Sunday, August 2, 2009

Don't Stand, Don't Stand So, Don't Stand So Close To Me

See this? Why do rock shows have to feel like THIS all the time now?

Last night I went to see the Mekons, one of John's very favorite bands of all time. He's been talking about them for years, and we finally had a chance to see them together, at the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side. Singer songwriter Megan Riley, a talented act that John's friend, Sue Garner, produces was opening for them. So it sounded like a great night of music.

After a wonderful meal of South American tapas and cocktails at Macondo (the tapas had delicious layers of flavor without being goopy and the cocktails used South American spirits with fresh purees and herbs to great effect) and a stop at Donnybrook, we were excited to see and hear the music. We stayed in the bar for the first act, but it was starting to get crowded already. When we went to the main room to hear Megan Riley, close to the stage right, it had become rather stuffy, literally. John was wearing a new t shirt that friends had made for him, with an image of Rick Astley emblazoned with "Never Gonna Give." People infront of us complimented it, which was cool. But when the music started, other people were loudly talking through the music and getting pushy. The air conditioning was becoming increasingly less effective, something that I suddenly remembered from my last experience there, when we saw Alejandro Escovedo and all emerged utterly marinated. I remember thinking at the time I would search for another venue to see the lovely man next time. Well, that was a while ago and guess I forgot.

Between Megan Riley and the Mekons, people were pressing up against each other, rudely elbowing their way to the stage. John had gone for a beer. This woman behind me thought it was necessary to wedge her purse into my ass. Did she think I was going to shit coins into it? I shot her a dirty look and she just shrugged. I knew it could only get worse once the music started, and I was in no mood to fight, so I made my way to the back. A perplexed John saw me and claimed there was no way he was standing all the way back where I was, so he maneuvered up front without me. The music started right after and suddenly all these people I didn't know and who therefore I'd never screened for STDS, were pressing up against me and breathing hot, germy beer breath right onto the back of my neck. I kept trying to move away and maintain some sort of no-touching boundary, but by the 3rd song I realized it would be impossible. This was just NO fun, no matter how good the music was.

I gave up and went to the bar. Stayed there a long time and tried to hear the music, as people I could only recognize from the feel of their clothing and acrid breath kept coming back to the bar for more beer and then shoving back into the crowd. Lots of people were clustered at the door between the bar and performance space, so it was apparent the show was way oversold and that the air conditioning could not cool this many music fans. I kept seeing angry people birthed out of the crowd into the bar, cursing and storming out. I managed to last way back there until a couple of encores in. But the onstage banter, unintelligable from my vantage point, was getting longer and it seemed like it could still be a long time before it ended and John and I could go for a nightcap at the Grass Roots, so I just texted him and went home.

I had a similar experience last week seeing the Flamin' Groovies at South Paw, but at least once I expressed how uncomfortable I was, people stopped touching me. But the fact they thought it was OK to even attempt it before I protested is a little alarming. I KNOW I have spent the better part of 23 years going to rock shows without people pressing up against me, unless I purposely bopped around in the mosh pit. Have I finally outgrown this or are people just more rude these days?

Or maybe I just lost my capacity for having total strangers up against my rack?

Either way, this isn't rush hour in Tokyo, people. This is supposed to be easy fun and good tunes.

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