What’s the first gig you ever attended?
I think concerts fall into two categories: huge productions, or small club engagements. Both are so incredibly different from one another, they are completely different beasts from one another, really. Exposure to each had a unique effect on me.
The first ‘big’ concert I can remember attending was Oingo Boingo in 1990 at San Diego State University, which kicked off a Boingo-crazed obsession where by the end of that band’s career I had seen them well over 25 times. Oingo Boingo in the 80s and early part of the 90s were an interesting musical phenomenon in Southern California (and strangely, no where else). With no radio play and little promotion, they could sell out amphitheaters and auditoriums from Tijuana to Santa Barbara (usually twice a year – once in spring and then around Halloween for Dia de los Muertos). Their fanbase were loyal, as they were completely impossible to categorize (much like Danny Elfman’s music): punks, goths, headbangers, jocks, fratboys, cholos, and everyone else would show up in droves… And it was awesome. Danny Elfman and company could cover a 2.5 hour set and come back on stage 10 minutes later and ask 5,000 – 10,000 of their closest friends if they would want some more. And then deliver five more songs.
It’s odd now to think that doesn’t exist anymore. There is no Oingo Boingo Empire akin to The KISS Army. Danny Elfman will be remembered for movie scores and disaffected, neo-goth kids sporting over-sized Nightmare Before Christmas apparel (to cover up where they cut themselves, naturally). Boingo, as a brand, has been relegated as the soundtrack band of John Hughes movies – nothing more, nothing less. But in reality, they were a fairly profound band with an intense live show.
My first ‘small’ concert was No Doubt and Sublime at the World Beat Center in San Diego, well before either band tasted any sort of success… Somewhere around 1993. That’s probably where I caught the Ska and Reggae bug. The WBC held maybe 100 kids, at maximum. I recall the show was sold out and the venue was teeming with a mix of skinheads, dreadheads, mods, punks and gangbangers – all of whom seem to start throwing punches without reservation. Multiple times that night I really thought I was going to die. Inexplicably, I loved every second of it.
What is the best gig that you ever played/performed?
Tough call. The standard answer is, opening for The Pietasters at the 930 Club. And rightfully so. That’s really tough to beat on paper and it was an amazing experience. We owe some much of our existence to those guys.
However, my personal favorite show was a gig we put together at BlueBeat DC that included Hub City Stompers and Persephone Laird (more commonly referred to as “Queen P”) backed by The Shifters. For those who don’t know, Queen P was a member of Ocean 11, a 60s styled ska and reggae band from Los Angeles, who put out what I consider to be one of the greatest albums of all time. So bundling together her voice with my band still feels like a once in a lifetime experience. And to top that off with having HCS close out the night (another favorite of mine) – well, that was probably the best birthday present ever.
What is the best gig you have ever seen?
The Aggrolites in Tijuana, somewhere around 2003. Everyone should see The Aggrolites. Everyone should see a show in Tijuana. Everyone should see The Aggrolites in Tijuana.
What is the gig you would most like to play?
One where everyone in the band makes enough money to cover the drive in from wherever we live. Any door guarantee divided by nine, usually equals zero.
What would be the lineup for your dream gig?
I don’t really have one. These types of theoretical questions scream “nostalgia” and I’m not really a nostalgic person. I don’t wish it to be 1965 or 1985 or 1995. And I don’t relish the idea of re-living parts of this show or that show, and then trying mash all that together to make one mega-awesome experience. If I have a “dream” it would be to see more venues (especially all-ages), more people playing music, more bands pumping out new material, and more receptive audiences. I think we’re missing all of those things.
Catch The Shifters May 24th at Rock & Roll Hotel