Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Agony and the Irony

Ohhh, my head. I don’t go out late at night very often anymore, maybe once a year and usually to see Alkaline Trio which is where I went last night. I bought the tickets months ago because when I saw the size of the club they were playing at I knew it would sell out quickly. Seemed like a good idea at the time, a chance to see Alkaline Trio in an intimate setting with maybe 1/2 the amount of people that would normally be there. But when it comes time to get in the car and drive to Denver it suddenly seems more like a chore. The show has sold out and people outside the club are looking to buy spare tickets and both Jonny and I are tempted to sell ours and go home and spend a nice quiet evening on the couch with Netflix and fall asleep 2/3 of the way through the movie like normal middle aged people. In the end we don’t, I know once we get inside and the band gets going we’ll have a good time and we’ve had this debate before.

The club Cervantes is in the 5 Points neighborhood of Denver which is a good place to go if you’re looking for crack but has little else to offer. I had to work in 5 Points back in the 90’s when I worked for the public transportation department. They were putting in Denver’s first light rail lines and chose 5 Points in part because they knew the poor people there would give them little resistance. Once they had a line up and running they could convince the rest of the city that it was a good thing. They set up a little public relations office in the heart of 5 Points that people could pop into to ask questions and pick up pamphlets telling them what a great boon the light rail line would be to their neighborhood. It would bring development and commercial opportunities and people that were looking to buy something other than crack to the community. I got the job of manning the office every once in a while. I don't know why since I was hired to work in the engineering department but if things were slow they'd send me to 5 Points. I didn't mind, it was an easy job. I'd sit and do homework since I was in grad school at the time and every once in a while someone would come in looking for a job but for the most part no one came in. A few times a pack of kids came in and stole handfuls of buttons & stickers and ran out. What they did with them I don’t know, can you trade buttons that say ‘RTD’ for crack? Kids were probably just bored. It never happened on my watch though.

Anyway, from what I could see 5 Points was looking much the same, a few yuppie condo buildings here and there but mostly still crackheads, rehab centers for your drug of choice, and weird little shops selling a mishmash of things like purple ceramic elephants and red horses and praying hands and it was a good thing it was shut because I probably would have come home with armfuls of weird, creepy useless crap. One shop didn’t even have a name shown anywhere. Obviously a front for something.

We get to the club way too early and there’s a huge line to get in so we decide to walk around for a bit then decide we don’t feel like dealing with the loud, incoherent freaks on the street and head back to the club. It’s a small, divey place, perfect for a punk rock show and a far cry from the larger more corporate places that Alkaline Trio usually plays. There are not a million stupid rules and minimal security at the door. The last few shows I’ve been to had security way stricter than what you see at the airport. The best part is that I finally don’t get attitude or a sarcastic remark about my age from the guy checking I.D. Last time they didn’t want to let me in because they were sure I had wandered into the wrong club and not realized in my old age senile haze. ‘Are you sure you’re here for the Bouncing Souls ma’am?” Jonny doesn’t even get asked for his I.D. though and he's bummed about that. One of the games we play when we’re sitting around bored between bands is find someone else here who’s older than us. Every year it gets harder. We see a woman who could be a few years older than me but she’s there with her teenage daughter. We spot another older couple but they’re also there with their teenager. We’re waiting for one of these parents to come up to us and ask ‘So which kids is yours?’ I’m sorry though going to the punk rock show with your parents is so not punk (says the woman who drove up to the punk show in a Honda Element with an ‘Agility Dog On Board’ stencil on the back window). Then again showing up to the punk rock show in your huge ass zillion dollar tour bus is also high on the list of not punk but Alkaline Trio sold out to the majors years ago and you don’t go to one of their shows expecting a real punk rock show. Though I have to give them props, they’ve kept their ticket prices low and though they’re supporting their new album, ‘The Agony and the Irony’, they’ve chosen to play small clubs half the size of what they could easily fill (many if not all of their shows on this tour sold out on the pre-sale). Over the years Alkaline Trio have stayed faithful to their fan base and I have to give them credit for that. I can hardly begrudge them a nice comfy tour bus given the years they’ve put in but still, so not punk.

