Well, there have been a bunch. I once handed my band’s demo tape to Joey Ramone and Frank Black before a show, as they were hanging out at the bar. They were both extremely cool and gracious.
I saw Booker T and the MG’s in DC once, when they had gotten everybody back together for a tour (except Al Jackson :(), and I listened with a huge thrill as Steve Cropper declaimed, “I remember the night me and Otis wrote this,” and then launching into a surprisingly heart-wrenching solo version of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
I was part of a huge crowd in the mud and rain at an Atlanta outdoor venue that pressed against the stage when a nearly-unknown artist named Jeff Buckley very nearly caused a riot.
I’ve hung out with Michael and Margot Timmins from the Cowboy Junkies.
I smoked a doob with Philip “Fish” Fisher from Fishbone.
Lots of others, but probably my favorite “live music” experience took place a couple of years ago when my girlfriend and I took a road trip to Savannah, Georgia just before Christmas. We checked into our hotel, and the desk clerk just happened to mention that another hotel in town was hosting an annual two-night show by none other than Ellis Marsalis (Wynton and Branford’s daddy…and IMO a better musician than either.) Since that was the last night, and the first of two shows had already begun, we got dressed up and hustled over to the venue.
Now, the show was being held in a downstairs lounge, and the waiting area was the upstairs bar. So, we wandered in, bought a couple of tickets from the bartender, and settled in to wait. We had some dinner and a few drinks, and we were happily socializing with the other barflies while we waited.
A little while later, the bar manager walked in and spoke quietly to the bartender and walked back out. The bartender came over to us and regretfully explained that for one reason or another, the second show was vastly undersold and would be cancelled. They only sell 30-40 tickets per show for the venue, so “vastly undersold” presumably meant that we were sole purchasers of the tickets.
Yeah, we were disappointed. But the bartender was very apologetic, refunded our ticket money, and just because he could, he comped all our food and drinks for the evening as well.
So that would have been a very nice, memorable evening if it had simply ended there.
However, as we were walking out, the manager scurried up to us and told us that Ellis Marsalis had heard that a few tickets had been sold for the final show and decided that as long as one person had paid to see him and his band, then by God they would play.
Sweet! I immediately went for my wallet to cheerfully re-purchase our tickets. “No need,” the manager explained. “It’s on the house, with our compliments.”
He then personally led us downstairs, led us to the table immediately adjacent to the piano, which had been set with a candle, a fresh tablecloth, and a fresh round of drinks, and formally held the chair for my girlfriend. Before leaving, he called the waiter over to our table and told him to “provide these folks with whatever they need, on the house.”
A few minutes later, Ellis Marsalis and his band came out, and before playing, sat down at our table, introduced themselves, and chatted with us. His bass player (Ben something. He was probably a jazz legend himself, but I was too poleaxed to ask) was particularly gregarious. He sat there and cracked corny, flirty jokes at my girlfriend, while cutting exaggerated “don’t beat me up!” looks in my direction, then laughing uproariously.
I was thunderstruck. I’m sure I sat there with a dopey grin and not an intelligent thought the entire time. I mean, I LOVE jazz music. Here was my opportunity to talk to ELLIS FREAKING MARSALIS about Coltrane, and Bird, and Horace Silver, and Wes Montgomery, and Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald. But I was too damned, well, happy to even worry about it.
The show was amazing, of course.
A couple other folks trickled in during the sets, but for all intents and purposes, Ellis Marsalis and his band played a whole show just for the two of us, with the waitstaff discreetly refilling our drinks and generally waiting on us hand and foot.
It was one of the few times I’ve ever been treated like, hell, I dunno, a VIP? A goddamned president? It was an amazing, incredible experience, and I was floating on Cloud 9 for days.
How about you?