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Category: 2016

#108 – Joan Baez @Fox Theater, Oakland, CA – 7 Nov ’16

#108 – Joan Baez @Fox Theater, Oakland, CA – 7 Nov ’16

I knew that Joan Baez is somewhat of a legend, an icon, and still somehow had never got around to listening to a single song of hers until now. I am sure we all have such artists, that we hear of, read of, register in our minds, but just cannot cross that threshold of interest that will drive us to actually seek him/her out in cassettes/CDs before and Youtube or any of the streaming services now to understand what the fuss is all about. And it isn’t even due to any doubt of “if-the-fuss-is-real-at-all”, that may be the case for new artists who have burst into the scene with all the promise and the fan followings and critical nods to back it up but have yet to pass that hardest hurdle, the test of Time! You are great today but will I remember you tomorrow? In my books, the test of true greatness is the test of time, generations roll over, tastes change, the world moves on and no artist (especially in music), no matter how great, can be expected to draft new legions of fans once they are past their prime. Even if they are still in their prime but at a point of time when the ever-widening generational gap is wide enough to start needing a bridge to cross over, and very few, I would say almost none, is able to cross that bridge. Some may walk over from the other side (like me for quite a few artists of my dad’s generation), but we are more or less entrenched. And that is the reason why I, an 80s kid, am more enthusiastic about attending a Joan Baez concert (whom I hadn’t listened to yet but know that is great enough to be talked about even today among her generational blast radius), than any of the leading acts of today (like say Twenty One Pilots or Sia, heard there shows are pretty good).

Another majestic concert hall in Oakland
Another majestic concert hall in Oakland

Due to the reasons cited above, I was initially a bit undecided on whether I really would go, I felt that I eventually will but put her up on my concert calendar as “Joan Baez – Tentative”. But she is still very popular, enough to have a second Oakland, California show added due to popular demand and that is what sealed the deal for me. Being on a Monday worked better for me as well, no infringing on weekend family time! Wife at office, me working from home, even cooked a quick dinner before diving into the evening office traffic. This is the part I don’t enjoy about concerts in Oakland, traffic on the I-880 freeway is always a mojo-killer especially on weekdays when it can take 1.5 hrs to just get there. Waze tried to be a bit creative, routing me through a maze of other freeways and smaller roads before putting me back on 880, but not sure how helpful that was, still seemed to just take forever. Finally reached a little before 8 PM, didn’t fuss too much about the $20/- “event” parking that still required a healthy walk and voila, finally was in front of Fox Theater. This was my first time at this venue and after the majestic Paramount Theater (also in Oakland) for the Norah Jones concert, this seemed something along the same lines! Oakland is a place that we had always heard of in the context of “Don’t take a wrong exit and stray there, dangerous place, gangs and shooting and stuff”. As a result, we never go to Oakland for sightseeing and I initially used to skip concerts there as I usually watch concerts alone and didn’t feel it would be very safe there. But this and the last concert has opened my eyes, yes there may be crime in pockets but there are also such beautiful and exquisite places with such great music. When I settled down on my seat there was an old lady next to me and I made a comment that the interior décor was amazing and that got her started about how some wealthy Oakland businessmen had taken up the project to renovate this venue to infuse hope and vibrancy to the locality and I have to say, they must have succeeded in their goal, as I, a first-time tentative visitor immediately had a very positive impression. Another comment that she made was “Its funny, us attending a Joan Baez concert the day before the election! I just hope Trump doesn’t win.” In fact, Joan Baez had named her show “Nasty Women with the Bad Hombres”, derogatory and racist terms used by Trump during his campaign! However as we all know now, he did win and that wasn’t funny at all!

Another intricately built concert hall, just a pleasure watching it even before the show.
Another intricately built concert hall, just a pleasure watching it even before the show.

