale a few weeks later. Depeche Mode and The Cure were both playing, so I knew I had to go, no matter what, and my friend H was coming with me. Martin Gore and Fat Bob (Robert Smith) are two icons from my holy trinity of goth (Morrissey is the third, if you were curious), so It was going to be insanely great.

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ACL had it set up so that Depeche Mode played on Friday night, and The Cure played on Saturday night. This was basically a dream come true for me. I could not believe I was going to see two of my favorite bands in one weekend, with one of my best friends!

My friend didn’t want to spend all day at ACL, and I agreed, because it was hot as balls and also because there are so many other fun things to do in Austin. We went to Book People, and gasped loudly when we spotted an entire magazine dedicated to Depeche Mode. Yes, I bought it and we squealed over it like teenagers. Whatever, don’t judge me!

We went to ACL that evening, and  I parked at my office, which was two miles away, and those two miles seem pretty far in the hot weather. We were already wilting.

We hardly got to see any bands besides the headliners, because we had to get a decent spot in the crowd. We went on the second weekend of the festival. The first weekend had temperatures in the 70’s, absolutely perfect weather. The second weekend predicted rainstorms, so we had rain ponchos.

Depeche Mode’s show is so fun when you’re in a big, excited, festival crowd. I love hearing everyone singing along to every song. I didn’t cry as much this time, probably because I wasn’t as anxious as I had been in Chicago, but when Martin sang But Not Tonight, I lost it. I think it was raining by then too, so when he sang, “Oh God, it’s raining, but I’m not complaining,” every cell in my body exploded with joy. I tried to sing along but I couldn’t, because I was crying too much. I wasn’t sobbing, just quietly letting tears run down my face while I mouthed the words. When the song ended, I was kind of embarrassed, until a man standing nearby gently patted me on the shoulder and told me that was a beautiful moment. I choked up just writing about that moment.

H and I had a great time laughing at Dave’s crazy dancing. He grabbed his dick a lot, as usual. I remember shouting, “Look at that chicken leg!” during one particularly lecherous grope. Dave, never change.

When the concert was over, we walked the two miles to the car in the rain. We had our ponchos on, but honestly, they don’t help much. You still get wet and then also feel clammy. By the time we got to the car, we were exhausted and hungry. We stopped at Kerbey Lane for some late night grub and I felt (and looked) like I had been run over by a truck. That was only day one!

The next day, we woke up and still felt terrible so we planned to go even later than we did the day before. We ended up seeing the Arctic Monkeys, but had to leave early to get a good place to see the Cure.

We were really excited to worship at the altar of Fat Bob (affectionately nicknamed by Siouxsie, so we aren’t body shaming, okay?). I’ve been listening to the Cure since Let’s Go to Bed. I remember scoffing at the people who discovered the band when The Head on the Door came out. I’m still a terrible music snob, sorry. (not sorry)

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I knew it was supposed to rain again that night, and as promised, the deluge began about halfway through the show. I didn’t have a rain poncho and I forgot my umbrella, so we huddled under H’s umbrella. Seeing The Cure play One Hundred Years in a heavy rainstorm through a sea of umbrellas was probably the ultimate experience I could have as a Cure fan. I will never ever forget that.

I’d seen The Cure play at Coachella in 2010, so I knew they were notorious for breaking curfews and playing for hours and hours. They played on, covering their equipment with tarps, makeup smearing in the rain. Sadly, due to the storm, they were cut off. You could tell that Robert did not want to leave the stage, as he reluctantly shrugged and waved goodbye.

We trudged out of Zilker Park, and got lost trying to get to the car. I think we walked an extra mile out of the way. I was soaked to the bone. When we got home, we bundled up and I had the chills. The next day, I was miserable, the park was flooded, and ACL was canceled due to the fact that we had over a foot of rain.

The only band we really wanted to see on Sunday was Franz Ferdinand. They were playing a secret show at a club downtown. I felt so awful that we didn’t get in line early enough. I knew we weren’t going to get in, but after three hours, we ended up sneaking in only to be escorted out seconds later. We saw the band walk into the club, and I touched Bob on the arm as he went by. Oh, the humanity!

