Post Magazine: Memoirs of a Music Man
Monday, August 29, 2005; 1:00 PM
For four years, David Segal got to see all the biggest pop stars from the best seats in the house. But what he was really looking for was the spirit that made rock-and-roll so unpredictable in the first place. He rarely found it. But when he did, it was sublime.
Segal, whose cover story "Is Rock-and-Roll Still for Real?" appeared in yesterday's
David Segal is a staff writer, based in New York, for The Post's Style section. He was the newspaper's pop music critic from 2000 to 2004.
David Segal: Hello. I'm Dave. Thanks for joining me. I write to you from downtown Duluth, Minn., in the public library. Nice people up here. Very friendly. Even the cop who pulled me over for speeding (86 in a 70 zone) could not have been nicer about it, even as he handed me a $137 ticket. I was in a bit of a rush. To get here and chat with all y'alls.
I used to do this sort of thing twice a month, back when my regular gig was rock criticism. So forgive me if I'm a little rusty.
Enough intro. Let's play the feud!
Dulles, Va.: So what did Nick Lowe think of the Post's newsroom?
David Segal: The caller, for those who haven't read the mag piece, refers to a moment that I whisked Nick Lowe around the newsroom, right after he told, over a Chinese lunch, that he would have become a journalist if this rock thing hadn't worked out. So I said, why not come and take a tour of the Post. He really liked it -- and better than that, the newsroom really liked him. A little crowd in the Style section formed as he strolled around. A friend of mine, Mark Leibovich, shook his hand after I introduced the two. "You just made an American squirm," Leibo said. Lowe had a good laugh. I did, too.
Brussels, Belgium: Yo, David!;
An old friend here. Nice piece about your experience as rock critic. Quick question:
The missus and I are thinking of going to Vienna for a White Stripes concert in October. Given that there would be flight, hotel, and ticket expenses, would TWS provide us a good opportunity to experience a true rock-n-roll moment?
Sure, it's no slam dunk, but are Jack and sister-slash-ex-wife Meg more likely than most to produce such a moment? The guy's a little off his rocker, right? Or is it just an act?
David Segal: I think it depends on the venue. Those two, if they showed up at some smallish joint, would change kill. But I saw them at some big venue in D.C. last year and I though I totally adore the band, I was mostly unmoved. It's just too much to ask of the guy (and Meg) to carry that much of a load in a room so vast. Great music, but the show -- so so.
Vienna, Va.: David:
Loved the article and not just because we have such similar tastes in music (you can't believe how jealous I am to know you had lunch with NICK LOWE!). As 47-year old man, I have had a resurgance of interest in music in the last few years, because of technology (software that enables me to clean up and digitize my old vinyl, homemade CDs, iTunes/Musicmatch, XM radio). I'm listening to more new artists now than I have in probably 15 years. Have you gone through a similar change?
P.S. Have you heard CC Adcock's song "Stealing All Day?" Killer tune.
David Segal: That's one of the great paradoxes of the current panic about digital music. The reality is that more people are listening to more music than ever in history, because of how easy it is. The tough part for labels is figuring out how to turn all that listening into money, in an age when the most efficient medium for trading is a bit of software that you can e mail or download in a jiff. I, too, am listening to music more than ever. Two words: iPod.
Gaithersburg, Md.: Here's my LCM...I'm 14 and live in Philadelphia. My 16 year old cousin, a huge Springsteen fan, calls me up and says she can get 11th row tickets to see Springsteen the next night at the Spectrum. The thing is that these are $10 tickets and the guy selling the ticket wants $15.
I told her to get the tickets. It was the greatest live concert I ever attended. My LCM was halfway through the show when Springsteen yells out to the audience, "Do you want to hear Kitty's Back or The Fever?" People are yelling the names of both songs, so he says, "Alright, we'll play both." and they do. It was the personal interaction with the audience of 20,000.
I agree that spontaneity makes an LCM. When Springsteen sees someone in the audience holding a sign asking him to play a certain song and he does, my friends and I call that "calling an audible."
David Segal: Great one. I took my mom to a Springsteen show a couple years ago and it was the first time she'd seen a real rock concert. I think her hardest night of rock till that moment was Kenny Rogers. And her mind was blown. By the time that Springsteen turned up the lights and played Born to Run, you could tell that she would never be the same. Well, that overstates it. But she spends an awful lot of time in that '68 Chevy she bought right after the show.
Vienna, Va.: Dave, I just wanted to say I loved your article. I am the same age as you and like you, I spent most of my twenties spending my free time and disposable income going to shows at the 9:30 Club and other places. My fondest memories are of the spontaneous moments that were unexpected. Like when The Smithereens were at the Bayou and ran out of songs to play but didn't want to get off the stage. So they took requests, and played Motown hits and children's songs.
Now going out to hear live music is a bit harder, since the cost of babysitting for my 2 and 5 year old rivals the costs of the tickets. But we take the kids to family-oriented concerts when we can to get them excited about music.
David Segal: This just proves it: children are the enemy of rock. Look, you can either procreate, or you can rock, hear what I'm saying? Get your priorities straight, for the love of cheeses! My advice is to immediately give away your children for medical experiments, bank the proceeds and then catch every live show you can. Just a thought. Don't rush into it. Just a thought.
Richmond, Va.: Great piece, both rich in information and heartfelt.
On reflection, the great concert moments you mention are essentially theatre- experimental theatre in the case of Tilbrook, but still theater.
Most of the time final product is just the digital glacier of the recorded songs embedded with little bits of picked up along the way. Each little bit of new business that works gets frozen into the lumbering mass.
