Thursday, September 25, 2008

springsteen dar

springsteen dar
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz *snort* Zzzzzzzzzz CAUGHCAUGH *zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz* Whu? Huh?
Where am I?? What's going on?!?! OH GOD, IS BRUCE STILL PLAYING? Please, SOMEONE make it stop!



Oh, ok.

Its ok.

Deeep breath. It's allllllright. That was just a flashback.

A flashback of the longest, most boring, indulgent, stupid, pretentious fucking concert I've ever been to.


To be perfectly clear, I entered into this concert experience with the greatest of intentions. Arena rock leanings aside, I really thought that I might somewhat improve my taste by succumbing to the rock and roll phenomenon that is known as the Bruce Springsteen live performance experience. I'd been hearing about this since the "Born in the USA" tour, when I was 11 years old or something. Bruce was supposed to be a God live. The white James Brown. A man who could transform the concert experience into something more akin to a revival
or some kind of crazy rock and roll transubstantiation.

I thought that maybe people would think that I had better taste if I knelt at his altar.

Honest: I did aspire to good taste at one time.

And a solo acoustic set? Bruce Springsteen and an acoustic guitar, in a small, historic theater?? This was going to be awesome. This was going to be TOTALLY fucking awesome, and I was going to tell everyone on earth about it for years and years and years ("You saw Springsteen
in Jersey? Oh, man, that must have been great. Stone Pony? Oh, ok…you saw him at the Meadowlands. Cool. You know *I* saw him in a 3,000-seater. It was amazing.")

But it wasn't amazing. It totally sucked. And before I display to you how and why it sucked, I must first step backwards and explain all the ways that I should have known this would suck.

This was a point in life where, in fact, EVERY FUCKING THING in my life sucked. I'd been out of college for months, but I was still living with my folks. I was hanging out with the same goddamn guys I went to high school with, who were also all living with their parents.

And I couldn't find a fucking job, so I'd started doing auto detail for cash. For some goddamn reason I was promoted to auto sales at some point in the Fall, marking an insane two-month period as a car salesman.

I sold two cars. And someone stole my goddamn commission checks.

I didn't know ANY girls. None. Not that it mattered, because I was working six days a week and barely carving out enough free time to masturbate, much less date or have that awesome sex that involves two different people.

What free time I did have, I spent hanging out with two beautiful human beings who had, unfortunately, also missed the bus on post-college-crazy-fun-sex-and-booze lifestyle that everyone else was enjoying. My two best friends were John and Joey (or, as they were secretly known only to me: Captain Sensitive and PornMaster-T).

To be clear, John and Joey were then and still are wonderful people, and they were both good friends to me over several stages of my life.

But at that moment, it was clear that our association was furthering neither my social life nor my career goals.

PornMaster-T was a huge Springsteen fanatic, perhaps even dwarfing my own troubling fascinations with the Stones and Bowie. PMT was the first guy I met who collected bootleg recordings (which I'm pretty sure are more or less a dead commodity in the age of mp3's, right?). He was real excited for the three of us to go see Bruce together, so we made a plan to camp out at Tower Records in Rockville and get tickets, since Constitution Hall has such limited capacity and since the solo acoustic thing made the concert a sure thing for a fast sell-out. (Ok, fuck off you damned kids. Before your fancy cell phones and your Internets, that's what you had to do if you wanted to go to a show….sit in a parking lot and drink your face off and sleep on the sidewalk so you could get your tickets in the morning when the box office opened. Seriously, people LOVED this ritual – you met some of the very most fucked up and forgotten people in the area through this practice -- but I don't think they do that anymore).

So, Captain Sensitive was working late in whatever awesome retail job he had that month, so PMT and I trucked off to Tower Records, where we found some sad-looking 30-something misfits huddled on the cold concrete sidewalk, clutching a clipboard.

There was no line. Could we possibly be the only other people to have arrived?

No, it was not possible.

