MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: October 2014

oct 14

Side A: Chris’ Picks

Side B: Todd’s Picks

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From the MoSS? Pit: #PJMoline

Pearl Jam Eddie Up Close

First, a foreword from Todd:

I can’t believe my live music luck lately (Exhibit A: Look at that photo). The concert gods have smiled upon me many times over the last year or so. From successful pre-sale ticket purchases to front row / VIP seats, I’ve had an incredible run. Actually all of us MoSS? dorks have of late. I’m still jealous of Chris’ front row spot at the Cure concert last month and Sam’s run-in with Sharon Van Etten last week. This Pearl Jam concert beats them all for dumb luck, though.

If you read my portion of the MoSS? 100 Undisputed Best Albums of All Time list, then you will remember I had Pearl Jam’s Ten ranked as my #33 album. Not too shabby. But you may also remember that I tired of them by their Vitalogy album. I actually bought tickets to see them around that time during their anti-Ticketmaster tour. I sold them at a tidy profit and bought a super sweet mountain bike. Still have the bike along with monstrous calf muscles.

Anyways, back to the subject at hand. Some months back I’d heard Pearl Jam were coming to the Quad Cities. I looked into tickets and saw they were already sold out. Flash forward to a week before the show. I was chitchatting with a co-worker and he offhandedly mentioned that he had a line on some tickets. Someone he knew worked at the concert venue and they told him that once the stage layout was finalized, they may be adding a few more seats. I told him to give me a call if he heard anything and walked away from the conversation thinking there wasn’t a chance in hell anything would come from it. I had all but forgotten the whole thing when he called me as I was sitting in a meeting. I rather awkwardly excused myself from the room and answered. This is how the conversation went:

MoSS? Todd: Hey!

Co-Worker: Hey man! You have seventh row seats reserved if you call my guy at the venue.

MoSS? Todd: Sweet! How much?

Co-Worker: I don’t know. Face value? Who cares? Call him. Like soon.

MoSS? Todd: OK. Cool. Seventh row, huh? Sweet. That’ll be pretty close. You think I could get four tickets? All together?

Co-Worker: All great questions … for the dude onsite. Call him. Now. He told me we had like five minutes … like three minutes ago.

MoSS? Todd: Ooh. Shit! Thanks. Click

So long story short, I got four tickets in the seventh row. I took Mrs. MoSS? Todd and our usual concert support crew friends. The seats were great and Eddie actually came out into the crowd  just a few rows away from us.

The only bummer from the evening was the massive headache I got from the weed smokers around me. I sound like an old man but honestly, it was crazy. As soon as the lights went down it was as if someone started a tire fire a few rows in front of me. Aside from the stench of the sticky icky, we had a blast. Great music with great friends. Now back to you, Sam. – Todd

 #####

PJ Panorama

Full house Friday night in Moline.

 

Sorry for the delay, folks. But I needed a few days to let this one marinate …

OK, I’m ready now.

As you may have heard, either here or on Twitter – which I repeatedly (or annoyingly) shared, ad nauseum, all over the various internets – after a 23-year wait that bordered on a Moby Dick-sized white-whale chase, I finally saw Pearl Jam in concert, on Friday night at the iWireless Center (formerly The Mark of the Quad Cities) in Moline, Ill.

(The epicness of this night isn’t even taking into account the always-entertaining prospect of another concert road trip and hotel stay with those wacky Dubs, punctuated with Skeet falling asleep flat on his back and eventually choking on his own saliva, which strangely seemed to trigger T-Dub’s spectacular, surreal bout of night terrors – which are not unlike this, except hornier and somehow arrogant, something to which the slumbering and annoyed Mrs. T-Dub will surely attest:)

As for the show, was it everything I had hoped for? After much thought and reflection, I’d have to say yes, most definitely. This is a battle-tested group of road warriors. They are unbelievably tight, full of energy, with an improvisational spirit. Plus, they seemed genuinely stoked to be in our hidden-away neck of the woods, which always feels good as a fan. And they hammered away until they’d given us a 36-song set clocking in at roughly three hours.

