Friday Discussion: My First Concert Experience

by Zack Zarrillo - May 10, 2013


For so many of us, our First Concert Experience opened us up to the world of music we’re currently in. You may have gone to a stadium or arena show with your parents for a pop star at a young age, but what was your first “scene” show? We thought it would be great to do a new PropertyOfZack Friday Discussion on all of our first shows, and our list includes some staff members and bands as well. Check out our Discussion below and feel free to your first concert experience!

Angels & Airwaves - Zack Zarrillo
My first concert experience could be best compared to an 18-year-old girl going to prom and having her virginity taken by her dream date. I am most certainly the girl in this scenario, and Tom DeLonge was my dream date.

Growing up in New York City, my parents didn’t really understand what shows were. And I didn’t really either. My first show wasn’t in a small room, it wasn’t in a house, it wasn’t in a basement. It was in 2008 when I was 15 years old in a 3,000+ cap venue called Roseland Ballroom.

I couldn’t miss the show. It took so long to convince my parents, and it finally paid off.  Looking back at it, the lineup was kind of ridiculous. It was Ace Enders (The Early November), Fred Mascherino (ex-Taking Back Sunday), Meg & Dia, and Angels & Airwaves. Boy was I happy. It was truly a dream show for me. AVA played almost every song I could have asked for, and Tom played a Box Car Racer track.

He treated me so well. It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts. (It didn’t).

Dance Party, Barcode - Matt Brasch (The Wonder Years)
The first show I attended was January 27, 2001 at the Knights of Columbus in Lansdale, PA. The bands were Bob Macadoo’s Dance Party, Barcode, Concept 7, Bad Influence, Live For Today and Royal Noise Brigade.

Coincidentally, it was the first show I had ever played. I remember my parents helping me unload my drums a few hours before doors and being extremely nervous but excited. Bob Macadoo’s Dance Party kicked off the show and got everyone moving. It was the first time I saw someone skank. My anxiety escalated throughout their set because we were next.

When my first punk band — Barcode — started playing, I was on cloud nine (until I put a stick through my snare drum head a few songs in). Luckily, Ryan from Bob Macadoo’s Dance Party was nice enough to let me borrow his snare for the duration of our set.

I got up front to watch the remainder of the bands for the show since it was a floor show and I was shorter than I am now. Though the room was filled and the experience was a bit overwhelming, everyone was welcoming and friendly. After leaving the show that night I decided that playing music, going to shows, and surrounding myself with music is what I wanted to do with my life.

Cartel, Fabulous - Erik van Rheenen
By way of a broken foot (not mine, thankfully), I lucked into my first scene concert. Because “Apologize” was kind of a cool song in 2008 I guess, I bought a ticket for OneRepublic’s Crocs Next Step Campus Tour at Gannon University in my hometown of Erie. A billion boring singles and an awful fashion trend later, pretty much everything about that last sentence embarrasses me.

But a handful of days before the show, lead singer Ryan Tedder broke his foot (there’s an “All the Right Moves” joke somewhere in there, but I’m too lazy to find it) and had to cancel the gig. High school me thought, ‘seriously, does a broken foot make it that hard to sing?’

So in a last-second scramble, Cartel was added to the lineup as the show’s headliner, and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I saw the “Honestly” video on VH1 a few times and loved it, so I made my friend (and concert going partner) Ethan burn me a copy of “Chroma” and tried to commit as many lyrics as I could to memory. The band was hot on the heels of its self-titled album, so it was a frantic dash to take in two albums in the span of like, six hours.

The opener — no-hit wonder rapper Fabolous — sucked, but when Cartel hit the stage, I pogoed like a good little pop-rock soldier and sang along with all the songs I knew (“Honestly,” “Burn This City,” and “Runaway”) and faked it through the ones I didn’t. I bought a shirt and wore it the next day to a chorus of “what the heck is a Cartel?” I didn’t care. Having a band that felt like my secret was the best feeling.

Testament, Savatage - Bob Nanna (Braid)
It wasn’t my very first show, but it was one of the first shows I attended unaccompanied by parents or chaperones. March 25, 1990. The Vic in Chicago. The lineup: Testament, Savatage, and Nuclear Assault. This was towards the end of my regrettable “metal phase.” (The next show I saw that year was actually Naked Raygun.) When I think back on it, it may have been this particular Testament show that pushed me more towards punk, or at least the punk ethic. It was more my speed. 

