Drops In the Bucket List: 5 Venues To See a Show In Before You Die
Photo by Cory Garcia
I'm not much of a traveler. Outside of a few trips to Vegas, I've never been on a real grownup-type vacation. Every year it's a struggle to think of something to do with my vacation days, one that eventually leads to a few four-day weeks and a couple of midweek shows.
Now that I'm getting older, I'm realizing the fallacy of this line of thinking. There are plenty of places I'd like to go; I just need to stop putting it off and get to work on visiting them. This year I'm making a musical bucket list of places I'd like to catch a show before I die.
It'll be a work in progress, using criteria of both personal history and musical importance. I'm letting you guys in on the first draft and opening myself up to personal ridicule so that I can get your opinions and maybe inspire one of you to make your own version.
5. 924 Gilman, Berkeley, California: Green Day was the first band I ever obsessed over. After purchasing Dookie, I immediately went out and bought their older records and tried to find what information I could about them online through the wonders of America Online.
Judge me if you must, but we all have to start somewhere. Green Day led me to seeking out my small town's scene, which led to meeting people who liked "real" punk, which lead me to discovering the Misfits and G.G. Allin, for better or worse.
18 years after the fact, I find myself still wanting to take in a show at the venue that I heard about in vague terms back when Google and Wikipedia didn't exist. At the time all I knew was that it was a club and that a band I liked played there. Now I can fully grasp how cool of a concept it is as a DIY volunteer organization dedicated to making great art and community-building.
4. Madison Square Garden, New York City: I've never had a real desire to visit the Big Apple. I understand the appeal and I can't really pinpoint any particular reason why it doesn't interest me. While I understand there are other venues more deserving of my time, if I do ever make the trip out the one place I would like to see a show is at The Garden.
I realize that's me being taken in by the myth of the building, but it's hard to listen to native New Yorkers talk about the place and not be a bit curious. When musicians born and raised in NYC talk about "knowing they've made it" they talk about being booked at Madison Square.
While I'm sure it's like every other major arena in the country, the name has a certain value attached to it, and a good name is everything sometimes. Be honest: would you rather see a show at Madison Square Garden or Louisville's KFC Yum Center?
Plus I read on Yelp the Garden has excellent chicken fingers, which is always good to know.
3. Donington Park, Northwest Leicestershire, England: My dad has this old LP for the 1980 Monsters of Rock show. I always thought it was interesting the way he talked about these metal groups playing in front of a castle in England and that about how neat that would be to see. Little did younger me know that Donington Park is mostly known for its racetrack.
Back before Coachella, Bonnaroo and ACL were as big as they were, it seemed like the only way to see a major festival-style show would be to fly to Europe. Times have changed, of course; now there are multiple major festivals all across the country and Monsters of Rock no long exists.
While things have changed at Donington Park, there is still a hard-rock festival that calls it home: The Download Festival. The name might not be inspiring, and the castle probably isn't as cool and gothic as I imagine, but for the younger version of me who dreamed of flying across the ocean for the purpose of seeing a lot of bands it makes the list.
2. Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan: What started off as a judo arena for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics over time became one of the legendary venues in rock history. That it still stands is a bit of a surprise; remember that there's a Wembley Stadium today, but it's not the one where Freddie Mercury sang "Radio Gaga" at Live Aid.
After the success of Cheap Trick at Budokan, musicians have travelled from around the world to record a live album there. A short list includes Bob Dylan, Blur, Dream Theater and Dir En Grey.
I can't say whether or not there's a certain magic to Budokan or if the owners are just really good at marketing, but the only way I'll ever find out is by travelling there myself. And if I can catch a show by Pro Wrestling Noah while I'm there then that's just icing on the cake for my inner pro-wrestling nerd.
1. Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colorado: There are certain moments in pop culture that are iconic and I'm a sucker for those. A good example is the previously mentioned Queen at Live Aid and all those people clapping along to "Radio Gaga."
Another one, my favorite one of all time, is the image of Bono waving the white flag during their performance of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" at Red Rocks back in 1983. Given that I'm not a particularly big U2 fan, I imagine that says a lot about the power of a well-edited concert video set in a beautiful location.
And Red Rocks certainly is a beaut if the countless photos and videos I've seen of it are to be believed. I'm not much of a nature person, but I appreciate the beauty and uniqueness that comes with the location of the amphitheater.
Open sky, natural rock formations, 9000-plus complete strangers -- seems like a pretty memorable place to take in a show.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.