Friday, June 26, 2009

Weekend Listomania: Special I Knew 'Em When Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental groinal manipulation technician diet consultant Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the great state of South Carolina for some remedial nude hiking with Governor Mark Sandford (R-Down Argentine Way). Mark's bringing the Flit, but I'm worried that the bugs will be out of control anyway.

So posting by moi will be sporadic for a few days.

But in the meantime, here's another little fun project for you folks:

Best Major, i.e. Arena-Worthy, Rock/Pop Act You Were Lucky Enough to See in a Small Room!!!

No arbitrary rules here, as I'm going to be flexible about what constitutes a small room. A club like the departed Bottom Line in NYC sat about 400, which to me should be the outside figure, but B.B. King's, which is the contemporary equivalent, seats about 700. Anyway, I'll leave it to you guys to be honest about this. And hopefully, your examples will be from a time when whoever you nominate was on the way up, rather than down.

Oh, and incidentally, if you're puzzled about the clue downstairs, I saw Dolly Parton at the aforementioned Bottom Line sometime in the late 70s. Not really an arena act, I suppose, but you get the point.

Also, I have the unsettling feeling I may have done this topic (or one awfully similar) before, but cut me some slack. As you'll see from the list below, I'm obviously extremely old.

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Patti Smith

At Max's Kansas City, which sat 150 people tops, performing the just released Easter album in its entirety. At one point, Patti kicked over the drinks on the table where my girlfriend and I were sitting; said girlfriend was totally freaked and made me take her home, and thus I missed the live version of "Because the Night." Irksome, as you can imagine, but I've forgiven both of them since.

6. The Cars

The aforementioned Bottom Line again, circa the first album. They were quite good in a steely sort of way, although I thought they were surprisingly deficient in the charisma department. Also, the late Ben Orr really shouldn't have been wearing leather pants.

5. The Police

At the aforementioned Bottom Line as well. They had been booked there before "Roxanne" hit, so it was your basic contractual obligation gig. Place was packed, obviously; I watched from the bar and had a very good time.

4. Dire Straits

Bottom Line, same deal; "Sultans of Swing" was Top Ten at the time. Knopfler was awesome, the more so for being totally nonchalant.

3. Bachman Turner Overdrive

Max's Kansas City, touring the first album, circa 1973. They played with tiny little Fender amps and I thought they were hilarious.

2. Cheap Trick

The Bottom Line, again, around Heaven Tonight in 1978. I went with a fanatical punk/New Wave fan who was disappointed they sounded so much like a metal band. Heh.

And the numero uno show featuring incipient superstars I ever saw at a hole in the wall dive, it's not even a contest as you'll see, obviously was --

1. The Wailers/Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band

Max's Kansas City again, early 1973 (the clip is from '72, but you'll get the idea). The Wailers (with both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, for crissakes) were making their New York debut; Springsteen was pretty much an unknown. Both bands were utterly amazing, but most of the crowd left after the reggae, and so I saw Bruce for the first time in the company of fifty or sixty hardcore fans from the Jersey Shore. Bruce asked for requests, I shouted "Route 66," and they actually did it.

Awrighty then, who would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best revised re-released film, classic or otherwise -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could possibly go over there and leave a trenchant comment, I'd be your best friend.]


Wendy said...

I lived two blocks from the Bottom Line for 14 years ... walked by there the week Bruce was playing and thought, "I'll catch him next time." Everyone played the Bottom Line multiple times ... except Bruce. That was his only time there. Needless to say, I have regretted it since.

But, I saw the Grateful Dead at the Cafe Au Go Go in 1967, so that wins hands down.

cthulhu said...

