7 places You Have Traveled To See a Band

Matt Nathanson, Reps Only Party, August 2009

Matt Nathanson at the Street Reps Only Party in 2009

I was recently tagged on Facebook to list “7 places You Have Traveled To See a Band”, and I got so long-winded that I thought I’d better put it on my blog rather than Facebook. So, here they are:

1. Iowa City, IA – Matt Nathanson – 3h, 55m: Kelly and I didn’t originally have tickets to this show. It was on a Sunday and we’d already seen a couple of other stops on that tour, so by the time we decided we wanted to go, it was already sold out. I don’t remember how I got in contact with a guy who was selling a pair of tickets… Craigslist maybe? But he replied at like 5am that Sunday morning saying he was putting them on eBay and whoever got to them first got to them first. I happened to wake up and check my email moments after he’d sent it, so I shot out of bed, sprinted into the living room, and bought the tickets. Since it was a Sunday, I wasn’t scheduled off for work the next day, so I left my supervisor a voice mail that morning and was like, “So, I need off tomorrow… I put in a vacation request and I hope it’s okay because if it’s not, I’ll already be in Iowa…” Thankfully my boss is awesome and he was fine with it. It turned out to be one of my favorite MN shows to date. I wrote up a little spiel you can check out here if you’re interested.

2. Minneapolis, MN – Matt Nathanson/Counting Crows – 5h, 3m: The Basilica Block Party is a big music festival that happens every summer. In July of ’09, Matt Nathanson was slated before Counting Crows one night so, of course, we went. I was in a surgical boot at the time because of a broken foot (see trip #7 for more details). I contacted the venue to ask about handicapped parking and they offered me VIP passes, since the only seats are in the VIP section. This sounded awesome until we got there and the “VIP” section was like 30 rows back from the stage. I preferred to stand (terrible idea) so by the time Matt was done, I was in such pain that I was almost crying… and by the time the Crows were done, I WAS crying. But this is what you go through for your bands! Blood, sweat, and tears! After the show we got totally lost and walked for what felt like FOREVER. I was a bit melodramatic because I was in so much pain and hobbling around in my boot made my hips ache in addition to my foot, so when we turned a corner and there was my truck, I YELLED, “SAMMY!”, causing several people around us to jump. Oh! This was also the trip where we stayed in the sweetest hotel ever – the lobby was on the 2nd floor, and the curtains were zebra print.

3. St Louis, MO – Howie Day, Maroon 5/Counting Crows – about 6 hours: Kelly and I have seen a few shows here… Howie Day at Blueberry Hill in the Duck Room, which is a really neat, small, vibey place. Nick Zuber was the opener on that tour and I think Kelly and I caught 3 or 4 tour stops. We also drove there for the Maroon 5/Counting Crows co-headlining tour at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. The crowd was REALLY lame but Kelly and I still made the best of it, and the 11-minute ‘Anna Begins’ will be in my memory forever. I LOVE St. Louis, and every time we go we stop at the Crossroads Diner, this tiny little join with the best burger I’ve ever had.

4. Cleveland, OH – Maroon 5 – 6h, 42m: This was the greatest road trip to date. Jean, Kelly, and I drove to Cleveland to see Maroon 5. We spent some time at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. We were completely overtired on the way home and discussed how we were going to write Toledo! The Musical, and I was asked if I would eat Fazoli’s bread sticks out of Adam Levine’s armpit. (I said yes.)

5. Lawrence, KS – Matt Nathanson – 8h, 46m: We drove this in 2 sections rather than straight through. This was really recent so I won’t bore everyone with the details but here are the highlights: we rented a minivan that had 3 miles on it when we picked it up, we heard ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ as we passed the first sign for Lawrence (Supernatural), Matt played my absolute favorite song even though it wasn’t on the set list, we had to walk from the venue to the hotel and it was fuh-fuh-fuh-freezing, and the morning we left the hotel staff opened some locked rooms for us (Kelly) to take pictures, as the hotel is haunted.

6. Connecticit (I don’t recall the city) – Matt Nathanson: I don’t have the hours on this one because Kelly and I didn’t drive. This is the only “road trip” where we’ve ever flown. We flew into Boston and rented a car to drive to CT for a Matt Nathanson Reps Only event. We visited Salem and the witch trial memorials and ate at a restaurant called The Witch’s Brew. I hit a scooter in Salem with the rental car. We drove into Boston and toured Fenway Park and had lunch at Boston Beer Works, where my entree was called The Green Monster (pesto chicken sandwich). In the middle of all of that, we attended a Matt Nathanson Street Reps Only event at a cafe in CT (horribly awkward, the only person we spoke to all night was one of the musicians playing at the cafe, who taught me the phrase Van Hagar), and the next day was the Reps Only event in the sprawling backyard of a mansion in CT. Matt was delayed by travel so he was an hour late, but once he got there he was personable and funny and played a few old school songs, acoustic, on a picnic table. It was a really unique, cool experience, and it was fun to be surrounded by people with whom you already had a MAJOR hobby in common.