The living moments of musical greatness, alas, seem to be few and far between. It can still be found- Sonny Rollins, for example, on a good night. For all their drug-induced tail chasing, the Grateful Dead used to at least try for improvisational transcendence.
But looking for signs of artistic life in stadium rock is like looking for virgins in a brothel. The best you can hope for is a convincing illusion.
David Segal: I sort of like that brothl line. I wish I thought of that. It's really quite true. It's just nearly impossible for a group to project the sort of energy and charisma and sense of moment over that many acres. It doesn't happen. Or it rarely happens. Springsteen can in fact do it. Which is basically a miracle.
Ashburn, Va.: Great article. It's a sad state when bands cannot even be counted on to talk to the crowd in a spontaneous and original way each night. They need to have everything scripted, right down to the jokes and "bantering" they do between songs.
There are some bands,though, that remain fairly fresh throughout their tours - Pearl Jam for one. They always vary their set lists from night to night and I've never heard them repeat the same between-song banter (listen to their live bootlegs, for example). They are one of the last truly great live bands that really treat their fans well.
David Segal: Pearl Jam put out something like 50 live albums a few years ago. Remember that? Those guys have nerve. Or maybe just a really savvy marketing dude.
Washington, DC: I so enjoyed your article. For me, much of the joy is the moment of discovery of true talent. To go hear a guy play guitar and end up mesmerized by Danny Gatton or to hear about a local singer and experience Eva Cassidy for the first time are the moments I treasure.
David Segal: I saw Gatton once, years back, soon after I first landed in D.C. It was just a freak show. I mean, that dude played so well, you simply had no idea what he was doing. Reminds me of a comment that Neil Young made about watching Hendrix. "I couldn't learn anything," he said. I know what he meant. Gatton was at some celestial level where it just didn't help to try to figure out what he was doing, because he was doing it in a way that didn't make any kind of conventional sense, or so quickly that there was no way to reproduce it. I remember that for a finale he played with a beer bottle, which was overflowing because he'd shaken it up. Very show biz. But wonderful, too.
Alexandria, Va.: I was at that Metallica concert and I missed the guy on fire despite being right there. That was my first concert and it really didn't wow me. I went to a couple more arena shows before giving them up. If you don't get free tickets it's just not worth it.
Do you still pay to go to shows? Do you worry that you might skip a great concert because it doesn't sound like it would be good?
David Segal: It'd take a lot to get me to an arena show. I think your best bet is to find some up and coming band before they get large and catch them at a small venue. I mean, U2 toured in teeny clubs during their first tour. I bet that was amazing. Ditto the police. And there are bands out there now that get buzz and deserve it and they're playing modest venues, trying to work their way up.
Herndon, Va.: Great concert moments happen everywhere. The trick is to avoid shows where they're unlikely to happen. That doesn't mean I won't go to those shows - I go to at least 100 shows every year and still have my favorites. There's no way I won't be going to see the surviving members of Queen with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company at Meadowlands in October, scripted or not.
The Grateful Dead aren't the only ones who keep fans guessing with a different set every night - almost every jam band does it (think Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident) and plenty of others (Tori Amos, Barenaked Ladies).
Personally, I've seen that Green Day stunt a number of times and don't care for it too much. I think you should add U2 and Paul McCartney to the list of shows like Springsteen - I know they aren't changing the sets too much on any tour, but I walk out of there on a high.
But as far as getting fresh and new and cheap - you can't get any better than local bands. I've spoken recently with members of eddie from ohio, The Getaway Car, and emmet swimming, and they were all down to earth. Speaking of moments, one of my favorites was at a Getaway Car show at Jammin' Java. The power blew out during "Kingdom Crumbled", and the band immediately turned it into and acoustic audience singalong, then started the next song acoustic, smoothly bringing in the rest of the band when the power came back on.
David Segal: Excellent moment, that one. It reminds me that I saw a Foo Fighters show a year or two ago in which the power went out and poor Dave Grohl had to improvise while his roadies tried to figure out what had gone wrong. Someone yelled "Freebird!" and Grohl said. "Are you kidding? That [expletive] is hard!"
Herndon, Va.: Hi David: Back in the early 90's I took my mother to see Paul McCartney at RFK as a 50th birthday present. Being a child of 80's music, mostly punk, metal and the like, I wasn't real keen on seeing McCartney, but hey - it was for mom. To this day if I hear "Hey Jude" on the radio, I am instantly taken back to that hot July evening when my mom and I and 50,000 other people sang that song together as one voice. That's the only concert I've been to that stick in my head like that...that's my LCM.
David Segal: Pretty great. Thanks for sharing that. I've got another rock moment that is parent-related -- with my dad at a show by a local guitar hero name of Young Neil. I don't think my dad cared much for Neil, but that guy could make his guitar sound like a train and it just knocked me out. I have a flash bulb memory of that moment that I think I'll carry around a long time.
Annapolis, Md.: Is rock spontaneous? I thought so until I was about 8. Absolutely NOT. A friend of mine went to two back to gack Grateful Dead concerts, and was flabergasted to see two EXACTLY -- and I mean EXACTLY the same show. Probably the most non-spontaneous is the CSN - who so over-produces their concerts tht it's like looking at a video. They're not even very good at ACTING sponteneous. The Stones -- I saw them in the (then Civic Center) in 71 ($12/ticket). Jagger was bumbling about busting a button on his trousers "Ya don't want my pants to fall down, now do you", only to see later that he did EXACTLY the same thing in New York, exactly the same words.
