The Rolling Stones: 7/3/2019

I will begin this post by saying that this might just be the greatest of all my concert stories so far, and will be tough to top. As such, it is a fairly long post, but I promise you, it is worth the read.

So you may have noticed that the ticket stub has a date of May 31, 2019, which was not the date of the actual concert. If you’ve kept up with current events, you probably know that the entire No Filter tour was postponed because Mick Jagger needed heart surgery. (Who knew he had a heart?) I had bought three tickets for this show, with the intention of going with my wife and daughter. Going to this concert was actually a gift for my daughter’s birthday/graduation, since she had told me that of all the bands that were still touring, the Stones was the one she would most want to see. I suppose I’ve done my job as a rock and roll parent.

Anyway, the Stones rescheduled, and lo and behold, my wife and I had already relocated to California, a long way from Landover, Maryland, where the concert was being held. And since my wife had just started her new job, she could no longer go. So it was decided that I would fly back to North Carolina by myself, pick up my daughter, drive to Virginia, and then give the extra ticket to my nephew, at whose house we would stay. A bit of a logistical challenge, but worth it. I really wanted to make sure my daughter got to see the Stones.

Now is where the story gets really interesting.

About a week before the concert, I woke to an excited text from my daughter. She told me that she was letting people at her job know that she would be out the following week because she was going with her dad to see the Rolling Stones. One of her coworkers replied, “Oh, you’re going to see the Stones? My cousin works for the Rolling Stones. Do you want me to see about getting you backstage passes?” A quick email later, and we had three backstage passes waiting for us at will call. BACKSTAGE PASSES TO THE ROLLING STONES!! I really was having a hard time believing it. But I reread the forwarded text, which had the name of the contact should there be any issue picking up the passes or getting backstage, and was giddy with excitement.

So on July 1 I flew to NC and met my daughter. July 2, the two of us drove 8 hours to VA and connected with my nephew (who is the same age as my daughter and they get along great). Then it was July 3, the day of the show.

FedEx Field, the stadium which is home to the Washington Redskins, was about 30 miles from where we were in VA. The concert was scheduled to start at 7:30, so we left the house at 3:30 to give us plenty of time. I was unprepared for the traffic we encountered. It literally took us 2 ½ hours to get to the stadium. I was trying hard to be cool.

We paid the exorbitant $60 to park, and inquired about where the will call window was located. I was told there were two, one on each side of the stadium. Not knowing where the passes would be, I picked the one that was closest and we got in line. And we stood there. And stood there. The line was not moving and people were freaking out. I later discovered it was because the computers were not working and no one who had tickets at will call could get the tickets they paid for. Now I was feeling worried, because if I got to the window and the passes were on the other side of the stadium, we might have a problem. As I was discussing this with my daughter and nephew, someone near us in line, who was more observant than myself, pointed out that there was another will call window off to the side with a sign that said “Band/Tour Will Call” and suggested I go there. So I did. I walked right up and told the person there that I was supposed to be picking up backstage passes and gave him my name. “I have nothing for that name,” he informed me.

I responded, “C**** was the person who was supposed to give us those.”

“I just spoke with C**** and he didn’t say anything. But I can call him.”

So the guy made a call from his cellphone, I watched as he spoke and nodded, then he took two passes from the drawer and slid them under the window to me. I felt a twinge of panic and meekly mentioned that there was supposed to be three, and he casually got the third and passed it to me. And in my hand I held three backstage passes to the Rolling Stones.

I met back up with my daughter and nephew, and we each affixed our passes.

Right next to the window where I got the passes was the special VIP entrance. We walked up, they looked at our credentials, and we breezed in. Then they scanned our tickets (yes, we still needed the tickets we bought), and were escorted to an elevator that brought us up to the fifth floor. From there, we were led to the VIP lounge that looked down on the back of the stage. Free food and beverages were provided, so we ate and rehydrated, while milling around and chatting with people there.

