I Would Walk 500 Miles: How Far Would You Go for a Concert?


stlucia lolla kaplan 19 I Would Walk 500 Miles: How Far Would You Go for a Concert?

“I have to go to this.” We’ve all said this at one time or another. Whether fleeting or heartfelt, there’s nothing more important in our lives in that one moment, when our bodies are convulsing with electricity. Sadly, most tend to brush these thoughts aside, labeling them fantasies as they scoff and quietly cry in their cubicle — others don’t.

Because we’re all about sharing our concert experiences lately, we thought we’d celebrate the times we challenged our own obsessions. So, with The Proclaimers’ 1988 hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” echoing in our heads, we tore back the pages of our weathered thoughts (and credit card statements) and decided to share our musical adventures.

What we discovered is that we’ve traveled pretty far for music. But we’re sure you have as well, so please share your own conquests below in the comments. Don’t worry, we’re all crazy here.

Jules Shear

julesshear I Would Walk 500 Miles: How Far Would You Go for a Concert?

How far? Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia, PA

Round Trip Total: 610 miles

Pittsburgh to Philadelphia isn’t an intimidating road trip. It’s 305 miles and nearly six hours of PA turnpike. I’ve traveled farther and longer (before and since) to catch a show, but this particular excursion stands out. Maybe because that whole time in my life feels so strange to me now. I was a couple months out of college, clueless about my future, and basically living the Benjamin Braddock lifestyle from The Graduate. Only, instead of driving a convertible around LA and having an affair with Anne Bancroft, I was piling into a broken-down Ford Explorer in rural Pennsylvania and having affairs with a handful of records, including Jules Shear’s The Great Puzzle.

One morning (at about 3 a.m.), I read online that Shear was playing both an in-store at Tower Records and a release party in Philly later that day. It took me maybe 30 minutes—the time needed to Will Call a ticket, brush my teeth, and print out a MapQuest—to get out the door. And I just went. Never mind the hour, the freezing temperature, or the lack of any plan beyond getting to the show. Wallet. Keys. Car. Gone. I met Shear later that day, took a picture with him, and even got a signed setlist. But what strikes me now about the trip was my impetuousness. The 30-year-old me knows that I’ll never do anything like that again, and I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good thing.

Would you do it again? Not like I did then.

–Matt Melis

Neutral Milk Hotel

neutral milk hotel I Would Walk 500 Miles: How Far Would You Go for a Concert?

How far? Chicago, IL to Covington, KY

Round Trip Total: 594 miles

For some reason when I bought my ticket to see Neutral Milk Hotel in Kentucky after their Illinois show sold out, I had this idea that Covington was at least halfway to the Atlantic. My geography’s never been solid; the city’s just under 300 miles from where I live in Chicago, and while you pass through four states driving there, you really only see one. The drive bisects Indiana, a state that seems to be made entirely of corn fields, wind farms, and adult superstores. We passed a few Christian billboards, the most striking of which read “JESUS IS REAL” on one side and “HELL IS REAL” on the other in big block letters.

It’s not much of a hike, but Covington and its neighboring city in Ohio, Cincinnatti, feel removed from Chicago’s post-industrial landscape. We ended up staying in Cincinnatti with friends, four guys in a band who were renting out an inactive, but completely intact church. Our first night there, I sat with my laptop on the chapel’s altar working on a review in the dark. The original stained glass was still in place, painted with a level of detail apparently unique to the area’s German immigrant community. What better way is there to prep for a Neutral Milk Hotel show? I only wish we’d been able to host it there.

Would you do it again? Every day.

–Sasha Geffen

Devendra Banhart

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How far? San Francisco, CA to Los Angeles, CA

Round Trip Total: 764 miles

Trying to nab a parking spot in San Francisco is sort of like trying to cull logic from the Tea Party platform: it’s bound to make you dizzy and typically ends in frustration. And as anyone that’s ever commuted to a concert in a major metropolis can confirm, the urban purgatory of “circling the block” triggers missed songs and even sets; it happens. But when the unforgiving SF traffic kept me from hearing Devendra Banhart play “A Sight To Behold”, it felt like a personal affront.