Now …

That’s how I feel about it now, after a few days of letting it sink in.

But I have to admit: I didn’t feel that way Friday night. At least not at first.

I mean, this is Pearl Jam. This is a band I had been waiting to see since 1991, so naturally, I had a list of songs in my head I was dying to hear. In fact, I chronicled it for posterity in my previous piece. Here’s the “Cliff’s Notes” version of that list:

  • Please play “Oceans.” Please play “Garden.” Please play “Release.”
  • Please consider “Breath” and “Crown of Thorns.”
  • Either “I Got ID” or “Long Road” would be a treat.
  • And finally, Yield … I’d piss myself with glee if you played “Faithfull.”

Remember, this is a band that never plays the same set twice. Every song in their catalog is fair game at any given show. That’s the main reason you can actually follow them on tour. This isn’t Kiss, who always play a 20-song combination, pulled from the same 40 songs spanning a 40-year career, every single night (don’t be mad, Kiss, I still love you guys). No, with Pearl Jam, you get something different at every concert. So, if they play a song one night, especially one of the more obscure ones, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t get it two nights in a row.

So I, of course, started stalking Twitter and setlist.fm in the days leading up to my show, hoping that they wouldn’t play the songs from my wish list.

Nope.

On Tuesday in Memphis, they played “Garden.” More scarily, they played “Breath.” Two days later, in Detroit, they friggin’ opened the show with “Release,” followed by “Oceans.” Uh oh.

So, going into the show, I already knew that I probably wouldn’t get at least half of the songs I was absolutely pining to hear.

Still I remained optimistic. It’s Pearl Jam, after all. There’s still a ton of songs I’d be happy with, you know?

Things looked good in the 216

Things looked good in the 216

After worrying for months about our spot on the side of the stage, I took as a good omen that our seats turned out to be pretty damn sweet. And when they took the stage and opened the show with “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” all systems were go.

Shortly after, I remember they tore into “Hail, Hail” and immediately followed it with “Who You Are.” I did take notice of them playing these two songs back to back.

But after a while, even though I was loving what I was hearing, my attention started drifting. I started consciously thinking about my own personal wish list of songs, and about how I was afraid I wouldn’t get them. I mean, it was my first show. It’s hard NOT to be a little selfish, right?

The band soldiered on. They even played “Garden,” which was huge since they had just played it in Memphis. The set list was long and expansive, covering their whole career. They even gave us one of my favorite cover tunes when they blistered through Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up.” After playing their customary closer “Yellow Ledbetter,” this night that I had waited a generation for had come to a close.

Exiting the arena, I realized I only got one song from my wish list. For a few moments, I started wondering – out loud, even – if what I had feared was actually true: Were we just flyover country? Were we just the warm-up show for the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and Denver? All because they didn’t play the songs that I wanted to hear?

But before I could actually truly debate this with my friends as we walked for a post-gig beverage, I finally turned my phone back on (yes, I turned it off after I was rightfully scolded from the stage earlier in the week at a club show at Gabe’s in Iowa City by Sharon Van Etten). And I had this tweet waiting for me:

Wait, what?

I hadn’t even noticed. I was so preoccupied with hearing the songs on my list that I hadn’t even noticed. Like I said, I DID notice when they played “Hail, Hail” and “Who You Are” back to back. But, in hindsight, it went completely over my head when Eddie said “alright, end of Side 1” after finishing “Off He Goes.” How did I NOT put that together?

People, some of which I had reached with my blog about losing my PJ virginity, were responding. Almost immediately. With jealousy. Only then did I realize how special it was.

There’s a scene in the great Cameron Crowe documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, where you see a brief montage of fans saying just how many times they’ve seen the band live, with one guy saying something absurd like 250-plus times, over various countries and continents.

So yeah, I didn’t get the songs I wanted. This is true. But there’s some dude out there that’s seen Pearl Jam 250-plus times that has NEVER gotten this show, because in their entire history, this was the first time they’ve ever done the “entire album front to back” thing before …

(Yeah, in 1992, they probably played all of Ten … big fucking deal. They were a brand new band with exactly ONE album – I would hope they played all of it! Plus, at a show in Italy in 2006, they played the entire self-titled album (aka The Avocado) but according to Rolling Stone’s account, it was out of sequence.)