David Segal: Tragic. Hilarious, too. You get the sense that there's a lot of patter at just about any show you attend. That's one reason -- another reason -- I love Guided By Voices. Lead singer Robert Pollard never says the same thing twice. To the point where he actually has released an album of between song banter. I'd share the name of the album, but it's obscene. Robertpollard.net has the details. Don't share with the kiddies.
Syracuse, NY: As a decade-long D.C. resident, I immensely enjoyed David Segal's article. I was at that 1997 Metallica show and, though it took my friends and me a minute to catch on to the fact that the roadie did not really spontaneously combust, we enjoyed the cheesy spectacle just that much more. And great Live Concert Moments are still to be had!; Like when Phish, playing Merriweather Post Pavilion, burst into the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" during an encore, sending the (admittedly) substance-enhanced audience over the top. Or when I managed to get my picture taken with the Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. Or when Radiohead (along with Pulp and Michael Stipe) played a surprise late-night show at the 9:30 club after ligtning canceled the first day of the Tibetan Freedom Festival at RFK. Or when Ani DiFranco, opening for Bob Dylan at Wolf Trap, did a spot-on impression of the incomprehensible legend before launching into a cover of his "Most of the Time" (something of an opening act no-no). Or seeing Richard Buckner at Iota with a standing-room-only crowd so quiet you could hear people talking out on the street. These moments may be rare, but they are still there at the end of the concert rainbow. Thanks for a great walk down memory lane.
David Segal: Uh, I think you should have written this piece. You have more and better memories than mine. I'm jealous.
My Moments: From Six Flags in MO: Dwight Yoakum a week after 9/11. Wasn't that great a show by his standards, but surrounded by cops on stage, he delivered something we really needed.
Less dramatically, Caravan of Dreams (100-seat nightclub) in Fort Worth: Los Lobos closing with "Cinnamon Girl" and something from Black Sabbath after an audience vote was split. Rehearsed, yet vaguely spontaneous too.
David Segal: Good ones. I went to a diner last month with a buddy of mine and we sat next to Dwight Yoakum. That was sort of a rock and roll moment. Not really. But it was pretty damn cool.
Amen to the small venues: It's not just rock shows, either--I caught one end of a Yoakum tour at Wolf Trap and the other end at George Mason's gym. Gues which one was brilliant and which one not so much?
My concert moment was seeing Junior Brown opening for the Mavericks at Wolf Trap...In ten minutes we went from "who's this goofus?" to "this might be the best guitarist I've ever heard."
David Segal: I was there! I remember Junior Brown and he did indeed tear up the place. He was unbelievable. I'm not sure I want an album by the dude, but he something to watch. And the Mavericks -- they weren't half bad either.
Fairfax, Va.: My husband and I had just been debating a topic in this vein the day before your article appeared. We wondered what artists/songs from today will endure--for example, what will be playing on the "classic rock" stations 20 years from now? Are there any Bruce Springsteens out there for today's generation? It seems to be an endless parade of one-hit wonders. Is this a reflection of an increasingly limited attention span on the part of listeners, or a decreasing quantity of talented musicians? Do any of today's bands have staying power? I can't imagine we'll ever see another Elvis or Beatles. Thanks.
David Segal: We'll never see another Elvis or Beatles, that's certain. But there are artists today that mean as much to fans today as those acts did to fans of yore. Eminem for instance. That guy is a total genius. His music will be around for a very long time. I mean, you can imagine a classic hip hop station that plays lots of Eminem, Jay-Z, some 50, Missy Elliot and so on. Those are all people who won't appeal to the typical Elvis fan, but they'll most likely endure because they have had the sort of deep, abiding impact that eventually turns into nostalgia, which eventually turns into radio programming.
As for classic rock? Harder. There's so little rock on the charts these days, and if you ask kids about Tom Petty they'll give you blank stares. I fear that the bands with the biggest followings in the last few years, as far as guitar-based rock is concerned, are those deadly earnest and hopelessly silly groups like Staind and Korn. I don't know if they'll survive the ages, but I sure hope not.
Columbus Ohio: Great article. I loved the dissection of the perfect concert moments. What I found interesting, however, was your continued admiration for certain older-era musicians. While you didn't scoff at -all- younger acts, I noticed your love of Costello, Lowe, Tilbrook, etc. shone through over the newer stuff.
Do you think that we all, at a certain age, stop really liking new music from new artists? I turn on the alternative radio and hear a hundred Gang-Of-Four wannabes (Arcade Fire and their clones), and then end up buying only new music from The Church and The Finn Brothers. I find a scant few newer bands (The Decemberists, for example) that don't sound completely irrelevant. Is it age, or is it the musical tides of this decade?
David Segal: I actually do enjoy a lot of new bands. I mean, I think there is some astoundingly good music being made today and I'm not one of those rock lovers who thinks that the good old days of music are over, or that bands just aren't as good as they once were. Case in point: the Fiery Furnaces. Them guys is brilliant. Check out Blueberry Boat. It's captivating. Ditto for a lot of hip hop. Like Missy Elliot and C-Lo Green. Mr. Green has been tragically overlooked, as far as I can tell. He's a genius.
This Charm City Man: David-
Your piece immediately launched discussions about favorite Live Concert Moments. What a nice way to spend a Sunday.
I've been going to shows for three decades, and I used to worry about getting too old for that sort of thing. It doesn't help that my favorite concert companion is much younger. But everytime I go into a club I play a little game: find the guy older than me. The great thing is, it never seems to take all that long. It turns out there are scores of us still seeking Live Concert Moments even as AARP prepares to interest us in membership.
