Perhaps you read my tirade about outdoor live music in the post I wrote about the Mumford & Sons show last year. If you need a refresher, here ya go.
Now to test out a new section of my live music commentaries. I’ll call it The Rumble. It’s really just an everyday Festivus-style airing of grievances.
Outdoor shows and the people that attend them. Next on Springer.
Jack White has a point about those goddamn digital devices. Put them the hell down. Let’s start with detachment of 30 seconds. We’ll work up to a minute. Maybe by the end of the summer, you can go 20 without holding it up in my face.
To the very very very short woman who stood on her tiptoes in front of me to film the show, I really do hope you enjoy the back of the tall dude’s head soundtracked by the blaring redline static of music recorded on iPhone speakers.
Did I looked like I want to be sprayed with a hose like a zoo elephant? It was only 80 degrees. Humid, yes, but still 80 degrees.
Let’s play count the glowing screens.
These are not people taking quick pictures. These are people recording on their phones. I took my obligatory random shot of shit on stage and put my phone away. That’s how I roll. You see how it’s blurry? It’s because I held my phone up for a second, snapped three pictures and hoped one looked less blurry than the others. Occasionally, I’ll take a second shot later if I want to remember a moment for a writeup later. I say this because, yes, I’m trying to sound holier than all the rest of these morons who are watching a show through an itty bitty phone screen rather than just LOOKING AT THE SHOW THAT IS RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM.
Why buy a ticket? Just watch all the YouTube videos tomorrow.
The wife and I rarely attend concerts together. If we do it’s because we both really wanted to see a killer show. The last real rock show we would have seen was Franz Ferdinand… and we anticipated something similar from the Arctic Monkeys.
We weren’t wrong. Unfortunately we can’t live in a vacuum and select the people who attend a concert around us. We knew we were in trouble when our newly high-school graduated babysitter commented upon hearing we were attending the AM show, “Oh, like half my school is going to that.”
I’m not teenager phobic. I’m not standing out on my lawn waving a broom at any of the kids that walk by my property. Teenagers are dumb. I accept this about them. I remember being a dumb teenager. In theory, we’re good with this understanding that they’re dumb and I’m, like, kinda old (remember when 35 was f’ing ancient?).
I’m not good with idiots of any age, however, that somehow diminish my enjoyment of a good show. For example, yes, a 17yo girl of ample proportions wearing only a sports bra and cutoff shorts is not a welcome sight, but I file these images away in my geezer box, to discuss in great detail at a later time. (“How do we keep this from happening to our daughters?”) Oh, you plucked your eyebrows into independently functioning yin and yang shapes? Interesting. You had an older boy buy you beers for the first time and then tried to impress him with your alcohol tolerance? Cute. Now go puke with your girlfriends, preferably somewhere far away. But if you’re holding your phone up right in front of my face for entire songs on end, you are impacting my experience. Jack White was fucking right to have one of his trademarked hissy fits about this very topic. I think I’m having one now. What is it about outdoor crowds that turn everyone into a digital slave?
After “Crying Lightning” I turned to my wife and said, “Whenever you’re good, I can leave.” Before she could answer “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” came on. We listened intently, peering between cell phones, then she elbowed me. “Now I’m done.”
Our early exit was a disappointment. Frontman Alex Turner is something to behold, full of swagger and Elvis hips with a swath of Joe Strummer. As soon as he walked on stage — all eyes fixed on Alex Turner. He’s a refreshing throwback to the days when lead singers could be superstars. In a different world, one with less divided attentions, this could be our Mick Jagger.
But as a band they’re just not Franz Ferdinand.
In my mind the two bands are inextricably linked by space and time and shared ancestors. Arctic Monkeys’ live show compounded this connection with one major difference. Franz blew me away last year in Philadelphia. Old songs sounded fresh, and their performance allowed varied layers of their musicality to shine. By any measure, Arctic Monkeys are currently the bigger band. Broader appeal, more recent releases, greater production value and swagger. And, by and large, a younger crowd by at least a decade. But they lacked that *wow* factor. Despite Turner’s best efforts, the music somehow didn’t quite carry the venue. I’ll chalk it up to the Monkeys shallow (but still very visceral) musicality. Fun and frivolous, but transient.
After the show, the wife and I elected not to go home to relieve the babysitter just yet. We’d been gone for less than 90 minutes. So we partook in a longstanding concert tradition. The late night (in this instance an early bird late night) stop at Eat’n Park (or Denny’s per my own high school tradition). She ordered a grilled cheese and potato pancakes. I had coffee. We opened that aforementioned geezer complaint box and detailed the inexplicable sights we’d witnessed among the crowd, briefly touching upon the fact that it would have been nice to have enjoyed more of the Arctic Monkeys show.
Some nights pure enjoyment just isn’t in the cards, and on those nights, perhaps, it’s just better to cut your losses and enjoy the rest of the evening with good company, once again without the view of everyone else’s portable electronic devices blocking your view.
Anyway, here’s a sample of the live set from Austin City Limits to send you on your way, featuring my personal favorite Arctic Monkeys song.