I don’t have quite the same history with Mershon Auditorium, where I will see Wilco on my birthday next week, as I do with, say, the late Richfield Coliseum outside Cleveland, where I saw 11 Grateful Dead shows over the years.
But the couple things I have seen there have been remarkable — and I’m hoping for more on Monday.
The auditorium itself, which sits right at 15th and High, in the middle of Ohio State’s campus and just a few minutes away from where I grew up, doesn’t have the same ornate charm of the two downtown theaters, but the function is unbeatable — perfect acoustics, a seating arrangement that gives everyone a great view and a just-right feel in terms of capacity. It opened just about the time my folks were showing up on campus, and has since been incorporated into the stunning Wexner Center for the Arts as its performing arts space and a spot for larger receptions.
I think I’ve seen just two shows there over the years. The first was one of my first concerts ever — George Thorogood and the Destroyers when I was in 10th grade, just weeks after I got my driver’s license. The fact that there couldn’t have been more than 500 or 600 people in the building made the 2,500-seat theater seem cavernous. but if that bothered Thorogood, it didn’t show. That may still be the most energetic show I’ve ever seen, with Thorogood ripping through delta blues standards and a few originals, all the way through what he called National Anthem — a roaring 10-minute version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
Years later — well after I developed my unnatural obsession with percussion, thanks to the Dead — I saw my one and only Stomp show there as well. I know a bunch of my Pittsburgh friends just saw them here a couple weeks ago, and I’m sure a few of them would be willing to debate whether that’s a dance performance or not. For me? Nope. That’s music, thunderous and a transforming. I know I made Mrs. Crappy crazy for at least the next 48 hours, because I was drumming on everything — the car dashboard, the kitchen table, her leg — because I couldn’t get Stomp out of my head.
I have a pretty good idea of what I’m in for on Monday — a healthy dose of songs from Wilco (the album), a few tunes they seem to play a pretty much every show and a nearly endless number of potential wild cards, including my request for my birthday show, “Ashes of American Flags.” But regardless of what they play, I know we’re going to get another good one — and I’ll have another excellent memory from Mershon.