Wednesday, August 25, 2010


i've been to plenty of shows over the years. more than i can count, actually. i try to keep tickets from all of them, but it's no use anymore. seeing music played live is simply a joy. we've heard the studio-recorded albums, but hearing the band reproduce their music live and in person is a different experience.

my favorite live bands have plenty of energy (squad five-o, the avett brothers) or play their music undeniably well (thrice, jimmy eat world). listening to their music at home reminds me of the performances i've witnessed and gives an extra layer to the fandom of these bands.

but i don't need to tell you that. you've been to concerts. you know what i'm talking about. so i'll cut to the chase. here are a few of the most memorable moments from the most memorable shows i've been to.

Yellowcard - Club Laga, December 2003

Yellowcard is simply one of the best live bands I've seen. My first encounter was at the Warped Tour of this same year, but after that tour I started listening to Ocean Avenue and was jazzed to see them live again. This was the last show I'd see at my favorite venue of all time. The most memorable moment came when violin player Sean Mackin performed his signature backflip off an amp during "October Nights". It's an electrifying move, especially when the old fans know it's coming.

Squad Five-O - Someone's garage in Tarentum, PA, December 2004

Squad Five-O might be the best live band I've seen. During a stretch of seeing these boys 4 times in a year, a show was relocated from the South Side to a random garage in Tarentum, PA. My attendance almost did not happen because I was offered Steelers tickets, but Kristin, Dana, and myself ended up going to the most surreal concert experience I've been to. Bottom line: Jeff Fortson swinging from the garage door track and punching out a light bulb.

Brand New, Thrice, and mewithoutYou - AJ Palumbo Center, December 2007

This was the greatest non-Squad, non-Avett concert I've been to. The lineup was simply disgusting. Brand New is one of my favorite bands and this was the first time I saw them. I hadn't listened to Thrice much, but they quickly became a new favorite after this show (I've seen them twice since). mewithoutYou puts out a fantastic live performance every time, thanks in part to the eccentric personality of lead man Aaron Weiss. No one moment stood out in particular, but I recall being more excited for this concert than any in my life. Thrice's performance of "The Earth Will Shake" is burned into my memory and Brand New brought a pair of drumsets (and probably a pile of drugs).

MxPx - Post-Gazette Pavilion, Warped Tour 2004

I've seen plenty of memorable performance by MxPx. My first experience in high school at Metropol was fantastic and they brought an impressive redemptive performance in 2007 on a loaded Tooth and Nail tour (Sullivan, Run Kid Run, The Classic Crime, The Fold). The most memorable moment, though, came on the Vans Warped Tour in 2004. Mike, Tom, and Yuri were in rare form, pulling together an intense 30-minute set. The set was so intense that it became very hard to breathe in the pit. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the band, or maybe it was the fact that this was our first pit of the day, but MxPx almost rocked us too hard to breathe that day.

The Avett Brothers - Kent Stage, Kent, OH, March 2008

I've saved the best for last. The Avett Brothers were not my favorite band when I first started listening to them, but thanks to encouragement from a couple close friends and a crush on a concert-going friend, I found myself in the middle of Ohio seeing a bluegrass/folk band that was about to blow my mind. The Avett Brothers bring it every single night. They're full of unprecedented energy, authenticity, and love. This show led to 8 concerts in 3 states over the next 2+ years.

The most memorable moment: an unprecedented second encore. The Bros played the best set I've seen from them with plenty of classics, followed by a nasty encore featuring the newly-released Murder in the City and Pretty Girl from Chile. After that, the show was over, until 1/3 of the crowd didn't leave. 100-150 people were left, singing the "la-las" from Go to Sleep, hoping the boys would come back out. The Avetts came back out with wifebeaters on, clearly having retired for the night until the crowd remained. They threw down a verse from the rarely-played Tales of Coming News before hitting an emotional high with Salvation Song. An unbelievable end to an unforgettable beginning of a musical love affair.

Honorable mention: Jimmy Eat World's flawlessness at Carnegie Library and Music Hall, finally seeing Blindside open for POD after 2 tries at Purple Door, Reese Roper wearing a Barney costume on the Purple Door stage for Five Iron Frenzy, seeing a dude dropped on his head during The Ataris at Warped Tour, Green Day (one of the best live bands in the world) with my sister and brother-in law.

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