Art vs. History

It happened once before, long ago: July 20, 1969, to be exact. I'd bought tickets to see Blind Faith and I was psyched, until I realized that it was the night of the very first manned moon landing — and the very first walk on the moon.

I was so torn: The moon landing was such an incredibly exciting and uncertain event, but I was also a music fanatic (surprise), and the idea of seeing Eric Clapton (he was so good back then), Stevie Winwood (he was so good back then) and Ginger Baker (he is still pretty good) was a one-shot chance. I was still kicking myself for missing the Goodbye Cream Tour the year before.

The moon landing was scheduled around late afternoon or early evening — I can't recall — but the astronauts were scheduled to take a rest before they did their walk. So I figured I could go to the concert and drive back from Baltimore in time to see the walk.It didn't happen that way. The moon walk happened earlier than planned, or at least earlier than the television news had led me to believe. In fact, Ginger Baker wouldn't come out (or so we were told) until the moon walk happened.

There were no big screens at the Baltimore Civic Center, and no simulcasts. In fact, when my friend Pete and I got home, it was just a few steps away from their re-entry into the lunar lander. There were no instant replays, either.

I have a chance to see Radiohead in Santa Barbara on the last day of the band's U.S. tour. It is also the same night that Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination to be president.

I bought my plane ticket.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

That's a fantastic question. Everything's immediately available on Youtube nowadays, but it feels like that only increases the value of Being There. It's the one valuable currency still left among enthusiasts in any field. You'll see Obama's acceptance speech, but the chills will always be second-hand.

Sent by Tom | 6:34 PM | 8-22-2008

Not even a contest -- Radiohead wins. Maybe if it were Barack Obama taking the oath of office, but even that's a stretch. It's not about the pomp and circumstance, it's about the actual governing he will do.

Sent by Ross | 6:40 PM | 8-22-2008

If I hadn't seen the band live before, I'd see the band. I worked for Amnesty International in Chicago in 1994 and was responsible for organizing tablers for bands that supported the organization. We'd get into the show free to get signatures on petitions before and after the show and then stand in the back of venues during the show. I saw a lot of good shows (and a number of tedious ones) that way which was a blessing for a poor, music-loving, recent college grad. I'll never forget deciding at the last minute that I was tired and didn't feel like going to see. . .wait for it. . .Nirvana. And then Kurt Cobain died that spring. I've often cursed the person that went in my place that night -- and she often brings it up to "thank" me. Or dig the knife in a little deeper.

Sent by Jen Orr | 6:42 PM | 8-22-2008

why don't you just bring your iPhone?


Sent by mike | 7:21 PM | 8-22-2008

Didn't you see them in Bristow too? I guess that show was rained out though... Do it, do what feels right. I'm sure they'll replay Obama accepting the nomination over and over again.

Sent by Lauren | 7:51 PM | 8-22-2008

good on you

Sent by walker | 7:53 PM | 8-22-2008

I would say especially today, it doesn't matter if you see a historical event happen live or not. Obama's acceptance speech will be all over, available throughout TV and the Internet. You wouldn't miss a thing. With Radiohead though, you stand to miss a lot. Good move.

Sent by Stacia | 8:14 PM | 8-22-2008

Radiohead hands down. Watch the acceptance speech online after the concert.

Sent by damian | 8:24 PM | 8-22-2008

Radiohead, definitely. And that's coming from somebody who's seen them four times and is a huge Obama supporter.

I too, passed up a chance to see Nirvana in 1993, which would've been my first concert. Still kicking myself.

Sent by Sam | 10:21 PM | 8-22-2008

go see Radiohead and record Obama's speech. seems like an easy choice to me.

Sent by gtdmouse | 10:55 PM | 8-22-2008

i'd choose the concert hands down unless you were going to be actually witnessing history first hand, not watching live tv. what difference does it make if you read it in the paper the next day? i would rather see my favorite band, witnessing history of sorts (that could go down in history unexpectedly depending on the band, time, place, antics...) and then catching up on the news later.

you made the right choice. no regrets!

Sent by laura R. | 11:12 PM | 8-22-2008

do it! radiohead was most wonderful in philly!

