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List the Best Concerts & Music Festivals you’ve seen
courtesy of Music Listography : Your Life In (Play)Lists

1. Coachella, Indio, CA, 2009

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Hallelujah (live) :: Leonard Cohen

Being there, in the desert as the day turned into night, with my oldest daughter and some of my dearest friends, while Leonard Cohen sang Hallelujah was the most amazing musical moment of my life (so far). There were so many other amazing performances that weekend, too, that I will never forget – the most memorable and favorites of mine, besides Leonard Cohen, were Paul McCartney, The Killers, Devendra Banhart, Amanda Palmer, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Gaslight Anthem and Conor Oberst.

2. Lollapalooza, Irvine, CA,  1991

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Now I’m Nothing/Terrible Lie (live) :: Nine Inch Nails

So many fantastic performances at my first music festival, though in 1991 Lollapalooza was only one day. I felt sick most of the day though, which I thought was from the heat and a possible bad Gyro, but it was neither, I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and did not know yet. My favorites of the day/night – Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and Jane’s Addiction.

3. Bryan Ferry at the County Bowl, Santa Barbara, 1988

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The poster from the tour program.

A Waste Land Windswept (live) :: Bryan Ferry

The video above is from the tour, but not the show I was at. The show I was at, Bryan Ferry was sick with a high fever, and he came out with a blanket wrapped around himself, and still sang and sang and sang, sounding incredible despite being ill. I was 19, had taken a road trip to get there, my friends Mike and Weldon along for the ride, the three of us the youngest at the show. We held hands, swayed, cried, and lost ourselves in the music.

4. Duran Duran, Capital Records parking lot, 1989

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Simon Le Bon interview with clip from the Capital Records parking lot show

It was not the first time I saw them live, nor the last, and not even the best (John was in terrible shape, the height of his cocaine addiction it seemed), but the entire experience was unforgettable. My friends and I crammed into my car before sunrise and camped out just outside the gates so that we could have the best spot to watch the band perform. We were interviewed by the local news (I wish I could find clips of that), we got sunburned and exhausted, yet we were exhilarated, too. The group of us bonded together, a few of us meeting each other for the first time, and we scream-sang-a-long to every, single song.

5. Tori Amos, Los Angeles, 1994

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Smells Like Teen Spirit (live) :: Tori Amos
(not the show I was at, but from the same tour)

I had seen her twice before, and three times after, but it was this show that is definitely my favorite, and most emotionally charged. It was the year that Kurt Cobain died, and the show I was at Tori sang the first verse of American Pie as an intro, and when she sang the first “the day the music died” she went into Smells Like Teen Spirit and it felt like the entire audience started to weep. Tori always has gotten under my skin and into my emotional core, and this was definitely one of those moments.

6. Inxs, Irvine, 1985

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This Time (live) :: Inxs
(not the show I was at, but from the same tour)

High school show, one of those early shows where it was my friends and I, and no parents or someone’s older siblings. There was this rush of freedom in the air. We were in the General Admission/grass area, and it suited us perfectly, with blankets thrown on the ground, shoes kicked off, and dancing as the Summer night took over.

7. The Kills, The Observatory, 2012

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The Last Goodbye (live) :: The Kills
(not the show I was at, but from the same tour)

I was always a fan, but after seeing them live, hearing how they sound together, Jamie and Alison, the stage presence and chemistry, and the musical punch their music pulls, The Kills became one of my all-time favorite bands. Their albums are great, but I cannot recommend enough seeing them live – they are amazing.

8. Juliana Hatfield, Los Angeles, 1995

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What a Life (live on 120 Minutes) :: Juliana Hatfield
(same year, no videos of the tour)

Juliana at the Roxy. It was Summer and hot as Hell in the crowded venue, but we could get right up to the stage to see and hear her play. She was incredible. This was the show I met someone I would date for a few months, someone who would go off to make a movie just after the Summer ended, which would ultimately be the end to our short-lived “something”. We had a lot of fun together in those months though. It was never love, but a lot of mutual like and attraction, and my own version of a Summer fling. It made this show all the more memorable, but even without it the gig would be in my top favorite list.

