LOWELL — Armed with enough drinks and food to feed an army, eight guys piled into a van.
The weather was lousy. Despite being a mid-summer day, the temperature was cool and heavy rain fell. But Mother Nature couldn’t dampen the excitement.
This was a road trip, the kind that kept the conversation in the van flowing for three and a half hours and 210 miles.
And, though I didn’t know it, my life was about to change.
It was July 27, 1984, our destination was Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and we had $11 tickets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
I had become a huge Springsteen fan in high school. His lyrics spoke to me. The intensity of his voice intrigued me.
But this was my first Springsteen show. My 19-year-old body surged with adrenaline. Was he the great live performer he was proclaimed to be? As it turned out, he more than lived up to the considerable hype.
In the 37 years that have passed since that special night, I have seen Springsteen perform 69 more times, most often with the E Street Band.
He has raised my spirits and brought me to my feet in three countries, eight states and 20 venues.
And it all started on that rain-swept Friday.
At the time I was a Northeastern University student interning at The Sun. Crammed into the van with me were my friends Pat Cook, Mike Cassidy, John Piekos and Joey McHugh, Pat’s brother Jimmy Cook, as well as Sun reporters Ken Chutchian and Rick Spencer.
Jimmy, the resident Springsteen expert who had been watching Bruce perform since the early 1970s, had brought along a handful of cassette tapes (remember those?) of live shows for the long ride. But the van didn’t have a cassette player. Bummer.
Our plan was to tailgate before the show. But the rain made that nearly impossible. We had general admission tickets. This was important because about 5,000 fans had assigned seating inside the amphitheater, meaning they had a roof over their head and shelter from the rain.
Finally, the gates opened. My memory is thousands of us running about a half mile to our “seats.” At one point a guy in front of me fell. Without breaking stride I jumped over him. It was insane. When the chaos ended, we stood about three rows back from the second tier of seating. Not bad, but still outside in the rain.
Then something unexpected happened. Bruce and the band took the stage for a soundcheck. Through the years I’ve heard plenty of soundchecks, but always from outside a venue. This was in front of about 25,000 fans.
The band played Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” a perfect choice given the weather. At one point during the song Joey yelled, “You will, Bruce,” drawing some laughs.
Minutes later, the rain stopped. Really.
During most of the “Born in the U.S.A.” tour, a tour that would catapult Springsteen into superstardom when the album produced seven top-10 hits and would go on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide, he opened shows with the album’s title track. Not on this night. He opened with a blistering “Badlands,” setting the tone for an unforgettable night.
It was the 17th show of the tour and the band was in fine form. Bruce and the band played 29 songs, including my favorite song of all-time, “Backstreets.”
Emptying his bucket like he always does, Springsteen seemed to be near exhaustion as the concert soared into a third hour. But he had the crowd dancing in the aisles as he ended the show with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” and a thousand miles-per-hour version of “Detroit Medley.”
Awestruck, I walked back through the rain and mud to our van for the long journey home.
I was dropped off at my house in Lowell about 3:30 a.m. the next day. What a whirlwind trip. What a show.
I found my ticket stub from that show in a drawer in my office after I spotted a Twitter post from a woman mentioning she had been at the Saratoga show and that 37 years had passed. Ten dollars for the ticket, one for tax. Incredible. What can you buy with $11 these days?
A huge fan of music from an early age, my introduction to live music was seeing Hall & Oates open for the Beach Boys at the Boston Garden when I was 14 or so. Both acts were later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Not a bad way to start my concert experience, but what I witnessed in that small New York town was on a different level.
The interaction with the audience. The intensity of the performance. It opened my eyes to what live music could be.
I was hooked. I have since seen Springsteen perform to more than 100,000 fans in Philadelphia and more than 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in London. I have seen him perform solo for less than 3,000 people at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and for less than 900 when I took in his Broadway show two years ago.
From our seats behind the stage in Orlando, Fla., I have witnessed him barely able to walk following a marathon concert. I saw him play for more than four hours at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Since that night in Saratoga Springs, some of the best nights of my life have been spent at Bruce shows with Pat, Jimmy, John and Mike, Springsteen fans who have continued to follow him through the decades.
Memories of other road trips are tinged with sadness: My traveling pal, Martin Brewer — a 6-foot-4 tower of personality and music encyclopedia from England — died in 2015. The shows aren’t quite the same without my British buddy. Martin was with me when we met Springsteen outside the arena after an epic 34-song, tour-closing show in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009.
But Springsteen remains a faithful companion, 37 years after I first witnessed him walk on stage with a guitar.
He still makes me feel like that excited 19-year-old kid when the lights go down and he approaches the microphone to open his show.
Concert No. 71 awaits, hopefully next year.
Until then, memories of my first Bruce show will have to do.
Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream
At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”
On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.
Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.
Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.
The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.
Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.
The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.
The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.
Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.
In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.
Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.
Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.
But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.
“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Twitter Bans Sharing Personal Photos, Videos of Other People Without Consent
Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent, in a tightening of the network’s policy just a day after it changed CEOs.
Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021
Twitter said this policy does not apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”
“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” the company added.
The right of Internet users to appeal to platforms when images or data about them are posted by third parties, especially for malicious purposes, has been debated for years.
Twitter already prohibited the publication of private information such as a person’s phone number or address, but there are “growing concerns” about the use of content to “harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals,” Twitter said.
The company noted a “disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”
High-profile examples of online harassment include the barrages of racist, sexist,and homophobic abuse on Twitch, the world’s biggest video game streaming site.
But instances of harassment abound, and victims must often wage lengthy fights to see hurtful, insulting or illegally produced images of themselves removed from the online platforms.
Some Twitter users pushed the company to clarify exactly how the tightened policy would work.
“Does this mean that if I take a picture of, say, a concert in Central Park, I need the permission of everyone in it? We diminish the sense of the public to the detriment of the public,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.
The change came the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company, and handed CEO duties to company executive Parag Agrawal.
The platform, like other social media networks, has struggled against bullying, misinformation, and hate-fuelled content.
Twitter likely to roll out ‘Reactions’ feature soon
After unveiling several features this year, micro-blogging site Twitter is reportedly readying new features, including Reactions, Downvotes and Sorted Replies for iOS users.
According to reverse engineer Nima Owji, the Reactions feature, which started being tested a couple of months ago, is set to launch soon, reports 9To5Mac.
With four new reactions, “tears of joy,” “thinking face,” “clapping hands” and “crying face,” this feature is designed to give users the ability to better show how conversations make them feel and to give users “a better understanding of how their Tweets are received”.
Citing the reverse engineer, the report also mentioned that the micro-blogging site is now able to store data about the downvotes feature, which is another indicator that this function will be released sooner rather than later.
The report also notes that the company changed the downvote position as well. It has even added a new tab explaining how downvotes work.
This month, the company has rolled out its in-app tipping feature to all Android users above the age of 18, following the iOS launch in September.
Twitter said the “Tips” feature is geared toward users looking to get a little financial support from their followers through Cash App, PayPal, Venmo and Patreon directly through the app.
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