To salve our disappointment, we went to dinner and got some Amy’s Ice Cream. I felt terrible because I’d been a whiny bitch all the time we were in line. I seriously felt so sick, though.

After I dropped H off at the airport the next day, I went home and passed out. I ended up calling in sick the whole week, because I had a bad upper respiratory infection. They thought maybe it was pneumonia or pertussis, but I dodged those bullets, thank goodness.

I’m not sure I will ever go to ACL again. I could just livestream it all on the web, and see more bands than we saw. If it wasn’t for Depeche Mode and The Cure, I would have never gone in the first place. I guess I’ll go back to ACL for a Smiths reunion…haha! As if…

The Day I Met the Pet Shop Boys

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 I have been a fan of the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant even before he was a Pet Shop Boy. He used to write for my teen Bible, Star Hits (Smash Hits) magazine. I remember when he left the magazine to become a famous pop star. I was sad, because I figured I’d never hear from him again. Oh, ye of little faith! Of course he and Chris Lowe became extremely famous and fabulous, and are one of the few 80’s bands that stood the test of time.

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Fast forward to 2014. Pet Shop Boys are touring America, and are selling VIP meet and greets. I hyperventilated at the thought of actually pressing the flesh with Mr. Tennant himself, who had been my hero since those halcyon Star Hits/Smash Hits days. I just had to snatch up a VIP ticket, even though it was a bit out of my budget. I later found out that photos were not permitted, which was a huge bummer for me. I’d rather have a photo than an autograph any day.

Finally, the day of the show arrived. After standing in line for almost two hours, and meeting some lovely people who were in line with me (Hello, Jessica!), it was finally time to meet Chris and Neil. I was so nervous. I actually felt like I might pass out. Some of my new friends went in with me to offer moral support, or maybe they were worried I’d actually faint. I’m not sure.

Anyway, I turned the corner into the meet and greet room, and saw Neil Tennant himself smiling at me as if he were happy to see me, and extending his hand out to me. (I’m sure he did this for everyone) He was wearing black pants and a black jacket, and he had on some sexy glasses that made him look like a college professor (the one everyone has a crush on).

Huge disclaimer here: yes, I know he is gay, but I had a huge crush on him before I realized the truth of the matter, and sometimes I still can’t forget how that felt. I joked that I was going to tell him, “You’ve been whispering in my ear for 27 years,” but I didn’t. So chalk up some points for me for self-restraint.

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I shook hands with Neil and Chris. Chris has never seemed like a real person to me. He seems like a robot – never speaking, never smiling, never showing his eyes. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him smiling, chatting, and wearing a grey hoodie and sweats. He was so laid back and casual! I said to Chris, “It’s nice to hear you speak,” and he replied cheekily, “I’m a real chatterbox!”

Neil was busy signing everything I brought, plus my laminate. I brought my copy of the Best of Smash Hits book for him to sign (he wrote the foreword), and he immediately exclaimed, “Ooooooh, Smash Hits!” upon seeing the book. It was delightful. They both graciously signed all the items I brought (I even had them sign something for a friend), and were lovely and sweet.

Even though I didn’t get a photo with them, it was a great experience, and definitely worth the money.

After that, it was time for the show! Those of us who had VIP got into the venue early, so I had a good spot in the front. If you haven’t seen the Pet Shop Boys live, you really missed out on a sensory overload. It’s a spectacle in every sense of the word. They change costumes, there are dancers who also change costumes, a light show that will dazzle your retinas, and of course, the wonderful songs.

Here’s a taste:

I had a fabulous time at the show, except for a few jerks in the audience. Every show in Austin has a problem with people who show up and then spend the entire time chatting with their friends. I don’t know why these people feel they must be right up front if they’re going to gossip for hours…I did finally turn around and “shush” them but it did no good. Then, a few minutes later, their friends pushed through the crowd to join them. These people had made their own “disco” hats, and were shining a light on them using the flashlight app on their phones. It was ruining the light show and blinding me. Next, they started taking selfies of each other with the hat on. They were moving around, pushing everyone, laughing, chatting and ruining the show. Finally, I’d had enough. I started elbowing them back when they pushed me. Then I grabbed the arm of the girl with the hat and said, “Why don’t you go to the back? You are extremely annoying.” The best part about all this, is that they actually did go away after a minute!

