Monday, March 19, 2007

COLUMN: Concert Idiots

For once, it was a news story I could really get into. Last weekend, singer-songwriter John Prine played a show at the Adler that was marred by violence. In the crowd, a guy was watching the gig when, from the row behind him, a female fan began singing along to the concert. After allegedly confronting the fan, he then did the unthinkable: he allegedly socked her in her alleged eye. And now he's in alleged trouble bigtime.

The public response, via our newspaper's blog and elsewhere, was swift and shameful. But nowhere in the public outcry was the true villain of the story exposed: John Prine. That's right, if we can blame suicides on the music of Judas Priest and school shootings on Marilyn Manson, then let me be the first to claim the obvious truth that JOHN PRINE DRIVES PEOPLE TO VIOLENCE.

Don't believe me? Have a gander at some of John Prine's twisted, evil lyrics: "Father forgive us for what we must do, you forgive us, we'll forgive you, we'll forgive each other 'til we both turn blue, then we'll just whistle and go fishing in heaven." I ask you, Quad Cities, is that the folk-like whimsy of a gentle bard or the ramblings of a lunatic hell-bent on anarchic savagery??

Eh? Oh -- it IS folk-like whimsy, sorry. Okay, so maybe John Prine's not at fault (though, sorry John Prine fans: If I were trapped at one of his concerts, I'd likely want to hurt somebody, too.) And yes, violence is perfectly unacceptable unless you're in a ring and we're paying you to be violent. And hitting a woman is unspeakably awful and a horrific crime. But I've gotta be honest with you guys on this one: While this guy's actions were reprehensible, I can kinda sorta understand the emotions at play.

I'm a huge music nerd. As such, I've been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts. And in this capacity as a self-proclaimed expert, I can thusly share with you Shane's Theory of Concert Relativity: For every amount of love I hold for whoever's on stage, there will be an equal and opposite hatred for someone in the crowd making an arse of themselves.

Look around you now: odds are good that someone in your field of vision right now holds a secret identity of a Concert Idiot. They might look mild-mannered now, but they're just 3 adult beverages and 1 funky bassline away from irritating anyone within a 20' radius. Odds are good they'll fall into one of these categories:

• THE AMERICAN IDOL AUDITIONER: To them, it's not a concert, it's just one big ol' karaoke jam session with some other guy hogging the mic. No worries, they can freakishly sing louder than the P.A. system. And usually straight in your ear. Who cares if the words are right, just as long as everything they sing is as off-key as possible.

• THE DRUNKEN FRAT-BOY: You could be listening to the gutteral chants of Tibetan monks, and there he'll be, precariously holding at least 3 of the World's Fullest Beers while high-fiving his buddies and occasionally yelling out "Freebird!" (despite the fact that he's at least 10 years too young to even know what "freebird" means, other than maybe it's something like "Free Tibet.")

• THE HIPPIE DANCER: Again, you could be at ANY show, even a symphony orchestra -- but if there's a drummer involved, somewhere in the crowd is a girl in a sundress who may or may be not be named Moonchild willing to jump into the aisle and do a shuffle that's part Chief Illiniwek, part astral projection, completely nowhere on beat, and an elbow that WILL make direct contact with one of your kidneys by night's end.

• THE CLOSE, PERSONAL FRIEND OF THE BAND: You're in the front row of a packed concert. Onstage is a musician deep in the middle of a heart-felt song. Why, what better time to attempt small talk? "Duuuuuuuude," they will shout to the stage, "Yooou rooooock!" Or, to show that they are, in fact, the band's #1 fan, they will use the greatest weapon in their arsenal: Yelling out the band member's first names as though they have developed a close relationship with the artist somewhere between lights-out and the first encore.

True story: Once I went to a show by the Welsh band Super Furry Animals. You've never heard of them, but you should.

(In fact, here's one of their videos:)

Anyways, we were positioned in the front row at the guitarist's feet when suddenly, the mild-mannered kid next to me starts idiotically screaming what sounds like, "Shawwwn! Shawwwn! Shawwwn!" to no avail.

"Dude, why won't he look at me?" he asked the air.

"Because," I explained in my brain, "in Welsh, the name C-I-A-N is pronounced 'Key-an.'" But it was okay, I let the idiot keep on yelling out a random name to a rather befuddled Welshman.

Moral of the story is: Concert Idiots need to be thwarted at all costs. Well, not via the public shame and disgraceful lunacy of socking someone -- especially a girl -- in the eye. Still, though, the evil part of me -- heck, the ROCK N ROLL part of me -- relishes the fact that, despite this guy's awful and inane actions, maybe more than one person learned a lesson that night.


Robbie C. said...

I was at a Los Lonely Boys concert a couple years ago at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. We were front row left side of a packed first come first serve floor. Who arrives next to me other than a middle aged woman with hair down to her ankles. For the next 3 hours I managed to get my watch and anything else tangled in her hair. She would start putting on lipstick in the middle of songs and lots of other crazy shit. Felt so awkward the whole time.

emilene said...

That cracks me up that you are trying to spread the gospel of the Super Furry Animals. My husband is also a big-time SFA fan and is also trying to spread the gospel to everyone he knows. I think that the Super Furry Animals must have subliminal messages in their music, saying "Tell everyone you know that they need to listen to us" (said in a Welsh accent)

Socialist Christian Hippie said...

niWow, John Prine gives me a lot of vibes, but violence? How shocking. The gentelman must not have known proper folk rock etequitte (I know that's spelled wrong, I hardly use the word). It is appropriate to sing along with every song at such a concert. It is an insult not to.

My second comment would be:

What's wrong with dancing hippies?

Much better than slam dancing numb heads. (boy, I bet that insult will cow future behavior at these concerts)

Was there slam dancing at John Prine too? Maybe people thought they were seeing John Denver. Now singing along with John Denver songs, whilst he's singing? I mean...I want to hear him if he's out on tour.

Boy this is rambling nonsense today.