I’m begging you, please wear earplugs

My first concert was in 2004. Since then I have attended 223 concerts. I am now 29 years old and have tinnitus. Another thing I have learned in the past few months is that tinnitus worsens anxiety, and anxiety makes your tinnitus worse. It used to be that I would hear the ringing every night while going to sleep, so I’d turn on a fan and hope it would drown out the noise.

Now, I hear it non-stop, regardless of how quiet a room is. There is no cure.

If I regret anything in my life it would be that I didn’t heed the advice given to me and wear earplugs at every show I went to. Maybe if I had known you could spend $10-$30 dollars and get quality earplugs that didn’t completely muffle out nearly all sound I would have. Those cheap foam plugs you buy at your local CVS are great for being on a factory floor or in a construction area, but for hearing a wailing guitar solo they are about as effective as pouring cement in your ears.

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If you’re someone like me, you probably lose everything that isn’t literally strapped to your body, so it’s hard to justify spending $15 dollars on something so small that you’re almost certain to lose before you even use it. My last purchase was EarPeace HD Ear Plugs. They are on the higher end cost-wise at $21.95 on Amazon, but in my opinion, they are worth it. They come with a small metal cylinder that can be put on your keychain when you go to a show, so you’re less likely to lose them and more likely to use them. They also don’t ruin all levels of sound going into your ear. In fact, when I saw the Flaming Lips last month at The Pageant, I felt like I could actually hear the music better than if I hadn’t had them in at all.

There are plenty of option out there that are barely visible in your ear so your friends won’t think your lame for wearing them, and when you’re 40 you might even still be able to watch TV without the volume being pumped to the max. Or you could join me and keep your fingers crossed that science develops a procedure to reverse a condition that forces musicians off the road, and people like me to lose sleep.

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My Top Live Acts of 2016 (and what i’m looking forward to in 2017)

2016 may have been the most depressing of my life (29 years). When it came to live music however, it was one of my best. It featured TWO shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, a Beatle,  two Cage the Elephant shows and an exclusive show in St. Louis by rock and roll hall of famers Green Day. While this year guaranteed i’ll never see David Bowie or Prince live… I also saw the emergence of Lewis Del Mar, Judah and the Lion and Anderson Paak..

10.14.2016 – Lewis Del Mar at Blueberry Hill Duck Room, St. Louis, MO

These dudes ended up being the top of my most listened to according to Spotify, in spite of the fact that their album didn’t come out until October. When I realized I had an opportunity to see them in the dark basement of Blueberry Hill, class the next morning wasn’t going to stop me.”Loud(y)” was my top song of the year and the eruption from the minute crowd upon hearing it let me know Lewis Del Mar is destined for much bigger venues.

12.4.2016 – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Stardom looks good on the 38 year old from Hermann, MO. It was clearly a very emotional night with Rateliff avoiding cracking up most of the night, and early on mentioning he didn’t want the evening to go down a darker road. It felt more like a celebration, like a returning champion, though the band calls Denver, CO home now. By the time “S.O.B.” arrived, the crowd was in a fervor that ended in the entire building humming the tracks famous chorus until the band returned to the stage.

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6.22.2016 – Sia – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

The first of my two prior mentioned Red Rocks shows. It was not a pleasant evening, especially if you weren’t a local who knew. As show time approached a chill swept over the mountain and rain licked the faces of fans. No one was leaving, maybe to the gift shop to buy every blanket and rain jacket they had. Those who waited and laughed at the pure oddness of being shown a preview of BBC nature show “The Hunt”. Even the spokespeople for the event were almost blown offstage. Arrive Sia did, and a performance ensued. I say that word specifically because it was not a concert. Yes, a vocalist performed, and dancers acted out breathtaking scenes, it was beyond what a concert is. There was no front man cracking jokes or doing power fists. There was a shy Australian named Sia Furler hiding at the back and exiting with a meek “thank you”. Coloradans are insanely tough.

10.26.2016 – Green Day – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Green Day have never been ones to shy away from a small venue tour. Hell, they go as far as to tour as other bands entirely. This felt special though, in a way that St. Louis doesn’t normally get this kind of show. It was supposed to be the first of the tour, but due to sickness ended up being the last show. Maybe that was for the best as the band were as tight as you can imagine any band being. All of the new songs were great, and extremely well received. The selection of covers are silly and lighthearted, and the politically commentary was sharp. Billy Joe Armstrong lead the crowd in a chant of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” only two songs in during “Bang Bang”. The closing combination of “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was surreal, even though the real world came back all too fast.

01.22.16 Tool/Primus, 3.19.16 Cage the Elephant, Silversun Pickups, Foals

I’ll call these two shows, having your cake and eating it too. Normally with bands this large, you either settle for a sub-par opener or perhaps more often none at all. These mega-tours broke that norm early in the year. No band I saw this year was a better live band than Cage the Elephant. The antics may have calmed down a bit, but the band sounds all the better for it, and the lightshow is excellent but not distracting. Tool may be the most perfect sounding live band on the planet. The intensity is doubled somehow live, and after the oddity of Primus, Tool somehow levels everything in you spiritually.

 

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SO far next year we have Red Hot Chili Peppers, Roger Waters, the Flaming Lips, Jay and Silent Bob, Colony House, Guns N Roses (yes, you read that right). Hopefully a return to Bonnaroo as well as Beale Street Music Festival. Fingers crossed for a North American Radiohead tour in the Spring, a A Perfect Circle show somewhere within 6 hours of me and whatever new and crazy things I can discover.