One recent Live Concert Moment came after a terrific but sparsely attended Chris Stamey/Steve Poltz show at the Ram's Head in Annapolis. After the show, I told Poltz that I was sorry the show had been so poorly attended. He grinned and said, "Oh, but what a great vibe that room had." You know what? He was spot-on. If enjoying that type of energy is arrested development, I'm prepared to be booked and fingerprinted. Here's hoping that in your retirement as a pop music writer you are able to quietly return to the admirable civilian pursuit of the Live Concert Moment without that pesky reporter's notebook cramping your style.
David Segal: Stamey rules. I loved the dBs. It's so true that the odds of that impossible-to-define great vibe are far higher in a small venue. I caught a band called the High Strung at the back room of the Black Cat last year and they were really fantastic, and I'm sure some of that had to do with the intimacy of the whole thing. By the way, the band was featured a couple weeks ago in a fine This American Life story. It was about their tour, over the summer, of libraries. Kind of hilarious.
Chantilly, Va.: Hi Dave: Loved the line about you having more epiphanies at the Providence Civic Center than at Temple Emanu-El. Boy, can I relate to that.
Anyway, and I know many will scoff at this, but one of the best concerts I remember going to was seeing Loverboy at a small place in East Providence in either 1980 or 1981. This was when they were on the way up and Mike Reno was far from the fat slob he now is.
The opening act was John Eddy, who never quite hit the big time but is certainly no slouch.
Another great thing was that this was the first time I was at a club that showed music videos before the show. I remember Squeeze's "Tempted" and Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind."
The concert cost $4. I still have the stub.
David Segal: Nice.
Silver Spring, Md.: Your article asks "is rock still real" and proceeds to focus on the concert experience and its increasing lack of spontaneity and freshness. But isn't a bigger cause of concern the lack of fresh new music being written and recorded, this year and in recent years? I wonder if it possible that we have reached a point of diminishing returns: just as it is doubtlessly harder and rarer for Dylan or Paul Simon or Pete Townsend to sit down in their sixties and write another great song, having previously written hundreds of good/great ones, is it perhaps also collectively harder, after thousands of great songs during the fifty years we have had rock and roll, and countless musical innovations, to find any new ground to break? This leaves us, naturally, with style, attitude, and the recapitulation of old glories.
And speaking of Dylan, in regard to your comments about concert sponteneity, one of the interesting, unremarked aspect of his 1966 electric tour with the Hawks, considered by many to be the high-water mark of everything dangerous and wonderful about rock and roll, is how they played the exact same set every single night.
David Segal: You've described a real problem. It's true. Rock has been around a long time and it's crazy to expect innovation from something that is 50 years old. Truth is, the bands that are getting all the attention now are merely rejiggering elements that have been around for years. The Strokes are kind of Velvet Underground, a bit of Tom Petty and some Cars. I don't mean to say they're bad -- I happen to love the Strokes, but there's no way to say they are innovators in the way that the Velvets were.
This is one reason I spend so much time listening to hip hop now. It's fresher. There's more creativity there.
Washington, DC: David, Your article made me both laugh and cry--partly out of nostalgia--as a new mom at 39 it has been hard to continue my search for the LCM, and these days just don't seem the same as the 80s and 90s. Out of the 300-400 concerts I've seen (60 of them being Bruce), I wanted to mention two shows that come to mind. One of Bruce's greatest shows ever--the night after John Lennon died Bruce played (the Spectrum, DEC 9, 1980) for five hours (34 songs) and dedicated the night to Lennon. I can still remember every minute of that show. The other show(s) that comes to mind is any concert by Peter Himmelman. Thanks for making me realize we are not alone in the quest. -Caterina
David Segal: Thanks. I've never seen Himmelman, but I've heard a whole lot of excellent things about him. Whenever I discuss the website I've created with some friends of mine, jewsrock.org, I get an earful about Himmelman. He has a lot of fans. High time I bought an album and checked him out.
Germantown, Md.: Loved your article - I too have been in pursuit of the "moment" (or what I call the "wave") since the late '70's. When it happens there's nothing better - I agree, Springsteen always delivers! I don't know if you've had the chance to see Brian Wilson's Smile tour - but if you haven't, it's definitely worth a peek. Great musicianship and some of the sweetest "moments" I've ever seen. Thanks for the great work!
David Segal: Thanks. I missed out on the Smile tour, sad to say.
Severna Park, Md: Enjoyed the article, David, especially your closing "greatest Moment" of Glenn Tilbrook who's now gone solo after the sad demise of Squeeze and -- even more importantly -- the prolific songwriting duo of (Chris) Difford and Tilbrook.
Having been a HUGE 80's music fan with Squeeze at my number one spot, I have been so thankful for Glenn to have continued on as a solo artist who often frequents the US (and DC) area. I've caught him most often at the Ram's Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland in addition to the Iota and heard he did a great show at the Funk Box in Baltimore last spring. (Go to Glenn Tilbrook.com for tour dates, both solo and with his new band, The Fluffers. They kick some serious booty!)
The best comment I can add is that seeing Glenn solo almost as much as I saw him with Squeeze, has proven Tilbrook to be one of the most talented musical performers of our time with his innate ability to connect with his audience on a personal level while humbly exhibiting his (underrated) genius on guitar. All that and his vocals remain as crisp and pure as when we first heard him back in '79 on UK Squeeze. In an age of "Idols", live lipsynching and wardrobe malfunctions he gives my generation a refuge from the scam artists that pollute today's musical scene.