I’m totally going to get punched in the nose at a show someday, but I am glad I didn’t this time. It’s my bad karma from being super annoying at shows over the years. Maybe it will be erased soon…

Once those pests went away, I was back in blissful ecstasy. The show was amazing, and I will never forget that day. I still can’t believe that I actually met them and talked to them! They will always seem so much larger than life to me.

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The night Martin Gore proved that eye contact = sex

It should come as a surprise to no one that my obsession with Nick Rhodes led to an obsession with Martin Gore.  They are both blonde, elfin, girlish, and play keyboards.  There were a few differences, though.

Nick Rhodes wore makeup like a woman does – to make himself look “pretty”.  I would use photos of Nick to guide me on eyeliner application.  (Especially during his Cleopatra period during Arcadia.) Nick preferred pastel pink lips, and a smoky eye.

Martin Gore was a different story.  He wore ruby red lipstick, smeared eyeliner, and bondage gear.  I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, but it’s obvious now.  He even had a shirt that said, “SUBMISSIVE” on it.  Martin Gore was kind of scary and dangerous to me back in the 80’s.  I knew he liked girls, because he would always talk about his German girlfriend Christina when he was interviewed in Star Hits.  The question was, what did he like to do WITH those girls?  Knowing his girlfriend was German, I am pretty sure golden showers were probably involved.  EEK!

My Depeche Mode fandom reached its peak during the Music for the Masses tour, aka the 101 tour.  DM came to Phoenix twice that year.  The first time I saw them, I didn’t have a very good seat.  I vowed to be right up front next time.  The band came back around in June of 1988.  I think we were the show they played right before the legendary Rose Bowl show.

My friend and I slept in the parking lot in front of the Diamond’s Box Office in a very bad neighborhood.  I’m surprised nothing happened to us.  We chose this box office  because we knew hardly anyone would buy a ticket there, so we’d be first in line.  No one else camped there, so we were the only people in line.  Luckily, our bet paid off and we had front row center tickets!  I remember that I cried after we paid for these tickets.

I started planning what to wear to the show.  I wanted to stand out and be noticed.  I knew that most DM fans wore black (and the boys wore skirts, which I loved).  I decided to do the opposite, and bought a skintight white mini-dress.  At the time, I was 5 ft 8 in and weighed 100 pounds, so I probably looked like a bag of bones, but I thought I looked super hot.

It has been many years since I was at that show, but there are so many defining moments that I will never forget.  I remember Martin and Alan bashing away at sheets of steel and lead pipes.  I remember Dave Gahan twirling around with the mike stand in his white outfit (Dave grabbed his crotch and shook his junk at my friend Leslie that night, scarring her for life) .  I remember Martin Gore playing A GUITAR during the encore (Pleasure, Little Treasure).  It blew everyone’s fucking MIND that he played a guitar.

But the moment that stands out the most for me is when Martin sang The Things You Said.  I remember he was shirtless, wandering the stage in his bondage gear and softly singing about how someone did him wrong.  I knew all the words, and sang along, my eyes following him wherever he went.  Towards the end of the song, he stood at the edge of the stage, right in front of me and my friends, and looked me right in the eye while he sang a few lines.

I grabbed my friend Sophia’s arm and held on tight so I wouldn’t fall over.  When he moved away, Sophia and I jumped up and down in excitement, and she was screaming “He sang to you!” over and over.  I could have died right there and been the happiest corpse in the morgue.

DM is releasing a new album and touring next year.  Hopefully, I’ll get a good seat.  Even after all this time, I love me some Martin Gore.  I loved his floofy hair, his rat tails, and his wonky teeth.  I wish he hadn’t gotten his teeth fixed.  Who am I kidding?  He’s perfect no matter what.

