Friday night I ventured out of my cave, into the July Atlanta heat so that I might enjoy the song stylings of Guster, live at the Chastain Park Ampitheater. It was an interesting experience which I will now recount for you, my cherished audience.
First things first. The band rocked and the new material fit nicely with their previous stuff. They made some nice little changes to some of the songs that worked well in the live setting and helped to differentiate the songs from the studio versions. Nothing is worse than going to a live show and having the songs sound exactly like the studio versions, only with a little reverb. The band had a great rapport with the crowd and they were genuinely happy to be there. All in all, a great show and should you have the opportunity to see Guster live, you should grab it with both hands and ride that fucker all the way to the local TicketMaster outlet. Convenience charges be damned.
Chastain is, by far, the strangest place I've ever seen a show at. The whole thing is outdoors, and it's set up to encourage people to bring food, beverages, what have you to consume during the show. There are actual tables closer up to the stage, and you can either bring food or have catered food brought right to you. It is not an arena that screams "rock!" but given the price of the ticket, I think they're catering to people who care more about a good merlot than about rocking out. Unfortunately, I could give a fuck about merlot and live only to rock, so I felt a wee bit out of place.
Also, I was alone, and going to a rock show alone requires you to rock out a little less than you usually would, lest you be That Guy. You know That Guy. He's the one at the show who is waaaaaay to enthusiastic about the show and who hoots and hollers, possibly removing his shirt in the process, and will, while shirtlessly hooting and hollering, turn back to face the crowd to see if they are enjoying the show as much as he is. He also dances, although it looks more like he's having a seizure, which he may be, as he is, most likely, stoned out of his fucking mind. I am happy to report, I did not become That Guy, so no worries there.
The cast of characters around me provided as much entertainment as the show itself, so before we get any farther along, allow me to make some introductions. To my left was The Foursome, as I never learned their names and there were four of them. To my right was Kyle and Meagan. In front of me was Dancing Mike and his girlfriend, NoName Lady. They were joined by Candle Man and his girlfriend NoName Lady #2. I don't know who was behind me but that chick could scream.
Kyle, Meagan, NNL, Dancing Mike, Candle Man and NNL#2 attended the concert together and as such, there was much conversationing between the parties. Meagan, in particular, enjoyed talking a fair amount. I heard all about the flowers that Kyle sent for her birthday (it was this past Saturday, the day after the concert). I heard how her birthday was going to be celebrated with an event called MeaganFest, a play on the MegaFest name of the popular Christian festival Atlanta just played host to. I heard where she wanted to go for MeaganFest, where she didn't want to go, yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm not sure what the draw of the concert was, as she talked through the entire fucking thing, but she seemed to have a good time, so good for her.
Kyle was about 9 feet tall, with massive feet and all the grace of a drunk giraffe. This came into play later when the dancing began. As the night turned darker, before the music started, Kyle and Candle Man produced these big ol' glass votives with candles in them, lit them and placed them on the concrete at their feet. Now, there weren't any bugs out, and these certainly weren't citronella candles, so I was confused as to their purpose. I asked Kyle what the candles were for, and he responded "Oh, just a little ambience." Now, I don't want to paint myself as some rock veteran who followed Judas Priest around the country in some shitty ass van, but I can also say that I've been to plenty of concerts in my day and I can honestly say that pretty much every damn one of them would have resulted in a beating were you to bring out lit candles under the pretense of adding ambience. I mean, Jesus, it's ROCK SHOW. Who the fuck brings candles to a rock show, even a somewhat poppy, mellow rock show as Guster? Have you ever seen mood altering candles in the seats at Ozzfest? I doubt it.
Apparantly, they were not only for ambience but for Candle man to use in some sort of musical ritual, designed, no doubt, to invoke the favor of the gods. Once the group started getting up to dance, an event that took way longer than it should have, given the quality of the music being played, Candle Man took a votive in each hand and started waving them around and dancing like some sort of Polynesian fire dancer. This dude, as a kid, accidentally burned his shed down, I'm sure of it.
Candle Man also had this way of announcing the name of the song after the song was played, which does no one any good, as if they weren't paying attention, perhaps because Meagan was explaining what shoes she did and didn't want to wear to MeaganFest, they wouldn't know the song was being played until after it was over. Guster has this great song called "Airport Song" that's basically about a cult, with the last line being "you'll be selling books at the airport". They chose this show to do an extended rock mix of the song and basically dragged it out for about 6 or 7 minutes, quite impressively, might I add. It's a very distinct song, and a fan of the band, as presumably we all were, were to hear it, even after the lyrics were finished, they would immediately recognize it. Once it was finished, Candle Man said the same thing to every person in the group, including the ladies, "Dude! Airport song!" High fives were also exchanged. The funny thing was that Kyle, still in the steely grip of Meagan's conversational trap, did not respond immediately prompting a conversation that went something like this:
CM: Kyle! Dude! Airport Song!
