What's More Unbelievable?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Adventures in Crowd Management

Can you tell if you would like a stranger simply from the way they act at a concert? I am here to state most certainly that you can. The guy who pogoed wildly and then burped in my face at an Archers of Loaf show years ago? I'd probably not want to go for a beer with him. The total creep who wandered the grounds of Fort Reno handing out flyers shirtless with his pants far too low and far too close to the the no-no zone? I most likely would not want to share a slice of cheesecake with him? And the two starched shirts chatting during songs, clapping loudly and arrhythmically and shouting out "Screen Door!" over and over and over again at the Jeff Tweedy solo show this past weekend? I wouldn't stop if I saw them crossing the street.

Friday night Jimbama, Mothra and Quinnothra ventured into Northampton for a solo acoustic concert from Mr. Wilco and I've never in my life seen a crowd so rowdy at a semi-quiet show. The only time I can remember a more insane crowd was at a Servotron show in Baltimore but there the band was actively heckling the crowd and badmouthing the city, basically guaranteeing angry verbal assaults from drunken jackals. This show started awfully quiet with about 6 or so songs in a row with no banter, just focusing on the tunes. It didn't matter, the goofballs filling the audience wanted blood and were going to scream their lungs out whether Jeff talked to them or not. Imagine the softest moment in a beautiful song and imagine the rapt attention you would hope for from a large audience. Then imagine that lovely scene split in half by the shrillest "Whooooo!" you could imagine. Isn't this kind of behavior outlawed in a concert going rule book somewhere? Didn't R.E.M. address this kind of nonsense years ago?

Well Mr. Tweedy is a total pro and eventually started talking to the audience, filling in the second half of what had been, up until then, an awkward one way conversation. One by one he politely eviscerated those who needed it most. I was so impressed by the way he would cut off the assholes at the knees but in the kindest way so that they wouldn't go home, hating the front man they once loved. After one fellow loudly mumbled something about how Jeff Tweedy's father should hang out with his, Mr. Tweedy responded, "Do you have a mouthful of sandwich? Are they serving hoagies here?" During a brief tuning break, the crowd's setlist suggestions grew increasingly louder and more insistent. As 50 or so song titles flew through the air with abandon, he shook his head and remarked "these are the good parts." He also mentioned his fear that if he didn't put an end to the barrage of requests quickly, within 5 minutes the savages would rush the stage and spill out onto the street, tipping over his bus and setting it on fire. There are superfans and then there are those in attendance Friday night who made Jeff Tweedy fear for his safety.

I was in such a good mood and the comebacks were so lovely that I didn't mind the chaos and actually revelled in it. He handled it all so well and was such a great showman that it never felt uncomfortable and never seemed like the inmates had taken over the asylum. The concert itself was amazing, building slowly and featuring songs from all parts of his career including his side projects. The first encore is almost always a gimme but the second encore always feels special. On this evening he came back for a third encore, performing "Dreamer in My Dreams" and "Acuff Rose" at the front of the stage without a microphone. The yahoos still didn't shut up, even for this part, but they couldn't ruin what a perfect end to a bizarre and amazing evening. Check out a fan video of the finale below after the setlist.

1. Spiders (Kidsmoke) 2. I'm Always in Love 3. Remember the Mountain Bed 4. Bob Dylan's 49th Beard 5. Jesus, etc. 6. One By One 7. Everlasting 8. New song 9. Someday, Some Morning, Sometime 10. The Ruling Class 11. Wait Up for Me 12. Muzzle of Bees 13. In a Future Age 14. Forget the Flowers 15. California Stars

1st Encore
16. Shot in the Arm 17. Via Chicago 18. Fake Plastic Trees

2nd Encore
19. Wilco (the song) 20. Heavy Metal Drummer 21. Casino Queen 22. I'm the Man Who Loves You

3rd Encore
23. Dreamer in My Dreams 24. Acuff Rose

1 comment:

shawn said...

a young couple was bumping and grinding at the bonnie prince billy show last week. we were baffled and horrified. i do not want to go to karaoke with them.