Wild Packs of Family Dogs

This is probably a sign that I'm getting too old to watch concerts from the front row, but if you're taking up more than your allotted 1.2 sqaure feet of floor space (and, like states, the air directly above it) by leaning to point to the lead singer, by jumping while you lean and point, or by twisting and moving your arms wildly, then I'm annoyed with you. This is probably why we elderly sit in the balcony when its available. But I'll start at the beginning -

We were close enough to walk to the Eagle's Club, so we decided to go over as soon as the doors opened at 7:00. This show, it turned out, was in the actual Eagle's Club, rather than the Rave (where Zutons/Keane had played). The Eagle's Club is a former ballroom (I'm pretty sure), and it was, for lack of a more descriptive word, gi-normous. The hardwood floor could have easily handled 10-12 regulation basketball courts (although I imagine that would have been less lucrative for the owner). It was also gorgeous - an amazing ceiling and opera-esque balcony seats for VIPS. I really hated to see people throw their cigarrette butts on the floor, and hated even more when they ground them out with their feet.

We could only see the butt-throwers at the beginning of the show, though, before we lost the ability to move our arms, see the floor, move independently of the crowd, etc. The first opener was some forgettably-named rock band, although memorable for the tantrum that the keyboard player threw when his amp stopped working on the last number. We weren't quite close enough at this point to hear what he's was saying, but Missy thinks he may have quit the band over it - "I'm outta here!" is what she says his lips said.

Between sets, we used people going to the bathroom and out for drinks to move from the fifth row to the third row or so. We didn't force or shove - Missy was just really good at moving us forward and left a few inches at a time without being obtrusive about it. The highlight of opening band #2 (Mason Jennings - a neo-folk trio) was first watching the guy to our right yell at them, flip them off, and make fun of anyone in the audience (including us) who was enjoying them. He had a theatric laugh - like every time he noticed the band doing something new, like picking up a banjo - that was clearly meant to show us how much cooler he was and how shocked - SHOCKED- he was by the ineptitude of Mason Jennings. I won't deny wanting to punch him.

Then it got even funnier. Two young girls, who had been trying to get more frontward for about 20 minutes, pushed by him (and us) and said something like, "If you're not going to enjoy the show, then we're going in front of you." This, somehow, turned into a heated discussion of whether Modest Mouse had sold out, with the girls taking the position that they had. There was screaming and finger pointing, just like the Modest Mouse show, except it was between a group of three strangers. After the Mason Jennings set, security pulled the fake-laughing guy out of the crowd.

Missy has been reading the Eagle's Club flyer while I type and has just informed me that the venue is, in fact, officially called the Eagle's Ballroom. Take that, doubters. Now she's saying that Spice may have told us that it was called the Eagle's Ballroom.

The Eagle's Club staff was not quite so efficient at this show - the first band went on at 8:01 but the between-band movings about of equipment took a long time. There must have been a 45 minute break between Mason Jennings and Modest Mouse. Missy and I stood patiently, still in the third row just off to the right of stage center, while the rest of the crowd drank heavily (apparently). Like Keane (and probably every other band with a video on MTV), Modest Mouse has a large contingent of screamy young girls. Many of these girls were near us at the front of the crowd. Many of these girls would be crushed in a few minutes.

MM took the stage around 10:45, and everyone in the crowd decided that the show would be infinitely better if they could just see from 18" closer. This lead to giant waves of pushing, the likes of which I haven't experienced since a Nine Inch Nails show in Omaha (J.Sch will remember fearing for our lives there well). It was mayhem, but as I screamed in Missy's ear, I was just going to try to stay standing and enjoy the show anyone. Staying upright became progressively harder, reaching a pinnacle when Isaac Brock played the opening chords of "Float On" - the MTV single. Cuh-rist. Now we were moving back and forth 5-10 feet at a time, and elbowing people just to get them off of us. Quite a few people bailed out over the security barricade, including the two girls directly in front of us. That left us on barricade, immediately in front of Isaac Brock. They were _fantastic_ "seats" - the best I've ever, ever, ever had a big show like this. It's no wonder people were trying to climb on my back to see. I stood just behind Missy to make myself think that I was providing some protection from the crowd, although I found out after the show that her Elbows o' Death were providing some protection of their own. At one point, the two guys next to me (normal-looking but mopey guy, and crazy drunk guy with bandages on his head that I would later hear were from a beer bottle to the head from a concert the night before) started to argue very violently about who had pushed who. It was purely an academic argument, since the individual will to push had been long subverted to the will of the mob.

