Good grief, I am having a difficult time finding any motivation this week.
I’d like to blame the frigid weather, nagging congestion, a four day workweek, energy sapping teens, or two more incoming snowstorms for this lack of, well, anything….but I think it may just be the result of last weekend’s episode of Attending a Concert while Overaged.
For comparison sake, let me do a quick run through of my late twenties, a glorious time during which I worked for a group of radio stations in Raleigh. During the North Carolina warm weather season (so, April to November), I spent the bulk of my “off-hours” at all of the local outdoor concert venues watching a myriad of shows. It didn’t really matter to me who was playing, just that I was in front of a real live band getting kissed by that southern twilight air. It didn’t really matter to me that I would likely follow a very late night with a very early morning back at work (early by the standards of a twenty-something working in radio). There was alway a pinned day in the future designated as the “I’ll sleep then” day.
In my mid-thirties, having left radio and the land of free tickets, my concert pace slowed slightly. I still attended several a month, but with more vetting due to having to pay my own way. As I hit my early forties, the pace slowed significantly and then went on a temporary hiatus when I moved to the sticks of Virginia, hours away from most decent concert venues. Yes, Richmond does have two or three smaller venues but they are not large enough to draw the more popular bands that I’d enjoyed in my years past. To see the “big” shows, we would have to travel hours one way or another (pick a direction, drive two hours, see a show, drive back). This is a big commitment as adults. A late(r) night often turned into early mornings managing children who didn’t care what time you went to bed (or if you should have skipped that last margarita). Their eyes forever popped open at the first rooster’s crow. Sadly, as my kids have reached sleep-til-noon status, it is my own body that now betrays me. A night of lost sleep leaves me groggy for actual ever.
I am currently five days past our first concert of 2022. I am three months past our last concerts of 2021. Yes, plural. My husband and I saw two concerts on back-to-back weekends last October. Sorry, did that sound like bragging? Good, I meant it that way. I’m also understanding why adults lean into the theater, where musicals often end by 10pm (or 4pm, if you are lucky enough to score a matinee). I understand why afternoon movies are priced for coupon loving moms. At this point, if I can find a band willing to give me their set list prior to the show just so that I can map out my pre-show siesta, I’ll be a fan for life. Really. All I really want to know, please and thank you, is when my favorite songs will be played so that I can know what time I will be ducking out to sneak back home to my fluffy duvet. Take your “I wrote this during the pandemic songs” and put them in the last hour of the show, please, your longtime (and senior) fans just want to hear the oldies.
Here’s the thing. When my husband and I attended the Counting Crows concert in October, we thought they had a fluffer. We’d scored soundcheck seats and sat watching an older, heavier fellow belting out a song or two and were like, “Oh, man, that warm up guy is so good.” Five seconds later, we realized that that warm up guy was, in fact, the actual lead singer. I am not saying anything pejorative about this guy, really. It was just one of those, “Oh, he has gotten older!” moments. Hang onto that thought, please, as we will revisit it. The concert? It was awesome.
We followed up Counting Crows by attending a second concert, Little Big Town, less than a week later. It was a lucky span here in Richmond as several artists used our sweet city as a post-quarantine ramp up to work out the kinks for upcoming tours. While at concert number two, my husband had the nerve to compare Little Big Town (whom I love) to Fleetwood Mac (whom I tolerate). Did he not know that Fleetwood Mac was an old band and that we were seeing a very young band that was basically like our age? To prove my point, I popped into Google where I was surprised to learn that all members were actually in their, what?, fifties? Jeez. Fifties? Wait. Why is it that I still think people my age are in their thirties?
Back to last Saturday’s show.
My adoring husband planned a wonderful, surprise night around one of my favorite bands from college, The Connells. It was to be the kind of thing a gal dreams of: Dinner, a show, a hotel, and brunch on Sunday. He’d even worked out what he would pack for me and how he would hide it in the car (which is only terrifying as he easily could have assumed I’d want to wear something slinky to a hotel bed rather than my usual oversized t-shirt, boxers, and a mouthguard that gives me a killer lisp).
