Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Ear For Music

I dipped in and out of the coverage from Glastonbury over the weekend. Missing most of the headline acts – i.e. bands I vaguely recognised – I’d watch a few minutes of the exuberant and unfamiliar band members bounce around and make a lot of noise then change channels.

Some years back they had a performance of Walkürenritt from Der Ring des Nibelungen early on a Sunday morning, which was entertaining and perplexing for the audience. This year’s novelty act was Burley Chassis belting out showstoppers, which, through good fortune, I managed to avoid. Although I caught a couple songs from The Who’s festival-closing set, by that time of night I’d be crawling out of a tent shouting, “Do you know what time it is? Keep it down, some of us are trying to sleep!”

I don’t do concerts or big live events. It’s not an age thing but an ear thing. One of the many injuries sustained from growing up on a farm left me with dodgy hearing in one ear. Depending on the acoustics of a room and where I am, there are times I can’t hear a damn thing. Pubs are probably the worst place for this, but the upside is I miss out on the late-night ramblings of friends who are in their cups. Also, spending a weekend in the pouring rain with thousands of townies who think it’s a jolly whiz to turn the farmland of Somerset into the Somme is not my idea of a good time.

As concerts go, I can probably count the number of times I’ve been to an event on two hands. Although that would be two hands that had been clutching a live grenade a couple of minutes ago. The first was when I was at The Esteemed School of Art and Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band pitched up at Wembley Stadium during their Born in the USA Tour.

I suppose if you’re going to make a start, start big. After that it can only go downhill, which was the case with Lloyd Cole and The Commotions at Hammersmith, and one of the dullest evenings of my life. I can understand people enjoying the shared experience and the “vibe” – certainly the students in my year who had organised the outing got a buzz out of it. I found it akin to sitting in a railway station waiting room for a long-delayed train I didn’t particularly want to get on.

A couple of years later the boss of the design and advertising consultancy who brought his incontinent dog to work charged one of his lackeys with organising an evening out. We went to see Steve Winwood at the Royal Albert Hall. I liked the music but it was on a Friday night after the end of a very busy week. I fell asleep. A few more years after that it was back to Hammersmith. The girlfriend at the time wanted to see Suzanne Vega. We went. I’m sure I’ve heard faulty washing machines that sounded better. It may have been a contributing factor to our eventual break-up.

Between those two there was one concert other event that probably contributed to my fear of large, immobile crowds. 1990. New York. The Earth Day Concert in Central Park. My cousin was either playing a tournament that weekend and out of town or was coaching at the racquets club. Either way, I had the apartment to myself and the park was only a couple of blocks away.

The day had started with an Earth Rising Ceremony in Times Square but that was far too early to go to. After sleeping in I watched the first hour or so of the concert on TV. About to head off and join in, I flicked channels and discovered The Great Escape was being shown on one of the Turner movie channels, so that delayed my departure considerably.

By the time I finally got there the place was heaving. Rather than using The Great Lawn, I think the concert took place on Sheep Meadow. Either way, once in the park any late arrivals immediately found themselves wedged into a great mass of revellers. Back from the stage everyone seemed to be in alternating east-west, west-east facing lines. Outside of the customs and immigration queue at JFK, I hadn’t seen anything like it, although for any Russian visitors may have brought back memories of trips to the bakery on Smolenskij bul’var.

While the B-52s rocked out to Love Shack on stage, after twenty minutes of shuffling forward I discovered I was actually in the queue for the porta-potties. Not needing to go, I went. In total it took the best part of an hour to fight my way through to Central Park West. I visited the Environmental Exposition and Cultural Festival set up on Sixth Avenue, which was like some overpriced hippie arts-fartsy arts and craft fair.

The event had been about Earth awareness and protecting the planet and my one abiding memory of the day came late in the evening. The apartment was on Lexington Avenue, a couple blocks up from the Hunter College stop. Across from the building was a 24-hour market. I could always tell when I’d overtipped a cab driver because they’d immediately pull over to that side of the avenue and grab something to eat.

Late in the evening, in the final hours of Earth Day, the sidewalk and gutter outside the market was covered in a sea of refuse dropped by people on their way to the subway. Good to see that they had learnt something from the event. For me my lesson was, if there’s a concert I’m interested in, I’ll wait for the inevitable CD or DVD. Thank you for the music, but regarding concerts, no thanks.

Anyway, after writing all day today, by tomorrow the script should be done. So if anyone wants to read it and give notes you’re welcome. Dolly has already agreed, which I can only assume means she has been out in the hot sun for too long already.

Because I was concentrating on it so much, I couldn’t be bothered to cook this evening and had my first ever fish finger sandwich. And I completely forgot about the ITV coma girl drama. Was it any good?


At 3:52 pm, Blogger Clair said...

I can't believe that a cultured person like you has never eaten a fish finger sandwich. Good, aren't they?

I only like concerts if I'm close enough to see up the lead singers' nose. Otherwise it's at home with a glass of fine wine and some live TV coverage.

At 6:02 pm, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

I've never understood the level of reverence afforded to rock stars.

Every week there a story in the news about some legendary performer caught molesting kids, or lurking in public toilets, or driving around stoned, or beating his wife, or shooting a hooker. And we're supposed to regard these people as role models and even moral authorities.

Someone once remarked, after Henry Kissinger was handed a Nobel Peace Prize, that irony was dead. Well, what does it say about the world thirty years later that Bono keeps getting nominated?

At 6:11 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


Should have put more ketchup on it, and maybe lightly toasted the bread. I'll do that next time.


Someone should have broken his legs the moment he leapt of stage at Live Aid and danced with that woman in the crowd.

I watched the footage again on the BBC rock doc and it just looked so utterly calculated.

Nobel Peace Prize? Bog off!

At 9:43 am, Blogger Robin Kelly said...

When Bono gains his rightful place as President of the World and you unbelievers are in jail, you'll soon change your tune. To something from the U2 back catalogue.


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