Updated: Nov 10
For the last 35 years, live music has been my passion. We all have our own paths, a unique personal genre that comes from our listening history. The frequency of live shows in my life has of course ebbed and flowed with life's rhythms - school, marriage, kids, responsibility, and budget constraints. But it's always been there. It's what I like to do.
My first show was Bob Segar and the Silver Bullet Band, Hartford Coliseum'86,with a friend's parents. The sights and smell of that event must have hooked me. Soon I would be taking a party bus to the Meadowlands to see Pink Floyd, and was dancing in the rain to James Taylor at Lake Compounce, I didn't really know what I liked - I just went with the crowd. We saw Elton John and Billy Joel at the the Garden, INXS too. Tom Petty showed us how to Breakdown in Hartford. Ben H began teaching me about the Grateful Dead on hissy cassettes, and I was on the bus.
At Richmond, in college, my music world exploded. My best friends became my lifelong concert friends. Bobby G took my on my first road trip - to Trax in Charlottesville, VA to see Blues Traveler. I can still remember the "Jack Straw" opener as I walked into my first Dead show on the floor of the Spectrum in Philly. My mind was expanded both temporarily and forever. Away from home, I had the freedom to travel, a ton of music venues within a few hours drive, and the crew to do it with. The jam band scene was exploding, and I got lost in sharing that groove. Jerry Garcia Band blew us away in Hampton and Widespread Panic seemed to be following us around. Soon the Dave Matthews Band started playing Wednesdays at the Flood Zone, and we learned which song Jane likes. On spring break in Jamaica, Ziggy Marley played at our hotel. Memories are hazy. Fresh from Amy's Farm, Robb taught us to Phish, and with Steph's car we were seeing them all over the East Coast. We were late on the Dead, but caught Phish early and knew it. We even celebrated Thanksgiving weekend with them back home at the Cap, and they taught us about their friend Jimmy and his dog, Harpua. The following year tickets were so tough, we thought we were shut out - until we climbed the fire escape and someone kicked the door open and we were in. Looking at that fire escape recently I wondered - did that really happen?
I began trading high quality DAT tapes toward the end of college with some professional music friends. Without the hiss of the cassettes, my ears were opened to shows in perfect quality sound, and it broadened my live music interests immeasurably. Listening to those bootlegs, one night you could be healed with Van Morrison in Montreux, the next getting wise with Bonnie Raitt in Texas, or be burning and looting with Marley in San Francisco. I burned 1000s of CDs for friends. After all, sharing such prizes was half the fun.
We kept getting better at it. Toad's place in New Haven in the late1990s provided incredible entertainment. We danced on the speakers to Toot's "Funky Kingston" encore. Kyle and Christina become my go-to +2's, and remain so to this day. We celebrated the holidays having a houseparty and reunions with Maceo Parker at Irving Plaza.
As my tastes changed from jams to SONGS, I ventured further into new genes. My addiction to "the next show" became stronger. The Bridge School taught me what a stacked festival lineup could look like, to this day perhaps the best I've seen. Kate was always there, eager to come along, dancing for both of us. Having kids might have slowed us down, but the music never stopped. It became, and still is, all about the smaller venues. We explored the New England music scene, planning weekends around the club venues and bands we loved. The Avett Brothers music spoke to our then grown up lives, and we chased them around the Northeast. The internet made the bootleg cd's obsolete, but it made the research behind a concert night all the easier. We delighted in evenings out with Michael Franti, Ben Harper, David Gray and the like. We were there in the front for Alicia Keys big headlining debut at the Oakdale. I recall thinking a unknown star was bursting on the scene during her cover of Prince's "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore". The music becomes part of the life. It's was on in the kitchen, on the beach, and it was on the calendar.
Having thought I knew a few things, Newport Folk taught me in 2015 that I did not, and we immediately knew we had to bring friends. Newport's vision was deeper, more diverse, and more eclectic than my experience, and I was in awe from the beginning. The artists that come through those stages annually provide webs of connected songs that power my music discovery all year. I am one of the Folk, which actually means a lover of all the genres, and their blends. A lover of music that can be performed live.
There's so much i don't know and want to experience. I'm a single father of three school aged kids. I can't read or play a note of music. But I can talk artists/bands/songs with the most hardcore fans, and even some of the pros. I spend countless hours crafting playlists. The music has been there for me my entire adult life, filling in the empty spaces with beautiful sounds. What I think excites me about live music is that there is always more to see and hear. It's different every time, at least most of the bands I see. I've never been to Red Rocks, or the Ryman. Yet, anyway. I thought I knew all the good venues within a few hours drive of Connecticut, but until 2022 had never been to The Barn at Levon Helm Studios. I'll be back soon.
At this point in life, there's no way to be out every night seeing music, like my twenty year old self wants to. But I know now what I like. I pick my spots, and always make sure to have something on the calendar to look forward to. I feel empty without it. It's how I often relate to the world.
Whatever stops remain on my personal tour, I hope it last forever, like Dylan's.