When I was in my early teens, my mother drove my friend and I to Canada’s Wonderland to see a Fine Young Cannibals in an outdoor concert. That very night, a hurricane was working its way up the eastern seaboard and Toronto was hit by the edge of this cold, rainy weather system.
This was at about 8:00 PM. FYC did not hit the stage until about 10:30 PM.
That we had to suffer through an hour and a half of an opening band called “The Mint Dulips” was bad enough. But the fact that we had to sit – no, stand, you always have to stand at a concert – just outside the shelter of the giant awning in the cold pouring rain was the real kicker. By the time “She Drives Me Crazy” rolled around, the black polish on my leather jacket had soaked through to my white shirt underneath. It took us another half hour to find our way back to the parking lot through muddy wet grass, and to top it off, the heat in my mother’s car had blown and she had to run the air conditioning all the way home to stop the windows from fogging up.
This was my first outdoor concert experience. And one might say that it has scarred my attitude towards to paying for over-priced tickets in order to sit with a crowd of drunk, pushy people reeking of sun-block and patchouli to stare at a performer so obscured by the sheer number of people, that the organizers have to install a giant TV screen so those who don’t want their toes crushed and ribs bruised can see as well. Well I disagree. Forking out a chunk of your paycheque to stare at a big outdoor TV screen – no, wait, let me rephrase that: to be forced to stand and stare at a big outdoor TV screen – is silly, no matter which way you look at it. Now, picture someone watching a concert through a department store window. If they were to pay what people pay for tickets these days, even the window-shopper would be getting the better deal.
I would like to clarify. As one of my detractors, Paisley Rae, pointed out to me last night, for me, a “concert” is anything that exceeds 500 people. When I think of a concert, I think of the numbers of people that Bjork or U2 would attract. Then again, as a mild anthrophobe, I’m suspicious and weary of public gatherings of more than 15 people. I always have this fear I’ll get sucked into whatever craziness ther’re up to. Don’t even get me started on those Free Hugs freaks.
In theory the idea of an outdoor concert sounds amazing – who wouldn’t want to sit on the open grass and listen to great live music? – and I would be a hypocrite by claiming that the Fine Young Cannibals debacle stopped me from trying to enjoy them. But of all the outdoor concerts I’ve been to, I’ve enjoyed only two.
The first was Pink Floyd in the early nineties. The second was The Tragically Hip’s Another Roadside Attraction in the same period. I enjoyed the former because everyone else was over forty and had the common sense to sit back and enjoy the music, in the now-closed Exhibition Stadium, a much smaller Toronto venue. I enjoyed The Hip’s show because I snuck in with a friend (free!), and we were…herbally enhanced. Actually we spent only about 20 minutes listening to the show, and the rest of the time sitting away from the crowd at a picnic table with a group of other equally-enhanced people cracking what we thought were funny jokes and staring at the grains of wood.
In both cases, I think it was the crowds attending those outdoor concerts that affected my opinion. The Pink Floyd audience was a chilled-out roll-your-own-cigarette set, and the Hip crowd, from my chemically altered perspective, didn’t exist.
There again lies my misanthropic attitude: the whole can’t-you-just-feel-the-collective-energy thing? Well, I don’t feel it, at all. In fact, I have more of a how-can-you-stand-having-a-stranger’s-stinky-sweat-on-you? kinda thing going on.
OK. I’ll be completely honest with you. I hate all concerts, indoors and out. Though I’ve never been to an indoor one, I can only assume it’s the same thing, minus the port-o-potties, but with even longer line-ups for the washrooms.
I recall an anecdote about Bono where he once got angry at an audience because they were sitting down during one of his concerts. My response to this is: When was the last time you were in a throng of strange people, Mr. Bono? When was the last time you had to stand in line to pee in a plastic, sun-baked toilet?
Everyone reclining as they would in the comfort of their own home?
Everyone sharing their own living room experience?
Everyone being able to see the actual performers without breaking their necks?
Now, that would be money worth spending. Until then, my attitude towards concerts will always be as my Facebook status elegantly describes:
“Concerts to me are like trying to listen to my favourite music on a transistor radio while standing in a subway in rush hour about an hour after the air-conditioning has blown, and of course I have to go to the bathroom.”