Saturday, May 16, 2015

Standing At Concerts: Why I Can't Stand It

I attended a Noel Gallagher concert last week. It was the eighth time I'd seen him live, both as the lead guitarist for Oasis and as a solo artist.

He is my favorite musician, and since he's from England, it's a rare treat when he comes across the pond and puts on a show here. He tours the U.S., on average, once every three or four years. He hasn't spoiled me as a fan, and I like that. By comparison, Dave Matthews Band announces a summer tour once every two or three weeks. They will circle the country six times this summer alone. I'm times. More dates were just released.

My latest Noel Gallagher concert was staged in a general admission venue, with a capacity of 1,500. In one respect it enhanced the experience because it was intimate, and I was able to maneuver myself relatively close to the stage. On the other hand, I had to stand for a total of three hours, and I couldn't stand it.

I arrived to the venue at 7:30 p.m., a half-hour before the doors opened, and stood in line. The concert was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. By 8:53 p.m., my lower back was throbbing. It was an unfair reminder that, at the age of 34, my peak years of standing amid a sea of excitable music fans are long behind me. I was fantasizing about the curb outside the venue, and all of the wonderful ways I could sit on it, by the time Noel took the stage.

Once he started playing his guitar, I was able to mentally block the pain I was feeling. I was really entertained by the opening song and was dancing in that awkward "I can't dance so I'll bop my head, tap my foot and slap my hand against my thigh" sort of way. But the fans in front of me were moving to the music as well, and they started shifting their position and, as a result, obscuring my view of Noel. I'm 5'6" so I had to constantly stretch my neck to the left, to the right, in whichever direction necessary in order to best peer through the crowd in front of me and see the musician I paid to see. 

For those of you who are taller than I am, let me take a moment to explain to you how difficult it can be to be my height. Those around me are not really sensitive to the fact that I'm smaller than average, and they are not very accommodating to me. In fact, I usually have to accommodate them.

An example: when I'm with friends, and we want to take a group photo. This is rarely handled in a diplomatic manner. "Hey Shane, you're short, can you stand in the front, please? You're such a tiny person, and we don't want you to be hidden in the back behind all of us, your friends, who tower over you. That's great, thank you. Wait a second...can you kneel down toward the ground? It's just a precautionary measure. Again, you're short, but we can't run the risk of your head blocking someone's neck or chin. Thanks, buddy."

If I have to stand in front for a group photo because I'm short, it stands to reason that I should stand in the front for a general admission concert. That's just my two cents.

What really bothers me is when fans stand up at a seated venue during a concert. There's no need for that. You paid for the seat; use it. Get your money's worth out of it. The music will sound exactly the same whether you're sitting or standing. I'm certain of it.

Boy, was I irritated when I attended a festival in Central Park last fall. There were no seats, but everyone, including myself, was very comfortable sitting or lying on the grass. I was able to enjoy the music of fun. and Carrie Underwood while sprawled out on my blanket. I was really having fun (no pun intended). Then No Doubt walked onto the stage, and everyone stood up. I couldn't believe it. Here we were, relaxing on a lawn -- a Great Lawn -- and it was all ruined because tens of thousands of people felt the need to get on their feet for No Doubt's infectious brand of ska-pop. And they remained standing for a headlining set by Jay Z. That's more than two hours of standing for no logical reason. That night, I had 99 problems and searing leg pain was one.

Back to the Noel Gallagher concert: I had discomfort in my back from standing, and I had discomfort in my neck from stretching. Physically, I was falling apart. Fortunately, Noel had the cure halfway through his set: a semi-acoustic performance of "Champagne Supernova," which served as a cue for several fans around me to light up a joint. "Where were you while we were getting high?" indeed.

I'm certain the marijuana was for medicinal purposes, because they had to have been in as much agony as I was. I don't think I inhaled the smoke, but I did suddenly feel a whole lot better about myself, though I developed an intense craving for Doritos.

I don't mean to complain. It was an awesome concert, one of my personal favorites. I'm actually seeing Noel Gallagher again next month. In a seated venue. While I'm looking forward to the show, you better believe I will be sitting down for every minute of it.