Concert Reviews Just Got Personal

A new podcast, Yesterday's Concert, gives you a front row seat and a unique perspective to your favorite shows and the stories behind them




"Musicians are there in front of you, and the spectators sense their tension, which is not the case when you're listening to a record. Your attention is more relaxed. The emotional aspect is more important in live music." - Brian Eno

When it comes down to it, isn't emotion the true essence of music? We get goosebumps and chills down our spines from singing our favorite songs. Being at a concert, trading energy from the crowd to the stage and back again, is an experience nothing else can come close to. Live music feeds are our soul.


Lance Ingram is a live music enthusiast who's decided to share his love of music, gift for storytelling, and unique perspectives on concert reviews with the world through his podcast, Yesterday's Concert. Oh, and he's seen over 750 concerts since 2005 so he knows what he's talking about.


I had a chance to catch up with Lance over the phone and through some emails to talk about his new podcast, why he loves live music so much, and how Pearl Jam helped him propose to his girlfriend.



 

Before I got into the heart of the podcast itself, I wanted to get to know Lance a little bit and find out why he started this ambitious project.


"My original idea was just to journal my concert stories for no other reason than personal pride. Over time, while journaling I started dedicating more efforts to bringing these stories to life rather than just jotting down overviews. I wasn’t trying to be objective, because these were my memories and connections to the music. Since they were so personal, I just wanted to pour my heart out.


Then I heard the podcast, Disgraceland. I loved the way the host, Jake Brennan, used the medium to create experiences around these tales. That’s really when the idea for Yesterday’s Concert was birthed. I was sitting on a mountain of stories with no outlet to share them, so I started making plans for what the show would look like. It was nearly four years of planning, writing, recording, re-recording, and overthinking between conception and the first episode seeing the light of day."



I've always been a fan of journaling and writing things down, either for the sake of memory, or for the thought that something can come of it later on down the road and in Lance's case, I'm glad he did. It's one thing to have an idea and another to execute that idea and give it life. With Yesterday's Concert, it's all about discussing personal experiences at shows and figuring out how to tell those stories in a way that engages other people. I asked Lance how and why he decided to do this.


"One thing I love about going to concerts is you’re primed to have a conversation with total strangers about a commonality that you both love. This almost always opens the door to more talk about “I saw this or that show.”


I’ve always feared I was being too self-indulgent sharing these stories, but I found that people love hearing them as much as I like telling them. I can’t count how many times I’ve met someone who saw a classic rock band in the “good ol' days” and I begged them to take a trip down memory lane. Just the other day I met someone who saw the Beatles’ 1966 Memphis show (a notable concert due to John Lennon’s comments at that time about the band being larger than Jesus. These shows were marked by huge protests). I sat there googley-eyed for 20-minutes while the guy told me every detail of the show. I was in heaven."


This got me thinking about the number of concerts one would have to attend to have enough to choose from for a long, successful podcast series. I know I've seen hundreds of shows throughout my life but I couldn't tell you exactly how many. Back in the day, I used to keep ticket stubs (anyone remember those?) but once I stopped doing that, I lost track. So the next question was obvious. How many shows have you been to overall and how many do you get to each year?


"I've seen over 750 shows. My personal record in one year was in 2019 and it was 162 shows (140 unique artists, 71 festival sets, 49 headliners, 30 openers, 12 free shows, & 28 unique venues). I guess the universe was setting me up before the drought that was 2020."


I was stunned. Those are some amazing numbers. I was fascinated so I needed to know how he does this.


"How do I do it? Most importantly, I have a very loving and understanding wife, who is very supportive. She really is the greatest.


But I get this question pretty often, and I’m really not sure how I do it. To be honest, It doesn’t seem that abnormal to me. I think about one of my favorite bands, the Grateful Dead, and in my opinion, their fans are the real impressive ones. They quit their jobs and go on tour for an entire summer. They’re what I set as the benchmark, so in that light, I’m the unimpressive one.


To give another example, one of my best good buddies, who’s a music fanatic like me, has seen Phish 150+ times since 2009. So when I think about going to 75-100 shows a year, I don’t even think it’s the least bit unusual, especially in that context. It just seems kinda normal.


But you’re probably asking, “How do you afford it, though?”


During my first job out of college, I was talking with a friend about how my coworkers would go to lunch every single day and spend $20-30. That adds up quickly, especially when I was going home to eat canned tuna instead. But my friend made the point, “That’s just how they choose to spend their money.” And I guess that’s always been how I’ve viewed what I do. It’s one of those things that brings me a lot of joy, so I’ve pursued it."