Apparently well-adjusted people don't sit out in the October cold waiting for overpriced concert tickets. They find some losers from the local chapter of the Backstreets fan club to do it for them, by simply jotting down the names of every person who came to the ticket office though the course of the night, listing out the order in which they showed up, and then telling people what time they should come back in the morning to purchase their tickets: Two tickets per person
limit. Don't be late. (They were firm about that part).

Fair enough. Well, it wasn't fair at all, but whatever. (Haha. Nerds.)

So, PMT and I had budgeted an entire evening for braving the elements….what the hell were we going to do now? We didn't have any money and PMT wasn't 21 yet, so we couldn't go to a bar. So I think we went to Howard Johnson's or Bob's Big Boy for a late night meal. (PMT was a large man – large in a way that doctors sometimes refer to in accompaniment with the word "morbidly" – and late night diner food was among his very favorite things about life, perhaps in a three-way tie with Springsteen and, I wonder if he ever did that Seinfeld thing where you try and experience them all at the same time? Gross).

Ok, anyway, so we ate a pile of Monte Christos and drink a whole lot of HFCS-laden colas, and we realize that we still have like three hours to kill before the box office opened. The sun was coming up soon, but we just couldn't make it. PMT and I split up to catch an hour or two of sleep, and agreed to meet back at the box office to get our stupid tickets.

So, yeah, I overslept. I was working crazy hours, and the whole staying up all night thing was a stupid fucking idea, even with the brute strength and masculine vitality that an emaciated 22 year old screw up like myself was accustomed to.

I overslept by like three minutes, which I guess made it all worse. Because I still had a chance of making it to the box office on time, if MAYBE - just maybe - I could cruise down Rockville Pike fast enough.

But I couldn't. I still arrived several minutes before the box office opened, but I was still late as shit according to the mighty clipboard. A long line of big hair, tight acid washed jeans and cheap brown leather jackets proceeded to the corner, and these folks were intent on getting their Springsteen tickets. This didn't look good.

Screeching into a parking space, I jumped out of the car, raced up to the line and found PMT. I subtly tried to join him in line, but coming an at a rail thin 6'3" and standing in line with a guy who was easily tipping the scales at 275, there was no hiding from the mob of nerds. A grumble began to arise from behind us.

The nerd king, who was now holding the clipboard, approached me and asked who I was and if I was on the list.

I told him I was, then explained that I'd come over last night and signed up, but then my little sister had gone to the hospital with an asthma attack in the middle of the night, and I had to race here from Shady Grove's ER as soon as my parents could take over this morning.

(What a terrible, terrible, fucking lie. Why did I lie like that for fuckin' Springsteen? I didn't even like the guy's music that much. I don't even have a sister. I regret that lie, and I worry that God
will still hold me accountable for it).

The puffy eyes and rim of blue toothpaste around my lips probably didn't help my case.

The guy looked at me, rolled his eyes, and threw me to the wolves.

"I guess I don't mind if all these people behind you don't mind."

A bunch of nerds glared at me as I smiled and pleaded "Are we cool?"

(No. No one was fucking cool in that line).

Anyway, whatever. Twenty minutes later we got the goddamned tickets – PMT got two (one for me, one for him) and I got one for Captain Sensitive, who would have to sit alone. As we walked down the escalator, we heard a cashier announce "THE CONCERT IS NOW SOLD OUT."

I put my head down and walked as fast as I possibly could to the car, so as to avoid eye contact with all of those people I butted in line in front of. Took a shower, went back to work on an hour's sleep, with my dumb Springsteen ticket in hand.

Fast forward six weeks or something and we had come upon the night of the show. I remember that I was still living at home and that my penis was still dry as the desert, but I did have a new job doing something vaguely marketing-related (selling yellow pages ads…..if there is an industry or a company that more closely mimics Dunder Mifflin, I have yet to hear about it). I think I was somehow making less money than I was when I was detailing cars, but it did feel like maybe life was moving in a somewhat better direction.

