Reflections On Sitting In The Balcony Seats For The First Time At A Gig Waiting For Vampire Weekend To Come On Stage
Usually I’m positioned front and centre for gigs, ready to scream, jump, yelp, raise a fist and by and large have a pretty fantastic time right smack bang in the middle of a seething, roaring mass of people. Tonight however I’m reviewing Vampire Weekend for a music magazine at the very arts-conferencey and very un-spit-and-sawdust Bruce Mason Centre, and I’ve got ‘balcony’ tickets, which I quickly find out means watching a show high up in the Earth’s outer atmosphere like you’re peering down at the stage from the International Space Station and sat down on neatly rowed, well cushioned seating like you’re at the cinema. I also quickly find out it’s an entirely different gig experience.
Here’s a list of things that I thought, saw or did during my first time sitting in the balcony seats and waiting for the show to start:
– I stretch out on my seat in comfort like I’ve just been upgraded to Business Class on a long-haul flight. This sure beats writing on my hand in moshpits. By the third song I’m usually slamming into strangers while making notes or crowd surfing while tapping my laptop.
– How neat and tidy the stage is! From way up here I see speakers stacked at right angles with flush edges and keyboards arranged just so. DI box racks are tidily and precisely duct taped to the floor, as if positioned with a ruler and spirit-level. Roadies are actually sweeping up the place with a dustpan and brush! Everything is so clean. I had no idea. I thought the stage’s primary purpose was to be the literal platform for a bit of rock and a bit of roll – surely it doesn’t have to be this clean. It’s not like you’re preparing food there. I can almost hear it just begging to be strewn with vomit, fumbled guitar picks, messy cables, beer, more beer, sweat and an array of broken teeth. Smear me in bodily fluids, it might say. Or it might not.
– It’s definitely a quieter, older crowd up here.
– I find myself wishing I was right in the middle of the rapidly gathering and ever increasingly raucous crowd below. These seats sure are comfy though.
– As I peer down, people occasionally look up and catch my eye and stare at me, so I stare back at them. Then I realise when they smile and wave to their friend a dozen seats away on a lower seating level that they aren’t staring at me at all.
– I start to count ironic ski hats.
– I think of the Count from Sesame Street counting ironic ski hats. “One ironic ski hat, (thunderclap!) a-ha-a-a!”
– I write that one down, hoping to work it into the review somehow.
– I once again find myself laboriously pondering the fact that I’ve never seen a gig before from this perspective and note that it’s like watching a concert on TV or seeing the panoramic photos of gigs in music magazines.
– Sat front and centre on the balcony, now with roughly one thousand people below, I begin to feel like I’m the captain of an intergalactic spaceship with my cargo of indie hipster slaves in front of me. A-ha-a-a!
– I think about the Count from Sesame Street again.
– I feel like this is how rich guys must play ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Just hire a thousand people, put one in a red and white striped scarf and hat, and have them all on call, ready to fill the main floor below you at any time. It’s not a bad idea.
– Here sat on my ivory tower balcony, I’m now decidedly alienated from my fellow gig-going comrades below. This clawing sense of isolation must be what the rich and famous write songs about.
– I make a note to write a song about this clawing sense of isolation.
– I make a note to get rich and famous.
– Two minutes before the lights eventually dim and Vampire Weekend play one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, the ever swelling crowd below starts a mass anticipatory clap and everyone begins to whoop and cheer. The guy sat behind me stamps a single foot four times. It’s not the same.