Scott: I did not see a national touring act in person until my first year in college. The touring bands that came to Des Moines while I was in high school–Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago–I was not particularly interested in seeing. (Had Chicago come to Des Moines my junior year, I would have been interested, but they came my senior year, by which time I had decided they were utterly uncool.)
Captain Beefheart came in the spring of my junior year, but I did not go–still regret that a bit.
So, the first national touring act I saw in person was Weather Report, during my first year at Grinnell College. For you youngsters, Weather Report was a leading “fusion jazz” band–electrified instruments, rock tempos, lots of frenetic soloing. Frenetic soloing was pretty much the whole story with fusion jazz, actually–few fusion jazz groups had singers. Weather Report included two Miles Davis alumni, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, and Miroslav Vitous, a young Czech bass virtuoso. The drummer at that time was Eric Gravatt, and there was a percussionist, Dom Um Romao. Dom played a solo in which he made a hand drum sound like a woman moaning in ecstasy. I remember enjoying the concert, but I had never heard a single record by them, so I don’t know what they played–the whole thing went by in a blur of frenetic soloing. All of them were blindingly amazing musicians, needless to say.
Richard: My first concert without a parent was The Band at Nassau Coliseum, maybe 1972. Sounds cool, right? Well, my friends and I were far back, so I couldn’t see much (it was way before live video feeds at concerts) and the sound was terrible in back (sound reinforcement wasn’t as good as it is now). I couldn’t figure out why anybody would want to hear live music when they could listen to a record on headphones. It took until college (where I saw Patti Smith and The Talking Heads, among others) for me to get the live music bug.
Shortly before that, my father took my brother and me to see Harry Chapin in a small theatre. This was right when the song “Taxi” was big, and way before the dreaded “Cat’s in the Cradle”. He played with a percussionist and a cellist. I knew it wasn’t nearly as cool as The Band, but I remember liking it.
The first national act I actually saw was the jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton, who played at a my high school auditorium. It was great. I don’t count this because I didn’t actually choose to go, because it was part of the school day.
In response to Scott’s dissing of (the band) Chicago, I did in fact see them at Madison Square Garden in 1973, and they would have been even less cool then than in Scott’s junior year because by that point that had a big hit with “Saturday in the Park”, which has truly wretched lyrics (“Will you help him change the world, Can you dig it, Yes I can”.) The only notable thing about the concert was that Bruce Springsteen opened, shortly after his first album was released. Up in the nose-bleed seats it seemed like Springsteen, who was mostly unknown, was getting a great audience response; however, I read much later in the book “Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music” that the Columbia Records brass thought that the audience response to Springsteenwas so disastrous that he almost lost his contract.
Genni: My first real concert in life was Willie Nelson at the Nebraska State Fair in 1999. My stepdad, Fred, brought me along and I had no idea who Willie was at the time. (Fred was a big country music fan, and I think the following night we saw Chris LeDoux at the same place, which was the Bob Devaney center). It took me years to realize that I actually really love Willie’s music (and country music as a whole) and I now consider him one of my biggest influences as a songwriter. Knowing that I was once in the same room with Willie and Trigger is now very special to me, even though I have hardly any recollection of the show itself.
My first shows without parental supervision were local shows at Knickerbockers when I was in middle school in the early aughts. The first local band I ever saw live was the JV All*Stars, and I remember that my mind was blown by the fact that there were people in our very city doing what I thought only “famous” musicians could do. This show ultimately resulted in me getting involved in the local music scene and a few years later, The (Incredible) Heat Machine was born!
John: First real show for me without adult supervision – 1980 in Omaha – The Ramones! To this day, I still love their music and sound!