Is there anything in the world better than getting to see live music? Well, for all intents and purposes, yes. Yes, there is. However, for the sake of being able to use the small slice of bandwidth that I’m allotted, I’m going to say in a printed robot voice that “there is nothing in the world better than seeing live music.” Also, as I did have a Part 1 to this pseudo-grandiose idea, I thought I should at least follow it up with a Part 2 before the summer crashes completely into oblivion, right?
Speaking of summer music, Milwaukee’s local biggish music festival Summerfest is currently a go for 2021! Yes, after taking 2020 off, it has returned! And the fest will take place in September instead of June/July because…um…reasons! Certain folks don’t classify September as being a month normally associated with summer, but by now as we are so conditioned to never question science, we meekly bow our heads and accept the overbearingness of the entire proceedings. Have a beer, just shrug, and look over there! Oooooh, is that Night Ranger?! Oh, boy!
The Summerfest concert stages this year will be filled with the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow, Filter, Better Than Ezra, Candlebox, Goo Goo Dolls, and Everclear. Apparently, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of 1996 for no good reason by jamming the stages with these several hit wonders and 3rd billed county fair performers! The upside is that now in 2021, I get to reenact skipping out on these bands like I did back in ’96! Hooray! Happy 25th indeed, 1996!
So, without further divergent flummery, allow me to climb the mountains of my memories before the weather completely shifts and we are trapped on the north face of my mental Eiger, forced to embrace a lingering wintry death. Oh, and here are some concerts that I attended that I filled with frantic embellishment. And as always, the names of the people involved have been somewhat changed to protect the somewhat innocent.
Foo Fighters (Saw 1 time live) / Red Hot Chili Peppers (Saw four songs live)
Yes, the delightful double bill from the year 2000. I’m sure that there are those of you out there in the ether that really and truly love these groups. Looking at the parentheses after the bands in question, I think you know where my tastes rest. Not that I have anything against the Chili Peppers really, I just don’t dig them enough to see them live. I do own their greatest hits album for a few songs, but in my mind, a few songs do not a live experience make.
I attended this show at the Marcus Amphitheater on the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee with three other compatriots. I travelled with my friend Ryen, who shared my mindset: as the ticket prices were not that outrageous, and since we’re not big Chili Peppers fans, let’s go see the Fighters of Foo and then take off when they were done. Our other companions Marcus and Lucretia came together. Whether they chose to stay or leave after Foo Fighters was fine with Ryen and me. This was all arranged ahead of time and all was right with the world.
That evening the Lord decided to drench the city with a thunderstorm. Lightning strikes and street flooding were happening everywhere, but the show was going to go on. Thankful that we decided to not attend Summerfest proper and after building a kayak out of empties, we finally managed to get to the amphitheater. We met up with Marcus and Lucretia, we all had a large beer or two, and we awaited Dave Grohl and company to rock on out.
The crowd, which ranged from partly damp to completely drenched, was quite nice and very receptive to the Foo Fighters. We were the survivors of grunge and Dave Grohl proved he had certainly survived as well. After the sad passing of Kurt Cobain, Grohl managed to stretch his wings and put together a rather good group. Foo Fighters were fun and gave a great show indeed. The former Nirvana drummer could do no wrong in our former flannel wearing eyes anyway. Grohl could have come out with a digeridoo and performed an acoustic country solo set and we probably would have enjoyed every second of it. High marks all around.
After they got done thoroughly fighting as much Foo as humanly possible, the valiant battlers left the stage. There was an intermission between shows, so the stage could then get set for the Chili Peppers. If Foo Fighters were done, then that was the cue that Ryen and I were leaving, and we told everyone that we were going to depart.
To our surprise, Lucretia reacted as if this was the first time she ever heard this plan! Even more surprising was that she was completely irked, as if it was a personal affront that the two of us dared to even think about leaving. We reminded her that this was our plan from the start, which was why Ryen and I rode together and why she went with Marcus. Marcus didn’t care one way or the other and if he stayed for both shows, it was fine with him. But Lucretia was bubbling over with lividness for reasons that escaped Ryen and me.
We then found ourselves negotiating with her, which was ridiculous, but one ostensibly does anything to keep the peace. Applying our best ineffective Neville Chamberlain-like appeasement style, we reached the eventual negotiation: we would all stay until Chili Peppers played “Scar Tissue”, which was then their latest single. While even having to compromise in the first place was ludicrous to Ryen’s and my ears, these are the sacrifices made in war and Chili Peppers.
If we were going to stay, that meant the desperate need for a bathroom break, given the earlier beer consumption combined with the overall wet atmosphere. My bladder was certainly screaming at me, but I was screaming louder when I saw the astonishing crush of people heading to the restrooms. That was the closest I had ever been to a panic attack. Visions of what I had heard about the 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati crept in and I was genuinely scared. We were all soaked from either the rain or sweat and the percolating mass was shoving and pushing. By the time I reached the john, I was so freaked, I couldn’t even go. To save face, I pretended to go and left the stall quickly.
