Monday, May 21, 2012

COLUMN: Mayfield

As a card-carrying music nerd, there's nothing like going to concerts and hearing artists create music live before your ears. I love everything about concerts -- except for actually being there.

The truth is ugly. If I'm at a show -- especially one that I've spent loads of money on ticketsand/or travelled half the day just to see -- I can be assured that within minutes of my arrival, my personal space will be invaded by any of the following:

• The hippie dancer. Be it emo, screamo, rock, roll, hip or hop, she will find me. I could be at an OPERA for all it matters. There WILL be an annoying girl in a sun dress reeking of patchouli who will whirl, twirl, and express her deep love and admiration for music through the magic of interpretive dance. She will also land at least three inadvertent punches to my kidney before it's all over.

• The professional alcoholic. It's not a concert, it's just a bar with a really, really expensive cover charge. This guy will usually park himself directly in front of me and then spend the entirety of the show pushing and shoving his way to and from the bar, usually while trying to balance 2-4 beers, 1-3 of which will end up down my shirt by night's end.

• The conversationalist. It is the emotional peak of the show. The performer takes center stage to give us a hushed epic that exposes the frailty and wonder of their art. It commands our attention. Or at least that's what they want us to think. You, sir, are smarter. You know that what the artist really wants is for you to scream "FREEEEEEBIRD!" over and over again while high-fiving your friends.

• The American idol. Because I did NOT drive three hours and stand in line for another two in order for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear my favorite band. In fact, I came all this way to hear your karaoke version of their greatest hits, which is truly inspiring since I wasn't previously aware that a worse singer than William Hung existed. Congratulations on your showmanship.

These people flock to me like I am the Messiah of Irritation -- but over the years, I've become fairly good at drowning out my surroundings and just trying my best to enjoy the show.

And here's where it for once works in my advantage to be a fan of odd, eclectic indie bands. When you go see a mainstream act play at an arena, you're but one in a sea of potential idiots. When you're seeing some struggling band play a club that barely holds fifty people, you've got a better chance at actually enjoying the gig sans idiots.

Or so I thought.

Last weekend, I went to see The David Mayfield Parade play the Community Stage at the River Music Experience. If you're a regular reader of this nook of the newspaper, you might remember that I chose the David Mayfield Parade as my 2011 Album of the Year, so this was a gig I was seriously looking forward to. And if you've ever been to the Community Stage at the RME, you know how small of a place it is. Intimate gig, intimate crowd, amazing band. Win win win.

Unless you're me. Let's set the scene: Doors for the show opened at 7:30. I entered at 7:40, by which time every available seat in the room was taken. Suddenly I became VERY conscious of where I was standing. I'm a chubby guy, and I'm also 6' tall. Every single place I stood, I realized I was blocking the view of someone sitting down behind me.  Not cool.  The only place I could stand and NOT obstruct people was in the way back of the venue where MY view was obstructed.

Instead, I opted for a spot at the front of the bar, where if I performed a patented lean-n-slouch, I could have a clear view of the stage and not spoil it for the folks behind me.  Then HE showed up.

As if I turned on my homing beacon for freakshows, in walks the only dude at the show taller than me.  And where does he decide to stand?  Directly in front of me.  And once the music started, the swaying began.  It was small at first, but continued to grow and grow in both speed and distance.  Within minutes, the guy was a cross between Joe Cocker at Woodstock and Axl Rose circa "Welcome to the Jungle."

And as I stood there, I realized that due to this nutbag's sway-a-thon, I was seeing the concert with my left eye... then my right eye... then my left eye... then my right eye.  The whole thing was making me queasy.  The last thing I needed was for that guy to go home and write a heated newspaper column about how much he hates it when strangers at a concert vomit all over his back -- so I had to move.

I took a couple steps to the right and breathed a sigh of relief as the equilibrium reset itself in my brain.  This lasted about 10 seconds, until some dude behind me unlocked lips with his girlfriend long enough to go, "EXCUSE ME?! You're blocking my view!"

I wanted to yell in his face. I wanted to tell the dude that maybe he should stop mining his girlfriend's tonsils and stand the heck up like the other 95% of us. That maybe he should cut a guy some slack, especially a guy who's been looking forward to this show for months.  That maybe I'm not such a nice guy after all.

That's what I wanted to do.  What I did do was sheepishly apologize and try to execute another lean-n-slouch maneuver against a nearby pole that hopefully obscured no-one's view while silently praying that I wasn't giving myself the ultimate souvenir of permanent spinal damage.

Everything was hunky dory -- until the David Mayfield Parade took the stage.  From that point on, I have no clue what I did.  The show was so good I eventually forgot all about where or how I was standing. For all I know, I might have been dancing, spilling drinks, yelling and singing simultaneously.  No one scolded me again, so I must not have been TOO obnoxious.  All I know is that it was one of the best concerts I've seen in a looong time. So RME, please hurry and bring him back -- and if it's not too much trouble, if you could you construct a VIS (Very Important Shane) section of private front row seating, that'd be swell.

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