But on Friday night in Moline, they played the album that diehards cherish from start to finish AND in sequence. Would I personally have rather had Ten, Vitalogy or Yield front to back instead of No Code? Yes, I would have. But this is their beloved album, for some reason. And we got it.

Plus, oh yeah … let’s not discount the fact that Eddie Vedder wrote a FUCKING ORIGINAL SONG – a song he titled “Moline” and described as a companion piece to his classic Vitalogy track “Better Man” – for our show that just might, maybe, end up on an album someday.

Perspective, people. It’s really hard to complain when you put it in perspective.

Now, did I feel a little less special when, three days later, they repeated the stunt in Milwaukee, except the cheeseheads got Yield start to finish? Yes. Yes I did. But fuck it, it was still worth the wait. And I can’t wait to do it again.

And next time, I’ll be happy with what I get.

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.
#####

Pearl Jam Setlist I Wireless Center, Moline, IL, USA 2014, Lightning Bolt Tour

From the MoSS? Pit: Sharon Van Etten

sharon van etten

Sharon Van Etten and her band gave the crowd at Gabe’s a great show Oct. 13.

There was this one time at Gabe’s when things got kinda awkward. I want to tell you about it.

I was seeing Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. It was a great show: Ted and the band were rockin’ out, the crowd was sizable and into what was happening, and everyone was feeling good. And at some point between songs, Ted decided to tell some story about the long-running TV show Law & Order. And he even specified that he wanted to talk about the really early episodes.

To my mind, that was a good thing, because I really liked the episodes with Michael Moriarty. For one, his Ben Stone character wasn’t nearly as melodramatic as Jack McCoy. Two, the show didn’t feel it necessary that the DA’s office rack up a win-loss record that would rival Perry Mason; in fact, it seemed like Stone and Robinette were unable to get convictions on about a third of their cases, which led to some serious philosophical conversation on the courthouse steps between the defeated prosecution team and then Stone would flag a cab while Robinette stood there looking mad/sad and you could only imagine what sort of witticism DA Adam Schiff would have spouted had he been standing there.

adam schiffAdam Schiff (at right) was the best, by the way.

Anyway, for those of you not steeped in Law & Order trivia, Michael Moriarty pretty much talked his way out of his L&O role because he was angry that Janet Reno was critical of violence on TV and Moriarty felt that she was overstepping her boundaries and feared government censorship (or something like that). Producers cited his “erratic behavior” for his eventual dismissal, not Reno, but I think they were/are part of an elaborate cover-up!

So I decided this was the perfect time for me to yell the following: “FUCK JANET RENO!”

I didn’t stop to think about how that would sound as a lone voice coming from a crowd in a venue that isn’t exactly world-renowned for its acoustics. Not the criticisms of a former attorney general, but how what I said would get lost in translation, so to speak, as the sound waves went forward toward the stage.

So Ted Leo stops mid-sentence and says, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh did someone just say FUCK TED LEO?”

Suddenly everyone’s head swung around to look at me. It felt a lot like this:

kids pointing and laughing

I screamed out “NOOOOOO! JANET RENO!” but it was too late. Killed the entire vibe. Ted finally says, “Ah never mind, I don’t want to tell the story now.” And everyone glared at me again and I pretty much died right then. Only thing I remember after that is having tinnitus for about a week because Gabe’s.

sharon van etten with guitarAnyway, I bring this up because as good as the Sharon Van Etten concert was at Gabe’s on Monday night, one of the main takeaways was how awkward it got for a moment or two.

And once again, we have a Music or Space Shuttle member to thank! Not me this time, though!

Before I give you the lowdown on how Sam got in trouble during the concert, I’ll quickly give you some thoughts about the evening in general.

