My Strangest Concert Memories Have Nothing To Do With The Music

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I’ve gone to a lot of concerts over the years and seen some amazing shows.

But I’ve found the most memorable moments often have nothing to do with the musical magic happening on stage.

The good times are great, but the strange times make the best stories. Here are a few that have stuck with me…

Drinking Pepsi All Night Long

The first concert I ever saw was Lionel Richie (with opening act Tina Turner!) in 1984. As a 9-year-old aspiring break dancer myself at the time (in the suburban Jew category), I was excited to see what sweet backspins Lionel’s dancers would bust out on stage.

As an added bonus, I got the chance to go backstage before the show and meet Lionel because my uncle worked for Pepsi at the time and they sponsored the tour. I don’t remember much about meeting Lionel other than the photo I took with him which hung on the wall in my parents’ house for decades, but I do remember what was the highlight of the night for me – getting a free Pepsi.

That’s right, I got to meet Lionel Richie backstage at the height of his All Night Long-ness and the coolest thing about it to me was that there were unlimited free sodas backstage.

Peace, Love, and Hot Dogs

I went to Woodstock ’94 – that’s the muddy one, not the rapey one – thanks to free tickets I got from a friend. They weren’t exactly free – he was able to hook me up as long as I agreed to work at a festival food stand that was being run by Patch Adams (the real guy who inspired the awful Robin Williams movie) for a couple hours a day.

It was weird, but seemed like a sweet deal at the time and a free trip to an epic concert. It was, but thanks to torrential rain and terrible event organizers it also turned into an epic shit-show (pun sort-of intended).

That weekend is as close as I’ve ever been to a Lord of the Flies situation in my life (if Lord of the Flies had a Green Day soundtrack).

But as things on the grounds got more and more chaotic, I discovered my position as a hot dog vendor was suddenly one of an incredible power. I had access to food which, it turns out, is really important to people who have partied for days on end and can’t afford food because they spent all their hot dog money on the drugs that fueled their partying.

This situation made me feel like a Game of Thrones king who wields all the power (in this case, control of hot dog supply) while simultaneously realizing he could be killed at any moment by usurpers.

It was an odd experience to have play out in between sets by Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Please Don’t Kill Me Softly

I love hip hop and always tried to see whatever rap acts happened to come to campus when I was in college. I saw A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Run DMC among others – all of whom were incredible.

But the most memorable show had nothing to do with the actual concert. It had to do with a couple of my college friends who were from a slightly less diverse area of the country and who were slightly less familiar with rap music than I was. They wanted to go see a rap concert with me (sort of), but there was just one problem – they were terrified.

It turns out these upper middle class, white college students in the mid-1990s thought they were going to get killed (or shot, or robbed, or god knows what they were afraid of) if they went to a…wait for it…Fugees concert.

I thought that was crazy then and it still amazes me now. After all, the only thing you should be worried about when you go to see Lauryn Hill perform is if she’s going to show up and how many times she’ll thank Jesus if she does.

What Would You Say…To An Orgasm

In college, I went to a bunch of Dave Matthews Band concerts (as one does when one is a college student in the 1990s).

At one such concert, a group of friends and I wound up on the lawn of an outdoor theater and one of the girls in our group wound up in my arms as we sat on the grass field while the sun set and the band jammed.

We were a little intoxicated, but fully clothed and not romantically (or non-romantically) involved. I thought it was a nice moment, but apparently she thought it was a REALLY nice moment because she somehow had an orgasm as we watched DMB rattle on with one of their 8-minute violin solos.

Looking back on it, I can’t confirm whether or not she actually had a non-contact, non-nudity orgasm or not. But it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a girl would fake, because girls never do that…right?

Born To Run Gently

Decades after my first backstage concert appearance, I made another one – this time at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

But what stood out to me this time wasn’t the free beverages but rather what I saw when I had the chance to stand on the stage hours before the show began.

First, I noticed that the stage was padded and bouncy like a wrestling ring. Contrary to what it looks like when you see him perform, it turns out Springsteen is actually old. His stage is built to cushion his bad knees so he doesn’t hurt himself when he jumps around.

Second, I noticed there are TV monitors in the floor of the stage that show lyrics to all the songs for when in case he forgets them.

But ultimately, who cares because Springsteen is still amazing.

