Sunday, September 10, 2006

The First Live Show

The first live rock show that I saw was either '67 or '68. There was a concert club close to my house called the "Purple Haze". It was housed in a building that was once a discount department store of some sort, and real bands with real records on the radio would play one-nighters. In the ensueing years, I would see acts like Paul Butterfield, Moby Grape, and The Seeds at "the Haze", and the spinning mirror ball, strobe lights, smoke machines and especially the amoeba light shows became a weekend staple, but there would never be another "first" rock show. My first featured The Buffalo Springfield, and the impression that show made still stands out in sharp contrast.

I must have been in eighth or ninth grade, and my band, The Blue Bathtub (go ahead and snicker...what was your first band called?) struggled to play "For what It's Worth" which was a popular song by Buffalo Springfield. All of us jumped at the chance to see the band in person. I was already a big fan of Steven Stills, and that night I got a real treat. Neil Young was ill, so Steven, being on his own, just played the shit out of every song of the set. It was the first time that we saw stacks and stacks of guitar amps, and when Ritchie Furray played his signature part in "Rock'n'Roll Woman", it about put my eyes out.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I neglected to say that the opening act was a band called "the Friends and Relations", and they commited the ultimate faux pas. They had great vocals and it was probably meant as a compliment, but they did at least three Buffalo Springfield songs! Years later, I stood with Levi Stubbs and watched The Association play "Don't Walk Away Renee" as they opened for the Four Tops. and as I watched those fucking clowns embarass themselves, it all came back to me. Now, in all fairness, I remember standing there in the smoke and strobes thinking that they played the shit out of "Mr. Soul"...but I was thirteen and knew approximately shit. I had no idea what was going to happen on that stage later that night.

I think that I fell down at least a dozen times that night, trying to make my way to the bathroom or to get a coke. it was my first experience with strobe lights and when they hit hard, I just lost balance and motor skills. I fought my way closer to the stage to watch the roadies set up the stage for the Springfield. One thing that stood out was that there was no shortage of guitars and basses. I thought to myself, how cool it must be to have more than one instrument.

The sheer volume was the best thing I had ever heard! For the first time in my life, I FELT the music. It was loud as hell, but I could hear every detail, every word, every familiar guitar riff. And I learned the value of quality of sound as opposed to quantity. They weren't much louder than the opening act, but goddamn, when they played their own songs, the same songs that the opening band had already played, was really good, i don't know how else to put it. It was really fucking good.

And how could it not be good. I mean, think of who was in that band. Steven Stills and Neil Young did a few good things. Ritchie Furray went on to form Poco. Jim Messina had a bit of a career. Dewey Martin played his ass off. This was a quality band, bursting at the seams great songs and the talent to perform them. And this was my introduction to rock concerts.

I was working on a record about five years ago, and we were looking for a tremolo guitar sound. I have an old blond Showman Head that has a tremolo that practically throbs and I mentioned that harmonic guitar part in "For What It's Worth" and how the sound we were getting was similar. Jamie Shane was playing a red ES355 and he started to grin. You see, he had made a trade with jim Messina years ago, and the guitar Jamie was playing was the very guitar used on the original record!

Well kids, not much in the way of education today, but it was a pretty cool story. til next time...

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