The first shitty thing that happened was, as we were waiting in line, someone opened the window of the bus and started throwing out Nuclear Assault CD’s. The line went nuts and rushed the bus literally yelling “Free CDs! Free CDs!” In the melee, I did NOT receive a free CD but i did receive a fat lip and someone stole my Nuclear Assault hat right off my head. Wonderful.

Inside the Vic, my friends and I got a good spot at a table right near a bannister, ensuring a clear view of the stage without have to worry about pesky things like “standing.” Soon after we settled in, a girl decided to sit on the bannister right in front of us. My friend, positioned behind me, told me to push her off. I declined. So he reached over me and pushed her off himself. The girl immediately got up, turned around, and slapped ME. Fantastic.

I don’t remember any of the show which probably means it wasn’t very good but I DO remember seeing the drummer of Nuclear Assault in the lobby by their merch. I decided that i wanted to go get his autograph so I found an old flyer and a pen and little 14-year old nervous me went up to him. He asked my name, nodded, looked down, wrote on the paper and handed it back. As i walked back to my friends, I looked down at the paper and on it was written one word: Handjob. 

So I decided that metal was not for me. Played my first show in a punk band that August.

Good Charlotte, Midtown - Adrienne Fisher
I was first introduced to the elusive world of “shows, not concerts” in 2001 at a tiny club called Tink’s in Scranton, PA. My friend’s dad dropped me and my fellow, doe-eyed pal off to see Good Charlotte, Mest, and Midtown on a December night when the temperature was easily less-than-or-equal-to my age. I cringe a fair amount as I reflect on all the n00b mistakes I so enthusiastically made that evening (wearing the band’s shirt to the show, standing right in front of the speakers, and fangirling over touching Joel Madden’s leg when he stage dove, to name a few), but I was also fortunate enough that night to experience, for the first time, the phenomenon of a vaguely familiar band becoming your favorite overnight. I knew maybe 4 of the 7 songs Midtown played that evening, thanks to a few marathon Napster download sessions, and despite how flustered I was at witnessing my very first mosh pit during their set, I was absolutely hooked and begged my mom the next day to take me to The Wall to buy the record. I still have this styrofoam snowflake that Heath tore down from some holiday decoration and handed to me at the end of their set. 

Oh, and Good Charlotte’s touring drummer snuck my friend in through the back door because he forgot his ticket, and Mest played “Cadillac.” What more could a 14-year-old have expected out of her evening?! 

Against Me! - Greg Horbal (TWIABP)
When i was 15, I convinced one of my best friends to get his dad to drive us to see Against Me! play the college snack bar at the University of Hartford. The band was about to put out “…As the Eternal Cowboy” on Fat Wreck Chords a month later. The band had put up the .mp3 of “Cliché Guevara” the morning before the show and I remember listening to it first thinking “fuck this band, they are sellouts.” By the end of the day I was in love with the song.

When we got to the show, the room was only a little bigger then my parents garage, but it was packed. It’s crazy how many people i’ve met years down the line who have told me they were at this exact show (Jeff @ Run For Cover Hi). When the band took the stage the crowd went bullshit, everyone was moving, it was wild. I had never seen anything like it. I lost my mind. When they played “Cliche,” everyone in the crowd knew every single word, it was crazy. I think i saw crust punks for the first time too. Just as the band started to play ”Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists” my friend’s dad made us leave though. I was shattered as we drove home, but the 20 minutes of the set that I got to see was one of the most impactive parts of my childhood.

This is a Youtube video of the set and I think you can see me being really lanky and holding my first in the air:

P!ATD, Dresden Dolls - Becky Kovach
I was 14 when I took my first train into New York. I was too old to be amazed by the mechanics of trains, but still young enough to get the feeling of adventure that comes with a new experience. And this was only the first of a night of new experiences. 

