“The Best Gig I Ever Saw” is a weekly column that will see us ask a musician to chat about their favorite concert thus far. This week it’s Martha Davis of new wavers The Motels…
L.A. Weekly, you have a very good sense of humor, to ask a musician “what is the best gig you ever saw?”  Well that takes you on a trip down memory lane… through the looking glass of nostalgia and into the rabbit hole of comparative analysis. Not an easy task. So where do we start?
There was Jimi Hendrix at the Berkeley Community Theater, which are really the only words I have to say to imply one of the most awesome and transcendent evenings ever spent, beyond anything I’d seen before, almost supernatural…but not my favorite gig…
Then there was ParliamentFunkadelic… I forget which giant arena it was, but George Clinton showed up in a space ship — “the mother ship.” It was an incredibly insane and fantastic show, one of the best funking shows ever…but not my favorite gig…
There was Bob Marley, I believe it was at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Mesmerizing, hypnotic, he was so beautiful and i was spellbound by the way he never opened his eyes and yet led the band with such command… nope, not my favorite gig…
Then there was the year I saw, in the same venue, (the Universal Amphitheater) three of my favorites, Peter Gabriel, Prince and Randy Newman… now this was a controlled experiment… all the same year all the same venue… all great. Out of those three you know who won? Randy Newman. He came out in a Pendleton shirt, some converse high tops and jeans, none of the stage production of Prince or Peter, but man he made me laugh, he made me cry, the songs! And still…not my favorite gig…
Now we’re getting serious because at this point I have to talk about every David Bowie show I’ve ever seen. He, beyond a doubt, has had more of an influence on me than any other artist, and I truly blame him for ending up in this business! He was and continues to be inspirational. Every show of his that I saw launched visions of possibilities that once seemed impossible, dreams come true. The effect he had on me was to ignite my imagination. Diamond Dogs, Thin White Duke, Glass Spider etc. and there were more. It didn’t manifest in crazy personas or alter egos for me but it made all become possible. His sense of theater, sci-fi and art combined with music that pulled from soul to show tunes, jazz to cabaret. The fearlessness to experiment and embrace the new, while always creating songs that remained just good old fashioned great songs! So many of my favorite shows…but…
I think if I had to pick one show, I think it would be Roy Orbison — i believe it was at The Roxy, in Hollywood. I had loved Roy Orbison since I was young in fact had never stopped, but for a while it seemed Roy had disappeared. Thanks to a bunch of scruffy dudes called the Traveling Wilbury’s, once again Roy Orbison was making music. When I saw him that night he wore his usual all black clothing and very dark sunglasses, he did not move, there were no stage antics of any kind, but then he sang… tears started falling from my eyes. The beauty and purity of the notes was otherworldly, it was as if you felt his joy and sorrow and he understood yours. His voice and melodies could explain the emotions that i felt, that some how he knew.
Shows have effects for different reasons, where you are in your life when you see the show, who your with and why you’re there, what kind of day you had, a million things can take place that can alter how you perceive a show… it’s subjective. But that night, when Roy sang, I know that each of us there in that theater experienced something rare and beautiful. It will stay with me always.
The Motels play with Diane & the Deductibles and Sam Lapides & the Rotten Liars at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 18 at the Canyon, Agoura Hills.

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