CM: Dude! Airport Song!
Ok, Candle Man, we get it. As I say to my 3 year old who is similarly annoying in his repetition of the events that just transpired in front of all of us, "We're all here." Granted, he's like a tenth of your age, so him I cut slack. You, not so much. Candle Man also had this way of dancing/singing where he'd kind of point in your face and sing, accentuating the lyrics with finger jabs. I wanted to ask him if he new he wasn't at a NWA show, but I was afraid he'd throw down and start jabbing votives in my face while rapping "Still DRE". Candle Man is the guy who people have a good time with, however once in a while you'll turn down an invitation to go out and remark to your other friends that you just weren't in the mood for Candle Man. Every group has one of these people. If you can't identify that person in your group, chances are it's you, so please, fucking dial it back a notch.
So, Candle Man is invoking the fire god with his dancing, NNL and NNL#2 are also dancing and Meagan is dancing and trying to get Kyle to dance. At this point, I think Meagan was pretty fucked up, and apparantly, liquor makes young Meagan horny as she was all rubbing on Kyle like he was made out of sex magic. Kyle didn't want to dance, nor did Mike. Kyle I can understand, because he had all the coordination of someone 9 feet tall, and his feet were undeniably huge. Were he to slam one of those fuckers down to the rhythm, down down to the rhyme, he might split the world asunder like that dude in the Inhumans. Eventually Meagan got Kyle dancing and she looked like she was getting ready to rip his clothes on. They ending up leaving during the first encore because they wanted to "load the car". Right. So that's what they're calling it nowadays.
Dancing Mike also resisted the requests to dance. Dancing Mike was the joker of the group and like your stereotypical group joker, he's making up for some shortcoming (I have self esteem issues, if you're wondering what my problem is) with his jokiness. I assumed it was a lack of dancing ability. Not so. Dancing Mike had some moves, and with his spiky hair and lanky build, he looked like a young Kevin Bacon. He would not have looked out of place gyrating in a barn, away from the reproachful eyes of John Lithgow.
While all of the flame dancing, pop locking and drunken groping was taking place, The Foursome, or at least the menfolk half, were taking turns making fun of the activities to my right and in front of me. Now, as my wife will attest, I enjoy making fun of complete strangers just as much as the next person, but these people really had no basis for mockery. For one, they each probably spent more on their outfit than I did on my entire work wardrobe. Secondly, the one dude was wearing Skechers flip-flops. Anyone who wears designer, or, in this case, alternative designer flip-flops needs a good beating. Flip flops are throw away pieces of crap you buy in the bin at Target for like a dollar. You don't pay 34 bucks on a pair of fucking flip-flops. Plus, this dude has some gnarly ass jacked up feet which really shouldn't have been available for all to see. Not without first spending some time with a piece of pumace. Dude, moisturize. Seriously.
So, after all the dancing was done, the house lights were up, Candle Man's candles were burnt out and Meagan and Kyle were off fucking in the car, The Foursome left and the folks in front of me started leaving. I noticed that they hadn't picked up their votives, so I picked them up, got their attention and mentioned that they had forgotten their candles. At this point, Candle Man looks at me like I had just rummaged through their garbage and asked them if they were going to finish their discarded sandwiches. He then says "Um, I think those are burnt out. But thanks." Now, again, I don't want to paint myself incorrectly, as someone who lived a hardscrabble existence as a child and we were using jelly jars as glasses or ironing and reusing tin foil, but these were pretty big votives, and last I checked, you can just put another candle in them. You just scrape the wax out with a butter knife, drop in a new candle and voila, you're back in business for the upcoming Fiona Apple show. Even if they only paid like a buck a votive, that's still 4 bucks they're just throwing away on votives that they really should have gotten their ass kicked for bringing to a rock show in the first place.
All this has led me to come up with the idea that when a concert venue sells a single ticket, it should put all of those single ticket holders into the same section. This would allow for some camaraderie for all of the lonely losers, allow said lonely losers to feel like they could talk to the people around them and not feel like they're crashing a party, and cut down on rock show pretentious bullshit like votive candles and designer flip flops. The best conversation I had all night was with the kid selling t-shirts. He was regaling me with tales of when he toured with Bon Jovi selling band merchandise. Think Richie or Jon Bon Jovi would have stood for votive candles and ambience? I can tell from experience that they most certainly would not. Maybe Tico. He was always a little funny that way.