There is an independent film that was made about Glenn Tilbrook called "One for the Road" which documents his travels on one of his first US tours as a solo artist (website: www.onefortheroad.com). It has been met with favorable reaction in the many independent US venues where it's been screened so far, and is due for a DVD release in 2006. In the film, you can see Glenn embark on one of his now legendary gig walk-abouts you wrote of in your article. Having enjoyed many of these musical strolls at his gigs I can tell you he does them no matter what the size of the house, rain or shine. You should have seen the waitstaff at the Ram's Head panicking that we were all walking out on our bar tabs! But our fearless Mr. Tilbrook pie-pipered us back to our seats past the Annapolis P.D. where we closed the place, having had the thrilling chance to share a few more pints with him at the bar after the show!
Thanks again, David, for documenting what we Glenn Tilbrook supporters call "Feeling the Glenn-love"!
David Segal: Thanks for the tip about "One for the Road." I will definately check it out.
Chevy Chase, Washington, DC: David:
Great piece! You are so right about catching them on the way up. I saw George Thorogood at the Psychedelly in Bethesda in the early 80s. He duck-walked down the aisle...it was a momumental LCM. VERY up close. VERY personal.
That kind of connection is impossible in a musical hell like the Nissan Pavillion.
David Segal: Very very true. Nissan is kind of hopeless as a venue and not just because the parking lot is designed to trap you for hours. It's because it's vast and impersonal and everything about the place says it doesn't give a toss about music.
Arlington, Va: Hi David - I truly enjoyed your reflections on the past. However, I feel that what your seeking in terms of "realness" is plenty available, particularly in the ever-growing hardcore scene - something DC surely knows plenty about. I recommend you see Boston's hardcore greats, BANE live - it will definitely not be a waste of your time.
David Segal: You heard it here, people. I'll see ALL of you at the Bane show.
NYC: interesting story, david. but how could you omit prince, who is one of the finest performers of his generation? i've seen him live about 25 times, at venues big and small, and he's pretty regularly amazing. no other r&b or hip-hop cats on your list, either. i know you refer to yourself as a rock critic in the story, but you wrote about these other guys, too, and went to their shows. were none of them transcendent? just asking.
David Segal: You know, now that you mention it, I should have mentioned Prince. That guy is utterly mesmerizing and he did things at this show I attended that seemed to defy possibility. I was so knocked out that at one point, he laid his guitar on the ground and then slowly walked away from it, staring at it. I remember thinking, "This guy is GOING TO PLAY HIS GUITAR WITH HIS MIND." He didn't, but it says something I thought at that point that he could have.
Crofton, Md: David- First, I really enjoyed your article. I haven't been to that many concerts but one of my favorite spontaneous moments happened at the Black Cat 4 years ago. The Foo Fighters went thru their entire catalog in order but stopped to take requests from the 200 person crowd. Someone near me yelled out "Play the Who!". Dave Groehl played the opening chords to Won't Get Fooled Again and did the primal scream "Yeaaaaaaaahhhhh!" It sounded amazing and then he abruptly stopped and said, "That's some tired s#-$ isn't it?". Funny stuff although it would have been nice to hear them play all the way through. Good luck!
David Segal: Grohl might be the funniest dude in rock.
Re: "classic rock": As for the person who wondered what bands of today will be listened to 20 years from now, how about Radiohead, Wilco, Coldplay, Beck, Beastie Boys, etc?
David Segal: That's a good list.
Ellicott City, Md.: David: Fantastic piece ... you mentioned Cameron Crowe .. to us lowly readers, he surely was "living the dream" ... Rock critic marries one of the female pioneers of arena rock ... Nancy Wilson of Heart ... who were your big heart-throbs, if any .... ???
David Segal: I had a thing for Ms. Harry of Blondie for a while, and I went through a dozen plus crushes after her. I'd say now the woman fronts the Fiery Furnaces, whom I've already mentioned, is up there. I'll mangle her name if I try to spell it. Also, I love Mariah Carey. Ok, there I said it. I love Mariah Carey.
Rockville, Md.: David -- thanks for a great article. It's gratifying to know that I am not the only person over who still listens to bands like Korn and Marilyn Manson. I had an excellent concert moment back in the day when the Kennedy Center actually allowed rock bands to perform in the concert hall. I saw a double bill -- and I know it will be hard to believe this happened at the Kennedy Center -- of the Stooges and Mott the Hoople. When the Stooges performed, a bare-chested Iggy broke open some fresh stitches on his chest, then hopped off the stage and ran up the aisle, blood streaming from his chest while the audience pelted him with debris. Moments later, the Stooges looked around puzzled as their instruments went dead. It seems someone at the Kennedy Center panicked and ordered the power to be cut to get the Stooges off the stage. Shortly after that show, the Kennedy Center banned rock acts in favor of more refined performers. Nonetheless, I was proud to see a quintessential Iggy moment that for sure was not pre-planned.
David Segal: Fantastic!
I saw Iggy a while back and the most dramatic thing that happened was that he jumped into the crowd and lost his shoes in the audience. It was pretty funny. He was like, "I really liked those shoes."
Washington, DC: Loved your article--especially the bit about Guided by Voices, one of my favorites. Used to marvel at how Robert Pollard could drink so much without having to go to the bathroom. Do you think that "Live Concert Moments" come more often when you're seeing a band you've never heard of--and therefore have no expectations--or when you're seeing someone you know and love?