Every year it’s the same, you would think I would learn, but no, I show up to the club way too early and it turns into an exhausting affair. I make a beeline to the balcony and end up standing next to the sound board where Jonny sees a schedule for the evening’s events. It’s only 7:30 and the opening bands don’t start until 8:00 pm, Alkaline Trio goes on at 10:00 pm and finishes at 11:30. 11:30???!!! Are they kidding me with this??!! Then I have to drive 35 minutes back to Boulder, I’ll be up past midnight! Last time I was up that late was the last punk rock show a year ago. I wish I could remember this because we could show up at 9:45 and it would still be past our bedtime but at least we wouldn’t have had 2 exhausting hours of standing around beforehand not being able to breathe in the hot sticky club with no air circulation and barely a hint of air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year. I’m hot and tired and dizzy and grumpy when the first band, Sleeper Horse, comes on but they win me over from the very first chords which is unheard of I’m so cranky and jaded when it comes to new music. They sound a lot like a band I like a lot called Hot Water Music which I’m sure 99% of you have never heard of but trust me it’s a good thing. In fact I’ll go even farther and say I like them better than Hot Water Music. Jonny comes up to me after 5 minutes or so, tugs on my sleeve and yells, ‘Hot Water Music’ in my ear. Great middle aged punk rock minds think alike.

The second band is o.k., nice and tight and good music but generic and toward the end I work my way over to the couches against the wall so I can sit. I can’t see the band but I don’t care, I just want to sit and rest my legs for Alkaline Trio. They’re not all that exciting to watch anyway, buncha guys in jeans and black t-shirts playing guitars.

Finally Alkaline Trio comes on. All the waiting reminds me of agility trials, sitting through all the other classes until it’s finally your turn. Singer/guitarist Matt Skiba is looking a bit long in the tooth these days as is the drummer. The bassist is smart and wearing a baseball cap so noone can see how old he’s gotten. It makes me sad (though not as sad as watching the teenage boy with his zombie eyes glued to his cell phone presumably texting non-stop through the first 2 bands), he’s getting older, we’re getting older, no way to stop it. The band is still great though, sound is good too in the small club, vocals aren’t loud enough but maybe that’s just my hearing going. Listening to them brings back memories of long runs from long ago marathon training because I had tons of their songs on my mp3 player. That just makes me sadder somehow. It’s a great show though and I’m glad we didn’t sell our tickets. There’s no comparison between a big impersonal concert hall and a small intimate club and no telling if/when they’ll ever play such a venue again. One other great thing about a small club-you’re close to the stage and have a great view even if you’re up in the balcony away from the sweaty masses.

Getting out of the club proved to be the most stressful part of the night. We had to go down the balcony stairs then cut across the main dance floor to get to a tiny exit door. There were exits at the stage but they led into the alley and I didn’t think it was a good idea to be stumbling around a dark alley in 5 Points at 11:30 on a Sat. night. Also, the clubs sometimes won’t let you out the back way. So we were squished together cheek to jowl trying to get out of the hot, dizzy sweaty club and I’m wishing they would turn off the lights on the disco ball because the flashing bits of light are only making me more dizzy. I’m fighting off a panic attack because I don’t like crowds of people and then some people start barreling through the crowd trying to get out. A seriously drunk sweaty hippie girl is heading straight for me, bashes into me and I give her a good hard glare. She says ‘Oh, it’s o.k.’ and to my horror throws her arms around me and doesn’t just hug me but squeezes me tight in a death grip. She is freakishly strong. Why do the hippie girls always want to hug? And why am I such a freak magnet? Then I hear angry yelling and feel pushing behind me and there is a huge 350 lb drunk belligerent meathead barging his way through the crowd and getting in a fight with a woman foolish enough to push him back. My philosophy when it comes to 350 drunk meatheads is that you avoid them at all costs and don’t get in an argument with them. He’s right behind me and I panic and squeeze my way through a hole in the crowd to get away (there are rare times in life when it pays to be small). I get away briefly but then I feel a sharp jab to my hamstring as the guy deliberately knees me in the leg to get past me. I’m walking next to a goth chick in a wheelchair and once he sees the wheelchair he sees his meal ticket out of the place and starts angrily bellowing to the crowd to make room for the wheelchair whilst kneeing me in the hamstring and squeezing his mass of meat between me and the chair, practically climbing over the poor girl in the process. I reflexively yell back at him because I’ve been carefully making room for this girl the whole time and don’t like being accused of harming the disabled, especially when he’s the one causing her problems and using her for his own selfish purposes. Luckily he’s focused on pushing his way ahead and ignores my outburst. Again, why am I such a freak magnet? I’m thinking at this point that I would have been much better off chancing it in the alley. We should have stayed behind in the club and waited for everyone to leave but didn’t realize how bad the situation was until it was too late to get out. Like trying to swim backwards through the crowd once you start having a panic attack during the swim part of a triathlon and want nothing more than to be back ashore. Much better to just ride it out and do the backstroke for a bit until your heart rate goes down. Maybe you’ll catch an elbow or something but it’s better than fighting your way against the crowd back to shore.