Artists are at their best when they're passionate and genuine, and make no mistake, Lance Ingram is an artist. His love for live music and his dedication to his podcast is obvious as our conversation continues. I can't help but respect his passion for Yesterday's Concert and it instantly made me realize that Lance, and the podcast, are the real deal.


 

Lance didn't grow up in the early 90s listening to grunge like I did. I was a freshman in college in 1991 and let's just say he wasn't. So I was intrigued to see an episode on Pearl Jam in his catalog. As most of my readers know, Pearl Jam is in that rarified air for me as one of my favorite bands. I'm always curious to hear what people think of them whether seeing them live for the first time or simply hearing a song of theirs they'd never heard before.


So I listened to that episode and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Lance was in fact a Pearl Jam fan. More surprisingly though, he didn't fawn over their debut (and best selling) album Ten. Not that it's a bad record, on the contrary, it's great. But most people just use it as their default PJ album and Lance didn't. He tells the story about that, the show itself, and how they helped him propose to the woman who would become his wife.


"As a teen growing up on classic rock radio, Pearl Jam was one of those bands that I was essentially told to like well before I could form an opinion on them. I easily connected with Nirvana, and according to everything I read, I was supposed to feel the same about Pearl Jam too. It was like they were a package deal.


Most of the hype and surrounding songs played on the radio, even in the early aughts, were songs from their first album, Ten. Because of that, I assumed that was the Pearl Jam album. A buddy shared it with me and I listened to it but nothing connected as I expected. It had all the makings of an album I would’ve loved in my angsty teenage youth. Distorted guitars, wild riffs, that Eddie Vedder growl. But it fell flat.


The band put out their self-titled album in 2006, and that’s the one that did it for me. As a Pearl Jam fan now, I realize the sacrilege I’m stating, but I think it had to do with a comparison to the top rock hits of the era. It was far and away better than anything Nickelback, Three Doors Down or whoever was releasing. That album really pulled me in and gave me some incentive to check out the rest of their discography.


So from there, I found Vs., Vitalogy, Yield, No Code and really began to understand the band. In retrospect, those albums are a better representation of the band’s sound than Ten. I guess that was my benefit coming into them more than a decade-and-half later. All the classic rock lists that ranked them had the limited perspective of that being the album that changed everything. So for them, the proceeding albums were an evolution of the band. From my perspective, Ten was just the starting point for who they became.


But in early 2013, I was at a concert talking it up with my seat neighbor, a complete stranger. We were talking about who we hadn’t seen. When I mentioned Pearl Jam, he essentially shamed and one-upped me pretty hard. It was all in a joking manner, but the competitive side in me took it to heart. That really was the effort to push me over the edge to finally see them. Luckily for me, they were coming to town on their next tour.


Seeing them for the first time in Memphis in 2014 was an odd experience. I’ve seen plenty of legacy acts, and there’s a certain level of expectation heading in. For larger bands, you know they’re going to play the hits, but Pearl Jam are masters of creating balanced setlists (fan favorites, radio hits, deep-cuts, new songs, etc.). Plus, I had almost a decade of pouring over their bootlegs, so I had my own expectations; I knew what the band was capable of. In the moment, I was bummed when they played songs like “Sirens,” and opened with “Pendulum” but there were so many classics and personal favorites that it all balanced out in the wash (and yes, they played “Wash,” so pun intended).


But even for the music fanatic in me that got to cross something off my bucket list, like much of my show talks about, the concert was only part of the evening. Driving home from the concert is when I decided I was going to propose to my girlfriend, now my wife. It was the space I needed to think through the decision. I can’t help but think if I had given up on listening to Pearl Jam because of Ten, I have to wonder if my wife would’ve left me because I kept dragging my feet. So when I talk about concerts being mile markers for music fanatics, that’s what I mean.


"NOTE: I’d also like to clarify that I’ve since come around on Ten. It’s still not my favorite Pearl Jam album (that rotates between Vs. and Vitalogy), but I have a new appreciation for it after exploring the rest of their discography. I’ve also done more research to better understand the cultural moment that it represents and that adds a significant understanding."


Generation Riff is a site mainly focused on the music of the 90s, particularly the early 90s and the bands that inspired them but I love so many different types and genres of music. So I had to ask Lance if he has a favorite show or perhaps a Top 5 he could talk about.


