Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Live Event: Counting Crows and Matchbox 20

The last time we went to PNC Bank Arena in Charlotte, Charlie and I misbehaved. We were there to see Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 and Kristen (my sister) ended up babysitting us.

Since then, we’ve done Red Rocks twice and basically gotten our shit together. So the concert before the eclipse was not such a disaster. In fact, we did several things I’ve never done at a concert:

We arrived late.

Our friends Mike and Melanie live in Charlotte and we spent the afternoon pre-gaming on their back patio. Craft beers, snacks, shade, and comfy chairs are all better than sweating it out in the parking lot. Plus, Melanie is an old friend and Mike a new one so it was good to spend time getting to know them.

After we checked into the hotel, we wandered next door to TGI Friday’s for another pre-game beer and snack. Again, no hurry to get to the arena.

When we finally got parked and started walking in, we had missed the first two songs of Counting Crows’ set. Fortunately, our section was basically empty so finding our seats and settling in wasn’t too tough.

We sat down.

I only typically stand if the people in front of me are blocking my view. But that’s pretty much always the case. Except not this time. Our section was the first part of the outdoor half of the amphitheater, so a wide sidewalk separated us from the inside folks who all stood. We could see over them just fine. And we were only two rows back and no one sat in front of us.

So we sat. When it is so crazy hot, sitting or standing doesn’t really matter.

During our favorite Counting Crows songs we stood and danced, and the people behind us urged us to stand for Matchbox 20 and we did for the encore. Mostly, though, we just sat and enjoyed the live music and the light show and seeing Rob Thomas, who looks rather old by the way, on the big screens that flanked the stage.

We left early.

Apparently sitting and being hot is boring because by mid-way through Matchbox 20’s set we were kind of done with the whole thing.

It may have also been that our buzz was wearing off and the beers were $25 for two tall Budweisers and water was $5.

“You know it’s just water, right?” I said to the girl at the concessions. “And that $5 is way too much to charge?”

“Yes,” she replied.

When you can buy a case for $5 and that’s the retail markup you know you’re being gouged. Five dollars per bottle is $120 per case, or $115 worth of additional profit. What the hell? Price gouging always makes me angry but at concerts when it’s 100 degrees and it’s water-for-fuck’s-sake, I can’t hold my tongue.

“That’s ridiculous,” I told her.

“I agree,” she said. Then handed me my change and turned her attention to the woman behind me.

Anyway, we left early. We pretty much never leave early. I told Charlie I only cared about one song and as soon as Rob-looks-too-old-to-be-him-Thomas sang it, we could go. It was the first song in the encore.

So, we left.

Maybe it was that the tickets were Groupon and only cost me $17 each. Or maybe it’s that Charlie had to work on Monday so we needed to get up early. Maybe it was us trying to save money and therefore not drinking $25 beers or paying for an Uber.

Whatever the cause, we did this concert like grown-ups.

Counting Crows did not play as long as we would have liked but we did find that Matchbox 20 was better than we expected. We are now renewed Matchbox 20 fans. So, there’s that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Live Event: The Great American Solar Eclipse

Is it possible for something to be amazing and kind of a let down at the same time? 

The word that comes to mind for yesterday’s eclipse experience is “confusing.” 

For several months, Columbia has prepared and planned for the event. Parties and performances and precautions have abounded since early Spring. The entire region was aware of our direct path status and the likelihood we would experience an influx of visitors. It was a tourism boon and one Columbia and its surrounding hamlets took full advantage of. Most impressively, the events of Eclipse Weekend were all very well publicized, rather inexpensive, and included free eclipse glasses. The only real price gouging I witnessed was the City of Columbia’s parking deck rates bumped up to a $10 event fee from their usual $1.25 per hour. But this was going to be a big deal, right? 

So we should make it one or at least participate in the well-organized suchness that others had orchestrated. We settled on the Blythewood Total Eclipse of the Park event at Doko Meadows which was both nearby and small enough that I was confident we would have a good experience. We packed coolers (against the rules) and took our own chairs and glasses with us. We listened to the live music performances and joined in the countdown. 

As the sky darkened and totality occurred, we whooped and wailed with the rest of the crowd. 

And then it was over. 

My friend Melanie’s kid said it first, “Can we go now?” 

Then HB chimed in, “It’s so HOT!” 

We had been sweating for over an hour, our hair stuck to our faces, ice cream melting before we could use the spoon on it, backs of thighs soaking the canvas tailgate chairs. We had eschewed the shade for a space in full sun and were paying for it. 

Then the moon began to assert itself and the eerie light of lunar shadow cooled the park. Not quite twilight, but a greyish flattening of shadow and light. There hung the strange stillness of celestial motion and the curtain of a black and white movie descended. The crowd turned glasses-covered faces skyward, mouths gaping in awe. 

I said to Melanie, “There’s a strange vulnerability here, like in a horror movie. As if this is the moment when, distracted by the sky, all humans are annihilated by invading aliens.” 

I cannot have experienced the Total Solar Eclipse without writing about it. There’s so much magic and mystery in it as to be completely surreal. During Totality when we removed our glasses and looked at one another, while the cicadas’ sound surged and the midday felt like late twilight, my writer’s brain was cataloguing details. 

Then it was over and we went back to day drinking, live music, exit traffic, and the Monday-ness of the day. 

It’s in the dichotomy of “rare celestial event on Monday” that my discomfort exists. 

The eclipse was everything I expected it to be. The park event and live music and visiting friends and open-air boozing were all I would have wanted. Yet, somehow, I feel let down. Like maybe I should I have also expected some cosmic insight, some spiritual revelation, or some life-altering change. Except eclipses are a predictable pattern, a scientific reality of a steady and persistent relationship between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. Which is comforting. 

And rather boring.

Where were you for the Solar Eclipse? 

ROAR!!! Then wait. Repeat as necessary.

I’ve always loved March’s “in like a lion, out like a lamb” dichotomy. On the one side, there’s a fierce restlessness an...