I’d forgotten J.J. Cale lived around these parts, and it’s a damn shame I was reminded of it by his obit. Cale died this weekend of a heart attack, at a La Jolla hospital just over the hill from my house.
If there’s an afterlife and ol’ J.J. winds up haunting this realm as a ghost — well, not much is gonna change.
“Listening as means of remodeling one’s drudgery.”
There’s a choice phrase, from Herta Herzog’s 1941 study of daytime radio dramas and their effects on listeners. Trying to ferret out the uses and gratifications of all that programmed escapism, Herzog identified three reasons why people tuned in to formulaic soaps: for the “emotional release,” for life-adjustment “recipes” and my favorite above. I made special note of that one because it resonated with the uses and grats of my own daily habit — listening to music — and I was reminded of it again recently as I plumbed a recent subgenre called vaporwave. Here, I thought, is a good example of the other side of Herzog’s equation: musicians making music as a means of remodeling the drudgery they hear around them.
Throughout my 20 years in music journalism, the question I’ve been asked most often is, “What’s the best concert you’ve seen?” Variation: “Seen any cool shows lately?” (The second most common Q: “What was your first concert?” A: Journey, with Bryan Adams opening, July 20, 1983, at Lloyd Noble Arena.)
I’m terrible about answering this because (a) I have good memory but terrible on-the-spot recall, and (b) like any critic the answer changes week to week. But on the occasion of winding down this portion of my career, I thought it was time for a definitive retrospective.
So here's a running list of my favorite concerts. That doesn’t mean these were the critical best, though personal and professional thrills usually coincide. This list stems from the personal — the shows that were a thrill, often because of who it was, where we were, sometimes why, often who I was with (maybe you!) — from my misspent youth to my just-finished days as a full-time critic. A lot of ticket stubs and laminates under the bridge ...
I'm THOMAS CONNER, Ph.D. in Communication (Science Studies) and culture journalist.