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15 Musicians Discuss Their First Concert

Music Lists

Most people can recall the first concert they attended. For musicians and music lovers, it can be a milestone event in their life. Below, 15 musicians discuss their first concert.

Do you remember your first concert? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

1. Dessa

Dessa’s mother took her to the first concert that made a real impression: “We sat side-by-side in a sold out theater to watch Joan Baez. I was 12. Everyone else in the room was surfing their nostalgia, but it all was new to me.” She continues, “I’d never heard her songs before, never seen a spotlight hit a famous person, never been in the same room with someone who could sing like that. Dar Williams opened for her, though I’m sure I didn’t understand what it meant to ‘open.’ After the show, I remember looking at all the albums for sale in the lobby. You could see Joan’s whole life splayed out: the round-faced youthfulness of her first album covers, the high cheekbones of her 40s, the grey haired pixie cut of her current stuff.”

The concert was at the O’Shaughnessy Theater in St. Paul, Minn. Dessa says, “I played there for the first time last year and thought of Joan Baez all night.” When asked if there were any memorable songs performed, she recalls two. The first is Dar William’s ‘When I Was a Boy’: “It’s probably too overt for my tastes now, but it hit me at the right moment, as a 12-year-old, flat-chested girl who wasn’t sure exactly how her feelings of aggression, rebellion, and angst could be portaged into her adult life as a woman.” She says, “The second was ‘Diamonds and Rust,’ a song about Baez’s relationship with Bob Dylan— devastating. Having grown up to become a musician—and date them—I’ve returned to it often.”

Dessa’s new album, Parts of Speech, was released June 25.

2. Pierre Moore – John the Conqueror

Moore’s first concert was Too Short at the Mississippi Coliseum in 1995: “I was only 11 years old and had never heard of Too Short, but my older cousin said that we must go, so we went.” Moore recalls particularly liking his cousin, Carlton, because he was “older” and “cool.” “He was like the black, southern version of the ‘Fonz.’ No leather jacket and no motorcycle, but he did have a gold tooth and a Chevy Caprice.”

According to Moore, his mother didn’t have a problem with a pre-teen attending a gangster rap concert: “She was a different type of mother. I grew up in a harsh world and rather than pretending it didn’t exist, she guided me through it as best she could.” Once in the coliseum, the security ushered Moore to what could loosely be considered a “safe area” for children at the front of the stage. “It was probably a good idea to get us away from the erratic mob and plumes of weed smoke. Now we were literally leaning against the massive speakers that fueled the hysteria on the coliseum floor. Since then, my right ear has been all but useless.”

Moore lost all but 25 percent of hearing in his ear because of the concert. Afterwards, Moore met Too Short: “His opener let us backstage…ironically the thing I vividly remember was Too Short telling us to stay off drugs and stay in school.” Moore mentions seeing a recent viral video of Too Short running from the police after a traffic stop where the rapper was charged with DUI and narcotics possession. “[It] was the highlight of my week. He deserves it for leaving me deaf after my first concert.”

Moore would see his second concert a few months later: “Bobby Rush and his shake dancers were playing a small neighborhood festival and I was captivated. I’ve been hooked on the blues, and shake dancers, ever since. Maybe Too Short is the reason I love the blues so much. Because of him, I yearn for a simpler time. A time before six-foot-tall speakers.”

3. JD Mack – Deadstring Brothers

Mack’s first concert he attended was the Cure’s Disintegration tour in August of 1989: “Probably not the answer you were expecting from a guy in a country rock band, but it was and always will be one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” he says. Mack describes the concert, which was at Michigan’s Palace of Auburn Hills as “three hours of amazing music.”

Additionally he claims the bass-driven sound he experienced that evening is what led him to choose the bass as his instrument: “it made my decision in life easy.” Mack also mentions the happy coincidence of recently finding the program from the concert and the timing of the interview: “[I] found it in a bin I cleaned out so we could use the bin for merch on this tour.”

Deadstring Brothers are currently touring in support of their recently released album, Cannery Row.

4. Carter Tanton – Luxury Liners, Lower Dens

Photo:Shawn Brackbill

Tanton says, “My first concert was the Grateful Dead with Sting opening. My best friend’s older brother was a Deadhead and so we all went.” The show was June 25, 1993 at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, DC. When asked if anything memorable occurred, Tanton states, “It was the first time I smoked pot. Thank you shirtless, mustachioed man dancing during ‘Space’—or ingested a helium balloon. I also remember touring the parking lot scene before the show and visiting various camper vans as if on a safari through the hippie Amazon.”

“In retrospect, I think I was more impressed by the fact that I was walking around the Washington Redskins football field than I was with the music that night.” He would see the Grateful Dead in concert several more times, but claims he never became obsessed: “I’m more interested in the evolution of their PA system than songwriting.”