We had a pretty sizable gang out for the show (seven of us, all told) and most of us were able to make our way to the very front of the crowd. I was right along the stage, in fact. The view was great, of course, and the sound was actually quite nice from that angle. Sharon and the band seemed to be in a good mood, talking about how Doug the guitarist was celebrating a birthday and how they enjoyed their pre-show meal at the Motley Cow. It wasn’t the longest show in the world but they played most of what I wanted to hear.

“Taking Chances” and “Break Me” are two of my favorite songs and they both sounded great. “Serpents” was pretty cool although I think there were some technical difficulties or something with Sharon’s gear as she shook her head a time or two and kinda toe-tapped her pedals in a slight show of frustration. It still had a great aggressive feel to it and really it’s the vocal in that song (the way she holds the words “my mind” in the chorus) that does it for me. “Afraid of Nothing” was a great start to the night; “Your Love Is Killing Me” ended the main set very well. We got a two-song encore that included a song that didn’t make the last record but not for lack of quality, based on the rendition we heard.

Sharon seems genuinely appreciative of the fans; we noticed this at her Pitchfork set in July as well. It’s a weird juxtaposition sometimes, hearing her happy moments of gratitude before heading back into songs that pull at heartstrings, but it’s a cool trait that we like about her.

The set by opener Tiny Ruins (what we caught of it, anyway) was good. A bit more subdued than what Sharon and her band do, but they seem rooted in the same philosophical vein. I liked what I heard and need to seek out some more.

Non-concert thing: I’m still not a big fan of Toppling Goliath putting everything they have into bottling, consequently taking Golden Nugget off the taps of Iowa City drinking establishments. Lagunitas is picking up the slack, though.

OK, so let’s talk about Sam.

I have been making a conscious effort to stay off my phone during shows anymore. Not completely, but I try to get any photos or videos out of the way in the first three songs (this is a common grace period that credentialed media have for shooting photos, the first three songs). I can get a few shots, perhaps get one song worth of video, and then put the phone away. Worked out for me at the Cure at Riot Fest, as they played “Fascination Street” second overall, the song I wanted to capture. So that’s what I did: took maybe 10 photos of Sharon during the first song, sent one of them to Todd with a report about the crowd, and that was that.

So during the third song (I believe), I was kinda bobbing my head to the music, eyes half closed, when I swore I heard Sharon sing, right in the middle of the verse, “Get off your phone!” I shook my head, wondering if I imagined that, then went back to being the solemn hipster in the front row.

So at song’s end, Sharon went on a bit of a rant about people engaging during shows. About being on cell phones during shows. About how people can take photos and videos if they want, she doesn’t care, but it really sounds like she does care, and again, if you want to be on your phone, go ahead and do that, just don’t stand up front and do it, let other people up there, OK rant over let’s play music again.

I do believe that a guy two spots to my left recorded the whole thing on his phone, so he could correct any creative license I’ve taken with my paraphrasing.

Needless to say, at this point I would not be fulfilling the request I received during the second song, via text from Jess (Todd’s better half), hoping for video of “Your Love Is Killing Me.” And that reluctance was hammered home later in the set, when Sharon AGAIN ranted about cell phone use. Jesus, I thought, who the fuck set her off?

So after the show ended, I turned around to chat with the others: Michelle, Travis and Annie, Sam and Devon. They were all in the vicinity of the front row (Michelle was next to me; everyone else was one or two “rows” back).

“So you know that cell phone rant?” Sam says. “That was me.”

What?

Apparently Sam was texting a friend, letting him/her (I never asked for clarification) know that Sharon’s set had just started and there was still time to get there to catch the lion’s share of the show. I’m guessing the glow from his phone illuminated Sam’s sexy mug in such a way that Sharon couldn’t help but notice. And when a guy like Sam isn’t paying attention to you, you let him know that he’s fucking up!

sharon van etten and sam

They were apologizing to each other at blurring speeds, apparently.

The story has a happy ending: Sharon hung out after the show, and Sam went over to apologize. He said she was apologetic herself by the time the conversation neared its end.

This isn’t the first time Sam has annoyed a musician in my presence at Gabe’s. Some 12 years ago (give or take) he and I were hanging out at Gabe’s to see the Donnas. I believe there were four bands on the bill, so there was plenty of time to kill.