Green Day | 10.26.16

It isn’t very often a band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame plays a venue that holds under 2,300 rabid music lovers.  That was the case as Green Day wrapped up their small club tour at The Pageant in St. Louis, MO. The show was supposed to be the first date of the tour, but ended up coming last due to a sickness that forced the band to postpone three dates. Lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong thanked the fans for their patience and said nothing was going to stop them from making the rescheduled gig.

The story starts sometime well before the show though. When a band that size does go on a tour that is designed for the fans, special ticket redemption scenarios are often implemented to keep tickets out of the hands of scalpers. This took the form of a fan club presale that forced ticket buyers to enter the venue only with the credit card they purchased them with. Everyone else in attendance was forced to pick up tickets via the box office on the day of the show.

As the show was kicking off inside with opener Dog Party, hundreds remained in line to get their tickets from the box office, no doubt to the frustration of many. The Sacramento punk two-piece roared through a set worthy of the headliners. The sisters Lucy and Gwendolyn Giles focused on tracks from Til You’re Mine ending with a raucous cover of Bikini Kill track “Rebel Girl” while Green Day drummer Tre Cool danced on stage in a 14889756_10153876897946976_1556539113537330781_o.jpgbunny outfit.

Before Green Day emerged, the crowd came together in a singalong as “Bohemian Rhapsody” blasted over the loud speakers. Once their vocal chords were properly warmed up, Green Day emerged with the only track that would be heard from 21st Century Breakdown, “Know Your Enemy”. The band have never been one to shy away from controversy, and Armstrong came head first at it, calling out Donald Trump to thunderous boos from the crowd.

After that though, Armstrong seemed much more interested in peace and love, calling for the crowd to let the show be their “own personal underground” where they didn’t have to put up with the “bullshit” outside. New songs “Bang Bang”, “Still Breathing”, and “Revolution Radio” all became loud singalongs, which is extremely impressive considering the album came out just two weeks before the show.

“Geek Stink Breath” and “Going to Pasalacqua” both received their first airing in 2016 in the fan-service portion of the show, and the crowd wasn’t quite a receptive, though that might have just been more of a mid-set energy dip.

Closing out the rock portion of the evening were “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia”. The tracks still feel as relevant as they did in 2004 when the album was released in the heart of the Bush administration, and the album may be one of the best of the aughts.

Sadly, things did have to end after two-and-a-half hours and 30 songs. Armstrong returned to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar to play the excellent new track “Ordinary World” and a staple, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. It felt bittersweet, yet knowing the band is just beginning its touring cycle is a bit of a relief. However, no arena show will compare with this intimate evening. | Bruce Matlock

AFI turns up the love, down the dispair in St. Louis (11/4)

Almost as if to tell their Hot Topic loving fanbase to suck it, Davey Havok, the lead singer of AFI, has faded away from the makeup and turned up the screams. On a cool Wednesday night in St. Louis, MO, the band showed up looking more like the early to mid-thirties rockers they are, and much less like the mostly younger crowd they drew in.

The band’s vociferous fanbase, however, was not to be deterred, as they sang along with every word and bounced to many of the band’s songs (both new and old). Though older tracks “6 to 8″ and “Ny-Quil” had the crowd in its greatest frenzy, new songs off Crash Love, the band’s recently released LP, brought a good amount of dancing to the stage and crowd (despite being much weaker sounding tracks in the bands deep catalog). The four-piece’s songs have begun to sound less like dark dreary sorrow and more like the kind of love you’re not supposed to make music about.

Unfortunately, while these newer tracks were certainly fun, they just didn’t pack the immense bass lines of Hunter Burgan or the scorching guitar parts of Jade Puget. Drummer Adam Carson seemed almost pushed to the sidelines in exchange for computerized beats and pop break downs.

Early in the set, tracks off of Sing the Sorrow, the band’s platinum breakout, got everyone in the spirit with a rendition of “Girl’s Not Grey” and hardcore dancer anthem “The Leaving Song, Pt. 2″. Havok emerged looking more like a younger Perry Farrell and less like one of the girls from The Craft (as he has in the past). Overall, however, the crowd’s heavy momentum would push the band through the fairly short set (coming in at just over an hour long).

But, in the end, the real showcase of the night turned out to be openers, Gallows. It was quite a shock to walk into the mostly filled 2,000 person capacity Pageant, and see a band playing with no lead singer in sight (though one could obviously hear someone talking as well as singing). With a little bit of investigation, however, it could be discovered that the lead singer, Englishman Frank Carter, was directly in the middle of a frantic circle pit that encompassed most of the floor.

The band ran through songs featured on 2009’s Grey Britain, and did a suitable job filling the heavy slot AFI normally carries on the bill. The Brit punks sang songs for “the druggies, rehabbing druggies, and straight edge kids,” stating that it didn’t matter except that they were all enjoying themselves in the moment of the night. Carter also spent a fair amount of time promoting himself as a casanova, handing a broken microphone off to a woman he had chosen out of the crowd, as well as helping a specific gentleman by promoting anal sex.

All in all, the show provided many entertaining moments. If you get the chance, check out Gallows and leave the sorrow of old AFI to the albums themselves.

Setlist:
Torch Song
Girl’s Not Grey
The Leaving Song, Pt. 2
Too Shy to Scream
Ever and a Day
Kill Caustic
End Transmission
Ny-Quil
Beautiful Thieves
Dancing Through Sunday
Cold Hands
The Leaving Song
On the Arrow
Death of Seasonz
Medicate
Love Like Winter

Encore:
6 to 8
Miss Murder
Silver and Cold