Thursday, January 26, 2023

Stub Hub: Diary of a Concert-Crazed Teenager

As I mentioned on my recent Madonna memories post, I've been scanning and photographing concert ticket stubs I've saved over the years. To be sure, I didn't remember to keep them all. And because I was well under 21, I missed out on many great bands who played at nightclubs. But the decent collection I have does really capture a period in my life, a joyous time when discovering new music also led me to discover my "tribe," as it were, people with whom I am still friends 40-plus years later. My first concert was the Go-Go's -- but should have been Blondie -- followed by Missing Persons, Thompson Twins, Pretenders and B-52s, all of which is detailed BELOW

The Go-Go's (with the Blasters) / Compton Terrace (Phoenix), Aug. 31, 1982

My first concert was the Go-Go's at Compton Terrace, a venue owned by Stevie Nicks's father on the grounds of the Legend City Amusement Park. My partner in crime was Greg, who'd become my best friend two years earlier when we faced each other in a junior tennis event held on Dobson Ranch, the community where I grew up. Although I remember the show as being during the gals' never-ending "Beauty and the Beat" tour -- they'd opened for the Police at the same venue in February of the same year -- Greg recently reminded me that he did buy a T-shirt and I got a tour program, both of which confirm that it was the tour promoting "Vacation," which had come out a couple weeks prior to the gig. 

The Blasters were the opening act -- at the time Belinda was dating their drummer (Bill Bateman), about whom Wikipedia says this: 

In 1985, Bateman married Jennifer Berry, the daughter of actor Ken Berry and actress Jackie Joseph. The duration of the marriage was short, but the ceremony and reception were memorable. Ken Berry had worked with Andy Griffith on "Mayberry R.F.D.," and Griffith was in attendance, as were Bateman's bandmates from the Blasters, members of Los Lobos, the Go-Go's, and other well-known local rockers. [No word on whether Mama made an appearance.]

The two gay boys from Phoenix were completely taken by these five young women not from this town, who were like the cool older sisters I never had. And the outing set the stage for a lifetime of live musical performances, which still rank as my favorite thing to do, even above live tennis matches.

Missing Persons / Celebrity Theatre (Phoenix) / Oct. 24, 1982

Dale Bozzio and the boys didn't disappoint -- "Words," "Walking in L.A.," "Destination Unknown" -- in a concert on a revolving stage. (Best eight bucks and change I ever spent!)

Thompson Twins / Royal Oak Music Theatre (Detroit/Royal Oak, Mich.) / March 19, 1983

Having moved to Phoenix in 1979, my siblings and I were back in Detroit for spring break visiting friends and family when my best friend from sixth grade (Mark) scored us tickets for our favorite new band! The theater is located where I was born, although it and the city itself had both undergone quite a renovation since the late 1960s.

My "Sidekicks" T-shirt 

In my bedroom that summer

The Pretenders / Celebrity Theatre (Phoenix), May 27, 1983

This is a gig I'm very fortunate to have attended. Pete Farndon and James Honeyman Scott had both died the previous year and it was unclear if the band would carry on. But that spring, "Back on the Chain Gang" was released as a single -- something you rarely see in the U.S. without a corresponding LP -- and Chrissie Hynde, Martin Chambers and two pretend Pretenders hit the road to give it a go. Bonus points to 15-year-old me for getting high-fived by Chrissie on her way out of the joint! 

The B-52s / Mesa Amphitheatre (Phoenix/Mesa, Ariz.) / June 17, 1983

Of all the shows I've seen, this and Kirsty MacColl (at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., five years before her death) are the two I'm most grateful for. Ricky Wilson was alive and the atmosphere was entirely joyous, with nary a hint of the devastation AIDS would bring the band, and the world.

Wore this till it was nearly see-through! 

A Flock of Seagulls (with the Fixx) / Mesa Amphitheatre / July 3, 1983

I didn't have the craziest hair that night, although I was mortified that someone told me I looked just like (Fixx singer) Cy Curnin. (That's why the long face!)