Two that stand out, in chronological order:

Richard Thompson, solo acoustic, at Poor David's Pub in Dallas, ca. 1991. 150-seat (max) club. We had tix to the 8pm show; the club policy was that if the late show (10:30pm) didn't sell out, early show patrons could stay for the late show. First set was marvelous; we stayed for the second show. Had a chat with RT during the break; he and my wife found a hidden connection, both being huge Buddy Holly fans. During the second set, he played a request just for us. His wife sat down at our table and we chatted between songs. He previewed several tracks of the still-six-months-prior-to-release Rumor and Sigh disk, including "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" and the aptly-named "Psycho Street". Finished up with "The End of the Rainbow"; his wife remarked "all of the sad songs tonight!" Once-in-a-lifetime experience, although maybe RT isn't really arena-worthy, HE SHOULD BE!

Second one: 2001, La Jolla Playhouse (400-seat intimate theater), Pete Townshend solo. A benefit for the Playhouse. Pete played acoustic guitar and piano. Solo stuff like "Let My Love Open the Door" (his intro: "This is a silly love song. I write millions of 'em."); Who classics such as "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"; and some obscure gems like the unutterably lovely "Greyhound Girl", with Pete playing a 12-string guitar. Ended up as a "Storytellers"-type evening, lots of banter with the audience. Brought out a red Strat for the encore, and gave us some windmills. Magical. Available on CD from his website; a unique experience.

Mister Pleasant said...

Talking Heads at the Sooner Theater in Norman, OK, summer of 1979. Ran into David Byrne taking a leak in the bathroom before the show. Fear of Music had just been released and the band was at their herky jerky best just before they hit the big time. Most of the couple of hundred folks in the audience were aging university town hippies.

David Rasmussen said...

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Ames, Iowa (some place next to Highway 30 that closed long ago), supporting the Bad Reputation album
Cake, Fine Line, Minneapolis, supporting their first release, with about 25 present, possibly due to the weather
Ben Folds Five, 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, their first time or two or three around
The Minus Five, Bryant Lake Bowl (okay, not technically arena worthy except that the members of REM not in the Minus Five were conspicuously present in advance of an arena show the next day)

That is what comes to mind for me.

steve simels said...

ooh...I would have LOVED to have seen Ben Folds in a club.

cthulhu said...

Mister Pleasant - if you were in Norman in 1979, did you catch the Tim Curry concert (also at the Sooner Theater) that same year? I wasn't there until a couple of years later, but I heard it was astounding (most of that from non-Rocky-Horror fans to boot).

Mister Pleasant said...

Cthulhu - I did not catch the Tim Curry show. Apparently I should have. Congrats on the Richard Thompson solo show. That must have been incredible.

John Fowler said...

Three come to mind, all Athens, GA (college), including probably the two best shows I've ever seen:

3. R.E.M. - spring 1984, I believe, the band returned to Athens at the end of the Murmur tour for a show at a local small-ish venue - can't recall the name. A bit larger than a room, but still pretty cozy - probably 300-400 people. After this, every year their shows were larger and larger, 'til they outgrew Athens and ended up with shows only in Atlanta or under pseudonyms (eg, Hindu Love Gods) in Athens. A great, but not awesome, show.

2. The Replacements - 1985 (?), at the new 40 Watt club, touring for Tim. Hair-raising, loud, hot, crowded, and just life-altering.

1. Jason and the Scorchers - 1986 (?), with the Lost & Found tour. Also at the 40 Watt. Ok, so perhaps some of the moves that Warner Hodges had with his guitar were a bit cheesy - but, still, in the moment, it was great entertainment and totally fun. And the entire crowd sang the first verse to 'Broken Whiskey Glass', followed by Jason and the band absolutely tearing into the song. Just amazing.

geor3ge said...

Saw Yo La Tengo do a semi-acoustic show at the Buskirk-Chumley in Bloomington, Indiana, two years ago.


Anonymous said...

James Brown at the old Lone Star Cafe!
Husker Du in a church basement in Montreal.

Johnny D's, Somerville - (My main watering hole, c. maybe 300)- Rosanne Cash, Wilco (1st tour), Hubert Sumlin, Arthur Alexander. The Dixie Chicks used to play there before they were famous, and used to come into the record store and ask us to come to the gig. (I had a wicked crush on the Chick who is no longer with the band..)

