TALES FROM THE SCRAPBOOK: My first concert(s)

As soon as I started going to concerts in 1984, I kept a scrapbook of ticket stubs, advertisements, parking tickets and whatnot. By 1994, the book was full and I was going to way too many shows to bother with arts & crafts but I’m glad I kept what I did and wish I could remember more. You can get a preview on Cover Me Badd’s Facebook page but I’ve got more great stuff I haven’t scanned yet and even a few concert tales I wrote in college when I thought I’d write about every show I’d been to (another aborted project). I recently found these stories but of course now that I’m ready to post some, god knows where they are. So instead of transcribing the tale of my first show I wrote just five years after the fact, I’m going to see how much I can recall 28 years down the line…..

If I met you at a show, then I’ve probably asked you my favorite question: What was your first concert?  I love hearing people’s virgin impressions of the loudness, the crowd, the smoke…so I ask people all the time.  In fact, for Rookie Card‘s second album, I invited a bunch of friends to come into the studio and recorded them confessing their first shows, which we piled into a swirling mass for an intro for the album’s opening song “Rave Up”. If you check out “Unedited 1st concerts” at SecretBonusTrack.com, you can hear everyone clearly….
sha na naSeeing Sha Na Na at the San Diego Civic Theater in August 1978, just two months after Grease came out, was technically my first concert but I never think of it as my first “real” show. Their TV show was my favorite at the time and my parents surprised me by taking me to the show without telling me where we were going. I was only six years old, so I don’t remember anything other than them pulling a girl out of the crowd wearing a poodle skirt and thinking it was amazing because it was EXACTLY like some skit they’d done on the show. What a coincidence! Anyone over the age of six knew she was a plant. Why I love the internet reason #2353245? When I went to search online to see when the show was, I found a set of pictures from it for sale. Unreal.

It took me six years before I got to see my first real rock show. I wanted to see plenty of concerts but don’t think I even ever asked my parents because going to a concert just seemed like a fantasy. When the US Festival set up a hotline with lineup information, I’d call it every few days. “They added Wall of Voodoo!” I’d think even though there was no way I could go. Being able to hear the Police soundcheck when I was going to a summer camp at SDSU was as close to cool as I’d ever been. Then, when I was in seventh grade, my friends Patrick Harpole and Mike Premsirat went and saw the Pretenders with the Alarm at Golden Hall (of course Jon Kanis has the setlist posted). Not only did they get to go to a real rock show but they were close enough to learn the “Back On The Chain Gang” riff watching Robbie McIntosh’s fingers and met cute girls from another school there (and had pictures to prove it). It all seemed closer to reality after that. A few months later, my friend Aaron Fernandes told me that a band he’d recently discovered called Oingo Boingo was going to play the Del Mar Fair on the last day of school. I’d only heard their latest single, “Nothing Bad Ever Happens”, a couple of times but the chance of seeing a real band sounded amazing. We asked if we could go, the folks said yes and suddenly we had TWO really good reasons to look forward to the end of the 1984 school year.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out so well, so I hesitate to think of this as my first real show. Being thirteen, we went and rode rides and did “Fair” stuff for hours. When we finally made our way to the racetrack to go see the band, we couldn’t get near the stage. So, we found some seats in the grandstand and when the band came on, everyone stood up. People still couldn’t see, so everyone stood on their chairs. Being pre-puberty growth spurt, the guys in front of us were nice enough to let us lean on them as we stood on the top of the chair’s backrests. I remember Oingo opening with “Who Do You Want To Be” and it being absolute mayhem down in front. After a couple of songs, our new, tall friends got tired of two teens hanging on them and left, leaving us with no view. We heard “Nothing Bad” staring at people’s backs and went back to riding rides and eating junk food. Not much of a first show.  I’d see them again later…..and again….and again….
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Later that summer, Patrick mentioned that he and Mike were going to see the Gogos: a REAL show. Now that going to a concert was more of a reality, it occurred to me that I could actually try to get tickets. This seemed like a total revalation. I asked my parents about it and they said I couldn’t go without a chaperone but maybe the highschool girl who helped around our house once a week wanted to go. She agreed and so did my girlfriend. I was going to sports camp at the Jewish Community Center that summer and had somehow managed to get myself my very first girlfriend, one Andrea Musicant. She wouldn’t kiss me for more than a split second but she was cute so I was on top of the world.

If I remember right, it all happened very fast. I went to camp, my friend mentioned they were going to the show that night, I asked my mom if we could go, we secured a chaperone and I called my dad at work to see if he could get us tickets on his way home. I knew from their ads in the San Diego Reader that a place called Trip West in Clairemont sold concert tickets.  I knew it was near my father’s work because a friend and I once took the bus there just to look at their rock stuff (pins, posters, etc). I read their ads religiously because they listed upcoming shows that hadn’t actually been announced. Big stuff in the pre-internet age. My dad got home and informed me that, yes, he had bought us three tickets for the show. But on the way home, he decided that the whopping $25 per ticket for eighth row seats was far too expensive so we’d sell them at the show and buy less expensive tickets directly from the box office. When he produced a homemade sign advertising his intent to sell, I was a little embarassed but when a policeman pulled him aside, we were all mortified. Not knowing anything about scalping laws, my poor dad waited while the policeman called in to get his record checked. We watched in shock but luckily, he was clean and we got to get the good seats.

