I’m going to start this off by simply stating; I really like Leon Bridges and I’m way too used to dive bars. There’s gonna be a lot of Old Man griping here, so I better front load this with a heap o’ praise for good ol’ Leon. I really like Leon Bridges. I’ve said that twice, so you should know it’s important. I dig his style. Super classy with a great eye for what made vintage styles work. I only wish threads looked as good on me as his on him. But I got a bit fat… so… there’s that.
And don’t get me started on that voice. Uggggghhhh, his voice is so good. It makes me make dirty groaning noises out of pure jealousy. I’m a huge Sam Cooke fan and Leon’s got that vibe in spades. On top of all that, he’s just a real nice kid. Humble, hardworking with a good, genuine niceness to him. We need more of that.
But I could only manage to sit through two songs before I had to get. The. Fuck. Outta there.
Rock’n’Roll does not belong in a STERILIZED HOSPITAL
I got to Mesa Arts Center just a little before the opening act started. Parking wasn’t terrible, which is usually my first gripe, and I was able to fumble my way through to the will call without too much difficulty. “Oooh, an extra ticket! In the orchestra pit no less!” well this shouldn’t be too bad. I can sit down through a concert. I like sitting. I like sitting a lot.
I wandered around for a minute soaking it in a bit. Smiling at girls that liked how I dressed. “I really should have brought some flyers. There’s a lot of really cute girls here. Cute girls in adorable dresses that should probably like my band. Shit.” Then… like a rising red tide of suits and well dressed forty somethings it all started swelling in. Anxiety. Better hit the bar.
In a line 30 people deep, they only had one pair of people working the bar. One ringing register and one fixing drinks. It took for-damn-ever. I could try to make chit chat with the people in line but I just felt so… out classed. What could I talk to these people about? They all seemed so contented waiting in line. Finally I got to the bartender. Better make it a double.
Trying to make my way into the theater made me really angry as to HOW MANY GOD DAMN DOORS THERE WERE. The fact that there was only one specific door I was allowed to enter from made my blood boil. I wondered if cows ever felt this way. Finally, I found that one special door meant for me and made my way into the theater. The moment the usher took my ticket and began to show me to my seat was the beginning of the end for me. An usher at a fucking Rock’n’Roll show. This is why we aren’t relevant anymore, folks. People who like Rock’n’Roll apparently also like ushers. That’s pretty fucked right there.
The kindly, older usher (older is putting it very gently, logically, he should be dead. He very well could be at this moment) showed me to my aisle and I stared down the row of seats. “Your seats should be in the middle, sir.” I stared at the usher. I stared down the aisle. I stared at the usher. I stared down the aisle. The distance between the two grew immense. I sensed every foot I was about to step on and every face that was about graze with my ass. I stared back at the usher. Even though the opening act was really good, I was not fucking ready for this. “Let’s take another few laps around the joint and look at girls before committing to sitting down watching other people play instruments in front of people”.
After about 10 minutes of measured breathing and force fed happy thoughts, I labored my ass past the faces of strangers into my seat. Or someone’s seat. Who knows, it was dark and cramped. I settled into my seat… and watched people play instruments. I was bored as fuck. Which is no bearing on the opening band. They were solid, had decent songs”… wait… is that an 808 on the kick drum? Wtf? Are they using backing tracks?” I tried to hold off on getting all judgey but the crowd really liked her. They kept yelling things. Really positive things. Like, they were heckling and holding the show up with how much they liked her. The more they liked her, the more irritated I got. “What exactly are they liking so much right now? Am I just SO jaded that I’m missing something amazing right in front of my face?!” No, I just think these people were just happy with their lives and this is just another thing for them to be happy about. Again, I LIKED THE BAND but… anytime I felt myself getting into a song…I just felt stifled. Like there was an omnipresent “hush” of an elementary school librarian who missed every opportunity in life to have fun and was thoroughly determined to make as many people miss those opportunities as well. I just stared throughout the crowd to see any kind of expression of excitement. None. No different than a movie theater. Just faces forward and every now and then a lean-in for some mini conversation or commentary. No one bobbing their head, no one yearning to get the fuck out of these seats and fucking dance like men and women should. Just faces forward, passively loving the fuck out of what was going on right now.
My drink was done and I needed to get outside and have a cigarette. “You can make it through this show, Anthony. You’re going to enjoy really good performers putting on a good show in the wrong place. Just because the world isn’t the way you think it should be doesn’t mean you can’t have a good night.” Well, apparently not. After huffing down a few cigarettes and freshening my scotch I buckled down. “There’s a whole bunch of really well dressed people. You should fit in. You should chat with people. Maybe get some people’s take on the show. You’ve got the perfect cover, you’re a writer now, apparently.”
I got back to my seat before people started filing back into the theater so I could avoid the hobble of shame down the aisle. I was prepared to strap myself in and hunker down. Leon came onto the stage and the now full crowd lost their shit. “I’m ok. This is good.” Then, they all sat down.
“Fuck. I can’t do it. This isn’t how Rock’n’Roll should be. It shouldn’t be in this sterilized, pristine, uptight art gallery. This is what killed the theater and it’s killing Rock’n’Roll.”
And then I stepped on everyone’s toes, didn’t apologize and gave my spare ticket to a hobo.
Again, this SHOULD NOT reflect on the artists in any way. Both artists, and especially Leon, put on great shows and have some damn skill. But I just don’t see how people enjoy these shows. Rock’n’Roll belongs in a dance hall not some hallowed theater. There should be people milling around and shooting the shit with strangers. There should be some fucking dancing. And most of all, there should not be ushers. I get that most people don’t want to use a dive bar bathroom and having ample seating is always nice. But there needs to be SOME element of danger in a Rock’n’Roll show. If there isn’t, it might as well be broadway. A tradition that tourists muse over but doesn’t affect the culture.
I really hope that hobo enjoyed the show.