Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Last night I saw The National and Arcade Fire at the United Palace Theatre (essentially this enormous gilded mosque where few tiers provide a great view of the performance). The show was a dazzling display of lights, skewered video, jumping Canadians and frenzied drumming. It looked like the lead singer Win was about to bust an aneurysm on-stage as he kicked instruments, flipped his bangs and shouted at the mike. It was Saturday on a Monday night. It was great. They were, by all intents and purposes, astounding. The entire experience was.



You know…that thing. The thing which we do not speak of.

OPD. Other People’s Dancing.

And the pain it can cause for some.

It’s a weird phenomenon. Everyone looks so normal, so pacified at the start of the show. People shuffle politely, wait in line for beers, calmly locate their seats while clutching their stubs. You’re excited. They’re excited. Together you have something in common as you’re all here to share in the communal youth experience that is a good band in a great setting where the music is too loud and yet it doesn’t hurt your ears and won’t for another four years. If you’re lucky.

And then the lights go down, the speakers kick in and the quiet ones start to stir. Something starts squirming inside of them. Why is it always the quiet ones? The ones that look like they work at Blockbuster and it’s their one night off. It’s always some absurdly skinny, short or heavy drip with frizzy hair and Coke-bottle glasses who starts freaking out in a spastic display of the worst dancing in the world. They pump their fists not-to-the-music, they scream out the words during the slow parts, they hit people to the left and the right of them with flailing limbs, they jump and fall and twist like some bad rendition of an uncle at a wedding. And you don’t want to say anything, because hey, it’s not like you can dance, or like you’re so cool. In fact, you’re just a huge poseur hipster dork who is extremely skinny, short or heavy yourself and you’ve got frizzy hair and suspect vision but damn, at least you’ve got self-denial. You can limit your movements to a respectable head bob and two step. Your insecurity and fear of public humiliation saves you. And if you slip up momentarily, you don’t have to look at yourself and you can immediately right it. These other kids though, forget it. You have to look at them. They’re the ones with the slightly better seats and are blocking the view with their seizures. They’re the ones killing it. Killing the night you looked forward to for the last month.

So you say to yourself, you aren’t going to be bothered. You try to watch the stage, try to pretend things were the same as they were mere hours ago when you sped along on your way to the concert with your iPod at full volume, sure that the band was singing just for you. Of course you knew this wasn’t true, and if it were it would be incredibly clichéd, but clichéd perfection. And in that it felt personal and special and you thought maybe seeing the band live would also feel the same way. You’d meet people like yourself and you’d all sort of mosh happily together as a group of new friends.

But that’s the thing about concerts. Whatever benefit of seeing the band in the flesh can be completely off put by seeing the other kids who are into it (or even worse, 40somethings with bald spots, as last night proved beyond a reasonable doubt). And sometimes it’s unavoidable*.

Personally, I believe that it’s a hazard that has to be tolerated. Not everyone shares this philosophy. Last night, I partook in minimal dancing, cause I can’t dance, and enjoyed myself because that’s what I paid for. Unfortunately, the boy I was with couldn’t contain his annoyance. I’d look over at him to comment on how fantastic a transition was and he’d be staring at one girl to our left who looked like she needed medical attention. I tried to make a joke of it (“Just ignore it!”) and he sighed (“I’m trying but I can’t!”). Finally, between songs, he couldn’t help himself any longer.

Him: “I have to say something.”

Me: “No you don’t!”

Him: “Look, someone needs to tell her. If that were me, I’d want to be told.”

Me: “I really don’t think that’s true.”

Him (in a loud plea aimed at the row below us): “Please stop dancing like that!”

Me: “Shhhhh!”

Him: “Please! Please stop dancing like that! Please!”

Girl: “Whooo! I love you Arcade Fire! Whooo!” (insert flailing limbs)

Him: “Please, this isn’t Rusted Root! For the love of God!”

Suffice it to say she didn’t notice (in fact if anything, she was only re-energized). The rest of the set was amazing. We went home and laughed. Until we reminded ourselves we probably wouldn't have wanted to see us letting loose at our first concerts.

What were they again? Mine (G Love) and his (Type O Negative).

Wow. Okay, no more laughing at OPD. Ever again.

*Ever go to a concert with a person you’ve never seen dance before? It’s agita-inducing. It’s always such a horrifying litmus test for the friendship or relationship. Bad is the overly excited dancing that harms innocent bystanders. Even worse is the kid that doesn’t even move his head the entire time.


Another Twentysomething said...

Ah, the head bob and two-step, where would we be without it? I'm glad it joined you at the show, and happier still that your night included a bit of Canadiana!

K said...

I love you Canadians. I really, really do.

Chatel said...

my insides hurt from reading this post! much thanks...I think I fall somewhere in between go&od....

c-47 said...

This is a note for the hardcore shows (which i go to less and less as i age more and more) if you are:
a. female
b. less then 5' 8"
c. weigh less then 130lbs

For the love of god, the first time at a hardcore show, do not shove your way to be in the front before the band plays. You obviously don't realize you are about to die. Although it initially satisfies my urge to be chivalrous and protect you, cute punk rock stranger, after the third song and eighth elbow/knee/boot/combined weight of everyone im trying to keep off you I no longer want to protect you. I want to maybe headbutt you to teach you a lesson. Everyone behind you is a mindless torrent of bloodlust and frenzy. They are trying to climb onto the stage and over you. Stoppit. Stop being unaware, being cute does not exclude you from having to think.

This rant brought to you by me.

PeeJ said...

OPD I can cope with - what I hate is TSSICHTB - Tuneless singing so I can't hear the band! I stopped going to live gigs a while back unless they were small venues. People roaring the word to every song wasn't what I wanted to pay £90 a ticket for :(