Aerosmith tuning up for an arena tour at the Middle East Down. (Not a favorite band, but lots of fun..)

Iggy Pop at a Newbury Comics in-store. (Why, he's only a few feet away!)

Richard Thompson at Hunt's in Burlington, VT many times in the 80s. (He was playing Time guitars for a while, which were made there....)

And I can't say that I ever saw anything epic at the venerable Rat (Boston's answer to CB's), but LOTS of bands played there on their way up: REM, Police, Replacements, and so on.. God, I miss that smelly dive. - Bill Buckner

Dave said...

Richard Thompson is certainly arena *worthy* but he'd never fill one. I've seen Jonathan Richman and Laura Nyro many times in small clubs, but they never achieved commercial success on a scale of the acts below: These are the five most memorable:

5. I was in London in 1972 and Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" was a big hit. He played in a big old burlesque theater, with perhaps 1500 capacity. Nine, count 'em, nine paying customers showed up. JW proceeded to ask like he was in a packed house at the Apollo. He invited everyone (including me, in the cheapest seats) to come up to the front row. I'll never forget his professionalism.

4. When I was in college, I saw Captain Beefheart in a tiny club, supporting the release of Trout Mask Replica. He killed. For some reason, I brought my 45 of "Diddy Wah Diddy" and he freaked out when he saw me hold it up. It was the first time (one of two times in my life) I asked a recording artist to autograph anything. Most of the crowd had no idea who he was they went nuts for him nevertheless.

3. Another college story. I went to a school with 1100 students. We had a small lounge in the student union which was used as a TV room and a meeting place for small groups. A guy came with an acoustic guitar and I was introduced to him. I remembered his name, because I had read in Rolling Stone that he was Joni Mitchell's boyfriend, but I had no idea he had already enjoyed some writing success. Yep, Jackson Browne. He was extremely nervous, and indicated this was one of the first times he had ever performed solo. He played many of the songs that would be on his first album a couple of years later.

2. I got to hear Brian Wilson perform solo with just a baby grand at a small party for the publication of his "autobiography," "Wouldn't It be Nice." He only played three songs, including the abysmal "Some Girls" from the unreleased "Sweet Insanity." He was not in good voice nor in great command of his mental faculties. Still to be a few feet away from him, banging away on the piano, singing "God Only Knows," was an unforgettable experience, especially as I was sitting next to Eugene Landy, who was as sleazy and annoying as expected.

1. Unfortunately, this one is timely. Again in College, in spring of '69, the Outsiders were playing in the larger lounge in the student union. there were maybe 100 people there, and they were a terrific bar band who just happened to have two hits, and one smash, "Time Won't Let Me": I heard an unknown R&B band were playing in the dorm lounge about 100 yards away.

I walked toward the dorm and I heard "Cloud 9," and it sounded better than the Temptations. I walked in and there was this tiny little kid fronting a fantastic band. Yep, it was the Jackson 5, with no recorded tracks, no other players, and a crummy sound system -- they sounded like the best act in the world. It was certainly one of the best concerts I've ever experienced and only about 50 people heard it. At that point, Michael was pretty much doing James Brown dance moves. There was no reference to a record contract, but plenty of shoutouts to Gary, Indiana. I saw James Brown and Tina Turner and Springsteen in their primes -- I've never seen a greater performer live than Michael Jackson. Despite his fall, artistically as well as personally, I've always had a soft spot for him because of the joy he (and his brothers) gave me that hot spring night.

Gummo said...

In November '76 at the many-times aforementioned Bottom Line I saw the Patti Smith Group for the first time -- with her special guest, Bruce Springsteen, on guitar. Strangely, it was the only time I've ever seen Bruce.

I also saw Television at the Bottom Line during their last week of gigs before they announced their break-up in '78. They weren't an arena band, but they sure should have been.

