SONIC REDUCER I may have gotten straight Cs in critics' college, but I can't tell you what works for you. You are the only one who knows what makes you put down the channel changer, sends thrills down your spine, sets your disco ball spinning, and brings that mischievous sparkle to your eye. Or do you?
When it comes to e-mail subject line come-ons, one man's "Ciali$ CHEEEP" is another woman's "Ever wanted a bigger penis, Kimberly?" and one stud puppy's "Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Cum to my cam! Buy OEM software CHEEEP!" is my "I could probably make the SF show too if I drove for about the same price as taking the train to Seattle." Last week a certain server masquerading as "Blanchard Christian" fired off that latter missive, an oblique snippet of pseudocrucial poetry to my ears who cares that ole Blanche du Blah's masters were ready to announce their plans to bilk whoops, I mean, "address the huge influx of immigrant workers into the US that need banking solutions that they otherwise would not qualify for"? Pavlov's e-mail robot knows what gets me salivating aside from those wolf beach towels on Amazon.com (wintry wolves and hot sand go together about as well as infants and live grenades): namely, live music. Drive blearily into the Mojave for Coachella, jump through hoops to get to Seattle for Bumbershoot, make the red-eye to Austin for South by Southwest, take the midnight train to Tennessee's Bonnaroo, hock yourself for England's All Tomorrow's Parties, hazard reindeer sashimi for Reykjavik's Iceland Airwaves take note of the chart; I have a history of doing anything for a life-altering show.
So I could immediately relate to the scribblers of The Show I'll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concertgoing Experience (Da Capo). Some keep it short like notes or cockeyed haiku, punctuating eccentrically 'cause they didn't get enough of that in grade school (Thurston Moore on Glenn Branca, Rudolph Grey, and Wharton Tiers). Others find their key note on the "me-me-me-me" and skew confessional (Dani Shapiro revealing that she was beaten by Courtney Cox in the dance-off to be the archetypally lucky audience member pulled from the crowd by Brooooce Springsteen in his "Dancing in the Dark" video). And some make you want to beat them over the head with their next pretentious footnote (yes, Rick Moody, I'm looking at your Lounge Lizards essay we too were once forced to use the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, but we recovered).
Attribute it to sheer wordsmith chops or an all-permeating passion for music, but most entries tend to tell you more about a writer, time, and place than, say, a set list. I know I felt like revisiting my own memorable shows: Iggy Pop in '80s Hawaii; Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse, Unwound, and Karp at Yo Yo a Go Go in Olympia, Wash.; Sufjan Stevens borne by butterfly wings in Berkeley. These essays' mood music is liable to send you a bit more alertly braced for baby epiphanies into your next show. You may even be inspired to take notes.
Because I bet all those precious details are pretty sketchy at this point. Hence, some of my favorite essays were hung up on the "memorable" part of the anthology's title. Was it the songs, the scene, my sweetheart, or my failing gray matter? We all feel vulnerable in the face of the power of music and love, art and memory loss, and in a remembrance (sort of) of all things Rush in 1985 Portland, Maine, Heidi Julavits hits a sad, clear-eyed note that embraces the factual pitfalls of a "memorable concert ... about which I remember little," except for her low-life boyfriend who worshipped the sticks a certain drummer sat on.