Share your first concert experience

The Psychedelic Furs’  concert on Saturday, June 2, at The Egg in Albany has got me thinking about my first concert experience.

This was in the early 1980s in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. I was 14 at the time, and the P-Furs post-punk pop had an edge to it that my mother didn’t understand. But I also had older brothers who had gone to concerts for bands such as The Clash and Black Sabbath the previous year, so I suppose the P-Furs seemed tame by comparison.

What I remember most about the concert isn’t the music or the people I was with, but the atmosphere of the concert hall. The PFurs played the Syria Mosque, a venue that has since been replaced by a parking lot. After a drive in a packed station wagon from the suburbs, we entered another reality.

The lobby was thick with cigarette and pot smoke. And even though we got there right when our tickets said the concert was supposed to be starting, it seemed everyone was in the lobby.

Creatures in black studded leather jackets crowded the bathrooms or around the merch table, with their spiky hair rising dangerously two, three feet above their foreheads and their faces made ghastly pale by white makeup and eyes rimmed with black kohl. Who were these scray people? The people my mother feared: Goths, or fans of alternative music.

That was what concerts used to be: scary older people in a haze of drug-tinged smoke staying out really late because even the opening act didn’t start until an hour and half past the ticketed time. Other concerts I went to  in my teens, such as The Smiths and REM, were exactly like that, too.

Fast-forward to 2008, when I took my then 14-year-old stepson to his first concert, REM. For some reason, I thought I’d be introducing him to a world very much like the one I experienced at the Psychedelic Furs concert when I was 14.

I was wrong. We were at the Comcast Center outside Boston, and the outdoor venue was park like, like SPAC, and was filled with middle agers and their kids, plenty of them younger than my stepson. No one was smoking. No one could smoke. And everything started and ended on time.

Now that the summer concert season is about to go into full swing, what with the ZAC Brown Band launching the first SPAC concert on June 1, I was wondering about your first concert experience, either for yourself or taking your kids. Share your story in the comments below, and we’ll print the best ones in an upcoming Preview section.

Published by Michael Janairo

Writer. Reader. Coffee drinker. Fiction. Poetry. Art. Museums. (My family name is pronounced "ha NIGH row.")

29 thoughts on “Share your first concert experience

  1. Air Supply the summer of 1981 at the Starlight Music Theater. I had to ask my mom to drive me because I wasn’t old enough to have a license yet. I don’t remember much about it, mainly because I saw so many concerts over the years after that, but the venue was definately memorable, with the open barn doors along the side so you could see the starry night outside, and the rotating stage.

    The first concert that I had to beg my mom to take me and some friends to was the year (1985 I think) when Powerstation toured and came to SPAC. It was the closest I would ever get to seeing Duran Duran live in concert. I worked a lot that summer babysitting to save up enough money for the tickets and gas money and dinner. Got tickets in the back of the ampetheater, and then had to spend the concert standing on the armrests of the chairs in order to see. But I was in loooooove with John Taylor.

    I remember after that concert, I did have my license, just not a car yet, my mother said, “Don’t ask me to go to any more concerts, you can take my car.” Whoo-hoo! I was free!


  2. I believe my first real concert was The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart at my all-time favorite venue for live music, The Aerodrome in Schenectady in the summer of 1969 (I think it was $4 or so) and the thing I remember most is a very skinny Rod Stewart leaning back against an amp head pointed at the ceiling with only the whites of his eyes showing while Jeff soloed. A few weeks later I went to the early Led Zeppelin concert at the same venue and saw an even skinnier Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and remember saying that I hoped that all these poor English guys would become successful enough to afford a square meal at some point because they were really good. Thankfully they all seemed to have done okay for themselves, but I guess you could say it was mostly downhill for me concert-wise after that summer.


  3. My first concert was the Rolling Stones at the Palace. I managed to sneak backstage and when the Stones came on I watched them from the side of the stage. When it ended, I got their autographs.


