By Ray Lucas
For my money, there are few things in life better than live music. My wife and I recently fulfilled a bucket list event when we attended a Pearl Jam concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. I love the feeling of live music vibrating against your chest as the speakers thump out the beat. There is a unique sense of community you get while singing at the top of your lungs with an entire stadium of music lovers who are also belting out the lyrics to a favorite song.
Picture 40,000 fans singing in unison, “She dreams in colour she dreams in red, can’t find a better man.”
On the drive home from Chicago, my wife and I played a car game involving key concerts we have attended over the years. You can learn a lot about a person by how they answer these four questions pertaining to concerts.
What was your first concert?
My first concert was the Statler Brothers at a free Derby Festival concert at Freedom Hall that my mom took us to see. Country music is not my favorite genre, but at 8 years old, I fell in love with their song, “Counting Flowers on the Wall.”
A few months after the concert, I saw an ad on TV for the Statler Brothers Greatest Hits. I called the 1-800 number, and the album was delivered COD a week later. For all of you in the iTunes generation, COD is an acronym for “cash on delivery,” which is where you pay cash to the UPS guy when he arrives with your album. Getting music delivered to your home in the seventies was much tougher than today.
This first concert introduced me to one of my favorite aspects of music: the imaginary concert starring me as lead singer with the music cranked up loudly. I have vivid memories of turning the volume up on that COD album in my room and singing into a pencil, “Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one/ Smokin’ cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo/ now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.”
What was the best concert you ever saw?
Deciding on the best concert ever is a tough task. I hit the lottery with my wife, as she is as into music just as much as me, so we have seen a lot of great shows. While still dating, we endured 102-degree heat to attend our first Bonnaroo Music Festival in an open field in the middle of Tennessee. My favorite show was Kings of Leon, but I’m pretty sure my wife fell in love with me for going to see all of her chick-music bands: Tori Amos, Ingrid Michaelson and Brandi Carlisle. The things we do for love.
Two years later, we made our second trip to Bonnaroo only six months after my wife gave birth to our son. We can talk dedication to live music, but until you can say you left the Radiohead concert to pump milk in the car for your still-nursing toddler at home with grandma, you have nothing on my wife.
We also saw Prince at the Louisville Palace, My Morning Jacket at the Iroquois Amphitheatre and Trampled by Turtles at the Brown Theatre. Solo, I’ve been fortunate to see the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, Jimmy Buffett at Riverbend, Jason Isbell in the front row of the Boulder Theatre and Crosby Still, Nash and Young at the Louisville Gardens.
These were all great shows, but the best concert I ever saw was the Rolling Stones at the old Cardinal Stadium. My college roommate and I didn’t have the money for concert tickets but decided to pay the $5 parking entry fee at the fairgrounds on the off chance we could at least hear the outdoor concert from our car.
We were walking closer to the stadium when we struck up a conversation with this older hippie couple sitting on lawn chairs on top of their van. They invited us up for a drink and we quickly realized they were parked in a unique spot where they could see over the outfield wall to the stage. We were slightly behind the stage, but we didn’t care.
We sang and watched the band roadies behind stage rocking the three story inflatable “Honky Tonk Women” back and forth during the song of the same name. The inflatable women were gyrating to the song while the crowd went wild – and we had a backstage parking pass to the whole show. For two nearly broke college kids, that summer night was magical.
If you could see anyone in concert, alive or dead, who would it be?
I have been blessed to see most of my favorite bands. Only U2 eludes me, but I have faith I’ll see them one day. I would have loved to have seen Led Zeppelin or Nirvana in their prime. However, the one show I would give anything to go back in time to see is Johnny Cash. I have always loved the Man in Black. Most nights I sing Johnny Cash songs to my children at bedtime, so a JC concert with my kids at my side? That is on my all time fantasy list. Maybe he’ll headline a show in heaven one day and I’ll get to see him there. I’m sure Johnny would love the irony of playing Folsom Prison Blues at the pearly gates.
What is your most recent concert?
At this point you may assume that my most recent concert was Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field, but you would be wrong. Actually, my most recent concert was Pearl Jam in my Jeep. I belted out every Pearl Jam song on my I phone during a recent drive to Jasper. I nailed “Jeremy” and brought down the house with “Even Flow.” Just like the band in Chicago, I went on for three encores. I’m not bragging but with the volume really loud, I sound a lot like Eddie Vedder. And based on the nod of approval from the guy sitting next to me at the stoplight, I feel confident that the crowd loved the show.