I curse the fact that I was not allowed to go to big concerts when I was younger. Sure I got to go to a bunch of local shows, but never anything memorable. Hell, I remember when all my friends in junior high went to the No Doubt, Shelter and Unwritten Law show at Rockland Community College. Sure I didn’t like any of those groups (still don’t) but I really felt left out. To make matters worse, by the time I was allowed to start hanging out in Manhattan and Brooklyn, most of the amazing venues, like Coney Island High and Wetlands, were being shut down.
Thankfully, my concert-going habits changed when I arrived at University of Maryland, College Park in fall of 2000. Since then, I’ve kept a detailed list of every show I've attended. And while there were some groups whose performances changed the way I think about music (Q and Not U, Joe Strummer, British Sea Power), there have been quite a few that have left me feeling disappointed.
DISCLAIMER: Please do not take offense to the strong opinions that you will read below. They are merely a reflection of what I was feeling at the time.
December 22nd 2000
Shopping Cart Catastrophes, PF 113,DDF, Lanemeyer and others
American Legion Hall,
My first semester at U-Md proved to be incredibly eye opening. I was brimming with new musical ideas, and I was really looking to move away from the punk and hardcore that had come to define my last year and a half of high school.
But attending this show at the Norwood Legion Hall felt like a huge step backwards.
Shopping Cart Catastrophes started out as a fun, catchy pop-punk band that reminded me of the Descendents or the Queers. But at this show, they were very self-consciously trying to become a “serious and articulate” emo band. In other words; a Rockland County version of Jets to Brazil. Man, I thought it was dreadful; a total betrayal of everything they stood for. I understood their desire to change their sound, but the lyrics were just sounded trite and they just weren’t the same group anymore.*
PF 113 and Lanemeyer? I wrote them off instantly because of their names. DDF, well those guys were part of the Nyack scene, so I sorta had to give them a chance. And while I wasn’t the biggest fan of the studs and Mohawks, I thought they sounded ok. However, I took issue with the fact that they had a song called “1977.” Come on guys, I don't care how young you were. You just don’t write a song with the same title as one of the best Clash b-sides ever.
*They also fired their tall and quirky guitarist, Kevin. Me and my crew always liked him. He was the joker of the group.
**(NOTE: Allegedly, this legion hall stopped holding shows cuz some punk kid took a shit in a cup and hid it behind the bar. Upon hearing about this, one angry old Vet grumbled something along the lines of “I can’t believe we went to war against the Nazis for the sake of you people.”)
July 6th 2001
Stinkfest 2: Shabutie, Salty Black Flour
The Fire House
West Nyack, NY
Shabutie, now known as Coheed and Cambria, were considered to be one the best bands in Rockland County. And I fucking hated them with a passion. I loathed everything about them: Claudio’s ridiculous falsetto, the band’s self-indulgent muso tendencies. I could go on for days. But most of all, I despised the fact that their sound was becoming so influential. It was around this time that the Nyack scene was becoming obsessed with their style of playing and singing. In my opinion, it set everybody back a couple of years. Moreover, people who booked shows would only hire bands that sounded or looked like them, effectively leaving everyone else out in the wilderness. It was at this show that I realized that it was going to be an uphill battle to try and get any sort of scene love for my group, Scam. I suppose I was just jealous...
March 29th 2002
Fanshen, Insults, Youth Crüe, Project Mayhem (NJ),Black November
Rutgers Univ. @ Livingston Campus Quad 1 Dorms Main Lounge
On this particularly warm March evening, I decided to take a trip with my good friend (and sometimes bandmate) Kevin Rankin. At the time he was in a group called Project Mayhem and we were both curious to see whether the New Jersey band with the same name was any good.
Turns up they weren’t. In fact, every band on the bill played a rather tuneless variety of hardcore. I seem to recall a group that featured two linebacker-sized lead "singers" who made it a point to show off their meathead tendencies by slamming into each other during their entire set.This was easily one of the most pointless shows I’ve ever attended: All aggression and no talent. In retrospect, we probably should've spent the evening at a diner somewhere.