Oh, Martin….*happy sigh*

The day John Taylor gave me heat stroke

In 1985, Duran Duran splintered into two side projects. John and Andy Taylor worked with
Robert Palmer and the guys from Chic to create Power Station, a down-to-earth rock band.
Simon le Bon and Nick Rhodes went to Paris and spent a million dollars on their side project,
Arcadia. Guess which one made huge pots of money? (Hint: not the pretentious, arty-farty
album that was recorded in Paris.)

To be honest, I enjoyed the Arcadia album more than the Power Station because I am not really that much of a rocker. Power Station was “rawk and roll” with actual guitar solos and stuff!
Poor Andy Taylor. He was so repressed in Duran Duran, and finally he could let it out and be himself.

The fans worried that the band was going to break up forever. I was especially worried, because I hadn’t seen them play in concert yet, and it was my life’s goal to see them in person. That
summer, my mind was set at ease a bit, because Power Station was coming to Phoenix!

My friends and I were extremely excited and immediately began drawing up battle plans. The concert was at an outdoor venue, with no reserved seating. Even though seats were not reserved, we all decided we needed to camp out at the box office in case the show sold out. We were absolutely positive that the tickets would be gone in a few minutes.

Buying a concert ticket in the pre-Internet era was a huge pain in the ass. The ticket box office closest to my house was inside a Diamond’s department store in Phoenix. Every Saturday at 10 a.m., the box office would open up to sell tickets. This was the on-sale date for every new show in town. We weren’t sure if there was another event we’d be competing against to get a ticket, so camping was the best alternative.

Lisa and I met up with a few other people there to sleep for the night. We told our mothers that we were sleeping over at each other’s houses because there was no way they would approve of us sleeping in the parking lot of a mall like hobos.

We brought blankets, snacks, boom box radios, packs of cards, and other things that would
amuse us while we were waiting. Of course, we weren’t the only fans who had thought of doing this. We weren’t even the first in line! There were probably about thirty people there altogether. The group formed a quick bond through Duran Duran singalongs. We also looked at photos of the band that the other girls had brought with them, and we screamed bloody murder when we saw one that we liked. I can only imagine how annoying that was to anyone who happened to pass by. I can’t remember if we actually slept or not. I am sure we did, eventually.

Finally, the magic hour of 10 a.m. rolled around. Lisa and I linked arms and started praying for a ticket. The line seemed to move so slowly. Five whole minutes had passed, and we were still in line. I worried that it was going to be sold out. My senses were highly attuned to any signs that the tickets were gone, but people were streaming out of the store with smiles on their faces. In what seemed like eternity, but was probably just a few minutes, it was our turn. We bought our tickets and ran out of the store shrieking with joy.

I knew how Charlie Bucket felt. I had a golden ticket.

Sometimes the best part of going to a show is the planning and anticipation that goes on
beforehand. Since it was July, and school was out, Lisa and I had plenty of time to plan things
out. The show was at Compton Terrace, a large outdoor venue that was about 30 miles out of
town, on the Indian Reservation. We knew our friend Christine had a driver’s license so we were going to ride with her. There were about six of us going to the event together. None of us had ever been to a general admission outdoor show, so we weren’t sure what it would be like. The decision was made to get to the venue at 10 a.m. and wait all day for the show to start, so that we could be right up front.

Being naive teenagers, we had no idea what was in store for us on a sunny July day in Phoenix, with the predicted high temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

The six of us piled into Christine’s car. None of us had brought any water or food along. There was no way we’d be able to eat – we were going to see John Taylor in the flesh! If you want to see God, you have to fast.

We were the first people to arrive at Compton Terrace for the show. I realize this was not a huge surprise to anyone but the six of us. We were overjoyed that we were the only people smart enough to plan ahead so well. We were goddamn geniuses!

The six of us walked triumphantly to the gate, which was closed. Doors didn’t open until that
evening. We had imagined that we’d be let in and then we could roam the grounds freely, and that they would have water and food for sale. This was reality check number one. At this point, a sane person would have left and perhaps gone to lunch, returning later that night.

