Radiohead at Tower Theatre, Philadelphia

radiohead photo.jpg

Musically speaking, I remember my teen years with a warm and fuzzy glow. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was. The first formal concert I attended was Laurie Anderson on the Mr. Heartbreak tour, 1984 at Constitution Hall, with my friend Annie. I remember being blown away by the visual aspects and the mood of the event. There was a video of whales and then, later, the Statue of Liberty, and Laurie stood alone in a white suit on a darkened stage playing her shiny white computerized violin. Later, she perched on the edge of the stage and told stories. After the show, I was still mesmerized, and wanted more. I remember sneaking around outside the building with Annie, looking in the windows, and we caught a glimpse of her, sitting in a room with a dozen others, with her arm around a guy, sipping on a glass of wine.

There were many excellent shows for me around that time. We had the Merriweather Post Pavillion, the Warner theater, 9:30 club, and dc space. Like Bryan, I was a fan of New Wave music. I saw the Eurythmics, Howard Jones, Depeche Mode, New Order, the Cure, Berlin, the Church, Thompson Twins, BowWowWow, Men Without Hats, Love and Rockets, Thomas Dolby, OMD, Fad Gadget and many more way before I was even allowed to get my learner’s permit. Simultaneously, I had developed a taste for punk music and the DC hardcore scene. I remember feeling secretive about my fondness for New Wave as it was in many ways so contrary to the punk aesthetic. But my teenage heart had room for more than one musical love, and so Bad Brains and Bananarama sat side by side in my album collection. In the early to mid eighties there was a huge music scene in DC, and thanks to some dysfunctional family dynamics, I was a free agent and therefore able to attend any number of Embrace, Beefeater, Troubled Gardens, Minor Threat, Slickee Boys, Bad Brains, 9353, Rites of Spring, and Black Market Baby shows. My entire life was about going to these shows, and listening, and being a part of that scene. At 13,14, 15, I was one of the younger members of the crowd (although there were a ton of kids my age there as well). One of the things I remember very clearly was looking up to the older members of the audience, aspiring to be as cool and reserved and informed as those wiser 16, 17, 18-year-olds. I am sure that there were folks much older than that there too, but I didn’t really get that at the time.

Now, in my mid thirties (how is this possible? am I not still a teenager?) I still adore new music and live shows. I have the good fortune of having found a partner who also delights in the pursuit the newest, most exciting music on the horizon. We love listening to live music still and go as regularly as we can. We have gotten used to being the grownups of the audience, standing in the back, more reserved (unless we are up in the front getting crazy). I guess I have become that person in the audience that I used to be intimidated by 20 years ago casino online (or, more likely, the one I wouldn’t have noticed).

In many ways, my expectations for all shows since have been shaped by those magical teen years. Part of the allure for me at least (and I imagine this is true for many) was the notion that I was participating in something that was special, not for everyone, something most people did not know about. As narcissistic as it was (is?), I achieved a good deal of satisfaction from the fact that I was part of an elite group that was savvy enough to appreciate the genre. Of course, the music that we love is actually very accessible. More than anything else, what makes the “indie” scene is that it requires more effort to locate the music. There is nothing about the music itself that is any less accessible than whatever is played on commercial radio. It’s all about finding it. So once a band with an indie aesthetic hits the mainstream, it’s all systems go.

And that brings me to Radiohead. They have a special place in my heart. I had listened to Pablo Honey and the Bends, and I liked them both, but not so much that I was tapping my foot waiting for their next release. The summer of 1997 for me was an awful one. I was breaking up with a girl I had been totally in love with and I was completely miserable. I went to San Francisco to escape from my life and visit some close friends. I heard OK Computer for the first time while I was there. Granted, I was in a very emotional and desperate place. But that fucking album blew my mind. It was exactly what I needed. It totally spoke to me, in the weirdest way. I had just ended a relationship with someone who had totally different values than I. Thinking back now, it’s hard for me to understand how I fell in love with her in the first place, except that in some ways I am sure that I thought I could help her “change.” Anyway, I will spare the details, but there were aspects of her weird agenda and values that were perfectly described by Yorke and company, and it was a great comfort to me. It really did help me get over an awful heartbreak. That album, like for so many others, is on my list of “the best albums ever.”

OK, I know that this is the most roundabout concert review ever. But all that I have written comes down to this: how fucking weird was it for me to watch nubile young hippie types dancing to Radiohead at the Tower Theatre on June 1st? The answer: very fucking weird. It could have been a Dave Matthews Band show, the way they were dancing. I just couldn’t get it, at all. And you know what? I realized something that night. I realized that it really impedes my ability to appreciate a band that has been as close to my heart as Radiohead when there is crazy swirly hippie dancing happening in the seat next to me. I felt reluctant to allow myself to enjoy the music because I felt like I was falling prey to some mass-appeal, feel-good jam band. Isn’t that petty? I might as well be 15.

Anyway, it was a pretty decent concert, all that notwithstanding. For some actual reviews of the show, look here or here or here. Maybe those kids over at pitchfork will want to hire me to be their new live music correspondent for Philadelphia. I know I have some mad skillz, yo.

13 responses to “Radiohead at Tower Theatre, Philadelphia”

  1. Lane says:

    Ah yes, a Radiohead concert! Always sure to leave one feeling . . . Dave? Adriana? Bacon?

