The Franti fire
For at least six to eight full seconds, I was absolutely sure that the Belly Up was going to burn to the ground. Michael Franti & Spearhead were in town, a few days after participating in the Seattle WTO Ministerial Conference protests of 1999. What no one but Franti knew was that he had ostensibly adopted a few pyrotechnically inclined fellow protesters as his opening act.
One whirling dervish later, a flaming headpiece set the stage dressing ablaze. It was doused, but Franti's set that followed was so incredibly electric that I almost forgot about the fire. I thought it'd be impossible to top that first time I saw him, but in the dozen or so times since, he's done nothing but get exponentially better. See him, but make sure you're near a fire extinguisher.—Scott McDonald
High on Beck
The first time I saw Beck, I was high on acid, weed, Robitussin, Southern Comfort and PCP at the 1995 Lollapalooza tour. Basically, all I remember is that he changed the chorus of “Loser” to “I'm a goldfish baby, so why don't you feed me.”
But that doesn't really count as the first time I saw him. The true first time came nearly 10 years later at the Coachella Music Fest, where he played unannounced in one of the smaller tents. While much of his set consisted of acoustic versions of hits and trying to plug a Game Boy into the PA for nearly 10 minutes, it was nonetheless an amazing performance. I couldn't help but notice he had this orange-ish glow to him, perhaps the aura of a great artist. Perhaps the Indio Valley sun was playing tricks on me. Perhaps it was an acid flashback.—Seth Combs
The Bloodthirsty band
In 2004, the same year Brooklyn experimentalists TV on the Radio released their debut album, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, it seemed anyone with a Mac and a little time on their hands had an album. The only problem with the “bedroom production” bands was that they rarely came to town.
Fast forward to 2006: TV on the Radio release their second album on Interscope. The result? National tour, baby! I sped toward the Bay Area's Shoreline Amphitheatre with my then-girlfriend and hustled toward the grass. As we inched closer and closer to the stage, the sound went from faint to clear as we were finally there to witness Kyp Malone (the black Jerry Garcia) and the boys locked in beautiful, four-part harmony—a cappella worthy of the Vatican. If you've yet to see TV on the Radio live, take full advantage—their shows are truly once-in-a-lifetime. —Jason Bow
X hits and runs
The first time I saw X, I opened for them. And I'm not even a musician.
Tony Cadena of The Adolescents was playing with X and had asked me to open for them at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood by reciting some punk-rock prose. I agreed. Then the terror sunk in. I'd been a fan of X since '87, when I first heard “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene.” Dangerous lyrics, howling vocals and that panic-attack pace. So, I did what anyone would do: I drank. Heavily. I don't remember the reading, but I remember that show. X mowed through their set and knocked me on my ass. And after 30 years of hitting and running, they still have it.—Jim Ruland
Man and metal in Texas
I've seen Man Man and Eagles of Death Metal play once each—both at the 2006 South by Southwest festival. I'd heard Eagles' Peace, Love, Death Metal before (repeatedly asking a friend, “What is this? It's fuckin' awesome!”), so I was jacked to see them at some industry party in a big tent with free Red Stripe on hand. I had no idea what frontman Jesse Hughes would be like and was delighted to learn that he essentially looks and acts like a gay cop on speed. Bitchin'.
The Man Man show—which could have been the day before or two days later, for all I know—occurred in what I remember as being someone's backyard. All I know is there was dirt and patches of grass under my feet and a band playing gloriously freaky Tom-Waits-in-a-surreal-carnival music on a makeshift stage. They were my new favorite band for the next 37 hours.—David Rolland
I first saw Del tha Funkee Homosapien the day before my 19th birthday at UC Santa Barbara, and it immediately became clear that he was really fucked up. Not that I expected a sober performance, but the guy could barely complete a verse. Instead of reciting the lyrics we all knew and loved, he rattled off a series of incoherent, lazy freestyles to an increasingly bothered crowd.
My ex-girlfriend had come into town to engage in awkward dorm sex and plenty of heated arguments. But what I remember most vividly about that weekend is how our attendance for Del's piss-poor performance presaged the disastrous series of events that were to follow. It was like an omen of even shittier things to come.
In short, Saturday is make-or-break day for Del and me, and I hope he delivers the goods. But I don't have anything planned for Sunday, just in case.—Todd KroviakBeck, TV on the Radio and Michael Franti & Spearhead play Street Scene on Friday, Sept. 19. Eagles of Death Metal, Man Man, X and Del tha Funkee Homosapien play Saturday, Sept. 20. www.street-scene.com.