This is not a show that I go to. I don't go to see popular bands, and I don't like big venues. I went because a job got finished earlier than expected, I didn't have to be too productive the next day, and some of my best friends invited---coerced---plagued me---asked me to go. They have invited me to other concerts, and I've always declined. I don't like riding with other people. I like driving my own car. I get extremely paranoid letting other people drive when there's alcohol or pot that may be involved. I imagine the worst possible scenarios happening: accidents, police pulling us over and taking us all to jail, and now I have to explain to my parents why I'm in jail, my brothers and sister don't look at my the same way, I have to go to mandatory counseling and have a stain on my record for all of my future.
I was able to get past this feeling.
We drove to the amphitheater, all pre-partied up, and we had no accidents and did not get pulled over. Phew.
In one of the many surrounding parking lots ($20.00? How do you sleep at night? [on a pile of money]) we got directed into our spot by a Justin Bieber look-alike and pre-partied some more.
At times, when I don't go out and do a lot of new things, or go to new places for a while; when I see the same people over and over again, I forget the incredible variety of people that there are in my geographical vicinity. I forget how many different beautiful girls there are out there. Just in the immediate area around our car there were at least 15 girls (not to mention half the population of the concert), each appealing in their own way, whom I had never seen before. And I would like to take a moment to thank the fashion designers throughout history. All of the styles that have come and gone and then come back (though I hope that capri pants would vanish from the Earth never to return) that have led us to where we are today, where when girls get ready to come out to a Kings Of Leon show at Lakewood Amphitheater they decide to wear thin summer dresses, no matter how many outfits they have weighed and debated over in their closets.
Everyone that comes to the show is part of the experience. There is no doubt in my mind that the audience plays a significant part in a concert, as to the individual experience of the concert being a success or a failure. There will always be douchebags, and there will always be loud douchebags (they often go hand in hand) and there will always be people that complain about the amount of marijuana smoke floating around them, as if they've never been to any concert before, ever. (have you ever been to a concert and not smelled the sweet sensemilla? [barring christian music shows, of course]). There will always be people who dance like no one's watching, there will be people who know every word and sing at the top of their lungs until their voices give out, there will be teenagers using the anonymity of the crowd to make out ferociously for the duration of the show before they get picked up by one of their parents and have to remain chaste in the car on the way home.
There seemed to be a small number of douchebags at this concert, tonight. It was not the ratio I expected when heading to the show of a currently popular band. This statistic bouyed my spirits, and with the help of two too many gin and juices I was able to completely leave behind my paranoia still clinging to me from the ride there. We happily strolled in, tickets (computer printouts...I can't remember the last time I had an actual ticket to a concert) at the ready. Security was a breeze and we headed for the lawn to claim a spot for our blanket (the girls' blanket. Guys stand at a concert, no matter what.).
Now, one of our party was in the middle of an epic (yes, I said epic) night. Amongst some relatively modest drinking done by four in our party, the epic one had downed half a bottle of Jack Daniels while posted up against the rear bumper of the car in our Bieber-ish parking lot. Not in mixed drinks, not in shots, but with the bottom of the bottle aimed to the sky. She was composed all the way to the eventual spot of the blanket, and then passed out. We'll come back to her later.
We were able to hear the very last song of the opening band, Band Of Horses. The only thing I know about them is that Cee-Lo covered one of their songs on his most recent album. I wish I knew a lot about every band, and since I'm typing this on a computer with an internet connection I could have done a little research to provide some interesting or illuminating information about this group of gentleman, but they're really just not my style so I won't. We settled in just in time for the break between bands. There's usually no telling how long this period will last, and I always hope that it will be shorter rather than longer. Because of the rule about guys sitting at a concert I have to remain standing even though I have nothing to sway to so that I can transfer my weight to my left and right foot so that neither become too tired too quickly. I decided to go buy some beers ($11.00 a piece? How do you sleep at night?[on a pile of money]). We were on the right side of the lawn, towards stage left. I decided to head for the closest ATM. Normally I carry cash with me. When I say normally, I mean I've paid cash for everything for at least 2 years. There's always a possibility that something will be cash only, and I am the guy who always has cash. Tonight however, no cash. I made my way down the stairs and discovered that it was out of order. Shit. A helpful employee of the venue told me that there was another ATM on the other side, all the way across . And so I walked there.
