By Dom Cioffi
Ever since my first major rock concert in high school, I have been a fan of live music productions. It didn’t matter if it was a local band playing in a nearby nightclub or a nationwide act performing for thousands of fans in an arena, that feeling of a thumping bass line or a piercing guitar solo never failed to excite me.
Some of my favorite memories of my 20s and 30s were the weekend–long festivals that highlighted multiple days of jamming. Couple that experience with a tent, a cooler full of food and drink, and some close friends, and it really doesn’t get any better.
My concertgoing days have dwindled as I’ve grown older, but I still manage to get in a show or two a year. These days I’ll check the schedule of major acts to see if they’re coming nearby and if the mood strikes me, I’ll pony up for a ticket.
And now that my son is a teenager (and a budding musician in his own right), I have a willing partner to drag along. In fact, we’ve attended three concerts in the last three weeks, each of which offered a radically different experience.
The first concert was for my son’s drum teacher, who plays in a popular 90s tribute band. He suggested that we attend a show at a fairly large venue in a nearby city and offered free tickets to lure us in. I felt obliged since he’s done such a good job training my son.
So, on a Friday night a few weeks ago, we hopped into the car and took off. When we arrived, I was immediately taken aback by the number of people (apparently the tribute business is thriving).
The band cranked out non-stop hits from acts like Stone Temple Pilots, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. I could appreciate the musicianship and variety of styles, but my son was mostly mesmerized by how cool his drum teacher looked.
The next concert was for a band called Umphrey’s McGee. Known as a jam band because of their extended improvisations, UM is growing in popularity in the underground circuit. I had received a tip to check them out after I mentioned to someone at work that I liked Phish and the Grateful Dead.
After a few days of listening and a growing appreciation, I serendipitously checked online to see where the band was touring. And wouldn’t you know it, a week later they were going to be only an hour away at a popular outdoor amphitheater. Needless to say, I bought tickets immediately and made plans to attend.
The show featured tight musicianship and a loyal crowd happy to be in their presence. Both my son and I enjoyed the vibe of live music on a warm summer night, but he was admittedly taken aback by the strange dancing of numerous patrons (think modernized Dead Heads). I also didn’t bite when he inquired about the “funny” smells wafting through the crowd.
Our third concert occurred this past weekend when we went to see Earth, Wind and Fire at a large arena. I explained to my son that this would be an entirely different scene featuring an entirely different kind of music.
I hate to say it, but the best part about the EWF show was the warm-up act, Chic, a popular 70s group headed by famed music producer, Nile Rodgers. Rodgers produced some of the most memorable disco hits from the 70s as well as other rock and funk classics. Every song was a winner, including their monster hit, “Le Freak,” which brought the house down.
I was happy my son got to see this show because the type of music was unlike anything he has ever heard. And he was particularly awestruck by the fact that everyone was dancing, including his dad. I explained to him that you have to let the music flow through you to really feel and appreciate it.
So, imagine how pleased I was to look over half-way through Chic’s set to see him grooving away, unconcerned that he was surrounded by a massive crowd that would normally intimidate an impressionable teenage boy.
This week’s film, “Logan Lucky,” also featured some massive crowds, but in this case the crowds were there to see car racing.
Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes and Daniel Craig, “Logan Lucky” uses the Coca-Cola 600 and Charlotte Motor Speedway as the backdrop for a blue collar, “Ocean’s 11”-style bank heist.
On the surface you would expect this to be a bumbling comedy with copious amounts of schlock, but the reality is that director Steven Soderbergh delivered an interesting and humorous take on the backwoods world of redneck logic.
Check this one out if you want to see some intriguing characters in a very intriguing situation. It wasn’t the funniest film I’ve ever seen, but it was quirky enough to be a winner.
A speedy “B” for “Logan Lucky.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]