Rumblings, Ruminations, and Retrospectives

Musings from the mind of the Beast.

By

‘No Doubt’ about it…

… last night’s concert was an amazing show. Featuring warm up act Bedouin Soundclash, special guests Paramore, and headliners No Doubt, the concert brought the wide range of aural assault.

While the concert itself was fantastic, there were also some lessons to be learned about the whole experience. On with the explanation / show review…

Lesson #1: Come Prepared

Stephanie signed up with the No Doubt Fan Club to get special floor tickets that allowed us entry to the venue before the general public. Sweet! We got ready; I brought a t-shirt and shorts to work so I could change after work and be ready for the throng of people. We both brought only the essentials: bank card/cash, identification, ticket order form. Excess keys, purse, etc are all left in the car. You can’t be weighed down when you’re in a pit.

But as well as you prepare, sometimes it just all goes wrong and falls to shit.

After work, we realize we forgot the camera in the car, so Steph heads off to get it while I head over to Moxie’s to meet our friend Angie and not keep her waiting too long. As I get there and she asks where Steph is, Angie fills me in on these huge signs on the MTS Center doors that say ‘absolutely no recording devices’. So I call Steph and tell her to leave the camera in the car. There’s a wasted trip.

Steph shows up at Moxie’s, and we all have a drink and share a spectacular plate of double-cheese nachos. The doors are apparently going to open for the fan club at 6 PM, so about 5:30-ish we head out to the arena and get in line. Not too many people ahead of us, so we’re all good. We’re pretty much guaranteed guard rail, which is essential if you’re going to be on the floor.

It’s at this point Steph realizes she’s left her ID in the car, so just minutes away from getting in, she has to run BACK to the parking garage, a trip that’s going to take her at least 15 minutes. So I wait in line, striking up a conversation with this guy and his girlfriend (who were really nice) as she and Angie make the trek, and then hilarity ensues. They get to the door of the second level of the parkade – which is locked – and Steph realizes the key is in the car, where we left everything else. So, it’s off to find a security guard to open the door.

Meanwhile, I can’t get the tickets, since Steph used her name to order them, so I wait as the entire fan club line passes me to get into the arena. That’s it. We’re screwed. We’re going to be stuck in the middle of the pack of people, and we’re going to get crushed. Both Angie and I have bad backs, and Stephanie’s going through a knee injury. Cue up: horrible concert experience.

Finally, the girls return, and we make our way into the arena. Stupid arena person writes ALL over my COMMEMORATIVE fan club ticket, and I look out onto the floor. There’s all kinds of room at the stage! We head up to the guardrail, just right of center, and we’re beside the guy and his girlfriend that I met in line. CRISIS AVERTED!

Lesson #2: Stay Strong. Hold your ground.

Through the magic of insane MTS Center security policy, we’re not actually allowed to stand against the guardrail until the bands come on the stage. Something about they don’t want us getting squished. Do they really think an extra hour is going to kill us, considering what’s about to happen when the bands come on stage?

Anyway, Stephanie, Angie, myself, and “dude and his girlfriend” (heretofore indicated by “dude” or “DAHG”) strike up a conversation with the security guards.

Jarret’s Concert-Going Tip #1: Make nice with the security personnel. You never know when you’re going to need them, and also, they may just turn an eye aside when you want to use your camera, or beat up the stiff behind you.

That’s blatant foreshadowing, people. Stay tuned.

So anyway, we’re seated on the freezing concrete floor, as it’s an hour and a half until show time, and then all the people start streaming in. Up to our feet we go to protect our spots, and it’s still just under 90 minutes until the show starts. Mine and Angie’s backs curse at us, and the wait begins as we talk to the security guy about what it’s like for him at concerts, about different acts he’s met, what are some of the people he’s met like, we all talk about our different musical tastes, etc. Really nice guy.

Then, we’re minutes away from show time. The crowd’s getting fired up. The energy’s building. We all go lean against the guard rail even though we’re not supposed to, and my back promises me to buy me a Coke when the show is over. Some random woman (further noted as ‘SRM’) comes up with her little kid, maybe 5, and taps me on the shoulder. SRM asks if I mind moving aside so her kid can see.

Do I mind?

I may be being a bit of an asshole here, but quite frankly, I don’t care. I’m the one that paid well over $100 for the special fan club ticket that allows me early access. I stood in line and in front of the stage for 2 hours. I *earned* this spot, and I’m supposed to allow you, SRM – who obviously didn’t pay for the special privileges that I am about to enjoy – to show up at the eleventh hour and wave your kid in my face just so you can weasel your way up to the front? Take a freaking hike, sister, and take your sob story with you. I’m about to be less than 10 feet away from some great music, and not Atlas himself is going to move me from this position.

Jarret’s Concert-Going Tip #2: Once you have earned your three square feet of space on that guard rail, you DEFEND that sucker with your very life.

Lesson #3: Keep an open mind, and have fun.

It’s show time. The lights drop, and the pretty much sold out arena POPS as we’re all programmed to when the lights go out.

