Nights to Remember
Local Music Yokels Remember the Best Shows They've Seen in Baltimore
John Berndt, experimental musician/impresario
John Duncan at the 14-Karat Cabaret, 1992
The audience was sitting around at the Cabaret, very casual, waiting for the performance to start, not noticing that there were these enormous klieg lights set up in the shadows of the room. The klieg lights went full on, filling the room with so much light that you absolutely had to close your eyes. Simultaneous to that, out of a PA came what sounded, to me, like 16 channels of short-wave radios at an enormous volume. It completely saturated the audio space while the audience had their eyes closed for, I'd say, five, six, seven minutes. It was like you suddenly were plunged underwater. And then the whole thing shut off with no warning, and Duncan was lying naked on a pedestal in front of the audience. He proceeded to do this yogic breathing exercise, or I assumed it was that, that involved him going into a rictus that looked like a death rictus or something. And his stomach, on the intake, would go all the way back to his spine in a way I have never seen. But just the combination of complete saturation of sound and light followed by this very intimate, bizarre, and very intensely death-focused breathing thing--it was the strangest performance I've ever seen anywhere.
Katrina Ford, vocalist for Love Life
Prince Charming Chaz at the Ottobar, June 2002
I've seen a few that stand out. Lungfish at the old Ottobar--this was few years ago, probably 1999, and it was insane; Tarot Bolero at the Small Intestine in '99; the last Candy Machine show in 1997. But I guess I'll go with Prince Charming Chaz. He was like a local fable: Nobody knew if he even existed until this show, and then he just showed up. He waltzed onstage like a man ready for anything and he commanded the audience, and the crowd went blind in screams.
John Fowler, member/organizer, Left Bank Jazz Society
Count Basie at the Famous Ballroom, Dec. 3, 1967
It was a magically great concert, one of those days that is just hard to explain. We had 1,200 people in the ballroom--it far exceeded the capacity of the room. It seemed like half the people in Baltimore were there. We had people sitting on the floor, taking tablecloths and setting up tables on the floor. We had people standing five deep in the rear of the ballroom. People were everywhere. And Count Basie and the band were at the top of their game. It was just like a religious happening. It was one of the more perfect concerts we've ever had.
Barry Glassman, maintains Baltimorejazz.com
Carmen lundy at the caton castle, march 2002
When she came to the Caton Castle, I was just taken by the experience of hearing [a singer] who I think is the successor to Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. It was an extraordinary experience. And the setting of the Caton Castle--this small, intimate little club--just enhanced it.
Joe Goldsborough, owner, Merkin Records
The Psychedelic Furs at the Marble Bar, 1981
It was almost farcical that this was a great show because it really shouldn't have been. It was boiling hot in the club, it was packed, they went on late, and they blew the high end of the PA about halfway through the set, so the vocals were more or less unintelligible. But it was this kind of moment where the band and the crowd knew that the train had just started to leave the station and there was no stopping it. All anybody really knew about the band was "Sister Europe," which was on Night Flight, the old cable-TV video show, and WCVT was playing "India" a bit. So Dan Higgs and I went--we were still in high school. The band really wasn't all that good, but they had greatness somewhere in them. Richard Butler spent most of the show crawling around onstage in this mock David Bowie/Peter Murphy sort of thing, with all these affected mannerisms. And they projected psychedelic images onto the band--really bad, art-school psychedelic images. It was great. It was like watching something crude that could work but didn't suddenly stand up and start working.
Geoffrey Himes, CP contributor
Parliament/Funkadelic at the Baltimore Civic Center, Feb. 10, 1978
It was the height of the disco era and it seemed that the guerrilla forces of funk and syncopation were losing the dance wars to the beats-per-minute clone army. Leading the reactionary forces was Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk, a long-beaked villain in a slouch hat who strode across the Baltimore Civic Center stage in triumph. But just when things looked bleakest, a cloud of dry-ice smoke filled the stage and down from the sky came a silver spacecraft with flashing lights and spindly landing legs. The spaceship door opened, and out stepped Dr. Funkenstein (aka George Clinton) in a white ermine hat and full-length coat. He pointed his magic silver ray gun at Sir Nose, and the beams broke the villain's resistance. He couldn't help but dance to the thundering funk blasted out by nearly 20 members of Parliament, Funkadelic, and Bootsy's Rubber Band assembled onstage. As the strobe continued to send Sir Nose into a frenzy, everyone sang out, "Flashlight! Flashlight! Flashlight!" And the day was saved.
Tonie Joy, singer/guitarist, the Convocation Of . . .
Crash Worship at Club Midnite, 1995
Club Midnite very rarely had any good shows, but this band from San Diego, Crash Worship, played there, and that was the best thing I have ever seen in Baltimore. The people that owned the place got pissed off because the band was using pyrotechnics and they thought they were going to burn the place down. They might have damaged the rug a little bit, even though the rug already had about a million cigarettes put out on it. In its heyday, Crash Worship was one of the best live things anybody could ever see. It wasn't like when they'd play San Diego and they'd play for four hours straight and there'd be people fornicating. It was more tame, but it was still very good.