7. Virginia Beach, VA – Matt Nathanson/David Cook – 20+ hours: When I heard that Matt Nathanson was opening for David Cook in Virginia Beach, I couldn’t NOT make that trip. Jean was a trooper and agreed to make the 20+ hour drive, which we did straight through. We left around 8:30-9am and arrived at the concert site (aka the ocean) to get in line for tickets at 5am. This is where I met Andrea and Brianna for the first time after talking to Andrea online for years and years. Once we had our passes, we walked down to the ocean and Kelly and Jean even talked me in to wading in up to my knees. We sat in the sand and watched the sun rise, and being there with my gals was one of the greatest moments of my life. The concert was actually IN THE SANE next I’ll never forget it. The trip got even better when I met Rhonda and Eireann, 2 ladies I’d met online YEARS earlier but had never met in person. When we were heading out, we bought a 20 lb bag of ice from a gas station and I accidentally dropped it on my foot. My foot swelled up to the size of a softball, and gave me pain/swelling for A YEAR (see point #2). The drive home we split from VA to IN and slept in the skeeziest hotel I’ve ever been in in my entire LIFE (pubic hair on the bathroom counter, for example), and then IN, home.

Oof, this made me so nostalgic. I crave another road trip right now!

“I wanna let go and know that I’ll be alright…”

I’ve been writing this in my head for nearly 48 hours but it’s still not coming out easily. All I can think is how seeing Matt Nathanson perform live is bittersweet. Sweet when you’re seeing him and so, so bitter when it’s done. I’m half-seriously contemplating moving to San Francisco JUST so I can see him perform live more. I know that sounds a bit over the top but… well, maybe I can try to explain.

Matt Nathanson at Festa Italiana - 07/20/13

Matt Nathanson at Festa Italiana – 07/20/13

The first 6 rows of the bleachers were blocked off for radio VIP winners, so we got the 7th row, directly behind the barricades. When the show started, the tallest guy in the joint stood in front of me (of course), so I chose to stand on the bleachers with everyone else around me. I was basically eye level with Matt straight in front of him. Now that I think of it, I probably should have felt awkward but I was all wrapped up in the moment so it never occurred to me.

That’s the thing I love best about live music (particularly Matt Nathanson) – it pulls me out of my own head and into a moment, which is something that ONLY happens for me in the presence of live music. It’s the ONLY time I feel comfortable and free. I feel like very spiritual people must feel when they go to church. I feel inspired and weightless and like this moment is the only thing in the world. The fact that I’m standing with some of my best friends… in the same space as Matt Nathanson and his talent and lyrics and banter and passion and truth… it’s all that matters. So when it ends, for a couple of days, I feel almost empty. Awkward and clumsy and heavy and back up in my own head all the time.

Thankfully, after a few days the post-concert blues go away and I’m just me again, but I still crave those few, fleeting moments at a live show when I’m just a PART of something bigger and everything makes sense.

If you’re reading this (thank you!), I hope it makes sense. If it doesn’t and I sound completely over-dramatic or pretentious, then I hope you find the thing that makes you feel this way… whether it’s running or hunting or knitting or skiing or deep sea diving.  If this does make sense to you, I hope something in your stomach or mind tugs when you read this and you think “Yeah, I know that feeling…”. And if so, I’d love to hear what makes you feel that way – leave me a comment!

Thank YOU, Matt Nathanson.

For those of you that may not know, Matt Nathanson released his new album, Last of the Great Pretenders, on Tuesday. He took to his website yesterday to thank fans for their kind words… and it just got me thinking about how long Matt has been a part of my life through his music.

Going on 10 years ago now, Courtney, a gal I met through a message board Kelly and I ran for another musician, introduced me and Kelly to Matt Nathanson via quotes from live shows used as AIM away messages. He sounded funny, so I made a mental note to check him out after I checked out the John Mayer kid she was also always talking about. Kelly was quicker and got pretty into him by way of two songs… I can’t remember now what one of them was but the other was ‘Clean’.

