Tuesday, February 22, 2011

best shows ever

We're talking music, people.  It's not a 10-best or 20-best, because I haven't counted them, or ranked them, except for a very clear #1 and #2.  I'm not saying "concerts" because while some of them are, some are also small club dates or other venues.

The guideline I set for myself is that it has to be memorable for the music and the performance.  There were a lot of shows I went to that have an I-was-there! quality to them, but I really don't remember the performance, often due to youthful partaking of various substances.  A lot of Grateful Dead shows (college days) fall into this category, as does a 1977(?) show with Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Mink deVille (Landmark Theater in Syracuse).  I think it was a great show.

Dates are as best I can remember, and I think I have the venues right.  For some of the better-known acts, it's probably easy to look up the exact dates -- rather, easy for you, because I'm too lazy to do it.  It's a lot of work to write this post, and you can do a little if you really need to know.

I have been lucky enough to see some wonderful music at private parties, rehearsals, recording sessions, and even played privately for me, one-on-one.  I'm not counting them.

It's impossible to put them in any kind of order, except for #1 and #2, but I'll do my best.  I had to wait in a car by myself for a couple of hours on Sunday (that's another story), and one of the things I did have was pen and paper.  Pen and paper!  When's the last time I wrote anything that way?  So I made a pile of notes and scribbles.  This all came from seeing a show on Saturday that belonged on this list/group/cluster. 

#1 - Elvis Costello and Burt Bachrach with orchestra, Radio City Music Hall, late 90's.  If you haven't heard their album, Painted from Memory, get with the program, folks.

#2 - The Unholy Modal Rounders and the Central Park Sheiks, Social Room, SUNY-Binghamton, March 1977.  I booked that show, but it was life-changing nonetheless.

The others:

Michael Hurley, The Other End, NYC, somewhere in the mid-late 70s.

Michael Hurley, Folk City, NYC, early 80s.  At one of these shows, his band was called The Sensitivos, and at one of them, he covered The Walk, but I'm not sure which was at which.  The 70s show was the first time I'd seen him live.

The Du-Tels/The Dysfunctionells, Mercury Lounge, NYC, early 90s, maybe 93.  This was the first time I'd heard the Dysfunctionells, and also the night I met my music pal Greg Grady.

The Holy Modal Rounders/The Dysfunctionells, the Bottom Line, NYC, maybe 1995.  Of which there is no whicher.

The Du-Tels, the Knitting Factory, NYC, Christmas night (maybe 1994), with Amasa Miller on accordion.  Absolutely exquisite.  I don't think Stampfel was ever as good as he was when he played with Gary Lucas; Gary seemed to keep him on his toes.

Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve, the Supper Club, NYC, early-mid 90s.  I saw both shows.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, the Pier, NYC, 1983.  This was the Punch the Clock Tour with the TKO Horns.  I saw both shows.

Roy Orbison at the Pier, NYC, July 1988.  This was only a couple of months before he died.  People stood and applauded when he hit the high notes, and he looked happy but a little surprised.

James Brown/Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, the Beacon Theater, NYC, mid 80s.  James was hot from the song Living in America, from the second or third Rocky movie.  Kendricks and Ruffin each strolled down one of the orchestra aisles as they sang, and the women went crazy.  This was the same week I saw Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall.

Dan Hicks and his Acoustic Warriors, the Bottom Line, NYC, somewhere around 1994.  Greg Grady turned me on to this, and I returned the favor the same week by turning him on to Jonathan Richman (at Wetlands).

Jonathan Richman/Pianosaurus, Summerstage, Central Park, NYC, maybe in the early 80s.  The first time I ever saw Jonathan.  Pianosaurus was a lot of fun and played on toy instruments.

The Microscopic Quintet, Summerstage, Central Park, NYC, also around the early 80s.  Sax player Paul Shapiro made such an impression that I recently friended him on Facebook, all these years later.

Black 47/Don Byron Klezmer Band, Summerstage, Central Park, early 90s I think, definitely July 4.  A really hot, sunny day.  The redheaded Back 47 fans were sunburned to a crisp; the Jews who came to hear klezmer puzzled over Black 47.  A good time was had by all.

Don Byron at the Village Vanguard, 1994 or 95.  I don't listen to much jazz anymore, haven't really since the late 70s, but I love Don Byron.