5. Jim Barrett – Young Buffalo

Barrett’s first concert was the annual Memphis in May event in the early 2000s: “I tagged along with my older brother and his friends and my dad took us.” He cites this as being the first time he saw someone drunk and the first time he smelled marijuana. “We didn’t have tickets, so we spent a long time walking around Beale Street and taking in all the local color.

We finally got tickets after a long while and went to see Saliva, whose big songs at the time were ‘Click Click Boom’ and ‘Your Disease.’ I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.” Barrett continues, “Now keep in mind, this is terrible, terrible music. But 12- year-old me was on cloud nine.” Barrett recalls a couple of additional performances from the festival:

“After Saliva we saw Dave Matthews Band from about a mile away, and as we were leaving the festival we watched George Clinton play ‘We Want the Funk.’ He had the whole crowd singing along. It was awesome. At the time, the music was definitely secondary to the experience. Being a 12-year-old kid with that crowd was eye-opening to say the least.”

Most people can recall the first concert they attended. For musicians and music lovers, it can be a milestone event in their life. Below, 15 musicians discuss their first concert.

Do you remember your first concert? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

6. Ben Yarbrough – Young Buffalo
“My first concert was this contemporary Christian band, Audio Adrenaline,” says Yarbrough. “I saw them with this church group back when I was 10. I remember not liking it at all.” Yarbrough says the first concert he really enjoyed and bought tickets for was Modest Mouse in his hometown of Oxford, Miss at the Lyric Theater.

“That was such an incredible show and watching it all I could think was ‘I want to do that for the rest of my life.’” Yarbrough recalls an episode from the show: “At one point Isaac Brock said something like ‘someone flip me off,’ and our friend Tyler obliged him. That pissed him off a good bit, so he stopped the show and said ‘make a space around that motherfucker, I’m gonna fucking hit him with this microphone.’ Tyler loved it.”

“My guess is he was just fucking around,” he continues. Yarbrough had the opportunity to meet Brock last year, but didn’t mention the show.

“We met him at Modest Mouse’s studio in Portland. We got to go because our friend Clay Jones was working there so he gave us a tour. I definitely didn’t mention that concert. I tried to be the least fanboyish I could be. It was hard though.”

7. Andrew Nelson – Great Peacock

“My first concert was Lynyrd Skynyrd at Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta. They had Peter Frampton and 38 Special opening for them.”

“I grew up in such a strict, conservative home so going to see Skynyrd was like opening Pandora’s Box. My parents made my older brother and sister go with me so I would be safe.” Additionally, he credits the band for sparking his interest in music: “The whole reason I even started playing the guitar was because I heard ‘Free Bird’ one night when I was about 14 or 15 years old.

“The main thing I remember about the concert was that I danced my rear end off the whole time. So much so that these older college aged girls came down and wanted to dance with me. I was so clueless I didn’t pay them any attention. Now I’d probably would forget about the music and offer to buy them a drink, but not then, I was dancing, man.” He adds, “I still dig on some Skynyrd to this day … A lot of people are turned off by their fanbase, and it keeps them from listening to what the original band’s lyrics were about—gun control (‘Saturday Night Special’), the plight of veterans (‘Four Walls of Raiford’), environmental issues (‘All I Can Do is Write About It’). Anyway, they had the best guitar riffs hands down.

8. Blount Floyd – Great Peacock
When asked about first concert, Floyd mentions several “firsts.” He says, “The first concert I remember going to that affected me was seeing George Jones at the Ozark Civic Center in Alabama. My family would go to a bunch of country shows in Ozark in the late ‘90s, because it was so close to Dothan and my pops probably had some connection. I can still vividly remember how when he sang, the whole place just shook. When he would hit low notes I felt it resonate inside my little body. To this day I think he has the absolute best voice ever.”

Floyd notes a venue where he gained early experience performing. In 2002, he attended his first club show: “It was at The Cow Haus in Tallahassee, Fla., with a bunch of my friends.” He still remembers the order of the bill and notes that he doesn’t run from his emo past: “Rocking Horse Winner, Seville, Further Seems Forever and Dashboard Confessional. I felt like the coolest dude that night, even though I’m still pissed at Chris Carrabba for not singing ‘New Year’s Project’ when FSF asked him, but I’m sure he had his reasons.”

He continues by saying, “Funny story. Recently, I ran into Mike Marsh, the drummer for The Avett Brothers, and formerly for Dashboard and Seville, and totally fanboyed out about this show.”

He continues, “No concert list of mine would be complete without mentioning my ‘first love’ show. Cursive at The Social in Orlando, May 6, 2004. I met my future wife at this show. Funny enough, I held her hand for the first time during ‘A Gentleman Caller.’”

