Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Heaven is Black

A letter to the Mundus group:

March 23 was one of the best nights in my life of rock and roll: front and center for a band I've tried to see for eight years, The Black Crowes.

Attempt number one:

I was sixteen and at the peak of my Led Zeppelin obsession. Jimmy Page had scheduled a tour with the Black Crowes, and concert song lists were a mix of Led Zeppelin classics and Black Crowes originals. The day tickets went on sale I bought one, for myself and only myself, fourth row, center.

I spend my time leading up to the concert getting pumped by listening only to albums by these two bands. Then is all comes crashing down -- just a few days before the concert, Jimmy Page cancels the Colorado leg of the tour due to a strained back.

I proceed to boycott every album by these two bands. My only chance to have the slightest sliver of raw Zeppelin experience had been shot down due to Page's problems of being an old man. At the time, teenage bitterness was an understatement.

Attempt number two:

At nineteen I had forgiven Page and The Crowes; still throwing in their albums religiously and recklessly rocking out in my car. Fort Collins friend's of mine would join me in weekly sessions of getting stoned and listening to Zepp and Crowes songs -- a pure college stereotype we thrived on.

One night I was at a party, in a good mood, being nineteen had done me well thus far. I remember leaning against a small pillar in a house when someone turned to me and said, "The Black Crowes just announced a one night at Madison Square Garden...it's going to be their last performance..."

A full body wave of joy then depression had never hit so hard -- I knew the scheduled date matched the date my mom was getting remarried.

Shit.

So the Crowes broke up (or so I thought) -- my music side and senses devastated, defeated, convinced that living rock and roll had been killed!

Attempt number 3:

The Crowes reunite, I'm 21 and I'm ecstatic because not only are they coming to play two nights at Red Rocks, Colorado, but with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers! I buy tickets a little less than a year in advance for August 21, 2005.

Nothing could stop me now!

Except, of course, for Erasmus Mundus Masters Journalism within Globalization: The Audrey Is Screwed Once Again Perspective.

And yes, I thought about not going to Europe because missing this band three times was ridiculous.... for about three minutes... long enough to realize I'm thinking like an obsessed fool.

Attempt number 4: Victory

When I moved to Denmark, one of the first things I did was look for a Europe concert list (pollstar.com is a good one). Six Europe dates in March ’06 for The Black Crowes had already been announced and sold out. Three dates in London, three in Amsterdam at the Paradiso, all back to back performances.

But, it was sold out and I was clueless as to any European way of getting tickets, if there was one.

So I dealt with it in an adult-like manner: I wrote it down on my calendar and decided to make up for it by buying tickets to all those other concerts. You know, to make myself feel better about missing them for the fourth fucking time! Fuck me!

This “show replacement” method didn’t work, and yesterday when we all returned from our outing with Jan I was determined to see The Black Crowes play. For heaven’s sake, we were in the same flippin city…

I make it to Paradiso around 19.00, doors were scheduled to open at 19.30 and the show was to being at 20.30. I had never been ticketless or passless for a show before, so I didn’t have much of a plan. But I had my determination and 70 Euros in my pocket, which was the most I would allow myself to spend.

I shuffled around the venue, trying not to look like a timid little girl without a ticket and surrounded by big black leather-jacket rockers; which was exactly my situation. I would slowly swing my legs forward and quietly mutter “Tickets?” and “Anyone with tickets?” I found one scalper, a bald guy with black everything and three times my size, offering a ticket for 100 Euros.

“Are you serious?”

“Yep, there are too many tickets and too many people.”

“Wait, then wouldn’t it be less then?”

“I mean, there are too many people and not enough tickets.”

I look around; not many people were there yet. Too intimidated to further question this guy, I give him a dirty look, like the way a dog would sniff and then snort out with his nose if he doesn’t like a scent, and I walked away.

I mosey around Paradiso, over the canals until I complete a full hundred-meter radius of the area. Not many people were around and I still didn’t have a good plan. I went back to the scalper, still the only man who responded to my ticket cries.

“I have seventy Euros.”

“Yeah?”

Was there hope?

“No, sorry, one hundred,” he says.

“You really think you can sell them for one hundred?”

“Yes, one hundred.”

“No!” I shout and walk away.

Crap. I’d kick my own ass if I had to pay that much. So I walk to Leidsplein and sit myself at the bar inside the pub with all the classic rock d├ęcor. Black and White I think it’s called. I felt like it fit my situation. I order a beer, grab a pen, bust out my notepad and begin drawing thick block letters that say, “I NEED 1 TICKET, PLEASE!”

I set the note on the bar, drink my beer and contemplate my situation. I’ve tried so hard for so many years to see this band, and failed miserably each time. Why was I one of those people who had fallen into the 'Have Always Wanted To See Them' file? This story had to have a happy ending.

“You need one ticket, huh?” says the man next to me.

“Yes, you have one?”

“Yes I have one,” he says, but I knew what he was going to say before he even answered.

“But it’s for you, right?”

“Yes! But it’s for me!” he laughs.