Now I had never been backstage before, so prior to heading out there, I consulted with a friend of mine, Bill, who is a music journalist, just to know what to expect. He said for show like this, we probably would not meet Keith or Mick. They provide catering, and then usually one of the lesser band members comes out for a quick meet and greet before the show. So in this case, that band member was Chuck Leavell, long-time keyboardist for the Stones, who was also a member of the Allman Brothers in the 70’s. We got to meet him, and he was really nice and accommodating, graciously posing for a picture with the three of us.

At this point, the opening act, Ghost Hounds, had already been playing for a while, so we decided to leave the air conditioned comfort and go take our seats. By the time we got to section 431 in the upper deck, the opening band was playing their last song.

Although we were in the upper deck, the seats were not bad, and we had a decent view of the stage. We chatted with the folks around us as we waited for the Stones to take the stage.

Finally, the lights went down, and they exploded onto the stage, opening with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Great choice! For a group of guys who have survived over 70 years of hard living, and Mick just having heart surgery, they sounded damn good and had a lot of energy.

About halfway through the show, the band moved to a smaller satellite stage in the center and played a couple acoustic tunes, which was great, because then we had an even better view of the band.

All the while, I was noticing how much fun my daughter and nephew were having, and I felt really happy. I was glad that they were enjoying the show, and after going backstage and meeting one of the band members, I knew that this would be a special memory for them both.

But wait… things were about to get infinitely better.

About 2/3 through the show, the band was playing “Miss You” and my daughter was standing up and dancing. She was the only person standing in our section, and I was glad that people around us were not being jerks about it. But then some official looking dude with a lanyard and badge came up to us and waved my daughter closer. The two of them leaned across me so I heard the conversation.

Dude: “How many are in your group?”

Daughter: “Three…” (tentatively, like she was in trouble)

Dude: “Well I only have two passes to go up front. I’m with the band and am looking for someone in the upper decks who is dancing and enjoying the show so I can bring them up front, but I only have two wristbands. Do you want to go up front?”

I looked at my daughter and nephew, not wanting to split them up, or send them off alone, and asked the guy, “You don’t have three?”

“Nope,” he said, “Only two. Do you want them? I can take you up front right now.”

At this point, my nephew spoke up. “Go! Go! This is your chance. I’ll stay here.”

So we promised to come back up and get him afterwards, and went off with the dude who handed each of us a very official looking wristband.

The dude told us we would go up front on Keith’s side of the stage, that this was the best spot to be for the rest of the show. While we were going down, we could hear “Paint It Black” being played, the one song we missed, but a worthwhile sacrifice. We told the dude that C**** had also given us backstage passes, and he was like, “Oh cool, I know C**** really well.” And as we quickly made our way down to the front, my daughter kept looking at me, eyes wide, commenting, “What the fuck? How is this happening? I feel like I’m dreaming.”

We finally got down by the pit right in front, and the security did not want to let my daughter and me through. The dude started yelling at the security guy, flashing his badge, and then he waved someone else over, who said something to the security person, and just like that, we were right in front of the stage. The dude said his farewell, went off, and my daughter and I danced and basked in the glory of seeing the world’s greatest rock and roll band from a vantage point that few have experienced. Of course, I had to snap a few pictures on the phone.

We were up front for the last five songs, which was basically the last quarter of the 20-song show. I’ve been to many concerts in my life, but none of them compared to this experience, of being backstage and then essentially front row, for the Rolling Stones. And the fact that I shared the experience with my daughter, and the look of sheer ecstatic joy on her face, made the whole night seem like nothing less than a rock and roll fantasy come true. Miracles really do happen.

After the last note of “Satisfaction,” my daughter and I made it back upstairs and had no problem reconnecting with my nephew. Then we made our way to the car, sat in the traffic getting out of the stadium parking area, and made the drive back to Virginia with no problems, basically basking in the afterglow of the most epic concert experience ever.

I still have a drawer full of old stubs with stories associated to them, and more concerts on the horizon, but I doubt that I will ever be able to top this one. I suppose the only thing I can add at this point is the setlist. And yes, I know, it’s only rock and roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

Setlist:

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
  • Tumbling Dice
  • You Got Me Rocking
  • Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay & The Goodtimers cover, first time performed since July 5, 1969 at Hyde Park)
  • Rocks Off (by request)
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Angie (B-Stage / Acoustic)
  • Let It Bleed (B-Stage / Acoustic)
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Slipping Away (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Miss You
  • Paint It Black
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Start Me Up
  • Brown Sugar

Encore:

  • Gimme Shelter
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
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Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band: 3/27/1999

This was my second time seeing Ringo.  The first time was cool, but this show was light years better.

