Mark Pirro on Finding a Place to Plug In, Other First Show Experiences
Mark Pirro has been around the Dallas music scene for more than two decades as a member of Tripping Daisy, The Polyphonic Spree and currently Menkena. As a preview of The Spree's New Year's Eve show this Saturday at the House of Blues, we wanted to ask him about his first times at shows, including the first time Tripping Daisy played.
What was the first show you remember seeing? Were you with your parents?
My first show was Fastway in 1983 just outside of Detroit at a community college. They were an obscure British metal supergroup featuring former members of Motörhead and UFO. It was a free outdoor concert sponsored by the local rock station. I was only 13 at the time and had been discovering rock music on my own accord. Can't say I was a big fan of Fastway, but it was my first opportunity to experience a bit of the rock radio music culture. There were a lot guys wearing muscle shirts and painter's caps. And of course there were plenty of girls wearing jean shorts and bikini tops. I also discovered what pot smelled like for the first time. Anyway, I went with a good friend of mine and his parents had dropped us off. We thought we were so cool being unsupervised at a real rock concert. In retrospect, it was a total Beavis and Butt-Head experience.
What was the first show you paid money to see?
If my memory serves me correctly, it was The Daylights and The Flaming Lips at the Theater Gallery, circa 1987. My family had just moved from Detroit to Dallas and I had made a few friends that had a pulse on the emerging music scene in Deep Ellum. According to them, this was a show to certainly be at. However, I remember it struck me as unusual to be going "downtown." In Detroit, kids didn't go "downtown" - it was just too dangerous. Nonetheless, my friends assured me downtown Dallas was a cool place to be hanging out. Of course the show was great and certainly worth the six bucks I paid for it. But the most vivid memory was when a couple of skinheads knocked some poor guy out right in the doorway of the club. I guess downtown Dallas at that time wasn't any less dangerous than downtown Detroit!
So far, what's been the worst show you've seen?
I'm going to deflect this question and not cite any particular band or show. Being in a band myself, I have empathy, as having an off night every once in a while is just part of it. Sometimes bands have technical difficulties beyond their control or maybe a band has been on the road too long and fatigue is affecting their enthusiasm, energy and overall performance. Think about that next time you see a show you that is not meeting your expectations.
With your current band, Menkena, what do you remember about your first show with them?
I remember my goal was to just get through the set and have some fun along the way. Being new to the band I only had a handful of rehearsals with them and it being a first show, I felt a bit under-prepared. However, once we hit the first note I just put my focus on being in the moment. Things just fell into place after that. Had an amazing time and I certainly looked forward to the next show.
What do you remember about the first show you played with Tripping Daisy?
Club Dada, open mic night, circa 1991. We had a great turn out, as most of our friends and family came to support us.The crowd sat for most of the show, but for our last song, Tim [DeLaughter] asked everyone to stand up and they did. It was a special moment as it was confirmation that not only were our friends and family supporting us, they actually liked us. In fact, when we concluded our set we got shouts from the crowd to do an encore. We only knew six songs at the time and didn't have any material left, so we just played the last song again!
What do you remember about the first time you played with The Polyphonic Spree?
Gypsy Tea Room, opening for Grandaddy and Bright Eyes, circa 2000. I remember thinking to myself, "Damn, where am I going to find a place to stand and set up my amp?" Actually, I think we only had 13 members at that time, but that was certainly more than any amount of people I had ever shared a stage with in the past. It was a memorable night as it was my first time performing again since Tripping Daisy had broken up about two years prior.
On a related note, what do you remember about the first Christmas show with the Spree?
"Damn, where am I going to find a place to stand and set up my amp?"