I have to mention one live-on-tv show:  Black 47 on Farm Aid, maybe the mid-90s.  When they launched into the big horn riff that begins Maria's Wedding, the country folk removed their hats to scratch their heads.

The Wretched Refuse String Band, some Irish pub on the east side of Manhattan, probably early 1975.  Welcome to Wretched Refuse!

Larry Johnson at the Binghamton Folk Festival, Social Room, SUNY-Binghamton, winter 1975-76.

Larry Johnson at Dan Lynch, NYC, 1980 or 1981.  Larry Johnson is the best and truest of all of the students of the Reverend Gary Davis; check out the album Fast and Funky.

The Highwoods String Band, Social Room, SUNY-Binghamton, fall 1975.  I think the Red Clay Ramblers may have been on the bill but I'm not 100% sure.

The Red Clay Ramblers as the stage band for the off-Broadway show Diamond Studs.  Around 1975.  I saw it twice, and finally got a recording, from a recent revival production in North Carolina.

The Central Park Sheiks at the Folklore Center, NYC, maybe 1974 or 75.

The Delaware Watergap, Folklore Center, NYC, 1974 or 75.  The Folklore Center was a small shop that sold records and instruments and boasted the fabulous guitar-repair guru, Eddie Diehl (also a phenomenal jazz guitarist).  They used to have tiny little shows, maybe 20 or 20 folding chairs in the shop. 

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY, late 70s.  Nuff said.

The Holmes Brothers, summer 1993, Summerstage, Central Park, NYC.  I love me some Holmes Brothers.

Bill Perry at Manny's Car Wash, NYC, several times in 1995-96.  RIP.

Luther Allison, Manny's Car Wash and New York Blues Cruise, 1996.  RIP times 100.

George Gerdes, several times in 1980-81, Folk City, NYC.  What I remember most clearly was a song called Possession and just how damn sexy he was.

George Gerdes at Ed Sanders' 65th birthday tribute, NYC, maybe the early 00's. I went with a friend, and went back to his house after.  I told his wife about the show, and when I got to George Gerdes, she asked, "Is he still so hot?"  I said yes.  In fact, I saw George outside before the show and didn't recognize him, but when he got up on stage:  George Gerdes,

Jonathan Richman at the Lone Star Cafe, sometime in the 90s. When he played an instrumental version of Blue Moon, he caught my eye and made guitar faces at  me.  I made guitar faces back at him.  I met him some years later when he was playing the Knitting Factory, but nothing ever topped making guitar faces at each other.

Slapmeat Johnson & the Titans, Dan Lynch, NYC, late summer or early fall, 1993.  First time I saw them.  I know that Jerry Dugger and Craig Dreyer were definitely there, and I think the astonishing Hiro Suzuki was on guitar and Yoshi Shimada was on drums.

Emily Kaitz at the Bottom Line, NYC, somewhere around 1995.  It was a bill of funny female songwriters.  Emily sure is funny, and can sing her ass off.

Andy Breckman at Folk City, 1981 or 82.  How funny is Andy Breckman?  He sang Where is Rabbi Finkleman?  David Letterman, in his morning-show days, was in attendance. 

The Red Clay Ramblers/The Texas Tornados, Celebrate Brooklyn, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, summer 2010.  We've probably established that I love the Red Clay Ramblers, and it was the first time I'd seen Flaco Jimenez live.

Los Lobos, Celebrate Brooklyn, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, summer 2006 or 2007.  Maybe 2005.  Apart from the fact that they are an absolutely awesome band, I have a painful crush on David Hidalgo.  Don't tell anyone.

This past Saturday night, my dear friend Jannah Bensch bought me a ticket to see David Johansen at the Record Collector in Bordentown, NJ.  This place seats about 50 and stands maybe 50 more.  The seats are stage-level and I sat in the third row.  Just David Jo singing and playing a little harp, Brian Koonin (sp?) on acoustic guitar and a teeny hi-hat.  Unbelievably good show, and a great venue to boot.

There's nothing quite like seeing a best-ever show when you're in the process of applying for welfare and food stamps and Medicaid.  Can't dwell on bad times when you're seeing a show like that.

These dire straits remind me of a line that Charles "Honeyboy" Otis used to use on stage:  "We was so po', we couldn't even pay attention."  Luckily, I was able to pay attention the other night.

If I've forgotten anything, I'll post it later.

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