Talking Heads / Compton Terrace / Aug. 28, 1983

You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you stodgy David Byrne allowed the band to play "Burning Down the House" TWICE, the song was so huge at the moment!

The Police (with Thompson Twins and Madness) / Phoenix Municipal Stadium / Sept. 7, 1983

I wrote about this show at length HERE.

X / Devil House (Tempe, Ariz.) / Oct. 15, 1983

Was one of the few 16-year-olds at this show near Arizona State University. 

Have seen X a number of times since but the "More Fun in the New World" tour is the one I remember most fondly.

The Pretenders / ASU Activity Center (Phoenix/Tempe, Ariz.) / March 12, 1984

I felt something extraordinary was called for when Chrissie and the boys circled back after "Learning to Crawl" came out, so I bleached my hair (with strategic dark parts underneath) to capture my best Limahl (of KajaGooGoo fame) look. My brother Bill was a HUGE Pretenders fan, so I tagged along with him and his cool friends (Jodie, Brynn, Mike and Gene) from Tucson, who were in town for the show from the University of Arizona. I recall eating in a funky Mexican restaurant joint Bill wanted them to try in downtown Mesa before the show, where my new (wave) ‘do and I got more attention than a piñata at a 6-year-old's birthday party. It also led an older male colleague at my part-time job to invite 16-year-old me to go dancing at a gay bar called Hot Bods, an offer I turned down that terrified me at the time but have always wondered “what if” about. 

Thompson Twins / Mesa Amphitheatre / May 8, 1984

I went with my friends Greg, Lisa and Kristen -- my third time seeing the Twins! -- and it took an interesting turn when Lisa lost her car keys at the venue. One of the hunky security guards, with whom I believe Kristen was flirting, allowed us to remain until after the crowd had exited. It was at this point we not only found the keys but also Tom and Alannah, who came out to see if we were OK, thrilling us to no end in the process. (Lisa dreamed of being Mrs. Tom Bailey and couldn't believe her luck!) 

The Go-Go's (with INXS) / Pine Knob (Detroit) / June 22 and 23, 1984

I'm not sure why two ticket stubs from one day apart aged so differently, but this was the "Talk Show" tour when INXS opened. My friend Mark and I caught wind of where the gals were staying so lurked around until we ran into them -- and were actually prepared with our pocket cameras stocked with 110 film. 

As it would happen, Kathy Valentine was the only one we never ran into, and she's the one I would get to know best decades later. Her loss that she missed out on this amazing outfit. 😜

R.E.M. (with the Dream Syndicate) / Royal Oak Music Theatre / July 8, 1984

Later that summer I saw R.E.M. for the first time with Mark's friend Gayle, who unlike Mark was a fan of the up-and-coming college band from Georgia my brother Bill introduced me to. Curiously, I think they would wind up being the band I saw live most in my life, with the possible of exception of Blondie. (More about Debbie and the boys later.)

Missing Persons / Mesa Amphitheatre / July 24, 1984

When I got back to Phoenix I saw Missing Persons for the second time, this time promoting their "Spring Session M" LP in a bigger venue. (My friend James notes that you can still see Missing Persons for $12.50!)

Psychedelic Furs (with the Bangles) / Mesa Amphitheatre / Aug. 22, 1984

The Furs were riding high on the success of "Mirror Moves" singles "The Ghost in You" and "Heaven," both of which were in heavy rotation on MTV. They sounded great, but I was even more thrilled to see the Bangles, whose EP I fell in love with a year earlier but were now promoting their major-label debut, "All Over the Place." (I ended up discussing this tour with the band when I met them 30 years later!)

R.E.M.  (with the dB's) / The Palace West (Phoenix) / Sept. 8, 1984

Second R.E.M. show, this time with my brothers Bill and Terence. Great old theater in downtown Phoenix made me feel like I lived in a real city for a second there!