Now, I’m not one to act on impulse. It’s usually planning and caution all the way. But I simply had to hear the Prince of Psych Folk sing that song. Rejoining in the Hands was like my musical Declaration of Independence. “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…” for younglings to break free from their parents’ records and discover new music that speak to them directly.

So I loaded up my car with granola and bananas; scored a ticket to Devendra’s Los Angeles show on craigslist; and headed south on I-5. So what if it took over six hours and left a hell of a carbon footprint? When I saw Devendra saunter onto the Wiltern Theatre stage, I knew I was in exactly the right place. “It’s like finding home/ In an old folk song.”

Would you do it again? Yes.

–Henry Hauser

The Faint

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How far? St. Louis, MO to Omaha, NE

Round Trip Total: 872 miles

Late high school and early college, I had a fairly singular focus when it came to new music: If it was a band on Saddle Creek records, then I loved it. There were outside interests, but the stable of musicians to come out of Saddle Creek were always in heavy rotation. They had a band for every mood, so it always worked. Because of this, Omaha had become a kind of Mecca for me. Anytime I met someone in college who grew up there, I always had to talk to them about Saddle Creek. I wanted to know if they saw Tim Kasher and Conor Oberst drinking around town, or where Todd Fink and Mike Mogis bought records. So when I saw that one of my favorites, The Faint, were playing in Omaha, I cleared my schedule and decided I had to go.

The added bonus of this show, aside from a Saddle Creek band playing in the holy land, was they’d be playing Sokol Auditorium, which is/was basically home base for these bands. My girlfriend at the time and I loaded up and drove the excruciatingly boring and long trip across the Heartland from St. Louis to Omaha. Once we finally found the venue, and got inside, I was giddy beyond belief. The band played an incredible set to a house packed with slightly gothy/slightly hipstery kids. It would be the first of nearly five times I would see The Faint, but none were quite as memorable as Sokol Auditorium and being able to look to the balcony and see the entire Saddle Creek crew (Conor, Tim, Maria, Mike, etc.) sitting there cheering on their friends. I had made the pilgrimage, and I had been cleaned.

Would you do it again? Probably.

–Nick Freed

The Replacements

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How far? Chicago, IL to Toronto, ON

Round Trip Total: 1,042 miles

Back in June, when Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson finally reunited and announced they’d be dusting off The Replacements for three dates at this year’s Riot Fest, I repeatedly insisted that I’d have to see their Toronto debut like Rain Man on caffeine. The problem? I didn’t have a passport. Because I’m an idiot and mentally debated the trip in my head for weeks  — Can you spend the money, Mike? Why don’t you just wait until the Chicago date? Oh, but you’ll be torturing yourself for not going! …burn the house down. — it was too late to apply for my passport online or via snail mail. So, I had to visit Chicago’s miserable Passport Agency downtown, where after a three-and-a-half hour visit, a couple hundred bucks, and one shitty Walgreens photo later I nabbed my true ticket to Toronto.

Once I landed in Canada’s largest city, there was only one hurdle left: I had to kill a day and a half. Of course, it was the longest, most agonizing 36+ hours of my life. And although I picked up a few rare records, met some great people, and ate delicious local food, my mind kept nagging: Twenty-six hours left, 18 hours to go, 17-and-a-half hours dude, ugh, why aren’t you asleep. I remember sitting at my hotel bar at 1:45 a.m., watching the TV Guide channel as if it were breaking news. There was a wedding upstairs, I refused a shot from a drunk bridesmaid who came down, and opted for a $12 in-room movie starring Jesse Eisenberg thinking that’d put me to sleep. Nope.

You’d think sets by Dinosaur Jr, The Weakerthans, Rocket from the Crypt, Best Coast, and Iggy and the Stooges would keep me preoccupied, but instead, all I could hear was that goddamn ticking again. Tick. Tick. Tick. Shut up, shut up, shup, I kept berating myself. To entertain myself, I shuffled into the messy pits during Iggy’s set, where I snuck my way up to the front barricade mere feet away from the stage. Lo and behold, there were similar diehard fans in my same shoes, shrugging uncomfortably as we handled the nearby blows and counted down the minutes. Together, we shared trivia about Let It Be, past gigs, and rare B-sides — all with a Westerbergian rapport. When the lights extinguished, I’ve never heard a louder gasp in my life. Pretty sure my face looked like this.

