In this First Concert Ever segment, the singer-songwriter, Dan Sharp, talks about the story of his first experience with live music. You can check out the story, after the break.
The first concert I went to was Rage Against The Machines (RATM) reunion tour of 2007/08. The show was a part of New Zealand’s biggest festival, Big Day Out (BDO) and I was 16 years old. BDO had a bit of a history of having rock-ier headliners but it was very much a variety kind of festival. This variety (and the tension it could cause) was highlighted for me by Björk performing directly before the headline act.
I’m 16, standing in a sea of people (mostly grown men 10 years older than me). Björk is doing her thing and while her share of the crowd undoubtedly enjoyed her set, where I was standing, nothing but RATM would satisfy the increasingly eager crowd. The energy was electric. I have never felt anything like it, even since. People were calling for Björk to get off, in no uncertain terms. I saw unknown substances being consumed in the crowd. I had a massive backpack on. The crowd was surging forward and backwards and there were times where I had absolutely no control over where I was going, the crowd one giant seething mass. I was scared but resolute that the wait would be worth it.
Rage hit the stage, Zach De La Rocha snarled “Check One, Two” and the crowd exploded as the massive groove of ‘Testify’ broke out. It was like a glass ceiling had been lifted and the people were unleashed. It was intense; there were people rushing to get out of something they clearly came unprepared for. By the second song of the set, there was more space, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hands and the next hour or so was one of the most energetic, uplifting displays of the power of music I could imagine.
Ahead of actually seeing RATM live, I knew some of their bigger songs, what they stood for and how influential they were (pretty much every high school guitarist at the time could tune to drop D and play Killing In The Name Of). However, I hadn’t really fallen in love with the band and didn’t know their catalogue well. As a guitarist and singer, I much preferred the melodic-ness and beautiful production of Californication (and beyond) era of Red Hot Chilli Peppers etc. What stuck with me though, and why I’m still listening to RATM, the band members respective other projects today (currently Zach De La Rocha’s features on Run The Jewels 2 and 4) is the sense of urgency, the fierceness and the way those four guys uniting under the banner of rock music felt necessary.
Being 16, I wasn’t particularly schooled on liberal American politics. I’m not sure many in the crowd that day were. When Zach offered a suggestion; that George Bush should be tried and hanged for war crimes, I couldn’t cheer and scream like a lot of the RATM fans around me did. What I could do though is appreciate how this band from California could jump on a plane, inspire 45,000 people in New Zealand to pay the entry price, wait around all day and then go absolutely ballistic when the band made it onto the stage. The power and the platform that these musicians had and the fact they were using it to try and make the world a better place (calling out political corruption, racism, breaches to human rights etc). Powerful first gig experience!