Even when it wasn't part of my job, going to concerts has always been a source of enjoyment. The energy, the people, the lights, the crowds, the music -- they all combine to form one heck of an entertainment outlet.
Some shows are more memorable than others; some are larger than others. There are moments that stick out in my mind through the fog of them all. Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction standing at the front of the stage, arms spread out wide, soaking in all the applause as a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden screamed for him in 1991.
Stevie Ray Vaughn wailing away on his guitar on a New Jersey stage in 1990 as my brother said to "make sure you watch him" in some kind of spooky foreshadowing. Nirvana getting a flannel-clad crowd to mosh, jump and sing along during an In Utero tour stop in Birmingham, Ala., in 1993.
Phish performing a cover of Abba's "Waterloo" at Waterloo Music Village in New Jersey before another cover of "Good Times, Bad Times" in 1995. Nearly passing out from heat exhaustion during a Grateful Dead concert at Giants Stadium. Watching crowd surfing masses sweat and sway as Rage Against the Machine rocked outside The Masquerade in Atlanta in 1996.
But it's not always the big names that make for memorable moments. I remember seeing a local Atlanta band called Greasepaint -- a band full of men in clown makeup, two scantily clad women dressed in monkey masks and some of the best swing music I've ever heard.
I went to a hole-in-the-wall jazz club called The Underground Wonder Bar to see the house band play incredible music in Chicago. A valet passing by the club picked up a guitar and joined the band for a song before heading out.
While growing up, I saw friends' bands play to packed pizza joints in the heart of New Jersey as singers rolled around in spilled soda and sang their guts out.
Those moments haven't stopped. Just this year, I remember watching Wink Keziah, Jem Crossland and Hick'ry Hawkins join the Bo-Stevens on stage at Puckett's to sing "Ring of Fire" or watching Tom Morello literally rip the strings off his guitar after a solo with Tool at Bonnaroo and Regina Spektor laughing as she forgot the words to a song (I remember Eddie Vedder doing the same thing at a Greensboro concert a few years back) -- they all stick in my mind.
There are also the unknown moments of musical performances. By this, I mean seeing a band before they make it big, or before hints of popularity are reached. I remember passing on an opportunity to see Dave Matthews perform at Auburn University for just $8. And he played on two consecutve nights. I also skipped seeing Matchbox Twenty for $10.
So, what's the point of all of this? It's meant as encouragement. Get out and see a band. Find that local band that's playing a small, smoky club and give them a chance. It could be The Noises 10 that are now riding the wave of signing to a major label (Jive Records). It could be David Childers who recently announced retirement -- there goes your opportunity to see him peform, barring any reunion shows down the road. It could be a band playing its first shows trying to win over new fans or seeing why there's so much buzz around a band like Simplified.
The Avett Brothers were always around Charlotte, and now you have to wait for them to stop back by town -- then hope you can get a ticket before the show sells out.
It's memories. It's a moment. It's a chance to say, "I remember when ..." or "I knew them when ..." or even just "damn, that was a hell of a show and it didn't even cost $10."
How many times have you told your friends that you went out to a club and heard some great music from the 1980s that some DJ was playing? Would you rather see a cover band that plays the same old music that you hear every day on the radio, or an original band that just might have written your new favorite song?
I want to see a musician's soul exposed and know the people playing music took the time to write something original, to create something they hope would stir an emotion and sing their ever-living hearts out whether it's a crowd of five, 50 or 500.
Whether it's in a club or an arena, support live, original music. There's nothing else like it around ...