The Epic Shows of my Former Self

A friend of mine suggested that to fill in the long spaces between new show reviews on this blog, I should look back at some of my favorite shows of all time.  These are the shows that blew my mind and left some great lasting memories. I tried to find shows that were long enough ago that they were clearly a part of my youth.  They are also the shows that I expect I’ll be able to brag about to my grand kids later, always a bonus.  If you’re a follower of my Ticket Stub Series, these are shows that I don’t have a ticket stub for, so these won’t find their way there and clearly needed a home.

311 @ the Axis in Boston:  This was the first one that came to mind.  I was a huge 311 fan back in their early days.  They were tailor-made for me as a college fool who spent high school listening to METAL and was finding a way to the alternative side.  A few bros and I made the journey down from Plymouth State College to Boston for the show and they were foolish enough to think they could get a ticket at the door.  They didn’t.  I had my college radio station connections and got in.  Lucky me.  I could have done the civil thing and bailed on the show and went out with the guys, but I was NOT going to miss 311 at the Axis.

The Axis was this little club on Landsdowne street in Boston right behind the illustrious Green Monstah of Fenway.  It’s a tiny club that held about 1,000 people.  So, it was going to be an intimate affair.  The show was just as 311 released their 2nd album “Grassroots” after the amazing debut “Music” had received decent attention. This was before the big radio hits of their 3rd record, but late enough that the buzz was big.  This was the perfect storm.  A band whose popularity is beyond the size of the space that they are booked for.  And I had my ticket to the show.

I don’t remember all the details from the show, but I do remember that it was amazing fun.  It was everyone jumping around thoroughly enjoying the show in a small club right on top of one another.  The songs from those first two albums were all plucky and fun, they hadn’t yet got into some of the poppier songs from their later records.  What I do remember is that I was having so much fun, I was compelled to take my shirt off.  I had never done that and I never have since. Then I ran into my cousin.  The stories over the next holiday were very entertaining.  It was just the thing to do at the time.  Go to a small club, see 311 in their prime, jump around like a fool without a care and have a blast.  That’s why this show pops in my memory first, it was just pure fun.

The First Time I Saw Metallica (’89):  I can’t believe I was at this show.  This is probably the one show that I’ll be able to impress the youngsters with, “Holy Shit, you saw Metallica during the ‘Damaged Justice’ tour?!”  And I’ll say “Yes, yes I did…”  I mean just scroll down a bit and link on over to the setlist from this show.  If you’re even an amateur Metallica fan, you know that this was an amazing mix of new and classic Metallica material.  This was just as their ascendance at the throne of rock god-dom was established.  “One” had been a hit for a while and they were selling out arenas all over the world.  And they came to Manch-Vegas in NH and me and some friends met there and had the best time.

This was my first serious show.  You’ll read below about the first show I ever saw, hair metal was my thing for a while.  Not that they weren’t good shows, but this was serious.  This was when I new rock could be dangerous and I loved it.  It was such a perfect set with just enough pageantry in the collapsing scales of justice that made it special without distracting from the military like assault of the music.  This one shaped my musical taste and expectations for shows forever.

Setlist –

My First Show Ever: Def Leppard & Tesla (’87):
Certainly a formative show given that it was the first time I ever saw a live rock show.  Mom dropped me off and picked me up and everything.  Classic in every way.  Well, in an 80s hair bend metal sort of way.  I will say that for hair metal bands, these two hold up very well.  Can’t say the same for say, Poison.  Mechanical Resonance from Tesla is still a great listen, as is pretty much all of Def Leppard’s catalog.  Again, can’t remember a lot of details from the show, but it was your big arena 80s hair band show and I’m proud to call it my first.

Setlist –


Fugazi @ The Channel in Boston (’91): If I’m ever to claim any kind of real street cred, it will be because I’m a diehard Fugazi fan and because I saw them in the early 90’s at this seminal Boston rock club.  The long defunct “Channel” on the now gentrified waterfront in Boston was the home to many shows for me back in the day.  Mostly trash/death metal shows that couldn’t find a home anywhere else.

And Fugazi, they hold a very special place in my ear memories for a band that just has it all and never exploited it.  Their sound is a perfect mix of hardcore and accessible alternative.  This was a perfect small club gig in the early 90s when grunge was just making a name for itself and geeky little suburbanite like myself were coming to Fugazi gigs and sullying the waters for the true hardcore kids.  I didn’t care, or at the time, I didn’t even notice.  They sounded great in this little club, the audience was entertaining to watch and I will forever be glad that I got to see the seminal band live.

The Channel –


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