Saturday, July 21, 2012

The troubles of concert-going

Fountains of Wayne in concert tonight!
One of my most overused complaints under any and all circumstances is that I lose out on so much because I'm short. At 5'3", I'm too tiny to wear most standard sized jeans, I'm too petite to reach the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets without climbing on the counter, I'm too small to scale brick buildings (in the event that I might want to defy authority, but unlike the other two issues this doesn't come up so often), among other lacking abilities simply because the world is made for a race of people much taller than I.

When I go to concerts, this becomes an even greater issue. Because humanity has decided it is more important to stand and go ape crazy at live shows rather than sit in their designated seats or stand a reasonable distance from one another in a general audience venue, I've come to know that concert-going is just not a sport that is made for the tiny among us.

Most people learn this lesson when they're teenagers, going to their first concert with a group of friends and trying to make it to the front of the venue so they can have a good view. Maybe they have someone friendly in front of them who allows them to stand in front since they cause no visual hindrance. I have never been so lucky.

At 10, I went to my first standing room only concert at a House of Blues where a bunch of teeny boppers had gathered to see Aaron Carter and a few other Radio Disney favorites perform. I had made it into the second tier of four (the theater was divided into these sections, but within them everyone was standing up), but since I was at most 4'10", I was just too short to see a thing.

I'd been to Aaron Carter concerts before (gasp), and while that ended up being a fine experience, I remember growing claustrophobic and annoyed as my head only stood at about elbow height for many of the other attendees.

I've grown a bit since then, and been to a few more concerts where I've had to stand in an audience of tall people (quite a few, actually), but I still can't get over the fact that going to see a band feels like such an ordeal if you happen to be vertically challenged.

In so many ways I've conquered the troubles of my height deficiency. I've learned how to dress my body and where to find appropriate clothes for my stature, I've figured out mechanisms and methods of doing the things that are made more difficult by my smallness, I've learned to ask for help if I am too short to do something in public like putting a suitcase in the overhead bin on an airplane or climbing over a brick wall (again, not something I do often, but it has happened).

But you'd think that by now the world - the music-loving concert-going world - would have figured out a way for me to go to a show without having to be first in line so that I can make it right in front of the stage or else suffer in the back.

Alas, the world has not.

In some ways I credit this injustice - ooh, now I'm getting angry - for my dwindling interest in going to concerts in general. While my fascination with the arts in other areas has grown exponentially over the years, the truth of the matter is that in the past few I've gone to fewer concerts than I went to back when I was 12 or 13.

I think the issue is that concerts are the one environment where civility is often abandoned for personal gain. While going to see a movie or a musical or an opera or a ballet or any other form of seated theater entertainment is grounded by a sense of community and fair treatment, concerts are so much about getting to the front, first come first serve. We fight for our spot, or for our view, and if we don't get exactly what we want, then hell with the person in front of us - we're here to serve ourselves.

The only other time I see that sort of behavior is when I'm driving. People tend to maintain some sense of entitlement on the road, losing any empathy and civility in exchange for personal gain.

Though I must admit to being vicious and self-serving as well on occasion, I can see the faults in my own actions and I hope that one day the figurative "world" I mentioned before will have figured out a way around this.

Just imagine if decades ago when people had gone to see Edith Piaf in concert. What if they had all stood in their seats or stormed the stage, moving people aside? Would we look back on them and judge them for their indelicacy?

Perhaps it's a wrongful metaphor since Edith Piaf is considered a bastion of high-brow entertainment and most modern concerts are not up to that level of sophistication and beauty (I'm ready to hear complaints), but I still think the argument stands to some extent.

Tonight I'm going to see a Fountains of Wayne concert. The second in a few months. And once again, I'm going to be seated in the show in an area separate from the standing room section. It will hopefully be an environment that can prevent me from being trampled on or denied a view.

Looking back on Aaron Carter or even Green Day and Jonas Brothers concerts I've been to more recently, I wish I'd had the same option given to me. Just a chance to be away from that cut-throat negativity that envelopes the concert-going experience. Because sometimes it's more fun to just listen to the music and sway without sweating through your clothes and having your white Converse turn a mucky brown.

That's just my two cents.

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