They make us feel indebted
For saving us from hell
And then they put us through it
It’s time the bastards fell
A few days ago, or here if you’re on the Internet, Mr. Surf Report shared some of his memories of the recently dissolved R.E.M. I liked R.E.M. and was a huge fan for a couple of years, but I don’t have as many stories as Mr. Surf Report. One thing we do share, however, is the first time we saw R.E.M. I, too, was at the show on or around Dec. 8, 1985.
I was only a couple of weeks into my new job at the record store where I would eventually meet Mr. Surf Report. I don’t have proof, and my friends at the time won’t confirm this, but I suspect I was a complete douche who thought I knew everything because I now worked at a record store. Had I met Mr. Surf Report that night, I suspect he would have recoiled in horror at what a jerk I was. Maybe I wasn’t that bad, but I do know my present self has no desire to meet my 1985 self. Anyway, I’m glad we didn’t meet that night because Mr. Surf Report would have never worked at the record store once he saw me there and history would have been altered. I was probably still a douche when met, but I like to think my douchiness had been watered down.
My memories from the show are vague. I do remember the opening act–The Minutemen–was not well received. D. Boon–who was not a tiny man- was bouncing around the stage and had a lot of energy, but the band was not clicking that night. It happens. I like The Minutemen, but that show was a disappointment. Michael Stipe would later chide the audience for not being kind to The Minutemen, but screw him. The band was off that night. It might have been North Carolina, circa 1985, but we knew good when we heard/saw it.
As for R.E.M., I only have a few specific memories of that night. I remember the band opened with “Feeling Gravitys Pull” and I do remember some of the songs from the setlist being played, but I don’t recall the order. R.E.M. did play Television’s “See No Evil,” but I don’t remember it being the last song. I also thought D. Boon joined bandmate Mike Watt onstage for that song. Apparently, my mind is playing tricks on me with that memory. I also don’t recall “Tush” being played, so I can’t confirm that rumor.
Like Mr. Surf Report, I remember Michael Stipe upping the weird to 11 that night. I also want to remember him walking backstage in midsong, disappearing from sight, only to return a minute later. He never stopped singing during this moment and what he was doing is a mystery I don’t care to solve. Occasionally, you would hear a request for “Radio Free Europe” from members of the audience, but it never happened. Stipe eventually said the song would not be played that night. I also remember R.E.M. being louder than I expected and less jangly than on the albums.
It was a good show and I’m glad I got to go. I occasionally tell people I once saw R.E.M. playing in a high school auditorium and it is usually met with skepticism. Well, in the days before the Internet. These days, I have e-proof.
Mr. Surf Report and I did once attend another great show later (we attended others, mind you, but let’s stick to this one). It was a couple years after the R.E.M. show and it was at a little club in Greensboro that no longer exists. The band was called True Believers from Austin featuring the legendary (no, really) Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham. I really don’t have a lot of memories of this show and I won’t go into detail as to why my memory is so fuzzy. I remember True Believers opened with a cover of The Chantays’ “Pipeline” and it was a loud, very intense and excellent show. We were hanging outside the club after the show, giving it some time for the ringing in our ears to subside. The band, or at least a few members, was also hanging around outside and I told them how great the show was. I remember them being polite and thanking me.
Encouraged by their kindness, I proclaimed I wanted the band to play at my wedding. This got a few chuckles before one of them (and I’m going to say it was Alejandro Escovedo) said “Shouldn’t you check with your bride first?”
Mr. Surf Report, with his expert comedic timing, replied, “I don’t mind.”
This got a big laugh from the band members and was a perfect cap to a great evening.
Um, we never did get married if you were wondering. I don’t want to talk about it.
So, what about you, gentle readers? Have you ever seen in a big-time singer or group during the early lean years? Maybe you saw Led Zeppelin at a sock hop? Or Nirvana at a Bar Mitzvah? Or maybe even The Beatles playing at a shithole club in Hamburg? Share with us, won’t you?
Or, have you ever loved a band so much you hired it on the spot to play at your wedding? Or Bar Mitzvah? Let us know in the comments below.
As Brad mentions above, we met a hundred years ago when we were both employed at Peaches Records and Tapes in Greensboro, NC. Later, they changed the name to Peaches Music and Video, but I prefer the original moniker. In any case, Brad and I have remained friends, and his voicemail at work provided this classic, a few years back. -Jeff
My mom worked at UGA in Athens when REM was doing the bar scene, and she said that they were always a big topic at the law school. They became a very big deal to me a few years later.
I’m currently trying to relive my youth by listening to college radio again, but it’s frustrating the hell out of me. I heard an amazing song the other day, but of course they didn’t announce the artist or the song (that would be too effing mainstream) and Shazam didn’t recognize it. I emailed the station, and got no reply. Now I’m obsessed with hearing it again and figuring out what it was, so I’m stuck listening to the college station all the time, and a lot of the time it sucks.