 

Joan Baez in action
Joan Baez in action

Joan Baez didn’t keep us waiting too long and she got on stage at 8:15 PM wearing a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt, to the surprisingly loud cheers from the crowd and started with the beautiful “Love is a Four-letter word”. Now I will not lie; I felt compelled to read her up on Wikipedia to know more about her and that’s where I got to know the details around her relationship with Bob Dylan. And then before the second song itself she took a dig at her past lover and current Nobel Laureate, “Among other things about this tour, this is Bob Dylan appreciation month. His manners suck but his songs are great”, that had the audience is splits. She took couple of digs throughout the show, like after singing “Diamonds and Rust” she said, “I should have just kept the diamonds”! But I felt it was all in good jest and she still had more love or at least acceptance, than hate or anger in her towards him (but then what do I know!) But as she enthralled us with one after another soulful and heartfelt songs, this not-at-all-nasty woman of 75 showed the fire in her, steadier the flames may be now but still fire and not just embers of a bygone era. But what was a bygone era being this sound, a folksy, feisty and yet tender songs on social issues, personal journeys and a call for greater goodness. As I was listening to her songs over the week I was initially a bit surprised by the fact that most of her more famous songs were covers and the brilliant ones composed by her like “Diamonds and Rust”, “Silver Dagger”, “Prison Trilogy” etc. made me wonder why she didn’t do more of her own compositions. But as I slowly walked this musical journey with her, I realized her brilliance in the selection of these great songs and giving it her own soul and in this process giving them a fresh leash of life in many cases. When I drive to a concert, in most cases I will have done my homework and revert back to Radiohead or whatever CD or cassette is on my old Toyota Corolla (yes, it has a cassette player as well). But this was the first time I kept on listening to her on my phone, to unearth more and more of her songs on Youtube (spending valuable data) in this long 1.5 hrs drive and sunk deeper and deeper into her world. And now I can say, I know Joan Baez and her music and what she stands for, she is no longer a known stranger in my musical universe.

Joan Baez singing one of her soulful songs
Joan Baez singing one of her soulful songs
Standing ovation!
Standing ovation!
  • Concert#: 108
  • Season: 2016
  • Date: 07-November-2016
  • Band/Artist: Joan Baez
  • Tour Name: Nasty Women with the Bad Hombres
  • Opening acts: None
  • Venue: Fox Theater
  • City: Oakland, CA
  • Setlist: 
  • Fun Fact: Attended Joan Baez concert on the day before the US election which elected Donald Trump! Also my first concert without any merchandise, not even a postcard :’(
  • My Concert Quotient: 4/5
#107 – Norah Jones @Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA – 28 Oct ’16

#107 – Norah Jones @Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA – 28 Oct ’16

I would be lying if I say that I am a great Norah Jones fan! She is someone I got to know of as an artist who won a shit-load of Grammys AND has an Indian connection (daughter of Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar with American concert producer Sue Jones). So, with a lot of anticipation I dived into her acclaimed debut album Come Away with Me back in 2002-03 when I was 18-19 something and heavily into the Metallicas and Iron Maidens of the musical world. Needless to say, my enthusiasm was politely quietened; I had no doubt she was a great artist but also realized that I was not ready for such mellow and soulful music yet, just too much hormones in the system! I still had a soft corner for her but for the time-being relegated her to the treasure-chest-for-the-future. Fast-forward to 2016, when I was Ticketmaster-notified that she was touring in support of her new album Day Break, I knew it was time to open that treasure chest. And I truly felt that, because I didn’t dither on buying the ticket, snapped it up as soon as they went on general public sales and got the best one available at that point of time (which wasn’t crazy expensive either so that helped).

Now October 2016 has been a very hectic month concert-wise (8 concerts including the mega-festival Desert Trip and mini-festival Bridge School Benefit concert). What that meant was I didn’t have a lot of time to start exploring her music in the first place, actually 1 week to be exact. So as soon as I was done with the previous concert (Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson) I immediately looked up her current tour’s setlist, created a YouTube playlist and got down to doing my homework. And this time it was different, really different; you can actually gauge how much you have grown, at least musically, by re-listening to artists you had loved and those you didn’t like as much before. What had seemed mellow previously sounded like control and mastery now (on the other hand what I had previously loved as aggression and energy has started to sound a little hollow and directionless now). Another thing I noticed in the fan-recorded concert videos of her gigs is that she seems like a really nice and warm and a little awkward person, which coupled with the fact that she sang like a dream made her seem very endearing and enticing. So, after around 14 years, I felt the same sense of anticipation again, for Norah Jones.