9. Anastasia Dimou – Feathers

Dimou’s first concert experience was the 50th birthday party David Bowie threw for himself in January 1997 at Madison Square Garden. Her mother won tickets at work for the performance: “I got to see him, Lou Reed, Dave Grohl, Robert Smith and Billy Corgan all in one. I just remember seeing Bowie walk on stage. He made such an immediate impression on my brain. He was small and thin, but you could feel his presence even up where our seats were, which were kind of nosebleeds. He seemed powerful and magnificent. He was electric. I remember feeling that and awe.”

10. Cole Furlow – Dead Gaze

When Furlow was five, his parents took him to see Crosby, Stills and Nash in Jackson, Miss. “I was super young so I don’t remember very much. But I do remember thinking they were such great singers … My father explained to me who Neil Young was and why he wasn’t there. I really didn’t care that much then, but later was really bummed my first concert experience didn’t involve such an icon like Neil.” The concert was at the Mississippi Coliseum: “At the time it was decorated in orange, red and yellow paint. It looked like a huge circus.”

Most people can recall the first concert they attended. For musicians and music lovers, it can be a milestone event in their life. Below, 15 musicians discuss their first concert.

Do you remember your first concert? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

11. Jessica Clavin – Bleached

Jessica Clavin says she and her sister saw a lot of shows, but seeing True Sounds of Liberty (T.S.O.L.) for the first time, “was so awesome.” She says the first time was in 2000 and thinks it was at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, Calif.

“People were going crazy and almost everyone in the room were singing along with so much energy. I totally remember saving lunch money for these shows or running around my house last-minute gathering some change.”

12. Jennifer Clavin – Bleached
When Jennifer Clavin was in elementary school, her father took her to her first concert: “My dad had a work friend, and she had a punk band called Down Girl. My dad took my sister and I to this super shady part of downtown Los Angeles …I was terrified, especially of all the people wearing spiked leather jewelry. For some reason Jessie wasn’t scared at all and she was probably only seven.” Clavin recalls holding on to her father tightly while watching the concert. “I watched this girl’s band perform. She was wearing a leopard bra through a thin white shirt and I remember thinking she seemed so bad, but cool and dangerous. I had never really heard music like that before. It was just a really intense experience.”

13. Luke Lalonde – Born Ruffians

Photo:Vanessa Heins

Lalonde’s first concert was The Vines in Toronto at the Kool Haus on Nov. 26, 2002. He says, “We had just started playing together as a band in high school and we drove from Midland (Ontario) to the big city to see them play. Highly Evolved was on heavy rotation for me at the time.” He continues, “I remember the lead singer being a total spaz and his band mates appeared to hate his guts. I think it came out shortly after that he was a bit off his rocker and extremely difficult to deal with, chalked up to Asperger’s syndrome. That was around the time of their legendary terrible performance on Letterman.

“I specifically remember the anticipation of waiting for them to come onto the stage and the awe I had for the spectacle of a live rock show. The smell of the smoke machines, the lights, the roadies setting up the band’s stuff. I remember thinking how I wanted to be the one backstage waiting to come out and play.”

14. Paul Janeway – St. Paul and the Broken Bones

“I am a late bloomer when it comes to going to shows that didn’t involve church music but the one of the first concerts I remember just blowing my mind was when I saw Prince. It was in 2008 out in California at Coachella. I was working for a mechanic shop as a gopher at the time and saved some money so I go to a music festival that year. I had to see Prince. I waited all day in 100 degree weather just to be front row for that show. It changed my life. It is still one of the greatest things I have ever seen.” When asked if there was a particularly memorable moment, he says, “I was moved to tears during ‘Purple Rain.’”

15. Linwood Regensburg – Those Darlins

Regensburg’s first show was The Lemonheads at Flood Zone in Richmond, Va. in 1996. Regensburg claims that the opener, a then-unknown Matchbox 20, was not well-received by the audience. According to Regensburg, their performance “kept going on and on and on. They may have set some sort of record. It was dangerous though, everyone in that room was toeing the line of mortality, getting closer and closer to the end, paralyzed by the Flood Zones’ strict no reentry policy. Nowhere to run. And the worst part of it all was this gut feeling that if you made it out alive, this music would soon be on every radio station…”

Regarding The Lemonhead’s performance, Regensburg says one of the memorable events was in place of a proper encore, Evan Dando, “comes back on stage with a Minimoog, plugs into to his amp and blasts noise for about 15 minutes. It was pretty incredible actually. I’d never heard one of those things in person before. I’d never heard anything that loud before.”

Regensburg adds, “years later, we’re in Melbourne doing a morning show on Triple R and Evan Dando is scheduled to perform after us. I’m starting to get a little geeky with the thought of being able to tell him ‘hey, you were first rock concert I ever saw.’ Well he never showed up. AWOL. A couple days later I randomly met a woman at a bar who turned out to be his handler. She was an old friend looking after him on his Aussie tour. But basically he refused do anything or leave her house for two weeks, then he vanished and she hadn’t seen him for days.”

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