This month we are celebrating 20 years of Amoeba! It's our anniversary! And one of the ways we wanted to celebrate was by highlighting here for you some of our best, most memorable instores of all time! We have been so lucky over the years -- we've hosted shows, signings and events with Paul McCartney, Queens of the Stone Age, The Shins, Flight of the Conchords, John Waters, The Gossip and zillions more. You can find video footage and interviews from many of our instores right here! Read on to find out what three of our most seasoned instore reviewers thought were some of our very greatest.
But first, get further immersed in our 20th Anniversary! To check out our first Anniversary blog post, with testimonials from some of our favorite customers, click here! Our second Anniversary post is an interview with co-owner Marc Weinstein about getting the Berkeley store off the ground all the way back in 1990 and what Amoeba means to him. Read it right here. Our third Anniversary post includes Top 10 lists from some of our old skool employees -- click here to check out their favorites in music and movies from the past 20 years!
To get info about the Anniversary Events scheduled at the Berkeley store on Nov 13 & 14 with DJs, live performances from Foxtails Brigade and Lyrics Born, and prize giveaways, click here! You can also get involved by entering our contest -- share your own Amoeba story for a chance to win a shopping spree and more! Read about it here.
Now on to some of our most fabulous instores!
First up we have Kara's picks. Kara has been our Queen of Promotions since 1998, first working at Amoeba SF! When the LA store opened in 2001, she moved down there and has continued to usher the best and brightest onto our Amoeba stage. She remembers:
Raconteurs - Our first “2-shows, 1-day” set of instores! Being able to host the Hollywood show – then catch a last-minute flight for the SF show was one of the best!
Nancy Sinatra - She generously tipped Daniel $10 when he let them out to the loading dock!! First and only instore related tipping! : )
Yo Gabba Gabba – A sea of little kids on shoulders all joyfully singing and clapping along to former Amoebite Lance Rock. Crazy packed full house and our biggest kid-event ever! Check out a What's in My Bag feature with Lance right here!
And, semi-related to the Lips – Flight of The Conchords! Hearing Brett soundcheck at 9am singing “Yoshimi” to an empty store was amazing. A shut-the-doors crowd of RABID fans singing every word and Beatlemania level screams.
Bonnie Prince Billy – most recent LA show – the hour-long set was a-mazing.
Gossip – The power went out, Beth powered on and told ghost stories through the intercom phone, lit by some emergency flashlights. I got a guy from Ametron to bring over a megaphone and the band sang an acapella version of "What’s Love Got To Do With It?," with crowd singing along in an almost pitch-black store. A bummer the show couldn’t go on as planned, but it was still amazingly cool to see how gracious and flexible and nice the band were with the situation – and with their fans.
Patton Oswalt– did a full-on comedy set in the store. funny, funny man. And a genuinely nice guy.
Kimya Dawson – I had to give her the 10-minute heads-up (as she and I talked about doing before the show started). She then said – “they’re making me stop playing” from the stage and I got to be booed by a store full of her fans. Besides that moment, show was awesome. You can watch an interview with her here!
Band of Horses – One of the best-sounding live shows we’ve had.
Genghis Blues - Kongar-ol Ondar and Paul Pena –Tuvan throat singing and celebrating the documentary they were featured in. The friendship of these two musicians was palpable and the store was filled with their charm and music.
Next, we move on to our own Jimmy's favorite instores of all time. Jimmy has the distinction of having worked at all three Amoebas over his incredible span of employment -- he's been here since 1993! Here's the instores that resonated with him the most:
[No image available!] Sonic Youth (SF; early 1998) - Amoeba's first ever big instore! It was packed and we kinda learned on the job, but it was amazing!
[No image available!] Black Flag (Hollywood; 12/02) - The response was so intense that we packed the house and didn't leave any aisles clear. There were probably close to 1,800 people crammed in, and it was crazy! There was a mosh pit up front, and I sat on the LP bins and pulled crowd surfers out of the pit and dragged them to big Nick (security) to clear them out. Probably the best pure, raw energy I've ever experienced at a concert. Ever.
Paul McCartney (Hollywood; 6/07) - 'nuff said about this one, probably, but really, Paul McCartney!
Elvis Costello (the Hollywood 10/04 show) - Not the day he did both shows, but he did this one just a week before Election Day '04, and, aside from a brilliant show, he spoke poignantly of the need to get Bush out of the White House, the promise of a good man like John Kerry taking the presidency... All this from a Brit that loves what America stands (stood?) for. Anyway, there was an auction for the local Rock the Vote crew that made big money, and then he took requests and ended on an awesome rendition of "...Peace, Love and Understanding." Everyone (at least 1,000 in house) felt like we were a shoe-in to get that fuckin' bastard out of office, but... well, at least we had that night : ) Watch our interview and performance video from Elvis' 2009 double instore appearances here.
Shins (Hollywood; 1/07) - Busted by the fire marshal! About a dozen cops and fire folks came out and stalled the show, assessing the capacity crowd and the masses outside. They threatened (many times) to clear the store... Finally, after they were all very impressed with our internal security measures (clear aisles, emergency exits cleared and manned, all that stuff), they agreed to let the show go on provided I made an announcement to the waiting crowd (already 45 minutes behind schedule) about exits and behavior, and all that. Stressful!
White Stripes (SF; 11/00) - Still in their infancy, really, Jack and Meg drew a huge crowd and rocked it. A little hazy after all these years, but the fact that we got them so early on and that Jack came back (with the Raconteurs) is thrilling. An Amoeba fan for life.
Finally, Sarah ran our instores in San Francisco from 2004-2008. Here's some of what she remembers most fondly:
The Swell Season - We were having monitor trouble from the get-go and Glen and Marketa bravely soldiered through without 'em for their entire amazing set in front of a hugely packed house. Wonderful people, wonderful music. When they won the Oscar months later I was elated for them! You can watch a video of their more recent performance at the Hollywood store here.
Bonnie Prince Billy and Matt Sweeney - One of the highlights of my instore career. Complete and utter brilliance.
John Waters Sweetheart Signing - Valentines Day with John Waters! He was kind to every single person in his signing line, clothed or otherwise. He arrived alone, signed for 5 hours straight and remained sharp and witty, never even getting up to take a break! I was in awe. You can watch an interview with John from his Hollywood store signing here.
Spoon - Silly, hilarious, rollicking dudes.
Boris/Om - Two shows, one blistering, exciting day! My ears have never been the same. One of the huge concrete blocks Om drummer Chris Hakius used to keep the drumkit from moving during their powerful set is still here -- Chris, if you're reading, come pick 'er up!
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - They unquestionably brought the Big Easy to SF. Total Southern gentlemen.
Dinosaur Jr - A thrill to chat with J. Mascis after all these years of being a fan. They blew it up!
Solomon Burke - Totally incredible show, especially when someone requested "A Change Is Gonna Come" and Solomon just broke into it, with his keyboard player scrambling for the chords. After the show, Solomon kissed me on the cheek. Unforgettable. Grown men were crying, no joke.
Wooden Shjips - Best band in SF.