–Michael Roffman

Would you do it again? Only for Talking Heads.

Glen Hansard

eddievedderglennhansard heatherkaplan I Would Walk 500 Miles: How Far Would You Go for a Concert?

How far? Chicago, IL to New York City, NY

Round Trip Total: 1,580 miles

Growing up in Grand Rapids, MI, I went to a bunch of shows but occasionally, some of my favorite bands would skip my hometown, playing shows in either Chicago or Detroit instead. Throughout High School, I’d grab a bunch of friends and drive three hours to catch some of our favorite bands and drive back in time for school the next morning. After I moved to Chicago for college, I thought I’d never have to travel to see a show again. But as I was ending college years, I went through the obligatory “should I move to New York City?” phase that almost everyone that age experiences.

Having family in Brooklyn, who were also major Glen Hansard fans, I decided to visit family and catch his show at The Beacon Theater while he was supporting his Rhythm and Repose solo debut. Though I had caught his show in Chicago just days earlier, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see him again with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was a great set and The Beacon Theater catapulted to the top of my favorite venues. Backed by his band, The Frames, they shifted up the setlist and played “Revelate”, the Frames’ first big hit. The jury’s still out on whether or not I’ll ultimately move to NYC, but I’m currently thinking of another excuse to visit the New York-Terrys and catch another show.

Would you do it again? Yes.

–Josh Terry

Humming House

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How far? Syracuse, NY to Nashville, TN

Round Trip Total: 1,696 miles

Syracuse, NY is not that into music. I found this out when I moved there for grad school, and it was a quality I missed whenever I thought of home. For me, the two are related because home is Nashville, TN, a place where most bands I like stop. I’d never had to travel to see a show. This occasion was different.

While booking a plane ticket back for Spring Break, I considered being irresponsible and ditching class two days early in order to catch Nashville band Humming House with several friends. My love of Humming House is two-fold: 1) They’re a solid Americana band with Irish folk influences and a tight live show and 2) A friend from college is the bassist. The lesson here is that when faced with the decision between freezing temperatures and TV dinners, and the familiar stuffiness of a small show with pals (not to mention Mexican food beforehand), there’s no debate.

The night of the show, we named that one drunk guy Ralph and sang along with the “oh me’s” of Humming House’s “Cold Chicago”. The gist of the song is that while the singer has experienced many cities, Chicago remains the one he’s “dying to see.” That night, I pretended he was singing about Nashville.

Would you do it again? Yes.

–Erin Carson

Bill Callahan

2013 bill callahan I Would Walk 500 Miles: How Far Would You Go for a Concert?

How far? Washington, D.C. to Austin, TX

Round Trip Total: 3,048 miles

When you get obsessed with a grizzly, sardonic, truth-sayer of a musician like Bill Callahan–aside from periodically questioning your hetero attraction to his stoic masculinity–you also feel an urge to witness him perform these epic songs as often as you can. For me, the first time I saw Bill Callahan was a special one. I had loved his record, Apocalypse, and the one before it, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle. I had also listened to a bunch of Smog records, too. Most notably Knock Knock and A River Ain’t Too Much To Love. I was just getting into him, and by no means the obsessive I am now. It was the spring of ’11 when Apocalypse came out, the same season and year that my mother was tragically killed in a pedestrian accident. It was not a good time, to put it lightly. But that record was there for me.

That summer, when I saw that Callahan was coming to play in my hometown of DC, I immediately asked my father, a fellow mourner and lover of country, folk, and sardonic wit, if he wanted to join. He agreed, and off we went, not realizing the magnitude of the performance we were about to see, or really the sheer cult of Callahan we would fall into thereafter. Beforehand, we ran into the members of Wye Oak at Taylor Gourmet (a DC sandwhich shop accross the street from the venue). I spoke to drummer Andy Stack about an interview I had recently conducted with them. He remembered, and he told me that Callahan was his favorite songwriter, which struck me.