Cyndi Lauper (with the Hooters) / ASU Activity Center / Sept. 30, 1984

Attended this one with Lisa (and possibly Kristen). Lots of young girls dressed unusually. The Hooters opened, which didn't thrill me! 

Let's Active / The Mason Jar (Phoenix) / Dec. 5, 1984

This one was a big deal because it was in an adult bar and I had recently gotten my driver's license and was allowed to drive "across town" to the all-ages show. My stalker-cum-gal-pal (Susan) went with me, shortly before turning to a life of heroin and prostitution. (And I thought going to a bar was being edgy!)  Grateful for this one too given the untimely deaths of drummer Sara Romweber (brain tumor) and bassist Faye Hunter (suicide) many years later.

Madonna / ASU Activity Center / April 30, 1985

Read HERE.

Howard Jones / Pine Knob / June 20, 1985

I was obsessed with Howard Jones in high school, changing my look for Limahl wannabe to full-on "New Song" crooner. Mark, Nina, Brad and I arrived HOURS early hoping to spot the singer, only to instead have brief encounter with his mime sidekick, Jed, instead! 

I saw Howard again back in Arizona at Veterans Memorial Coliseum that October. A friend tells me there was no actual concert ticket, just the ticket for entering the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

This was the summer Nina and I had tickets to see our then-all-time-fave band The Style Council. Then her family booked a trip to Vienna and Paul Weller & Co. canceled the tour. (Sad trombone.) A million years later, Nina and I would get to see Paul perform a special "Style Council" night at Irving Plaza, a concert Nina flew in from Chicago just to see.

Thompson Twins / Veterans Memorial Coliseum / Jan. 18, 1986

The fourth and ultimately last time I saw the Twins, this time at their biggest venue yet. Their star shined bright but like many from the second British Invasion, it faded just as quickly.

Belinda Carlisle / St. Andrew's Music Hall (Detroit) / June 24, 1986

This was the Go-Go's singer's first solo tour, promoting "Belinda." (I still say "Mad About You" is one of the best singles ever.)

Arriving hours early led to getting to briefly say hi and driving around her roadies who needed some gear they'd forgotten to bring. 

Early arrival also meant being right up against the stage -- and snagging this.

The Cure / Pine Knob / July 14, 1986

This is a famous story in my repertoire. Mark, JR and I went to see everyone's favorite goth pop tarts at Pine Knob. We were on the lawn, which is behind the seats. 

Ahead of us were three people trying to look as punk as a possible. Like us, they were enjoying every minute of the show, standing and dancing as appropriate. 

But when the band started to play "Close to Me," which was their MTV video hit of the moment, they all sat down in protest. We were deeply embarrassed for them, and I haven't stopped mock sitting down during hit songs at concerts since!

The Smiths / Mesa Centennial Hall (Phoenix/Mesa, Ariz.) / Aug. 30, 1986

That I saw the Smiths before they broke up is certainly an alternative feather in my cap. But what I remember most about this concert is that I was invited to it by a ... girl! I was working at Walker Research -- a firm that conducted telephone surveys -- where my colleague Melissa and I became work friends. I just assumed we were gal pals until she slipped me the tongue during the encore. (Heaven knew I was miserable now.) That I brought Greg on our "date" should have been a clue to the poor thing, but she continued to try to seduce me for another month or two before things came to a head when her mother found us alone in the living room and tried to chastise Melissa for having a boy over. "Don't worry, Mom. Nothing's going to happen" were her exact (disgusted) words.

R.E.M. / Mesa Amphitheatre / Sept. 23, 1986

Briefly interviewed Michael Stipe for the local college paper after this show.

New Order / Mesa Amphitheatre / Oct. 29, 1986

I must say, I didn't think much of Mesa when I lived there as a youth. But what it lacked in neighboring college town Tempe's trendiness, it more than made up for by having the premier concert venue in the Valley of the Sun. New f**king Order! 

Madonna / Pontiac Silverdome (Detroit) / Aug. 7, 1987

Read HERE.

