Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Apocalypse ABC. Happy Hallowe'en.

(Some of the images are a little hard to see, but if you click on them they enlarge and become a slideshow).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now, at the Hollywood Bowl: Intimations of my mortality

One of the advantages of university employment is that it keeps me – a man who has been aspiring to be a cantankerous old fuddy-duddy since adolesence – in contact with people whose lives do not revolve around diaper changes and nap time (do NOT mess with my nap time).

I have not attended a large-scale live music event since an outdoor performance of the Orchestre de Strasbourg in 2009. I have not been to a rock concert since seeing Metric in a bar in Montreal, and I hadn’t been to a stadium show since seeing Green Day (and prior to them) Aerosmith when I lived in Halifax.

Given that I live in the city with one of the most famous outdoor performance venues in the world, this was a failing that needed to be rectified. Fortunately, our friend Anna (age: young enough to appreciate the charms of Justin Bieber, old enough to be embarrassed by that) took it upon herself to forestall our impending senescence by organizing a group to go see Florence and the Machine at the Hollywood Bowl. None of the following vaguely grumpy-sounding post should detract from my gratitude for her organization, but I both my loyal readers know that I do not ever venture outside without finding some way to make it sound like a soul-destroying ordeal.

Upon disembarking from the shuttle bus, I was struck by the unexpected variety of people that had gathered to see the show. Florence and the Machine are hardly an alternative act, but there sound is enough out of the mainstream that I would have expected the crowd to be fairly uniformly hipster or hipster-sympathetic.

Instead, there was a surprisingly high number of scantily clad Glamazons, a species of six-foot tall women that live in Hollywood clubs, movie-opening after-parties, and magazine gossip pages. Their platform heels did not seem concordant with an arena show, their tops - whose existence was suggested by the wisps of fabric rather than defined by them - were definitely not concordant with the forecast temperatures, which were supposed to dip to the low teens (Celsius) as the night went on.

 “Are they planning on trying to score with the band?” I wondered aloud, uncharitably, to Amynah.

“They might be trying to get invited to the after-party,” explained Amynah, always savvier than I as to the mysteries of the celebrity-supporting biosphere . “You always want hotties at an after-party for the media.”

I expressed my doubts that Florence (or her Machine) would be associated with anything so quotidian as an after-party – I rather imagined that after her concerts she would retreat to a velvet yurt, to recharge by communing with woodland sprites or something like that.

 As we had left the house in a hurry (Amynah had arrived from Hamburg mid-afternoon, part of a series of trips that should be a blog post of their own) we needed to eat. We bought two “Bowl Burgers,” a small fries, a bottle of water a small Coke. This came to $35.

We then had to lug this feast up to our seats in Section W. The “W” stands for one of the following: “Way the hell in the back,” “We hope you brought oxygen tanks,” or possibly “Weather conditions might prevent you from seeing the stage.” We passed a number of skeletal remains clad in mountaineering gear that were not able to scale the heights from which we were to almost be able to see the show.

Nonetheless, once we were there, we were able to take in the whole Bowl in its glory – a natural amphitheatre carved into the hillside, seating thousands of people, under the anodyne grandeur of the Hollywood sign.
This was our view, no zoom. That blue blob in the center
is the dome covering the stage. To give you an idea of it's
size, the entire LA Philharmonic  can fit on that stage.

And the maximum my phone could zoom in.
The distance didn’t change how much I enjoyed the music, but it did very much change how I experienced the show: after several numbers, I forgot to clap because I felt like I was watching the whole thing on television. I kept getting inordinately distracted by the people around me: the inevitable girl two rows back who wants everyone around her to know that she knows all the lyrics to the songs and thinks we have paid $40 a ticket to hear her recite them, the drunk Adam Sandler lookalike yelling “I’m horny!” at inopportune moments while his seatmates fell over laughing at his wit, the Chinese family behind me that could not, for the life of them, clap in time either with each other or the music….

I would have been subject to all of that if I were seated in Section A-for-Awesome (well, probably not the Chinese family, who I suspect were sui generis) but it wouldn’t have mattered. The problem with viewing a concert from such a distance is that while even though the acoustics of the Bowl were such that the sound quality was excellent, it lacked the all-encompassing and overwhelming volume one wants at a rock concert. Instead of seeing Florence as she is meant to be seen (i.e. a larger-than-life mystic banshee towering above us), she was, from our vantage, a crimson Q-Tip flickering in and out of view at the further reaches of my vision.

When I started to get irritated by the smell of pot smoke (maybe section W was for “Weed?”) I realized something else: when I cannot subsume myself in the obliterating communality of shared joy that a rock concert can be - and probably not even then - the whole thing is simply not a decorous enough experience for me. Cantankerous Old Man Reynolds kept popping into my head waving his cane around and yelling in my ear that the people around me were just enjoying themselves ALL WRONG.

On the other hand, I was grateful that when Florence invited the audience to start “snogging” whoever was seated next to them, the venue’s security team immediately began patrolling the aisles with flashlights to make sure no one did any such thing. Thank you, goon squad, for that.