Why People Suck

By shane

Uh-oh. You'd better brace yourself for this one... cause I'm in a reeeeal mood, and it's time to switch the Whiny-bitch-o-tron to full blast.

I've just had one of the more miserable concert experiences of my life. And it's not anybody's fault but the crowd's.
Super Furry Animals was the band, Chicago was the place. We arrived at the venue on a good note: an interview with the band had gone superbly a few hours prior, and the vibe was pretty much right.


First off, let's whine about the venue. The Super Furries played a place called the Lounge Ax, a club rife with nostalgia but short on about everything else. Crap lights, crap view, crap sound. It's a Chicago fave, though, likely due to the fact that The Man has been trying to close the place for about a decade now, to no avail, and fairly regular "Save-Our-Club" rallies and CD's and the like keep rolling out. But I don't care how many memories a particular place can hold, the Lounge Ax will forever be a dive bar and nothing more. The Furries have a big enough American audience that they should be playing the same size venue that the Manic Street Preachers played one week prior (a place that can squeeze 1000 or so.) Instead, we're in the Lounge Ax, a bar with a cleverly disguised sign over the bar stating that maximum capacity is 126. This figure was easily quadrupled by night's end. As we walked into the place, the line was already stretching down the block (and this is a club that seldom sees lines at all.)

We get in the place ("we" being me and our personal "it girl," the divine Kari Winn,) and rather than fight the crowds up front, we opt for some comfy bar stools at the back of the venue and some nice chit-chat with passing strangers and Excellent members.

The first band begins their set. I'm already scared by the name: The Baldwin Brothers. They take the stage wearing suits - another baaad sign (a fashion statement usually reserved for ska bands and similar ilk.) Instead of being repulsed, we were actually pleasantly surprised: the band kicked into a set that sweated the funk straight out of the walls. "Acid jazz with attitude"? I dunno, but it was bloody well fabulous, and here's hoping this Chicago band has a great future. That was my official last good moment of the night.

The second band takes the stage. Kid Silver, I believe they were called. By this time, fellow Excellent admin Stuart Reid and his fiancée Helen had arrived and stalked out a nifty little spot in the front row. Helen and I decided to swap spots, and I left the lasses at the bar to make my up front for some SFA madness.

Reaching the front, I notice two things. First is the fact that this is one of the worst bands I've ever heard. Second is the fact that they were also one of the loudest. A nice spot we had, indeed, but it was also a spot directly in front of the speaker stacks. And then there was Kid Silver. Beware indeed of any band whose lead guitarist plays the set sitting down at the side of the stage (unless the band is named "Slowdive.") Add to that a singer who can't sing, and looks like he just got arsed to get out of bed about a half hour before show time. Really repellant. But your pretty standard opening band sort of fare. It must be a truly awful thing to be a musician, to be onstage, to be opening your soul through your "art," and to look out into the crowd and see the first three rows openly grimacing and holding their ears. I'm 28 years old, but the Kiss adage does NOT work here: I'm not too old, but it was waaaay too loud.

Somewhere around 4-5 hours pass, and the band finishes their set. I stop to look around. My mood quickly returns to the positive stance as I realize that we're surrounded by a bevy of wee indie girls, all looking quite splendid in their twee Morrissey specs, little black tops, and the occasional Manic Street Preachers tee. The mighty Tacolad thinks to himself, "Might have to work some of my indie mojo before the night is through, yes, indeed." Aye, little Stuart might be engaged, but I'm currently in the game. All around the crowd look spectacular, and I'm thinking it's gonna prove to be a pretty good show indeed.

2-3 more hours pass and the stage is set. It's now pushing 1 a.m. (a sign to my left with a timetable on it informs me that the Furries are to take the stage at 12:15) Suddenly a familiar pulsing grows louder and louder, as the loop of "Wherever I Lay My Phone is Home" comes into focus. Screams. Pushing. Suddenly, my back feels moist. And cold. I turn around and am greeted with hell. Remember the little twee indie girls with the Morrissey specs? Apparently, they're dating Limp Bizkit. The boyfriends had arrived indeed, and one of them immediately mistook me for a beer stein. Now WHY IS IT that this happens at every bloody show I go to? It's as though these people gravitate to me, like I am the king of beer-swigging morons. And I swear to you, the bloke behind me really WAS the spitting image of Fred Durst. "Ah, yes, the oft-not-realized SFA/WWF fanbase connection," I whisper to Our Kid Stu.

Where was I? Screams. Pushing. The band come out and launch into a ripping version of "Wherever I Lay My Phone is Home." And instantly I'm shoved to the right, as Random Bloke With Camera steps in between Stuart and I to get some pics. THIS I can cope with - I, too, work for print media, and I know what a bitch it is to be a photographer in the middle of a maul (I had to wade into the front row of a Bloodhoung Gang shirt to get a couple fateful shots once.) But it still increased the irritation factor.

"Phone" merges with "Bad Behavior" but something's definitely not right onstage. There's little to no bass guitar at all, and the Korg comes in and out of the mix. Suddenly, it's done halfway through and the band storm off-stage, with Gruff at least cheering the crowd on before disappearing behind the back wall. A looong pause ensues, while a bunch of rather confused-looking roadies mill about, plugging and unplugging stuff. It all happens so fast, we weren't sure if it was the equipment, a row, or quite what happened. About five minutes pass. Stuart and I joke over the idea of launching an NME-styled rumor on the site: "SFA TO SPLIT? DISASTER IN CHICAGO!" Then a rather amusing tape loop begins: "We are experiencing technical difficulties," sampled, looped, sped up, slowed down, etc. This continues for another five minutes. The Limp Biskit boys start the crowd on a "SFA OK, SFA OK" chant. Finally, the band return to the stage and proceed to work their way through a magical set.