R.E.M. / Gammage Center (Phoenix/Tempe, Ariz.) / Nov. 16, 1987

Band was getting bigger -- "The One I Love" was their first Top 40 (and Top 10) hit -- and the venues were too.

The B-52s / Mesa Amphitheatre / Aug. 5, 1989

Although we knew Ricky Wilson had died, the band was now back with its biggest album ever -- and we were really excited about it!

Fine Young Cannibals / Gammage Center / Oct. 3, 1989

This was right after I'd gotten drunk and flown to St. Thomas trying to figure out what became of my first love, Derek. FYC ruled the airwaves ... and then like Derwood, disappeared.

Debbie Harry / After the Gold Rush (Phoenix/Tempe, Ariz.) / Oct. 30 

After my family moved to Phoenix, my best friend (Mark) and I made a pact that we would visit each other every summer, taking turns who came to whom. Mark kept his promise and came in 1979, just months after we settled into desert life. I returned to Detroit at the height of Olivia Newton-John's "Magic" in 1980 -- I remember Mark's sister Lois warning us that Ronald Regan was a "war monger" and ripping him to shreds! -- and Mark came back to Mesa in 1981. Then 1982 rolled around and I suddenly didn't have the cash to travel. (I blame Reaganomics.) 

As it would happen, my brother Bill was going to Detroit that summer -- and then Blondie announced its (ill-fated) tour promoting the (ill-fated) "Hunter," which didn't include a stop in Phoenix. In retrospect I still cannot believe I blew the chance to see my all-time favorite band during its first incarnation. But now that I lay this all out, I realize the concert was actually before I'd ever even seen the Go-Go's -- so it wasn't really so much "missing" a concert as I had never even been to one. Mark didn't end up going either. And that HBO aired a stop on the tour made me feel like I could go on. Still, it's haunted me to this day. 

'Tracks' of my tears

My brother kindly bought me a T-shirt (with that hideous album cover on the front!), a poster and I think a tour book. (A virtually unknown at the time Duran Duran opened!) So when Debbie finally started to tour again -- promoting "Def, Dumb and Blonde" -- there was no way I was going to let that one slip by. As is the case with most of these shows, my memory isn't particularly sharp. But that night at a dive bar near Arizona State, where I was a senior, is more vivid than most. Deb opened her first tour in a decade with "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game," immediately alienating the crowd. (Did I mention how ill-fated that album was?) And from there her awkwardness remained on full display, although she looked and sounded every bit as good as I'd dreamed. She eventually connected with the crowd with stellar versions of "Dreaming" and current single "I Want That Man."  She lost them again with the "Comic Books," Detroit 442" and "Bike Boy" trifecta. But then won them back with an encore that included ""(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear" and "Call Me" before coming back for a second of "I'm Waiting for the Man" (Velvet Underground) and Pet Sematary (Ramones). Apparently our (estranged?) friend Chantal stalked Debbie after the show, but I'm pretty sure Greg and I headed to BS West for $1 Coronas and a crowded dance floor.

Madonna / Los Angeles Sports Arena / May 11 and 12, 1990

Read HERE.

Everything but the Girl / The Wiltern Theatre (Los Angeles) / June 26, 1990

My first EBTG show was a real treat. My broken heart and I had just moved to Southern California and the duo had a new album out, "The Language of Life," which they were heavily promoting. The show was beautiful and elegant -- I cried through most of it -- as was the theater. (I saw Pat Benatar there shortly thereafter promoting "True Love.")

Kirsty MacColl / Birchmere Music Hall (Alexandria, Va.) / March 17, 1995

Probably the smartest thing I ever did was attend this show at the intimate theater in suburban Washington. She was promoting her "Galore" best-of CD at the time -- and little did we know she'd be gone just five years later. 

