(Claire: Andrew Luttrell—friend, co-worker from my music memorabilia days, and most importantly, Baltimore born and based musician with a new album, “Paint By Numbers.” Click here to check out the short film on the making of “Paint by Numbers,” and pick up your copy of the album here.)
First Show: In April of 1986, my older brother took me to see Rush at the Baltimore Civic Center. I hadn’t quite turned 13 yet, so my parents thought I was a little young to be going to an arena rock concert downtown without adult supervision, but I begged. I think Blue Oyster Cult opened. I don’t remember if we even caught any of the opening band because we were late.
I heard a lot of Rush music through the early & mid 80’s because my brother Bill was a huge fan – one of the only things we had in common – but it was a major thing. Years of hearing “2112”, “All The World’s A Stage”, “Permanent Waves”, and “Exit Stage Left” pouring out of Bill’s little Sanyo boom-box in my family’s very small two bedroom apartment had prepared me for this show. Having not yet been bitten by the Zeppelin bug till the following year, the jury was still out for me on Geddy’s voice – but I was so mesmerized by the tight, intricate, complex compositions those three guys were playing & writing, I quickly dismissed any uncertainties I had about the singing.
I also loved the narrative quality to Neil’s lyrics, especially in their late 70’s albums. Musically, I found their diverse and inventive time-signature changes to be extremely creative. I’d never heard anything like it. They had just released the “Power Windows” album, and the petite Civic Center seemed like a 70,000 seat stadium to me. The Three Stooges theme song into “The Spirit of Radio,” ” The Big Money,” a theatrical drum solo, a “2112″ encore in the company of 8,000 other nerds, and I was hooked. I saw them again every tour for the next 4 years, including once with my friend and bandmate Flynn – the other guitar player from my first rock band in high school. That 1986 concert opened my eyes to a whole new world of composed music. At the time, it made Rush my favorite band. However, they opened the door to so much other music for me – by 1987 they were no longer my favorite band, and for that, I owe them a great deal of gratitude. I still have a warm place in my heart for Rush and their music to this day.
Worst Show: The Spin Doctors. How I sat through that set without throwing up remains a mystery to me. This thing came to Merriweather summer of 1992 called the HORDE tour. It was a bunch of jam bands lumped together into a show. The Spin Doctors were in the lineup.
Here’s the deal: I had seen the Grateful Dead many times already since 1989, and I had just seen Phish for the first time in ’91 and again twice in ’92, so I guess I figured a concert at Merriweather called the HORDE featuring a bunch of jam bands I’d never heard of would be a good thing to do. I was wrong.
Here was the problem: Phish was really, really, really good back then. They wrote imaginative lyrics and very interesting musical compositions which intrigued me. So, naturally, I thought the whole wave of these new jam bands would be good too. Nope. That’s what happens when you assume. When the Spin Doctors hit the stage, I quickly learned the difference between a good show and a bad show. Sure, we could all say: “Ok, yeah, maybe the Spin Doctors had an off night”, but you know damn well we’d be lying to one another. Every now and then, I’ll be in a supermarket or somewhere and that awful pocket fulla kryptonite tune will play through the speakers. Ugh. It makes me itch.
It seemed like a ton of new, young, jam bands were coming out of the woodwork around that time, and many of them were just pop-bubble gum trash with no substance or depth to their music or songwriting, but people were “supposed” to like them because they thought they sounded like the Dead or something. That Spin Doctors Merriweather set actually made me question if ALL jam bands were that bad. A month after that show, I went back and saw Phish again just to make sure they were still good. And they were. They were still good.
Want to see your First Show/Worst Show on the Charm City Jukebox? Click here.