Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ours Go to 11: Volume 38, Coolest Concerts Attended

In my previous post--inspired by the coronavirus pandemic precluding my seeing the Chicago Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals in London, as I was scheduled to--I compiled a list of the most Notable Games I have attended.

Initially I was intending to cover Regular Season and Postseason/Exhibition games in separate lists within the same post.

But recollecting, researching and writing about just the Regular Season games of note wound up taking up a full afternoon.

So I promised to cover Playoff Games in a subsequent post.

Ostensibly, that would be this one.

But today, June 17, is a date that stands out in my mind for some memorable concerts I've attended.

So it seems apropos to do this:

The Most Memorable Rock Concerts I've Been To 
These shouldn't be construed as "the best" concerts, and while I'll include plenty of Bruce Springsteen, I won't let him fill the Top 11, even though he easily could. (This includes leaving out Springsteen on Broadway.)

1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - June 17, 2000 - Madison Square Garden, New York
The Boss is my favorite; I don't think there's ever been a better live rock performer. To date, I've seen him 50 times, including 10 shows on his 1999-00 reunion tour with the E Street Band. This one was amid a tour ending 10-show soldout run at the world's most famous arena. Via the on-sale, I was able to snag a ticket in the 10th row center (over-the-phone from Chicago). And the show was as great as I could've hoped.

2. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - June 15, 2013 - Wembley Stadium, London
I've seen Bruce many other cool places, some noted below and also the now-demolished Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where I attended 7 shows across 3 tours. But seeing him at Wembley, in London, on an European jaunt, was extra special.

3. Nirvana - October 25, 1993 - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
During the concert, Kurt Cobain opined that the sound sucked. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" went unplayed. And in a post-show interview with Rolling Stone's David Fricke, Kurt said, "I’m really glad you could make it for the shittiest show on the tour." Still, though my memory isn't great, I can acutely remember being absolutely blown away.

4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - June 17, 1981 - Rosemont Horizon, near Chicago
My first concert attended of my own volition. The Loop radio station presented it as a "Free Show" and I was able to get a pair of tickets by waiting at Flip Side at Lincoln Village mall. Being only 12, I had to be accompanied to the show by my dad. We didn't always get along, but this was a cherished memory.

5. David Bowie - May 25, 1990 - Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
In March 1990, at the age of 21, I moved from the Chicago area to Los Angeles, settling in the poorer section of Encino in the San Fernando Valley. After having missed out on seeing him in Chicago in 1983 and 1987, I made a point of seeing the "Thin White Duke" at Dodger Stadium. It was my first show in LA, and one I went to by myself. Can't say I recall all that much, but have never forgotten Bowie opening with "Space Oddity."

6. U2 - April 29, 1987 - Rosemont Horizon
Technically, this wasn't my first time seeing U2 live; note #11 below, the previous year. But during my freshman year at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, U2 had become--with the release of The Joshua Tree--"Rock's Hottest Ticket" as proclaimed on a TIME magazine cover. With just one show at the Horizon, getting tix seemed daunting, but via the Jam (Productions) Ticket Club, I got two choice seats on the floor.

7. The Rolling Stones - September 16, 2002 - Aragon Ballroom
As with most of the artists on this list and many others, I've seen the Stones a bunch of times. But just by simple luck I was able to buy, for $50 each, tickets when they opted to do an intimate show at the Aragon among bigger Chicago venues as well. The setlist was actually a tad esoteric, so it isn't the "best" Stones show I've seen. But it was quite cool, and Bono even showed up onstage to duet on "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)."

8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - September 7 & 8 - Wrigley Field, Chicago
My favorite artist at my favorite place in the world, twice. 6-1/2 hours of sheer joy. I even touched the Boss on Night 2, which isn't as creepy as it sounds.

9. Pearl Jam - July 9, 1995 - Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, Milwaukee
At the height of their popularity, Pearl Jam scrapped most of its tour due to refusing to play venues with tickets sold through Ticketmaster (with hefty surcharges). But they played Chicago's Soldier Field (should've gone but didn't) and two gigs as part of Summerfest. I went to the latter.

10. Paul McCartney - June 8, 2019 - Lambeau Field, Green Bay
I've seen the great Beatle many cool places--Wrigley Field, Le Bercy arena in Paris, Miller Park Milwaukee, Busch Stadium St. Louis, in Tulsa, OK and more--but even for a devoted Chicago Bears fan, there was something special about being on the tundra of the Green Bay Packers home stadium. And still playing nearly 3 hours, Sir Paul was awesome. 

11. Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour featuring U2, The Police, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Adams, Lou Reed and Robin Williams - June 13, 1986 - Rosemont Horizon
A remarkable lineup, and my first time seeing any of the performers. U2 was incredible; The Police, who had reunited for the tour and were terrific, still shouldn't have followed them as the closing act.

Some others

- Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) with student musicians - March 21, 2009 - Private residence. A close friend's family hosted a special benefit performance. 
- Foo Fighters - March 29, 1996 - Riviera Theatre, Chicago. My first Foo.
- Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - July 17, 1984 - Rosemont Horizon. First-time seeing Bruce live; life-changing.
- The Smashing Pumpkins - April 10, 1999 - St. Andrews Hall, Detroit. "The Arising" tour briefly reunited the original Pumpkins for the last time. There was no Chicago show, so I went to Detroit for a small club gig. Would see a bunch of shows the next year on the then-final tour, including in Paris.
- R.E.M. - October 21, 1986 - Chick Evans Field House, NIU, DeKalb, IL. Early in my freshman year; I got up to the first row. It made me a fan for life.
- Radiohead - August 15, 2003 - Parc Jean Drapeau, Montreal. A Canadian air travel blackout on the day of the show forced me to fly to Burlington, Vermont, take a bus, find my hotel and take the subway to reach the show at a huge park on an island. I think I missed two songs.
- Vote for Change Tour - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, R.E.M., Bright Eyes - October 3, 2004 - Cobo Hall, Detroit. After seeing Pearl Jam at a VFC show the night before in Toledo, where Neil Young showed up, I caught two more of my all-time favorites in Detroit. No Neil, but John Fogerty and the Dixie Chicks made appearances.
- Aretha Franklin - September 3, 2017 - Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL. The legendary Queen of Soul was really terrific in her last Chicago appearance, my only time seeing her.
- Robert Plant - October 2, 2014 - Riviera Theatre, Chicago. I love Led Zeppelin and have seen Plant many times, including twice with Jimmy Page. But there was something just goose-bumpnig and mind-blowing about this particular gig.
- Material Issue - May 7, 1991 - Palomino Club, North Hollywood, CA. Living in L.A., I caught wind of this Chicago trio getting buzz from their debut album and went to see them at a long-famed country music venue. In 1994 I was back in the Chicago burbs and went to a Material Issue CD signing, where I mentioned having seen them at the Palomino, which seemed to impress them. Sadly, singer/songwriter Jim Ellison took his life just a couple years later.

And also...

- Stereophonics - December 11, 2003 - Cubby Bear. Hung out with the band afterward.
- AC/DC - Various - Always awesome
- Arcade Fire - Various - Likewise
- Buddy Guy - Several times - Buddy Guy's Legends
- Zwan - April 12, 13, 2002 - Double Door. Sheer joy in hearing new material ahead of the album.
- Midnight Oil - October 23, 2001 - The Rave. First time seeing a legendary band I long loved, in a small venue.
- The Who - July 21, 1989 - Alpine Valley, WI. My first-time seeing The Who was almost scrapped when a friend bailed, but my mom accompanied me. She would do so again for the Rolling Stones a few months later. 
- Coldplay - March 12, 2003 - Eagles Ballroom, Milwaukee. A relatively intimate setting for how big they had already become, and the band was fantastic. Would then go see them at the Hollywood Bowl a couple months later and not be nearly as impressed.
- Stevie Wonder - June 28, 2008 - Petrillo Bandshell / Taste of Chicago. Just a "Wonder"ful communal vibe, especially when the entire lawn did the "electric slide."
- Soundgarden - January 29, 2013 - Riviera Theatre. As with the other times I saw them, they were bone-crushingly phenomenal.

There are dozens of other shows that I could easily have included here, so no slight meant to any artists, shows, venues or individuals with whom I may have attended.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Ours Go to 11: Volume 37, Notable Games Attended -- Regular Season

Had things proceeded as scheduled, last night--June 13, 2020--I would have watched my beloved Chicago Cubs play a regular-season, Major League Baseball game against their Arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rather than at Wrigley Field or Busch Stadium, this game would've taken place at London Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England.