I spent some time listening to Bruce's acoustic themed stuff. I imagined what it would be like hearing "Atlantic City" or "My Home Town" or maybe an acoustic version of "Brilliant Disguise". I even tried to listen to that stupid "look at me, I'm Woodie Guthrie" Ghost of Tom Joad album, but it always depressed the shit out of me. But the point is, I tried to work myself up for this show.

Ok, we get to Constitution Hall and we find our seats. Somehow, PMT and I ended up sitting at the top row up in a far corner of the venue (an intimate venue, said to not have a bad seat in the house, but honestly, who on earth wants to ever sit in the top row, especially after nearly concussing oneself at a ZZ Top concert years before?)

Meanwhile, we spotted Capt Sensitive in the crowd, who while sitting alone, was literally one row above the balcony boxes...Front row of the balcony. Fucker.

So, the concert starts. Everyone's got their lame-ass lighters out and they're all shouting Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce. Bruce finally comes on out, and everyone's screaming for him, and the guy just sort of scowls at us. He looks embarrassed for us. He looks like he doesn't fucking want to be there. And he clearly wants everyone to shut the fuck up.

He goes into the title track from the new album, and I'm riding it out. It's a neat little song and when he hits that "the highway is alive tonight" lyric in the turnaround everyone whoops and yells, even though – and don't' crucify me here, Springsteen nerds – but everyone who's heard half a Springsteen song knows that that was kind of Bruce's form of recycled particle board lyrics. Whatever. I yelled out too, because I wanted for this to be a fun night.

(And let's not forget the theme here: because I have very bad taste).

Ok, so he finished up this song, everyone claps and cheers and gets all Brooooooooooooooooooce!

And then, of all the fucking things he could do, Springsteen give a 30 second talk about how important the element of silence is for the songs on this album, and how he's appreciate it if people would not cheer or yell or interrupt him while he was playing, and to please turn the mobile phones off for the night.

So basically, while everyone was sitting there looking at each other, wondering if they'd just been yelled at, Bruce starts into the next stupid, boring depressing song.

This goes on for like six more songs. I don't know any of the shit he's playing. None of it. Maybe it's old obscure stuff that he's throwing in there for the real fans, and maybe it's all from his new
buzzkill of an album. Either way, half an hour into this show I was feeling some serious buyer's remorse.

After however many songs, Springsteen finally finds it in him to throw us a bone and play "Darkness on the Edge of Town"- a song I don't even fucking like, and didn't even fucking recognize until he hit the chorus. (In my defense, it was the most uptempo goddamned thing he'd played up to that point, so I was kinda lost. And I might have been a little bit asleep. Or at least trying to get some sleep. But the fucker played something fast and loud and everyone clapped, so I tried real hard to pay attention and figure out what the fuck was happening. Then he hits the chorus and I realize that this is actually one of hit hits, so out of nowhere I start clapping and the guy next to me – who looked kinda like an obese version of Night Moves-era Bob Seger – looked at me disapprovingly as though I were simply a lost cause. (Thank God he didn't know about those shenanigans in the ticket line!)

The rest of the concert is a blur. I know he did that shitty acoustic version of "Born in the USA" that no one likes, and that he fucked up one of his dumb harmonica solos and muttered an obscenity into the mic right after he did it.

I also remember that it being Christmas time, someone went to the stage and handed him a Santa Cap…..not so subtly begging for one of Bruce's famous Christmas song performances.

It was not meant to be, as he tossed the cap to the floor and complained into the mic "Why do people always give me this shit?"

(You know, I thought that this performance was really offensive, but as I write it all down, I can't help but be charmed by Bruce hating everyone in the audience. It kind of reminds me of that old SNL skit where Shatner goes off on the Star Trek nerds at a convention. Fuck, yeah, Bruce – sticking it to the Springsteen acolytes! Bruce Springsteen, you don't give a FUCK, you pimp!)

