3.12.2013

If the band played on, they were probably at a great venue


Over beers the other night, friends and I were discussing great live music. In the spirit of the film High Fidelity, we began listing our all-time, top five concerts. I couldn’t possibly limit my list to just five shows so Instead, I tried to come up with my all-time, top five venues, which soon became the nine top venues. In an effort to revisit some of my fondest musical memories and make good on my promise to do more writing, I decided to put the list down on paper. Feel free to include your favorite concert venues in the comments section of this blog.

And now, here are....

The All-Time, Top Nine Concert Venues
In chronological order of when I first visited each

1. Waterloo Village, Byram Township, New Jersey

A restored 19th Century canal town with an outdoor concert venue in the woods of northern New Jersey. A smaller venue held concerts under a big tent. According to the link above, the future of the sight is uncertain and there haven’t been concerts there for a few years.

Best memories of Waterloo: James Taylor; Neil Young; Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger under the tent. I still have the ticket stub they signed.

2. Toad’s Place, New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven’s legendary rock club. As a college student, I was in awe of this place. The walls of the venue are filled with names of musicians that played at Toad’s. Stories of the times Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stone made unexpected appearances add to the club’s mystique. It seemed as if everyone played there on their way up, but as the years went by, we seemed to think that Toad’s was attracting bands on their way down. (Don’t know what the local opinion is these days. Anyone?)

Best memories from Toad’s Place: (1987-1993) Big Audio Dynamite with college friends. My first show there. I forged my ID to say I was 21 so I could get in; my first Bela Fleck & the Flecktones show; Michelle Shocked, the Band, Taj Mahal and Uncle Tupelo performed one evening in the fall of 1992. I remember this well because Michelle Shocked delivered a long monolog on why we should vote for Bill Clinton.

3. Wetlands, New York City

The quintessential hippie/jam band live music club. The above link is to a movie about the venue, which closed a few years ago.

Best memories from Wetlands: (Early to mid 1990s) First time there with my cousin Carolyn. My first Merle Saunders show; New Riders of the Purple Sage; The old VW bus that doubled as a merchandise booth; the basement, which was a great place to chill out during a long night of music; hippie memorabilia everywhere; Heading back at sunrise to sleep my parent’s place after a long night of music.

4. Mishawaka Amphitheatre, Bellevue, Colorado

A real gem. Get there before it is too late – there have long been rumors that this venue is closing. Outdoor venue along the Poudre River about 20 minutes west of Fort Collins. I had been in Laramie for about a day or so and my cousin Carolyn (She was helping me move west) and I found out that Merle Saunders was playing at Mishawaka. What we discovered was a restaurant/bar/outdoor concert venue down a beautiful, winding, isolated canyon. It was supposed to be an early afternoon show but we must have hung out for about three hours before the music started. It was one of those gloriously cool summer days and it threatened to rain all afternoon. After quite some time, the band decided that they wanted to move the show inside so they enlisted the audience’s help. The show rocked and Merle called Carolyn up on stage to play the rain stick with him. Memories like this make me feel young, alive and in awe of the power of music performed in a beautiful venue.

Best memories of Mishawaka: (1993-1996) My first show (Described above); Merle Saunders with Tony Fox, Big Rick, John Martz and more of the Laramie crew on Tony’s birthday; Peter Rowan with the Laramie crowd. I am pretty sure this was my first time swing dancing; Koko Taylor with Deno Marcum; I don’t know why, but I will always remember the dreamy smell of hazelnut coffee during shows at Mishawaka.



5. Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado

Like many people, my first image of Red Rocks is from U2’s 1983 concert video. After hearing about the venue for so many years, I was psyched to find out that Laramie, where I was moving to for grad school, was about two hours away.

Best memories from Red Rocks: going to a Phish show with Deno Marcum within days of my arrival in Laramie, 1993; more Phish shows with the Laramie crew, 1994, 1995; the Allman Brother’s Band on a full moon, 1995; Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leftover Salmon, Sam Bush and others, 1998 (I think this concert was a preview of some of the bands playing at Telluride Bluegrass Festival)



6. Venues in Laramie, Wyoming
Laramie isn’t know for live music but music was such a big part of my life at that point I couldn’t leave it out.

