Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Days the Music Died

My big problem is this: I enjoy attending concerts. The type of show and style of venue has varied greatly throughout my tenure as a concert-goer, but I always have seemed to find a way to attract agitation at every single one of these events. For example, my first ever concert was a celebration of the music of Busta Rhymes. This is fitting, as Busta’s “The Coming” was also my first CD ever, but I found the real thing to be infinitely more annoying (but I guess with this artist, I should have seen it coming). As an appetizer, we were all given the comedic hip-hop stylings of a really, really, implausibly bad rap group who were called (I think) Seventeenth Story, or something forgetfully similar. There were countless young black males bouncing around on stage like the little rubber balls you get in the quarter machines at the grocery store, only these particular rubber balls were dressed in Fubu and grunting out timeless hip-hop jargon such as “yeah” and “throw them hands up.” This ridiculous opening act, paired with the unpleasant odor of marijuana, unclean people, and Caucasian adolescents singing along with every single “N-word," frustrated me to no end. I was unsure if I ever wanted to attend a concert again. I seriously questioned my love for music after this particular show.

I, however, had no choice but to attend another concert the very next evening, as it was a show for Incubus, my favorite band at the time. I was confident that this event would be much less annoying, as the negative qualities of the previous night’s poor excuse for entertainment were not regularly associated with the rock genre. What I failed to realize was that rock ‘n roll provides a whole new Pandora’s Box just full of exasperations. This time, the problem was the Deftones fans. This concert went down in 2000, which was before Incubus had gone platinum with “Make Yourself,” so they were actually opening up for the Deftones, who were a more popular group at the time. Diehard Deftones fans are invariably frightening. They wear all-black clothing, shave their eyebrows, and smoke cigarettes. Okay, so maybe they wouldn’t be all that scary one at a time, but put yourself in a room full of 2,000 people like this, and you’d fear for your life. I swore that at some point in the evening I was going to see a particularly terrifying goth kid bite the face off one of the people standing near him, then offer the bloodied corpse as a sacrifice to Satan and his fiery kingdom of Gahenna. If Vegas took bets on it, there would be like 10 to 1 odds that at least one person in your immediate vicinity was a practicing sexual dominatrix. Incubus was, of course, amazing, but as soon as the Deftones got on stage and started shrieking out unintelligible yelps of crappy lyrics, my buddy and I got the hell out of there. It was too much like those creepy techno vampire dance parties that happen in "Blade" movies.

The point is that no matter what concert I attend, there always seems to be some way that I may be provoked to annoyance. I’m not here to bash Busta Rhymes, the Deftones, or any of their fans. I’m just trying to make the point that it makes no difference who is performing, the concert experience can prove to be extremely lame under any of a plethora of conditions. I love music, and I love hearing it live, but it had come to a point where I had to decide how I was going to further my career as an attendee of live music. This potential decision luckily coincided with my discovery of John Mayer and Jack Johnson, mostly acoustic artists whose style was so low-key and respectable that a live show would be not only be bearable, but enjoyable. Up until recently, I was right.

Over the last three years, the majority of the concerts that I have attended have been for solo acoustic artists, and this last weekend, I went with Amy and my siblings to see a Dave Barnes/Jon McLaughlin show at Schuba’s in Chicago. Both guys are pretty low-key, mostly crooning love songs over acoustic guitar and piano. It’s really good stuff, and I’ve seen Barnes before, so I expected that this would be a great, low-key show. Schuba’s doesn’t blow you out of the room with their volume like most other venues do. For example, I once attended a Green Day concert and was clinically deaf for most of 2001. Schuba’s isn’t like that, and acoustic artists aren’t exactly rock-you-out, Rolling-Stones-volume types of guys anyway. Needless to say, I was in the mood for a nice, relaxing show, when I heard the excruciating yelps of the mob of adolescent young ladies to my immediate right. It was like those damn yapping seagulls from “Finding Nemo” had dressed themselves in halter tops, bleached their hair blonde, and completely stripped themselves of self-confidence and dignity. They were there to see Jon McLaughlin, the opener, and they all experienced simultaneous orgasms every time McLaughlin scratched his nose. My sister and my girlfriend tried shooting them the Evil Girl Look, which has turned countless men to lumps of inanimate pulp, but their gazes apparently had no effect on those with similar estrogenic levels.

Luckily, when the opener was done, the girls split, probably to give Jon McLaughlin a police lineup-style choice of whom he wished to have sexually please him that particular night. It was a good thing they did, because everybody in the entire ROOM was ready to perform a torturous execution (a la “Braveheart”) if they didn’t shut up and get out of there soon. I guess this isn’t much to complain about because the rest of the show was super, and it was great to have spent an evening with some of my favorite folks. The point here, people, is that you should all try to be considerate when attending any sort of public form of entertainment. People have paid good money to enjoy themselves, and they don’t want silly teenage girls loudly working out their hormonal issues right in front of everybody. Enjoy yourself, but do so respectfully. If you don’t, I know a large number of Deftones fans who know where you live.

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