Concert Reviews

My First Show: Don Cento Saw Van Halen, Metallica and a Trash Tsunami at His First Show

Welcome to My First Show, where we give bands a chance to talk about the first shows they ever attended -- no matter how uncool and embarrassing those tales may be.

Don Cento is a familiar face around town, given his time as a keyboardist with Chomsky and as a guitarist in Shibboleth.

But this skilled player has plenty more up his sleeve.

His latest project, El Cento, is less than a year old and it also features Earl Darling and Dave Prez. Their sound, self-dubbed as "massively Spartan rock 'n' roll," will be all over their forthcoming debut album.

With recording complete, Cento recently took some time out from release prep to tell us his about first show experience -- one that more than a few people might envy. Not too many people can boast about seeing Metallica and Van Halen on the same bill as their first show experience. Then again, seeing Kingdom Come on that same bill?

Maybe not something to boast about.

What was the first show you ever saw? Were you with your parents?
Van Halen's Monsters of Rock at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, in July of 1988. Since it was a package tour, I guess, technically, my first show was (shudder) Kingdom Come followed by Metallica, Dokken, Scorpions and Van Halen. I went with two buddies, Mike Chitwood and Matt Garner, and we were driven the three hours from our hometown by my mom and Mike's mom. Fortunately, the moms went shopping and left us to our scrawny, wide-eyed, 15-year-old devices.

There was nothing really notable about the music that day (other than that Scorpions ruled). The real drama was being in that crowd. We had seats way up in the nosebleeds, right behind some guy who looked the Evil Jay Leno. When he wasn't making time with his lady or smoking left-handed cigarettes, he was probably giving the three of us the evil-eye. Without a doubt, the highlight was the stadium-wide trash and food fight. Sometime before Van Halen took the stage, the nosebleed-sitters on the opposite side of the stadium started throwing wadded up paper cups and other stuff in the air. We watched in giddy anticipation as the wave of airborne trash made its way down and around the bowl, like some weird heavy-metal trash tsunami until we were in the thick of it. Pretty sure I threw my socks.

What was the first show you saw with your own money?
I think I probably bought the tickets for Monsters of Rock (or at least paid my mom back). I distinctly remember commandeering the phone the morning they went on sale and dialing Ticketmaster over and over. If it wasn't that show, it was probably the Beale Street Music Festival (my folks let me skip school for two days for this, which was amazing). Or Soundgarden on the Louder Than Love tour (with Danzig -- yikes). Or Joe Satriani (not every decision is a good decision).

What was the first El Cento show like? What do you remember about it?
We played John Rody's webcast in Fort Worth last year. Rody is amazing. It's like being on Wayne's World if David Letterman hosted it during his early NBC years. The show was a fine debut. We played four songs and didn't embarrass ourselves. Dave and Earl played great as always, and I managed to yelp and wheeze out all the correct lyrics. So that's a plus.

I remember the Evil Jay Leno was not there and there was no trash fight, which is unfortunate.