So still pissed that I had to stay and even more pissed that I couldn’t piss, we resignedly went back to our seats. At that moment, Ryen’s muse inspired him to run and take a diving chest slide in the mud-covered and soaked grass seats in general admission. In retrospect, I believe this is how he took out his frustration on the entire situation at that moment. While slip sliding in muddy plastic cups, cigarette butts, bottles, wrappers, and garbage in general might have been therapy of sorts for him, I declined to engage in that particular mode of catharsis.
The stage was now reset for the RHCP and they started their set list. Flea bounced around and Anthony Kiedis sang a song, but I couldn’t have cared less. Perhaps it was erroneous projecting on my part, but the crowd for the Chili Peppers seemed angrier compared to the feel-good vibes the Foo Fighters engendered. I dislike engaging in hyperbole as a rule, but I hated each member of that crowd with the intensity of a thousand suns. I wanted the thunderstorm to continue and the power to go out. I mulled over just taking a wee right there in my rain-soaked shorts and wonder if anyone would notice the difference amongst the other puddles. I hated that the current circumstances had led me to even ponder that as a possible solution.
Three songs were now done. When would this torment end? Should I go to the bathroom now? After all, the audience had gone back into the amphitheater and weren’t packed in the main aisle. But what if “Scar Tissue” comes on while I’m in the stall? Would Ryen hang around for me to get back? Would I be left adrift having to stay for an entire show that I didn’t want to see with at least one passenger of my new ride angry with me because I dared to want to leave earlier? Argh…
But then it happened: the opening notes for “Scar Tissue”! I’ve never been happier to hear that tune in my life. The music touched every single part of my being. My smile was enormous, my soul was dancing. It was quite a wonder to witness. Come to think of it, the steam coming from Lucretia’s head was quite the wonder to witness as well.
We left, still reminding Lucretia that she could stay if she wanted to finish the show with Marcus. But instead, remaining stoic with a rather pouty look that usually accompanies an infant with a half-filled diaper, she departed with the rest of us, arms crossed and any kind of further discussion ostensibly over.
But it didn’t end there. Of course, prior to any of the unexpected drama that occurred, we had all decided to meet for an after-show libation. Ryen and I left Summerfest wondering aloud if we should even go to the pub. We tried to divine the exact moment we became not only the most horrible people known to mankind but also the most despicable friends in the galaxy. There were so many other reasons to despise us, so why pick this instance as a paramount grievance? We arrived at the agreed upon tavern where at least three of us had a grand old time.
I felt the sorriest for Marcus, as he had to hear Lucretia’s grumbling for the entire trip over. I’m sure at some point he desperately wanted to hit a deer, drive into a tree, be struck by lightning, or all the above rather than listen to the tapestry of incessant haranguing that was being stitched in his front seat for one more second. There are too many unsung heroes in this world and Marcus was one of those put-upon souls that day. (If you see him, give him a hug and ten bucks. He’s earned it.)
As far as Lucretia goes, by the time she arrived, realizing that no display of outrage would move Ryen and me, she politely drank her cocktail in shunning silence while avoiding eye contact, a furrowed brow adorning her forehead the entire time.
I wish this story had an ending, but it doesn’t. Never knew why she reacted that way either. Maybe she thought this concert event would be Musketeer-like in nature, the four of us having a true bonding moment, all for one and all that stuff and nonsense. Maybe she was a closeted diehard rabid Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, never letting on to her true raging passion for fear of reprisals that we never would have given her in the first place.
My strongest theory is that perhaps she was a paid assassin, intending on letting the concert multitude do her work for her by crushing us in the restroom rush. But after seeing that we survived, she’d now have to return the first payment that her mysterious Lithuanian benefactor had sent her, which would leave Lucretia understandably flustered and angered that her plans never came to fruition. Her only relief came by drowning her sorrows in a karaoke bar in Menomonee Falls, WI. Such is the life of the failed assassin.
In any case, I bear no ill will to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, unless they were the ones that had paid Lucretia. If they didn’t, their role in this escapade was minimal at best. I still think they’re an incredibly hard-working band. Next time though, I hope they think about opening their setlist with “Scar Tissue”, just in case there are similar issues festering in attendance at each of their shows. (Since I know they are regular readers of mine: don’t tell me your answer right away, just think about it and get back to me.)
Oh man, I had hoped to cover more of my lurid concert experiences with this post, but I’m afraid I just cannot continue right away. You see, I gotta use the bathroom and ever since that night, I refuse to pass up any future opportunity to go. You never know when you might end up with a full bladder under the threat of being stomped to death at a rainy concert you really didn’t want to be at in the first place. Maybe Chad Smith is right now firing up his drum kit down the hall and I just cannot take that chance.