That next summer she and Katie (also quicker to the party than I was!) took me to see him at Summerfest. He played the Piggly Wiggly stage (which no longer exists). Kelly was on crutches after fracturing her foot falling after a night of far-too-heavy drinking (the bar was called Sparky’s and Sparky was a 70’s something dirty old man who poured warm shots of Kessler’s whiskey [retch] for anyone with big boobs [read: me]). The show was incredible – a mind-blowing event that made me, a seasoned concert elitist at the ripe old age of 23, question every concert I’d ever called my “favorite”. Sure, No Doubt was awesome but I never felt a part of that show. I didn’t laugh out loud and enjoy the songs I’d never heard as much as the ones I knew well. But I did at that Matt Nathanson show. And afterwards, when he was completely surrounded by fans, he took the time to talk to each and every one of us. I didn’t feel rushed. He called Kelly “Crutchy”. He made me feel like I wasn’t just a face in a crowd; he made me feel like I was special, like I MEANT something. Even if I was just something to his experience and not him directly, I still felt important. Like maybe he got something out of me/us the same way we got something out of him.

That night we went back to Kelly and Katie’s apartment and listened to the album we’d each bought, Beneath These Fireworks. We listened to it on repeat all night while we played Scrabble and drank raspberry vodka and lemonade out of a Fiestaware pitcher. Every time we got to ‘Bare’ or ‘Bent’, I would say, “What track is this?”, and Kelly would patiently tell me. Over and over and over.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Beneath These Fireworks helped shape the music tastes that I have today. Before Matt Nathanson and BTF entered my life, it was all pop punk, all the time. I was the tubby girl in pigtails with a band t-shirt, a different color nail polish on each finger, and a teddy bear backpack who signed her emails with rock hands (“\m/ on, Kat”). That record made me finally give that John Mayer kid a chance. It made me give another listen to Howie Day. It even made me listen to Bruce Springsteen differently. I started noticing lyrics and melodies (I never noticed harmonies prior to BTF so re-listening to Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ album blew. my. mind.) and not just how danceable a beat was.

Since that first Summerfest show in 2004, Kelly and I have seen Matt together… I don’t know how many times. 15? 20? More? I went once without her – she was TERRIBLY ill but Matt was opening for P!nk so I couldn’t very well miss that, could I?? I’m pretty sure I called her at some point during the show (‘Little Victories’? ‘Sing Me Sweet’?), and Katie and I had an absolute BLAST… but there was still a part of me that felt weird being there without her.

We talked with him for ages at a show at New City YMCA in Chicago (he complimented my ‘I ❤ Johnny Knoxville’ shirt).

I got drunk at a Halloween show in Madison and accused him of stealing his striped scarf from me (he didn’t).

We sold merch for him once – at The Rave, when he opened for Lifehouse. It was approximately 438* in the merch booth (the GORGEOUS guy selling for Lifehouse used my lemongrass body spray to cover his BO – THAT’S how hot it was in there). When Matt played ‘Detroit Waves’ I screamed and sang along, down at the end of a hallway with only Kelly and Gorgeous McLifehouseMerch to hear me.

We drove 20 hours straight to see him open for David Cook in Virginia Beach. The best part of that show? I FINALLY met Rhonda and Eireann, 2 AMAZING ladies I met on a Howie Day LiveJournal community. We’d been talking for 5+ years but had never met in person, and we did that night after the concert.

We saw him open for Counting Crows (Kelly barely survived her fangirl attack) while my foot was broken (non-drinking related). I was offered VIP seats but they were too far from the stage so I declined and stood in my stupid surgical boot up against the barricades. The list goes on.

A few years ago, after being best friends for 20+ years, Kelly and I FINALLY got those matching tattoos we’d always talked about – a lyric from a Matt Nathanson song: “all we are, we are…”. If you ask both of us what the lyrics means, our answers are completely different, but that’s one of the great things about music – it speaks to us all differently, individually.

There have been a few new albums since that Beneath These Fireworks record – Some Mad Hope, Modern Love, and now Last of the Great Pretenders… and each time I think sadly, “Matt is great but this album can’t possibly beat the last one.”… and he always does. Why do I doubt this man’s ability anymore? Why do I assume change will be a bad thing (good question for my entire life, actually)?

With each album his fan base has grown more and more, and I am so, so happy for him. Okay, full disclosure: some days I want to scream at people for loving him in a way that I deem incorrect, or tell someone to move on, this bandwagon is FULL, tyvm. But 99.5% of the time I am so incredibly happy and hopeful that people still notice good, passionate, genuine music when they hear it.