Hopefully it will be rescheduled for 2021, or as safe, and I will be able to plan a different European jaunt and attend.

But theoretically, it would be a once in a lifetime event, to see the Cubs play in Europe.

So for now, I will draw upon my memory banks--and perhaps even more so, ticket stubs--to list some of the most notable, memorable and/or cherished games I've attended across various sports.

It seems a bit unfair to loop together regular season and playoff/exhibition games, so here I'll focus only on the former, and will follow up with a subsequent post covering the latter.

But this is quite inexact. I've been fortunate to attend many games over the years, some at the gracious invite of friends, relatives, bosses, etc. How I attended, or with whom, isn't a criteria I'm much considering, but I remain extremely grateful to those who treated me, joined me, traveled with me, etc. 

I recall very few outcomes or specific happenings within games, and while I've been to games at 40 different major league baseball stadiums, vary rarely do the venues factor into the choices below. I was also a vendor at several Chicago games between 1985-89, which I'll include in some cases, but sparingly.

Perhaps inadvertently, I'm leaving out several Cubs vs. White Sox games I attended, and mostly won't include games I went to in order to see all-time greats--Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Sanders, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, etc.--or to observe pre-game ceremonies or get promotional items.

And as I feel apt, I'll lump a few games together. 

The Most Memorable Regular Season Games I Was At

1. April 18, 2007: Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers - Mark Buehrle No-Hitter
It was a freezing evening game at U.S. Cellular Field that I attended with three friends. I would've happily left at any point the Rangers got a hit, but they never did. Sox won 6-0.

See video within article
2. August 8 / 9, 1988: Chicago Cubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies / New York Mets - Lights at Wrigley
The first night game at Wrigley Field never officially happened, as after 91-year-old Harry Grossman flipped the switch on 8/8/88--I was there as a vendor--Mother Nature stalled the game in the middle of the 4th inning. Fortunately I was back the next night for the first official night game at Wrigley, against the Mets. Cubs won 6-4.

3. September 6, 1998: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds - Old Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Incidentally, Long Gone Summer, which chronicles Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run chase of 1998 premieres tonight on ESPN. I attended this late-season game in St. Louis as McGwire sat at 60 HR (Sosa was at 58). However I may feel now about both stars presumably juicing, the atmosphere was electric then. McGwire did not homer (nor did Sammy on the day), so nothing noteworthy happened in this game, it was just cool to be there. Over the next two nights, against the Cubs at Busch (I wasn't there) McGwire hit HR 61 and 62, tying and breaking Roger Maris' longstanding record. He finished the year with 70 HR; Sosa 66.

4. January 2 & 24, 2003: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards - United Center
I saw Michael Jordan play in person about 10 times across his career, mostly with the Bulls. Some of these games are noted below. But after he unretired to play a final two seasons with the Wizards, I had a ticket for a 2002 game at the UC in which he didn't play and also unwittingly bought a fake ticket for his final game at Madison Square Garden in New York in March 2003. But I did attend his first and last visits to the Jordan -- err, United -- Center in the 2002-03 season. He had a combined 21 points, but so what. I cheered loudly.

5. June 17 / 18, 2000: New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox, Old Yankee Stadium; Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, Fenway Park
On a brief East Coast jaunt highlighted by seeing Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, the next afternoon I would see the White Sox clobber the Yankees 17-4 on my second ever visit to the original Yankee Stadium. I would then take a train to Boston, where my sister Allison lived, and the next night we went to a game at Fenway, my first at the venerable home of the Boston Red Sox ballpark. The Yankees won 22-1. I don't know if any other team has had a 34-run loss to win swing in 2 days.

6. September 8, 1985: Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, Wrigley Field - Pete Ties Ty in a Tie
Before he would disgrace himself for getting caught betting on baseball, Pete Rose became the Hit King by surpassing Ty Cobb's 4,191. On a Sunday in Chicago, late in my first season as a vendor, "Charlie Hustle" tied Ty--he'd surpass him Wednesday in Cincinnati--in a game that would officially end in a 5-5 tie. Per #2 above, Wrigley didn't yet have lights.

7. March 1, 2014: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penquins, Soldier Field
I went to a handful of Hawks games during their dynasty era, including a Stanley Cup Final game. But this outdoor "Stadium Series" game at Soldier Field was really cool, especially as it was freezing. And it was also my first chance to see the Penquins' superstar Sidney Crosby live in person. The Blackhawks won 5-1 in front of nearly 63,000 fans.