We were not sane. We were Duranies. We had carried all the gifts we wanted to throw on stage at the band – teddy bears, letters, flowers, etc. etc. I don’t think any of us had panties to throw to them; we weren’t those types of girls. We sat down in the dirt in front of the gate and examined each other’s gifts approvingly. It was going to be mind-blowing to actually interact with John Taylor! (At this point you should realize that none of us really gave a hoot about Andy Taylor, although I was always one of his greatest defenders. He just wasn’t as cute as John.)

By the afternoon, we were hungry, thirsty, and hot. It was probably around 3 p.m. when I staggered over to a corner and vomited, then passed out from heat exhaustion. Luckily by then there were actually some employees around who gave me some water. In fact, the employees were really concerned about our group, most of whom were about to suffer my fate. By the time the gates opened, we had all either fainted or thrown up. That did not dampen our determination to see John Taylor up close and personal.

As soon as the gates opened, everyone rushed to the stage and staked out their territory. It was like Pa Ingalls staking his claim for the Little House on the Prairie. We had claimed our turf, and nothing was going to keep us away. I knew from seeing Power Station perform on TV that John would be standing at stage right, so we all huddled in that section. As the hours passed, we noticed a huge crowd assembling behind us, and we were smug in the knowledge that we had the perfect viewing spot.

The opening act was Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark (or OMD, as they were better known). I was fully prepared to hate them for making me wait for John Taylor. Instead, we all became huge fans of their music and I developed a crush on Paul. (It was just a minor distraction from Duran Duran, who held the lock and key on my heart.) Their sound was very loud, though, and I did get a huge headache.

If you’re keeping track, I had a headache, a stomachache, dehydration and heat exhaustion. I think I was starting to hallucinate at this point, but there was no way I was leaving my perfect viewing spot to go to the medical tent.

Approximately one hundred years later, Power Station took the stage. Robert Palmer wasn’t able to tour with the band, so the replacement singer was Michael Des Barres, who is better known for his role as Murdoc on MacGyver. I’m glad he decided to become an actor later in his career, because his voice sounded like the cries of a wounded cat after a bad Halloween. The songs sounded terrible, and I was deeply disappointed.

Despite the shitty sound, the crowd began pressing in closer and closer to the band. I could look up and almost touch John Taylor (at this point when you read his name you should imagine glitter and flying hearts, and hear angels singing) himself, as he loomed over me. I watched in fascination as his fingers played the bass, and imagined those fingers touching me. It almost made me forget how terrible the music was.

Soon enough the crush of the crowd was becoming very painful. I was having trouble breathing and my knees were buckling. John Taylor noticed the way everyone was pushing and asked the crowd to take “four steps back” so that the people up front could breathe. As soon as this happened, I suddenly felt myself being sucked into the crowd by some law of physics, and ended up much further back. I had also lost my friends.

Just then, the band launched into “The Reflex”. I burst into tears. How dare they play this song without any keyboards — it’s as if Nick Rhodes had never been born! I made my way to the back of the crowd and sat down in the grass, crying hysterically. This is how I spent the rest of the concert.

Eventually we all found each other in the parking lot and had a somber drive home. Each of us had our own personal nightmare: fainting and being carried to the medical tent and missing the show, losing everyone in the crowd and spending the night looking for them, getting stepped on by strangers, throwing up on the stage barrier, and so on.

Looking back, it was one of the best nights of my life. I had seen John Taylor (cue glitter, flying hearts, and angels) live and in person!

David Byrne and St. Vincent

During the 1980’s, I was into new wave and pop music.  I regarded the Talking Heads as arty farty bullshit for people who were older than me, although I did like the hit songs such as “Burning Down the House”.  Up until the other day, I regarded David Byrne as one of the most pretentious bastard in the world, except for perhaps Lou Reed.

Well, my opinion has changed.  I got a chance to see David Byrne and St. Vincent because a friend had an extra ticket.  I didn’t have to pay for it, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I hadn’t bought a ticket to see them because I had those aforementioned prejudices against David Byrne, although I love St. Vincent.