Phew, this post has gotten away from me. I didn’t intend to ramble on this much. I guess what I am trying to say is that I would love to give Matt Nathanson a thank you like he just gave all of us. Thank you for getting me through simple things like shitty days at work (screaming ‘Detroit Waves’ or ‘Lucky Boy’ or ‘Amazing Again’ out your car window is incredibly therapeutic)… and not-so-simple things like self doubt (the bridge of ‘Pretty the World’ is EVERYTHING I need on those days). Thank you for helping me keep my faith in music when most songs on the radio make me want to weep or scream or rip my face off. Thank you for giving me and my best friend of 2/3 of my life something to fangirl over TO THIS DAY.

Thank YOU, Matt. Thank you for being you and for being brave and for pouring yourself into these records in a way that feels so fucking true, I am still moved by albums I’ve listened to HUNDREDS of times. I will see you at Festa Italiana on Saturday and maybe, just maybe, you’ll look down at me and Kelly and think, “Yep, seen them before.” But if you don’t, that’s okay, too.

“I know you’re here to catch your breath…”

As most of you probably know, I have been to a lot of concerts… whether it’s been large shows at arenas or smaller gigs at the House of Blues-type places or outdoor music festivals. For the most part I am impartial to openers. They usually have a good amount of talent and are reasonably entertaining but I generally can take them or leave them. I don’t usually buy their CDs and, when I do, I don’t usually listen to them (Sorry, White Light Riot! Someday I will listen to the CDs I bought at Chicago City Limits!). It seems to me that opening acts are sort of the toll you have to pay to see the band you really want to see.

Sunday night I saw Matt Nathanson (and Aaron Tap) at The University of Iowa and the opener was Megan McCormick. Halfway into her first song and several times throughout her 45 minute set, it really hit me: opening acts aren’t the toll you pay to see the band you really want to see. Openers are the lottery you play, not knowing that one show you might get lucky and see someone like Megan McCormick. She played an electric guitar and sang with the most beautiful, sad voice I’ve heard in a long time. She wasn’t very talkative and didn’t even introduce herself until someone in the crowd yelled, “Who are you?”. I don’t know much about music but I do know that I wasn’t bored for one second during her set. And considering she didn’t play any covers and I’d never heard any of her music, that is saying quite a bit. She said that she usually plays with a rock band and I have to say – I would love to see this girl front a band. But for this show it was just her and Lee Holland, who played a small bongo drum (or some kind of drum; I do not know drums!) and sang harmony. Definitely check her out on MySpace Music: http://www.myspace.com/meganmccormicksmusic.

Kelly and I were trying to count how many Matt shows we’d been to since our first at Summerfest (Piggly Wiggly stage) in 2004. We came up with 17. This is a small number compared to some fans but it’s a pretty big number considering we’ve also seen 10+ Howie Day shows since then as well as several other concerts and probably some touring productions of RENT.

At about 8:30pm Matt and Aaron came on stage. There were signs posted everywhere saying “NO CAMERAS” so I took out my phone to get one good shot of the stage but a “security guard” (an 18 year old kid in a green tee shirt with Screech hair) told me to put it away and if they had to warn me again, I’d be kicked out. So I’m not sure if he thought it was a camera or what BUT – I wanted to keep track of the set list on my phone but was afraid he’d kick me out for having the damned thing out! So I do know that they opened with ‘To The Beat of Our Noisy Hearts’, then ‘Lucky Boy’, and then ‘Gone’. I don’t hear ‘Gone’ often live so that was exciting.

The set lasted over two hours. A few high points throughout the show:

• The intro to ‘Still’ was basically like listening to soft core porn. There was something about biting… and ripping each other’s clothes off… and not having enough hair to pull.

• A good hour or more into the set, I turned to Kelly. “Oh! He’s wearing a vest!” I thought it was a tiny work shirt but it was, in fact, a vest. This is exciting to me as I love vests on guys. Side note: Matt is the only guy who can rock a black shirt, navy vest, and brown pants.

• ‘Curve of the Earth’. Just because it’s my favorite.

• Matt shared a hysterical story about Sharpies and how they’ve ruined his life. He said that he found the cap of a Sharpie that he had had in his pocket… but no Sharpie. I BELIEVE he said there was Sharpie ink all over the back seat of his rental car but I’m not sure. He did say that he expected it to be all over his pocket, etc but it wasn’t. He went to the hotel and saw a little tiny spot on his arm… checked his outer shirt – nothing. Checked his pants – a TINY spot on the back but nothing major. Checked his tee shirt – nothing. He said he was standing in front of the mirror in his underwear when he saw it ALL over his back, the main concentration of it being where his lower back met his ass. His observation was that it looked like bizarre Rorschach test.