Some Laramie venues and fond musical memories: Blind Dog City, one of the members of the local blues band Blind Dog Smokin’ (http://www.blinddogsmokin.com/) owned this bar for a while. They made a real effort to feature live music several nights a week. Last I heard, it switched hands and is once again a cheesy college bar; The Buckhorn, typical bar that occasionally gets music. “The Buck” is more famous for the bullet hole in the mirror than music; Coal Creek, coffee shop that sometimes has live music; The greatest Laramie band of all time, the Centennial Jug Band formed by our buddy John Martz (http://www.myspace.com/unabanjo). Any hippie jam band our Dead head friends played in; live music at Murf the Surf’s and other bars in Centennial; Seeing the Radiators in the student union at University of Wyoming; Being two hours from Denver and being young enough to drive down to Denver for a show and return to Laramie the same night; Being two hours from Denver, driving down for a show and being young enough to not care about cramming into a cheap Denver hotel room for the night; Dancing to club music at the Parlor Bar above the Buckhorn. Actually, it was more like watching and making fun of the people dancing to club music at the Parlor but I am not beyond admitting that I was seen once or twice swinging my arms over my head chanting “Hey, ho, hey ho” as the DJ played Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hurray.”

7. Cat’s Paw, Bozeman, Montana
Your typical bar venue but they seldom have live music these days. Local rumor has it that they make more money with less hassle off of video poker, the Sunday afternoon football crowd, etc. As good as any concert venue in Bozeman today.

Fond memories of Cat’s Paw: Shows from the first time I lived in Montana – summer 1996 to spring 1997. These were the days you could pay $5 to see a band on its way up like String Cheese Incident.

A note on the Bozeman music scene: Graham with Compound Productions is doing an awesome job bringing music to the Filling Station. Great intimate venue featuring many bands on their way up. Don’t let the rough-around-the-edges outside of the Filler deter you. Tom Garnsey and Vootie Productions also bring great music to the area and Peach Street Studio offers intimate live shows in its 50 seat recording studio. These performances often sell-out but are later re-broadcast on Live From the Divide. Depsite these valiant efforts, Bozeman still lacks a variety of decent concert venues. What’s up with that?

8. Mangy Moose, Teton Village, Wyoming
If you are a skier who visited Jackson Hole back in the day, it was impossible not to know of “The Moose.” Along with the saddle stools at the Cowboy Bar, the Moose was probably mentioned in every article on Jackson Hole that ever appeared in a ski magazine. A great venue if you could ignore the obnoxious 90-day wonders.

Best memories from The Moose: Seeing the northern lights during intermission and following a Dirty Dozen Brass Band show, early 2000s; Robert Earl Keen with the Bozeman crew on a frigid January night, 2007.

Note: Rumor has it that live music at the Moose has really taken a dive. Apparently there are few live shows these days. Perhaps it’s the same thing as the Cat’s Paw, easier to make money other way. Anyone have the beta on the Moose?

9.  New Orleans
Need I say more about one of America’s great musical destinations? The entire city is a venue. You can find live music at clubs, bars, theatres, the fairgrounds during JazzFest, on street corners, and all over the place. Tipitina’s, House of Blues, Sag Harbor, the Maple Leaf, plus so many more.




Best memories from New Orleans: JazzFest, 2001 with Tony Fox. Awesome Paul Simon performance at the Fairgrounds, probably the greatest show I’ve seen ever. Music till the sun rose at Tipitina’s with Doctor John, Karl Denson (Lenny Kravitz made a guest appearance) and a band or two more - the details are fuzzy. JazzFest 2010, with Tony Fox, Big Rick, Donell & Sageev, and Jean. Simon & Garfunkel, the Allman Brothers Band, Marcia Ball, the Levon Helm Band, an amazing night of music in the bars and clubs and on street corners of Frenchmen Street.

Other great American music cities I’ve been to: Austin, TX and Nashville, TN. Where should I head next? Other than Vienna and Salzburg Austria, which foreign cities bill themselves as a music destination?



10. The Gorge, George, Washington
I’ve never been here but it sounds great. It’s similar to Red Rocks but with on-site camping. How cool is that?

Best memories from The Gorge: yet to come :)

New venue! Wilma Theatre. Just added 3.22.16. Read about it here
New York City's City Winery. Briefly mentioned in this post (http://annvinciguerra.blogspot.com/2017/03/evening-on-highline.html) from 3.25.17