I first saw Howie Day at a frat party in Ann Arbor, MI. I was at Western Michigan University my sophomore year, and had persuaded my roommate to go see this amazing talent out of Bangor, Maine. His use of pedals, gave his already beautifully eclectic lyrics even more layers. His seemingly innate ability to scream in the same realm as Dave Matthews, and lose himself in his performances made the $12 I spent on a ticket the steal of the century.
The price of admission included unlimited natural light, and I was enjoying the pre-concert festivities, when a red beat up Ford Explorer packed to the brim rolled up and out jumped Howie Day. I immediately ran over like a star-struck schoolgirl would to a boy-band. Howie was cool, more than nice, signed an “Australia” EP, and talked about his new Xbox. Amazingly normal guy.
In my mind I saw some dark, complex genius. That was the only place lyrics from “Morning After” came from. Howie and I are the same age, and he struck me as decades older in how he presented himself. The show was incredible. The performance on par with Radio-City or Carnegie, not some tent on a lawn that smelled vaguely like beer & vomit.
A year later at “The Ballroom” on Michigan States campus, we met again. Sort of. After an incredible set, with a loud committed crowd clamoring for the encore, the girl I was dating whispered to me “he didn’t play Kristina Said”, her favorite. I was at that nice 3 beer-confident-but-not-sloppy level, as Howie walked within a foot of me, back towards the stage. Without hesitation or thinking, just as the crowd hit a quiet lull, I turned and absolutely bellowed with the strength of Thor “PLAY KRISTINA SAID!!!”.
The look of surprise, and smile that followed from Howie still makes me grin. Upon arriving at the microphone he immediately announced “I’ve got to play ‘Kristina Said’ for this dude over here”. Yeah, I’m that dude. Years later I’ve run into people who were there, and they all remember that moment. The girl who I was with, and honestly deserves all the credit for this anecdote, broke up with me. A few months later a package was waiting for me at home. Inside were two CD’s labeled MSU #1 & #2, and a note that said “Disc 2, Track 7, 1:07”. She had immortalized that moment I had with Howie, and I’ll always love her for that.
Everyone has that artist they relate their 20’s too, and identify with more than any other. Mine was Howie Day from age 19-24. His disappearance from music after releasing records with EPIC Records, was not coincidental. The rumors of why he had vanished, were equal to the number of songs he wrote. The studio tracks are watered down, elevator-music versions that stopped everything special about them. “She Says” is probably the closest to what he really sounds like off Australia.
Howie toured so voraciously for a couple years, that his fan following was literally propelling him to commercial fame through word of mouth. This was pre-social media, making it infinitely more impressive. I’m forever grateful for the half dozen live shows I experienced, and even more so that they are still a click away on YouTube.
So here are the best live versions, the way they should have been recorded and released.
Inspired by Howie Day – Morning After Lobster Bisque, Disco Afternoon Provolone Garlic Bread.
Setlist in no particular order:
- Sorry so Sorry
- Everything Else
- She Says
- After You
- Disco Afternoon
- More you Understand
- Kristina Said
- Morning After
- Slow Down
- Perfect Time of Day
- Brace Yourself
- Help ( Beatles cover)
- Africa (Toto cover)
- Babylon (David Gray cover)
- Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead cover)
- One (U2 cover)
- Minarets (Dave Matthews cover)
- Wonderwall (Oasis cover)
- Karma Police (Radiohead cover)