I listened to their album on Spotify (Love This Giant) and I liked it.  I am a sucker for anything with a horn section.  I was also hoping he would play a few Talking Heads songs – the ones I like

After getting lost (as usual), I found the venue.  I missed all of my freeway exits, because the freeways in Austin are marked for people who already know where they are going….I was really frustrated and stressed out because I was half an hour late to meet my friend.  Finally, I found my seat and I was immediately soothed by the sounds of birdcalls and rain, which was playing before the show started.  I liked that a lot.

David Byrne made an announcement over the loudspeakers before the show saying that photos and videos are allowed, but asking people to please not take photos with their iPads and to please not view the entire show through a gadget.  This announcement should be made before every concert EVER.

Everyone walked out on stage, and it was so low key that I didn’t even realize that David and Annie (St. Vincent) were also on the stage.  There were a lot of people, as you can see from the photo above.  I knew that they were not fucking around because they had a guy playing a sousaphone on stage.

The show was really visually interesting, because there was choreography from everyone on stage and it was different for every song.  At one point everyone was lying down on the stage and playing, including the horns!  Lying on the floor playing a horn!!  I have never seen that before.

Annie would do this little dance where she’d stutter-step across the floor. It reminded me of something Prince used to do, but she was less filthy about it:

David Byrne was really gracious and would step back when Annie sang.  He would blend into the background and maybe do a funny dance but he let Annie have the spotlight.  It was the most generous and gracious thing I’ve seen someone do on stage, and I was very impressed by that.  He didn’t seem pretentious at all – he seemed humble.

I was pretty annoyed that everyone was sitting down during the show.  I kind of figured this would happen since it was mostly greybeards and hipsters.  After a pretty subdued number, everyone spontaneously erupted into a standing ovation, and the band just stood there.  The longer it went on the more awkward it was, so they started bowing.  You could tell that they weren’t sure what to do, so they walked off stage like it was time for an encore break.  I am not sure if we missed out on some songs because of this affectionate outburst.

Then when the band came back, everyone was standing up and stood up for the rest of the night.  Fucking finally!

I have to admit that when they played “Burning Down the House”, I lost my shit.  I mean, I danced like no one was watching – I did the pogo, I sang along, I might have had a tear in my eye.  That song was my JAM back in the day.  (“The day” being my freshman year of high school.)

They ended the set by singing “Road to Nowhere”, and everyone marched off stage.  All I could think about was that the people in the horn section were probably all in marching bands when they were kids and that was why they could remember all the crazy choreography for every song.  It was kind of a heartwarming thought.

My advice to you is that if David Byrne and St. Vincent come to your town, you should go see them.  My heart grew three sizes that day, and I no longer harbor an irrational hatred of David Byrne.

My first concert

Do you remember your first concert?  I will never forget mine – it was a life-altering experience.  My first concert was in the summer of 1978, at the Las Vegas Hilton.  I saw Barry Manilow.  I am not ashamed!  I still love Mr. Manilow with a pure devotion.  If you would like to know more and/or begin judging, read on.

When I was 9 years old in the year 1978, a lot of important things happened to me.  I got my first pair of glasses, I cut off all my long hair into a Dorothy Hamill pageboy cut, and I developed my first obsession.

Imagine the ridicule I endured due to the fact that I was batshit crazy over Barry Manilow at the tender age of nine.  I had all of his records, which I played on my very horrible and tinny record player for hours on end.  I had a poster of him on my wall, and I had joined the BMIFC (Barry Manilow International Fan Club).  This was decades before the word “Fanilow” had been coined.  And although I still adore Mr. Manilow, I hate the word Fanilow, so don’t ever call me that if you value your life.

My favorite shirt was a banana yellow tee shirt with an iron-on photo of Barry in all his big-nosed, gap-toothed, poufy-haired glory.  I had worn it so often that the iron-on had cracks in it and was peeling off, but I kept wearing it.  It’s hard to believe that I wore this to school.  It’s not hard to believe that this was part of the reason that I had absolutely no friends at all there.  I was the tortured, tormented, bullied kid.  The reason I got picked on was probably because I was also a really high-strung, anxious kid who cried at the drop of a hat.