Um, so yeah. I guess the new song "Straight Time" was good that night. I remember that much. And I heard "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street" for the first time that night – a version that I would later learn was superior in ever way to the original jive-ass 70's version.

It was probably the highlight of the entire show. In fact, it looked like it was the only time all night when the guy didn't look miserable.

I know that it was the only time that I wasn't.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

bowie nin nissan

bowie nin nissan
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
More on Bowie...

Anyone who follows pop music probably has an opinion on when Bowie hit rock bottom. For some, it was the all-smiles-and-sunshine "Modern Love" era.

Others think of the Glass Spider/Never Let Me Down era (which gets my personal vote).

Still others pin it on the Tin Machine experiment, or the horribleness that was his cover of the already awful "I Took A Ride on the Gemini Shapeship" just a few years ago (Goddamn, Bowie, how about no more space songs for the next ten years?)

But to be honest, it was hard to watch THE David Bowie get slaughtered by a bored and hostile teenage suburban crowd without thinking that THIS - this sad night in a tasteless shed arena in Suburban Virginia - just might be curtains for him.

Seriously, I'd rather forget this show. If Bowie's fans didn't turn up in Hershey, then they all but protested this performance.

I went to this show with my little brother and his college sweetheart, a girl he'd been with for about three years by this point, and who was just beginning to illustrate that there were signs of relative mental instability at play. But she was also a great big Bowie nerd like me, which is what led me to give her my endorsement when they first started dating.

This evening just might have been the last time I saw her, come to think of it.

Back to the show....We missed pretty much the entire damned NIN set because we were stuck in traffic on I-66, but we caught the shared set of Warswaza, Scary Monsters, Reptile, Hurt and Hallo Spaceboy. (Another fucking space song...thank you David).

Once again, the shared set went over well with the crowd. But it all went bad the minute Trent & crew left the stage. Bowie got about one song of his list out before it all went wrong in a big way. Kids in front of us giving him the finger. People leaving. An isolated case or two of people throwing things. And, one moment that's honestly kind of painful to remember....some kid ran on stage, did a lap, then smacked/tapped David Bowie on the head before leaping back into the crowd.

To his credit, Bowie took it all in stride and carried on like a total pro. Still, you could tell he was reeling; God only knows how many other dates on the tour had gone so badly.

At the same time, watching the whole horror show unfold, it was so abundantly clear just how arrogant Bowie was to even consider doing this tour. Just because Nirvana covers one of your weirder, more obscure songs doesn't mean that disaffected industrial poseur kids are going to fawn over you 30 years later....(especially if you completely tart the fuck out of it the second time around - seriously, the version of "The Man Who Sold the World" that evening was enough to make Mick Ronson and Klaus Nomi roll over in their graves).

And that's not even the half of it. The setlist was truly underwhelming, with duds like "We Prick You" and the abysmal "Teenage Wildlife" featured prominently throughout the show, while total gems like "Panic in Detroit" or "Width of a Circle" might have been just the thing to get these poseur fuck kids to pay attention. (Or not..."The Voyeur of Utter Destruction" is a pretty wild song, and that fell flat with this crowd as well).

The band was a weird fit, too. Despite the power rhythm section of Gayle Ann Dorsey and Joey Baron, the rest of the band just....well, they looked ODD. There was the phenomenally talented Reeves Gabrels, looking pretty much like rock guitar's George Costanza, there was super-pianist Mike Garson -- they guy who made SO many early Bowie albums awesome in about sixteen different ways -- wearing some awful industrial-flavored costume that just made him look old as shit; and then there was a flaming 50-year old back up singer who just looked....dammit I hate saying this....but he looked very fucking old and very fucking gay.