For a very short time in the mid-80s there was a great club in Sheepshead Bay called the Brooklyn Zoo -- in the same week I saw the Ramones there, then 2 days later I saw Iggy Pop there. It was the best show I've ever seen iggy do, so loose & relaxed he even started singing a Sinatra tune, then stopped midway and went on to something else.

The day between those 2 shows, James Brown played the same club but stupidly I did not go.

I saw Ray Davies in a small theater in the West Village when he first started doing solo shows -- don't know how big the theater was but I was in the second row so it was very intimate as far as I was concerned.

Saw John Cale at CBGB's. Nico too. Pere Ubu also.

Saw a Blues Project reunion at the Bottom Line back in the 90s. Also at the Bottom Line (damn, that was one busy club) I saw Jefferson Starship -- the Kantner, Cassidy, Balin version, of course.

Hard to believe that place is gone.

CoolSchool said...

I saw R.E.M at the Old Town Music Hall in Birmingham AL with about 100 other folks shortly after the Chronic Town EP was released in 1982. Michael Stipe jumped up during one number and when he came down the stage collapsed under him. Turns out it was little more than some planks supported by (stolen?) milk crates covered with carpet. Boy, did that show rock.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Springsteen - fast lane in asbury park
U2 - fast lane and hitsville (passaic nj)
southside johnny & the asbury jukes - bottom line
the police - fast lane
ian hunter - fast lane
nick lowe and dave edmunds - fast lane and bottom line
Mink Deville - bottom line , fast lane

NYMary said...

Well, ain't this an ironic topic, considering that you're blowing me off tonight. (runs from room, sobbing)

The best little room I've been to repeatedly is Maxwell's in Hoboken. I've seen Guided By Voices there (partied with them in the basement, New Year's Eve 98/99), the New Pornographers (Carl Newman sold me my tshirt, assuring me that I could go a size down, sweet man), Superchunk (will never, ever forget the guy, 6'7" or 8", wearing a shirt that said "Big Fun," pogoing under the lights and almost hitting them every time), and Holly Golightly (surprisingly kind of vague and empty). And tonight, Fountains of Wayne.

Anyone wants to join us for dinner there tonight, I'm sure someone will be selling FOW tix outside.

Wendy said...

Gummo said...
Strangely, it was the only time I've ever seen Bruce.


The Bottom Line was a great club, and sorely missed.

TMink said...

The dB's at "He's Not Here" in Chapel Hill. Not that they ever hit it big, but then the universe is not fair.

The Meat Puppets. See above, but they did hit it big for a moment and it almost killed them.

I saw Bob Seeger as an opening act at the Bayou Boogie Festivel in 1976. The headliners were Montrose and Black Oak Arkansas. The second act of the all day affair was some guy with a British accent who could make his guitar talk. Peter Frampton.

Oh, and I saw Los Lonely Boys at the Exit/In when they were not old enough to legally buy beer. Ringo bought some anyway.


The Kenosha Kid said...

I don't even feel like I'm worthy to post on this thread, but..

Echo & The Bunnymen at a club called "Spit" on LI. It was actually the disco in a small hotel (they didn't have clubs back then..)

Since Molly has mentioned Maxwell's:
Husker Du
The Minutemen
Jonathan Richman
Joe Jackson (special secret show)
The Fleshtones (with Ira Kaplan on sound)

Yo La Tengo - multiple times, multiple locations: I was friends with Ira's brother and got dragged to see them back when they sucked and didn't even have a single out.

Wendy said...

And, since you mentioned B.B. King's, I saw Jeff Beck there a couple of years ago, and then again at Irving Plaza a couple of months ago (and no, I won't call it The Fillmore).

The Kenosha Kid said...

OK, now it's coming back to me:

Red Hot Chili Peppers opening for Jason & The Scorchers at Irving Plaza

Also, I saw A Certain Ratio at the Peppermint Lounge. The opening act was the Del Byzanteens. Who were they?