This was in the golden age of coin-operated bar-top games like Trivia Whiz. Apparently Sam and I weren’t the only people who liked playing that game, as two of the Donnas (Donna R the smokin’ hot guitarist and Donna F the bass player) were back there playing. So we hovered, partly because two Donnas were playing but partly because we are trivia nerds.

So we’re watching over their shoulders and eventually Sam starts chiming in with answers. Of course he’s right every time, but it’s like when you’re playing solitaire and someone comes over and says “Duh! The 8 can go on that 9!” or something like that. You want to turn around and punch the guy in the seeds.

And Donna F the scary bassist gave a look that sort of conveyed that message. This photo of Donna F found on the Interwebs is pretty representative:

donna f

So perhaps out of guilt or perhaps as a way to flirt with Donna R, Sam ended up getting like $40 worth of quarters and gave them to the two Donnas playing Trivia Whiz, saying “If I’m going to blurt out answers I should at least pay for your games.” And much like his conciliatory conversation with Sharon, things worked out. They let us join in and it was good fun. The other two Donnas dropped by at some point, which was also pretty cool (I thought Donna A the singer was kinda cute or whatever). A little while later, they put on a really fun rock show.

I should clarify a couple of things: one, Sam didn’t really get $40 worth of quarters to play Trivia Whiz with the Donnas. He can tell you the exact amount in his inevitable defense statement in the comments of this post.

Second, I didn’t witness the Sharon conversation where they made up or whatever. I had already had my own conversation with Sharon during the show. Toward the end of the concert, she mentioned how she had a really shitty morning at the airport, where she and a grumpy airport worker had gotten into a bit of a spat. Sharon said she felt horrible about it but the airport worker kinda had it coming or something like that.

So it got kinda quiet and I seized my moment to interject, “What, was she on her phone or something?”

To which Sharon, to her credit, said without missing a beat, “No…but I did text a bunch of people about it.”

Good show.

I’m finally seeing Pearl Jam … what took so friggin’ long?

PearlJam

This Friday night, after 23 years of fandom and so much bad luck, I’m finally going to see Pearl Jam play live music for the first time. It’s been quite a journey.

Why did it take so long? I don’t know. Obviously, in my prime years of band chasing in college, the Ticketmaster thing didn’t help. They just weren’t touring then, at least not anywhere near me. So there’s that.

But as the years have passed, it wasn’t enough to just see them. I mean, I live in Iowa. We’re flyover country, after all. I hate saying it, but there’s this fear that we’re not getting a band’s best show. We always feel like we’re the warm-up show before they play in Chicago or Denver or Detroit.

(A good example: I remember seeing the Black Crowes (who, like Pearl Jam, is a band that never plays the same set two nights in a row) in Des Moines a few years ago. It was an amazing show, don’t get me wrong, but I checked our setlist with the ones that surrounded it, and both of those shows were better on paper. I remember thinking, “Really? You can’t even play ‘Remedy’? Really?”)

Anyway, when it comes to Pearl Jam, it got to the point that it wasn’t enough to just see them.

No, it had to be an event. I mean, like I had to see them IN Seattle or something.

Or more realistically, I could have seen them for their headlining gig at Lollapalooza 2007 (the last year I didn’t go to a summer festival, by the way); their two-day 20th anniversary festival in Wisconsin three years ago (couldn’t get off work); or, most egregiously, their concert at Wrigley Field last summer. I tried in vain to get tickets to that show. Pulled every string I knew. Made every call I could think of. No fucking dice. To add insult to injury, my friend Stacy went to that show. Stacy, who in the entire tenure of our friendship, has never given me even an inkling of reason to believe she’d even heard of MUSIC, let alone Pearl Jam. And to make it worse, when the rain famously hit, she left. Basically, she and the other chicks she went with missed the whole fucking show (yes, shooting a sour glare in your direction, too, Kris and Jill). I promise you, if I’d gone, we might have had to sleep in a gutter at Sheffield and Waveland, but we wouldn’t have left. NO way.