(Fuck you rock can be really fucking cool when it's David Bowie or Bob Mould or the Germs or Turbonegro or Bloc Party or whoever doing it. But this dude got totally Erasure on us).
Anyway, I hated seeing Bowie getting owned that way. All the while I knew that it wasn't *really* him, and that it was really that he was playing for a bunch of spoiled loser kids who didn't really have much (if any) historical perspective on music. But at the end of the day, it was his fault for orchestrating this dumb idea for a tour.

Trent woulda been kind to have warned him.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

bowie nin hershey

bowie nin hershey
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

Here's the thing about being a David Bowie fan:

Being a fan of Bowie is not in any way, shape or form an indication of bad taste. Even the most droll, elitist, cynical, insecure music snobs agree that Bowie left the musical landscape far better than he found it (no doubt not hesitating to mention along the way that Bowie stole shit left and right and picked up a crazy chick who ushered his ascent all that much more impressively). But the point is, everyone basically agrees that Bowie is one of the few musical figures who achieved greatness over and over, at several ages and stages of his career.

But this same fact makes it exceptionally distasteful to be a Bowie fanatic. Because, honestly, how many times do we need to be told that Bowie is awesome?

Well, guess what? I am a recovering Bowie fanatic. And I sometimes still cannot be helped from running my mouth about the guy.

Even though I've tempered my fanaticism in my old age (am I really fanatical about anything anymore??), I'll still talk the ear off of anyone willing to listen to me talking about how and why Aladdin Sane is Bowie's best work, and why it irks me that people so frequently mistake the Aladdin character with Ziggy Stardust, when Aladdin clearly was far darker and more vulnerable and dangerous figure.

(Jesus, there I go again.....can you believe that I was even WORSE ten or fifteen years ago??)

Ok, anyway, Bowie does make it hard to be both an objective music fan and a fanatic. Because when David Bowie flops, he does it grand style (see: the Glass Spider Tour).

And, sadly, this tour was a flop.

There were a few weird things going on in music at this time. Nine Inch Nails was all the rage, and there was this ridiculous faux industrial "scene" coming up, that (much like grunge, metal and yes, punk) eventually became suburbanized and far more about personal style than music or even culture.

But then Trent starting saying things in interviews, about how deeply he was influenced by Bowie's Berlin albums, and how "Always Crashing in The Same Car" was the song he most wishes that he'd written. (Really, Trent? Really? Not "The Bewley Brothers"?)

Never one to miss out on an opportunity to whore out a popular musician, Bowie did the natural thing and released a fairly ok industrial-flavored album, and proceed to set up a tour with NIN. I'm sure he thought it was the latest round of New Romantacism, or the most recent glam revival, or the next version of mod pop. After all, every 7-10 years these things just sort of....well, they happen to Bowie. And it really helps when the generation's martyr covers you on "Unplugged" and releases your song as a posthumous single.

Well, it didn't happen this time.

To start with, the album was gimmicky and no more convincingly industrial than anything else coming out of White Flint Mall (not that I didn't enjoy "Hallo Spaceboy"and "Hearts Filthy Lesson"). But furthermore, Bowie and his invincible ego decided that since he'd retired (sold out on?) his greatest hits back during the Sound & Vision Tour, that he's just do an entire tour of lesser-known tunes this time around.

As USA Today wrote the week that he launched the tour, Bowie may have written rock and roll suicide in 1971, but he waited until 1995 to commit it.

There were other clues that this would not be a triumphant tour. Hersheypark Stadium failed to sell out by a large margin, leading the promoter to open up the field for anyone with tickets. This, of course, left the stands half filled at best.

But all things considered, Bowie weathered this show fairly well. There was a lot of interplay with the crowd, and the shared set between both bands proved to be a winner. But it was a young crowd - simply put, Mr. Bowie's fans didn't turn up for this tour, and a lot of the kids didn't get it, and didn't care to.

All in all, though, he seemed to convert a few people who were dancing in front of me most of the night.

The rest of the tour did not fare as well......a story for the next entry.