Paramount Theater in all its Granduer
Paramount Theater in all its grandeur

The concert was on a Friday and a pretty hectic one at that. After finishing up on all the east-coast client calls from home I had to go to my office at 3 PM for a meeting, was planning to attend an Alien convention after that at 4:30 PM (AlienCon 2016 at Santa Clara, CA) before finally driving through the evening office traffic to Oakland which is about an hour away on a good day. The concert was supposed to start at 8 PM and it was in a venue that I had never been to before, which meant I was going to have parking woes! And did I tell you about my battery-dead car which was going to get me through this day? Well, can’t miss Norah Jones so finally got the old battery replaced in the morning (was hoping the car will run after jump-starting it but when that failed knew I had no options and no time either)!

Paramount Theater hall was so exquisite
The actual auditorium was huge and so exquisitely made

Somehow I made it through the day, and finally landed at Paramount Theater at 8:15 PM. As I entered I was blown away by the decor and ambiance of the place, like something out of the roaring 20s and actually reminded me of the Empire State Building. Anyway, thankfully there was an opening act that I didn’t bother with as I had to first get a t-shirt and then get something to eat (was super-hungry). Unfortunately, none of the t-shirts had the tour dates and if that is the case I usually don’t get any but again made a concession for Norah Jones and grabbed one for $25/- (which did help again)! However, there was practically nothing to eat, though lots to drink! I grabbed a Hershey’s chocolate, two small chips and a Coke (another “dry” 2016 concert) after waiting in line for around 20 mins and headed out to my seat. Here I was in for a pleasant surprise because when I showed my ticket to the usher he exclaimed “Oh, good seat!” and as I kept walking through the rows of the auditorium sized venue to the fourth row, I was like “Wow, these must be the best seats I have ever got in any concert!” But that also spurred another thought, “How did I get such good seat? Isn’t she very popular, as in mad-scramble-to-get-tickets popular?” Looking around, the hall seemed pretty full; I guess her audience are a bit mellow and peace-loving too, just like her!

There she is!
There she is!

And then finally around 9:15 PM she came on stage, waved to the crowd, said a Hi, sat down and started singing and playing Day Break, her first song of the night, on the piano without further ado. And oh, such heavenly voice, such adroit fingers on the piano, such fresh and beguiling charm and such such a talent! As I was listening to her songs through the week I had started to comprehend the allure of her simple and yet highly polished talent, some songs of her new album like Day Break and Flipside were on the edgier side whereas Sunrise, My Dear Country and Carry On were pure drops of honey and nectar! I felt she doesn’t deviate very drastically from her style but each deviation is a fresh discovery while still being very Norah Jones. Another funny thing to observe was her awkward reactions to sudden yells of some fan expressing love, admiration and acknowledgement of her talent, she managed a look out to her audience with an embarrassed smile and maybe a word or two. Even when the encore ended, the speed at which the troupe exited the stage after the bow was characteristic Norah Jones and it wasn’t in the least bit offensive, rather a confirmation of this beautifully talented and politely private artist of this current age of social-overdose.

The Ray of Norah Jones on a new Day Break!
Rays of Norah Jones on a new Day Break!
Norah with her amazing troupe, a standing ovation to a standing encore!
Norah with her amazing troupe, a standing ovation to a standing encore!
  • Concert#: 107
  • Season: 2016
  • Date: 28-September-2016
  • Band/Artist: Norah Jones
  • Tour Name: Day Break
  • Opening acts: Valerie June
  • Venue: Paramount Theater of Performing Arts
  • City: Oakland, CA
  • Setlist: Norah Jones @ Oakland, CA – 28-Sep-2016
  • Fun Fact: Attended an Alien Convention before the concert!
  • My Concert Quotient: 4/5