First up is Bedouin Soundclash, (BSC from now on) who I’m positive I’ve heard one song of theirs on the radio, and didn’t mind it, so I have a small inkling of who these guys are. In my mind, either this is going to be a complete train-wreck, or I’m going to be pleasantly surprised.

The band comes on stage, and launch into their first song right away.

Jarret’s Concert-Going Tip #3: A rock band + saxophone + trumpet = GENUIS.

BSC plays a real nice 30 minute set. They’ve got a real nice sound, not rock as I originally guessed, but more of a ska/reggae feel to their music, with a real nice groove to everything. Their singer has a nice rasp to his voice.  I may even pick up a CD if I can find it. When they played their signature song "”When The Night Feels My Song” (the one I knew from radio) the entire arena LOST IT, and it was super loud.

BSC leaves the stage to a happy crowd, and the anticipation for Paramore starts to mount. I know these guys mostly from their hit “Misery Business” and their giant smash “That’s What You Get” (not to mention playing it at least 100 times on Rock Band).

The teenage girls all around us start to get pushy, all trying to wiggle their way up to the front, and DAHG and I, Steph and Angie all raise shields and prepare for the onslaught, bracing ourselves on the guardrail against any invaders. We chat up the security guard some more and kill the half hour between sets.

The crew is really efficient at getting things torn down and the final sound check done for the next act. Paramore has a really neat setup with their guitar and bass cabinets all covered in massive photographs that look like artsy newsprint.

Again, the lights drop, the crowd POPS, and Paramore hits the stage and immediately assault us with huge guitars and big sound. I can’t believe how YOUNG this band is (the singer, who looks about 20, herself, later tells us one of the guitar players will turn 22 in September). “Misery Business” rips through the arena, and they’ve caught my attention. Two guitars, bass, drums, and female vocals. I take note of the aforementioned guitar player’s muting technique – it sounds nice and heavy, but not TOO much.

Jarret’s Concert-Going Tip #4: When it’s there and it’s real, soak up the atmosphere.

There’s a fantastic vibe about this band. The music isn’t too complicated, so I don’t want to go out on a limb and say they’re great musicians, but they’re very good at what they do. Very high energy, as evidenced by the bass player – who nails down an exceptionally solid rock bass groove throughout the set and pulls off a seasoned look as he rocks around – does two running side flips over top of one of the guitarists!

DAHG, Steph, Angie and I increase power to the aft shields as the pushing and shoving gets more intense. Everyone wants to get as close as possible. Using the guardrail like a giant pillar, we push back and hold our ground, even as some chick behind me is using my ass and back as her own personal bass guitar.

More about Paramore… one thing that really came across about these guys is that stardom hasn’t hit yet. They’ve only release two albums, with the third coming out in September, but you can tell by the way this group carries themselves that they’re having FUN. There’s no “rock star” attitude here. They have a blast playing their music and performing in front of a crowd, and every time the crowd would pop, both the guitarist and bassist in front of me would blush and smile, shaking their heads in disbelief. It really seems genuine, folks. Everyone in the band has gigantic smiles on their faces throughout the entire set. They’re happy to be here and it shows.

Several songs later into their 45 minute set, including new ones from their upcoming album, “That’s What You Get” is unleashed upon us, and we all divert emergency backup power to the aft shields as the crush continues, and by this point, Dude and I (I can’t believe I haven’t gotten his name yet) are regularly fighting women off from trying to squeeze between and knock us off the guard rail, but sore, sweaty, and tired, we manage to hold our positions as Paramore wraps up their set and thanks us before leaving the stage.

Time to take another breather, and prepare for what is going to be the final onslaught on our ears, minds, and bodies. The No Doubt crew comes out to roll some shiny white floor across the stage, the rest of which is being dutifully held behind curtains. We’re all wondering what the hell is going on with the floor, when the security fellow warns us that he’s going to be too busy pulling people out of the crowd to get anything off the floor for us (Paramore fired out some guitar picks and drum sticks). People regularly get crushed in these pits and have to get removed from the crowd – they just can’t take it.

Remind me why I’m here again?

Oh yeah! The lights drop and so does the curtain, revealing a very white stage with a set that makes you think you’re on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from the new Star Trek movie this year (do you finally get all the talk about the shields? WITTY, HUH?), and No Doubt (noted now as ND) is standing there all in white costumes. The place looks rather sterile, but that all changes as the crowd LOSES THEIR COLLECTIVE MINDS and we’re further pounded against the guardrail.

Lesson #4: Survive. Fight back if you have to. Do what you must to live.

ND LEAPS into action, launching into “Spiderwebs”, and the arena foundation cracks. It’s big. It’s loud. The crowd found their minds that they lost earlier, put them back inside their heads, and then proceeded to lose them all over again. DAHG and our group are now regularly being pounded against the guardrail. We fight back by pushing off the guardrail and squishing those people against the crowd.

Did I mention that Gwen Stefani is gorgeous in person? It’s easy to look good on TV, but at 39 and a kid later, this woman is still HOT. She’s got the midriff showing, and Shania Twain can eat her heart out as she WISHES she had abs like Gwen does. Very nice! And it’s not hard to see why. From the opening note of the concert, right through the set, both Gwen and the bass player are literally leaping, bouncing, kicking, and stretching their way across the stage. A ND concert is effectively a 90 minute cardiovascular workout for these two. She may have been a bit short of breath at times, but for all that work, Stefani never missed a beat, nor did she miss a word. I mean, the woman is throwing kicks that almost nail herself in the CHIN, and she doesn’t miss a beat or a note.

