The Zen of a Shitty Crowd
I recently went to a show with a shitty crowd.
An outdoor venue with people sitting on the floor of the pit, pissed that others could be so rude as to think grooving in front of them was somehow appropriate.
Rage that the rail didn’t have at least five feet of space per person. Disgust that a shoe or two might of been stepped on, or worse that their picnic-blanket-colonization of the limited real estate was being disregarded.
Others leaving during the set, returning with entire cafeteria trays full of chicken fingers and french fries, expecting to eat comfortably in the middle of general admission.
People yelling out requests for hits that had already been played.
Multiple-song-length conversations going on throughout the set. I moved spots several times trying to revive my vibe only to find myself in the middle of another out-of-context over-the-music discussion – topics included past relationships, the quality of the vendor’s solo cup red wine, and how much square footage the current year’s leased apartment contained – broken only to make time for text messages and selfies. The hum-murmur of this noise loud enough to be heard over the monitors and obviously affecting the band’s stoke. Several overheard awkward confrontations where some asked others to stop talking so they could hear what was going on on the stage.
Lulls in energy where there should’ve been appreciative woots and excitement.
Woots and whistles where there should have been intimacy and awe.
If someone would’ve heckled “Free Bird” I might have died of perfect embarrassment right then and there.
My default is to brood. Every next piece of concert etiquette broken further justifying the “are you fucking kidding me?” I kept silently repeating to myself. Eyes furrowed, jaw slack in reaction to so many things so consistently and simultaneously messed up. Going down long trails of thought condemning the entirety of New York City as a place whose time has past if this was the best it has to offer a great performer. And my sister, whose thoughts were infected with the same observations, rolling her eyes in agreement next to me, encouraging the whole roast as I continue to imagine the band walking off stage a la Jack White, Radio City, 2012.
Fuck these people, right?
Stupid me. Crying over spilt milk. Sitting in traffic, screaming at the steering wheel. Angry with the rain.
Someone once said, ‘if you think someone’s an asshole, they’re probably an asshole; if you think everyone’s an asshole, you’re probably an asshole’. But I don’t think I was cranky, and other people were bummed out by the same things I was. So it’s a combination. What to do, what to do? (Spend my hard earned money on you, so I will…)
Best thing to do is meditate. Thoughts come and go, uncontrolled. Reaction to those thoughts is the definition of self-control. In front of me there’s music and there’s distraction from that music. Seems wasteful to purposefully indulge the distraction. Time to attempt focus. The main hurdle is the knowledge that shows are so often so good. Going to a show is a sunny BBQ. Sometimes there’s your favorite food, sometimes George burns the chicken, but fishing is better than working. That’s why concert critics and reviews are useless. Imagine if someone reviewed your wedding. “The toast was good, but the cake was flat and lacked energy”. What the hell are you talking about, man? Anyway…
I close my eyes and start putting in the work. Hips moving, frustration fading. It’s effective. It’s not perfect. Clouds of judgment keep blocking my view. But as I practice they pass more frequently and stay out of sight for longer.
Out of nowhere my dad emerges through the clothes rack of people behind us, puts his arm around my neck, and proclaims he has a newfound respect for the singer, comparing his style to staple influences (e.g. Allman Bros, Pink Floyd, and Neil Young). A sommelier of music describing the hints, notes, fragrances of the show in front of him. Brick wall of contrast to my own bitterness. Irony. It’s great.
I try to get a setlist afterward and the army of roadies striking the stage straight up ignore me for minutes. Oh well. We buy some water bottles and leave, cursing them and laughing at ourselves.