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all over the map

This summer marked the twentieth anniversary of D’s first concert, a one-day festival featuring the likes of Green Day and the Offspring. In the intervening two decades, D’s musical tastes changed and expanded, but his passion for (obsession with?) live music has remained constant. Of the 430 shows he’s seen over the last twenty years, 17 have been in just the last couple of months since we’ve returned to the United States, and these concerts have been literally all over the map – D has managed to catch shows in seven states plus the District of Columbia this summer.

Dropkick Murphys/Flogging Molly (New York City, NY)Serving abroad engenders an urge to make up for lost time when we are back stateside. None of the places we have served (Kenya, Rwanda, Moldova) are renowned for their rock music scenes. Same was true when D spent three years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. Whole years flew by without a single show. Coming back this summer, D literally wasted no time. After a 30-hour journey from Kigali to New York, D loaded our fifteen pieces of luggage (dog crate and all) into his dad’s rental van; while his parents drove S and the kids to their house, D headed into the city to catch a punk show. He’s seen both these bands at least half a dozen times each, and they’ve yet to disappoint.

Social Distortion (Boise, ID) – We settled on Wyoming and Idaho for our home leave in part because D wanted to catch Social D on tour. Somehow, he only got into this seminal punk band quite recently, and thus had never seen them perform before. After spending a lot of time on the crowded East Coast, there was definitely something to be said for leaving our rental in the residential part of the city, spending less than ten minutes to drive downtown, finding plenty of free parking right next to the venue, and being back home ten minutes after the show wrapped up. As for the concert, the music was great, but Mike Ness’ mic was too low (either that, or his voice has lost a few decibels over the years). The only time it was possible to hear his words clearly was when he went on an anti-Trump tirade in between songs. The screed would have played great with a New York crowd, but fell a bit flat in Boise.

Ballyhoo/Bumpin’ Uglies/Tropidelic (Berkeley, CA) – The Bumpin’ Uglies, whom D caught once opening up for a well-known band, have grown to be one of his favorite bands. Catchy tunes and clever lyrics with a DIY attitude – what’s not to love? If you’ve ever found yourself nodding along to a Sublime track, give these guys a listen. Tropidelic also put on a good show. Ballyhoo, the headliner for this concert, were somewhat disappointing, and D left before they had wrapped up their set. The Bumpin’ Uglies played two free sets at a Maryland seafood shack/bar on Labor Day, and D dragged the whole family to the show.

Smashing Pumpkins (Baltimore, MD) / Arctic Monkeys (Washington, DC) / Radiohead (Philadelphia, PA) – these three shows in the span of five days punctuated D’s final week of home leave. He literally drove back from Philly after midnight and was at work for his first day at his new job the following morning. As a general rule, D prefers smaller shows, but these bands don’t play small venues and D likes their music enough to make an exception.

With three of the four original members back together, now seemed like a great time for D’s first Smashing Pumpkins concert. The Pumpkins did not disappoint. They played for three hours and worked pretty much all of their hits into the set list. The same cannot be said for Radiohead. The show was fine, but nowhere near as enjoyable as the first time D saw them – seventeen years ago! If anything, it served to underscore how much D dislikes most of Radiohead’s more abstract music, which dominates their recent records.

The Arctic Monkeys were great, but the show was depressing. It was General Admission, so at least D got pretty close to the stage, but the crowd was flat. It used to be that when the lights dimmed and the band went on, people pushed forward and then let all of their pent up anticipation out by dancing up a storm. Nowadays, people just reach for their cell phones and spend the show uploading snippets of blurry, jumpy concert footage to their social media accounts. Growing old sucks!

311/The Offspring (Bristow, VA) – Growing old sucks, but at least there are plenty of bands from D’s youth who refuse to retire. The Offspring continue to put on a good show, and 311 are simply incredible live. Watching these geezers rock out is plenty cause for hope for the future.

The Mighty Mighty BossTones’ Crankin’ and Skankin’ Festival (Worcester, MA) – the most memorable show of this summer was the inaugural edition of this festival, which was easily worth the trip from DC. The Planet Smashers. The Pietasters. Fishbone. Big D & the Kids Table. And, of course, the BossTones themselves. Punk and grunge got D into music, but ska is his true passion, and these are the bands that fueled his love for it. Seeing them all on the same stage after catching them at dozens of shows over the years was the highlight of D’s musical odyssey this summer.

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