Somebody on Facebook got a thread going in which people posted the first music “concert” they attended. I’m not just sure what qualifies as a concert but I imagine it takes place in a venue where hundreds, if not tens of thousands, can attend.
In the early 60s I don’t recall concert like take place today. While living in the Los Angeles area I went to a number of small clubs where name performers were appearing. I saw Billy Eckstine perform in a small hotel lounge and Linda Ronstadt and Willie Nelson in small dance clubs. Flat and Scruggs, Doc Watson, Dave Gardner and a number of folk music acts often played at the Troubadour and the Ash Grove. I even danced to the music of Lawrence Welk at the Hollywood Palladium on one occasion.
It wasn’t until the Beatles showed up in America that I recall hearing about large arena and stadium concerts. The first of those I attended was in November, 1969 at the Inglewood Forum in Los Angeles. The opening act was the band South Wind, followed by The Guess Who riding high on their hit, American Woman. They were the opening acts for the evening’s headliner, Creedence Clearwater Revival. I’m guessing there were 20,000 in attendance and it was an overwhelming experience. Unlike today, people still sat in their assigned seats and I saw nothing resembling a mosh pit. When CCR began playing Keep on Chooglin’ the crowd did come to its feet and it became a thunderous moment in which I briefly considered the place may fall on our heads from the awesome volume and foot stomping.
Looking at the list of people’s first concerts was interesting and reflective. It was like a trip back in music history and brought up names I had long forgotten, such as Iron Maiden. Unlike any number of my friends I never got into the concert thing, preferring the disappearing small venues. The idea of being, as we said in the Navy, asshole to belly button with forty thousand sweaty bodies just doesn’t appeal to me.
One of the worst and most memorable evenings of my life was a Jimmy Buffett concert at Buckeye Lake Music Center, east of Columbus on August 5, 1995. Being a huge Parrothead my wife and I decided to treat the family to an evening out. We ordered assigned seating tickets for everyone and as the date drew nearer so did the monsoon rains associated with a hurricane off the North Carolina coast. By the time we arrived this bowl-shaped venue had filled to capacity with beer drinking, pot smoking, filthy bodies splashing and crawling around in a literal sea of mud, vomit and urine. The assigned seats were non-existent but by the time we figured that out we were up to our buttocks in muck and mire.
Buffett and the Coral Reefers were indeed on stage hammering out Cheeseburger in Paradise while trying to not get electrocuted from playing electric instruments while standing in ankle deep water. At some point I made a unilateral dictator-esque decision to get the hell out of there before the Volcano blew so we all joined hands while I lead us out of the valley of doom to the promised land of our soon to be filthy custom conversion van.
Being totally pissed I stopped at the admission booth demanding a full refund on the grounds of inhumanity to man and the absence of the assigned seating we’d paid for. The fourteen year old in charge just ignored my screams so when we got home I called American Express, explained the nightmare, and was issued full credit to my card.
I don’t recall if my aversion to large events began before or after that night in Margaritaville but if I remain in control of my destiny there will never be another mosh pit in it.