Hey, There’s a Bird in This Mirror!

Diversion Enthusiast Society, est. 2007

The Misses Bennett at the Rock Club

with 12 comments

Why, yes, Mrs. Collins, I did see Okkervil River at the Pabst last year. Divine!

Dave and I were at the Why? show at Cactus Club on Friday night. Because all of the kids have decided that Why? are the hip thing right now, the place was packed. As you may have noted in my previous post, we are both afflicted with tragic shortness, which makes standing-room only shows something of a struggle. The tallest guy in the room always manages to find us and stand directly in front of us. Happily, we managed to get down in front for The Scarring Party, but the enthusiasm of the crowd (and my unfortunately timed bathroom break) managed to shove us halfway to the back of the room by the time Why? took the stage.

I should have known that we were in for some fun when I realized that all of the space at the foot of stage left was taken up by a crowd of people who, with their backs turned to the stage, were talking loudly enough to drown out The Scarring Party at points and bringing occasional trays of shots in from the bar.* The largest and loudest member of this merry band of 12-year-olds** had the charming habit of repeating the same joke over and over again, a joke which involved him either making a loud, high-pitched noise or repeating a loud, high-pitched phrase, I can’t remember which. Meanwhile, the portion of the crowd that looked to be more the Cactus Club type was at the back of the room, swilling PBRs, and rolling their eyes at everything before them.

So Why? starts up and the psychotic contingent at stage left doubles in number, begins hollering between every song, and knows every single last word. Considering the sheer verbosity of Why’s? catalog and the fact that the album has been out for less than a month, this is no mean feat. They’ve even made up appropriate hand gestures! Every song is their favorite song! This is the best show they have ever been to this year! This is the only show they have been to this year! If they do not keep rhythmically pointing and screaming in the frontman’s face, the band will forget what it is they are supposed to be doing and stop playing! Do you not understand what is at stake here? I have been to Hold Steady shows where the excited, drunk frat boys in the front row who loved Craig Finn so much that they clearly wanted to pull him off the stage by his face and take him home to meet their mothers that weren’t as alarming or annoying as this.*** Between songs, the frontman acknowledges the madness unfolding before him, noting that it is a “loveknife” crowd: the audience adores the band so much that they’re going to shiv them in the parking lot after the show. The singer bugs out his eyes and makes a frantic stabbing motion at hip level. The crowd goes wild. Oh, God, he’s given them an idea…

A couple of drunken women who seem to be associated with the lunatics up front break off and turn into inebriated satellites, wandering the room with camera phones held high. I’m back near the soundboard, trying to get up on my toes so I can see exactly what the percussion situation on stage is, when one of these intoxicated little moons gyrates into the tiny space in front of me. I will not sell my bigger sisters down the river by making jokes at their expense, but I would like to, briefly, point out that this woman was, let’s say, a good Milwaukee girl. Blond dye-job with two inches of roots showing; made up like she thought she was going dancing at the club; a shiny purse so large that one could fit two, maybe three, of my purses into it; two-fisting MGD; arms in the air constantly; slowly creating a six-foot bubble around her by dancing, oh, God, dancing, and rhythmically pointing. Have I mentioned that I hate the the rhythmic pointing?

I start out at a reasonable crowded room distance from her, doing my best disaffected, rolled up into a surly little ball in my Arcade Fire t-shirt, arms-wrapped-around-me hipster jackass stance****, trying so hard to ignore her, because, you know, it takes all kinds, but she keeps hitting me with that market bag that she’s calling a purse and waving her two nearly full bottles of foaming MGD over my head. I am becoming concerned that one of four things is going to happen:

  1. She is going to baptize me with that fizzy yellow water she calls beer.
  2. I am going to steal her wallet. Just because I can. Her purse is hanging open. It’s right. there.
  3. She is going to bodycheck or headbutt me. I estimate that she outweighed me by 40 pounds. If she hit me, it would create a domino effect that would only end with someone getting brained on the soundboard. If she headbutted me, she’d end up in the hospital (curse my Irish skull!).
  4. I am going to loveknife her. Without the love part.

Finally, after she bumps me hard enough to knock me back a couple of steps, Dave, obviously not wanting to add “The Time My Wife Totally Won the Shortest Bar Fight in Milwaukee History” to his arsenal of rock show stories, asks me if I’d like to move. I respond in a voice loud enough that the people behind us can hear “OH GOD YES,” and said people kindly rearrange to make room for the two of us.

The intoxicated little moon now has good nine square feet of floor space in a room so packed that we’re probably just about hitting the fire code capacity. She has no idea that everyone around her is making fun of her. She has no idea how close she came to bringing on the Hobbit wrath. She will keep doing this until Dave and I leave about 30 minutes later. Eventually, some guy who is as drunk and annoying as she is moves into the space that I vacated. The two of them begin a bizarre, unconscious dance of waving beer bottles and moving their heads to see around one another’s flailing limbs.