 

#97 – Coldplay @Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA – 3 Sep ’16

#97 – Coldplay @Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA – 3 Sep ’16

Usually I do not book tickets for concerts that fall over any long weekend, as that is usually family time with vacation plans nearby or far. Trust me, I have been burnt before! But then this is Coldplay and I love them. And thankfully my wife does too! So when I got to know back in Feb that they will be touring this year there was no question about it and I booked 2 tickets without even checking with my wife and that too on her credit card (had some Citi Preferred Seating options, finally was able to put her card to good use!) Then around June new plans materialized for our moms to visit us in the US for the first time and return just after this Labor Day weekend so added pressure to make this holiday count. But I held steady, someone will need to make some sacrifices (so that I get to see Coldplay Live in action!) So after a quick overnight trip to a beach town nearby (Monterey, CA) we were back home by early evening and after a short rest, ready for Coldplay.

First hear of the soulful!
First hear of the soulful!

Now there were two opening acts and Coldplay was supposed to get on stage by 9 PM so when we reached Levi’s Stadium by 7:45 PM and picked up the will-call tickets (as I had misplaced the one’s I got back in March) I thought we were good on time. But Levi’s Stadium with a capacity of around 68,000 is HUGE! And after we had walked for what seemed like a long time to just get to the end of the line that will get us in to the main floor seating, I have to say I broke into a tiny cold sweat. Thankfully I remembered that there was another entrance to the floor seating and following a hunch we were rewarded with a much shorter line and by 8:30 PM was seated and ready for Coldplay! And since they started promptly at 9 PM I am sure we would have missed the beginning of the show if we had stayed on that much much longer queue.

Chris Martin is in the zone!
Chris Martin is in the zone!
A closer view from a nearer stage where they played a couple of songs.

Now we knew from the bands on everyone’s wrists that it will be similar to the last one in 2012 but we had no idea that it was going to be this colorful and vibrant and lively and psychedelic. This time they just catapulted the whole experience to a different level, spellbound and speechless and deliriously engaged are the least I can say.

A psychedelic blast of color and confetti during “A Hymn for the Weekend”
Coldplaying to the heart!

I have been a fan of Coldplay for a long time now, love all their earlier albums (Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head, X & Y) but the interest dipped at Viva La Vida as I couldn’t initially connect to the album as a whole; also I had got heavily into Radiohead. The next one – Mylo Xyloto – came out as I freshly landed into the US and was going through a very lonely phase; I used to listen to that album compulsively then as it brought back a sense of who I really was (not because of the music itself but due to my past life associations to them). And precisely for that reason I do not listen to that album now as it takes me back to a painful time. Then Ghost Stories came and went and I didn’t even bother checking it out until one day about a year back a long lost cousin of mine pinged me out of the blue and asked me to give this a listen. And I was hooked again; I had started to feel that their music had become too superficial, that they were trying too hard to be great and in the process were losing the soul of their music. But Ghost Stories, which many say is Chris’ divorce album, brought them (and me) back in touch with our painful and true selves and in my opinion it is one of their best and most intimate albums. And then this, A Head Full of Dreams, another Mylo Xyloto by the looks of it and I gave this a pass too as I was still hooked to Ghost Stories and didn’t want to spoil the taste. But a week before this concert, started my preparation by listening to their songs all over again and to this new album as well in the process and have to say they do have some good numbers, some very upbeat, some mellower, some that will stand the test of their fan’s time and some that will quickly fade away (as they don’t really register even now). But I have understood my folly, Coldplay is not Radiohead and shouldn’t be compared to either. They are both very different beasts, one gloom and doom and the other a smile in the face of a world going mad! To tap into the current pulse of decay and despair and exemplify it into a tunes of melancholic beauty isn’t easy, but trying to fight that decay, that despair and trying to instill hope and heart into us futilitarians is a much much harder job and Coldplay is attempting this admirably!