That’s Not The Chronic

I used to go to a big outdoor festival in San Diego each year and one year Snoop Dogg headlined the show. Halfway through Snoop’s set, one of my friends disappeared.

These things happen when you go to concerts, so nobody in our crew thought much of it. But asĀ  the show ended and my friend still hadn’t surfaced, it started to seem weird.

Finally, he resurfaced and explained he had gone to use a Port-a-Potty (risky move) and met a group of random Latino guys who offered him up a joint (riskier move). Apparently, they had hung out and smoked it during Snoop’s set.

Seemed like an odd choice since this friend wasn’t a huge drug user, but whatever – Snoop does things to a man.

With the show now over, we all made our way to the train to go home and piled on to it with hundreds of other tired/wasted festival-goers. A couple minutes into the train ride, my friend got angry. Like, real angry. Like, PCP angry.

To this day I’ve never seen him like he was on that fateful train ride and while nobody’s quite sure what happened, we can only assume whatever weed he smoked with the random Latino guys by the Port-a-Potty at a concert festival while Snoop Dogg played might have been laced with a little something extra.

Live and learn I guess.

X Gonna Give It To You ‘Til You Make Him Stop

This last story comes from one of the more recent concerts I’ve attended. It was an old school hip hop show that featured a bunch of acts who were, let’s say, bigger several years ago than they are today.

The show’s closing act was DMX which, given his history, seemed like an optimistic bit of scheduling.

DMX has had some rough patches in his life so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but he came out and was amazing…for about two minutes.

Then, things got weird, bizarre, strange, and sad. He spun out of control ranting about god knows what to the point where they had to shut off the music and the mics because DMX wouldn’t wrap things up.

People were leaving and he was still on stage, with his mic turned off, just yelling crazy stuff at the crowd. They even tried to close the curtains on him and he just came back out from behind the curtain and kept going.

It wasn’t the best part of the concert, but it sure was the most memorable. And when it comes to concerts, isn’t that kind of the point?

 

A Review of My First College Mixtape

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In 1993, I was a college freshman who did what every music-loving student did in the archaic, non-streaming, pre-iTunes era – raided the CD collections of my dorm friends and spent hours manually recording songs I liked but didn’t own on to a series of mixtapes.

I recently found a bunch of those tapes and thanks to the magic of Spotify was able to recreate them as playlists to see how they’ve held up over the years.

The first mixtape I ever made in college was “creatively” titled College Park Rock (Go Terps!) and what follows is my present-day review of the songs I chose to put on that tape 23 years ago.

If you’d like to listen along while you read, I’ve included the full Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.

And…we’re off!

The Joker by Steve Miller Band

I was probably the one millionth college kid to put this on a mixtape, but cliches are cliches for a reason. In this case, that reason is this is a great song that’s stood the test of time. It was a couple decades old when I first discovered it, it’s been a couple decades since then, and it still sounds good. And a solid opening track, even if it’s not the most inventive.

Grade: A-

No Rain by Blind Melon

Oh god, the bee girl song. I’m actually surprised this song made it on to a mixtape of mine because I vaguely remember hating it when it came out and became a big hit. I can only assume that this mix was made during a window where I was succeptible to peer music pressure, the song had just come out, and I assumed I “should” like and that it would grow on me. It didn’t, though ironically I probably like the song more now than I did back then.

Grade: C-

Mrs. Robinson by The Lemonheads

I’ve always loved cover songs so it probably makes sense that I went with this version of the Simon and Garfunkel original. In retrospect, there’s something very 90s-feeling about this song. I’m also pretty sure this song led me to go investigate the Lemonheads further and on closer inspection I decided I wasn’t a fan. Also, this song sounded better to me then than it does to me now.

Grade: C

Stand by R.E.M.

I haven’t heard this song in a LONG time. I’ve missed it. At the time, I probably liked this song as much for the fact that it was used as the theme song for the Chris Elliott sitcom Get a Life as I did for the song itself. To this day, it’s impossible to hear this song and not picture Elliott riding his bike. I should have hated everything about R.E.M. when I was in college except for the fact that they made really good music.

Grade: A

Higher Ground by Red Hot Chili Peppers

For those of you keeping stats, 40% of this mixtape so far has been cover songs. Although in this case, I’m not even sure I realized at the time that this was a cover of a Stevie Wonder classic. Regardless, the Peppers made it their own and I think it reflects pretty well on me that I was listening to this back in the day. So far, I’m encouraged by my taste on this mixtape.