The Del-Byzanteens was a New York-based No Wave band active in the early 1980's. The band comprised Phil Kline (vocals, guitar); Jim Jarmusch (vocals, keyboards); Philippe Hagen (bass); Josh Braun (percussion, drums); and Dan Braun (drums, percussion). Luc Sante wrote the lyrics to some of their song, while James Nares sometimes contributed as a percussionist, and occasionally John Lurie performed with them on stage.

Jeff said...

Stevie Ray Vaughan @ Tupelo's Tavern, New Orleans, 1980: A small club with a stage that was only a dais. A friend's punk band opened, I stayed after they left, fascinated by Mr. Vaughan's entourage, including a tech who sat tuning his guitar for at least an hour. I was one of maybe five people in the audience; by 2 a.m. I was it. But he played as if he didn't notice or care, often looking straight at me, grinning. He was amazing. (I stood there dumbfounded, mouth agape, as I would do on future occasions when I got to see Thompson play.)

I'm in awe of so many of the lists above - especially Dave's.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

billy joel - fast lane asbury park
delbert mcclinton - fast lane
graham parker and rumour - fast lane
garland jeffries - fast lane
tom petty and the heartbreakers - hitsville passaic

Unknown said...

I saw Little Feat at a club in Atlanta called Richard's, which burned down suspiciously a few weeks later. It was a great show, with everybody dancing. The group had only recently become a 6-piece and I got to see Lowell's amazing right-hand technique, palming a round pick between his fingers so he could play finger-style, then use the pick for solos. The next time the came through town it was opening for Dave Mason in a dingy little auditorium used mostly for wrestling. Perhaps bigger than out parameters here will admit, but the audience was club-sized, at best. I have never seen a headliner so thoroughly run off the stage by the opener as on that night. A monster set.

This doesn't qualify as "on their way up" and may again be too big a venue, but one of the most memorable nights of my life was seeing the Band about a dozen years ago (post-Robertson, post-Richard) one hot September night at a minor-league ballpark in Trenton, NJ. They were the entertainment for a barbecue cook-off and the whole thing was just mythic: full moon hanging over the stage, woodsmoke and spices in the air, people dancing on the infield. A small-town rock and roll jamboree.

And I saw Bruce at Allegheny College in Meadeville, PA (birthplace of Trent Reznor, I believe) not long after the Time/Newsweek covers and just before his former manager got a restraining order that kept him from public performances for a year or so. Granted, it was a theatre (a small one) and, granted, they were already pretty famous, but I sat in the last row of the balcony and when he sang "Raise Your Hand" I raised my hand.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I've got another one!

My first week in Boston, I went to one of those promo shows thrown by the local "alternative" radio station. Went all day, buncha baby bands playing for a half hour or so. You may have heard of a couple near the top of the bill: Radiohead and Nirvana.

(And in the last couple of years I've seen BOTH The Zombies and the reconstituted New York Dolls at Axis, tiny sister club to the neighboring Avalon.) - bill buckner

Bob S. said...

I saw Cheap Trick at the Michigan Theater in downtown Lansing, MI, a 30's era movie theater - they were touring for In Color. Also saw the Ramones (twice) and the Stranglers at Dooley's, a large dance bar in East Lansing in the late 70's. Some women from MSU were picketing the Stranglers due to sexist lyrics (Peaches, Bring On the Nubiles). One of the band members got on the PA and announced that they were just "exploring certain aspects of the human condition".

msw said...

T-Bone Burnett in a very small bar in Atlanta. He sat in a chair among the audience - there was no stage. Sam Waterston (of Law and Order fame) was among the 50 people attending.

ms. rosa said...

Man, what great shows everyone has seen! I always said I was born 10-20 years too late...

