Fresh Living

franti.jpgThis morning I was talking to a co-worker about the Moody Blues show she went to last night–all extra beamy, she talked about how much it brought back memories and inspired her. It got us sharing some highlights of our concert-attending careers. Like, for me, the four-hour, mid-summer, break-up-healing Blues Traveler show in 1990, or the heart-opening Grateful Dead concert in 1991, when I thought I just mght explode into protons of joy when they finally and climactically played my favorite, Sugar Magnolia. And the zillions of Fishbone shows when I was a tough but tiny teen skanking along with the big boys (including John Cusack who accidentally moshed on my friend’s toe really hard. She was in pain but, hello, John Cusack!).

Actually if I look at my concert patterns, a cool kind of autobiography surfaces. My first was a Madison Square Garden U2 extravaganza where I marveled at the hugeness of 15,000 hearts beating as one. Followed by a UB40 show at the Beacon Theater–“Red, Red Wine” still gives me happy chills. Then I plunged into hardcore, punk, and ska–seeing bands like Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Ramones, Fishbone, Nina Hagen, and local bands like The Toasters. I’d do my most severe Siouxsie makeup, lace my self-distressed combat boots, and slip on a skirt that was actually a shirt and brave the night. I know I was a poseur extraordinaire, or at least a “Johnny Come Lately” as my old punk babysitter liked to call me, but I am still in awe of that badass little be-mohawked chick sneaking out into the Bowery at all hours to flail and flirt.

Then came the hippies–lots of Dead shows, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors. I found heart, noodle-dancing, and smooth rhythm, learning a sway could feel just as good as a mosh. That was followed by a mid-college passion for Ani DiFranco, who I saw throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Each time the righteous babe snarled (this was back when she snarled. A lot) things like “That’s MISTER DIFRANCO TO YOU!” my furious, feminist heart felt seen, heard, and met. She got to me with her poetry that wasn’t afraid to talk about menstruation, love, loss, abortion, and picking her nose. But mostly I think I loved her because she sang about, from, and with her body–just as I was learning to live in and accept mine, uncomfortably. In song/poems like The Slant, the anger and the body and the pain and the yearning came crashing together: “…like a woman was a drum like a body was a weapon/ like there was something more they wanted/ than the journey/ like it was owed to them/ steel-toed they walk/ and I’m wondering why this fear of men/ maybe it’s because I’m hungry/ and like a baby I’m dependent on them/ to feed me.”

Then for years I disconnected from music a bit, going to a concert here and there–Prince (OMFG), Madonna (eh). After that, my music love went into seeing Michael Franti & Spearhead–the only band I still might pack up a van to follow. His rumbling voice undoes me and the optimistic, spiritual-sexy poetry for a better world finishes me off. And finally, a few years ago I started getting hardcore into chanting–especially chanting with an edgy, jammable twist: Krishna Das, Wah, Donna Delory, MC Yogi. It brings together my need to commune with the beat, that internal, infernal, everywhere beat, plus God. Plus other people who find they are similarly opened by those particular spiritual love songs. Like gospel for yogis, and I’m guessing quite a few former Dead Heads, ‘Boneheads (as they called the Fishbone fans), and Spearheads. My inner punk-rock girl, African dancing queen, feminist, hippie, and yogi all meet. Toss in a hip-hop beat like MC Yogi does, and I’m in samadhi.   

What are some of your most meaningful concert experiences? 

[Image of Michael Franti via:


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