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.
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
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.”