Oh, and by the way, first for the first time!
Yeah, but it was a guest post. Like kissing your sister.
I don’t have a sister. I do have a brother, and this is Alabama, though.
Lee Harvey Ramone says
I once saw the Partridge Family playing in a dirt lot behind a laundromat in Mountrie GA. Y’know, before they hit it big.
Tipsey McChugney says
Wow, small world……I was at that show too!
Saw Springsteen play in St. Louis in the 70’s with about 4 other bands at a movie theater. The ticket price was $5.00.
Growing up in San Francisco in the 70s, I got to see a lot of great bands at the Mabuhay Gardens before they got big. The Ramones, Blondie, Elvis Costello, etc…AND I went to the Pistols at Winterland in 1079 (their last show….) Fun stuff.
Happy Tuesday, Surfers!
Tipsey McChugney says
…so you remember Crime, right? I used to know Frankie and Brittley before they passed.
1079… long time ago :^)
For the last 20 years my parents have lived around the corner from CBGB; their very literal neighbor (next apartment) was Joey Ramone! And I never took advantage of this, although I did see Joey in the hallway once.
Uh, that would be 1979….
I met Waylon Jennings at Camden Park in Huntington, WV ’round about 1970-71. I was 6 or 7.
He was friendly, I had no idea who he was; the guitar guy.
I saw Rainbow in Columbus, OH, and after the show we saw Richie Blackmore exit the building. We shouted, “het Richie, great show!”
He looked at us and gave us a thumbs up! We were stunned, stricken speechless. Everyone had heard what an asshole he was, but he gave us a thumbs up…and it was a thumb.
I had an exboyfriend who literally bumped into Billy Idol at the Pittsburgh airport. It was around 1980-something when Billy was in his heyday.
That’s it. That’s all I got….keep moving….
bikerchick…the Pittsburgh Airport must be a magnet for the stars…at least back in the 1980s. In the same era, my wife was in line at USAir behind Hulk Hogan!
My only claim to fame was selling a cup of soup to Norman Fell (TV’s Mr. Roper) back in the 1990s on a Washington State Ferry!
Saw the Police when they were starting out at a bar in South Charleston, WV with about 20 other people. Just three guys. Saw their Synchronicity tour and about 20 people on the stage with them. Preferred the scaled down version.
I know this doesn’t count, but I watched the Super Bowl in 2005 with Brian Johnson of AC/DC at my mother in laws house. He was kinda famous by then, though.
Okay, AWG….the AC/DC connection scores you the win on this one! Wow, that is totally cool!!!!!
I saw REM open for the Police in 1982, and again in 1987 at George Washington University. Both times they were great.
Have since seen them in huge venues as the main act, the early and mid 80’s version was best.
Ryan H. says
Okay, maybe they’re not a “great” band, like REM or Zeppelin, but I saw Maroon Five at a small club before anyone had heard of them. An energetic band on the rise, in a bar that held about 200 people who could stand inches from the musicians… it was a great show by an unknown band. Three weeks later, I saw them on TV, playing “This Love” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and the rest was history. It’s a show I’ll always remember as the one where I saw a big band before they were big.
Heh…my first “concert” was at a crappy college in the middle of nowhere back in the early 1980s. Hey, it was Steve Landesburg…but so what? He was pretty funny!
My daughter induced me to bring her to a Jonas Brothers concert back when she was 12. Of course, I assumed that the boy band was going to sell out the House of Blues in Cleveland, so I paid extra for tickets, then bought her lunch in the restaurant, which guaranteed front of the line, VIP access.
So here we are, at the start of Jo Bro mania…they had the Shania Twain tour bus…and MAYBE 100 scream little girls in attendance. Dismal start to what has become a phenomenon!
Fortunately, even with the prepubescent crowd, the bar in the back of the auditorium was selling beer, and I hung out with a half dozen other Dads whose wives made them bring their daughters to the concert.
Two years later, the Jonas Brothers phase had ended, and there was a concert in Buffalo that the same daughter “needed” to attend. How come it’s never the Mothers who have to do this chore, lol!
Anyway, the concert started, and it was hotter than Hades inside. I went outside to get some fresh air aka “sneak a smoke” and met the the headline band sitting out in front of the tour bus, dying from the heat and humidity…and smoking also.
Really nice guys, and we said goodbye after the the stage manager came out to cue them for their performance. They did several songs, then the lead singer took a short hiatus offstage to let the backup guy sing a song. I walked over to the lead, off to the side of the stage, and asked if I could bring my daughter over to get a picture of them. He was totally cool, and said, “Sure, bring her over!” She still has the pictures of her with him with his arm around her.
