I’d been looking very forward to the recent Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard double bill at the Savannah Civic Center.
As a devoted Dylan fan, I’d known to purchase advance tickets through his website a couple of days before they were offered to the general public, and scored a handful of 8th row seats on the floor, just to the right of center — a near perfect vantage point, as Bob has steadfastly avoided center stage for the past few years, parking himself and his keyboard on the left hand side of the stage, in 3/4 profile to the audience (for better eye contact with his rapt bandmembers, who watch him like a hawk for unexpected musical cues).
My friends and I had a fantastic sight line for most of Haggard’s opening set, but my apprehension grew as I noticed sporadic numbers of audience members on either side of us stand up during his show.
Here we go again, I thought to myself. If there’s one thing I cannot stand when it comes to concert etiquette, it’s folks who have no compunction whatsoever about ruining someone else’s experience by obstructing their view of the stage. Of late, the frequency of this rude, self-important and downright antagonistic behavior seems to have reached epic proportions.
To make matters worse, those of us who find this sort of thing amazingly —not to mention obviously— inconsiderate increasingly find ourselves on the losing end of any sort of dispute or confrontation with these narcissistic miscreants. Back in the day, one could count on a polite request to remind someone of the unspoken rules of conduct everyone’s expected to adhere to in such situations. If that didn’t do the trick, there was always venue staff and/or security at work for the good of everyone.
Not so in most cases these days, and certainly not so at our Civic Center on the night in question. In fact, from my vantage point, the so-called security on hand served virtually no purpose, save for strolling back and forth in bright yellow shirts and avoiding eye contact with most anyone doing most anything out of line.
Hey, if you put several thousand rock and country fans in a room together, serve them beer and liquor and then demonstrate that you have no intention of enforcing any of the written rules, then how on earth does anyone expect those in the crowd with less than neighborly values to adhere to the unwritten ones?
And so, before long, several people directly in front of my party opted to stand up. And stay up — effectively blocking most of our view of the entire band, and most certainly Dylan, the main focus of the performance. To say that riled some of us would be an understatement. However, while I’m painfully aware things of this sort can turn nasty in a heartbeat, I still held out hope that could be avoided.
After repeatedly pleading with “security” for help (to no avail), I finally caught the eye of one of the main offenders and asked her firmly (but politely) to sit down on behalf of both my friends and the scores of people behind us. When this was met with open contempt and hostility, I’d had enough. Leaving my seat to tap her lightly on the shoulder and plead my case up close led to the following exchange:
Me: Come on, are you really going to stand up through the entire show? There are dozens of people behind you who can’t see a thing!
Her: (scowling) Don’t you put your hands on me! I don’t care! You must not go to many concerts!
Me: Are you serious? You’re on the 6th row. You can see fine. If you want to stand, move to a spot near the back where you won’t block anyone’s view.
Her: Look at your ticket. It doesn’t say “An Evening With Bob Dylan!”
(Note: the “Evening With” notation signifies the lack of an opener, not whether or not the audience’s legs are extended.)
Me: Well, it doesn’t say “Bob Dylan with Merle Haggard & The Strangers and Some Lady’s Fat Ass,” either. If someone had told me I could go hear Bob Dylan and stare at your dirty jeans for $50, I would have said no thanks!
We wrapped up this rather brief conversation with her mumbling something about intercourse and me showing her a rare bird I had recently purchased online.
Now, before you start calling me an “old man” who doesn’t know how to have a good time at shows, dig this: I love to stand up at concerts. Fact is, I prefer it. But I do so only at venues which are designed to have standing sections.
Some folks only go to seated shows because of poor circulation, physical impairment, bad backs, or low stamina. As soon as a handful of jackanapes choose to stand, they cause a domino effect that forces those behind them to either stand as well (thus ruining the view of those behind them), or simply not see the stage, and lose half the value of their admission.
I don’t stand at movies or plays either, assuming seating is provided. Who would? It’s absolutely ludicrous.
After the show, I was approached by an extremely mild acquaintance who drunkenly asked me if I had seen him engaged in an altercation with audience members who’d taken umbrage with his decision to stand (in something like the 4th row). I lied and said no. He told me he thought anybody who went to a concert and didn’t stand up was “a fu**in’ p***y!” After all, he brilliantly opined, “Their legs ain’t broke.”
I should have shown him my new bird as well, but frankly, this particular p***y was just too tired.