Music

The good old days

Early concerts are formative experiences

There are two types of rock journalists: those who came into the business as compulsive list-makers, and those who became compulsive list-makers shortly after being asked to write their first-ever best-album, best-song or best-concert articles.

We feel the need to list and/or rank everything. Without lists, there would be no Rolling Stone, Spin or Pitchfork.

So, when I stumbled upon Songkick.com, this past week, I was hooked.

Songkick is a site that allows you to search bands from all over the world and a) plan when you are going to see them play live and b) list all the times you've seen the band in the past.

After you've archived a few shows, you get a timeline attached to your profile listing what shows you've attended, what bands you've seen and in what cities you've gone to concerts.

You'll find out the answer to burning questions like: Really, how many times have I seen Chixdiggit? Or, did I see more shows at the old Rev Cabaret or at Red's?

Of course, not every show has a listing; but it's easy to create one.

Funny thing is, as I started searching for concerts, I instinctively started inputting shows I'd seen over the last couple of years. That's obvious; those shows should be freshest in my mind. But, I was also inputting a bunch of shows from the early '90s, when I started going to concerts religiously. So, there were a bunch of searches from 2009 – '10, but also a bunch from the early 1990 – '93.

Nothing really from 1994 – 2007 until maybe my third or fourth visit to the website.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't as if I didn't see a decent show in that time; heck, I was once part owner of the Starlite Room—I have seen countless shows at the venue.

But, as good as any of the shows from that 1994 – 2007 dead zone were, they weren't formative concert experiences, like the first time I found myself in a mosh pit as the Dead Milkmen began with "Tiny Town" at Toronto's Concert Hall. Or when I nearly had my long hair yanked right out of my skull during a Mudhoney show in 1991. Or that time Buffalo Tom played so deafeningly loud in Toronto's tiny Lee's Palace, after following up the Smashing Pumpkins, who opened the show.

I can still recall those shows as if, cough, they didn't happen two decades ago. But, while they were outstanding shows, I have to think about when I saw Radiohead (Calgary, yes … Calgary). Was it the Archers of Loaf or Superchunk who my friends and I stood outside in line for hours at Calgary's Night Gallery to see? (It was the Archers … I'm pretty sure.)

That's the thing. Those first concerts you go to are like your first kiss. You'll probably do better later in life, but you never forget the first time. You remember the excitement of waiting for the band to go up. You remember when you actually pushed up to the front to get as close to the band as possible, rather than happily standing near the back, away from the sweating mass of bodies.

You may even remember how excited you became when a concert with one of your favourite bands was announced. The sweaty anticipation of trying to get tickets, or trying to worm your way on a guest list.

But there comes a time when that excitement wanes. It doesn't go away, but it's not like you have to see all of the opening acts, right?

So, for anyone reading this who is going out to your first show, it's gonna be one you will remember. No matter what. V

Steven Sandor is a former editor-in-chief of Vue Weekly, now an editor and author living in Toronto. 

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