Sent by jack | 12:08 AM | 8-23-2008

That's a great question, but others are right that it's a bit different nowadays with YouTube, iPhones, etc., where you could actually share two incredible experiences nearly simultaneously. Still, when I think if I had the chance of seeing the Beatles perform, itself a historic moment, I can't think of any other news event that would keep me from the show. Only they have that power for me, though.

I like the Ginger Baker story -- thanks for the great posts.

Sent by Nikki | 12:13 AM | 8-23-2008

I don't know, but when I heard the words "see a band live or..." I knew immediately what I would choose.

Not only am I an Obama supporter, but my whole office is in Denver right now organizing about a million events to correspond to Obama taking his acceptance speech. We're a Democratic political consulting firm, and this is all of our desires. But, when given the choice to watch Obama take his already-taken seat of official Democratic nominee, all I could think about was that Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla were going to be performing that night, and that my company was putting it together.

That's all pretty irrelevant; the fact of the matter is that Obama IS the nominee, thus he is already the Democratic candidate. And how many times can we all watch him take an already-expected victory? You will literally kick yourself in the anus if you don't go see the most elusive rock band on the planet as opposed to going to see an already-scripted speech by a too-big-for-his-britches celebrity. Believe me!

Rock concert it is!

Sent by Ashley Parks | 4:08 AM | 8-23-2008

See the live show. In my mind, you can always see the speech after the fact. Seeing Radio head is art, and bing in that mmoment will never compete.

Sent by Lucky | 6:02 AM | 8-23-2008

Obama simulcasts every event on his webpage. If you have an iPhone or any portable internet device you can watch it that way.

Radiohead story - I was at the REM/Radiohead tour date in Hershey PA. They pretty much blew us away. Later Michael Stipe said, "These guys are onto something special. Their next album will blow your minds. You have no idea." Then again later, "I'm serious about those guys. I've seen it. It's amazing."

Side note - REM was about as loose as I've ever seen them. Considering that by that point they must have known Berry was leaving AND they were performing in a stadium owned by a company they were suing for copyright infringement it as amazing how much FUN all three were having up there. Pound for Pound one of the best concerts I've been at.

Sent by Eric L | 11:12 PM | 8-23-2008

Radiohead = Pearl Jam II - Electric Boogaloo

If Pearl Jam means that much to ya.. go for it.

I hate stretched vowels.

Sent by daniel | 2:11 PM | 8-25-2008

Definitely the right choice.

Sent by Tamara Vallejos | 3:34 PM | 8-25-2008

Bob, posting this question on a music blog is not going to get you much debate.

That said, no matter how amazing Obama's campaign has been, I'm just way too cynical about politics to really give a crap. Gimme Radiohead - and in Santa Barb no less!

Sent by Ed | 3:45 PM | 8-25-2008

Politician or Radiohead?
Are you kidding?
even if it was Politician vs. the Spice girls i would choose the spice girls. Obama is just like every other 2 faced politician there is, and his nomination is something i'm not looking forward too. Lets see if anything REALLY changes, or it's just pepsi vs. coke.

Sent by Josh | 4:17 PM | 8-25-2008

Both are historic aren't they? A "rare performance" would be historical on a personal basis as opposed to the mass of humanity "historical."

Sent by Mitch | 9:22 AM | 8-26-2008

I agree w/ Mitch...oddly we have the same name as well. The lunar landing has plenty of video footage...sure you missed it live, but for those of us that are music nuts, the memory of that killer show will always bring a bigger smile to your face. I wouldn't think twice about missing the Obama nomination in this day and age. That's what DVRs and the internet are for.

Sent by Mitch | 1:38 PM | 8-27-2008

Never miss the chance to experience a great concert. A last-minute hangout call from a friend ended with us stumbling into a Meshell NdegeOcello concert in a small bar in NYC. The experience reminded me that good live music still exists.

Sent by | 2:23 PM | 8-27-2008

No, no , no. As I'm watching this historic speech, I reinstate my opinion. You should've been at the Obama acceptance speech!

Sent by Ashley Parks | 10:20 PM | 8-28-2008