Rjyan Kidwell, CP contributor (aka Cex, performer)
Dismemberment Plan at Knights of Columbus Hall in Hamilton, 1996
It's the one that immediately springs to mind because it was one of the first shows that I ever went to. I had been to other shows, but it was the first show that I had been to where somebody put a lot of effort into making a lot of people really excited about something they were excited about. Ben Valis put on the show, and a couple of other local bands played--there was this band called Salad Days, and Ben was in a band called Hoffman. All the bands were like 13- and 14-year-olds except for Dismemberment Plan. I went with friends--we were in a band and didn't know anybody. We talked to people who seemed so much older and so much more professional than us at the time, and it was just really comfortable. It made everybody feel like we were all a part of something that transcended age. There was nothing hip about the show, it was just "come for the excitement."
Roman Kuebler, singer/guitarist, the Oranges Band
Buttsteak, Memory Lane, 1995 or '96
Buttsteak played a lot of shows, but the thing that made this one different was that they were dressed in costumes. I learned later that each member of the band got to dress another member. So Ron Spencer was dressed as a hippie. Mike Bowen had a hard hat with a net on it full of live crickets and a white shirt with live worms safety-pinned to it, which were squirming around. Jim Glass had an assortment of penises all over his body, a hat with a penis, and this big pantyhose penis where his regular penis would be, but it was about four feet long. And Rob Oswald was dressed as a mime, but his leotard was kind of too small for him. So it was this totally bizarre thing. As usual there wasn't anybody there to see the show, like 10-15 people. But when they played, it was wild. A friend of theirs came up and started throwing beer at them, and so everyone started throwing beer at them. Rob gets up from behind his drum set, goes behind the stacks and pisses in a cup, and is chasing this guy around Memory Lane with a cup of piss, chases him out of the bar, and throws it on him. It was just mayhem like that, which was typical of a lot of Buttsteak shows. But that one stands out in my head as the one that I most appreciate.
Todd Lesser, local promoter and editor of Monozine
Bob Log III, Ottobar, July 1999 and January 2000
I'd been told that he plays alone onstage. Well, he started unloading his guitar, a stool, and cabinets, but then it got interesting--lights, drums, cymbals, a telephone, motorcycle helmets? Later, he hit the stage, ranting and raving through this heavily distorted phone receiver that's attached to his bubble-faced helmet. He sat down, strapped himself in, attacked his guitar, and played drums with his feet. It would've been pure novelty had he not rocked like he did. He was like a wind-up toy--he'd jump up and yell, then fall down into this blur of fuzzed-out blues. People were buying him drinks and having a blast. He wanted to record the sounds of the bartender's breasts slapping together for a new song he was working on. I thought it was a line, until I heard his last record, which features that very sound from another bartender's breasts. Baltimore had its chance. The next time he came through town the word was out, and his set was just as amazing. Everyone's having fun and the drinks were flowing. By the end of the night, Bob was completely trashed, standing toe to toe with Ottobar co-owner Mike Bowen, trading punches in the stomach with a crowd gathered around watching. It looked like a late-night brawl. They eventually made amends over morning martinis. Bob hasn't been back since.
Meat Beat Manifesto at Calvert StReet Café, 1989
It was my first real DJ gig. I opened up, and they put on an amazing show. Jack Dangers was behind all the music, but he had these crazy dancers in bizarre rubber outfits that stole the show. The place was sold out, and the energy was unbelievable--especially because of the visual element. I stood in awe in the DJ booth, and realized this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Dontae Winslow, trumpeter, producer, rapper
Stevie Wonder with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra outside the Raven's PSI Net Stadium, September 1998.
I had never seen Stevie Wonder before. Aretha Franklin was supposed to play and she couldn't, and at the last minute the lineup changed. And the amazing thing about the show was that I got to sit right next to a musical legend and genius, and it was like being next to a demigod. And I sat in with him. He just happened to call me out, and I came up and stood next to him and I played "Ribbon in the Sky" with him. It was the most amazing vocal performance I had ever seen from that close.
Chris X, owner Reptilian Records
I couldn't think of just one show because I've been to so many shows in the past 13 years here. But one of the more memorable ones is, for instance, when Helmet played the Hour House and the microphones weren't working, so there were no vocals, and a big chunk of the wall collapsed on some people. Another one was the first time I saw the Dwarves. They played a place called Playschool, which was down on Calvert Street, in 1990, I believe. Of course they got nude and incited a riot; it turned into a fight and it ended quite quickly. Another one was when Steel Pole Bathtub played at the Jar, a tiny little place near where Mission Media is now. It was about 110 degrees outside, they played in a tiny little room with no ventilation, and they ended the set with Sonic Youth's "I Dreamed I Dream" and insisted on playing in the dark. Also the times Eyehategod and Buzzov-en played at the Rev and it got trashed. There are so many shows, I really couldn't pick one.
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