Counting Crows 1993: “This is the beginning of our first tour, ever, so we’re kinda kicked about that”
In those late days of junior high and early into high school, I used to babysit for a cool lady neighbor that worked at one of San Francisco’s fine music venues and always seemed to have an inside line on great music that was unknown to me. I remember she had an impressive stash of concert recordings and mix tapes — and in retrospect probably made a big influence on my early music-hoarding and seeking behaviors. I would come to her house armed with a stash of blank cassette tapes and I would dub all her good music onto them after her daughter was safely tucked into bed. It was musical Christmas every other Friday night.
I got so many wonderful sounds from her, one of my favorites being a soundboard recording of a very early Counting Crows show at the historic Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, from 8/27/93. [update: In a twist of fate, years later living in Colorado, I've now randomly met the soundboard guy who recorded this show and the DJ who announced the intro. I love how funny life can be, and how good music can knit us in surprising ways over the years].
I absolutely wore out the tape, listening to it so many times that I know the entire set and all the dialogue by heart. Then cassette tapes went by the wayside in my life and now I think I’ve lost the original retro dub. I’ve spent many hours trolling the web looking for these songs. Then reader Jeff turns out to have this very show on mp3 and just sent it to me and made my month. In listening to it again for the first time in years, my ears are so extremely happy.
This show is vivid, energetic snapshot of the nascent Crows standing on the edge of a stardom that they maybe didn’t fully grasp was on its way. As the announcer says, “This band is so new, even I haven’t heard of them yet…” and calls them an “up and coming new hot band” in the Bay Area. It is about three weeks before August & Everything After was released. As Adam Duritz charmingly says, “Uh, we’re Counting Crows and this is the beginning of our first tour, EVER . . . so we’re kinda kicked about that.” The whole thing feels so fresh and real.
The set is full of enthusiasm, affability, and some excellent-quality renditions of rare songs that I love wholeheartedly but that Counting Crows have never recorded or released anywhere that I know of. Both of these unreleased songs “Open All Night” and “Margery Dreams Of Horses” have those wending storylines and thoughtful lyrics that I love Counting Crows for.
Take the first – “Open All Night.” It is a simple story of a liminal evening spent in the company of a stranger in a far-off town, one of those nights that can feel so big in the moment. “She said ‘I was born the year the rockets landed / circa 1969 and I got stranded” – what a terrific lyric. I, too, would drink all night inside this particular story, swim around in someone else’s story for a while. It’s an explosive song that feels like we’ve always known it.
The second, “Margery Dreams of Horses,” feels like a lost piece of Counting Crows narrative, with characters that will appear and have appeared in other Counting Crows songs written both before and after this point (Anna, Margery). It plunks us down in the middle of a narrative of waking up in Kentucky “where the wedding was about to end.” There’s a closure and a sadness in this song, a bleeding that won’t be stanched even as there is the relief of that one who has hurt you finally pulling the knife out, taking the blade, and walking away. And really — “It’s best to kill the ones who matter / render blind the ones who see.” I shiver a little every time he sings that; this is a great, lost gem of a song that I wish they would revisit on a record.
In between his sweet interjections about how tiring the altitude is, Adam also comments at this show that his favorite song on this first record of theirs is “Perfect Blue Buildings” (an opalescent, unspoiled, perfect jewel in my book also) because, as he says, “It will never be a single.” Plus, the Van Morrison “Caravan” cover is a joyful explosion that seems like they’re having a lot of fun. As Adam says, “This is our favorite song, period, and . . . we didn’t write it. But I wish we did.”
ENJOY, my friends. You are in for a huge treat.
Live at the Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO
August 27, 1993
Open All Night (unreleased)
Time and Time Again
Margery Dreams Of Horses (unreleased)
Perfect Blue Buildings
Caravan (Van Morrison)
Murder of One