September 24, 2008
I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this entry by CMT Blogger Alison Bonaguro. Apparently, an unlucky Washington Post reporter attended Sunday in the Country at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, only to become an unwitting obstacle to a poor young man looking for a place to…um, un-drink his good helping of beer (he finally settled on the side of the Roasted Almonds stand – so at least he got to enjoy the pleasant aroma of baking cinnamon while he was keeled over).
Having spent a full summer working in the box office of that very venue and dealing with my own fair share of well-meaning alcohol consumers (which is to say, O.A.R. fans), the concert review brought a number of fun memories rushing back to me. Live music is a weird beast that varies in nature from artist to artist and venue to venue, not to mention seat to seat. Sometimes, as with Sunday in the Country, the music is almost just an excuse to gather with close friends and have a grand ol’ time. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
But personally, my favorite in-concert moments have always taken place in smaller venues where the attention has been squarely on appreciating the music and the artists delivering it. To date, the best concert I’ve been to was Nickel Creek’s penultimate performance at the Ryman Auditorium, which fell at the end of last year’s Farewell for Now tour. For all its historic grandeur, the Ryman is beautifully intimate, and even from the balcony I had no trouble making out every one of Chris Thile’s kooky little gestures. The music was uniformly stellar that night, with seemingly no one but smitten fans in the audience, and the band was effortlessly funny in between songs, recalling the very best of Alison Krauss’ awkwardaries and then some.
I’ll never forget those magical few seconds right before the band launched into a certain cover, the likes of which I don’t think anyone thought they’d pull out on as reverent an occasion as one of their final shows. Thile looked out into the audience and murmured, “you guys are great. Seriously, all of you, we love what you do……but you know” – he suddenly started moaning melodramatically – “you know that you’re toxic!”
Cue Britney Spears song. It completely killed whatever decorum remained in the event, and that was what so fantastic about it: it was Nickel Creek leaving on Nickel Creek’s terms. And what terms they were:
Now, your turn. What is your favorite in-concert moment you’ve experienced, musical or otherwise?