I have insomnia. What better way to deal with insomnia than to list out in my mind the best live performances I've ever attended.
1) The Pixies, Santa Fe Convention Center, November 2011. This show was incredible. Santa Fe isn't a large enough market to draw huge acts, so we usually get overlooked when big bands are touring- bands will play Albuquerque, or they'll skip us altogether and go straight from Denver or somewhere in Texas to California. We're the rest day. But the Pixies were doing their Lost Cities tour, and were deliberately stopping to play cities they'd never played before, so we got a hit. Santa Fe came out in force, and we were delighted. It was an incredible show- great energy, great music, and so much fun. It was one gigantic pixies singalong. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if my friend from Denver had been able to make it down to join us, but that will have to happen another time, I guess. Highlight: There was a pit- I haven't been to a show with a pit in FOREVER. My friend Jessica's response to the pit: "You don't have a pit at a Pixies show!"
2) Ben Folds Five, Toad's Place, New Haven, 2001?. Ben Folds gives an incredible live show. He does it on one of his live albums so you can hear the effect- it's part of his schtic, but it was fun. It was a great venue for that. Speaking of the venue- Toad's place was/is (?) hilarious because they dealt with the all ages issue by placing a chain-link fence down the middle of the audience. Over 21? you can go on the bar side of the pen. Under 21? in with the parents in the playground. Very weird to be in a bar with with a chain link fence. Highlight: Lots of interaction, including my favorite, when he divided the audience into choral sections and assigned out the horn parts to one of of his songs.
3) Florence, Italy, 2002. Z and I were in Italy for our honeymoon, and we were wandering around Florence one night looking for something interesting to do. We wandered into a street festival, and just happened to be there right as an incredible street performance was beginning. To call it a street performance doesn't really do it justice- it was more a staged and very carefully choreographed street circus. There were aerial fabric sets done off the side of a 5 story building, there were people dancing around floating on top of the crowd in these big transparent spheres, there were puppets and trapezes and all sorts of breathtaking feats. The music was amazing, the lighting was perfect, and then just as it started, it just ended. It was one of the most indescribably beautiful moments of my life. Highlight: Realizing that we had just wandered into something really, really special by accident.
4) Paris, France, 1995. In another, similarly happenstance event, I once stumbled upon a performance of an accordian orchestra playing in a bandstand in a park in Paris. I didn't know beans about Paris, and certainly didn't know that I was about to be awed and delighted by this performance, it just happened. I was with a band I was traveling with, on our way to do our own post-concert ramble across Europe. We didn't have our instruments with us any more, this was a true vacation. We did have all our luggage, and at the time there were lots of bombings around Paris transit systems so we couldn't check our bags at the station, so we found a park and decided to spend the afternoon there, because our suitcases were too big to lug around all day. I remember napping, and I remember waking up to accordion music. There was an accordion orchestra, with accordions of all sizes, playing wonderfully breathy music- very French, very Eastern European. Very magical. Highlight: They performed a piece which included sections in which the accordianists were to play just the bellows of their instruments, literally giving the music breath.
5) Sun Ra Arkestra, Yoshi's Place, Oakland, 1999? I'd only just started dating Z, and his dad invited he and I to go see Sun Ra at Yoshi's. I didn't get a lot of opportunities to go see live music because I just didn't have a lot of money during this period, and I never got to go to Yoshi's due to the whole broke thing, so this was a treat. This was when the music career was ending, and I was making the very difficult decision to stop performing and apply to nursing schools. I hadn't told a lot of people, and I think I was even still gigging, but it was in the back of my mind. Anyway, we went to see Sun Ra and the music was so beautiful and so intense and so beyond anything I would ever be able to create, it made me cry. I've never be brought to tears by a performance- I usually get caught up in the technical magic of a musical piece, but this concert was about the emotional power of music. It was amazing. Highlight: Five minute saxophone solo exploring alternate fingerings.
6) The Flaming Lips, San Francisco, 1999. Anyone who's seen the Flaming Lips live knows how great they are. Yes. Highlight: Confetti Bombs. Long before stupid glitter bombs and stadium concerts.
7) I would be remiss if I didn't mention my big boy's first piano concert. That is definitely the best live performance I've ever seen in my entire life. :)