The n-th confetti during “An Adventure of a Lifetime” Needless to say the crowd was in a frenzy.
  • Concert#: 97
  • Season: 2016
  • Date: 3-September-2016
  • Band/Artist: Coldplay
  • Tour Name: A Head Full of Dreams
  • Supporting acts: Lots
  • Venue: Levi’s Stadium
  • City: Santa Clara, CA
  • Setlist: Coldplay @ Santa Clara, CA – 3-Sep-2016
  • Fun Fact: Waited in line for 45 mins to get a t-shirt after the show and finally got the last S-sized one as the person in front of me chose another over that!
  • My Concert Quotient: 5/5
#96 – Radiohead @Outside Lands – San Francisco – 6 Aug ’16

#96 – Radiohead @Outside Lands – San Francisco – 6 Aug ’16

This is what I was really looking forward to after Radiohead’s soulfully satisfying performance at Madison Square Garden! And this was Outside Lands (OL) in San Francisco, needless to say, my hopes were “high”! But as it usually turns out, if its too good to be true, it usually is! This one I attended with some friends, and we wanted to explore the festival grounds a little before Radiohead started. We headed to one of the other stages (OL has seven) and this unbelievable sight is what greeted us. I immediately put my mediocre-quality-but-14x-zoom Canon digicam to work and captured this shot to log into the history books! And no sooner than that the performance ended! Lucky timing 😉

Let's just say I couldn't believe my eyes!
Let’s just say I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Having been rewarded for our foray into the crazy land, we headed back to our valley and as we descended the hills the sight that greeted us was almost scary! Our lands had been overrun and there was a crazy-drunken-marijuana-emanating party going on. We braced ourselves and dived right in.

2016 was the year Outside Lands came of age! The crowd this time was crazy, both in numbers and in character!
2016 was the year Outside Lands came of age! The crowd this time was crazy, both in numbers and in character!

After a couple of pitstops to get beers (not for me, I was already high, thanks to some benevolent patrons) and check out the Heineken EDM club, we wisely thought it was time to book our standing spots and as we headed in the general direction of the stage got stuck in the first human jam of OL!

People at Outside Lands
As we were heading to the Land’s End stage, we literally got stuck in a people traffic jam!

We somehow held onto each other and the river of music-lovers finally placed us on the shores of civilization. We saw new sights and heard new sounds and tasted new food and met more benevolent patrons in this bustling and happily tripping land.

Somehow made it to more civilized lands!
Somehow made it to more civilized lands!
This is eco-consciously cute!
This is eco-consciously cute!

Yes this land was amazing and enticing and distracting, but we didn’t want to lose focus of our goal and trudged on through all these temptations to see Radiohead Live! But as it turned out, we had already committed the sin of sloth and temptation and now our path to the promised land was blocked by human barricades. Not to give up so easily we fought through for some time but couldn’t make much headway as this place was covered with feet-mines and there wasn’t a piece of safe land to step on (got “blasted” a couple of times). Resigned to our fate we set base where we could manage even a glimpse of our promised lands!

But we were too late, the mob of devotees had swelled up and this is as near as we could get.
But we were too late, the mob of devotees had swelled up and this is as near as we could get.

In the promised lands (or its vicinity) it’s every man for himself and as I readied myself to get lost in the music once Radiohead started playing, unfortunately that point never came and I got lost in the crowd instead. Radiohead didn’t start too well (just like in New York and so I knew that) but when they didn’t really pick up even after the fifth song I got a little worried. Maybe they were the same, maybe it was me who was different (high), most probably it was the crowd who didn’t seem too enthused, too engaged and that lack of energy and appreciation from my fellow music lovers affected me deeply in that heightened state of awareness because I am a true lover of Radiohead and yes they are not the most popular or mainstream but their fans are the most diehard! And what I realized that these people around me are not true Radiohead-fans, they are foreign visitors to these sacred lands and as such viewing our gods with some mild disinterest, something akin to a tourist clicking a photo of the most beautiful scenery and then checking how it looked on their phones or cameras and then moving on to the next scenic spot. But I still thought the mournfully beautiful tunes will somehow get through to the dazed stupor of the tourist, surely a beauty of this caliber should shake you awake, it has to be powerful. But no; and sadly the final dejected thoughts I had were “SF is too cool for Radiohead” and “The magic of Radiohead is a waning one and no match to our self-obsessed generation of Me and My Choices!” In fact Radiohead fans ourselves are a perfect example of that self-obsession. But then isn’t music itself a form of self-obsession as it draws you inwards and enables you to hear your inner voices more clearly? Anyway, I was just sorrowful!

