I’m gonna tell you something. Most of my life I’ve been a snob. A music snob. I know, people like me can suck the fun out of a five-year-old’s birthday party. But I wasn’t always such a twisted killjoy. For a couple years of my life, between the tender ages of 11 and 13, I was a wide-eyed naïf, grooving to whatever late eighties R&B power ballad rap hits happened to come on the radio, and it all sounded pretty good to me. Sure, I should’ve known better—I grew up folk and blues and golden age rock and roll. But that was my parents’ music. To paraphrase Morrissey, it had nothing to say about my life.
No, in that excruciatingly earnest yet also oh-so painfully awkward way, the first band I believed spoke to me was INXS. Yes, that’s right, those ridiculous Aussie arena rockers whose tumble from cheesy to morbidly tawdry to Reality TV we all know so well. At 13, I was convinced that Michael Hutchence was my generation’s Jim Morrison. And so one night in March, dressed in a sleeveless INXS t-shirt, ripped jeans and high-top sneakers, my hair teased into some kind of Prince-like pompadour, I told my parents I was going to a sleepover. Instead, I rode with a few neighborhood friends to the Patriot Center at George Mason University, the ticket I’d had a buddy’s older brother buy with the last of my paper route money tucked neatly into the fold of my black Velcro INXS wallet. I mounted the stairs to a section so high that our view of the stage looked like a Georges Seurat up close, all disorienting little colored dots.
But I was there, man, in the throng, in the thick of a rock and roll show, hearing the hits blare across acres of screaming heads. And it was magical. Not very long after, I would turn to harder stuff, become jaded and crusty and look back with disdain on the smooth sounds of INXS. But that feeling then… standing there amidst those crowds, almost everyone older than me, wobbling in the haze of surreptitious pot smoke and the slightly nauseating high of cheap beer drunk fast in an old muscle car… I had arrived. I told my parents about this years later, when the statute of limitations ran out. And they laughed. And so did I. Because, c’mon. It’s INXS. Then again, watching the footage above from 1988, the same year I saw them at 13, I have to admit that they don’t sound half bad. But goodness, those outfits. Probably for the best I couldn’t actually see them on the stage back then.
So there’s my story, readers, inspired by this Metafilter thread. Now that I’ve told you mine, please tell me yours. What was your very first concert? There’s no shame here, friends. Only nostalgia. Extra points to those who provide links to live concert footage.