Ever catch the Flaming Lips? About 2 hours of "Live Concert Moments."
David Segal: Never have seen the Lips, which is a real hole in my rock education. I love the band. Pollard's bladder, you are correct, is a medical marvel. I can't explain it.
I think it's pretty rare that you have a moment with a band that you've never heard of. It really helps to know the music a bit. That said, the first time I heard GBV, I just about lost my mind.
Ashburn, Va/: Guns n Roses played at the Bayou and Hammerjacks back in 87 or 88, did you catch them at the time? They were absolutely on fire in those days and clubs like that were a perfect place to see them just before they moved up to stadiums and big arenas.
David Segal: I wish I'd been there. Lucky you.
Seattle, Wash.: Here's a Live Concert Moment that wasn't magic; it was scary. But it was memorable. Bow Wow Wow was opening for the English Beat at the Greek Theater in Berkeley (1982?), and some guy came out of the audience and kind of attacked Annabella Lwin, the lead singer. She disappeared from stage for about five minutes while the cops beat the crap out of the guy and hauled him off. All the while, the band continued playing its jungle-drummy kind of sound.
David Segal: Ouch. The only fiasco I can recall is the time Ultra Vox played this show in Italy and all the power went out. It was bizarre and kind of tragic because UV was a band that didn't do anything without electricity. They just walked off the stage.
Silver Spring, Md.: I'm 50, and I've gone back and looked deeply into some of the more alternative 60s bands, e.g. Arthur Lee's Love. These are bands that were overlooked at the time due to the huge amount of great music. Love, by the way, is touring again. David Bowie was touring up til last year. Any thoughts on 60s-70s rock making a comeback for younger listeners? I get a lot of compliments from younger folks who dig my David Bowie poster in my office.
David Segal: Bowie is amazing. What's amazing is that he's still is trying new stuff, still leading, still innovating. That's hard to imagine about a guy who's been at it for so many years. Bowie would have been the CEO of a really great company if he didn't want to be an artist. He just has that much ambition and that much charisma. I can't say the same thing about Arthur Lee, who I heard last year and who was doing his music of the 60s, without much by way of alteration. He was good, it just was a whole lot like listening to the album.
To Annapolis: There is NO WAY your friend saw two back to back Dead shows that were identical, it NEVER happened. Give us the dates and we'll check setlist.com to prove you wrong.
David Segal: Bring it on, dude. You've been called out!
Hollywood, Calif.: Hi David
I actually directed a documentary on Glenn Tilbrook which features Glenn taking the crowd on walkabout. ("Glenn Tilbrook: One For The Road" www.glennmovie.com) I was wondering if you could talk a bit more about why Glenn is such a special artist and why he and Squeeze aren't more popular! Do you think Squeeze should be in the rock and roll hall of fame? Thanks!
David Segal: Hall of Fame? Hell yes. If Loverboy is in the Hall of Fame, why not Squeeze?
Oh, wait, Loverboy is not in the Hall of Fame. Forget that. I think Squeeze is great. I also think that the Hall of Fame is not the ultimate measure of a band's excellence. I mean, the Sex Pistols are not in the Hall. Go figure.
Takoma Park, Md.: My wife lives to find ways to make me shed a tear and crack this crusty outer shell. She was successful last fall when, for my birthday she flew us to Chicago to see my biggest influence as a musician, Ian Hunter.
The former lead singer of Mott the Hoople rarely tours so she hooked us up for a show at a small club outside the city. He fronted a rockin' band and played old faves like "I Wish I Was Your Mother" as well as great new songs from his most recent album, Rant.
Admittedly, while the guy still fancies himself a "rock star" in a very British sense, my LCM came during the song "Dead Man Walking." The whole room was swirling with the steady pulse of a band rooted in the pocket and a singer belting out the fire in his soul.
The feeling was bigger than the tiem and space, bigger than life. So I turned to my wife and made sure she saw that tear coming down my cheek! Quite a birthday present!
David Segal: God bless, Ian Hunter. And your wife.
Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.: David: Welcome back - loved your article. Three examples to support your thesis: 1.First time I saw Pink Floyd, on Dark Side of the Moon Tour, it was an awesome, mindblowing experience. So much so that I ended up buying tickets for another show of theirs on same tour about a month later. It was virtually a note for note replica of the first, and for me it fell as flat as a pancake. You would not want to catch every night of their tour. 2. You exactly captured the allure of the Grateful Dead - some nights they were off, but if you waited for the next night, it would be an entirely different set list and a great experience. Some of the best shows I have ever seen. 3. Why I don't give up is that the live experience can can be entirely unexpected and come from unexpected places. Years ago, on vacation, we bought tickets to see Dwight Yoakum in Ocean City, not knowing what to expect. There was a cute country chick opening, who gathered much applause from the all ages crowd. Yoakum and his band came out, and rocked. After 10 minutes, the 70 plus and the under 8 great grandkids departed. The band cranked it up some more, and the 60 plus crowd departed. They cranked it up more and the remainder of the crowd stood and screamed during the rest of the set, and the bank responded with more fire. It was entirely awesome. Saw him several years later at WolfTrap, and it was like someone had neutered the band. None of the 60+ left - we did.
David Segal: Excellent examples all.
Re: White Stripes: I think you said it best when you quoted "Little Room" in your review of their big venue show last season. Saw them at the Greek Theater in Berkeley and while they are amazing, their music (if not their following) would be best in a smaller place. But, I'll take it where I can find it!; Merriweather Post here I come!;
David Segal: Yes, "Little Room." That's the song in which White predicts all the trouble an artist has when he/she gets too popular. Prophetic lyrics.