I also introduced her to the backup bands, and got pictures of them with her. For one brief moment in time, to her, I was the coolest Dad in the world. Nowdays, her friends think I’m really cool, which for some reason pisses her off to no end. 17 year old daughters…you can’t live with them, and you can’t kill them, lol!
My husband grew up in New Jersey and is a pretty accomplished bass player. So of course he was in a band. They played up and down the shore. One night, he was hauling his equipment out and another band was bringing their stuff in. Yep, it was an unknown Bruce Springsteen. They had a beer and a “smoke” and Bruce distinctly said “one day I want a band with a big horn section behind it.”
God, how I wish that was my story!
My husband also hung out with Jerry Garcia because a friend of his was an usher at the Filmore East. This was way before I enetered the picture. There is a 14 year age difference so while he was rubbing elbows with Rock Royalty, I was probably dissecting sentences and learning the friggin’ times table.
Tipsey McChugney says
I once sold an Icee to Jack Klugman. No wait, I might have dreamed that.
Tipsey McChugney says
My most common recurring dream features an arm wrestling match with Judd Hirsch.
Lester Bangs says
I saw REM in a shitty little club in the basement of Cameron Village mall in Raleigh, called the Pier, in 1982. Oddly enough, the show was videotaped: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fXdJ6syxLo
Lifelong fan, saw them on every tour. Clubs, theaters, coliseums and arenas, I saw them every place imaginable. Actually got the chance to chat with them in the Atlanta airport, early 90’s, just after their first MTV Unplugged performance. Nice fellers.
Phantom Railfan says
Saw a pre-Grammy and pre-critical acclaim Alison Krauss in Ann Arbor as the opening act for a bluegrass band called Hot Rize. She was about 16 or 17 years old and seemed really shy and tentative on stage. But at the same time she was clearly very talented and destined for some semblance of noteriety. She also played mandolin for about a third of the set, something I never her saw her do again in the dozen-odd shows of hers I’ve since attended…
Can we get past this whole R.E.M. thing? It’s getting pretty boring.
I saw Tool (with Failure opening) at Porter Hall in Carleton University on Feb 22, 1994 with a few hundred other people. I was a few feet away from them. It was an amazing show, back when MJK stood in front of the band. I still have a copy of Failure’s demo cassette that I caught that night.
I saw Nickelback at Zaphod Beeblebrox, a bar in downtown Ottawa (also where The Rolling Stones shot their “Streets Of Love” video), with about 50 people sometime around the fall of 2000. Eighteen months later, I saw them headline for 30,000 people at Edgefest. Then they started making the same album over and over again (aka AC/DCitis) and I lost interest.
T. Farty McAppleass says
Saw weird al yankovic buying a whole goddamn cart full of raw turkey at a store near Abbott, TX years ago.
Bill in WV says
I saw these guys who called themselves The Blues Brothers in a way-out redneck joint called Bob’s Country Bunker, back in the late 70’s.
Tipsey McChugney says
I think that night they were billing themselves as the ‘Good Ole Blues Brothers Boys’
I heard those boys play both kinds of music. Country AND Western.
Bill in WV says
Yeah, we were pissed. They couldn’t remember The Wreck of the ‘Ol ’97 and people started throwing shit at them.
It sure wasn’t any damn Hank WIlliams.
Here goes. So, UCLA circa 1964 and my girl friend (later spouse) was junior class secretary. And every year, the jr class would put on a show in Royce Hall. So, a couple of us convinced the jr class officers to hire……Bob Dylan.
I saw 30 Seconds to Mars when they were still hand-printing their own T-shirts. I always thought Jared Leto had more money than that. Apparently “My So Called Life” wasn’t a big money maker. They opened for Sevendust at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, NH. I did get to meet Sevendust after the show, and I got a free Cutty Sark t-shirt. It pays to know the booze promoter girls!
I love Sevendust. I met them at the K-Rockathon at Oswego Speedway in 2002. A kick ass band and a great bunch of guys!
Sevendust, System of a down and Snot are family here.
No REM here, sorry.
I did see Talking Heads in 1980 or thereabouts, when they toured in support of the new ‘Remain in Light’ album. TH was a well-established successful band by that time – 4th album IIRC. But the opening act was this obscure band called The Psychedelic Furs, who had some small success later on. Kick ass show BTW.
Most of the bands that I saw when they were unknown, remained unknown, e.g. Pat Metheney and Arthur Blythe. More recently, Vector; even more recently, Orange Tulip Conspiracy. Never got to see Charles Mingus or Stevie Ray Vaughan, and now I never will.
AND – I have tickets for Tower of Power for Nov. 21; I can hardly wait. This is going to be awesome.