The show itself was brilliant, but I expected little else. Slamming their way through the singles, the band won over the crowd again and again.

But it was NOT a crowd worth winning over. Things had turned ugly in the first few rows. First off, why is it that people feel the need to have to COMMUNICATE with a band when they're playing onstage? Perpetually screaming, yelling, shouting crap? Give it a freaking rest. The band doesn't give two shits about you, other than they want to entertain you through their music, not through some stand-up comedy banter with the first couple rows.

Enter Mogwai Boy. This guy had been in the front row a few people away from us, a chubby sort adorned with a "Blur: Are Shite" tee (you know, to show indie street cred.) You could tell right away that this bloke was a serious Furry fan, and he meant business. Which apparently was to yell crap at the band every chance he got.

But here's the brilliant part. This guy spent the entire time yelling to band members like he's the only person in the audience that truly, deeply cares about the inner sanctum of the SFA machine. And all the while, he BRUTALLY, FOOLISHLY is mispronouncing the name of EVERY BAND MEMBER.

"GRUHF! YEAH!" he yells out. To Gruff. Hey kids, it's pronounced "Griff." "SHAWN! WAY TO GO!" he yells out. To Cian. Hey kids, it's pronounced "Key-an"

I try to ignore it. I really do. But it's righteously irritating. I'm wishing the guy in the crowd with the Welsh flag around his waist comes up and decks him, and amuse myself in this fantasy while the band rip through "International Language of Screaming" and "God! Show Me Magic" back-to-back. "Fire in my Heart" (marked on the setlist in front of us as "Fire in my Arse") is brilliant and majestic. The band are trying sooo hard to ignore the crowd of idiots and put on a great fucking show.

Then "Night Vision" comes on, and that's the cue for the Bizkit boys to start dancing into each other, circa the 1992 pseudo-mosh-pit phase that used to put me in the balconies for almost every good Brit show in Chicago. Beer #2 meets my back. Along with an elbow. By now, I'm getting pissed.

The band close with "Man Don't Give a Fuck," and I'm literally gritting my teeth waiting for the song to kick and the crowd to explode. It does, they do. Elbow. Ow. Knee. Extra ow. Then, suddenly it happens. One of the Bizkit boys launches over us and leaps onstage. Now, keep in mind that Lounge Ax, like I said, is a tiny, tiny place. With a tiny, tiny stage. And on that stage are 5 blokes with their assorted instruments. Which leaves little room for idiots stage-crashing. So Bizkit boy leaps onstage and does his moron dance, while tripping over guitar cords and damn near ripping the Korg right off the floor stand. Bunf yells at the bloke, and he and the head tech do what a good band should do, and push the bloke off the stage post haste. Which, unfortunately, takes out about the first ten rows of people who were dead center stage. Bizkit Boy gets up and starts pushing people in return. One of whom is a totally innocent, unnamed member of the Excellent Online mailing list, also in the front row, who thus proceeds to throw Bizkit Boy about 15 yards across the floor, meriting huge cheers from damn near everyone at the front of the stage (including me and Stu.) At this point, some make-love-not-war kids get in between the two to quiet things down, and the band QUICKLY finish the song and scuttle off-stage, surely dented with the memory of what a great fucking town Chicago is, eh.

WHY MUST PEOPLE BE SO STUPID??? It truly can't all be blamed on beer, can it? I just don't get it. In retrospect, I'm sure I'm coming across like an old tosser, yelling at "those damn kids," but this was a 21+ only show, so the folks in the crowd couldn't be a whole lot younger than myself.

It just boggles my mind. I mean, THIS is a really, truly pathetic thing to say, but it's a thought that's nonetheless been creeping through my mind all day: Why is it that some idiot who looks like a Limp Biskit reject... who annoys pretty much everyone around him... can go home with a girl who looks like Lauren Kenickie, while I get faced with a three hour solo drive that night back to near-Iowa? See, all at once I come off as being (a) pathetic, and (b) slightly misogynistic in that sentence, and for that I apologize, but I just don't get humanity sometimes. And no, kids, I'm not saying I'm just in it for cute indie lasses, either - I'm more into the sense of humor and pop culture credibility angle when I go off looking for relationships, thanks - but occasionally I can't help but think that I've truly been short-changed.

Maybe it's just cause my vacation's ending and in less than ten hours, I'll be back at work. Maybe it's just cause I'm pissed that a bunch of drunken oafs can ruin what was otherwise one of the best concerts I've seen in years. But sometimes I just think I'd be better off staying indoors, never going out, and having gobs of music Fed Ex'ed to my door.

People suck. Why? Because they can, apparently.

Me? I'm going to fix myself a drink and have a good ol' vibe cleansing session with a certain Mr. Nick Drake and his box set of understanding.

A very public thank-you to Shane and Kari for housing me during Concert-a-thon '99, loaning me money when the ATM network went all screwy, and being two of the better friends a person could ask for. (A solo thanks to Kari for helping me with the SFA interview.) Another big thank-you to Faith and Tony for scoring the free Bis tickets for us. A gigantic thank you to Jason for putting up with my shit and helping me frame and hang autographs all week. A brief apology to Chris and Stuart for not getting to hang out as much over my vacation as I'd hoped. And a huge thank you to Gruff Rhys, Joe Puleo, and Adam at Flydaddy for securing us the SFA interview and goodies.