Everything but the Girl / Lincoln Theatre (Washington, D.C.) / Nov. 29, 1995

I went to my second EBTG show with my PR Newswire colleague Paula. Ben Watt had been deathly ill -- rumors of AIDS were going around, not unlike what Chris Stein experienced -- but they were back and touring, which was a huge relief. Tracey Thorn had been collaborating with others during this time, so when they did the Massive Attack song she'd been part of ("Protecting") I was overjoyed.

The Jazz Passengers with Debbie Harry / Blues Alley (Washington, D.C.)  / Dec. 1, 1995

This was my second time seeing Deb -- and in a much more intimate setting. The show was fine -- my poor not-yet-sister-in-law has hearing issues, so had to go outside because the brass was so brash -- but what made it most memorable is that afterward I ran into Debbie upstairs where I'd gone to use the men's room. (It was my first time MEETING Debbie Harry!)

She was holding court in a small room -- I was in awe and could barely talk at first -- where fans were bombarding her with questions to which she knew none of the answers. Without missing a beat, I sat down next to her and stood in for Chris Stein, feeding her responses and steering her into remembering details. It was one of the most magical nights of my life, for which I have no photo or even autograph to remember it by. 

I wouldn't make that mistake AGAIN!

Erasure / American University (Washington, D.C.) / May 26, 1997

This makes me laugh because I'm a HUGE Vince Clarke fan but didn't see Depeche Mode or Yaz(oo) live until years after this. My friend Paul was a fan and bought tickets, so I agreed to go. I was stunned that this fairly popular band played in an actual gymnasium, but they did! 

Susanna Hoffs / The Bayou in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) / May 28, 1997

This was literally two days after the Erasure concert, but somehow I found out Sue was playing in Georgetown, supporting her eponymous second solo LP. (How did we find out about anything before the internet?!) Got there and there couldn't have been more than 10 people in the joint, including what I'm pretty sure was her mother (with a man). My then-boyfriend (Rafael) and Paul came along to keep me company, and after getting over what seemed major embarrassment about the crowd size, the former Bangle put on an incredible show fit for the stadiums to which she'd been accustomed. 

Blondie / The Theater at Madison Square Garden (New York City) / June 10, 1999

Seventeen long years after missing them in Detroit I finally saw my favorite band live at the Theater at Madison Square Garden! At the time it seemed sad that bassist Nigel Harrison and guitarist Frank Infante were excluded from the lineup. But with Debbie, Chris, drummer Clem Burke and keyboardist Jimmy Destri -- who would be gone within a few years -- it was vintage Blondie at its finest. (Deb would have been about 10 years younger than I am now!) My friend Leah was my special guest -- and the Toilet Boys were Blondie's. After getting chastised for singing along too loudly at the beginning of the show -- sorry, lady: I'd waited two decades for this moment -- a cute usher mysteriously appeared and asked us if we wanted to move way closer to the stage. We jumped at the chance -- dreaming may be free, but orchestra seats sure aren’t. It’s only now looking back that I realize this might have been the venue's way of accommodating the complainer without spoiling our fun. What a night!

I've got dozens of other ticket stubs -- my first time seeing Saint Etienne, Rosanne Cash, Paul Weller, Bananarama, the Motels, Paul Simon, Diana Ross, Ivy, the Breeders, Belly and so on. But those early days are the ones that shaped who I am today and are the ones that matter to me most.

Gordon Lightfoot / Gammage Center / Oct. 7, 1979 
Mesa Amphitheatre / Sept. 20, 1980 

Footnote: Technically my first two concerts were Gordon Lightfoot, although I don't really count them not because I'm not a fan but because I didn't make the decision to go on my own -- I was 12 the first time and 13 the second -- or buy the tickets. Still, I do cherish the memories of them both given that my brothers and I ended up grew up listening to the Canadian's albums in our basement in Madison Heights and then decades later seeing him at B.B. King's in 2015, one of the last Walsh brothers outings we did before Bill received his devastating cancer diagnosis less than a year later. xo 


Stephen said...

Nice! I still have all of mine.

Jack said...

I wish I had saved my ticket stubs!