But, at the core, this is really about one thing. One gigantic missed opportunity.

Pearl Jam 1991

On the brink of a musical revolution …

Twenty-three years ago, I could have seen them. When they were still nobodies. At the dawn of the alternative-rock explosion of the 1990s, the greatest era of music in the history of man. Seriously, at that point in time, no one in Iowa – at least where I was from, we were still drowning in hair metal and the lucky ones loved thrash metal – had heard of Green River or Mother Love Bone, so who the fuck was Pearl Jam?

On October 19, 1991, they played in Ames, as the third act on a bill with the headlining Red Hot Chili Peppers (on the cusp of their mainstream breakthrough with the just-released Blood Sugar Sex Magik) and with another no-name band I had just discovered named Smashing Pumpkins.

The show was on a Sunday night, and I got a call from my buddy Steve Chase. Did I want to go? Hell yes I wanted to go. But in truth, that night it would have been all about the Pumpkins for me (I didn’t know it yet, but Gish was on its way to becoming my favorite album of all time).

But for whatever reason, I couldn’t go. I think I had to work at my shitty high school job bagging groceries at Hy-Vee. In all honesty, I don’t remember why I couldn’t go. I think it’s one of those traumatic repressed memories not unlike those that victims of abuse somehow block out. All I remember is that I couldn’t go.

Not long after that, I saw the video for “Alive” for the very first time and thought, “This is the band I could’ve seen that night? Fuck off!”

(For what it’s worth, that night’s setlist at Setlist.fm lists only three songs, and I have no way of knowing if this is just an incomplete document. The Pumpkins setlist that night isn’t listed at all, so who knows?)

It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life and I think karma has made sure I never forgot it, evidenced by all the times I’ve struck out trying to make it happen now.

This will be my seat on Friday. Please God, no big speakers or banners ...

This will be my seat on Friday. Please God, no big speakers or banners …

So yeah, Friday. I’m finally going to see them. It’s in the Quad Cities (Moline, specificially). The fear is still there … will we get their best show? I have no doubt – this a legendary band who doesn’t know how to half-ass it. But they’re playing in Detroit the day before us and St. Paul, Milwaukee and Denver right after, so I can’t help it if it crosses my mind.

Plus, I’m afraid about the seats we got. Right on top of the stage to the side. If there’s a big set of speakers and amps there, we might be in trouble in terms of sight lines.

But I took a chance. I just didn’t want to wait one minute longer, even if we’re not a big market. I think two-plus decades of regret is penance enough.

So, illustrious gentlemen of Pearl Jam, for your consideration:

  • Please play “Oceans.” Please play “Garden.” Please play “Release.” My favorite songs from one of the greatest albums of all time and one of the most important albums of my youth. The thought that I might have missed these in 1991 in Ames has haunted me for decades.
  • Since the Singles soundtrack is another seminal album in my lifetime, please consider “Breath.” And since I know it’s on the menu now, the thought of hearing “Crown of Thorns” is too exciting to contemplate.
  • The Merkinball EP, one of the most underrated offerings of the era. Either song – “I Got ID” or “Long Road” – would be a treat.
  • And finally, Yield was the album that sucked me back in at a time when life and other circumstances had me not paying enough attention to music. I’d take any of the radio hits of that album, but in all honesty, I’d piss myself with glee if you played “Faithfull.”
  • Then after that, anything and everything for the other two-plus hours would be fine with me.

Can’t believe it’s finally here. After two decades of regretting that missed opportunity in high school, I’m gonna see Pearl Jam in concert. It only took 23 years.

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments here at Music or Space Shuttle? Have your say on our Facebook page. Yell at us on Twitter.

From the MoSS? Pit: Fleetwood Mac

This will hopefully be the last concert photo I have to take with my shitty iPhone 4S camera, which made my seats to this show (which were awesome) look super sucky. Hurry up and get here, iPhone 6!

This will hopefully be the last concert photo I have to take with my shitty iPhone 4S camera, which made my seats to this show (which were awesome) look super sucky. Hurry up and get here, iPhone 6!

