Sunday, August 13, 2017

The B-52s: Hello!

The world has gotten even uglier, thanks to Donald Trump’s violent fan club. But, as always, there is music to help remind us of what’s important: love and dancing and wigs. There were plenty of these at The B-52s show last night in downtown Los Angeles. The show was part of the Downtown Stage Saturday Concert Series, put on in Pershing Square, and a large amount of people turned out for it. Folks were in the mood to come together, forget the horror for a while, and enjoy a night of fun tunes. Quirky beauty to combat the ugliness of the country, and what better band for that than The B-52s? And yeah, it worked, at least for a while. Of course, first we had to get into the show.

I am early everywhere I go, but yesterday lots of people got there even earlier than I did, and there was a long line outside the park. After a while, the line came to a stop, and didn’t move again for several minutes. People got a bit nervous. And when the line started moving it, it moved quickly. And that got people even more concerned. Word came that the venue was at capacity, and no one else was being allowed in. I stayed in line anyway, but the rumor proved true. Lots of folks stood outside the gates and walls, and I made my way as close to the entrance as possible. There was a little playground area to the left, and the fence leading to it was not very tall. But if I got in there, then I’d still have to get through a small opening into the concert area, which was guarded. A guy across the way jumped over the wall, and two guards went over to him and escorted him out (after a woman behind me got their attention, ratting out the guy, which weirded me out). But the guard at the opening remained at his post. A few people in front of me left, so I got even closer. Soon another guy across the playground jumped over the wall, but this guy ran, which caused all the guards to chase him, leaving the opening in the wall clear for me. So I stepped over the fence and walked in through that opening. I walked quickly, but did not run, and soon I was in the concert area. The Sh-Booms, who opened the show, were already on at that point. I was digging them, but I needed to pee, and so got into another long line. Someone outside the venue had told me the capacity of the place was 6,000. There were ten toilets. Dark boxes of despair. I fumbled with my cell phone, trying to use its light to guide my movements, and of course making sure it didn’t slip from my grasp. If it had fallen, that would have been the end of that phone. No way would I have retrieved anything from the floor of that hellish chamber.

The Sh-Booms were good, and I enjoyed their cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” though I think they maybe stayed on one or two songs beyond what was needed. And then there was a wait for The B-52s. A helicopter circled overhead, and then there was an announcement aimed at those outside the gate, asking them to leave. Weirdly, those inside were asked to help with this announcement, asked to yell at those outside to leave. No one complied with this insane directive, at least no one near me. Instead, people booed the idea. And I learned later that everyone stayed, and that several other people jumped over the walls and fences at various points along the perimeter. It did get a little crowded inside, and my claustrophobia kicked into gear. There was a moment when I thought it might get to be too much to bear, but once the band started, everything was fine. My superb dancing skills usually cause others to move away in alarm and fear. And I danced my ass off, gaining more space as the show went on.

I didn’t write notes during the show, or take any photos (sorry). Instead, I just danced and smiled and enjoyed the concert. So I can’t include the complete set list here, but I do recall the band played “Mesopotamia” early on. What a fun song! The set also included “Lava,” “Private Idaho,” “Summer Of Love,” “Roam” (which is one of my personal favorites – it just makes me so bloody happy), “Channel Z” (another highlight) and “Wig.” Early in the show, Fred gently chided the audience, “Put down your goddamn phones and dance.” Seriously, it was weird: the moment the band started, like two hundred cell phones suddenly were held up in the air. Most of them were put away soon, but I don’t think there was ever a moment during the show when there weren’t at least a few dozen phones in the air. So Fred kept on people, sometimes telling individuals directly to put their phones away and enjoy the show. He also teased the people near the front who were seated. “Why are you sitting down? Are you old or something?” Apparently, someone responded that he or she was only sitting between songs. So Fred asked if he was boring or something. Yeah, I totally fell in love with Fred during this show. He did repeat his suggestion to dance, and often added, “Hello?” After a while, folks around me echoed his “Hello” playfully. How could you not love the guy? Hello!

They ended the set with “Love Shack.” I joked with the girl next to me, “I wonder what the encore could be.” She thought about it for a moment, then responded, “Rock Lobster.” “I was being sarcastic,” I told her. I mean, was there any question of their playing that song? A guy behind me, however, wanted to hear “Strobe Light,” and I realized there were actually a whole lot of tunes the band could play for its encore. Fortunately, they did a three-song encore, starting with “Planet Claire,” the lead-off track from the first album, and a song that I love. They followed that with “6060-842.” And then Fred said, “That leads us to ‘Rock Lobster.’”  It was said with a certain amount of fatalism, I felt. Perhaps they’re sick of this song, for they didn’t do a very long version. Only one “Down, down” section, and while I did crouch down, I didn’t get completely on the ground. Fucked up my knee at work, and who knows what shit is down there? Anyway, the show was excellent. Their energy was wonderful, and their voices are still really strong. And I’m glad Fred was okay after falling off the stage. He said that moment would probably be on You Tube today, and it is.

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