Tonight marks my 400th concert (yup, I keep track of them all... I'm even nerdier than you thought).
By my even nerdier calculations, that means I've spent approximately 1.39% of my life at gigs. (You're welcome, Live Nation). Malcolm Gladwell believes that if you invest 10,000 hours in something, you're an expert at that thing... so does that make me an expert in concerts? I'm putting it on my resume.
Much of my gig-going was inspired by my parents, who are also music fans and would drive me to shows when I was in junior high and high school. At numerous HFStivals, Dad would sit in the upper levels of RFK Stadium and work on budgets and other grown-up things, while my friends and I roamed around from stage to stage. So long as we checked in with him every few hours, we could see as many bands as we wanted to. I always appreciated that my parents trusted me and encouraged my love of music. I'd say it's paid off.
Here are some highlights from all the live music I've seen so far...
The first concert I ever went to
(a great icebreaker question, if you ever need one)
The Monkees @ The Patriot Center at George Mason, Fairfax, VA, 1996
In 1996, my parents took me and my sister to see The Monkees reunion tour in Virginia. I went home that night and wrote my first concert review in my lock-and-key diary, which I published here for laughs.
The furthest I've ever traveled to see a concert
Robbie Williams @ FILA Forum, Milan, Italy, 2003
My dear friend Maddie and I were both HUGE Robbie Williams fans, which is notable because we were American and no one in America seems to know who Robbie Williams is. Unfortunately for us, that meant the chances of seeing him perform in America were slim. So during our semesters abroad in Europe, we bought travel packages to see Robbie play in Milan. I remember showing up in the city without much of an idea of where the heck we were going, yet somehow finding our way to a bus that took us to the FILA Forum. It was a special memory (and boy, can Robbie put on a show).
The first concert I ever planned
Paste Rock'n'Reel Festival @ East Decatur Station, Decatur, GA, 2005
This was an ambitious undertaking and my naiveté was consequently a good thing. While the crowds didn't turn out in droves like we'd hoped, there were some amazing musical moments for the music fans that did show up, including beautiful sets by Low, Brandi Carlile, Anathallo, Cary Brothers, Buddy Miller and Mindy Smith.
The most surprising concert
Zac Brown @ The Rock Boat, the Atlantic Ocean, 2004
I was a college senior and had, through a totally random series of events, ended up on The Rock Boat (a concert cruise) over my fall semester break with my friend Kristen. I was interning at Paste during that time and was excited to be around dozens of musicians and thousands of fans. Throughout the week, I tried to see as much music as I could, which brought me to a small stage at a sushi stand, about three levels below deck. There were a few fans dancing around to a catchy song about fried chicken. After the set, I talked to the singer, who also lived in Georgia, and mentioned that I worked for a magazine. He gave me a homemade CD, with his name and cellphone number scribbled on the front. I unfortunately never listened to it. Sorry about that, Zac, but I guess you've done okay for yourself.
The "I can't believe I saw this at a dive bar" concert
Janelle Monae @ Lenny's Bar, Atlanta, GA, 2008
In 2008, Tim and Leila Regan-Porter had been singing the praises of a local artist named Janelle Monae. We all went to see her at the dark and grungy Lenny's Bar in Atlanta (R.I.P.), where you were more likely to see a metal band than a future superstar. Janelle and her band played as if they were performing for an arena, yet still managed to play to the dive bar crowd (this is a hard balancing act and if you've seen it done badly, you'll know what I'm talking about). It was clear her star was rising and that we'd never see this future Cover Girl at Lenny's Bar again.
The worst concert I've ever attended
I don't even remember the artists name @ Red Light Cafe, Atlanta, GA, 2006
When people woo you to shows with promises of free wine, be weary. At one record label showcase in 2006, the moody singer-songwriter took the stage an hour late, performed a mediocre set and, when she caught me quietly yawning, yelled at me from the stage. "What, is this BORING you? Am I not ENTERTAINING enough?" she asked. Needless to say, you've never heard of her.
The concert I didn't go to, but should have
The Nightwatchman @ Smith's Olde Bar, Atlanta, GA, 2007
I was never a huge Rage Against the Machine or folk fan, so in 2007 I sold my tickets to see Tom Morello as The Nightwatchman. That night, at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, Bruce Springsteen was also in the small crowd. Doh.
The "I'll tell my kids about this one day" concert
Mumford & Sons DJ Set @ Public Works, San Francisco, CA, 2011
Whey my friend Kate won tickets to a "Mumford & Sons DJ Set" at a scenester dance club, I expected we'd see Marcus hitting 'Play' on an iPod playlist and nothing more, if even that. Imagine our surprise, then, when said "DJ Set" was actually an acoustic jamboree with members of Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show, on the eve of their Railroad Revival Tour.