9. Ryan Adams, Los Angeles, 2008

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Wonderwall (live at Royce Hall) :: Ryan Adams

One of two covers that night, Wonderwall brought tears streaming down my cheeks; his take on the song was so stark and vulnerable, and just beautiful. The music was gorgeous, emotional, raw, and just flat out amazing. And amidst all the beauty and awe of the music, there was the sheer wit and hilarity that is Ryan’s onstage personality. His random rambles of conversation were the kind of thing that you have with friends you have known for years, sitting around a room and talking circles around everything and anything – all of it making the concert all that more personal and intimate.

10. Aimee Mann, Chicago, 2006

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Mr. Harris (live in Chicago) :: Aimee Mann

I have seen Aimee play six times live, but the most memorable was the acoustic set she performed for the show I caught in Chicago while visiting a lover at the time during Valentine’s Day. She sang an acoustic show of stripped down versions of so many of my favorite songs. I remember it feeling so intimate, sharing an artist I loved so much, the two of us sitting close, hands held and kisses exchanged, me whispering to him “that’s my favorite“. I am to blame for the end of our relationship, both times we tried actually, but I like to think we had some good times, and memories together – for me, this was one of those cherished memories.

11. Counting Crows, Indiana, 2002

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A Long December (live) :: Counting Crows
(not the show I was at, but the same tour)

I drove from Michigan to Indiana and back again after to meet up with a good friend and see this show. We had dinner at a tiny Thai place before, and the band was there, too, having a pre-show dinner. We watched from our table, but none of us approached, as it seemed intrusive. The show was incredible, my first time seeing them live. We were seated close to the stage and there were moments when I felt that Adam was singing right to us. It was a university venue, much smaller than the video above. I was exhausted the next day at work, but it was so fucking worth it.

12. Concrete Blonde, The Troubadour, 2012

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Bloodletting (live, 2012) :: Concrete Blonde
(not the show I was at, but from same tour)

That night at the Troubadour, seeing Concrete Blonde and Johnette for the first time ever, I felt saved, and I was glad and grateful for the experience. Crammed to the very front of the Troubadour (oh the Troubadour, I could write volumes on what this venue means to me) with close friends of mine, the music enveloped us, overwhelmed us and lit us up. We kept looking at each other, throwing our hands in the air and opening our eyes impossibly wide, an unspoken “this is fucking amazing” passing between each shared glance. (Full gig review here).

13. The Bangles, Costa Mesa, 1987

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Walk Like an Egyptian/Walking Down Your Street (live, 1987) :: The Bangles
(I think I was at this MTV recording, too, but that isn’t the show I’m listing)

One of my best friends and I saw The Bangles at the fairgrounds in Orange County, close enough to the ocean that you could taste the salt in the air, and feel the cool of the breeze even though it was late Summer. We would see many shows together, but this is the one I remember the most from our teen years. We will be seeing The Bangles again this November, at The Troubadour.

14. Ryan Bingham, Los Angeles, 2012

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Never Far Behind (Live, 2012) :: Ryan Bingham

I got to know Ryan’s music, and Ryan, around the same time I saw him play live for the first time, for his first album made from his newly (at the time) formed label. I was blown away by his talent, and his sincerity, as well as his gift of storytelling. Seeing him live was phenomenal, a precarious balance between rocking the house down, and intimately pulling as all in close.

18. Lilith Fair, Del Mar, 1999

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Lilith Fair Jewel, Sarah Mclachlan, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Meredith Brooks, Shawn Colvin
(not the show I was at, but most of the artists above were at the San Diego/Del Mar show)

I went to all the 90’s dates of Lilith Fair when they came around, and each and every one are filled with memories and meaning to me, but the ’99 show in San Diego was my favorite. Part of this had to do with the people I went with, a group of friends who met online and gathered together to meet-up be together, and also see an epic show together. There were also some huge moments that happened at the show that changed who I was and where I was going in life-altering ways (including a major break-up and two unexpected reunions). This was also the first concert I took my oldest daughter together. It was an incredible day.