Grade: A-

Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

I didn’t really have a drug phase in college. I did, however, have a “hang out with lots of people who were knee deep in their drug phase” phase during college. Without a doubt, this song’s inclusion on this mixtape originated with that phase. I know it’s a classic song, but I’m not sure I’ve listened to it since that phase ended for me.

Grade: B-

Come Undone by Duran Duran

Remember that weird moment in the 90s when Duran Duran reappeared on the pop scene after vanishing for several years following their 80s glory years? Well, this was that moment and it turns out I was caught up in it.

Grade: C

R.O.C.K. In The USA by John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp is underrated. There, I said it. This Mellencamp song however, is not underrated. It’s not his best, but I refuse to be ashamed of its inclusion on this mixtape because I’m an American. (Still, it’s no Jack & Diane.)

Grade: C+

Love Walks In by Van Halen

Remember the era when Van Halen couldn’t decide what it loved more: synthesizers, power ballads, or Sammy Hagar? That’s when this is from. I won’t trash this song, but I will say it’s not currently in heavy rotation on my Spotify account. That said, I fully expect to hear it on an episode of The Goldbergs any day now.

Grade: C

Shout by Tears For Fears

It feels like there are a couple songs on this tape that I liked when I was a little kid and maybe put on this tape because they were nostalgic for me, even when I was only 18 years old? This song originally came out in 1985, seven years before this mixtape was made so it would fit squarely in that demo. Now it sounds kind of annoying – the thrill is gone.

Grade: C-

Rooster by Alice in Chains

The thing I remember about Alice in Chains was that the people in my life who liked them, REALLY liked them. Those people consisted mainly of a high school girlfriend and a redneck guy I’d meet a year after making this tape. For my part, I just thought they were talented enough to stand out from the rest of the grunge pack and still do.

Grade: A-

D’yer Maker by Led Zeppelin

It’s time to get the Led out! Or…listen to Zeppelin’s go reggae. I’m still not sure whether it’s cool to like this song or not, but I still do so I’m going to ride with it. Plus, it was the closing song on Side A of this mixtape and feels like a nice way to wind down before having to go to the trouble of actually flipping the tape.

Grade: B

Only The Good Die Young by Billy Joel

I don’t remember which of my friends I taped this song from, but I’d bet good money it was a New Yorker. At the time, I wasn’t a huge Billy Joel fan but that would come in the years that followed. At the time, this was probably my favorite Billy Joel song and while I don’t think it still holds that place in my heart, it’s definitely up there.

Grade: A

Cryin’ by Aerosmith.

Two words: Alicia Silverstone.

Grade: B for song, A+ for 1993’s Alicia Silverstone

Every Breath You Take by The Police

This mixtape was made four years before Puff Daddy would flip this song into I’ll Be Missing You to pay tribute to Biggie’s death so its inclusion was untainted at the time. It’s a classic song, but now it’s impossible to hear it and not think about Puffy’s weak rap skills over top of it. That knocks down its grade a bit.

Grade: B

Too Much Information by Duran Duran

Before finding this tape, I would have bet good money that no more than one total Duran Duran song ever made it on to a mixtape in the history of my mixtape making. I barely remember this song and since I only wrote song titles on each mixtape cover and not artists, I had to do some digging to even figure out what this was. Needless to say, this song hasn’t stuck with me over the years for good reason.

Grade: D

Down In A Hole by Alice in Chains

Listening to these songs reminds me that Alice in Chains was probably a lot better than I gave them credit for back in the day. It also makes me wonder what could have been had Layne Staley not died in 2002. Their music holds up.

Grade: A-

Sowing The Seeds Of Love by Tears for Fears

Turns out I’m not a Tears for Fears fan. This song sounds like something that would be on a soundtrack for a Cirque du Soleil show (and that’s not a compliment in case you weren’t sure).

Grade: C-

Rape Me by Nirvana

What I remember about Nirvana in the early 90s is that I liked Pearl Jam better. I know that’s not a popular stance, and Nirvana did a whole lot in a short period of time and the band was amazing and all that, but I still kinda think that if Eddie Vedder had killed himself and Kurt Cobain was the one around battling Ticketmaster into his 40s then the conventional wisdom might have been opposite. Regardless, this was (and still is) a pretty great song.