There are only two ATMs at this place, so naturally with one out of order the line for the other was excruciatingly long. This was not an ATM with a dedicated dsl line, by the way. This thing worked off of a dial-up connection. I stand behind 26 people waiting to pay whatever exorbitant fee the purveyors of this particular ATM have decided on and try to remain patient, and enjoy the sights, and soak up the excitement hanging all around in the air. So after waiting in the line for the ATM for nearly 20 minutes, I find out that they take debit cards at the beer stand.
Hey Hey! Whaddya know!
I jump ship from that line and head to the equally long beer line. I wait.
I make friendly banter with a 21 year old couple in front of me, and after 30 minutes the headliner starts to play. This doesn't phase me too much. I'm not that familiar with their catalogue and the songs that I will recognize will probably be played at the end. I reach the front of the beer line in the middle of their 2nd song and gladly, gladly place my order. I hand over my debit card and when the cashier swipes nothing happens. So he tries again, running it back and forth in the reader. Mmmm. Still nothing. I do so hate to be the one holding up the line. He tries the plastic bag method. Where you take the card and wrap it inside any sort of plastic bag that's handy (clear trashbags work as well) and the bag magically takes care of any problems that the machine has reading your card. That didn't happen this time. My card was unreadable, and I had no beer and they were on their 3rd song.
I go back to the ATM line, oh yes. I eventually get my money, get the beers (by this time the line was non-existant) and make my way back to our spot. After being gone for over an hour, I had some difficulty finding the rest of my group, but I found them without too much trouble. Concert on!
The sun had just slipped underneath the tops of the trees, lowering the temperature considerably which was a blessing on a 93 degree day. I started my left to right foot rocking, along with the beat, and settled in (standing, of course).
For a while the concert just goes along. I enjoy myself, listen to songs that I don't know but that are good. I took a few good hits off a joint that was floating around, and I started floating as well. We were pretty far back on the lawn, and so I would watch the large screens to see the musicians. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but the video displayed was of a very lo-fi quality, which enhanced the experience for me. Either the camera was filming in black and white or the projectors had been washed out from years of use and the effect was almost nostalgic. The projections were to the left and right sides of the stage, with each picture being about 50 ft. by 50 ft. The conctruction of the concrete walls were such that the backdrop had dividing lines in it running vertically, about every 15 feet. Since the camera was following the swaying of the musicians, these lines seemed to travel and jump across the picture, as if it was filmed in the early days of moving pictures. Picture Charlie Chaplin.
It started to feel to me like it was one of my nights. I will be at home alone, smoking and sipping on a beer, with good music on, but without it being in my face. But now I had some of my best friends with me along with thousands of other people. Going to a concert can be a group adventure, but for me, whether or not I come with anyone, it's a mostly solitary experience. I let myself fall into the live instruments, and the singer, and I feel the lyrics in a way that I never have before, and it brings me further into myself. What's fun about seeing it live is that I get to dive deeper into myself but with a safety net so I don't get lost. At the end of the song humanity reaches out to me again, I hear cheers and clapping and whistling, and some girl asks me if I have any other cigarettes, and I give her my last two because she's hot. Then I go back inside for the next song, and reflect. And this night I was reflecting on the friends that I was with. They're like a rag-tag conglomeration of scappy personalities. We've all had disappointments and keep on fighting the good fight, letting our faith in the innate goodness of people keep us open. I suppose many groups of friends are like this, but my group feels special to me.
And, to finish up, we'll come back to the epic night of a girl in our group. She had been asleep on the blanket until the last song before the encore. We rejoiced in her return to the living. She came up smiling and happy, and there was a simple honest joy in all of us that she got to see some of the band, tempered with a not so simple and honest joy that we didn't have to carry her all the way back to the car. But mostly it was the simple and honest joy about her being there with us. The concert ended (they played the songs that I knew for the encore) and we made our way out of the gates and to the flood of cars making their escape. I gave our epic girl a piggy back ride all the way from the gate to the car, at first out of overall excitement and happiness, but then just as a test of myself; I wanted to make it all the way. I don't care if she weighs 90 pounds, it gets hard to carry someone for that long; and just like there's a rule about guys standing at a concert, there's a rule that no girl is too heavy to carry. Ever. If you have to grit your teeth, you do it.
And now I've had the time to write this because somehow I sprained my ankle during the concert but pot and alcohol and adrenaline didn't let me know it until the next morning.
Crutches are terribly uncomfortable, but in this case they are worth it.