So in we went. The show blew my mind, and I even watched as it blew the minds of both Stack and Jen Wasner of Wye Oak, who stood a few feet away. I even reviewed it.

When I saw that Callahan’s first tour since, for the forthcoming Dream River, was only happening in the mid and southwest, I decided Austin, TX was the place to be. He was playing in Central Presbyterian church, a place in which I had imagined hundreds of SXSW performances but had never witnessed. Needless to say, shit was going to get spiritual. My father and I flew out to Austin, spent the weekend there, and saw him at it again. It was magical, in a gorgeous space, and everything was in its right place. Until next time, Bill.

Would you do it again? Duh.

–Drew Litowitz

LA Rising: Rage Against the Machine, Muse, et al.

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How far? Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA

Round Trip Total: 4,032 miles

Since seeing Rage Against the Machine at Lollapalooza 2008, my best friend Joe and I had an irresistible itch to see the political tour-de-rock-force again. When the inaugural lineup for the LA Rising was released in early 2011, our minds started doing backflips. Not only was Rage Against the Machine set to make their return to the stage since 2008, but Muse and Ms. Lauryn Hill were going to share it with them. Two killer rock bands and one funky hip-hop queen? How could you beat that?!

After convincing Joe’s 49-year old rocker dad to make the trek with us (seriously, he’s awesome), it became a reality. We stood in line outside of The Coliseum for about 11 hours to get our pit wristbands while Californians casually toked up around us, proving that most neighborhoods aren’t as conservative as our rural suburb. Ms. Hill lit up the stage with an R&B likeness that sparked the first enthusiastic heartbeats of the night, except for some unreceptive metalheads. Muse rocked the joint with their unbelievable light show and explosive jam refrains. Their expansive setlist of stadium rock exhilarated the audience perfectly to see one of the best live bands imaginable.

Rage Against the Machine left everything on the stage. Their most pumped-up headbangers fired up the crowd to the highest degree, even to a point where attendees started lighting their t-shirts aflame. La Rocha’s lengthy political rant during “Wake Up” picked at our governmental troubles and the future of the band, stating that LA Rising could be their last performance. Those words have stayed true since then, leaving Joe and I with no regrets.

Would you do it again? Absolutely.

–Sam Willett

Photo courtesy of KROQ.


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How far? Virginia Beach, VA to New York, NY to San Francisco, CA

Round Trip Total: 6, 127 miles

In 2011, I traveled to Barcelona primarily to see the big Pulp comeback at Primavera Sound, but I needed to experience the band’s glory in a more intimate setting, as well as enjoy a longer setlist. Thankfully, someone hooked me up with an extra ticket for their instant sellout performance at San Francisco’s Warfield. The problem, though, was I was on the east coast and the weekend before the show I had to load a moving truck and give a house a departure cleansing. To make matters even more complicated, I chose to take a detour in New York City the night before in order to see what would turn out to be one of Asobi Seksu’s final performances.

Once Asobi Seksu’s penultimate New York City gig came to a close, I had to return to my hostel to get my bags and head to the airport for a six a.m. flight to San Francisco to see Pulp. Yes, two coasts in two days and two sleepless nights. I felt horrible, but the natural highs induced from seeing these two bands kept me alive. Upon arrival in San Francisco, I immediately headed to the Warfield and formed an orderly queue, leaving only to check into my hostel up the street, find food, and hear the soundcheck. Those of us that swarmed around the side entrance were treated to a set that included some rarities that were not performed later that night, such as “Dishes”, “Mile End”, and “Don’t You Want Me Anymore”.

Despite being the first one in line, I was somehow the 10th person inside once the doors opened. People are horrible. However, it was all part of a cosmic plan, because if I had been the first one to enter, I would not have been at the side, where I made friends with the fan behind me. Three months later we booked a trip to see Pulp again on the S.S. Coachella. “Something Changed”, indeed.

Would you do it again? Yes.

–Frank Mojica