The trip had been a spur-of-the-moment decision. M friend’s dad worked at what was then the Nokia Theater and had offered to take a few of us with him for the Panic! At The Disco Nothing Rhymes With ‘Circus’ Tour. Arrangements were made, rides procured, and before we knew it, we were speeding along on NJ Transit.

Most of the night was spent watching from a balcony off to the side. I had never heard of opening acts The Hush Sound and The Dresden Dolls, though I quickly fell in love with their charm and presence. But it wasn’t until Panic! took the stage that I felt the electrifying energy that only comes from live music. 

We watched Panic! At The Disco’s set from the side of the stage. It was burlesque-meets-cabaret debauchery the likes of which I had never seen. Nor have I seen it since. I will never forget what it was like to look out at the crowd. Every face was eagerly turned towards the stage, singing along as if their lives depended on it. It was then that I truly fell in love with the scene.

SOTY, FFTL, ETID - Ryan Neff (Miss May I)
My first real gig was in Columbus, OH around the end of 2005. I went to the Newport (A now frequent headlining spot for Miss May I) to see Story of The Year headline over From First to Last, ETID, and Adair. I was there while in high school, and it was right after I had joined my very first band. This show had a huge impact on my drive and determination to get on stage and become a touring musician. Oh and we almost ran Sonny Moore over in the alley on accident> What a twist in music history that would have been!

2003 Honda Civic Tour - Brittany Oblak
It’s hard to recall exactly what happened, as I was about 12 or 13 at the time, but I do remember crying daily for about a month before hand, making my own sticky note countdown calendar, and putting pink highlights in my hair the night before (I’m such a rebel.) The day finally came, and my unhappy mother took my best friend at the time, Katy, and I to the venue SIX HOURS EARLY. Back in the day, if you were a total GC fangirl, that was just the thing to do. Plus I obviously had to meet the Madden twins and convince Joel that I would be a great wife. 

When we finally got into the venue, we were front and center on the barricade and it was the best feeling in the world. Something Corporate was the opener of course, and at the time I had just started getting into them, but they completely blew my mind. Andrew McMahon with his curly hair jumping all over while still playing the piano spot on and being able to get every word of “Space” out in perfect fashion. That definitely changed my life, I have been nothing short of in love with every thing he and all his various projects have released since. Good Charlotte came on next, and everyone just lost their minds. It was right as “The Anthem” had been a huge single and they were just larger than life at the time. It was incredible, I looked up to them so much at the time, and it felt like everything they did was for the fans. I sang every word, along with everyone else in the Tower City Amphitheater, and that’s where I got my first real sense of really belonging in a community, it was such an incredible feeling. That’s when I realized how much this community had to offer, other than music, when you felt like a bit of an outcast everywhere else. 

New Found Glory closed out the show that night, which as always, was pure insanity.  It was so insane in fact that I remember my mom grabbing Katy and I and making us get out of the front (although later that summer I would end up actually breaking my ribs on the barricade at Warped Tour during the Casualties’ set) and pulling us back and me being so angry and embarrassed. I still loved every second of NFG nonetheless, and I would continue that until this day. As of right now, I’ve seen them live 21 times. I may not listen to Good Charlotte every day now, or very often at all, but that night changed my life, and that show is definitely responsible for how I am and my passion for music today. It was such a significant first concert, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

TBS, FOB, MR - Jake Garland (Memphis May Fire)
I went to my very first concert when I was 15. It was at the House Of Blues in Orlando. It was Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, and Matchbook Romance…literally all three of my favorite bands at the time. Believe it or not, Fall Out Boy wasn’t on top of the world just yet, so it was cool to see them at a smaller place like that. Also, Matchbook Romance’s drummer was a big influence to me. It was awesome, to say the least. Got a shirt from all three bands!

My second concert, not very long after, was Anberlin, Saosin, and Acceptance…and probably still my favorite show I’ve ever seen. Saosin was my favorite band (and Alex was my favorite drummer). They also all played Truth drums which is a lot of the reason why I wanted to play Truth in the first place! I still have my Macbeths.

The Wonder Years, Fireworks - Mike Sheffey
You know that band The Wonder Years? Jump back to 2009 with me to a place called Arts By Alexander. My friend Jake booked touring bands in North Carolina all throughout high school, and at one point, ABA had shows nearly every week. I saw Life On Repeat and We Are The Union there in the same year, and attended many benefit shows as well. 