The Radiohead show is on and I am a bit lost, a bit hazy, a bit sad!
The Radiohead show is on and I am a bit lost, a bit hazy, a bit sad!

But there was hope in the end. When Radiohead played the last song “Karma Police” and sang the lines,

…For a minute there,

I lost myself,

I lost myself…

everyone started to murmur the first time, sang the next time and then cried out the last time. Finally, at the very last moment, at the point beyond redemption, at the edge of the cliff that we have been sleepwalking towards, Radiohead got through and woke us up to some drops of unrealized latent tears welling up at the corners of our eyes…

And the weather didn't help either, it was cold and windy and perfect for Radiohead songs (maybe a little too perfect!)
… and then we woke up to this true gray reality called modern life!
  • Concert#: 96
  • Season: 2016
  • Date: 6-August-2016
  • Band/Artist: Radiohead
  • Tour Name: Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Supporting acts: Lots
  • Venue: Golden Gate Park
  • City: San Francisco, CA
  • Setlist: Radiohead
  • My Concert Quotient: 3/5

#95 – Duran Duran + LCD Soundsystem @Outside Lands – San Francisco – 5 Aug ’16

#95 – Duran Duran + LCD Soundsystem @Outside Lands – San Francisco – 5 Aug ’16

2016 is the year Outside Lands got really really BIG! The people, the stalls, the environment, it was a different world, not sure if good or not, but definitely different. This was my 4th attendance and never had I seen so many people here, it was just crazy. It may have been due to Radiohead headlining Day 2 this year, but I suspect not. Outside Lands had come of age…

Ranger Dave welcoming all to The Outside Lands
Ranger Dave welcoming all to Outside Lands 2016

Day 1 (Friday) was anyway just a bonus for me with Duran Duran (whom I had seen once before) and LCD Soundsystem (whom I had never even heard of before). I started late just in time for Duran Duran (who weren’t the headliners for Day 1, LCD Soundsystem was), took the train into San Francisco (as I knew I will get high-lucky) and then an Uber to the Golden Gate Park but through some really beautiful and classy neighbourhood in SF; I had never seen those parts and neither had the Uber driver and even he had a hard time keeping his eyes on the road. Now every year when I head out to this 3-day festival, I always have a harrowing time figuring out the North Entrance, the South Entrance, any entrance and usually end up wandering around for half an hour just trying to figure where to enter from. This time I got a little lucky, saw a volunteer and he directed me, though I still ended up walking 15 mins or so. Now you may think what’s the big deal with a 15 mins walk. But when you are late for a concert and are finally near enough to hear a band playing and still trying to figure out how you can get in, then 15 mins is almost an eternity!

The swelling crowd at stage Sutro. Don't know who was playing though!
The swelling crowd at stage Sutro. Don’t know who was playing though!

I finally entered near the stage Sutro which was opposite to where Duran Duran was and so my sojourn was not over yet. The crowd in front of Sutro was a welcome although surprising sight and gave me a inkling of how big Outside Lands (OL) was going to be this year. I hurried on towards Duran Duran when suddenly the welcome words “PORK BELLY” greeted me and I thanked my lucky heavens, though a bit prematurely! Because not being able to eat something that you paid $15 for as it was so bad, is kind of a bummer!! (I actually clicked a picture of the barely-eaten-then-discarded burger, but some of you might be eating as you read this so…)

95-4_someplace_ol_sfca_160805
On the way to see Duran Duran, voila, mercy, sweet heavens! (Though it turned out to be inedible, it was that bad!)