Chicago, Ill.: Thanks for the piece, which I just read on-line. Loved the graph about the 12-year-old drummer, Zack. Do you think that you are done with music journalism? Any change that as you go on you might turn to jazz criticism or even classical music.
David Segal: No. I know diddly about classical and I've never liked jazz. Actually, I'm hostile to jazz. Jazz kidnapped my sister when I was seven years old and nobody has seen hide or hair of her since. And until jazz sends her back, I'm sticking with the blues.
Salisbury, Md.: How about local bands? The Post and the Sun both seem to go to lengths to avoid covering them, until after they are dead, buried, and reunited.
Also, re: iPods et al.: does the lackluster QUALITY of the digimusak medium concern you? I think they are fun, albeit VERY expensive, if done legally, but the QUALITY is just UNACCEPTABLE for all but a teen's tin ears!
thanks for the article.
David Segal: Never been much of a high fidelity guy myself. In fact a lot of the music I like is recorded in basements on lousy equipment and there's something sort of mysterious and wonderful about it to me.
Silver Spring, Md: Well hello David. Remember me? It's Roxanne. I saw the article you wrote yesterday and decided I had to say something in this here chat. I'm 17 now and not much of an nsync freak anymore, but I don't take back ANYTHING I said! Good article, my mom was very excited that I was mentioned in an article in which Bruce Springsteen seemed to be the star. I had fun reading it.
David Segal: Hey Roxanne. Excellent to hear from you and glad to hear you enjoyed the story. Thanks for coming with me to the show and sharing your insights. And thanks for those heckling letters. I loved 'em.
Alexandria, Va.: I have to share my best LCM -- it wasn't surprising or unexpected, but on Paul Westerberg's tour before this last one, he'd let people up on stage to sit around while he played. I knew about it going in so I was poised to jump up at the 9:30 Club. I will always remember the utter thrill of sitting three feet away from him and watching and listening from that vantage point (and he gave me a guitar pick!). Afterwards, he signed autographs and posed for pictures on the steps of his bus -- the photo and my signed ticket stub are treasured belongings.
But just to show that it's not the artist, or venue, or whatever, Paul Westerberg played the 9:30 Club again this year, and it was a train wreck. I'd be happy to watch Westerberg wreck anytime, but after the transcendence of the last show, it was a real disappointment.
David Segal: Radical.
Washington, DC: OK, everybody else loved your article. It explained to me why I've not agreed with a single review you've filed in any show I've seen that you wrote about. Apparently, when you watch a concert, it is not about whether the singer can sing, the musicians can actually play their instruments, whether the music is good, or their lyrics intelligent, witty or clever. What matters is that it is spontaneous. So all these groups who can't sing, play an instrument or write a song get plugged, while groups who can do some or all of the above are dismissed. As if a theater critic thought the hight of theater was improv.
David Segal: Ouch. But thanks for sharing. I'm not sure the ONLY thing that matters to me is the sense of anything-could-happen, but it's up there. I think a concert can be really fun and exciting and interesting without that sense of who-knows, but it won't give me that LCM that sends a show into the stratosphere.
Hagerstown, Md.: My LCM is 1977 (???) outside of Washington, DC at the Capitol Center (the name's been changed since, but) It's the first concert I have ever attended, my older borhter and a friend takes me to a concert of Stevie Wonder. Tamberines, whitsles, and drugs all over (my brother lets me have neither)...Stevie Wonder does about a 1 hour show...just jammin'...jammin' suddenly his band leaves the stage...he is alone at a grand piano playing and singing "All Is Fair In Love" "You and I" and some other numbers I sit in AMAZEment...10,000 people or more in the place and all I hear is STEVIE. I am a professional musician today because of that LCM...I play piano.
David Segal: Excellent.
Fairfax, Va.: Great article. I have a LCM but not for the music or entertainment value. It was '86 or '87 at Lisner Audiotorium Echo and the Bunnymen were playing and in the first 45 minutes or so one of the amps blew and the faint light of the stage you could see a spark and a guy fall off the stage. Definitely not a staged thing. It took a while but they eventually finished the show.
I also remember seeing the Church at some place on Kalorama. It's a really big sound stage that they would rent out for show. I was able to get all the way to the front of the stage and they are really amazing artists. I remember the opening act was from Australia and has some guy on stage who danced like a maniac to every sone. I think it was Blue Airplanes.
David Segal: Reminds me that when I saw Santana a long time ago, a guitarist's amp caught on fire. I think it might have been planned though. Not sure. It certainly gave everybody a thrill and it made the guy seem like a hero.
Washington, DC: I love those moments in small venues where you think you've connected with the artist, even if you really haven't. Went and saw Hem at the Birchmere this past winter. I had been od-ing on their new album, Eveningland, during a particularly difficult time in my life. During their song "Lucky" I burst into tears in the crowd. After the show, one of the members of the band came to find me and ask me how I was doing and to make sure that the song had helped me get through whatever I was going through. It was beautiful.
David Segal: Wow. That's fantastic!
Dunn Loring, Va.: A few month back, my 4-year-old son had a real rock-n-roll moment at a Borders in-store performance by They Might be Giants (supporting their new kids' album "Here Come the ABCs"). He was totally in to it -- stood up the whole time, yelling, jumping up and down, giving the band the thumbs-up and going "WOOOOoooooooHoooo!". Thing is -- quite a few of the parents in the audience were having a similar reaction. Do you know of any other bands that have such cross-generational appeal?
