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Sounding OFF: Ways We Can Better Appreciate Live Music

Most Memorable Concerts

Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column looks at some of his most memorable concert stories. 

We know that music is like a living, breathing organism that will adapt, sometimes even quicker than people themselves, and at its core is the ever-necessary “live performance.”

Not to diminish the copious amount of songwriters and composers who have written songs for others to perform. But, let’s just set the record straight… live performance existed well before people even knew how to read or write music in the first place. Much like the Grateful Dead would do centuries later, they would improvise, a skill which to this author is perhaps one of the key differences between a “good” musician and a truly “great” one.

In that spirit, here are a few examples of ways we can all better appreciate live music:

1) Never Let Cost Be A Deterrent 

There are free shows happening all the time. You just need to know where to look. Perhaps, one of my most cherished concert experiences occurred just after I graduated from High School, when folk singer-songwriter, the late Richie Havens came to my old hometown, of all places, to play a free concert at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. 

Havens walked onto the stage like a character out of the bible, he was dressed in robes and had a long gray beard stretching down below his knees. But the second that he sprung out his acoustic guitar and began to strum, it was as if the Woodstock festival’s lead-off musician’s voice had been kept perfectly preserved. At one point during his performance, he even talked about how artists in the ’60s would perform each other’s music, before breaking out his renditions of “All Along The Watchtower” and “Here Comes The Sun.”

2) Never Be Afraid To Get Close

A few of my friends will often argue the party is always better in the back. They may be right, but nothing really can compare to being up close and personal. You never know what will happen. Back in 2008, I drove up to Hartford, Conn., with my father, my brother and his best friend for Linkin Park‘s Projekt Revolution Tour featuring Chris Cornell, Busta Rhymes, and The Bravery.

My father, who also happens to be a longtime Soundgarden fan, found out before the show that Cornell was doing a special meet-and-greet with fans at a certain time, and we rushed over to be the first in line. But, his tour bus got stuck in traffic and he wound up running late, so they told us to head back to the table after the show.

During the performance, we were treated to something even better. Cornell, who happened to be celebrating his birthday, on July 20th, performed his Temple of the Dog classic, “Hunger Strike” with Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. Later, during a performance of “Black Hole Sun,” Cornell jumped out into the crowd just feet away from where we’re standing. We were just kids but weren’t afraid to get our hands dirty in the pit.

After the show, we rushed to Cornell’s tour bus through the pouring rain. We were given posters, which he was happy to sign, before being pushed back out into the rain. Sadly my poster dissolved before we got to the car.

Chris Cornell body surfing during "Black Hole Sun" (Hartford, CT 2008) [Photo: Marc Offner]

Chris Cornell body surfing during “Black Hole Sun” (Hartford, CT 2008) [Photo: Marc Offner]

3) Skip The Big Name Act… Why Not Go To A Smaller Show Instead. 

Before I tell this story, I need to stress that I am a really big fan of Outkast. But back in 2009, Guerilla Union invited some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop, such as NasDamian Marley, Wu Tang Clan, The Roots, Common, House of Pain, Reflection EternalK’naan, and many others as part of their annual Rock the Bells Music Festival.

Towards the end of the day, my friends hurried back to their seats to see Big Boi on the main stage. However, having seen his solo performance a few times in the past, I decided to wander off and check out Slum Village on the second stage nearby.

During the performance T3, Elzhi and Baatin performed such J Dilla produced classics as “Fall in Love,” “Get Dis Money,” and “Raise It Up.” They tore the roof off and at one point brought Pete Rock on stage. Unfortunately, as amazing as this performance was, it was the groups last East Coast appearance for some time. Titus Glover, aka Baatin, died on July 31, 2009, at his home in Detroit.

4) See A Band More Than Once

It may be expected of bands like Phish or Metallica, but go see a band perform more than once and you will likely see some differences in the setlist. Speaking of Metallica and Linkin Park… back when I was 15-years-old, my dad surprised me with two tickets to Dysfunctional Family Picnic at the old Giants Stadium in 2003.

Halfway through the one-day music festival, the sun was beating down as Limp Bizkit took the stage to turn the heat up even higher. Armed with a flamethrower, frontman Fred Durst, began running through the stands of the stadium, firing the flames up into the heavens as he continued rhyming. It was quite a spectacle. And fans really got riled up when they broke out a cover of Metallica’s “Sanitarium,” but they really didn’t get as much love for their rendition of The Who‘s “Behind Blue Eyes.” 

5) The Best Things In Life Are Free 

If a friend ever calls you up first thing in the morning telling you he has an extra pass to a music festival… never say no! Back in college, a friend of mine did just that and I got my but out of bed and rushed over to Randall’s Island for day one of Electric Zoo 2010. Although it was not my first experience with the burgeoning EDM scene, it was the first time I got to see The Chemical Brothers perform live.

The same friend who called me up that morning also signed me up for free VIP passes to Webster Hall. We were given 10 a piece, so I decided to use mine to see the Grammy Award winning UK dubstep act Nero and California beatmaker The Gaslamp Killer.

However, when I say that “the best things in life are free,” don’t assume this is an invitation to steal. But if you do ever happen to hear a story about two “nobs” who once ran off with Israeli DJ Borgore‘s hat while he was posing for a picture, don’t ask me. I don’t know them.

These are just some of many concert stories I have to share. But, don’t just take my word for it. Go out to a concert. See a local band. Make new memories. Support live music. And remember that music existed long before either of us and will continue to exist long after we’re gone.


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