Still, even though Barry was the cause of my pain, he was also the balm that healed it.  On my walk home from school, I would sing Can’t Smile without You to myself and it would cheer me up.  The singing distracted me from the fact that I was walking alone and didn’t get invited to play with any of the other kids.

When I got home, I’d get out my music books and try to teach myself piano.  My parents had bought a tiny electric piano and I would wear headphones and try to teach myself.  I did learn how to play a few songs, although not very well.  The one I played best was I Was a Fool (To Let You Go), a deep cut from Even Now, which is still one of the most emotionally satisfying records that I own.

I think that 1978 was the peak of Barry’s power as an easy listening superstar.  That was the year Copacabana was released, and everyone had a little bit of Barry Fever.  He had won Emmys for his TV Specials (which I of course watched dutifully, and now own on DVD), and Grammys and every other kind of award that he could win.  I thought he was the greatest man that ever lived.

My deepest, fondest wish was that Barry would adopt me and be my Daddy forever.  (Paging Dr. Freud!)  This stems from the fact that my father was not the greatest, and also from the fact that I was raised Catholic by a Jewish mother (Oy, the guilt!).  Deep down, I think I should have been a Jewess, and I was trying to connect to my cultural roots by dreaming of being Michele Manilow.

My Daddy Manilow daydreams consisted of so many girlish fantasies: lullabies, piano lessons, singalongs in the car on road trips, going shopping together.  I imagined that I would help Barry pick out his stage outfits.  At the time those consisted of bedazzled, sparkly jumpsuits and jaunty scarves.  He also wore these fabulous 1970’s aviator sunglasses, and I liked to picture the two of us, each wearing our own Elvis shades, earning envious glances from passers-by.  He would play his new songs for me and I would tell him if they were going to be hits or not.  I would watch him perform from my special seat of honor up front, and he’d look to me for approval.  Oh, Barry, he was the greatest imaginary father of all time.

I vividly remember going to the local K-Mart and using the money I had saved up – my own money! – to buy Barry Manilow Live.  This was the first record that I had ever paid for myself, and I have it to this day.  The cover showed Barry in his best spangly jumpsuit, and his best Broadway pose, arms and legs spread apart in triumph.  It was a double record, but I mostly played the side that had the V.S.M., Very Strange Medley, which consisted of the ad jingles Barry had written early in his career.  If you heard them you’d know them in an instant, especially the State Farm jingle, which is still used nowadays.

Barry’s backup singers were called Lady Flash.  Reparata was the girl who got to dance with Barry during Bandstand Boogie, so I always pretended to be her.  (FYI, Debbie Byrd is now the vocal coach for American Idol.)  I would clear out some space in my room, and perform all the backup vocals, and make up my own dances.  There was no such thing as You Tube or a video tape so I didn’t know what the girls were doing while they were singing.  I was rehearsing for the day when I would become Barry’s backup singer and best daughter ever!

Every summer, our family took one of two vacations – we either went to California, or Las Vegas.  If it were up to my dad, we would have gone to Las Vegas every year, because he had a slight gambling problem. As a kid, Las Vegas wasn’t my idea of a good vacation. The summer of 1978 was going to be a trip to the beaches of California.

You’d think that would make an Arizona desert rat happy, right?  Wrong!  The reason for my unhappiness was that I had seen a list of tour dates for Barry in the summer of 1978, and he was playing the Las Vegas Hilton the very same week that we were planning to go to California.  “Why can’t we go to Vegas THIS year, Mom?” I whined.  “It’s not fair!” I cried.

The local stations were running ads for the show, and every time the ad came up on the TV, I would point to the TV and say, “See?  He’s coming to Vegas, but WE’LL be at the beach.”  Have I mentioned that I hate going to the beach?  I don’t like to swim, and Jaws scarred me for life so I can’t go in the ocean.  I don’t like tanning.  When we went to the beach as a family I would read a book while sitting on a towel and wishing I was somewhere else.  Now, if we had been going to Disneyland, perhaps I wouldn’t have complained as much.  Maybe not.  Probably not.