“I’ve heard that before, and it’s not very funny.”

“Well you shouldn’t be sitting here with that note. Time is running out, go to the venue.”

“I just came from there; one guy is selling them for a hundred Euros. After this beer, I only have sixty eight.”

“But more people will be coming to sell. Then the show will start, soon.”

“I’m going to leave just after this beer.”

So I sit there another minute or two, and a woman comes up to me.

“Wish I could help you, but we’re looking for tickets, too.”

“Well there’s a bald scalper selling them for a hundred outside the venue.”

“Really? Well the people I’m with are loaded so this won’t be a problem. Thanks!”

Dammit, there goes that.

So I slam my beer, attach the note to the strap of my purse so that it sits right below my neck and head out. I’m nervous. I’m nervous because I might pay too much for a ticket. I’m nervous because I might miss the Black Crowes play again. I’m nervous because I wish I had the balls to sneak in like I used to. I’m nervous because time is running out.

But I was determined, and this story had to have a happy ending.

People read my note, looked at my face and looked away – once, twice, again and again. I made it halfway to the venue where a cash machine was. As I was walking past the machine, a man was grabbing his cash and turning around just before I passed him. Just long enough for him to read my note as I walked by. I could see the Paradiso in front of me. More people were there now, which made my nervousness jump to a new level.

“You need one ticket?” says the man at the cash machine. I turn around and looked at him. He looks at me. I look at his friends. They look at me.

“…yes I need one ticket.”

“I’ve got one,” he says.

“You’ve got one for you? Or you’ve got an extra one?”

“I’ve got an extra one.”

I pause and look at him. He looks at me. I look at his friends. They look at me.

“How much? I only have sixty eight Euros.”

“Nah, I’ll give it to you normal price,” he says.

I pause and look at him. He looks at me. I look at his friends. They look at me.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“No, really?”

“Yeah, really!”

“REALLY!?” I scream.

“Yeah!” he screams with me.

He shows me the ticket, we make the exchange, and I just stand there like an excited idiot jumping up and down, waving my hands in the air and hugging him and all his friends. I thank him a hundred times over, hug them all some more and float down the street to the Paradiso, perma-smiled and busting at the seams with happiness as I shout out YES to the sky, the venue, the people, the sidewalk, the air.

I pass the scalper and show him my ticket.

“One hundred Euros my ass! Thirty five, because there are people in this world better than you.”

He gives me a funny look because he doesn’t remember me and probably is too busy counting his winnings.

Victory was mine, the ticket man ripped the stub and I entered Paradiso to see the Black Crowes. I grabbed a beer, waltzed to the front and waited for the show to start. Some 45 minutes later the lights dim and six of the most amazing musicians alive played a three and a half hour set.

Top 10 Best Things About The Show

10. Dancing and getting lost in all my favorite songs.

9. Hearing frontman Chris Robinson give a few words of wisdom, such as “It’s cold outside but it’s warm in here. Alright, let’s do this.” and “Thanks a lot to whoever knocked that drink over on stage. Real fucking cool, man. You know, an apology goes a long way in the year 2006… I guess we all should remember that.”

8. Watching Robinson jam out on the harmonica like a pro.

7. Being able to say thank you to one of the guitarists.

6. A kick ass drum solo that reminded me of Mr. Bonham himself.

5. The guitarists whailing on the most fantastic collection of Fenders and Gibsons I’ve ever seen.

4. Dutch poet Jonathan Sinclair making a guest appearance

3. Robinson grabbing the mic stand and holding it perpendicular to his body as he stomped his feet or kicked his legs up and down.

2. Whenever a band member wanted to look out at the fans I was usually the first one they saw because: a. my face was right in the light, b. I was a new fan rocking out nonstop in the front, many others were band followers.

1. Reminding myself that I finally saw the Black Crowes play, in Amsterdam, front and center! Wahoo!

It was a concert I truly didn’t want to end. But when it was over I grabbed another beer, walked upstairs and sat on the balcony just to make sure I soaked it all in. In one hand was a pick I caught mid-air, the other a poster some artist had made and was passing out for the three-day Crowes event.

I took a deep breath and looked around me. Paradiso had emptied out quickly, and the next round of night clubbers began to make their way inside. The past three and a half hours were so unbelievable for me, I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

I biked home that night, singing snippets of all the songs the Black Crowes performed that night. Every now and then I’d let out a little hoot and holler. As I crossed over the Amstel river, lights glistening against the canals, I couldn’t take it anymore. I threw up my hands, coasted down the bridge and yelled “I LOVE AMSTERDAM!”

The unexpected man on the bike behind me rang his bell and said, “Yes you do!”

Happy Ending.

Audrey

4 comments:

R. said...

Oh, my favourite story is posted? :-) Gosh, I really, really hope the same thing will happen for me with Depeche Mode.

Andrea Ave. said...

I just fell in love with your blog. I'm seriously devouring your entries. I'm leaving to denmark in a month and your anecdotes are giving me a heck of an excitement. Greetings from Costa Rica.

-Andrea

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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