For some insane reason I offered up the platform of my blog to my husband so he could share his trials and tribulations during last weekend’s Dave Matthews Caravan Concert. So for the first time EVER in abbieross.com history, I present:
Too Old for Dave?
by Jamie “Punky” Buhr
About 5 minutes into the shuttle ride I couldn’t get the voice of Gob Bluth out of my head. “I’ve made a huge mistake”.
The 45 minute trip on the Red Line had been trying enough, but now I find myself sandwiched on a shuttle bus between 2 girls who appear to be on the verge of a full fledged brawl. My guess is they can’t be older than 18 and their fight seems to stem from whether or not one paid the other for their alcohol. According to the more indignant one the fact that HER older brother “bought the case of bud light and Bacardi Limon” is an even bigger slap in the face. Things escalate and before I know it they are grabbing and shoving and for a brief moment I forget I’m jammed on a bus and start to enjoy myself. The cluster of intoxicated guys they are with finally take notice and intervene. “We’ve been waiting for this night our entire lives!” the drunkest of the group reminds everyone.
They separate the two girls and the accused freeloader retreats to the back of the shuttle, too embarrassed to make eye contact with anyone. Meanwhile I’m still brimming with questions. “Are they best friends who simply haven’t become used to each others drunken personalities yet?” “Are they rivals going after the same guy?” “Will they be hugging and making up by the time “Satellite” rolls around?” Sadly I know these questions will never be answered. But the good news is the shuttle has finally arrived at the venue.
As Abbie and I begin to wander the grounds I can’t help but wonder why anyone would ever pick this place for a concert venue. I thought I heard someone say it used to be a steel mill and it certainly has the charm of a place that used to be a steel mill. We make our way to the main stage and trip over the first of many small boulders we will encounter throughout the night. We find Abbie’s friends who have carved out an area close to the stage with several blankets. As I sip my beer and watch Ray Lamontagne begin his set I think to myself “this is pretty awesome”. I have never seen him live before and am enjoying myself thoroughly. Maybe it was the right call to get a last second ticket…
“Dave’s gonna start any minute!” someone shrieks from the area just in front of the long row of port-a-potties. These words seem to kick the bathroom lines into a tense overdrive. We have successfully executed a bathroom/food/beer run after Ray Lamontagne finished but it seems like time is running out. I find Abbie and we walk as quickly as you can walk while holding 2 full beers. As soon as we begin making our way back into the area we had left our friends and blankets I immediately have a bad feeling. I can make out roughly where we had set up shop but the big difference now is there are about 30 rows of tightly packed rabid Dave Matthews fans standing in our way. “Come on, we gotta keep moving” I hear Abbie shout as the crowd’s noise level rises in anticipation.
The next 10 minutes are more or less a blur. It becomes clear to me pretty quickly that most of the people who had enjoyed their luxurious blankets and picnics during Ray Lamontagne have quickly lost the majority of their real estate. And they are not happy. It starts with a few glares and eye rolls. Those don’t concern me because they mainly came from mild mannered couples in their late 20’s or early 30’s. But the closer we inch towards our blanket (and Abbie’s purse) the younger and drunker the crowd becomes. And those eye rolls quickly turn to verbal jabs.
“What the eff dude!”
“Yeah, just walk on through!”
“She’s GOTTA get closer to see DAVE”
A quick side note to women out there. When you’re leading your husband or boyfriend by the hand through a crowd of highly intoxicated concertgoers who either just had their blankets trampled or think you’re trying to cut everyone to get closer to the stage, where do you think the brunt of the vitriol is going to fall? Here’s a hint: not the woman.
In Abbie’s mind we were justified making our way back to our blanket (if it even still existed) but it’s not like I could explain to every single person we bumped on our way “hey I swear we were sitting up there less than 30 minutes ago, you gotta believe me!”. No, there is no time for explanations in this scenario and even if there were it is too effing loud to hear them anyway. To these people I was simply the gutless asshole letting his woman lead him to get a better view of Dave. Finally I had enough.
“Abbie if you take another step I’m going to join the angry mob and turn on you”.
“But what about…”
“But nothing. We’re almost to the tanktop guy section, and there’s no way I’m venturing into their territory”
She finally seems to accept the fact that we weren’t getting back to our area that had been so perfectly reserved a mere half an hour ago. I do a quick recon glance behind us and am met by 20 or so eyeballs of pure disdain. To make it worse we are now standing right in front of a couple who are still sitting defiantly in their lawn chairs. The only thing missing is a giant spotlight on us.
