Last Saturday I had the opportunity to shoot Blue Mesa when they played with my band at the Downtown Artery. I was particularly excited for this opportunity as the Artery has a really cool stage layout and lighting displays. Blue Mesa’s energy made it a lot of fun to shoot, and I was particularly glad that I was able to sneak in through the back to get some drummer shots. Blue Mesa really put on an awesome show, especially considering that this was their first performance after some major lineup changes! They definitely rocked it and I’m looking forward to playing or shooting them again!
In preparation for my top 10 list of concerts, I had some time to go study my spreadsheet of concerts and think about the worst concert I had been to. Truth be told, it would be difficult to come up with a “bottom 5” list, but easy to come up with the single worst concert…
The Black Eyed Peas w/ Pussycat Dolls & Flypside 
I quickly fell in love with the Black Eyed Peas when I heard Elephunk, and it didn’t take much convincing to buy tickets to this concert – but this became the only concert that I walked out of, due to distaste.
What started out as a strong hip-hop concert quickly degenerated into a solo showcase of each band member, as if the band was simply a platform to boost each member’s standing. Each member took turns doing entire songs that just featured themselves. I could understand if they took a solo in the song, or took it off into a tangent for part of the song, but there were points where the other members left the stage while
one person gratified themselves with their self-serving song. I’m not talking about singles from “The Dutchess”, I’m talking about the two guys who aren’t Fergie and Will.I.Am.
This show was right after Monkey Business came out, so you had two solid albums to choose from – yet the Black Eyed Peas found a way to only play 3 hits in the over-an-hour we were there. My wife and I were sick of being jerked around, so we left, right in the middle of the show.
My fuse probably wouldn’t have been so short if it wasn’t for having to endure the Pussycat Dolls, which was basically a gentlemen’s club without the brass poles – setting a great example for the crowd of pre-teen girls. Any curiosity to the question, “I wonder what it had been like to go to a Spice Girls concert” was answered by the Pussycat Dolls. My favorite part was the cheesy intros, as if any of us cared who any of them were (besides that lead singer Nicole, who possessed 97% of the band’s talent).
Top all of this up with Flypside, who made the crowd do wrist/finger pumps to 8th notes during Someday – there was no way not to look like an idiot.
So that rounds out the worst concert I’ve been to, have you been to one that’s worse?
This was previously # 3 on my 2005 list, but was a really strong contender. This was a last-minute opportunity to go see Red Rocks for the first time, to see a band that I had heard little about at the time (“Didn’t they sing that ‘Yellow’ song on the ABC commercials?” This show took my Red Rocks virginity away, and thus has a special place in my heart. It rained the entire time we were there, and not a drizzle, but it poured throughout the concert, but Coldplay’s intensity and passion made it worth it. An image from that night burned itself into my memory, that I still remember vividly: during “Clocks” they flashed a wide green laser across the sky over the crowd, which is cool enough on it’s own, but the pouring rain broke up all of the particles of light. I also loved that the band was courteous of their rain-drenched fans and basically had no pause before the encore.
#4: Better Than Ezra, UNC Ballroom, Greeley, CO 
We had conflicting plans for this night: either go see 311 for the 3rd time at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, or go check out Better Than Ezra – the guys who sang that “Good” song, and a bunch that I heard on the radio over the years. Bethany and I took a chance and went with Matt to see Better Than Ezra, and it almost topped my “Best Concert” list. There must not have been more than 300 people there, but Better Than Ezra played as if they were in front of a crowd of 10,000. I’ve been to a lot of “shows” put on by bands, but these guys put on a concert. The combination of great music, a band that had a fantastic stage presence, and the company of good friends – how could we not fall in love with every song?
#3: Five For Fighting – Acoustic Show, Bluebird Theater, Denver 
I fell in love with Five for Fighting when he opened up for the Goo Goo Dolls concert in 2002. The sincerity conveyed by John Ondrasik – in both the music and performance – really spoke to my heart as a fellow musician. I wasn’t originally big on acoustic shows, but this Five For Fighting show taught me to love acoustic shows. The Bluebird Theater is an incredibly intimate venue, and my buddy Fred and I got to sit in the 2nd row, basically 8 feet away from John. Every song was a story, and John told it in both words and song. The best part was that we left the show with my friends thinking that I must have known someone to get these ticks – to such an intimate show.
#2: Dave Matthews Band – Night 4, Red Rocks, CO 
I had a raw nerve when it came to my favorite band. They jipped Denver in 2004 when the skipped the city. I guess you couldn’t blame them, considering that a knife hit the stage when they played the Pepsi Center in 2003, but I was quick to forgive when they offered the olive branch of 4 nights at Red Rocks, and the $35 I spent on a Warehouse membership that enabled me to go not one but all 4 nights was the best money I had ever spent. From Friday through Monday, I made the nightly commute from Fort Collins down to Red Rocks, and experienced my favorite band in my favorite venue. The first night and the last night were with my sister, while the second and third nights were with my relatively new girlfriend (who is now my wife). The 4th night was a late-addition show, due in part to the demand, but also became a tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which occurred the week before.