Grade: A-

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me by Billy Joel

The transition from Rape Me to this song is about as abrupt a stylistic shift as you’ll find on one of my mixtapes and if nothing else I guess it speaks to how eclectic my tastes were even back when I was starting college. Or, it was getting toward the end of the tape and I needed some filler songs to round it out. Tough to say, but this song is still a bit of a guilty pleasure so I don’t regret it.

Grade: B

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

Another classic freshman-in-college selection. There’s nothing groundbreaking about putting this song on a mixtape, but it is a rite of passage. If you didn’t put Stairway to Heaven on a mixtape early in your college experience I have to question what you were doing with your life.

Grade: A (Come on, it’s Stairway – I kinda have to do this.)

Ordinary World by Duran Duran

Seriously? I put THREE Duran Duran songs on this tape? I think I’ve blown my own mind. I can only assume I was kidnapped by a cabal of soccer moms for a couple weeks during freshman year and brainwashed.

Grade: C

Tell Her About It by Billy Joel

To close out the mixtape, Billy Joel makes his third appearance. But I don’t feel any of the aforementioned Duran-shame because I stand by Billy Joel. You may not like this song, but I bet it still leaves you feeling good and that’s a pretty nice way to end a tape. Even as an 18-year-old I realized that apparently.

Grade: B+

LISTEN TO THE FULL COLLEGE PARK ROCK PLAYLIST:

 

You Don’t Have To Build A Business To Build Value

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Forty-four weeks ago I started a thing.

As with most things, I wasn’t sure what it would be when I started it.

I called it A Person You Should Know and at the time all I knew was it would be a way for me to identify and profile people who have interesting insights to share with the world.

I believed knowing those people – and introducing them to others – would create value for myself. And I hoped an audience – possibly a large one (though I couldn’t define “large”) – would see value in it as well and come along for the ride.

Maybe they’d visit the website, subscribe to the newsletter, or Like the Facebook page. Or maybe not.

Failure is always an option.

But I’m an optimist. I felt like if I built it, they would come. I just didn’t know how many and what exactly I would do with them if they did.

Because I have an entrepreneurial bent, I assumed if an audience came I would figure out how to monetize them. How to capitalize on their attention. How to take my “thing” to the next level.

Because that’s what you’re supposed to do on the Internet, right?

Build a thing that attracts an audience and turn that audience into a business.

It doesn’t have to be “the” business that sustains you – maybe it’s a side hustle? Maybe it’s the seeds of a bigger business? Maybe it’s a proof of concept?

But at its core, it becomes a business.

It’s easy to buy into that conventional wisdom because denying it can be scary.

If I’m not building a business – or something with the potential to become one – then why spend time and effort trying to attract an audience for it?

Business is the end game, right?

Some version of that assumption guided me as the audience for A Person You Should Know has grown. Thousands of people subscribed and it’s become a regular read for many more.

That’s no small feat and I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished.

Naturally, my mind drifted to thoughts of how I could monetize my “success” – monthly memberships, exclusive content, sponsorships, etc.

While I know the scale isn’t quite there yet, I thought about what could be and how best to get there.

I wondered – was this destined to be a side project or could it be more? Could it be my main thing? How big could it get? What was possible?

Then, a funny thing happened.

I no longer want it to be a business.

My interest in it hasn’t waned, but I no longer feel the need to chase audience growth and figure out how to monetize it.

It is what it is and I’m satisfied with that.

A project’s value is not solely basedĀ  on what it might become, but by what it already has become.

And by that standard, A Person You Should Know is very valuable.

It gives me a reason seek out people who I otherwise never would have found in my social feeds. And it forces me to dig deeper into what these people believe and what they’ve learned.

The process of digging into somebody’s body of work gives you a different perspective of who they are, what they know, and how they came to know it. You can’t get that from a tweet.

You can see the evolution of their ideas and be reminded that all ideas and interests evolve over time.

I now recognize the value of this project doesn’t solely lie in the audience it attracts or the money I could extract from it.

Things don’t have to become a business to become valuable.

That’s easy to forget these days – especially in the marketing, media, and tech corners of the internet.

I’m not sure how I came to this realization. I have an artistic bent that rivals my entrepreneurial one, so in some ways I’ve probably always known it.

But I recently remembered it and I’m glad I did.

So, while I’m still honored that people see value in subscribing to A Person You Should Know (which you can do here by the way), I won’t be turning it into a business any time soon.

I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.