We made it home in one piece though and my leg seems to be o.k. The guy didn’t knee me super hard, just hard enough to get me out of his way, and I don’t feel any effects so far today. I’m heading out for a short bike ride right now, I’ll see if I feel anything. In the meantime I think I’m done with concerts for awhile. It was fun and probably good for me to have some change to my routine but it was enough to last me for a good while.

I didn’t take my camera this time but here's a photo from a show a couple of years ago. You get the idea. Buncha guys playing guitars.

Had a run in with a rattlesnake while riding my bike yesterday too. Sheesh, too much excitement for one day.


  1. Yeah, I think I was about your age when I gave up going to hear bands in clubs. I just can't stay up that late and I hate that I have to wait through two other bands before getting to hear the only one I care about hearing.
    Now the only concerts I go to are the ones where you can sit out on the lawn or reserve a seat and even then the last one I went to (Elvis Costello) some drunk idiot behind me wouldn't stop talking so I told him to "take it somewhere else" and my husband had to intervene when he became belligerent.
    That's the last concert I've been to and that was almost a year ago. Sigh. It's tough getting old.

  2. I know, it is tough getting old. I hate being so tired at 9:30 pm. When I was young they used to have all ages matinees that started at 6 pm but you rarely see that anymore.

    Someone was trying to get me to go to Elvis Costello but it was a zillion dollars in some huge concert hall and I declined. If I'm going to stay up past my bedtime the situation has to be perfect-good band, good price, small venue with good sound, Friday or Sat. night, and still when the day of the concert comes I want to sell my ticket. But nothing beats seeing a good band live, if only something could be done about the drunken meatheads and hippie chicks.

  3. Hey I went to see a show last night too! At an old movie theatre they ripped the seats out and don't sell alcohol at. It was indie heart ripper outer Conor Oberst, a serious and earnest young man with a dour band, and we learned that super long baggy shorts are in and so are slip on Vans. Making me apparently In. We didn't stay til the end. That would have been past 11:00! Luckily my husband is the guy who always wins show tickets calling in to the college radio station so we didn't pay. I was pleased I did not fall asleep in a dirty corner though, stayed awake the whole show!

  4. Yes, I noticed the kids in the long baggy shorts too, with a million pockets. The best outfit though was a girl in a black and white horizontal striped dress with matching knee high black and white striped socks and converse 'boots' that laced up to just below her knee.

    I wish they hadn't been selling alcohol at that show or at least that I'd had enough sense to wait for the drunks to leave. I think back in the day I probably would have known better.

  5. The age difference thing is funny--I've experienced sort of the reverse. 20 years ago when we first bought season tickets to the SJ Repertory Theater downtown, we'd sit there feeling like teenage punks in a crowd of dowagers and their esteemed gentlemen (we were 30ish and dressed nicely. Really. Probably nicer than I do now.). We'd eagerly look around to see whether there was anyone anywhere near our age, but usually not, all older. Nowadays it's scary to see that I'm right into that age range of the type that typically has season theater tickets and there are more and more people my age. Noooo! I want to say! I'm too younngggg for that!


  6. I think that's part of the reason I love going to the divey hair salon that is probably a front for something, all those ninety million year old ladies make me feel so young.