Okay. Okay. So this is my point, my question – Who are these people? How does one get so unaware? How does one not know the rules? I’m reading Jane Austen right now, so I’ve been thinking a lot about systems of etiquette. Granted, Elizabeth Bennett would be an utter loss as to how to comport herself at the Cactus Club on a Friday night in April of 2008, but given a couple of weeks, she would, just like all other decent people, figure it out. Different social situations give rise to different generally understood policies that promote the basic happiness of everyone involved. I don’t mean to be so pedantic about it, but that’s really all there is to it. I started going to clubs to stalk Dave’s band when I was 22 and it took me about two weeks to get the system down. Rule #1 – when the band just broke and when all the kiddies have come to see them so they can say that they saw them in this tiny little club way back when, you are entitled to about one square of floor space, if you are lucky. You will keep your arms down, you will be aware of the people around you, and you will not try to prove to the band that you are their #1 fan by alienating everyone around you. The band will make fun of you, a large portion of the audience will make fun of you, and you will get turned into a teaching tool on the internet. Because this is how geeks get revenge.

* – And not sharing them with the band. Kids, share your shots with the band. They need them more than you do. And, really, if you’re doing shots, they’re going to need them in order to tolerate your descent into obnoxiousness. In fact, the rest of us will, too. Please note – I’m a fan of Jameson’s, though I must admit that I’ve never met a peppermint schnapps that I didn’t like.

** – They looked 12. God, I’m getting old.

*** – Matter of fact, I love the drunk, excited frat boys at Hold Steady shows. They complete the experience.

**** – also known as doing the Standing Still.


Written by Raina

April 8, 2008 at 2:43 pm

12 Responses

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  1. At The National last year, I was standing in the crowd, and there was a guy probably 10 feet up from me who was alternately
    (1) playing the air drums with the band (!!!) or
    (2) pointing rhythmically at Berninger and screaming “yeah!”.

    Then he turned around, and it was the roommate of a friend of mine. I hid from him as best I could and managed to avoid any association with him.


    April 8, 2008 at 3:04 pm

  2. Older Why? stuff was of the indie hip hop scene. Backpackers learn every word and have ridiculous hand gestures. Don’t laugh, that was me at a Sage Francis show five years ago.


    April 8, 2008 at 3:07 pm

  3. The 12-year-old-looking guy was belting out a loud, high-pitched phrase, not a noise. I don’t remember what it was, but insert “I wanna dip my balls in it” into the scene described above, and you get the idea.

    We’ll have to see about the excited Hold Steady fans on Friday. They were fun for a while last time, but the body-passing had become alternately tiresome and treacherous by the time “Killer Parties” rang out.


    April 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm

  4. Incidentally, the best air instrumentation I ever saw was a Springsteen show on the E Street Band reunion tour. Two enormous, shiny shirt-clad meatheads managed to faithfully replicate every instrument played, from drums to harmonica. Even poor Clarence wasn’t spared the indignity.

    They then spontaneously generated fist-pumping choreography for “Out in the Street.” If you think the downward pointing at indie shows is something to behold, you really should see two gigantic men punch the air in tandem to mid-period Bruce.


    April 8, 2008 at 4:11 pm

  5. You saw the Hold Steady!! I am so jealous. I (narrowly) missed my chance last year and don’t think I’ll ever get over it. One day my ghost will haunt Blue Cats in Knoxville moaning “I could have seen the Hold Steady.”


    April 10, 2008 at 3:01 pm

  6. I wish I still went ta cool shows.


    April 10, 2008 at 8:48 pm

  7. We’ve seen the Hold Steady twice. We’re seeing them again tonight.

    Do Dave and I “know” you, spastik? We don’t recognize the address.


    April 11, 2008 at 9:46 am

  8. I had tickets to The Hold Steady, but skipped the show for some reason…

    But, I’ve got a good upcoming slate:
    The New Pornograhpers/Okkervil River
    Black Kids
    The Swell Season
    Rilo Kiley

    Not so bad for a summer.


    April 11, 2008 at 10:00 am

  9. You don’t, I do the random read thing and your blog came up.


    April 14, 2008 at 8:52 am

  10. In that case, welcome!

    psst, Lyndon – We’re seeing the New Pornographers/Okkervil River next week in Madison. Much excitement. We’re passing on The Swell Season, though – the tickets were unjustifiably expensive.


    April 14, 2008 at 10:48 am

  11. Plus, the Swell Season show’s not general admission, and the lousy seats cost exactly as much as the good ones, all of which sold out promptly. Same problem with Rilo Kiley.


    April 14, 2008 at 4:41 pm

  12. […] |   I guess this would be Part III of the Concert Trilogy begun in Raina’s The Misses Bennett at the Rock Club and We Deeply Regret the Error posts. (FYI – credit where credit’s due. I have no idea how […]

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