It Begins: Some Talk About Music

I had started a blog a little while ago called VS System is Legion. It was obviously all about my love for the trading card game VS System, and my connection to is also what led me to be one of the founding members (as it were) of the read/RANT comic review blog started by Billy Zonos and featuring reviews and commentary from members of the VS System playing community. I stopped updating my own blog a while ago because I don’t really play VS System anymore. Sure, I talked about other things on there from time to time, but it didn’t feel right creating the blog on the foundations of VS System and never actually writing about it. So I’ve closed that one down and decided to start a new WordPress blog to pretty much cover everything I do in my life that I want to talk about without being expressly about comics (and thus being the rightful property of read/RANT).

The main driving force in my life (more so than comics) is music. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t wait to start playing an instrument (started with clarinet, eventually switching to drums). I’ve been to far too many concerts, and I’m amazed that my hearing is as good as it is (And it’s not very good. Interesting tidbit: the loudest band I have ever heard in my life was God Lives Underwater). There are two eras of music that I personally consider my own, which would be the progressive rock movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s, and the alternative rock revolution of the 1990’s. They’re pretty disparate musical styles, but I can’t deny the passion. And I think that the one way to really pinpoint favored musical styles or eras is the way that they’ll just aggressively stick themselves into your head with no warning. I bring this up because a similar thing happened to me just this past weekend. I don’t even know what caused my mind to make some kind of arcane connection to thought patterns or subliminal references or what have you, but the band Oleander popped into my head out of nowhere. Now Oleander was a band who had a couple of modest hits in 1998 from their album February Son. Nothing earth shattering or musically redefining. Just some nice solid alternative rock tunes. So I went digging into my old CDs (long since replaced by my shiny black iPod) that had actually reached the point of being dusty due to lack of use, and pulled out my copy of February Son and gave it a listen.

And here’s the amazing thing about music: the second I heard the opening verse of the lead single from that album, my memory fired immediately, and it was almost like I traveled back in time. I could see myself sitting in my dad’s Ford Explorer back in 1999 (listening to Oleander’s “Why I’m Here” on the CD player) with my brother in the back seat as we drove up to a minor league baseball stadium in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was the day before my 15th birthday, and we were there on vacation to see Hard Rock Rockfest (I know, not the most creative title for a show). It was a daytime concert featuring three bands. Oleander was the opener, Smash Mouth was the headliner, and The Marvelous 3 went on second. We weren’t there to see Smash Mouth. This was after “All Star” became overplayed to death, so it was more a situation of toleration than anything else. My brother was there for the Marvies. We discovered them right around the time Freak of the Week became a minor hit, and we also discovered that Butch Walker might be the most energetic person on earth. I liked the Marvies at that point, but I was mostly there to groove on Oleander, enjoy a solid Marvies set and tune out when Smash Mouth came on. Which is pretty much what I did, although Smash Mouth put on a pretty fun set. It’s amazing how hearing one song can make you relive an entire day. I went through my CD’s and pulled out some other old gems (Marilyn Manson’s Mechnical Animals, early Oasis, Local H) and some one off electronica tunes (Basement Jaxx, Lo Fidelity All Stars) and I’ve been blissing out on some great music all week at work. Good times.

Now, on to the top five list, which will probably be a regular feature of this blog (High Fidelity is awesome). Today I’m going to look at my top five concert experiences. These aren’t necessarily the best concerts I’ve seen as such, but they’re certainly the most memorable. I’ve also thrown in my worst concert experience, which will be pretty self explanatory when we get there.

5. David Bowie (Headliner) and The Polyphonic Spree – FleetCenter: Boston, MA 2004

I’ve been a Bowie fan for a long time. It was a great set, but it also served as my introduction to a girl I dated for a bit, so there’s some special significance.

4. Muse (Headliner), The Exit, and Jagolinzer – Lupo’s at the Strand: Providence, RI 2004

Oddly enough, I went to this show the night that the girl from show 5 dumped me. It was a very cathartic experience. Plus, this was my first exposure to The Exit, a band I’ve grown to love.

3. King Crimson (Headliner) and Living Colour – Avalon: Boston, MA 2003

This was memorable not just because I got to see King Crimson live, but also because it was somewhat surreally awesome that a band like Living Colour was 1) still actually a band and 2) opening for a band so completely different than them like King Crimson. The Krims were great, and Living Colour also showed me a lot as far as their quality beyond “Cult of Personality.”

2. Firewater (Headliner), Calla and Black Helicopters – Paradise Rock Club: Boston, MA 2004

Paradise Rock Club: Boston, MA 2004 – Firewater’s my favorite live band ever. Great music, great performances, and my best friend Greg and I walked out of the Paradise on a Friday night in December in the middle of a snowstorm that lasted until Sunday afternoon. We met up with some friends that night, walked the shores of the Charles River and sang songs while dancing in the snow. It was magical.

1. Stabbing Westward (Headliner), God Lives Underwater, and Econoline Crush – Electric Factory: Philadelphia, PA 1998

As far as a top to bottom lineup, this was probably the best show I’ve been to. 1998 was the height of mainstream industrial music, with these being three of my favorites in the genre. All of them put together fantastic sets, and I really do remember it fondly.

And now for the worst…

Disturbed (Headliner), Taproot, Chevelle and Unloco – Tsongas Arena: Lowell, MA 2002

This was officially my exit from the world of the metal genre. Throughout Junior High and High School I was indeed duped by much of the nu metal movement (although some of the bands did manage to transcend their genre. Nonpoint is a great example of this), and everything came to a head this night. First of all, Lowell, Massachusetts is not exactly a peach of a town. And I found myself standing on the floor watching Taproot and Chevelle put on underwhelming sets (they’re two bands I still listen to from time to time, but I don’t exactly go out of my way) surrounded by fourteen year old kids wearing Linkin Park T-Shirts. And I had a moment of clarity. I think this must be what it feels like when addicts finally hit rock bottom and realize they need to make a change (though on a much smaller and less serious scale, natch). And I stood there and thought about how I had finally escaped the provincial monotony of suburban Pennsylvania and moved to an intellectually vibrant and diverse city like Boston. And here I was, basically right back in High School. I made a lot of changes to myself that night, and they weren’t all simply music related. Sure, the concert sucked. But in a way, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Life’s funny like that sometimes.

This blog post was written to the tune of Firewater’s The Ponzi Scheme

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