• There were three ladies sitting next to us, each with a sign that read one word of “SING ME SWEET”. When they were holding it up it felt sort of funny to me, since I was sitting next to Kelly. I told her that I felt like I should have a sign with an arrow to hold at the end, pointing at her. Or a sign to place before it that said, “twitter.com/”.

• The intro to ‘Angel’ included a story about how he ripped the chord progression directly from a Liz Phair song, and a few years after that, out came ‘Hey There, Delilah’ with an almost identical chord progression. Then, a couple of years later Matt played a show with Plain White T’s and one of the guys was a HUGE Matt fan and said that Matt was a major musical influence, etc. Halfway through the first verse of ‘Angel’, Matt forgot the words and said that he couldn’t get ‘Hey There, Delilah’ out of his head. He started the song over but lost it at the same spot. A girl in the front row called out the lyrics so Matt brought her up on stage to sing with him! They stood back to back (“like Bon Jovi” and she sang the song with him. Her name was Shannon and she was adorable!

• “I get my hair cut on occasion so I read the People magazine.” Matt went on to tell us how he’d read an article that Jennifer Love Hewitt had written a book. He said something mildly insulting about her and the crowd reacted fairly strongly, prompting Matt to ask if she was from Iowa and then note, “She could be from Mars for all I care!”. There were a couple of ADORABLE little girls (in homemade Matt shirts!) in the front row so Matt tried to find a G-rated way to talk about JLJ vajazzling. “You know how you might bedazzle a jacket? And you know how men have one kind of jacket? Well, she bedazzled her other kind of jacket.”

• Matt played a SUPER cute new song about living under the sea. My favorite line was something like, “I’m tired of always getting even so let’s get odd, odd baby.”. It was so much fun to hear new Matt but this jackass a few seats away from me decided it would be a good time to start clapping to the beat. To a solo, acoustic song he’d never heard. And no one started it up with him but he DIDN’T stop.

• Matt said that this was their 3rd show in 3 nights so they were both pretty hoarse. Personally, I like that! But towards the end of the night Matt took over the mic since Aaron sounded “like Justin Bieber going through puberty”. It was at this point that he sang ‘Detroit Waves’. Totally solo acoustic. I turned to Kelly and said, “I just got irrationally excited!” because I DID!

• Of course the encore opened with ‘Come On Get Higher’. Prior to the song, Matt was talking about how his dad still calls every time he hears it. He did an impression of his dad which sounded like a 75-year old smoker, born and raised in Boston. “I heard it at the supermarket and Dee heard it at the club.” Aaron chimed in with an identical impression (I didn’t know Matt and Aaron were from the same town! Was Matt kidding or is that true?) saying, “I had to turn around and tell someone. The clerk at Home Depot was very impressed.”

• The encore went from 2-3 songs to 6, as Matt kept asking if he could play one or two more. (What are we going to say?! No?!) His second to last song was ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ and Matt gave us a little background into how hair metal made him feel how punk must have made kids feel in their day. He said it broke him out of his “suburban malaise”. He also said (and I completely agree) that if anyone else had written this song it would’ve been taken seriously but because it was Bret Michaels and he wore tight pants and sang in Poison, it got laughed off. The crowd was SILENT during the verses and sang along softly during the chorus. This will sound so cheesy but I couldn’t help but send up a prayer for Bret as the crowd was singing his song.

• “So, I get on the Twitter… and a lot of you requested I play this song.” was how he introed ‘Wedding Dress’. This is one of my faves on Some Mad Hope so was stoked to hear it solo. His voice was giving out at the end “To have and to hold… oh… oh, oh oh.” – the “oh, oh, oh” was cracking but he was so intense the entire song, it just WORKED.

• His last song was ‘Suspended’, for which he unplugged completely and came to stand at the edge of the stage. He asked us to sing the “sun… shine” part. It reminded me so much of the House of Blues show we went to 3-4 years ago and I was just overwhelmed by how much I LOVE the fact that I’ve been seeing him live for 6 years and he is still the same funny, sweet, interactive, enchanting performer he was the first time I saw him. The last line he sang, “On your lips, on your lips, on your lips… I’m suspended.”

Overall the show was astounding, phenomenal, amazing, wonderful, perfect… whatever synonym for “mind blowing” you want to use. It was easily one of my top three concerts ever. This is a good thing… but also a very bad thing as Matt has no more tour dates scheduled!