    Strange that our Radiohead concert experience is truer to the paranoid claustophobic intensity of the music. And also more in keeping with their very European sense of disappointment and loss. No jam band they!

    We were sadly disappointed when it started to rain in sub-suburban Virginia a few years ago. The venue sent us back to our car in the hopes of waiting out the rain. The storm turned into a minor hurricane and our little piece of crap car suffered a flat tire. The metaphor for the whole thing was limping back to Bacon’s house and seeing the 40 foot sink hole that had opened up in the Safeway parking lot and litterally swallowed a Pontiac Cutlass Supreme!

    Alas, to break The States and cash in is the true aim of any Britsh RAWK band, the whole British RAWK industry really. So it sounds like they’ve won.

  2. Lisa Parrish says:

    Lovely post, Trixie. For comparison’s sake, I want to share my early concert experiences:

    First concert ever, age 15: April Wine with Franke and the Knockouts opening, at Mobile, Alabama’s Municipal Auditorium, which was the size of a high school gym. From the back of the room, you couldn’t see the stage for the smoke. My friend who took me — a junior, while I was a freshman — offered me what I thought were a couple of M&Ms. “I didn’t know they came in red!” I told him.

    Second concert: ZZ Top. Some outdoor stadium in Mobile. I’d thought ZZ Top was a rock band. “Who are the guys with the beards?” I asked my friend.

    Third: Biloxi’s Mississippi Coast Coliseum. Rush. Yes, friends, I was a Rush geek. Not enough to try to mimic Neil Peart’s drumming during the show, but close. We hung around after the encore, and my friend got handed one of Peart’s drumsticks. I didn’t speak to him the whole way home, I was so jealous.

  3. trixie says:

    april wine. sweet!
    those red m&m’s are something else,huh?

  4. Lisa Parrish says:

    I didn’t take one! Please note, NSA readers: Once I figured out they weren’t chocolate, my 15-year-old selfI Just Said No.

  5. Trixie Honeycups says:

    good thing we are all using pseudonyms
    it’s going to take a little longer for the NSA guys to track me down here at my office

  6. brooke says:

    who is that band “Sold Out”? I’ve never heard of them before.

  7. Dave says:

    I put OK Computer way up there, too, Trixie.

    And yes, the concert disaster Lane described pretty much makes it impossible for me to go see Radiohead live. Which is just as well, it seems.

  8. hey trixie — so how large is this theatre space? when i saw radiohead in 2001, it was outdoors in liberty state park. i hadn’t realized the show would be dry (since it’s in a NJ state park) but somehow it didn’t matter because the night was beautiful, the band was awesome, and they wanted to make up for their rained out shows down south, so they played for over 2 hours. the manhattan skyline was intact, the statue of liberty lit up. it was glorious. i remember two other things that made it great: they really knew how to use the big screens up front and would do all sorts of neat visual tricks like focusing in on someone’s waving hair and just letting the image get all abstract yet still rhythmic. the other thing was this israeli flight attendant sitting on the lawn next to us. he was on a stopover from some flight and had had the foresight to get tickets to this show. he had the most beautiful voice and he kept harmonizing with them and singing along to everything. in any other circumstance we would have shot someone who was doing that, but this guy really could sing and he knew every word. maybe you should have just hauled off and clocked the hippie chick. world peace now, darn-it.

  9. Stella says:

    Trixie, I’m totally there with you on the whole indie music pleasure = elite and special and please don’t let everyone else in on the fun kick. Teenage survival was predicated on me and my friends looking down on schoolmates who loved Wham! etc. Imagine our devastation when New Order hit the Top 40.

  10. Trixie Honeycups says:

    stella, you nailed it. oh, the indignancy of sharing those gems with the common folk.
    in many ways the joke has turned out to be on us what with volkswagon and sony and even southern comfort and dodge sharing our hipster jukebox with all the people out there watching fox news.
    at least i rest assured knowing how many steps it requires to track down the artist for a song heard on tv.

  11. […] One humorous aside: I was reminded of Trixie’s account of Radiohead’s recent Philly show by a rather voluptuous young woman — maybe she was German? — who rushed to the front of the room when the Final Fantasy set started. Up against the stage, she swayed, raised her hands, clapped, snapped her fingers, sang along: all as if she were at a Van Halen show rather than a tiny club on the LES listening to a violin-playing indie melodramatist. She wasn’t fooling – the girl loved the music – but her antics almost had Pallett laughing. When two kids next to her played concert-police and told her to scram she ended up right in front of me and Dave, swaying, rocking, dancing, knocking us in the ribs with her elbows, after which she’d apologize profusely but explain that she just couldn’t help herself. “You’re a genius,” she’d yell between songs. “We love you! We support your music!” (All of this in a German accent.) After a particularly rousing violin flourish at the end of one song, she delivered the best line I’ve ever heard someone shout at a show: “Vienna! Mozart! We love you!” […]

  12. […] But I have great news to report: Next week Trixie Honeycups will make her long-awaited return after a difficult hiatus. How exciting! […]

  13. […] Dave B, “Not afraid (but the ass-beating shall remain strictly metaphorical, thank you very much)” Dave B, “One way of looking at a Judd” Trixie Honeycups, “Radiohead at Tower Theater, Philadelphia” Bryan Waterman, “Summer Soundtracks” (Parts 1, 2, and 3) […]