  4. My first concert was the Fifth Dimension at SPAC. I don’t even remember the year, but my older sister took me and my younger sister. It was great – like another world. You felt like you were part of something bigger than yourself. You never forget your first.


  5. My first concert was John Denver at SPAC in 1972 when Annie’s Song was huge, but my first Rock Concert was The Boss at RPI in 1977.
    After that I thought ALL concerts should be 2.5-3 hours long!


  6. My first concert was Shaun Cassidy! I can’t remember how old I was..9 or 10 maybe…I went WITH my mom to SPAC to see him…

    30 years later my mom and me saw Stevie Nicks at SPAC last summer!!


  7. The Beach Boys at SPAC in 1974. It was the summer before I went into high school. I went with my sister and her friends. They were all going into their senior year. The crowd was somewhere around 30,000 people. It was long before they started to put a cap on attendance at SPAC. I remember Mike Love wore a turban on stage.
    I loved going to SPAC when I was younger. $4 lawn seats, Frisbees flying, firecrackers being set off, alcohol being snuck in, joints were a buck. And then somewhere along the line someone probably got hit in the head with a frisbee and sued SPAC and that was the end of that.


  8. It was 1957 and living in North Jersey. I was 11 years old. My younger sister and I begged our parents to take us to the Alan Freed Holiday show at the NYC Paramount. They did!! We got to see Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Bros. AND Buddy Holly & the Crickets. As a result, I’ve been Rockin all my life at any concert I could make it to. We did the 40 year Woodstock anniversary at Bethel and more recently Bruce and also Elton John.

    It’s been a helluva Rockin Ride!!


  9. I’ll really show my age with this one: My first concert experience was the final ‘Murray The K’ Extravaganza, at the RKO 58th Theater in Manhattan, March 1967.
    For $3 admission as I recall, you got Cream, and The Who, and probably the most under-rated band of the time, The Blues Project.(Hell, Al Kooper was worth the price of admission alone.)AND THEY WERE THE WARM-UP BANDS!!!
    The co-headliner was Wilson Pickett, and the star of the show was Mitch Ryder, who had just split from the Detroit Wheels!!!!
    What A Show!!! The energy level was off the charts, and the crowd was into it BIG time. The intensity of with which Clapton, Bruce and Baker played, the ferocity of Keith Moon and Pete Townshend, the perfection Al Kooper stalking around the stage like a rock-god should, the professionalism and soul of Pickett, and the stage dive of Ryder, decked out in a ruffled tuxedo shirt, which was shredded by the down front crowd, all are memories that I will remember forever. It was all so perfect!
    It can’t possibly be 45 years ago.


  10. My first concert…I was 14.5…

    Bob Seeger, Point Blank, J. Geils and Kiss.

    It was at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, NJ…the stadium doesn’t exist any more…

    I think it was Roosevelt…


  11. Not sure which came first but in my senior year of high school (1965-1966)I saw the Beach Boys at the Pittsfield MA Boys Club, Sonny and Cher at the Troy Armory and the Rolling Stones at the War Memorial in Syracuse. Back then it didn’t matter how good the show was – just to see them was a thrill.


  12. It was 1974 or 1975 free concert at SPAC It was the first and original Journey, when they were playing like virtuosos. Along with the Blue Oyster Cult. I liked Journey much better. Seen hundreds of concerts better since then. Led Zeppelin in 1977, ARMS tour 1982, Concert for NYC in 2001, Jethro Tull and the Eagles in 1978. Several Stones shows,a dozen Clapton shows including those with Winwood and Jeff Beck And Jeff Beck 8 other times to name a few. But Zeppelin is the one I am most grateful for. ( If I HAD to pick one and only one).


  13. mom and dad are still fans too mom 72 dad 76. Best concert I ever saw was Pink Floyd The Wall 1980 6th row dead center.


  14. Dickey Betts & Great Southern with Nils Lofgren opening – The Palace, 1977. Now, 35 years later Dickey and his band have come full circle and will be playing alive at 5….hundreds of other shows in between, I may go see him and retire my career – also coming full circle.


