(Claire: More musical memories, this time from friend-of-the-blog Rahnia Mersereau! Interested in seeing your First Show/Worst Show on the Charm City Jukebox? Click here.)
First: My dad is a musician, so it’s difficult to remember the details of my first show. The first live music I ever saw was probably one of his bands, and I would’ve been too young to remember. I have vague memories of shows seen as a child at house parties & at venues I was too young to be in, but the first big live music event I remember is seeing the Grateful Dead.
It would’ve been the summer of ’91 or 92, in Northern California, if my child’s memory serves. I saw them, to be fair, from a great distance. My parents were too poor/cheap to buy tickets to the actual show, so we hung out in the village outside. I remember certain moments very clearly — throwing up from dehydration, climbing a huge mound of dirt that allowed us to see over the fence and towards the faraway stage, meeting my uncle Ronnie for the first (and last) time, having an odd conversation with a young boy who thought girls should be able to wander around with their shirts off when it was hot, like he did — and the Grateful Dead playing in the background. I am, to this day, of the firm opinion that the Grateful Dead catalog is best deployed as background music. It reminds me of sunny breezes and warm green grass, ripe hippies and wafting marijuana. It conjures a nostalgia that is pleasant, not painful, which is more than can be said for much of my childhood.
Worst: My sister asked me to go a show with her at Wonder Ballroom in NE Portland. She presented it as me going with her to see We The Kings and whoever might be opening for them. I figured sure, why not, I could use a night out of the house. Upon arriving, I found that I’d been duped into a large line-up of terrible pop-post-punk bands. Here’s the line-up. If you can stand it, here are some videos from that night:
It was truly some of the most trite, uninventive music I’ve ever allowed to assail my ears. If that weren’t bad enough, the entire audience seemed to be 13 to 16 years old, plus their parents. I amused myself by watching the boy near the stairs who seemed glued to his father, but wanting to join the adolescent mosh pit forming near the stage. My sister and I pushed ourselves up and in, got carried away by the moving mass of bodies, moist with sweat and water tossed on the crowd. Normally, this sort of thing is utterly cathartic. I’d leave shows feeling relaxed, my ears pleasantly buzzing with new hearing damage. But for that sort of release, the Dionysian link to the sublime, you need something that taps into that part of you, that will let you surrender. This night left me frustrated, my ears ringing with terrible chord progressions and questionable musicianship.