My First Concert at Einstein a Go-Go
I swear I wasn’t planning to write anything. I admit I was encouraged to do something, but wasn’t entirely sure what to say. While I still don’t know where this will go at 12:37 a.m., nostalgia has finally bit me — and hard enough to hurt just a little about what I’m missing this weekend.
On Saturday night many of my closest high school friends will be gathering in Jacksonville for the Einstein a Go-Go Reunion Party. Too many commitments and living 1,000 miles away at this point in my life will keep me from attending. For the past month, I’ve tried to keep myself distracted enough not to dwell on it. But with each passing day, the tales, photos and exchanges about the reunion piling up on my Facebook news feed have made this weekend impossible to ignore. Einstein’s played a considerable role in why I love music and especially concerts. So missing out on a chance the celebrate the aspect of my well-being is what stings.
My parents instilled in me the passion for music by allowing me to soak up whatever was in their collections, and then providing the latitude to see live shows early on in my upbringing. My buddy Francisco gets credit for steering my musical tastes by introducing me to The Smiths, New Order and Depeche Mode during my impressionable middle school years.
By the time I was entering high school in I was seeking out people and places connected by punk, indie rock and eclectic music. Only a year old at the time, Einstein’s and became the heart of this particular Jacksonville scene — a musical clubhouse of sorts, welcoming of everyone.
Located steps from the crashing waves along Jacksonville Beach, Einstein’s was an all-ages club that played host to “alternative” dance nights, an extensive record shop and at least a couple live shows a week from 1985-1997. The fact that no alcohol was served (at least inside the club) made it less appealing to adults and those with fake IDs, leaving the cozy space for teens who cared about the music and their friendships. Some nights felt insane, likely fueled by some teenage drama, while others were low key and simply a feel-good vibe for anyone looking to escape their ordinary lives.
During my final couple years of high school, at least one weekend night was dedicated finding a way to and from 327 N. First Street, strengthening the bonds of high school friendships (many of which still exist today) between the 45-minute drives and shaking it on the dance floor, and on many of the best of nights, a chance to see some really incredible acts live.
It’s mind-numbing to think about all the shows I witnessed at Einstein’s from Robyn Hitchcock to Mojo Nixon, firehose to Screaming Trees, Camper Van Beethoven to Pylon. The list of shows I missed during the club’s dozen years extends even longer. But naturally what I can’t remember for the sake of this blog with any certainty is my first concert there.
Yesterday I rummaged through some boxes in my basement in search of my ticket stub stash from that era. No luck, though I know they’re around somewhere. Instead I found a fairly thick file folder labeled “Einstein’s” stuffed with dozens of fliers, newspaper articles and a few setlists. Also, there were a couple Sonic Youth photos from the legendary band’s December 1988 show. I took them for the Orange Park High yearbook, making them my first published concert photos.
With only an array of dates and no years among the mementos, it was a little hard to figure out the actual sequence. I thought my first show could have been They Might Be Giants in part because I wore their sunshine yellow melting snowman concert T-shirt for as long as I did, but I’m certain it was well before their June 1988 gig.
So my next best guess at my first show there would be North Carolina ruckus rawkers Fetchin’ Bones. When exactly I couldn’t tell you as I would see the Einstein’s frequenters for many of its visits as I could. It was not just out of loyalty to supporting the new wave of Southern rock that R.E.M. had inspired, but because the spastic-yet-enduring Hope Nicholls was a guaranteed good time.
Good times certainly will be had again Saturday night at Eclipse in Jacksonville’s Riverside. Dancing and merriment will ensue at 8, and everyone is grown up enough to have alcohol this time around. The $10 cover at the door benefits Gateway Community Services. Props to Dee, Allison, Andrew and fellow organizers for pulling the scene back together for one night. I will be following along from afar on my social networks. Admittedly my spirits are elevated by word this week that original co-owner Tammie Faircloth is planning a 30th anniversary bash next year with live bands.
Good for me — and hopefully good for you — is now that I found the right box in the basement and know the Einstein’s goods I have, consider this a preview of more tales to be told and shared over the next few years.
Dedicated to Jen, Kristen, Coleman, Chris, Jenny and the rest of those celebrating Einstein’s this weekend, along with Jodi, Morgan, Francisco and those of us there in spirit.