I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to walk into the San Diego State Open Air Amphitheater that night. It’s an incredible sunken concrete slab of seats with the school’s library looming overhead. It seemed like it took forever to walk past a few thousand people down to the eighth row.  I remember feeling like hot shit at the age of twelve holding hands with a hot younger woman (one year was a big deal at that age, right?). Outside on an August night in San Diego was lovely I’m sure but I only remember how incredible it all looked with the lights, the crowd and the sky.

First up was the Red Rockers, whose MTV hit “China” I adored. I distinctly remember my first-ever concert snobbery moment during their set when they played the title track of their latest album, Good As Gold, and I was the only one who seemed to know it. Then when the local new wave station 91X started playing their cover of “Eve Of Destruction” weeks later, I felt a little cool having already heard it live. Years later, Paul Westerberg’s manager and I were talking backstage and I asked him what he’d done before. He said he’d played bass for Paul and a few other bands but seemed hesitant to tell me about them. When he mentioned the Red Rockers, he couldn’t believe I remembered them. “August 13, 1984 SDSU Open Air Amphitheater!? Of course I remember. It was my first show!” Wait a second, that singer is the singer for Cowboy Mouth?! My band played with them at a big downtown festival….small world….

That night I got that rush when the lights suddenly go out and the place goes nuts for the first time. I remember they had huge colored lights that looked like the cover of the Talk Show album that lit up one by one before they came running onstage. Right into “Head Over Heels” and fun, fun, fun for 70 minutes or so. We were short and there weren’t people right behind us so we were on our seats a bit, which put us at eye level with the band who seemed to be looking at us a lot. I was crushing on Gina bigtime, not knowing that me singing “I’m The Only One” to her wouldn’t help me….or any other male. I don’t have a lot of memories of the show other than the lights going out on cue during “Automatic” and some photos that ended up in 91X’s short-lived magazine The X that had to be taken within a few feet of us. Watching videos from then is pretty underwhelming but at full volume at my first show, they seemed incredible. They were on the Tonight Show and filmed a commercially released Cinemax special a few nights before in Los Angeles called Wild At The Greek, so it is a kick to see them do their thing right before we saw them. Ten years later, they blew me away at the Warfield in SF. Bikini Kill opened. A GREAT night.

After encores, we made our way up the stairs in a daze, stopping to get sleeveless Gogos shirts that were way too big for us, then walked across SDSU’s campus like I’d do in my freshman year there seven years later. When we got to 7-11, we used a payphone to call my parents to come pick us up and waited along with a parking lot full of young’uns. It was quite a scene with college students and concertgoers milling around.  Waiting for mom never felt so cool, even with a chaperone in tow. It was a Monday night, so Andrea and I surely bragged about the show the next day at camp and my younger sister, who loved Beauty & The Beat more than me was insanely jealous. I think we split up shortly after (Andrea, not my sister), though I’m hanging on her in the photos TMZ took at my bar mitzvah afterparty the following month. We didn’t live near each other, so it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to try. It would take me over five years to get another girlfriend and exactly 365 days to return to the OAT for my next concert but that’s another story for another time….

NERD ALERT:
Besides seeing them exactly ten years later in San Francisco, I saw them a couple of other times, both of which produced some fun Youtube clips….

and this amazingness at a Petra Haden benefit

but when I read about Exene fronting the band in the LA Weekly in 1991, I was floored and happy to finally see video some 20 years later, however brief. I still remember the article saying they only played three songs, “Desperate”, “This Town” and “Lust For Life”. Who’s got more video? WHERE ARE YOU!?

So anyways, what was YOUR first show?

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7 thoughts on “TALES FROM THE SCRAPBOOK: My first concert(s)

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  5. well i came on here to write that it was cake when i was 12 or 13? i think? so, like, 1996ish? but i see that i was already here EXACTLY two years ago to the day (whoa) to write cake. i also see that your other four “comments” are all “Pingback” which made me think someone was possibly mistyping “Pinback” four times in a row. and then i realized that those are all just other posts referencing the original posts and that i’m a complete freggin idiot. should have just stuck with leaving my first comment alone and not even posting this, but too bad. im doin great!

  6. I was at that Boingo show and was one of those freaks dancing my head off a little closer to the stage. A helluva show. Has always remained in my top 5 after all of these years and many more concerts. That band, or rather their music, seemed to demand that you dance!!

    Thanks for sharing your memories and bringing back a few of mine.

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