And finally reached the Land’s End stage where Duran Duran had already performed a couple of their songs. Well better late than never. But my issue with such huge festivals is that I too go for the difference in experience as compared to a concert, however the music and the performance is always paramount and unless you come really early there is very slim chance that you will get up close and personal with the band on stage. And the further back you are the more disconnected to the performance you feel, as if its really their concert (the front-standers) and us back-slackers didn’t really buy a ticket so this is the best free view you will get! I know I could have just gone earlier but like I said this was just the bonus day for me.

And finally Duran Duran, can barely make them out on the screen
And finally Duran Duran, can barely make them out on the screen though!

 

95-5_duranduran_ol_sfca_160805
The intersection of great music and music-lovers!

Since I came so far, so I hung around for LCD Soundsystem whom I had never heard of, let alone hear their music before. But they were pretty good and enjoyed some good music heard for the first time live. Didn’t get too near to the stage and was comfortable hanging back, checking out the beautiful people and soaking in the positive energy and good vibes of people listening to music, smoking weed, drinking beer, napping on the ground.

Next on, LCD Soundsystem (though I had never heard them or of them!)
Next on, LCD Soundsystem (though I had never heard them or of them!)

That is one of the things I love about Outside Lands, it has a very cool and relaxed feel, true San Francisco-style. The crowd is simply happy and high, the grounds are manageable, they usually have a great line-up, always a few I am interested in checking out each year, and has some strange nooks and corners that feels great exploring. They also have a wide selection of craft beers and great wines (called Beer Land and Wine Land) but as I went sober half a year back so skillfully bypassed these nostalgic reminders! Over the years the crowd has multiplied and have gone from hippie to hip but that I guess is inevitable. And the only reason I am mentioning that here is because I always go alone so the previous experiences were a bit more personal, a bit more intimate, its like a yearly pilgrimage for me and its hard to find communion with the ethereal spirits when there is so much hustle-bustle around.

Even at a distance people were soaking in the music and happily dancing, playing, tripping...
Even at a distance people were soaking in the music and happily dancing, playing, tripping…

Finally as I was heading back before the show ended to beat the exit-rush, I looked back and saw these fluorescent people having fun so far away but still immersed in the music. It made me smile and then feel a little old. Anyway, Radiohead, here I come (again)!

  • Concert#: 95
  • Season: 2016
  • Date: 5-August-2016
  • Band/Artist: LCD Soundsystem, Duran Duran
  • Tour Name: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
  • Supporting acts: Lots
  • Venue: Golden Gate Park
  • City: San Francisco, CA
  • Setlist: Duran Duran, LCD Soundsystem
  • My Concert Quotient: 3/5
#94 – Radiohead @Madison Square Garden – New York – 27 Jul ’16

#94 – Radiohead @Madison Square Garden – New York – 27 Jul ’16

This is the one I had been waiting for with bated breath since the beginning of the year, almost afraid that I might die before living this! Working in New Jersey on a project afforded some unique opportunities to see some great artists at the self-proclaimed “Greatest Music Venue of the World”, the Madison Square Garden (MSG)! And though driving into Manhattan is not fun on weekdays especially after office hours but once you get there, always always worth it! And for this one carpooled with Sunny, my NY concert buddy working at the same project (though we had different seats) and we started playing and singing Radiohead songs really loud while in traffic so was fun.

The devotees streaming in, soaking in the reality of watching Radiohead Live!
The devotees streaming in, soaking in the reality of watching Radiohead Live!

For this one I really wanted to get a drink, anything to make sure the concert goes perfectly mood-wise, so apprehensive I was. Overall 2016 concerts have been a little less enjoyable and more introspective for me since I had quit drinking late 2015; I mean I am there for the music and the artists but you do need a little intoxication to momentarily blank out the rigors of the daily life and sanitize you before diving into the immersive ocean of beautiful rhythms and abstract lyrics. So when I entered the venue and headed for the t-shirt stands, I hoped I had met with the only disappointment of the day as the t-shirts – mementos of an hopefully memorable day –  were just unimaginatively crap, I was so sad! But had to get one so picked the only one with any mention of the tour dates and venues and headed for my seat. Now I would have loved to get a floor ticket, but did I tell you how crazy getting even 1 (any) ticket for the show was? No, well let me just say, it spurred internet memes! But once safely seated, I looked around and the energy was palpable as we worshippers waited for the modern gods of music to start.