The lineup for this incarnation of the All-Starr Band was nothing short of mind-blowing.

  • Ringo Starr – drums, vocals
  • Todd Rundgren (from Nazz and Utopia) – guitar, percussion, vocals
  • Gary Brooker (from Procol Harum) – organ, keyboards, vocals
  • Jack Bruce (from Cream) – bass, keyboards, vocals
  • Simon Kirke (from Free and Bad Company) – drums, vocals
  • Timmy Cappello – saxophone, keyboards, harmonica, guitar, vocals

The band opened the show with “It Don’t Come Easy,” which is maybe my favorite Ringo solo song and one that he did not play the first time I saw him. This show also had a nice amount of Beatles tunes woven in. And the songs from the other members—WOW! Todd actually played some Utopia, Simon sang some Bad Co. and a Free song, Gary Brooker sang some classic Procol Harum stuff, including Conquistador, and Jack Bruce belted out several Cream hits. There was absolutely no weak spots anywhere in this show.

Here’s the full setlist. Rock on!

Setlist:

  • It Don’t Come Easy
  • Act Naturally
  • Whisky Train
  • I Saw the Light
  • Sunshine of Your Love
  • Shooting Star
  • Boys
  • Love Me Do
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Conquistador
  • Hammer in My Heart
  • I’m the Greatest
  • No No Song
  • I Feel Free
  • All Right Now
  • I Wanna Be Your Man
  • Bang the Drum All Day
  • White Room
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale
  • Photograph

Encore:

  • You’re Sixteen
  • With a Little Help From My Friends

Phil Lesh & Friends: 4/14/2001

Not a whole lot to say about this show, other than it was great. This was the second show of a two-night run at the Sunrise Musical Theatre, and my wife went with me the first night, which was an experience because she was late in her pregnancy. This night, I went without her and hung out with friends, which was fun. I had a lot of Deadhead friends in Florida at the time, and it was like one big party with my peeps. We all danced and sang along until late in the night.

Here’s the setlist. Although they didn’t play a lot of songs, they played a long time. It was just over three hours, if my memory serves me correct. Rock on!

Set 1:

  • Jam >
  • Comes A Time >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Just a Little Light >
  • Help on the Way >
  • Slipknot! >
  • Franklin’s Tower

Set 2:

  • The Golden Road >
  • Viola Lee Blues >
  • Wharf Rat >
  • Viola Lee Blues >
  • I Know You Rider
  • Dark Star >
  • Night of 1000 Stars >
  • Dark Star

Encore:

  • Box of Rain

Phil Lesh & Friends: 4/13/2001

This was my first time seeing Phil Lesh and Friends. As a long-time Grateful Dead fan, I was pretty psyched. The Sunrise Musical Theatre was an intimate venue, so getting to see Phil there promised to be a treat.

This incarnation of the band consisted of:

  • Phil Lesh on bass and vocals
  • Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals
  • Jimmy Herring on guitar
  • Rob Barraco on keyboards and vocals
  • John Molo on drums

The band was playing two nights, and I of course was planning to attend both shows. My wife though, who was very pregnant at the time, was only up for going this first night. And when I say very pregnant, she was well into her third trimester and looked like she would go into labor at any minute.

We got to the theatre, and someone from either security or management must have seen my wife and become very concerned. From the moment we walked in, there was someone near us, with walkie talkie, making sure that nothing happened to her. We were basically ushered to our seats, if my wife needed to go to the bathroom, someone was right there to clear the way for her, and once, someone down the aisle from us spilled a drink, and a maintenance person with a mop was immediately dispatched to clean it up. It was a little surreal, but we just went with it and enjoyed the VIP treatment.