My sister and I managed to get 3rd row seats, right of the center of Red Rocks. The setlist was killer, especially playing an awesome cover of Bob Marley’s Exodus, as well as an awesome edition of Louisiana Bayou, which had become an anthem in tribute to the Hurricane Katrina victims. This show was amazing, one of the two most amazing shows that I have been to.
(Still) #1: Dave Matthews Band, Mile High Stadium, Denver 
My wife wondered if Red Rocks would usurp this show’s ranking, and I thought long and hard about it, but decided ultimately that this was the best concert I had ever been to – in large part because the stars aligned for this concert. This was the first concert that I had ever been to, the third time I tried to get tickets to Dave Matthews Band (after being my favorite band for 5 years), and the fact that I was gifted with seats in Section A-1, Row 1, Seats 3 & 4.
48 hours earlier, I was coming home from doing mission work on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and had some life-changing experiences while I was there. I was still processing it all, but one thing that suck with me was being in a place of wilderness and peacefulness earlier in the weekend, only to be in a sea of people 2 days later.
Looking back at the set list, they played a lot of songs that they hadn’t yet recorded at the time, but ones that I have grown to love over the next 14 times I’ve seen them. To top the night of, DMB played All Along The Watchtower (which in itself was not unusual), but with opener Be Harper playing the solo on slide guitar (which was unusual an awesome). When Dave Matthews was playing his guitar riff before the solo, he came over to our side of the stage – and I swear – looked me right in the eyes. Awkward bro-mance/man-crush moment? Yes, but awesome nonetheless.
Oh, and I discovered the music of Ozomatli at this show, so all the more reason to make this my #1 concert of all-time.
So with that you now have my top 10 concerts – I would love to hear yours, and what made them awesome!
After going to the Muse concert last weekend, it occurred to me that it has been over 5 years since I’ve posted a "Top Concert" listing. Since 2005 I’ve been to 22 concerts, bringing the count above 40. I’ve mapped out the dates and locations, went through pictures, listened to the music and invoked the memories to try to put together my list of top 10.
Dave Matthews Band, Folsem Field, Boulder, CO  – Any concert that makes it’s way to a featured double CD is a good one. I remember driving down to this concert, experiencing rain the whole time. Wyclef Jean opened, and it rained pretty much throughout his show. Then he started playing “Perfect Gentleman” and the rain stopped. That was the first time I heard that song, but now whenever I hear that synth-string intro all I can think about is the sun breaking through over the Boulder mountains.
Queens of the Stone Age  – This was a fun concert, but it was especially memorable for only one reason – it was the first date with my wife.
Five For Fighting Acoustic  – Bethany and I experienced Fogo de Chao before the show – which is always a memorable experience. The show was intimate, and a really memorable experience, but because this wasn’t my first acoustic Five For Fighting show, I can’t put it on this list.
And now, onto 10-6:
#10: Spearhead & John Butler Trio, Red Rocks, CO 
You’ll notice that a lot of these shows on this list are at Red Rocks, arguably the best concert venue in the US. Bethany and I took my mom and uncle, so that my uncle could experience Red Rocks for the first time. Seeing two of my most favorite bands pair up for an amazing show at an awesome venue will always crack the top 10 list.
#9: Muse, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO 
The “live” introduction of a band that has quietly become my #2 favorite bands warrants a place on this list. If you want to see why it ranks, check out my post.
#8: The Police, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO 
I fell in love with the Police after high school and throughout the early 2000’s if I was asked “If you could go see any band, regardless of time period, who would it be?”, my answer would be the Police. In 2008 Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland made me put my money where my mouth is. The raw energy these guys portrayed, over 25 years after they were touring, was unreal. I also was introduced to Sting’s son’s band, Fiction Plane.
#7: Dave Matthews Band, Home Depot Center (LA), 
This was originally #5 of my 2005 list, but still relatively holds up over the years. This was the first time I traveled to see a band, to the beautiful beaches – no less. I’ve seen DMB 15 times, and this was probably one of the best set lists I’ve ever heard.
#6: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Fillmore Auditorium (Denver), 
Originally #4 of my list, this still remains one of my favorite shows. A big group of my friends went down to this show, many hearing their music for the first time. This was my first time seeing them live, but left me hungry for more. I also fell in love with the Fillmore, making this my favorite indoor place to see live music in Denver.
That does it for #’s 10-6. Stop back tomorrow for #’s 5-1! I’d also love to hear which shows are on your top 10 list, or even top 5?