  15. I saw the Beatles perform at Shea Stadium on August 23, 1966. I won a ticket from WPTR when the BeatleBuggy pulled up in front of my house. I wasn’t aware they were there until my neighbor now lifelong friend, Dev Tobin, called to tell me (Thanks Dev!).

    The Beatles closed with “Long Tall Sally” and the Cyrkle opened the concert with “Red Rubber Ball”. After the concert the boys disappeared under the stage and two gray limos pulled out form under the stage where they had been hidden, the center field wall parted, and one limo went left, another right, each with thousands of fans clinging to them. It was the first time I ever saw a woman’s undergarments as several woman tried to rush the stage, security guards would simply pull their skirts up over their heads, throw them over their shoulders and bear them off.


  16. Jimi Hendrix in Seattle. Three of us USS ENTERPRISE sailors waited for three stewardesses from Vancouver, up by the space needle. Hendrix went on inside and the stews never showed. So, technically, I listened to Hendrix in ’68 (or was it ’69–the memories grow together these days), but never got in. Girls trumped music back then, especially since we had spent the first six months of the year overseas in the Tonkin Gulf, and it was good to be young, alive and kicking, and bathed in the psychedelic blues of the best rock and roll guitarist who ever played.


  17. First concert: NYC, summer of ’71, just graduated from Menands School. Went with my cousin and a friend of his to Gaelic Park, a Manhattan Univ. football field in the Bronx, I think. Ten Years After headlined with Edgar Winter’s White Trash and a few NYC bands that I don’t remember the names of. First time I ever saw anyone smoking pot! I was scared! We had those anti-drug filmstrips with the Jimi Hendrix soundtrack in school. First time to ride the subway too. Now THAT was scary!


  18. Woodstock. My parents only lived a few miles away, so they put me in a stroller and walked on over to see what was going on.


  19. Circa 1972, Joe Cocker at Albany’s Palace Theater. I was all of 14, and brought to the concert by my my sister’s then boyfriend.

    I can still see and smell the thick, pungent cloud of pot smoke hovering above the crowd. Cocker himself looked and acted completely high – and drunk – on stage.

    Of course, he was famous for all those contortions and body ticks while singing throughout his career, but I hadn’t a clue who he was, and at the time I just remember thinking, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”

    The entire stage was littered with strategically-placed beer cans. He’d roam around, sing, take a few gulps from the closest can, and segue-way right into another tune.

    Added bonus: I go the the men’s room and there’s a couple bangin’ way in one of the stalls.

    Gotta love rock and roll.


  20. 1975 SPAC, Kansas..was in 8th grade…a buddy’s older brother drove us up there as we were meeting two girls we had met on our class trip to the old Riverside Amusement Park (Six Flags NEW England now)..needless to say, the girls didn’t meet us but we enjoyed our first concert…I believe the tickets were $5.00 each..


  21. First concert was at SPAC – Early 70’s Neil Sedaka opened up for the Carpenters when “A Kind of Hush” was just coming out….great show – and Cubby from the Mickey Mouse club played drums…..


  22. Julian Lennon at The Palace in 6th grade, followed by Rick Springfield at SPAC that summer… Many memories, many concerts later. Just recently enjoyed Jane’s Addiction at The Palace!


  23. My first concert was Elvis Costello & The Attractions/Mink Deville/Rockpile with Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, NY in 1978. Some line up, huh? I was in high school and I was a record/music geek who definitely had the first Elvis Costello album (UK import version, of course) on my block. Fantastic first concert, but that wasn’t even Costello’s first visit to upstate NY. He played in Marcy, NY (outside Utica) at a tiny club on his first ever tour of the States the year before. My friends and I that liked punk and new wave were all underage and had no wheels so we missed that show, as well as The Ramones, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Jam and others at that same little bar. It killed me to miss those shows at the time, and I still wish I had been just a few years older!


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