"That’s an interesting question and it can be difficult to answer. In a lot of ways comparing shows is a lot like the popular cliche, comparing apples and oranges. How do you compare a stadium show to a club show? Or how do you compare an artist fresh on the scene to a legacy artist who carved out a cultural moment in history?


With that said, I try to take in every show with a certain composure. Because, like the premise of my show, the concert is about more than just the songs performed. It’s about your experiences with the band. It’s about your history with the songs. For a couple of bands that I’ve seen multiple times I’ve walked away thinking it was a poor performance, but for someone who was there for the first time they had a blast. So it’s all relative to your experiences and surroundings (physically and emotionally).


All that said, yes, I do have my favorites.


Hands down, my favorite show was Paul McCartney (it’s why it was the first episode of my show). There’s something about the Beatles that transcends everything. I’m close to dancing with a lot of cliches, but those songs are not that of a typical band. And with me growing up such a classic rock nut, it was truly a surreal moment to see not just any Beatle in concert (sorry, Ringo), but THE Paul McCartney. He’s half of the songwriting duo that’s responsible for the majority of the Beatles’ success.


But there have been other greats too. The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Neil Young. All of them filled out those top-tier brackets of superstar, larger-than-life-type performances. My Morning Jacket is another one that really blew me away.


On the opposite end, I’ve seen a lot of really great club shows like Margo Price, Reignwolf, Maggie Rogers, the Dip, the Whigs, and Devon Gilfillian. Those aren’t exactly household names, but without all the fancy production and bloated bands, it’s really a renewed focus on the music. There are no gimmicks for them to lean on other than putting on the best possible show as musicians. It really separates the artists and the performers."



Photo courtesy of Lance Ingram


I had a great time speaking with and getting to know Lance Ingram. Yesterday's Concert is a fresh and unique spin on concert reviews. The episodes are crisp, clear, fun, and engaging. The writing and production are excellent and Lance has a great voice. Before we wrapped up I had to ask about his background because it sounds like he's been doing this for many years.


"Sometime during high school, I watched Almost Famous and was infatuated with the William Miller character. I loved the idea of hanging with musicians and writing about what I love most. This semi-autobiographical story of director Cameron Crowe's teenage years as a writer for Rolling Stone greatly influenced me. So much so, that upon high school graduation I enrolled at the University of Mississippi for their journalism program with dreams of being a music writer.


During my time there I worked for the school’s newspaper starting as a basic reporter and working my way up to an editor. The paper was pretty impressive for a bunch of delinquent college students. We had a new issue every Monday through Friday with something like 20,000 copies per day (so roughly 100,000 per week).


At that paper, I had some decent success (at least for scale) in music journalism. Whenever bands would come to town I was the first person they called to do the promo piece. So that opened the door for lots of interviews and practice analyzing music in a new manner. I also worked my way up to having a weekly music column that was fairly well received. It was always fun to be stopped by professors after class to talk about the Stooges album I covered in that week’s column.


But fate didn’t turn out so well. In 2011, I graduated with a degree in journalism, and the only reason I completed the degree is because I was too close to finishing to quit. When I took over as news editor for the paper I fell out of love with the art. After two years, and a decent taste of the life of a journalist, the reality of the profession set in. Even if I did get a dream gig writing for Rolling Stone or something, it wasn’t going to be Almost Famous.


But I guess writing must be some kind of true calling in my life because I found my way back when I started this project. It’s been a bit of a rekindled romance since then. I guess that’s a bit of inspiration for the hopeless romantics to never give up."


I hope you all check out Lance's site and listen to some of his episodes. I guarantee he's reviewed some of your favorite artists. A quick look at the episodes and you can hear about Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Slayer, Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and more.


I wanted to know what was coming up next for Yesterday's Concert so that's where Lance and I ended our conversation.


"The core show will always be the episodic “jam journals” that feature heavy production values and personal storytelling. Even if it runs the gambit of being profitable, I hope to continue making them because they bring me a lot of pride. Those episodes provide me a very satisfying creative outlet that I couldn’t get from just doing a good interview. Plus, there’s already so many good music commentary and interview podcasts out there, I don’t want to add more noise to the space.


That said, between seasons I do what I call “Encore Episodes.” These are bonus episodes significantly less involved and are unscripted with minimal production (at least compared to the meat and potatoes episodes). So far they’ve just been me and a microphone, but in the future I hope to start bringing in some guests. I’ve got some people in mind that I’d love to give a microphone to share their story. Maybe do some musician interviews if for no other reason than to pursue my Almost Famous fantasy one more time."


 

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