Once again, I hitch myself to Doomed to Rock's coat-tails and enter the realm of list making. Here are some of the best, most important gigs of my life.
Rush, Pacific Coliseum 1980
Fourteen-year-old me at my first concert, with Rush on the Permanent Waves tour. A shattering, otherworldly experience; the first collision between my limited self-perception and an existence more exotic, extreme, and intense than I could ever imagine for myself. I went home with my tour programme, ringing ears, and my rugby shirt reeking of dope and cigarette smoke. Again! Again!
Voivod, Soundgarden, Prong at the Commodore Ballroom, 1990
I can’t overemphasize the importance of this gig in my life. Not only were the bands either at their peak (Voivod) or ascendant and eager to slay (Soundgarden & Prong), but virtually all my present-day musical friends and collaborators were at this show. If it wasn’t for the bonding power of Voivod, my life would be a boring, drab thing at the moment.
Monster Magnet at the New York Theatre, 1992
I remember being really distracted the day of this show. I’d completely forgotten about it until my friend JR called, ready to pick me up. I think the lack of anticipation left me really vulnerable to Monster Magnet’s swirling space-rock assault that evening. The whole history of ROCK unfurled before me. Was it 1967? ’72? ’92? It could have been any era. Sandwiched between Paw and Raging Slab, they stole the show and prompted a personal epiphany regarding rock as a cerebral vs. visceral experience. An evening of flying hair, sweat and fists (none of which were mine).
Jesus and Mary Chain, UBC Thunderbird Stadium, Lollapalooza 1992
I remember a damp summer’s afternoon, with steam rising from the pit, and having pretty low expectations for these irascible Scots. But they came on and I was blown away by the strength and depth of their songs and their hollow-body guitars-and-shades look—unapproachably and unattainably cool. I knew them to be arrogant bastards, and based on this performance, they had every right to be.
Neurosis at the Town Pump, 1996
Man, I’ve never been so glad to be completely sober. My friend Smash and I bought tickets at the door and walked in blind, going on hearsay that Neurosis put on a good live show. Very true, as it turned out. Neurosis aren’t a rock band, they’re sensory overload, adding films, slides, and tribal drumming to their crusty/crushing avant-rock. Unbelievable that they could summon the will to pull something like that off every night on tour.
Sacramentary Abolishment in Edmonton, 1997
Hyped up by the unfathomable rage and fury of S.A.’s River of Corticone album, Smash and I flew out to Edmonton for this Halloween show that also marked the release of S.A.’s The Distracting Stone CD (their last before drummer Paulus left and the remainder of the band formed Axis of Advance). From the “Faces of Death” type video showing on the club’s TV monitors to the prospect of witnessing S.A. in the flesh, this was one of the more terrifying experiences of my life at that point, replaced in short order by the moment S.A. themselves took the stage and launched into a full set of Apocalyptic Nuclear Hate-filled Blackness.
Sonic Youth at the Vogue, 2002
A seated venue with great sound, a near-perfect setlist, and the best Sonic Youth gig I’ve ever seen. They weren’t out to stir shit up; they weren’t experimenting with new material; they weren’t limited by being part of a larger bill or festival. This was their night to be the best band in the world. I think they played every song off Murray Street. At a lot of gigs, you kind of just tolerate the songs from the new album; this was the kind of show where the new stuff sounded instantly classic.
Opeth at the Commodore, 2005
I’ve already posted a review of this show, so you might want to track that down. Suffice to say that after seeing two truncated Opeth gigs in Vancouver (one where their drummer bailed on them and one at the Sounds of the Underground Fest), a full-length Opeth show was a satisfying, heavy experience.
Honourable mentions: All Iron Maiden gigs, especially Scorpions/Maiden/Girlschool (Number of the Beast tour, 1982) and Maiden/Saxon/Fastway (Piece of Mind tour, 1983), long-gone local band Red Sugar, Morbid Angel, all International Guitar Nights, Between the Buried and Me, Removal, pre-Nevermind Nirvana, and the Melvins.