All I can think to myself is “please start playing, please start playing, make everyone happy”. Each minute feels like an hour. I don’t dare look back again. I think I feel someone kick half a cup of beer at my legs. To add insult to injury a beach ball is batted back to me not once but twice. The first time I quickly swat it away the way you would a mosquito. The second time it comes from the side and awkwardly lands on my shoulder. I feel hundreds of eyes burn into my back as again I try to get that damn beach ball away from me as quickly as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever got the beach ball when I’ve actually wanted to bat it. But the one time I want to blend in, NEED to blend in the thing basically latches onto me like Velcro. In a vain attempt at redemption I do my best to make it appear that I’m lecturing and scolding Abbie about the foolishness of our endeavor and try to say things like “I don’t know where our blanket is!” and “we’ll just have to find your purse later!” as loudly as possible in hopes to win some sympathy from the jury behind us.
After what feels like 2 days, the music finally starts and the crowd erupts. I instantly feel the spotlight start to fade and I even give a half hearted fist pump. Still we are jammed in tight and the couple behind us is still defiantly sitting in their lawn chairs. It’s so tight that one misstep or bump could easily send me sprawling on top of them. As the set begins I try to enjoy myself as much as possible but it’s futile. I don’t know if it’s the lady in the lawn chair tapping her foot to the beat of the music and hitting my calf in the process. Or the fact that everyone around us seems to know every single word and I can’t even come up with the name of the last two songs. Or it could be the overly excited high school kids high fiving and saying things like “strong start!” and “2 for 2!”.
The moment it finally hit me what was really bothering me was between the 4th and 5th song where I let my mind start to wander and suddenly this thought crept into my head “I totally forgot that Ann Coulter is going to be on Bill Maher tonight, that should be great”. Holy shit. I am way too old to be this close to the stage. Way too old to be packed in with the diehards and kids who are drunk off liquor bought for them by older brothers or fake IDs. Way too old to be amongst the fans that recognize each song after the first chord. I finally have some clarity. I don’t belong here anymore. At least not this close.
I turn to Abbie and shout into her ear “You want to move back?!”. She gives me a look that says “I thought you’d never ask” and I love her for it. As we make our escape the insults fly in similar fashion to when we made our reckless trek toward the stage:
“Yo, the show just STARTED bro”
“See ya loser!”
Only this time I don’t care because I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. After a few minutes of weaving the crowd finally gets lighter and I feel the anxiety melt away. The further we walk the more it makes sense. Now we are among the people who STILL are on blankets and even playing Frisbee. Look there’s someone dancing with some glow sticks! I nod knowingly to myself. Yup. This is where we should have been sitting the entire time. Sure we don’t have the best view but who do we think we are? 19? No, no, no. I’m 29ish. I’m a little disappointed it took me this long to figure it out. Even during Ray Lamontagne we had out kicked our coverage in closeness to the stage. I didn’t know it at that moment in time but I was about to get a hard lesson in outdoor concerts.
You see there are many types of fans and you just have to know what your lane is and stay in it. If you studied the people from closest proximity to the stage to furthest it would probably look something like this.
1) The diehards who will find a spot by the stage 5 hours before the show begins and not move. They’ll pee in a diaper before they risk losing their spot.
2) The meatheads (usually shirtless or in tank tops) who don’t necessarily know the words to the songs or even the names of them. But they are big enough to get as close as they want because no one’s really going to say shit.
3) The fans in their late 20’s or early 30’s that in their Dave Matthews heyday knew all the words and have fond memories of their late teens and early 20’s at a venue much like this one. More than likely their blanket has been trampled and they mutter amongst themselves how many “punk Dave fans” there are these days.
4) The people who get it. They don’t care how close they are as long as they can hear the music and at least see the two giant screens. Their blankets have not been trampled and they seem to be enjoying the hell out of themselves. Some are playing Frisbee. Some are pulling bottles of wine from their picnic baskets. Some even seem to be on some pretty awesome drugs. This is where I belonged.
As we finish the second half of the concert comfortably from our new found spot I keep glancing to the area we watched the first 5 songs from and can’t help but laugh. Now it looks like you’d have to helicopter in to have any chance to get back to Abbie’s purse. Luckily her friends saved the day and grabbed it before it was passed around by people looking for money or pot.
Now we could both relax and enjoy the music. I feel better knowing I will walk away from this experience a little savvier and wiser. I vow my next concert will either involve an assigned seat or an 8 by 8 area that will never be compromised by stampedes. Even if that means the parking lot. And as if the concert gods finally decided to throw me a bone I was able to recognize the next 3 songs and even kind of sing along to them. And thanks to the power of DVR “Real Time” will be waiting for me when I got home. I wonder if Ann Coulter’s trip into the Lions Den had worked out any better than mine…