8. June 7, 2003: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees - Wrigley Field
Roger Clemens aiming for career win #300 vs. Kerry Wood. The series marked the first Yankees visit to Wrigley since 1932. Cubs won 5-2 but game marred by a scary injury to the Cubs' Hee-Seop Choi. 

9. March 9, 1985: Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz - Chicago Stadium
First time I saw Michael Jordan in person. He scored 28 but the Jazz won 111-105, led by Darrell Griffith's 40 points. Orlando Woolridge had 35 for the Bulls.

10. May 2, 2000: Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros - Wrigley Field
Kerry Wood's return to action after more than a year on the Disabled List. He went 6 innings for the win in a 11-1 Cubs victory, and also hit a 2-run homer.

11. November 26, 2011: Chelsea vs. Wolves, Stamford Bridge stadium, London
My friend Paolo was in London on business, staying in a corporate flat, so I visited him. Though I had seen some great international soccer stars play in Chicago, I'd never been to a game--of any kind--in another country. Paolo is a huge fan, of soccer and Chelsea, so we went to Stamford Bridge and got tickets from a "tout" (i.e. scalper). It was a fun experience; Chelsea won 3-0. I can't trace who scored goals, but notables on Chelsea's roster included Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Ashley Cole.

A few others

- September 5, 1983: White Sox v A's - First-place Sox won 11-1 enroute to playoffs. Went with my childhood (and still) pal Jordan; Floyd Bannister started.
- August 6, 1984: Cubs vs. Mets - First-place Cubs beat second-place Mets (with Dwight Gooden starting) 9-3; taken by summertime boss, sat 1st row behind Cubs dugout
- April 8, 1999: Blackhawks vs. Rangers - Wayne Gretzky's last visit to Chicago. The crowd and the Hawks gave him a great salute.
- April 14 (or 15), 1981: White Sox vs. Brewers - I remember my took me and a friend to a game right at the start of the Sox first season with Carlton Fisk (alongside Greg Luzinski). April 14 was opening day, but the 15th would've been a much easier ticket. I don't have the stub or much recollection, but do recall my dad being pickpocketed on the L.  
- February 15, 2000: Bulls vs. Lakers - Phil Jackson's first visit to the UC as Lakers coach on a title-bound team with Shaq and Kobe. Lakers won 88-76
- November 26, 1991: Bulls vs. Clippers, LA Sports Arena - Living in L.A. from 1990-92, I convinced a colleague to accompany me to see Michael, who scored 23 in a 116-79 Bulls win.
- December 9, 1995: Bulls vs. Bucks, Bradley Center, Milwaukee - My friend Mark and I went up to Milwaukee early in the Bulls' 72-win, 4th ring season. Adorned in black uniforms, the Bulls won 118-106; Michael had 45.
- Various dates, 1990-92, 1996: Cubs vs. Dodgers, Dodger Stadium - I don't recall any game in particular, but it was always fun to see the Cubs in L.A., when I lived there and on a return visit.
- March 30, 2014: Fluminense vs. Vasco de Gama, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro - The famed Maracana had been reconfigured down from a 200,000 capacity to 80,000 and wasn't even 1/4 full for this game, but it was still fun to attend.
- September 11 / 12, 2005: San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres, SBC Park - As noted above, I've been to many baseball stadiums, and my favorite beyond Wrigley is the Giants' home on the Bay. And while I hated Barry Bonds, even in real time, the game on 9/12 marked his first of 2005 after 4 straight MVP seasons. So it was kinda cool.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Documenting the Madness That Was

In mid-March, with the Coronavirus pandemic prompting the cancellation of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, commonly referenced as "March Madness," I created a substitute bracket I called Rock Madness.

Purely to entertain my Facebook Friends, the tournament allowed people to vote on matchups to determine the winner of each game, and eventually overall.

I can't say it went viral, but was popular enough among my pals to beget--to date--seven more tournaments now completed, with Novel Madness (above) being the latest.

In multiple Seth Saith posts, I've shared tourneys in progress, and as finished, but thought I'd capture all eight to date in this one. I wouldn't mind doing a tournament of Famous Painters, but don't know if Facebook interest warrants it. So if this is it, the Madness was mad fun. While it lasted.