My mom took pity on me, and it didn’t hurt that she was also a Barry fan.  She talked to my dad and they decided that on the way back from the beach, they would take us to Las Vegas and we’d go see Barry at the Hilton.  They didn’t tell me about it because they wanted it to be a surprise.

Imagine my excitement when I realized we were going to Vegas after all!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I now realize that a good portion of my luck was caused by my dad’s gambling addiction, but hey, at least I got to see the show, right?

We arrived that afternoon to our hotel room at the dreadful Circus Circus.  Due to my father’s love of the one-armed bandits, I saw more of this place than I ever need to for one lifetime.  I don’t go to Vegas very often anymore, but when I do, I avoid the Circus Circus at all costs.  A few years ago, I was forced to actually go inside of the hotel of my nightmares.  One look at the garish gold and maroon carpet, and I felt like I was suffocating.  I immediately walked outside and never looked back.

My brother and I would hang out in the mezzanine where all the carnival games and pinball machines were located.  Horrible people dressed as clowns walked around to “entertain” you, and there were acrobats and trapeze artists performing in the middle of it all.  I now have a great hatred of carnival games, acrobats, and especially clowns.  Just thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies.  Oh, and my parents would leave us with some nasty old lady chain-smoking babysitters while they went to Boylesque or whatever the hell else they did at night.

This vacation was different.  This time, I was allowed to go out at night and see the show with my parents and my brother.

It turned out we couldn’t get tickets for the show that night because they were already sold out.  I have to give credit to my dad for getting up really early the next day to make sure we were able to get tickets.  He stood in line for hours, giving up precious time at the slots.

I was so glad I had packed a dress.  My mother was unpacking, and I saw her mink fur collar.  I immediately started begging and pleading with her to let me wear it so that I could look “fancy” for my “date” with Barry, because I was convinced that I was going to meet him that night.  Picture this: a 9-year-old mousy girl with glasses, a penis-head haircut, a long pink polyester dress with lace in the front, a mink fur collar, and freshly painted nails.  I was going to a fancy show with dinner at the Hilton, and I was dressed just like I thought any classy, moneyed, lady of society would dress for that occasion.

When we first arrived, the usher tried to seat us in the back of the room.  According to my mom, my dad slipped the guy a twenty and we got to sit at a table in the front of the balcony.  Everyone at the table was nice to my brother and I, and let us sit up front so we could see the stage without any obstructions.  Amazingly, I ate my steak dinner, even though I remember being nervous and excited beyond belief.  I was going to be in the same room as Barry!  Breathing the same air!  Watching him perform just for me, his biggest fan!

The show was completely over the top.  I remember that during Copacabana, Barry wore a silver flamenco shirt (which is on display at the Manilow Store in Las Vegas if you want to see it), and danced with actual Las Vegas showgirls who wore feathers in their hair and carried giant feather fans.  Just like Lola did in the song!  I remember there was a moment where the girls hid behind their fans with Barry and he breathed heavily.  I didn’t really get it then, but I get it now.  Barry, you minx!

For me, the best part of the show was Bandstand Boogie because he did do the whole dance sequence with Reparata.  It was a thousand times more amazing than I had ever imagined.  I knew then I could never be his backup dancer.  I was a terrible dancer, and had no coordination, and these ladies could shake it.  I still enjoyed singing the harmonies, though.   Now when I listened to my live concert album, I knew exactly what was going on. It was like I had been invited to go inside a secret club, and I knew the secret handshake.

This was the first concert I had ever been to, and the first time I traveled out of state to see the object of my obsession.  The happiness I felt while I watched that show was like nothing I had ever felt before, because I was able to escape my anxiety and just live in the moment.  I would spend the rest of my life recapturing that feeling when traveling to see other bands or other stars that I was enamored with.  The wheels had been set in motion.