David Segal: Only Dan Zanes, who had a previous career in a rock band, the Del Fuegos. Oh, the dude from the Wiggles, he was in Lynryd Skynryd in the 70s.
No. I keed.
Anonymous: First, three words for an always Live Rockin' Music Experience: Drive by Truckers!;
Also, sounds silly but saw the formerly defunct 90's band the Judybats a few weeks ago in Annapolis. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen because everyone really, really wanted to be there. The band was happy, the songs were great, and the maybe 100 folks there just couldn't get enough.
David Segal: Very true about the Truckers. They're a solid bet. And they work hard. Check 'em out, kids.
Washington, D.C.: Hi David, I'm one of those "roadies" you mentioned. I've been doing lighting for about 20 years now. Yes, nowadays,everything seems to be choreographed. But in a way it needs to be with all the technology people are using. Huge shows have alot of moving lights that need to be programmed. The design comes down to the band and the designer. So what people are seeing is what they, the band, want. Or what their management wants. I read a review of the american idol show. The comment that stuck in my mind was where was the production budget? I guess even when the designer tries to make it simple,to bring attention to the music (although I know some will say that's not music!) people still want spectacle. I have a few LCM's in my career. The one that sticks out the most was with Earth Wind and Fire at the shed in Raleigh. Typical day, but once they were on the audience, the sound, the lights and the band just came together. Yes, this show was programmed. But that night, everyone came as one. It was amazing.
David Segal: Great stuff. Those sheds are tough, so EWF must have pulled it all together that day. Thanks for sharing.
Like Bein' Stoned...: I have been to big concerts (Stones, Peter Gabriel), but the best was Cracker at Traxx in Charlottesville in '95 or '96. Small, packed club, everyone in the place singing "bein' with you girl's like bein' stoned..." at the top of our lungs. The lead singer, whose name I just blanked on (early senility is a sad thing) stopped and let us all finish the song. It was amazing.
David Segal: David Lowry. Dude rules. Good stuff.
GBV: Just want to say that Guided By Voices embodied rock and roll and I will miss their shows.
And that Andrew WK show was fantastic!; I'm 32 and it was so refreshing to see someone with NO IRONY rock like that.
David Segal: Did you notice that everyone else in the crowd was like, 12? I didn't care. That guy is superb.
Seattle, Wash.: I actually have an LCM from a U2 show -- it was early 1983, and they had started on tour to support "War." It was the San Francisco Civic arena, which seated about 5,000 and was two-thirds full. After an enjoyable set from The Alarm (remember them?), U2 came on stage. They were opening with "Electric Co." and Edge's wireless guitar connection wasn't working. So Bono says, "Anybody know any good jokes?" and pulls a guy out of the crowd to tell a story (they fixed the connection before the joke began)... but that instantly got the crowd on U2's side (incidentally, that show was 3 days before what became the Red Rocks video)...
David Segal: Fab. Thanks for sharing.
Washington, DC: Hi. I really enjoyed your article, but I'm wondering if your inability to find more "moments" while covering music for the Post wasn't somehow a result of the volume of concerts you attended. I've had the feeling you describe at most of the concerts I've attended, but I'm 42 and probably haven't attended more than 25 or 30 in my lifetime. I'll never forget most of them, however, from the Carpenters (when I was in fifth or sixth grade), to The Police (in college), to U2 (in my 30s), to David Byrne at the 9:30 Club a couple of years ago.
Isn't it possible that, in attending so many concerts over the years, you set the bar impossibly high?
Just a thought!; Thanks.
David Segal: I think you're on to something. And when you're a critic, one of the things you try to do, often, is realize that this isn't concert no. 246 for most people. But there's no way around the fact that my experience was profoundly different at that Aerosmith show because I'd seen dozens of concerts and the gal who thought that Steve Tyler had just grapped a random trapeze had not.
RE: jewsrock.org: As a Hebrew School principal, I owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for that site. I use it more ways than I can count!; I know this has nothing to do with your article but I just had to say thanks and keep up the good work!;
David Segal: Thanks a ton.
Silver Spring, Md.: Loved the article. Question on rock music in general. I feel that rock is sort of a gutteral and amateurish attempt and meant to appeal to one's more primal instincts. That's why I love it. I often find that as an artist progresses they seem to lose that "edge" that made them successful in the first place. I love the old Bruce Springsteen (greetings from Asbury Park) old Who (up until about "Tommy") and old Talking Heads, B-52's and U2. You think I'm unique in this thinking?
David Segal: You've got a fine point, actually. There's no question that a guy like Springsteen is going to write different songs and have a different attitude as a young and hungry kid than as a 55 year old multi-millionaire. I think it's why his album, Ghost of Tom Joad, seemed off to me. I just didn't buy it. It seemed like he was trying to channel the experience of poor people and he just couldn't pull it off. When you listen to Darkness on the Edge of Town he sounds like a hounded, depressed guy and it'd be hard to believe that he's anything else. It's the rare artist that can stay hungry and interested and undistracted enough by fame and family to keep an edge.
Annapolis, Md.: Glad you mentioned local bands - they're great to watch. I had an LCM at a bar once when the band launched into The Pretender's "My City Was Gone." The guitarist broke TWO strings, so the bass player and the drummer ad-libbed a rhythm solo while guitarist changed strings. Excellent.
And yes, I'm there for Queen + Paul Rodgers also.
David Segal: Nice.
Ok kids. I've got to go. Our time here is over. Thanks for asking these excellent questions.
Rock on with your bad selves.
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