“You create a community with music, not just at concerts but by talking about it with your friends.” – David Byrne
When I asked my concert-going friends which concerts were the biggest disappointments, a lot of their replies came down to perspective.
My friend Bonnie reminded me of a time a big group of us went to see Elton John at Merriweather Post Pavilion: “Well, now, Brent I don’t think I ever saw a bad concert, but there was one that was highly disappointing – as you may recall…Elton. John. DID NOT SING MY FAVORITE SONG, Bennie and the Jets which I waited all summer to hear. So of course, my friends sang it to me almost all the way home, making up words to mock my anger at not hearing the song, sorta like “B.b.b.b.b…Bonnie and the Jets…” At the time I was so mad, but it was so funny, and I was just a cussing.”
Four people said the Grateful Dead let them down. Cathy said she understood why The Dead supposedly handed out acid at their shows for years. She passed out once at a Dead show, and when she woke up, “they were still playing the same song 50 minutes later!” Three friends voted ZZ Top as their biggest bummers. Van Morrison, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews, and The Carpenters, all got votes for biggest concert disappointments.
Ann Marie says that even though she got to see Elvis, the concert wasn’t so good. The most memorable part was waiting for tickets in a line that wrapped around old Baltimore Civic Center at last a couple times.
Sometimes a best can also be a worst. Robin told me that she saw Grand Funk Railroad once in the seventies and that lead singer/guitarist Mark Farmer was “awesome. Then I saw them twenty years later, and…why, oh, why did Mark Farmer have to ‘age’ and cut his hair…”
Lee remembers: “I attended a Janis Joplin concert at the Capital Center, but she collapsed onstage and the concert ended about twenty minutes after it began. People were demanding their money back and it nearly turned into a riot!”
My most disappointing:
Pearl Jam, April 1994. Three days after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Peg and I fly back from visiting my daughter Nicole in Montana. Leaving’s always a tough emotional experience. One cool thing for us. We have Pearl Jam tickets.
George Mason University’s Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia.
Starting pretty much about the same time as our ETA into BWI.
First bad thing: Friends supposed to meet us bail and we’re stuck with their tickets.
Second bad thing: I hear a college kid in a group say, “Come on, let’s go in.”
Another kid says, “I don’t have tickets.”
I say, “I have tickets.”
The second kid says, “How many?”
I say, “Two.”
He says, “How much?”
I say, “I’ll give them to you for ticket price.”
Another kid steps up and says, “I’ll give you fifty a piece,” or whatever.
“Sixty,” some other kid says, and zero-to-eighty, I’ve got a bidding war on my hands.
“Whoa, whoa,” I say. I turn to the original kid. “I’ll give them to you for ticket price.”
He fishes in his hip pocket, pulls out eighty bucks, and hands me his cash.
I hand him my tickets.
And that’s when the law swoops in. Bad thing number three.
One campus cop. One county cop.
The kids split in a dozen different directions, the winner of the non-auction with his tickets and ahead of the pack.
A casualty of Pearl Jam’s hot-at-the-time war on Ticketmaster and scalpers, I’m handcuffed and led to an indoor security shack, Peg behind me crying all the way.
I’m charged with ‘Selling without a License’. As I’m put through the onsite booking process, a steady parade of petty criminals like myself join me on our journey to be divested of the evidence of our crimes, which in my case is our tickets and the money from the sudden and unanticipated commercial exchange, and escorted off the property.
A stoner laughs at me for being arrested and thrown out for ticket price.
From where we wait, sitting against concrete-block walls, we can just kind of hear the band on stage, almost enough to make out which song they’re playing, and we know that’s gonna be the best we ever do, here, tonight.
The experience scars me. Afterwards, I avoid big shows.
I can’t listen to Pearl Jam for like ten years.
And the worst part?
The cop who arrests me can’t even spell.
Writes “Perl Jam” on my ticket.
Now I wish I’d saved the damned thing.
I could’ve posted it on this blog.
Art by Leslie Cabarga from the book Rolling Stone: The Illustrated Portraits
TOMORROW…WE WRAP, WRAP, WRAP, WRAP IT UP…