A few weeks ago, it seemed a splendid idea. A big name concert only a half hour from our home. Jumping on-line for tickets, I toyed with the idea of the VIP package: seats somewhere in the first four rows on the floor, an officious looking badge to hang around our necks, and a backstage meet-and-greet with the celebrities. Then, naw. Just get the best floor seats you can find and eagerly await the evening.
Which we did. And, in due time, the eagerly awaited evening arrived.
It would serve no purpose to name the performers. They are of the "country" genre, to the extent that modern "country" can claim a genre. Plus, I now believe that the concert experience is pretty much interchangeable, regardless of the genre on the stage. The mind-blowing noise and chaos is, I now believe, a common concert experience.
Mind-blowing? It truly is. Though a recent nightmare, I struggle to express it.
I'll do my best.
The entire evening wasn't a total loss. The drinks and appetizers at a restaurant near the arena were excellent. Staying planted right there on our barstools for the next four hours would have been an grand decision.
The venue was easy to navigate. Small, compact - maybe even cozy - seats simple to find and claim. And being one to embrace protocol, we arrived an hour before the first act. ( Hey, that's what it said on the internet!) Though we wondered if we were in the right place because, at six o'clock, it was basically us and the ushers. But we moseyed our way to our floor seats (more on floor seats later) and sipped our bottled water in the library quietness of the auditorium.
A l-o-n-g hour later, the lights flickered and dimmed, a red spotlight hit the drummer of the opening act, and...
all hell broke loose.
Imagine, if you will, being a medieval knight preparing for the most daunting battle of your career...encased in armor as thick as Wally Cox's glasses, head to toe, not a single hair or pore exposed. Pretty much a solid steel mannequin. And then imagine four guys the size of The Mountain in Game of Thrones showing up and whaling on your armor with sixteen pound sledge hammers. Again, and again, and again. Infinitum. Rhythmically, I'll concede. But endless.
That, my friends, is how a concert starts.
I never knew that clothing could vibrate. But, I assure you, it can. And it did. I watched hypnotically as the front of my shirt pulsed to the drumbeat. My pant cuffs slapped my socks like high tide. No one in the building needed a pacemaker. All the pace you could ever want or need was being launched out of suspended speakers the size of New Hampshire.
My hearing aids left home without leaving a note. We're out of here! they said. I didn't blame them. I looked at Geri and her eyes were squeezed shut and her hands were clapped over her ears. And here's the kicker, between the first and second songs, she removed her hands and showed me the wads of Kleenex jammed in each ear. She said, "I don't think I can stand this." I'm serious, folks. It was that loud.
After a cacophonous twenty minutes with a gal whom I'm pretty sure painted her pants on with a black magic marker (not complaining, just reporting), relative quiet settled around us. We noticed that this was when all the smarty, non-compliant concertgoers finally began to show up and claim their seats.
More time limped by and eventually the second act's drummer starts jackhammering away, with the obvious goal of making the opening act's drumming sound like rain falling gently on a tin roof. Another band I never heard of with a front man who could have been the offspring of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. If Elvis and Buddy could have engineered an offspring. As with the first act, the deafening drums and cavernous guitars ruled the show. I'm pretty sure that there was some singing happening, but singing wasn't the focus. Drumming was.
I could go on and on. Like those drummers. I even hesitate to mention the spotlights obviously salvaged from Alcatraz that swept over the room and into our eyes with the sole purpose of inflicting migraines and temporary blindness.
I barely remember the headliners. By the time they appeared, with the auditorium truly beginning to fill up with the most recalcitrant of the attendees, who had failed to read the clearly stated attendance etiquette from the internet, we were SO over it. SO, SO, SO...over it. By then we had been there for three hours and we would have been on our last nerve if we had any nerves left. Or eardrums, or retinae. So, I won't tell you what we did after about six songs into the main act. But you can probably guess.
One last thing before I bring this piece to a close. Let's revisit those floor seats that I was so proud to have nabbed. Listen, they are only "seats" until the concert starts. After that, they are the blunt objects protruding into the back of your knees as every single fan in "floor seats" rises from their chairs to stand, sway, dance and shimmy, while hoisting sloshing cups of beer toward the ceiling, shouting and screaming every single freaking word of every single freaking song. So loud and off-key that you have no idea if the performers paid to sing are actually doing more than simply moving their lips and planning a quick exit should things get any nuttier.
Hey, listen. I'm not one to look down my nose at a party. I just didn't know that buying a floor ticket was an invitation to said party. As I didn't know that a floor ticket meant you were in an area where it's a stigma to use your chair as a seat. They really should print that on the tickets: "Please refrain from sitting in your seats."
Let me say this. I'm happy that thousands of people had a grand, old time that evening. And they sure didn't ask for a couple of senior citizens to crash their party. A "older couple" who seemed clueless that it's more fun to stand for hours than sit at a concert, that act like they've never had a little bit of Bud Light accidentally dribble on them, a couple of near-septuagenarians with wads of facial tissue protruding from their ears and horror-stricken eyes searching desperately for the red exit signs.
It wasn't their fault that we believed we had received way, way, way more than our money's worth about five songs into the main act.
When we finally scuttled out of the auditorium and into the parking lot, we were mesmerized by the quiet of the evening. Quiet had never been so...well...quiet. The moon was bright and full and when we looked back at the building, it appeared to be alternately rising from and settling back on its foundation. A pulsing mushroom. Above the heavenly sawing of the crickets and the sleepy, steady hum of tires on the four-lane, we heard what sounded like a strong heartbeat emanating from the roof. We knew it was a drummer, inside that brightly lit, quivering building, whaling away with abandon. We supposed by now the floor inside was gluey with margarita and whiskey sour residue and that all the various colognes and perfumes were battling a growing gale of beer breath.
Outside and apart from all of that, two extremely grateful concert-goers make an escape to their car, two moon-drawn shadows, hand in hand, breathing the breath of freedom and agreeing that the next concert they attend would likely not be a concert at all. Nope. Not by a long shot. They were, indeed, quite certain it would be a concerto.