At some point, before the screaming turned into what could have been a dangerous fistfight, I pushed the drunk guys head. In hindsight, I could have made a better choice. Frankly, I was frustrated at my inability to stop the crowd, and that guy was right there, sweaty, and yelling - the embodiment of the crowd, if you will. Missy, ever the proponent of safety, yanked my arm back, and the guy yelled some obscenties at me. Later in the show, although I doubt he remembered that I was the face-shoving guy from earlier, he was jumping and pointing and leaning on the crease between my shoulder and the anonymous shoulder next to me, clearly trying to force his way to the front row. I was in the second row, right behind Missy, and yelled to him something like, "Dude - there's nowhere to go!". He replied, "I KNOW - SO STOP PUSHING ME - I PAID FOR THE SHOW TOO AND IF YOU PUSH ME I'M GOING TO KEEP PUSHING BACK...AND..." I lost track of what he was saying because he got sucked back a few rows. About 30 seconds later, I heard him arguing loudly with someone behind us - being hit in the head with a beer bottle happens pretty often for that guy, I wager.

By this point, until the encore that is, we were packed tightly enough that (1) I couldn't take a deep breath, and (2) there were no air pockets into which to move, so were were a pretty solid, unmoving mass of MM fans. Security walked along the front of the barricade, pouring water into our mouths. Missy got the first drink of a new bottle and told me later that, even though she was very thirsty, would have turned the drink down if it had been from the same bottle that the people beside her had their mouths on. As a very thirsty second-rower, I'd like to think I'd have made the same decision, but that probably wouldn't have been the case.

The three-song encore may have been the worst, in terms of crazy jumping and pushing. I was trying really hard to ignore it, though, because I realized that being annoyed with it was making me annoyed with the show. The concert was fantastic, though, and I wanted to enjoy it. I was also hoping that one of the encore songs would be "Wild Packs of Family Dogs" - sadly, no. Finally, the band left the stage for the last time, the house lights went up, the crowd untangled itself, and we went outside to fall down in joy at the fresh air. In addition to both shirts I was wearing, my JEANS were soaked in sweat - I'm afraid not all of it was mine. Eew.


Spice said...

That sounds...intense!

I've been in that kind of situation before. I pretty much hate tight crowds anywhere (fairs of all kinds, concerts, etc.) because I get so distracted by how physically miserable I am that I can't enjoy whatever's actually going on.

Probably the most parallel concert I went to was when Toad the Wet Sprocket played St. Olaf while I was at Carleton (Olaf had one good band in the fall, while Carleton did an outdoor festival of smaller bands in the spring - aka Spring Concert/Arbfest). It was in a gym (Skoglund), so there was plenty of room, but everyone pushed forward so hard that the band had to stop playing multiple times and ask everyone to take a few giant steps back. I hung out in the bleachers for that one.

In any case, you guys get major props for surviving that - I probably would have bailed to the back of the crowd.

P.S. I think the whole facility is the Eagle's Club, which contains the Rave and the Eagle's Ballroom.

P.P.S. Did you sense any ghosts?

Mister Vertigo said...

Fantasitc review! A very enjoyable read! I've had a number of experiences similar to that. I just tell myself that it's part of the experience, and it will be over before I know it, and I won't be dead. The only part that really annoys me is when I can't see the band because some 7 foot tall guy decides he needs to stand RIGHT in front of me.

I'm going to see Green Day in a couple months with a number of friends, so I'd bet I'll have similar stories to tell about seeing them...

Ashley said...

I can say that I can relate to your problems with people who are taller than you and then you cant see the concerts. I also know what it is like when they push and shuve all the time to.