No surprise, of course, based on Murphy's Law’s ongoing performance, that the plan fell apart due to an incoming ice storm and our outgoing omicron.
If you’re not sure whether or not you have aged out of concerts, let me offer some hints based on experience.
The hosting venue is what you would call an “intimate space.” Perfect in all ways except for one, General Admission seating. And by seating, they mean standing. The only seating offered is balcony seating and that is only offered when enough lower-level standing slots are sold. If the math works, the balcony is opened and the available seats become first come, first serve. I do not stand well at concerts. I am short. For me, Standing room, general admission means that I will have zero sight line past whatever flannel the guy in front of me is wearing. Also, did I mention yet that I’m fifty? The idea of standing anywhere for more than an hour in a row is exhausting. I began to imagine a long night of being bounced around by a bunch of dance-crazed VCU students who’d only come to the concert because they’d won a ticket for filling out a credit card application at the student union.
My husband called The National a few times, during the week ahead, to see if we could sit regardless of the balcony’s availability. In fairness, he does have psoriatic arthritis and his back is only polite for short amounts of time that ends abruptly when his back says it has had enough. His calls were answered each time with assurance that we would be accommodated. I’m not sure how then, exactly, that this led to the idea of my husband throwing on an old knee brace and trekking into the building leaning on one crutch.
Was this an exaggerated guarantee for a seat? Yes.
Was it a sign that maybe we were too old to be in public past 9pm? Also, yes.
Did we get a balcony seat? Again, yes. Because it was open to everyone. Even those without crutches.
Did we also create a hiccup to our usual mode of operations during which I enjoy the show while my husband brings me margaritas from the bar? God damn his level of commitment, yes.
When the band took the stage, I was prepared to be presented with an older version of the band I’d seen two decades ago. The tickets said the show was from 8pm to 10pm, and we were thrilled. Yes, Connells, you get it, your audience is a bit aged and they don’t want to be up too late. At 8pm, the band strolled out and I tried to place their faces for a good ten minutes before I finally admitted to myself that this was an opener. What? Why? Does that mean the real show was starting (and ending) *gasp* later? Later than ten? Why? How long was this going to go on?
When The Connells finally did appear, I had those stupid thoughts again. Oh, they’ve gotten older. I whispered to my husband, “Oh, they’ve gotten older.” Then, “Also, I think the lead is wearing orthopedic shoes!” Then, “Oh, no! It’s US! WE’VE gotten older.”
Full disclosure, I was wearing my first pair of Dr. Scholl’s while reporting this epiphany.
I’m not going to lie, in the days leading up to this show, I checked the venue site multiple times for a show cancellation. With omicron running rampant and the pending storm, I fully expected the show to be postponed. I would have been a little bit relieved. By the time the weekends roll around in our house, I lose all mojo. My husband and I often talk a big game when it comes to extracurricular plans, but when push comes to shove, we just fall over. As we rounded the first hour mark of the Connells’ performance, though, we were high-fiving ourselves for being out past our bedtime. No really, it was ten o’clock, we were out past our bedtime. We had decided that the show would likely go to eleven (!!) and we were fully committed.
Only minutes after our cheer, the band started looking to the side stage as if getting a message from the dark. There was some confusion and shuffling and then an announcement that they would have to stop early. There was a water main break in the building and they were asked to call it quits after one more song.
What? Why? We are fully committed! I had caffeine after 9:00pm!
Mother Nature won again. With Richmond temperatures in the twenties, there was fear that the water pouring from the front of the building would quickly turn the sidewalk into an ice rink. That same sidewalk would then serve as a slick obstacle course for the less than spry, older crowd exiting the building.
One of whom was wearing her first pair Dr. Scholl's.
The chances of a broken something were fairly high.
And let’s not even talk about that jackass who showed up with a knee brace and crutch.