The first set began with a poetry reading, which was pretty cool. Here is the excerpt that Phil read:

“Invocation to the Sun, the Prologue to The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel” by Nikos Kazantzakis (part 1)

O Sun, great Oriental, my proud mind’s golden cap,
I love to wear you cocked askew, to play and burst
in song throughout our lives, and so rejoice our hearts.
Good is this earth, it suits us! Like the global grape
it hangs, dear God, in the blue air and sways in the gale,
nibbled by all the birds and spirits of the four winds.
Come, let’s start nibbling too, and so refresh our minds!
Between two throbbing temples in the mind’s great wine vats
I tread on the crisp grapes until the wild must boils
and my mind laughs and steams within the upright day.
Has the earth sprouted wings and sails, has my mind swayed
until black-eyed Necessity got drunk and burst in song?
Above me spreads the raging sky, below me swoops
my belly, a white gull that breasts the cooling waves;
my nostrils fill with salty spray, the billows burst
swiftly against my back, rush on, and I rush after.

After the poetic invocation, the music kicked off and the band performed “Celebration,” which the Dead archivists assert was the first time this was ever performed. Pretty cool! The first set also included “The Eleven,” possibly my favorite Grateful Dead song ever. I was ecstatic.

After the first set was over, my wife ran into a friend of hers, who had been up toward the front. This friend kept raving about “The sickness of the jams!” That became our catch-phrase for the evening.

After the break, the band took the stage again for the second set, which was stellar, and loooong. My wife was definitely hitting her limit by the end of the night. She said that while it was great, she was glad she was not going the next night.

I’ve often thought about our unborn child, exposed to that long night of music. I think the sickness of the jams must have penetrated into her being, because she has had a deep love of music her whole life, and has since become a multi-instrumentalist.

Anyway, here is the full setlist. Rock on, and may the sickness of the jams ever plague you! (ha ha)

Set 1:

  • Poetry Reading: Part 1
  • Celebration >
  • Jam >
  • The Eleven >
  • Space Jam >
  • Soulshine >
  • Uncle John’s Band >
  • Get Together >
  • Not Fade Away

Set 2:

  • Low Spark Jam >
  • China Cat Sunflower >
  • Uncle John’s Band Reprise >
  • St. Stephen >
  • Sugaree >
  • St. Stephen >
  • I Am The Walrus >
  • Taste Like Wine >
  • The Wheel >
  • Lovin’ Jam >
  • The Wheel >
  • The Other One >
  • Celebration Reprise

Encore:

  • Here Comes Sunshine

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong: 2/1/2019

I was recently at a party at my friend Ilene’s house, and she asked me if I was familiar with this band. I told her I had never heard of them, and she told me they were really good, and that her and her husband had gotten some comp VIP passes and that they could get me one if I was interested. Far be it from me to turn down an opportunity to see a show for free. So they secured me a freebie and I listened to some of their stuff to familiarize myself with their music.

How to describe them? They are definitely a jam band, but they have a bit of a funk sound too. Their stuff is upbeat and danceable. I figured it would be a good time, and when I saw that the show was sold out, I suspected it would be pretty high-energy too.

I met Ilene and her husband Jonathan outside the venue. They got us the VIP wristbands, which allowed us to sit in the reserved section on the side of the stage. Not that it was really reserved. It was still pretty much open season for the freaks who chose to wedge themselves in there.

The opening act was a band called The Fritz. They are local, but very good. I had remembered a friend telling me about them. They were better than your average opener.

PPPP came on around 10ish, and they were pumped. Definitely feeding off the energy from the audience. And they played a looooooong time—finishing up about 1:00 am. Two solid sets and an encore. I was definitely feeling tired toward the end, but forced myself to stay until the end, which is a testament to how good they were.

In between sets, I ran into my friend Andy. I had not seen him in years, so it was a nice surprise. He had come into town specifically to see the band and was planning to see them the following night in Raleigh. I didn’t realize that following Pigeons was a thing, but I guess it is.

After the show, as I exited the venue to walk to my car, I was surprised to find people selling balloons full of nitrous oxide. Nitrous?! People still do that shit? I suppose some things never change in the jam-band scene. It made me think of a quote from the Netflix show, “Big Mouth”: “They’re jam bands. They’re the tools of Big Nitrous.”