Just saw 13th Floor Elevator casualty Roky Erickson Wednesday at a bar/venue called Continental Club here in Houston. I don't know if there was supposed to be as many people as were there - I'd say there was about 175-200 rabid, sweaty fans. It was so hot and crowded that a couple of fist fights even broke out. First time he's played here in 25 years.

Earlier this year my pal Rhonda interviewed Alejandro Escovedo for her radio show and he invited us to his live show that same night IN A YOGA STUDIO. We stopped for happy hour refreshments on the way to the venue, where he did a brilliant set (SANS MICROPHONE!!). In any case, we were a bit taken aback by 50 or so shoeless, sens'tiff, hippies sitting on straw mats (we were, as respectable ladies, sitting on folding chairs in the back.) We musta got shushed a hundred times. I think it pissed a couple of people off that he walked offstage and hugged me on his way out. Man, can't take me anywhere...

Wendy said...

And how could I forget The Pretenders at The Highline?

MBowen said...

Talking Heads, Nite Court, Ithaca NY, October 1977. I'd been kicked out of school after my freshman year, my first real GF had dumped me, and I had left home, but in September of that year my friend Joanne had played for me the records that changed my life: singles by The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Talking Heads, etc. All of a sudden there was music that belonged to me. At that point I had been to one real rock show the year before, up at the Syracuse War Memorial Arena. I thought that rock'n'roll was something you sat politely 300 feet away from in a crowd of ten thousand. Now, not only was there a band that was one of mine, but I was dancing my ass off 4 feet away from David Byrne and Tina Weymouth in a little disco that normally held 250 people. Absolutely life-changing.

I saw lots of great acts in Cornell's 1500-seat Bailey Hall, including The Kinks (twice), The Police (front row), Patti Smith, Southside Johnny, Chic, and Warren Zevon.

R.E.M., Peppermint Lounge, Thanksgiving 1982

U2, Auburn County Community College, 1983 - The War tour, in the middle of nowhere upstate New York, just as War started breaking big.

10,000 Maniacs, Maxwell's, Spring 1986. It may have been their last show with John Lombardo. Great show...I remember a bunch of encores including Robert Palmer's "Johnny & Mary". Sadly, Lombardo left and they were never that interesting again.

Sykurmolarnir, CBGBs, 1988. An all-Icelandic show by the Sugarcubes.

Feral said...

Living in Wisconsin limited ones experiences but the old Electric Ballroom in Milwaukee used to book some great acts in its day, mid '70s.

Talking Heads
The Police
George Thorogood.

Libby Spencer said...

I saw a lot of big name bands in small venues in lovely downtown Noho, but most of them were already famous, like Warren Zevon, Loudon Wainwright, Sun Ra.

I guess Chris Collingwood of FoW would count though. I saw him many times solo or in pickup bands like the Gay Potatos in tiny clubs before they got the Grammy nomination and as I often boast, became friends with him and his wife. Also since I bartended at a music bar, I saw Dinosaur Jr. many times before they got big.

I saw Weezer in a small club in Atlanta right before they hit MTV.

I saw Vanilla Fudge in a small theater right before they got famous. And Young Rascals somewhere around Danbury, CT before they hit the big time.

Only went to the Bottom Line once in my life and can't remember who I saw there. Oddly, I was trying to remember that the other day. Synapse fry on that one.

Marsupial said...

This may not count, but: We saw Mike Peters of the Alarm play a LONG acoustic set in the bar at the minor-league baseball stadium by us in Lake Elsinore. He was awesome, the setlist was incredible, and he played the most obscure request I could think to ask of him right before the show.

Marsupial said...

I should have mentioned that there were probably about 75 of us there for that Mike Peters show.

Anonymous said...

Cyndi lauper - literally about 2 weeks before she was huge - as the unknown and unannounced opening act for the Kinks at Springfield Civic Center. (MA) General admission show, and at one point the whole front row was just giving her the finger as she performed through tears.
Then 2 weeks later shes all over MTV, radio, people mag...
What's that expression about the best revenge?