Pilgrims | by Andrea Avery
Work | by Aaron Belz
Music Man | by Daniel Durchholz
St. Pete's | by Franklin Jennings
Left Bank | by Brandyn Jones
The Training Ground | Tony Renner
Shoe Jail | by Stefene Russell
Work is a Four Letter Word | by Brett Underwood
Shoe Factory | by Andrea Avery
All Eyes: The Mansion Hotel | by Thomas Crone
Why We Never Leave South City | by Julie Dill
The Man Who Ran Corn for Mister Otha Turner | by Chris King
How I Became a Zackaroo | by Brian H. Marston
On Being Mr. Bibbs | by Michaela McGinn
Six Things About Barges You May Not Know | by Butler Miller
Businesses and Buildings | by Dana Smith
When The Honest World Has Passed Away | by Stefene Russell
My Road | by Tom Weber
Music Man | by Daniel Durchholz
Many people who work for a living share their workspace with a person or two they find bothersome; someone who jangles their nerves, canít mind their own business, or is simply unlikable in some fundamental way. I have that problem, too. The thing is, from night to night, I never know who that person will be.
Iím a freelance music journalist, which means that I get paid to listen to music and go to concerts. I interview musicians, write articles, reviews, and even books. Itís a good life, if not much of a living, and the circumstances of the job are ever-changing. So are the people I meet and have to deal with, especially at concerts.
For the most part, itís all good. Iíve had some terrific discussions and met some truly nice people at shows, some of whom have become friends. But the hazards I face at work sometimes seem enough to warrant combat pay, or at the very least, an OSHA investigation.
What is it about concerts, I wonder, that so often brings out the worst in people? Is it the loud, aggressive music? The uncontrolled use of controlled substances? The occasional presence of a motorcycle gang?
During the course of merely doing my job, Iíve been burned by cigarettes and joints, stepped on and stomped on, doused with beer and soda and once, while covering the infamous Guns ĎN Roses riot in St. Louis, shoved down a flight of stairs and pepper sprayed by police. Iíve been in the middle of fights, hit by flying debris, and trapped in a Lollapalooza mosh pit that extended hundreds of feet in every direction.
On the way into shows, Iíve been patted down and searched so many times that Iím starting to regard it as a measurable percentage of my sexual history.
Often, I find myself in close enough proximity to various strangersí bodily fluids that Iím considering the purchase of a HazMat suit. The most egregious example of this happened at a Rolling Stones show, when the beer-addled bozos behind me decided they had to go to the bathroom, but couldnít be bothered to leave their seats. When they managed to, um, spatter the understandably shocked members of my party, I lost my cool for what, to the best of my recollection, was the one and only time at a concert. I jumped into the aisle, grabbed one of them by his t-shirt, pulled him off the seat he was standing on and delivered a swift, decisive kick to his upper chest.
Iím not sure who was more surprised, the drunken bozo or me. My adrenaline must have been pumping, because under normal circumstances, I couldnít kick that high on the best day of my life. And besides, Iím a peaceful music critic, not Walker, Texas Ranger.
But still I go on. Last year, I took a major beer shower at a Prince concert. It was an accident, sure, but still cold, wet and unpleasant. In just a t-shirt and short pants, I was presciently underdressed for the occasion, having developed a concert-going theory long ago: Donít wear anything to a show that youíre not willing to have beer spilled on.
Iíve had more concerts than I can count spoiled by incessant talkers and people who are under the illusion that everyone within earshot would rather hear them sing instead of, say, Beth Orton.
At an Alan Jackson show, a mother/daughter tandem in front of me jabbered through the entire night, drunkenly high-fiving and hugging each other. Occasionally, they fell over their clearly annoyed neighbors, but alas, not over the balcony railing.
At an Annie Lennox show, the woman two seats over from me talked loudly on her cell phone as Lennox sang some of her best ballads Ė the very ones I came to hear. Next, the sixty-something geezer in front of me who was already drunk gamely sucked on a joint and loudly hit on several women about half his age. Mercifully, he left early with one of them, so itís possible that we both ended the night happily.
A crowded outdoor Los Lobos concert I attended was seemingly overrun by people whoíd been over-served and were determined to push the fun meter as far into the red as they could. Several women danced in the too-crowded space in front of the stage, repeatedly bumping into and stepping on everyone around them. A drunken friend of theirs, who had shoved in next to us long after the show had started, shouted phrases whose significance was known only to him. Or perhaps he was speaking in tongues as he raised his arms aloft, blessing us with the sound of his rapture and the smell of his not inconsiderable B.O. Yet another yahoo somehow got the idea he was Houdini because he could (sort of) balance a beer in the palm of his hand and dance at the same time. This was amusing for maybe two minutes, but he kept at it for an hour and a half. If Iíd have had a quarter, Iíve have dropped it in his cup.
Taken separately, these violations of concert etiquette were certainly no big deal and in fact, pretty much business as usual. But together with the sweltering summer heat and humidity, they formed a perfect storm of distraction, enough to make me forget why I was even there in the first place.
Most nights arenít like that, of course. More often than not, the people around me at concerts manage to enjoy themselves without ruining the experience for anyone else.
But it occasionally happens that someone will see me scribbling in a notebook and wonder why Iím doing that instead of, say, chugging a beer, playing air guitar, or making the ďdevil hornsĒ sign, like they are. Iíve been asked on one occasion if I was a cop. Other times, people want to know if Iím even having any fun.
The answer is almost always yes. ďBut Iím also at work,Ē I have to explain to the more persistent ones. ďNow get out of my office!Ē