Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reaching and Retching into the Past

Few things in Mr. Happy’s mostly unhappy life make him happier than seeing live music (another is fitting the word “happy” three times into one sentence).

I’ve been going to concerts for better than 40 years now and I rarely walk out of a concert hall, converted movie theater, hockey arena or football stadium after a show without a smile on my face.

But as time goes by those smiles are becoming both smaller and shorter.

True, some of my increasing displeasure is over the ever-rising ticket prices.

Without trying (but failing miserably) to sound like one of those “I walked five miles to get to school in three feet of snow” old codgers who can always recall a time in the past that’s preferable to one in the present, I can honestly say that I saw some incredible shows, with three, count ‘em, three could-have-been headline acts, for five bucks.

Of course, that was long before the greedmeisters wrapped their money-grubbing brains around the concept that these heretofore unlistenable noisefests featuring drug-taking, long-haired flag haters could actually result in mega-cash.

These days, everybody, from the artist to the promoter to the concert hall, are attacking concert profits faster than a teenager attacks her text screen after the latest Kristen Stewart rumor.

But while I’m not sending any notes of thanks to Ticketmaster for charging me a week’s pay to see a band of 60-somethings attempt to recreate the past, my issue with the concert business of today – at least the concerts that I attend – is with the ignorant assholes who attend them.

You have to realize that I ain’t no concert virgin.

Over the year s I’ve seen some goings-on at shows that would curl your teeth. I’ve seen a few ODs and a major brawl or two. I’ve been bled on, vomited on and been wacked upside the head with everything from a beer bottle to a carton of JuJubees.

I’ve seen hair-pulling, womano a womano duke-outs and watched a young lad blow chunks all over a set of steps next to section of seats, slip on said chunks and plummet down, waterslide-style, each and every barf-drenched step. Yum.

My feeling has always been, as long as my health or the health of whomever I’m with is not in jeopardy, I’ll put up with just about anything short of an indoor tornado to catch the folks that I plopped down my hard-earned to see and hear.

But because O.C.S. (Old Coot Syndrome) has descended, I find I’m not quite as tolerant as I once was when it comes to taking in live events.

With that in mind, it’s only a matter of time before I reluctantly make a few headlines, something along the lines of, “Irate Concertgoer Decapitates Six at Rock Show.”

Anyone close to my age that’s not dead, and whoever has attended a concert in their lives that wasn’t headlined by Andy Williams will tell you that concert-going was, at one time, an exercise in smoking and drinking (primarily cheap wine) and fun, but it was also an unintentional exercise in unity

Oh sure, the crowd rocked their asses off. But the crowd seemed to react to the shows as one, over-the-top, happy mob. It was sometimes close to a religious experience, although I would pull up short of comparing those incredibly joyous times to hanging out with those lovable, laugh-filled loonies in the PTL crew. Plus, I wouldn’t want to be denied service at Chick-Fil-A.

These days?

I sometimes get the impression when I go to the shows that the middle-aged cretins jam-packed next to me, in front of me and behind me are those bumpkins that just missed out on the good times that were rock concerts of the 60s and 70s. They’ve heard of all of the smoke-filled, booze-filled times, possibly from their older siblings. But by the time they got to the arenas, there was no smoke allowed and no cheap liquor to be found.

They need some “wild” memories of their own. So being the it’s-all-about-me-and-to-hell-with-you crowd they are, they drink anything alcoholic they can throw their wallets at. And they drink a lot.

If you’ve been to a show recently, you’ve seen ‘em. There are usually eight to 10 of them, all together. The men wear designer polo shirts in pastels or Hawaiian prints and Dockers shorts. Their gray hair is expensively styled and they talk about “the market” a lot.

The women are the same. Their hair is dyed, their clothes are expensive and their nails are painted. If they were draped over the bar at about 12:30 you might consider giving ‘em a pull. And they appear harmless.

But by the time the show has started they’ve gone into Mr. Hyde mode. They’re all on their sixth beer or their third or fourth mixed drink (and at $10-12 a pop, they must, by day’s end, wind up spending more for the mixed drinks than they did for the overpriced concert tickets). The women are giddy and hanging all over whoever brought them, or the closest thing with a pair of broad shoulders. Moreover, these harpies are not adverse to yelling or singing, badly, at the tops of their lungs. They also, without fail, find a way to spill whatever they’re drinking all over those around them. No problema. They just get Mr. Market to pony up for another cocktail.

As for the show, they only peripherally know a couple of songs by the act they’ve paid good money to see, and they find it necessary to scream for those songs, usually in the ears of the nearest spectators, ad infinitum.

By show’s end, they’re barely conscious. And you pray (yep, for this I’ll actually seek divine intervention) they’re not parked anywhere near you when you leave.

And that’s actually as close to a religious experience you’re going to get at concerts these days. I’ve even left a few good shows early rather than risk the safe-driving potential of this band of legless losers.

Now I ask you, are these yobbos masquerading as music fans really there to watch a concert, or just looking for another place to booze and giggle? My vote goes to the latter.

Was part of my joy in the good old days the fact that I was young and surrounded by folks my age? Sure.

But nowadays, I’m surrounded by my peers, and my peers seem to have more interest in sucking up mai tais than they do seeing and hearing good shows.

And that smile is getting shorter and smaller.