Here’s a quick word to all those so-called “performers” like Britney Spears and the like that lip-synch their way through their careers (like they’re going to READ this), but folks, THIS is how it’s done. THIS is a performance. I don’t want to sit there for 90 minutes or two hours and watch you dance to a CD track. I want to hear you PERFORM. And Stefani is nothing but a PRO. Wow. She does it all, and STILL sings live. Amazing.

What else can you really say? The band played all the signature songs, from the aforementioned “Spiderwebs” to “Bath Water” to “Don’t Speak”. The whole while, DAHG and I are being physically destroyed. We’re taking shots to the ribs, legs, knees, back, and head. The shields have been breached, and there’s been several hull breaches reported, and casualties on several decks. We’re being crushed even further, and the inertial dampeners just simply can’t compensate.

Jarret’s Concert-Going Tip #5: When the going gets rough, the rough has to get going.

Finally, I’ve had enough, and as I take one more shot the ribs, I grab on to the guard rail and SHOVE BACK with all I’ve got, and a couple girls are rocked like only I can rock them. One of them took major exception to this. How DARE I defend my territory? How DARE I draw the line in the sand? This beey-ATCH reaches out, and like the catty whore she probably is, tries to rip the hair out of my head.

Now, I must digress here, and point out that I just got a fantastic hair cut last weekend (highlights and all), and now my hair is about two inches long. There’s nothing to grab. Obviously, this woman is used to fighting other females, and isn’t intelligent enough to adjust her game plan and try something different against the Alpha Male.

One small problem through all of this, is I’m a pretty instinctive kinda guy. I get attacked, and my first reaction is to wheel around and throw a left forearm that would have made Hulk Hogan cry with pride. Right in the face. And lo and behold, that was the end of it.

If there’s any law enforcement officers reading this… it was in the heat of the moment. And she started it. If you take me, you take her too.

Speaking of law enforcement, you know that security guard we were chatting up? He saw the whole thing and just nodded. The tips work, folks!

Anywho, it was pretty surprising after that. We had our space, and the crushing, pounding, and grinding were all but gone. Although, I rather enjoyed the grinding. Just kidding.

ND continued tearing through their set, and the walls of the MTS Center threatened to collapse in upon themselves and crush us all into some kind of mix of bone fragments and human jam on the concrete floor. The band played “Sunday Morning”, Hey Baby”, Simple Kind Of Life”, among others, and through the entire set, I’ve noticed the bass player (being a bassist myself) and how this guy was just in the ZONE.

His playing was spectacular, his fingers flying over the strings when needed, and holding down the signature riffs and grooves which are the foundation of ND’s songs. Often, he played for minutes on end with his eyes closed, just enjoying the vibe and the playing, and others, he broke into miles wide smiles at the joy of the fans, and he and I connected a couple times, and I’d invariably give him the traditional two fingered rock and roll hand sign to let him know his work was not only appreciated, but recognized for the skill he was displaying. Other times, we’d just smile at each other.

This guy had a look on his face like he was so deep in the zone… he had a Lou Diamond Phillips/John Travolta look to him, slightly darker, and with a little eye shadow on for effect, when he stared out over the audience, his whole aura projected that he was the most bad-ass mother-trucker in the arena, and every single note he played was the most bad-ass bass note ever released by a human being.

THAT’S how cool this cat was.

Ahh, being in the front row.

Anyway, at the end of the concert, where the encore included “Rock Steady” and ended with the gigantic “I’m Just A Girl” (where the guys totally SUCKED when asked by Gwen to sing the lyrics) which all but popped the roof off the top of the building, the cheering went on forever, and the bass player actually came down front off the stage, and came up to me and DAHG and personally handed us each a signature bass pick, his gesture of thanks for appreciating what he did. We thanked him profusely and sincerely before he was ushered away by security to keep the now near-rioting fans away from him.

Despite the physical abuse, this was a tremendous show from top to bottom. The only real complaint I had was the vocals were really tough to hear for most of the night, but I attribute that to us standing face to face with a couple giant speakers that played mostly bass and guitar through them.

Lesson #5: I’m too old for this shit.

No more floor / pit / moshing for me. I get beat up too much.

Aftermath

This was a really fun show. I don’t know about Angie, but my back’s pretty sore today. So are my feet, and as I’m wrapping this up around 3:30 PM, and my ears are STILL ringing. The last two fingers on my right hand are still numb from leaning on the guard rail.

But it was all worth it. All the pounding and hell we all took last night, the quality of show justified it, and I’d give everything a 9.5 out of 10, just losing a bit of a mark due to our placement and the vocals. This was a really cool show to be at.

Stephanie took lots of pictures with her cell phone, but as I haven’t got those yet, I’ll just rip a few from the MTS Center web site.

I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed being there. That’s right, folks… we were this close. ;)