 

A couple of months ago, I saw Alice Cooper in concert (not the enshrined classic-lineup Alice Cooper Band, mind you, but it still counts in my book), making him, at the time, the latest member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I’ve seen live. By my best guess and after much obsessing, I believe this is the complete list: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen (Van Hagar, technically), Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Black Sabbath, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss and Nirvana.

In addition, I also caught the last song of Run-DMC at Hubbard Park in Iowa City in 1996 or ’97 (I’m calling that a reach), and even though it wasn’t Parliament-Funkadelic, I DID see George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. At Lollapalooza 2009, I caught a set by Lou Reed (in with the Velvet Underground, but not solo), and a few weeks back, even though I was in horrible position 150 yards from the stage, I caught Patti Smith at Riot Fest (counts in my book, since I was able to rock out to “Rock and Roll Nigger” just fine from where I was standing, thank you very much).

But last weekend, I knocked one of the biggest white whales off that Hall of Fame list when I saw Fleetwood Mac at the United Center in Chicago. For a guy who had Rumours in his ears as a small child, on to absolutely falling head over heels in love with Stevie Nicks and her solo records at the dawn of MTV, and finally getting smitten all over again when the reunion tour and album dropped in 1997, this was a long time coming.

And here are the reasons why this show scratched an enduring itch:

The world’s most underappreciated rhythm section

When you have bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, you have songs that have so much bottom, it almost makes you forget that they’re selling you this juggernaut of almost-sunny Southern California-style pop that took the universe by storm in the late 1970s and into the ’80s. There are doom metal bands that don’t get that much sturdy backbone from the rhythm section. It’s the most enduring part of the show, hands down.

Lindsey Buckingham, motherfucking guitar god

I don’t know how he does it. The way he plays. He doesn’t use a pick. He just does this thing, palm down, where he puts his thumb on the top string and flicks the other strings outward with his fingers. It kind of reminds me of the way my pal Jeremy (the one and only Citrus Head) used to pathetically try to play Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” on the guitar when we were 13. Except when Lindsey Buckingham does it, it’s pure shred. Listen to the solos on “The Chain” or “You Make Loving Fun” sometime, and then after that, WATCH him play those same solos. It’s insane. And then when he pulls out his acoustic guitar for his signature piece “Big Love,” it’s just a master class of guitar virtuosity. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Well, at least not until …

Top 5, eternally

Top 5, eternally

 

 

My dark princess

You know those lists married people started making of “five people you can sleep with and NOT get divorced” (the Friends episode, you know you saw it)? Well, I always used to joke that the 1978 version of Stevie Nicks was at the top of my list. Hell, the 1981 version, at the dawn of MTV, when she made “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley – those are perfect goddamn rock and roll songs (yes, let’s pause and reminsce for a second):

Anyway, back to the present. Oh my. On Friday night, she sang “Dreams.” She sang “Rhiannon.” We got “Gypsy.” Who can forget “Landslide”? Jesus, her voice is still unique and strong. But the night was complete when she emerged from the shadows – in her gold shawl and fingerless lace gloves, doing her witchy pirouette as wind chimes rang out – for “Gold Dust Woman.” Lord have mercy, she was sex on a stick.

So yeah, I don’t need 1978 Stevie anymore. I’m just fine with 2014 Stevie, thanks.

And as incredible as she was, she was only the second best part of the night.

Christine McVie, thank you for coming back

I’ve been trying to see Fleetwood Mac live ever since that 1997 reunion. For whatever reason, it never seemed to work out. I see now that was a blessing in disguise.

You see, Christine McVie retired from the band after that outing and stayed sidelined for 16 years. I love Stevie, but I can’t imagine hearing “Don’t Stop” or any other Mac anthem on which Christine is featured prominently with anyone’s voice BUT Christine’s. Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out.

