Thursday, June 14, 2007

A piano, a guitar and 10,000 screaming fans

Last night Tina and I attended a concert together as a special anniversary treat. John Mayer was the name on the ticket, but we were also there for our old favorite Ben Folds and his current band. It was a great show and a wonderful time with my sweet wife who is currently working so hard in Tucson. But before my thorough analysis…

I must begin this blog by mentioning a sentiment of Tina’s that I share. During the half hour break between the two groups, she reminisced about the feeling of excitement that going to concerts used to give her. I remember those days—we would wait and wait for a show and when that day finally arrived, man-oh-man. Concerts that we wanted to go to were usually in Phoenix back in those days, and it’s almost like it was better that way for us Tucsonans. Driving up and back from the show was a big part of the fun. I remember, distinctly, sitting in the back of Marisa Henderson’s old convertible on the way home from my very first concert: Lollapalooza 1994. My ears were ringing and there was a melancholy smile on my face. I had just seen the Smashing Pumpkins. IN PERSON. And now it was over. I remember thinking that that summer day was, to that point, the best day in my life so far. That’s how dramatic it was. And it didn’t end there—I was hooked. My friends and I perfected the art of concert going. Later, we would fill every seat in John Heidenreich’s old Brown van and head off to see Weezer or No Doubt or Weezer again (I think we went to Phoenix to see Weezer on at least three occasions). We would show up early so as to secure our spot at the front of the general admission crowd and would be the last to leave the concert hall—just incase the band decided to come out and play one last song. We would often hang around the tour buses afterwards with hopes to meet the band, and on several occasions we did! I have Rivers Cuomo’s signature from three separate meetings. John and I snuck back stage and met Gwen Stefani and No Doubt; we met the members of the now defunct that dog., and I even was invited on stage with them at one show we went to. Those were good, good times.

Concerts in adulthood just don’t have the same affect on us anymore. I am fairly sure that if I added them all up, since returning from San Francisco in ‘99 I have been to twice the concerts I had been to as a teenager. But it would take me a while to sit and figure it out because I really don’t remember a lot of the shows that I have been to in the last eight years that clearly. There just isn’t that intense happiness that accompanies them anymore like theirwas in the days of yore. So, last night we mourned a bit over the loss of our childhood. As we approach 30, had three kids at a babysitter, and had to come to grips with going back to work the next morning, we were reminded (again) that the gap is getting larger.

But we still had a great time. We got to the arena (the lamest name for a venue since Cricket pavilion) during what I determined today to be Ben Fold’s first song, Gone (it killed me that we could have missed some of his set). The strangest thing about seeing a band you really really like (and readers of this blog know how much I love Ben) open for a different, much bigger band. In other words, they are definitely not the main event, and you can tell because everybody is sitting down. In fact, it is safe to say that a majority of the audience didn’t know who he was until late in his set when he played Brick. “Ohhhh,” the 8500 people who were there solely for John Mayer must have thought at once, “THAT is who this guy is!”

So we found our way down to our 12th row seats (Tina had forgotten that we had such great seats—which was fun. “We’re on the floor! Awesome!”). And sat there amongst all the John Mayer fans and belted along with Ben Folds as he sang. After the first song, the 50 year old guy that was sitting next to me said, sensing my enthusiasm, “Who is this guy?” So Ben Folds rocked the house and I sat there politely tapping my foot, every inch of me wanting to get up and shake my bootie. He played some favorites, including some great songs from the “five” days: All You Can Eat, Not the Same, Kate, Narcolepsy, 1 Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn faces, and a cover of Postal Service’s Some Great Heights come to mind at the moment. He had some songs where he added in some synth happiness—and I think I read somewhere that he is going to be using that synthesizer more on his next album. In classic Ben Folds potty humor, he mentioned studying up on the internet a very low frequency at which when felt/heard at a high enough volume, caused the listener to loose control of his bowels. He then played a note/frequency a few pitches above that note. As you might imagine, it’s a myth. But a funny myth, wouldn’t you say?

Ben Folds was over too quickly. The only Ben Folds t-shirt you could buy was a brown one that had the words “I ♥ Ben Folds” in the “I ♥ New York” fashion, except that over the white lettering, it had this alteration in red: “I ♥’d Ben Folds before he sucked” That pretty much summed up why he is the coolest dude ever.

The John Mayer show was what you might expect. Mayer is such an amazing guitarist. Maybe I will expand on this in some future blog, but the guy has one of the classiest careers in the biz (did I just say biz?). You gotta hand it to someone who has had so much commercial success, but yet remains so authentic and true to himself. Both times I have seen John Mayer (the other you can read about here), this sense of authenticism was the most palpable feeling present. The guy is just talented and can write a sweet melody to boot. You can take a look at the set list for last night’s show here. The highlights for me were “Bigger than My Body” and “Gravity.” Plus, unlike Tina, I LOVE all the jams and jam he did.

Watching crowds at concerts is fun. Next time you go to one, look around at how the people are behaving. A lot of people are like you, they are into it—dancing around a bit—definitely singing along. And then there are the folks who are REALLY into it. I saw a few of these fans during last night’s show. These are the fans that are SO into it, you have to ask yourself, “are they really into it or are they just into being into it?” There were these two girls who fit this description. Here’s how you can tell. During every song, they don’t actually look at the artist playing. They look at each other, hands in the air, dancing, singing every word to each other (as if to say, “we know every word to this song—and we know it TOGETHER!”). Then, in between songs, when there is a chance that John Mayer might be looking in their direction, they swoon for him—reach toward him, even though they are way too far away—like 100 feet and 45 degrees up—to touch him. So that was fun/pathetic to watch.

Final thoughts? I can’t wait to see Ben Folds in a crowd full of Ben Folds fans again. Then you know it will be me showing everyone I know EVERY WORD and reaching toward the stage, hoping to catch Ben’s eye, if only for a moment. Maybe I’ll wear a tube-top.


  1. I thought of you last Sunday when I heard about another big Ben Folds fan...Piano Rock forever. Please shave your back before wearing a tube top.

    Listen to some of the free songs.

  2. Brandon again the link is to a radio story about Jon McLaughlin (not to be confused with John McLaughlin).