Us, Worshippers!
Us, Worshippers!

Now Radiohead was playing two nights at the MSG and this was the second. The guy seated in front of me was telling his fellow strangers how AWESOME last night’s show was (which he had attended as well). Listening to him I felt a shiver, got a few goose-pimples but refrained myself from sinking too much into it; the guy also sounded a little drunk! But made me wonder why I didn’t try to get last minute tickets for the previous show as well, I could have, they were just 1 hour away and I was just working; could have seen Radiohead thrice instead of just twice (as I still had the Outside Lands show next)! Work does suck a lot out of us and makes us forget all the other things we used to like to do! But I have held steadfast to this passion of mine and had borne the brunt of many a storms for this. There was a girl next to me and we started talking about Radiohead, she was another Radioheader like me and once that “handshake” was established, we couldn’t stop gushing over this album and that song and which ones we hoped they will play tonight, maybe something special just for us. This is the mind-to-mind connection among Radiohead fans, its a very personal and deep and intimate love, and once you know another fan is at that same place too, its an immediate and heartfelt connection.

Hear, Hear. There There!
Them, Gods!

And then the lights went down, there was a mighty roar of reverence, and they got on stage and started with the first couple of A Moon Shaped Pool songs. Now I have been to Radiohead as well as Atoms for Peace concerts before and I know they are a bit of a slow-starter. The first 3-4 songs were OK and I was not immediately blown over (sometimes Thom can be a bit tuneless but that’s our Thom and we love him nonetheless). But it was building up, it was building up. And then it exploded with My Iron Lung, took me off my sober stupor and catapulted me into an inner world of melodies, heart-tugs, angst, euphoria, desolation, thoughts and feelings and convictions fused with this note and that line and the all-permeating existential wail of Radiohead. Who are we? Why are we here? And what are we doing? Song after song went by in a daze, I and everyone else were in our own Radiohead-zones, talking to ourselves, dancing with ourselves, sobbing on ourselves. I don’t know what else to say except –

Tears of Joy,

Tears of Joy :’)

Johnny Greenwood doing his thing!
Johnny Greenwood doing his thing!
Ed O'Brien, the quiet one, but not quite on the guitar!
Ed O’Brien, the quiet one, but not quite on the guitar!

When it finally ended and the lights came back on, I looked around and thought I sensed the same everywhere, Tears of Joy as people were waking up from their Radiodaze! I asked her and he asked me and she asked another “Wasn’t it Great, wasn’t it Great?” Man, what I night, simply amazing. And as I was flowed with the human river towards the exits, I finally heaved a sigh of relief, my anxiety was misplaced after all! And then I stole a counterfeit Radiohead t-shirt from a guy selling it on the streets as it was really cool, much better than the official merchandise, and I didn’t have enough cash to pay for it! Actually didn’t intend to steal it but the guy drifted away looking for other customers and I was calling Sunny to get some cash but we couldn’t figure out where we each were and so I didn’t go back to him to return it. Whatever, Radiohead will forgive me! Now can hardly wait for Outside Lands in San Francisco!

R.A.D.I.O.H.E.A.D
R.A.D.I.O.H.E.A.D
  • Concert#: 94
  • Season: 2016
  • Date: 27-July-2016
  • Band/Artist: Radiohead
  • Tour Name: A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Supporting acts: None
  • Venue: Madison Square Garden
  • City: New York, NY
  • Setlist: Radiohead @ New York – 27th Jul 2016
  • Fun Fact: Stole a counterfeit tour t-shirt
  • My Concert Quotient: 5/5