Anyway, here’s the setlist, followed by a few pictures I snapped at the show. Rock on!

Set 1

  • Melting Lights >
  • Whirled
  • Penguins >
  • Funkijam >
  • Funk E. Zekiel
  • Fortress
  • Yo Soy Fiesta
  • J-Town
  • Poseidon >
  • Jessica >
  • Poseidon

Set 2

  • Live Life / Upfunk
  • Snake Eyes
  • Horizon >
  • I Wanna Be Like You >
  • Bare Necessities >
  • I Wanna Be Like You >
  • Horizon
  • Drunk People
  • Walk Outside
  • Ocean Flows

Encore:

  • Doc

 

The Fritz

 

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

 

PPPP w/ Jamar Woods from Fritz on keys

3 (Emerson, Palmer & Berry): 5/21/1988

I was (and still am) a huge ELP fan, so when I heard that the band 3, featuring Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, were playing a nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, I immediately scored a ticket.

I don’t remember with whom I went with, but I remember the scene and the show itself most vividly. City Limits nightclub was jam packed, almost to the point of being really uncomfortable. But I was not to be deterred. I squeezed myself into a space where I had a good view of the stage, and especially Keith’s infamous Moog synthesizer.

I had seen Emerson, Lake & Powell a couple years prior, but seeing Carl Palmer pounding away was a treat indeed. And Keith’s playing was mind-blowing. I can still see him twisting knobs and pulling and inserting plugs during “Hoedown,” and laying on top of his grand piano, playing classical piano backwards. All the while, Carl pounding away with a precision that is unrivaled. I was not familiar with Robert Berry, but he was no slouch.

The band broke up after this tour (the only tour they did, I believe). I feel pretty fortunate to have been able to see them. Here’s the setlist.

Setlist:

  • Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Desde la vida
  • Lover to Lover
  • Hoedown
  • You Do or You Don’t
  • Talkin’ ’bout
  • The Fugue
  • Creole Dance
  • On My Way Home
  • Runaway
  • Standing in the Shadows of Love
  • America
  • Blue Rondo à la Turk
  • Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
  • Drum Solo
  • Flight of the Bumblebee
  • Eight Miles High

Yes: 7/6/1991

This was a pretty cool concert. I’ve always loved Yes and this time I got to see the classic lineup along with some other band veterans. Essentially, the Union tour was a collaboration between older and newer members. Here is the list of all the musicians who participated:

  • Jon Anderson – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, tambourine
  • Steve Howe – guitar, backing vocals
  • Trevor Rabin – guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals
  • Tony Kaye – Hammond Organ, keyboards, sound effects
  • Rick Wakeman – keyboards, synthesisers, percussion on “Your Move”
  • Chris Squire – bass, backing vocals
  • Alan White – acoustic drums, percussion
  • Bill Bruford – electronic drums, percussion

In addition to the rich lineup, this show was “Yes in the Round.” The band was set up on a circular stage in the center of the arena. The stage slowly rotated so wherever you sat, you eventually had a great view of every member of the band. I was particularly thrilled when Rick Wakeman was facing me. He is one of my favorite keyboardists, second only to Keith Emerson.

I went with my friend Dana, and we had a great time. The music and the show were amazing. One of the high points for me was when they played “Awaken” from the “Going for the One” album. A great piece of music, but not something I would have expected. Jon Anderson played harp on that song, which was just beautiful and moving.

Here is the complete setlist.

Setlist

  • Yours Is No Disgrace
  • Rhythm of Love
  • Shock to the System
  • Heart of the Sunrise
  • Clap
  • Mood for a Day
  • Make It Easy
  • Owner of a Lonely Heart
  • And You and I
  • Drum Duet
  • Changes
  • I’ve Seen All Good People
  • Solly’s Beard
  • Long Distance Runaround
  • Whitefish / Amazing Grace
  • Keyboard Solo (Rick Wakeman)
  • Lift Me Up
  • Awaken

Encore:

  • Roundabout