TVD Ticket Giveaway: Big Star’s #1 Record
and Third performed live at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 9/27

Every now and again we find ourselves in the audience at an event so special and unique that the experience easily defies the normal concert going affair. Such was the case last month as we took in Big Star’s #1 Record and Third performed in their entirety at Washington, DC’s premier venue, the 9:30 Club. As we wrote back in August:

Once a decade or eon or so, an LP comes along that is simply too tortured and nakedly honest for human ears. 1978’s twisted and raw Third/Sister Lovers is such an LP. The final offspring of the seventies’ incarnation of Memphis, Tennessee power pop band Big Star—which never dented the charts during its lifetime but has achieved cult superstardom in the years since—Third is anything but a catchy power pop record.

As such, Third is every bit as nakedly powerful a work of art as Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack Up,” or heroin- and booze-ravaged Charlie Parker’s tortured 1946 Dial Records take on “Lover Man,” which he couldn’t even stand on his own to record and which was followed by a long “vacation” in California’s Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

Whenever you think there’s any justice in this world, look up at the stars. And to Big Star in particular. A power pop quartet formed in 1971 when Chilton—at loose ends after departing The Box Tops and turning down an invitation to sing for Blood, Sweat & Tears—joined forces with co-genius Chris Bell and the latter’s band Icewater, whose other members included bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens. The newly formed Big Star released #1 Record in 1972, which despite the bravado of its title sold like rabies, despite the inclusion of such brilliant Chilton-Bell compositions as “Thirteen” and “In the Street.”

By the time Big Star got around to recording 1974 follow-up Radio City the group was a shambles, with band members punching one another in the face, that is when they weren’t busy destroying each others’ instruments and doing injury to each others’ automobiles. Bell, who was subsisting on shitloads of drugs at the time, quit the band twice, the second time for good. So the remaining trio finished the recording, which like its predecessor received mucho critical plaudits while selling like asbestos hotcakes, despite such great and timeless tunes as “September Gurls” and “Back of a Car.”

Given such material, I showed up at the 9:30 Club on the evening of August 23rd prepared to be thoroughly bummed. But such was not the case, largely because Stamey, Easter, Mills, and Company chose to play #1 Record in its entirety before moving on to the chilling Third. And the show was excellent…

Anyway, the band succeeded in capturing the spirit of both LPs, even if both Chilton’s and Bell’s vocals are inimitable. Stamey sang lead on “Feel,” the opening cut off #1 Record, while Easter provided some great guitar work, and it was wonderful, although not as wonderful as super-catchy follow-ups “The Ballad of El Goodo” (worst name for a power pop tune ever) and the immortal “In the Street”—which captures the boredom and the unscratchable itch of adolescence as well as any song ever written, and includes that great line, “Wish we had a joint so bad”— which featured Django Haskins and (I think!) Brett Harris swapping vocals.

And this review could go on forever so let me just touch on the remaining highlights, which included Gudasz’s vocals on the Velvets’ classic “Femme Fatale,” Django Haskins’ masterful vocals on the album’s most devastating tune, “Holocaust,” and the slow-building but powerful “Kangaroo,” which has subsequently influenced some 12,000,000 indie rock musicians to write songs just like it. “You Can’t Have Me” was also great, a kick-ass rocker that featured one cool sax as well as some Elvin Jones-quality drumming by Jody Stephens. Also worthy of mention is the cast of thousands—at least six vocalists were crowded around the microphone—who appeared on stage to sing the bona fide catchy set closer, “Thank You Friends.”

Our August review did in fact go on forever, complete with photos for a well-rounded sense of the performance. We encourage you to check it out if you’re contemplating attending the LA concert on September 27.

And if you are in fact placing this special show on your calendar, we’ve had three opportunities for you to win some tickets in the weeks leading up to the special performance of Big Star’s #1 Record and Third—and the last one is right here, and right now.

Enter to win a pair of tickets my simply telling us in the comments below which track from either release you’re most looking forward to hearing performed live. We know—Sophie’s Choice and all. We’ll choose our third of 3 winners for a pair of tickets this Friday, 9/26!

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