The early nineties are hazy, for no particular reason, other than that they were so long ago. Still, I’m determined to continue write about every concert I ever attended. The eighties were easy because attending concerts was a new thing for me, and I saw “big” acts like The Who and The Kinks, all near my hometown of Akron, Ohio. The nineties were more diffuse and I saw a mix of big and small acts, all over the Midwest and East Coast. You can track my migration east simply by looking at the venues I found myself in. But I’m still not done with my undergraduate years. One last show:
Toad the Wet Sprocket (1991 or 92, Shriver Center, Miami University)Toad was the rage, and this was even before “All I Want” was all over the radio. Oxford, Ohio was home to the now defunct alternative radio station 97X (as heard unforgettably in The Rain Main), and this station had been playing tracks from Bread and Circuses and Pale for several years already.
The concert was fabulous. I remember the crowd left their seats as soon as the show began, and rushed the stage. We were crushed, just about, only a few feet from Glen Phillips and company. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t Glen who sang “Nothing Is Alone,” my favorite song from Pale, but guitarist Todd Nichols.
I was there with Wendy. I can’t remember if I introduced her to Toad or if it happened the other way around. Or maybe it was neither, since Toad was in the air, literally, all the time, on the radio and frat house porches and green grass quads. Wendy and I, we traded music a lot. Fifteen years later, I still owe Wendy a few good mix tapes. But these days, who knows where she is and what she listens to?
Royal Crescent Mob (1990, Hall Auditorium, Miami University)
I don’t remember this concert, or this band. Royal Crescent Mob was the midwest’s answer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Unfortunately, nobody had ever asked that particular question. I went because I was working with one of the organizations sponsoring the concert. I can’t even remember which organization. I swear I was there and totally conscious and totally sober, but I also swear I can’t remember anything at all, other than I was there.
James Taylor (1990, Millett Hall, Miami University)
Or maybe this was 1991. It was sometime my sophomore year at college, fall or spring I don’t know. I went with my roommates Matt McClure and Kevin Kearns. We had a fourth roommate, another Matt, but I don’t remember if he went to the concert. Years later, long after I had last seen him, this other Matt would go on to win $30 million in the Ohio lottery. I read about it in the newspaper. I’ve lost track off all the other guys too. Kevin is in Chicago somewhere. Matt McClure is an even bigger mystery. He went to Luxembourg and then seemed to drop off the face of the planet. Sometimes people do that. When the concert ended, James Taylor told the cheering audience, “Thanks, you make it easy.”
I’d forgotten at least one concert in the eighties:
Ray Charles (1989, Millett Hall at Miami University)
This was a Parents’ Weekend Concert, my first semester at college. My parents came and Ray Charles was late. That’s about all I remember: the concert started something like an hour late. Ray Charles must have sang “Georgia on My Mind,” but I couldn’t tell you for sure.
For some reason, I’ve been wanting to make a list of every rock concert I’ve ever attended. Not that there have been a lot. I was never a big concert goer, which makes the handful I’ve been to all the more interesting to see listed. (Yet, as I start thinking about this list, I keep remembering more and more shows, though the ones I’ve forgotten, there’s usually a reason why). What’s even more interesting is not the actual bands or performances I remember, but those other small details: who I went with, the weather, snatches of conversation that have stuck with me.
I thought I’d break the list down into decades. Let’s begin with the eighties. While the rest of the kids in school were into Madonna and Duran Duran, I was listening to and going to see bands from the sixties and seventies:
The Beach Boys (1985, the Boy Scout Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia)
What I remember: My first concert, ever. Hurricane Bob made it rainy, Nancy Reagan was on stage first, talking about something (probably just saying “no”), and I was there with a bunch of other pimply-faced boys whose main source of conversation was farts and burps.
The Kinks (1987, Blossom Music Center)
I was sixteen. Went with my brother Jon, seven years older than me, and his best friend Scot. We set up a blanket on the lawn. I watched the show. Jon and Scot, I’m not so sure they saw much of it. At one point, Scot either fell asleep or passed out on the blanket. This was the first concert I saw people peeing into bathroom sinks.
Boston (1987, Richfield Coliseum)
Saw the show with my friend Adam. (Hey, Adam!) It was thrilling to be at the concert, but disappointing, too, because I remember it seemed as if Boston played every song on all three albums in the same order that the songs appeared on each album. Could that be true? Either Scholz and company were extremely unimaginative, or I’m remembering incorrectly. I do remember that on the way to the concert (or was it in the car driving home?) we were listening to Roger Water’s K.A.O.S. album. Adam’s older sister, Karen, drove.
The Who (1989, Cleveland Municipal Stadium)
I’d been dying to see The Who since 1982, when my brother Jon saw them. Whenever The Who played in Ohio, people remembered Cincinnati, 1979. But Cleveland is a long way from Cincinnati, and this was ten years later. It was the summer between high school and college. I went with Larry Morris, and I have no idea what happened to him afterward. Not immediately after the concert, I mean, but in life, like, where is he now?
The recently proposed merger between JP Morgan Chase and Bank One has got me thinking about the ways that multinational corporations work. Never forget that these two “banks” are really corporations — meaning that their primary concern is, always, to make more money. And, ironically, to make more money at any cost. The cost, unfortunately, is almost always measured in human lives. Who can forget the 1995 Chase Manhattan memo recommending that the Mexican government “eliminate the Zapatistas” rebels in Chiapas in order to secure foreign investments? Who can forget? Apparently most everyone.
Multinational banks are not the only corporations that keep the balance sheet of bodies hidden from view. Indeed, we almost expect it from banks. But from a record label? The phenomenal indie band Godspeed You Black Emperor! offers a homemade diagram (full-size diagram) on their website that details how major defense contractors have holdings in record labels like Time Warner, Sony, and BMG:
So in addition to Britney Spears albums, this network of companies produces bombs, missiles, and fighter jets. These corporations form a node that GYBE! calls “Yanqui U.X.O.” — a phrase which is not so difficult to understand once you know the language. UXO is a military term which means “unexploded ordnance.” In other words — a bomb waiting to go off. And Yanqui is Yankee, seen (and spelled) from the colonized’s point of view.
These corporations deal in real violence, but there is also a kind of metaphysical violence going on in the way that their interconnectivity and culpability is obscured. Britney’s smash CD comes out on a Jive Records label. Jive Records is owned by BMG. BMG in turn is connected to the Franco-Belgian oil giant TotalFinaElf. And TotalFinaElf owns Hutchinson Worldwide, a company that makes, through its subsidiary Barry Controls, essential avionic and missile components for the defense industry.
I am reminded of a scene in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. Somebody asks the serial killer/Wall Street bigshot Patrick Bateman what he does for a living. She thinks she hears him say “mergers and acquisitions.” Which makes sense, because he does work for an investment firm. What he really says, and what she chooses not to hear is this: “murders and executions.”