We got everything we wanted from her this weekend (well, except “Hold Me.” My favorite Mac song. A Christine staple, in my book. Unfortunately, they didn’t play it. So I’m just gonna tuck this here so my experience with the band can be all-inclusive):

But yeah … “You Make Loving Fun” was majestic. “Say You Love Me” and “Everywhere” were enchanting. Even “Little Lies,” which has never been one of my favorites, sounded bad-ass and downright heavy live.

But when she closed the show with “Songbird,” her signature piece, it made me thankful I had to wait 16 years to experience this band. I can’t say this enough: If you want to see this band, do it. Now. Don’t wait. You may have seen them before, but maybe it was without Christine. Right now? She’s back. You might not get another chance.

Waited a lifetime to see this band. It was worth the wait.

Fleetwood Mac was an enormous part of a memorable night. But they weren’t the only part …

Talk about a lifetime meeting

Once upon a time, I had this friend named Molly. We met when I was still wet behind the ears, still trying to figure out who I was gonna be as a freshman away from home for the first time at the University of Iowa.

Molly when I first met her … and me when I first met her.

 

I met her when I was taking freshman rhetoric (which is strange, because she wasn’t a freshman), one of those classes that are interactive and encourage people to share ideas (I always justified her being in this class as her being awesome enough to say, “Fuck it. I’m just gonna take my rhetoric requirement when I’m a sophomore because I can do whatever the fuck I want.”). Anyway, instead of just lumping myself in with the other kids I assumed were like me, this blonde bombshell locked eyes with me and motioned for me to come on over. What the actual fuck? Girls like this who didn’t already know me from before do NOT seek ME out. But for reasons I still don’t understand, this girl wanted to be friends with me, not the other way around.

As I got to know her, she just killed me. She was funny. She was inclusive and engaging. Witty and articulate. Intelligent. And oh yeah, hot. Always with the black leather jacket. I seem to remember she liked to drink whiskey and take shots of Jager. One day, some dude picked her up in front of the English-Philosophy Building on his motorcycle, like she was the bad girl in Grease or something, and I just remember saying, “Jesus Christ, she’s so fucking bad-ass.” I shook my head and chuckled and just kept walking to class, realizing I had some work to do in life if I ever wanted THAT.

We were never the kind of friends who called each other or made plans together. But for the next two years, we didn’t just keep walking if we saw each other on the street. Every single time, we stopped and talked. If we saw each other out and about, we ended up getting drinks and ignoring everyone else we went to the bar with. Because of her and who she is and how she acts and because she invited me over upon seeing me in that class after 25 seconds, I’ve never really been afraid to approach anyone if I felt like I wanted to know them, even if they were “out of my league.” That was Molly.

In the fall of 1994, I remember seeing her on the street between Van Allen Hall and the Que Bar. We talked. I remember I was holding a poster I had just bought for my first apartment (I think it was of Janis Joplin at Woodstock). After a few minutes, we said, “see ya later.”

Then … whoosh, she was gone. I never saw her again in the entire time I was at Iowa. I figured she must have graduated. Or transferred. Whatever …

And then 14 years came and went. I mean, there wasn’t always Google. Or Friendster or MySpace. Once she was gone, I had no idea how to find her. She was gone.

I hate giving it too much credit, but what’s true is true – Facebook changed it. Mark Zuckerberg will always have my eternal gratitude for that. I found her there six years ago, in an exchange that will always makes me smile when I think about it. Ever since then, we share birthday greetings. We talk about the Hawks. I see photos of her doing BTN fun runs in Iowa gear, complete with knee-high gold Hawkeye socks. She sees me posting links to my blogs at Music or Space Shuttle? and blathering on about whatever movies, TV shows or records I’m currently loving or hating.

But we still never talked, let alone actually saw each other.

What does this have to do with Fleetwood Mac?

Friday night, for the first time in 20 years, Molly and I hung out again. In person. The Mac brought us together. We had drinks. We caught up. I got to hang with her and her girlfriends, one of which went to Riot Fest like me … however, she did NOT skip Slayer for Jane’s Addiction like I regretfully did (which, by the way, when she said it, was the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard. Chicks who dig metal … swoon).

So it was a glorious night. I just hope I don’t have to wait 20 years to do it again.

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