Thanks to everyone who took the time over the past two weeks to enter the Green Tour Challenge and the R.E.M. Concert Memories Challenge at Facebook.com/REMHQ. So many of the stories were really fantastic, and we honestly could have picked any number of them as the winners. But after a selection process that consisted of careful vetting and deliberating at REMHQ, including band members weighing in with their favorites, the winners are Chris Darwin who wrote about a show from the Green World Tour in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin, in 1989, and Ray Blanchard whose story is based on his experience at an R.E.M. concert during the Monster tour in Ames, Iowa, in 1995.
Congratulations to the winners, who will soon receive the great GREEN prize packages, as promised straight from the vaults, pictured here.
Thanks again to everyone who participated and big congratulations to Chris and Ray for taking home the grand prizes!! And today, twenty five years later GREEN is reissued–we are feeling pretty psyched. Thanks everybody.
Chris Darwin 9/30/1989
B-Hippie Freaks out in Alpine Valley, Wis 9/30/1989 Alpine Valley, Wis.
After seeing the March Minneapolis show, I was dying to see the band again. On the fall leg of the tour they would be playing in Wisconsin but not Minnesota. Roadtrip! The day of the show my friend, Greg, the one holding the “S” from the “BOXCARS” sign at the Minneapolis show, and I travel to Alpine Valley without tickets hoping to score some at the venue. We get there early in the afternoon and start wandering the parking lot looking for tickets. This hippie looking dude approaches me and says “you looking for tickets”? Was it that obvious? I ask him what he has and how much? “Face value” and they are 5th row on the left side! SCORE! He then proceeds to tell me he was on the phone trying to get Grateful Dead tickets and wound up with these, and he bought 4! We pay him and tell him we will see him inside. Later on, NRBQ opens the show and no sign of the hippie guy. R.E.M. is then almost halfway through the main set when he shows up with his girlfriend BAKED out of his mind. He stands next to Greg who is writing down the set list as it progresses. Hippie guys leans over and asks him “what song is this?” every song! He obviously doesn’t know any R.E.M. but what do I care we have killer seats! So the main set ends with “End of the World” with the video loop of the Ferris wheel going around and around on the screen behind the band. When the part in the song where it is just Michael singing the chorus and the entire crowd is singing along, hippie guy starts freaking out screaming “oh, sh*t! Oh F**k!” He thought the apocalypse was happening! He didn’t know the song! We had to calm him down after that one. One of my all time favorite concert memories…
Ray Blanchard Tuesday, October 24, 1995.
Ames, Iowa on Monster Tour, 1995:
Tuesday, October 24, 1995. I was sitting at home feeling miserable. I had failed my drivers license test. Had I passed, like I had planned, I was going to drive three hours and pick up my date for the R.E.M. show in Ames. To make matters worse, I had heard nothing from her all day long. Not a peep. What was I really sad about? Failing or not having the attention of a certain young woman? I sat on my bed pondering life as the Braves and Indians battled it out during the World Series in the background. Where had it gone all so wrong, so fast? I had just graduated high school in June. I should be in college, but I am not. I am at home, living with my parents. My brother calls. He interrupts my dark thoughts and asks “Why are you still at home, shouldn’t you be at the R.E.M. concert?” I tell him about the days events. I say screw it. I am just going to cut my losses and stay home. He tells me I am a fool to let the tickets to go to waste. I say, it’s no big deal. I turn my attention to watching the game just to clear my head. My mom gets on the phone and they talk for a bit. Before I know it, I am in the car with my mom headed to Ames to catch my first big time Rock N’ Roll show.
We pull in the parking lot and mom asks the parking lot attendant where to park, he points in the direction. We find a spot. Mom was going to sit in the car and wait for two hours. Wait. I tell her to get out of the cold and go inside. We’ve come this far, we are not letting this ticket go to waste. When we get inside our seats are occupied by someone else. I didn’t care that much. I just wanted to find a place. I notice some empty seats a couple of rows up. We claim them. For the next two hours I was introduced to everything that had been missing in my teenage years. Music. Loud, incredible music. The feeling of belonging and connecting to others; that too may have had a bad day or were stuck in an ever lasting rut just looking for a little escape from trying to figure out the responsibilities of life. When “Tongue” is played I am totally floored by such a bittersweet song. I can still remember how the mirror ball transformed Hilton Coliseum into one giant roller rink. It was pretty. The person in front of me turned around at one point and offered me her binoculars. I took a peek and I could see the band up close. Bill was banging away on his toms. Mike was in a brown cowboy suit. Peter was being cool being Peter. Michael said, “This is our 113th show of the Monster Tour. I have some photographs on my music stand that are personal. I’ve also got the lyrics here; but I don’t need them because I’ve memorized this next song.” He tears the sheet away and it floats to the stage as the band begin my all-time favorite R.E.M. song, “Man on the Moon.” The show wasn’t sold out. At first I was a little shocked and a bit saddened by this. As the show went on though, the realization hit me: it was O.K. Not everyone needed to be there. It was a better show because of this. It was our show. Our time.
My ears are still ringing from the hanging feedback left over from “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) as we leave. I’m handed a small booklet with the band on the cover. Inside it describes some of the charities the band works with and feels that we should be involved with to make the world a better place. I thank my mom for bringing me. A moment I almost skipped has changed my life. My eyes had been opened. I had been enlightened, and yes, I was in a better place.
Imagine my shock when I read the liner notes from Peter in “New Adventures in HI-FI” the following year when he describes the album to the night in Ames, Iowa. I was there. And now, so were you.