I know that technically, TWY was not my first show of the “scene.” I had frequented local ska and indie shows for a few years before as well as sang in a small band (that actually played ABA as well).  But this was the first one I attended that grabbed me and kept me coming back for more. I may sound like every other “pop-punk” kid when I say this, but The Wonder Years (and Fireworks) came at the right time for me, and they spoke of things in their songs that applied to my life and to society’s problems. I loved every second of it. 

The opener was a local band (Joe Grizzly, I miss you) that would eventually play the Charlotte stop at Warped Tour. But the two headliners, well you know their future. The Wonder Years were fresh off of the release of The Upsides. And though I didn’t know who they were at the time, it was clear that they were a big deal. And Fireworks did not disappoint. I was stuck on “Detroit” for a while after their show. 

I can say with confidence, that after this show my worldview changed. I immersed myself into the punk/pop-punk scene and made it a goal to attend as many shows as possible. I have a love for this music and what it represents: community, friendship, and standing up against wrongdoing. I have met some of my best friends at shows, I have worked closely with Greensboro bands and touring bands, and I have realized that there is no place I’d ever rather be than a punk show. I hope that never changes. And I have this show, my “first” real show, to thank. 

blink-182, Bad Religion, Fenix Tx - Brandon Allin
Few people can say they attended their first punk show as a 12 year old, but I can. I remember sitting at my desk all afternoon in a hot, sticky classroom in June of 2000, waiting anxiously for the night ahead of me. It felt like it would never come as the weeks leading up to that day seemingly crawled by, but it finally had. That evening, I would be walking into the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto to watch Blink-182, Bad Religion, and Fenix TX play all my favorite songs. What more could a little kid in his Dickies shorts and Hurley tees doing his best Tom DeLonge impression really ask for? My parents certainly didn’t understand the hype, and were all too unimpressed standing outside the venue as Blink ran through one dick joke and f-bomb after another, but they got me in the building, and in the end, that’s all that really mattered. I’ve been to more shows than I can count since that date, but nothing has ever been able to replicate that moment for me. That was the night that started at all. That was the night that I witnessed three grown men run out from behind a curtain, completely nude, and play “Dammit” in front of legions of screaming girls and mortified parents.

Sum 41, Goldfinger - Pat Kennedy (Light Years)
The first concert I remember going to was Sum 41 with Goldfinger and Autopilot Off. This had to be about 2001 when I was a freshman in high school and loved “All Killer No Filler.” The concert was at the now defunct Tower City Amphitheater and my dad drove me and some of my friends to go see it. The one thing I remember was being blown away by how loud it was. The feeling of the bass and drums slamming into my gut was an entirely new experience for me. Sum 41 was probably at the height of their fame at the time and for some reason many young ladies felt the need to show them their breasts, which was fine with my 14-year-old pubescent self. I bought a shirt and wore it to school the next day and felt like a total badass because I had been involved in a mosh pit.  

The Rocket Summer, HGB - Cydney Hedgpeth
Hurricane Katrina led me to Houston, TX. And H-town led me to The Rocket Summer. For better or for worse, I was inducted into a scene that was comprised of one dark eyeliner-wearing girl and a passion for Bryce Avery. I moved back home a few months later and TRS took their 2007 release, Do You Feel, on tour, supporting Hellogoodbye. This H-town chick flew to New Orleans to see me and, more importantly, TRS at the House of Blues.

So, here we are, two 14-year old girls, sitting on a French Quarter curb, waiting to get in. “Do you know any of Bryce’s lyrics?” “No,” I say, not expecting the repercussions. She insists that I write out on napkins, my Converse, a CD case, and my left arm every lyric to every song that was supposedly on the setlist. We waited for an hour and I half-assedly learned every lyric.  So, my first scene experience? I was a freshman in high school, standing in the front row, wearing my friend’s TRS band t-shirt, and shouting my own interpretation of the lyrics I had  just learned an hour ago.

Needless to say, I enjoyed myself much more watching Hellogoodbye from the balcony, not knowing a single lyric. 

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    I wrote a cool thing about seeing Against Me! when I was 15
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