19. Rilo Kiley, Santa Monica, 2007

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With Arms Outstretched (live) :: Rilo Kiley

If I could I’d transport myself to this show right now because I could really use the experience of Rilo Kiley’s performance. I wrote a lengthy, epic review of the show the day after – here is an excerpt that sums it all up (to me) and illustrates why it is one of my favorite live shows ever: Jenny Lewis’ voice reminds me of old Hollywood starlets, a Grand Ole Opry era Patsy Cline, and a streets of los angeles girl grown up with broken hearts and hard-luck stories tattooed in places hidden from a passing eye. you can just hear it, in all those hope(ful)less love songs and shake me loose but drag me back ballads that she has stories; and at this show I stood there taking them in, mixing them with my own, thinking that perhaps it is something hidden in the leaning palm trees, or washed up on the shore of the pacific ocean, that makes Los Angeles – and those from it – so beautifully broken and chaotically put together. She elicited all this strength that just crackled and popped off of her, and when she had us all holding our arms up, and singing along, for With Arms Outstretched I felt inspired, a little healed, and a lot less alone. She made me wish that I had learned to play guitar, that I had turned my words into lyrics, that I had run off and found myself a band to join.

20. Madonna, Anaheim, 1987

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Lucky Star (live) :: Madonna

We had crappy seats, but it didn’t matter at all because I was there with one of my best friends and we were dancing and singing-a-long, delighted in that adolescent dream of wanting to sing and perform “when we grew up“. I can close my eyes and see the two of us there, and it seems like a million years ago and just yesterday, all at once. We would go on to see so many concerts together – we still see so many together – but this was our first one – together. Madonna’s whole Who’s That Girl show was pretty damn fantastic, too.

11 thoughts on “My Top 20 Concerts & Music Festivals :: #MusicListography

  1. I love the way you tie life’s journey through the connection of a concert.
    Ryan Adams, Ryan Bingham and Rilo Kiley would all have to be on my top twenty as well. Jenny Lewis has one of the most captivating voices I have ever heard live and you are right she has the wisdom of the streets yet a voice of an angel.

    1. Yes, I agree on Jenny Lewis. She is so phenomenal and complex – Ryan, Ryan and Rilo – all such great live performers!

      How have you been? How’s the record store?

      P.S. I’ve missed you!

      1. Hey Girl, Thanks for the response and I have missed you as well and not reading your posts as well. You & I have always been on the same musical plane in our musical universe and trust me when I say that doesn’t happen very often with other people I share music with.

        You also had some of the best damn playlists I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. And I’m totally guilty in using some of them in picking out some of new artists in the store 😉

        I’ve been on this amazing merry-go-round called running a retail record store and thank god I have a passion for it or else I would be pretty damn tired as it has consumed all of my time and energy in getting it all up and running.
        Someday I just might make some money at it but either way it has been a fantastic journey.

        Hope to start blogging again now that the dust has settled, sure hope I can remember how to write again.

        Take care my friend,

        Rob

      2. I hope you start blogging again, I’ve missed you and your words and music.

        Thank you for the kind words about my playlists. I love music, so any compliment about music I share makes me smile.

        I want to hear more about your record store!!! What is the best part of it? What is the toughest part you didn’t expect? What is a typical day like? What’s a few of your recent albums you’ve stocked?

        Glad to hear from you/read you, my friend xoxo
        Laura

  2. I enjoyed reading these memories, you’ve some amazing shows! That you remember those nights so well & so fondly is so sweet, such a music lover.

    1. Thanks! Live shows, especially those I listed, are still such vivid and beloved memories of mine. I could have gone on and on, I think…I feel like I had to leave out some really great & memorable shows, but I am trying to keep within the “top 20” parameters.

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