Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Touch the Sky

I touched the sky.

Sort of.

Kanye West’s latest hit single is titled, “Touch the Sky,” and as a security guard standing watch over Bloomington-Normal’s adolescence like a stone sentinel, I was given the opportunity to enjoy the song right along with the other 3,000 people in attendance. As a result, one could say I figuratively “touched the sky.”

Working security for big shows like that is, for lack of a more stunning adjective, interesting. For example, there was the time I had to withhold the throbbing minions of underage Alien Ant Farm fans (all seven of them) from entering the one-hit tour bus (did you catch the double-entendre there?). More recently, I admitted about ¼ of the 65,000 unreservedly inebriated and unapologetically body-painted Chicago Bears fanatics into the team’s first home playoff game since the Coolidge administration. Both memories I’ll cherish right up there with the wedding day, babies born, blah blah etc…

The Kanye show probably won’t rank quite as high since Kyle and I had virtually no contact with the uber hip-hop producer-slash-artist. Still, as always, there were plenty of fun people to observe, many of which should be made fun of.

Okay, I talked me into it.

Many would assume that a Kanye West concert, being of the “rap” genre, would draw a myriad of large, frightening black men to participate in Mr. West’s poetic angst. Didn’t happen. About 60% of the crowd was white females, many of whom were under the age of 16, and all of whom were dressed as if planning to collectively man-rape the rapper in mid-song in front of a few thousand people.

One girl, who must have been 11 or 12 years old, was sporting a skin-tight tube top, and I felt myself wondering, who dressed this kid? Britney Spears had more class at age 12, for God’s sake, and she wore thong bikinis and belly shirts emblazoned with one-syllable anti-fem zingers like “slut” well into her third trimester of pregnancy.

There were girls in fleece jogging suits. Most of these were pastel pink or blue, and nearly all of them had a Britney Zinger screened across the ass (i.e.—“Booty,” “Baby Doll,” “Burgeoning Whore,” etc.). I have no idea how dressing like the protagonist from “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” is supposed to create sex appeal, but a large number of these ladies exuded celebrities-at-the-Oscars confidence. Remember, joggers: Sporty Spice was the ugly one, and Hillary Swank died in “Million Dollar Baby” before she could ever feel the embrace of a man. The closest she got was a Jurassic Clint Eastwood, who boasts more wrinkles than a bag of Craisins.

And, like all rap concerts, there were the Caucasian gentlemen with the airbrushed 2Pac t-shirts, Lugz boots, and two-sizes-too-big ball caps aslant. One fellow, apparently stuck in the year 1990, wore his LaDanian Tomlinson Chargers jersey backwards. Apparently, Kris Kross will still make ya jump, jump.

Even Kanye had his struggles. For some reason, he asked his barber to emblazon some star-patterned art into the side of his melon. From more than two feet away it looked like a third degree burn on the whole left side his head. That said, the guy did have a pretty reasonable sense of fashion. Once I was able to look past my anger (West could be credited with starting the “popped collar” phenomenon—the coolest thing to hit the scene since prostate cancer), I was able to admit that some of the ensembles he put together were rather svelte.

The man was short—only about 5’3”. I just wanted to hug the little guy. Pet his starry noggin. Lucky bastard makes a billion dollars a minute and still saves money by shopping in the juniors section at Armani. The rich get richer, ya know?

The show itself was reasonably entertaining. Kyle’s and my job was to guard the sound booth to make sure nobody stepped on any wires. The official job description was “Just Stand There and Watch the Show for Free.” Actually, at one point, I had to carry some chairs inside the sound booth area, and right as I stepped on a wire, the sound and the lights went completely dead. I was about 90% positive at the time that I had ruined the concert for about 3,000 people, and that shortly thereafter large black men would bludgeon me to death with 12 year old white girls in tube tops.

But as it turns out, it wasn’t me after all. Kanye just wasn’t ready for that song to start yet, so he called off the lights and the music. I changed my underthings and returned to work.

Kanye is the only rapper I’ve ever seen come on stage with a seven-piece orchestra, including a freaking harp. The show was very disjointed and unorganized, but the orchestral sound really added a layer to the concert overall. Musically, it was impressive and pleasing.

Afterwards, Kyle and I got called from our Bus-Guarding posts to escort the lucky backstage pass holders out of the building, which was the closest we actually got to Kanye all night. Without our insistence, these leeching fans would stick around and bask in the ambience of Kanye West for days on end, like some sort of Buddhist meditation rite. One particularly flamboyant and vulgar young lady was none too happy with me for pushing her out of the building (on strict orders to do so, given to me by the large, scary P.R. guy—I guess Kanye was ready to leave). She cussed me out. The phrase “punk-ass” was tossed about carelessly. It was like she didn’t even care if she hurt my feelings. It was all I could not to laugh. I love stupid people. They please me.

But all jokes aside, I love seeing how happy people are at concerts. There were kids of all ages and races dancing (including two Asian guys right in front of me doing all that crazy pop-and-lock stuff), and at one point, Kanye had the DJ play Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” for absolutely no good reason at all, and there were couples dancing and singing the words to each other. People pay good bread to see shows like this (Kanye was about $50 a pop), so when they come, they really get into the atmosphere and the booming bass vibrating the floor beneath their dancing feet. It’s a beautiful thing to observe.

At Summerfest in Milwaukee a couple years ago, I felt just about as content as I’ve ever been. The weather was perfect, the lake was in plain, glorious view, and people surrounded me on all sides, absolutely having the times of their lives.

It had me feelin’ extra fly.

Come on baby, touch the sky.

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