Top 5 Live Musical Experiences

Nothing I have seen in my life was as good as that night. It was better than any sex I’ve ever had, any drug crazy party I’ve been to, any show I’ve played, any trip that I’ve gone on. It was the quintessential moment in my life and nothing will ever be as good as that.


People like lists and I don’t blame them. And I am sick as shit but want to provide “content” to the kids. So in honor of that, here is a listing of the top 5 live musical experiences of my life. I don’t remember all the details so you get what I give you. Suck it.

#5 Zomes – The Writers Center – 2009
Zomes is a musical project by Asa Osbourne. He is best known for his work in Lungfish which is one of the greatest bands to ever exist. That’s an indisputable fact. In fact, I will go so far as to say that Lungfish are the most original guitar-drum-bass-singer band to ever exist. I saw Zomes late last year. There were about 25 people when Asa started. There were about five when he finished. Ian Mackaye and Chad Clark were the other two people I knew, so I’d say that’s about as good of company you can be in. That shit took me to another place inside myself all together. I left my body for the eternity that Asa played. The hum and vibration is still very present. It keyed into my cosmic strings and made me physically aware of them. I can’t really explain this show in words, other then it was an intense physical and psychological experience. And I wasn’t even drunk or high or anything.

#4 Elliot Smith/Tsunami – The Black Cat – Winter 1996
I remember it was the winter and it was snowing outside and it was like Tsunami’s first show in a million years. I got there early. I think I went with my friend Kurt who I used to go to shows with all the time in 95 and 96. He probably drove. We were excited because we had actually heard of Elliot Smith as he had opened for Sebadoh that fall at the 9:30 Club. I remember this show more for Elliot Smith, even though at the time I was really excited to see Tsunami. Like many a 18 year old boys in the mid 90’s tooling around WDC, I had a major crush on Jenny Toomey. But there were a lot of people there to see Elliot Smith. One girl I remember in particular was pretty vocal telling people to shut the hell up and Smith chuckled at the exchange. It was a pretty amazing set to witness. At that point in my life I had never seen anyone play music with just an acoustic guitar and their voice before. But Smith owned the room. I only saw Smith one time after this right during the whole Good Will Hunting media blitz and I was really bummed out about how shitty loud people were. I wish that girl was at that show, punching drunk assholes in the mouth. Anyway, we talked to Smith for like two minutes. He was on tour, alone or like with one friend in a hatch back. It was fucking crazy. But he became my hero that night.

#3 Refused/Frodus – The Black Cat – 1998
When I was in college I wrote record reviews for the school paper. How cool was I? Yea, not that cool really. But I did get the occasional free record that was awesome. One of those records was Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come. I listened to it, liked it, reviewed it and sent the clipping to my press contact at Epitaph. He called me up that afternoon at my house and left this really grateful message on my parents answering machine (thinking back to those days, cool people used to call my parents house all the time and my dad would answer the phone and be all confused, Tobi Vali called him up once and looked at me like I had three heads when he told me some Bikini Killer lady was on the phone for me) and put me on the guest list for a show I was going to go to anyway. But I thought that was pretty cool. While I have no evidence to back it up, because the film gotten eaten, I took pictures of that show. This was back in the day when shit at the Black Cat was laid back and people recognized me and let me get on the stage to shoot bands. I remember watching Refused from the first explosive chord essentially loose their shit like nothing else I had ever seen in my life. This was a band hell bent on destroying everything in their pathway and they did. Maybe 50 kids, mostly from Fairfax came out that night, but I know most of them on a first name basis and all of them remember that show as a special event in their lives. Though I was certain this band would be huge in a years time they broke up a few weeks later in Harrisburg, VA. I was one of the lucky ones and I don’t forget that shit.

#2 – Fugazi – Malcom X Park – Probably 1996
Look, I’ve seen Fugazi a million times, including the infamous 1993 Ice Cream Eating Mother Fucker show (my first) and a show in maybe 99 at Fort Reno where they only played like 7or 9 songs that were fucking insane. I can’t really differentiate the experiences too much in my jumbled brain. But the Fugazi show that sticks out the most was when they played at Malcom X Park in Washington DC. It’s mostly because of the scenery. It was the first time I’d ever been to that park and was amazed that such a beautiful oasis could exist in the middle of such a shitty city. Something about Fugazi playing in that amazing park has really resonated with me and I have very vivid feelings from that show. I don’t remember the set list or anything, but I have a clear picture of the band on that stage and looking down on downtown DC. It was pretty magical.

#1 – Team Dresch/Bikini Kill – GWU – 1995
This show changed my life. I was a freshman in college, newly free from the reigns of my parents. At that time I was going to at least one show a week. It didn’t matter what band it was, if I could go, I went. The day of this show, I was bummed out because I didn’t have a ride to it and I really wanted to go. My friend Kurt (the one I mentioned above) had to work and so he couldn’t take me. I was eating lunch in the Cafeteria where I ran into the punk girl, Tara. Yea, I went to a suburban Commuter College, so she was THE PUNK GIRL. She was saying she was going to the show and I asked her if I could get a ride. We didn’t know each other very well. I was really shy and I think I kind of made her think I blew her off the first few weeks of school, but she agreed to take me anyway. I had not heard of Team Dresch at that point in my life. They could have been any fucking band as far as I knew. So when four, butchy, punk ladies took the stage (granted Cold Cold Hearts and a band called Estrojet performed before hand, but work with me here) I was taken aback. I knew this was going to be different somehow. And it was. Fucking Jody Bleyle spazzed the fuck out. Donna Dresch thrashed around, making her guitar seem like a toy. Drummer Melissa York at one point got up from behind the drum kit and just yelled into the microphone. The whole fucking place went insane and I don’t think anyone knew who the hell this band was. At the time all I could think was this was a female counterpart to Fugazi. They were just unfucking real. And because of that, I had my eyes opened up for me. Gender Issues, Sexuality, all kinds of political ideologies were introduced to me that night. Not in any argument or academic form. But just seeing four women rock HARDER THEN ANY BAND MADE OF DUDES I HAVE EVER SEEN made me realize that pretty much everything is bullshit and Team Dresch was all that mattered. Not much has changed since then. Nothing I have seen in my life was as good as that night. It was better than any sex I’ve ever had, any drug crazy party I’ve been to, any show I’ve played, any trip that I’ve gone on. It was the quintessential moment in my life and nothing will ever be as good as that. Anyone that tells you they’ve been to an amazing show is lying. Even the other shows I wrote about before here don’t even come close. After Team Dresch played that night I didn’t care about anything else. When Kathleen Hanna told old the boys to move to the back I happily obliged because there was no way Bikini Kill was going to come anywhere near that shit. And I have no idea what they were like because I didn’t care. Team Dresch owns my life.

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