April 23rd 2004
Blonde Redhead, with Secret Machines
Black Cat, Washington DC
This was the show where I realized that I was no longer liked Blonde Redhead. From the winter of 2001 to spring 2004, I was crazy about them. Man, I used to spend hours digging up information about their equipment and trying to figure out what sort of tunings they used.
Now here’s a lesson for all you live music fans: try to avoid concerts that are scheduled towards the end of a band’s tour, for most musicians are physically and emotionally drained by the time their final dates roll around. I learned that the hard way at this show. (April 23rd was the last date on Blonde Redhead's lengthy US tour).
I had really liked "Misery Is a Butterfly" (their first record for 4AD) but hearing it played live didn’t sit well with me. Kazu, Amadeo and Simon looked bored and detached when performing. As a result, the new material suffered. Where was the sexy and exotic aggression from "La Via Vita Violenta" and "Fake Can Be Just As Good"? Since then, I haven't bothered to see them play live or buy any of their records.
In retrospect, this experience reminds me of the time I had a crush on this girl. Then I found out that she was fucking around with this dude in a band I hated, and I was over her. And to make things even more awkward, I had to work with that dude for an entire summer. Homeboy told me some wild stories.
July 15th 2004
The Unicorns, Erase Errata, Moving Units, Weird War, Les Georges Leningrad, Blood on The Wall.
Some warehouse, Williamsburg, Brooklyn NYC
During the summer after graduation, I was living at my parents’ house and working a crappy data-entry job in order to save money for my upcoming trip to France. A lot of my spare time was spent working on music with friends, going to lame parties and getting into all sorts of funny shit (e.g. The Jewish Deli incident at NYU Alumni hall).
My friend Jerry and I heard about the show through MySpace and made it a point to attend for three reasons: hipster girls, "free Red Stripe (till it runs out)" and the Unicorns. We left the 'burbs at a reasonable hour, flew down I-87, transferred to I-278, found a tight parking space and bee-lined it to the warehouse only to find a line going around the fucking block. And while it was 730 PM, it was still 90 degrees outside.
When we got inside nearly an hour and a half later, we found that all the free beer was gone. After duly purchasing a few cans of Brooklyn Lager, we made our way to the stage, where Moving Units were struggling to keep the audience interested. The acoustics in the cavernous main room were terrible, and the band knew it. Every instrument sounded like mush. To make matters worse, the Unicorns wouldn’t be on till at least 2:00 AM.
We attempted to make good of the situation by hanging out in an adjacent room where a DJ was spinning garage and post-punk. We made some idle chatter with a couple of girls I knew, drank a few more beers, and finally decided that the whole shindig was not worth our time. We went home in the middle of Weird War's set.
October 27th 2005
Swollen Members, opening up for Ghostface Killah
Swollen Members is a Canadian hip-hop group hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, consisting principally of the duo Mad Child and Prevail. They have been called "two of the most innovative people in hip-hop".
TRANSLATION: PROOF THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER CITE WIKIPEDIA IN YOUR RESEARCH!
You see, Swollen Members are loosely affiliated with the Red Dragons skate/snowboard crew from Vancouver Canada. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Red Dragons gained notoriety in the Skate and Snowboard world during the 1990s for their hard drinking, hard partying ways, much of which was documented in the Whiskey video series. But history aside, Swollen Members is responsible for some of the most unimaginative and unbelievably awful music ever put to tape. Oh, and they have ZERO street cred.
These guys didn’t last more than twenty minutes***. We were booing and hissing throughout their entire set. Some of the harder dudes in the crowd decided to toss around their skater-brah fans. It’s probably a good thing that Swollen Members didn’t try to stay on longer than they did, otherwise a riot would’ve broken out.
***And according to my people in New York, Swollen Members barely made it through two songs before being booed offstage at Hammerstein Ballroom.