Gig and I hit back to back Pearl Jam shows last week. I'm going to take a brief hiatus from discussing the end of civilization and focus on something a bit lighter. First up was the Columbus show at Nationwide Arena. We got there with plenty of time to spare. We parked a few blocks away and made our way to the arena district. This was my first ever excursion to the downtown arena. I couldn't help but notice the overall cleanliness. Seriously, you couldn't even find a discarded cigarette butt. Not that I'm complaining, but the crowd seemed incredibly tame and the backdrop was immaculate. The people watching was relatively uneventful. Some people think I enjoy chaos and disorder - and while that is indeed true, I like to observe my confusion from a close yet secure distance. Seriously, I've always thought there would be a good market for "riot chasers." You've already got those bozos in the Midwest who go tornado chasing. Riot chasing would be bad ass. Hey, it invokes the exact same sense of anticipation and coordination. Saf, what kind of riots would appeal to you? Well, the recent economic induced rioting in Greece was pretty impressive. In the past I've made my zest for soccer riots well known. Anything involving mass looting is fine. You've just got to stay out of the real war zones which is pretty easy if you reside in Wheeling.
As I said earlier, it seemed like the fans were attending a Bar Mitzvah. Tickets were an easy score. Face value of $68 across the board. I snagged a floor ticket for $20 and Gig got hers for $11. Amazingly, her ticket was a floor seat as well. While people watching, Gig saw a friend/fellow coworker of hers who had relocated from Sacramento. I forget his name. He was on a mini tour (Columbus, Indy, Cleveland & Buffalo).
We skipped the opening act and found some seats about 15 rows back - dead center. Almost immediately, the lights went out and the band took the stage. We got shuffled back to some other seats on the aisle about 18 rows back. Still fine with me. I was perpetually worried that we'd get bumped to the back of the floor, but we managed to stay put for the entire show.
Inside the arena, the fans were rocking out. A marked change from the previous behavior. They opened with Oceans - one of my favorite openers but I couldn't figure out what the song was until about halfway through. They ripped through some of the usual suspects. Early on they played my favorite tune "Faithful" - a definite highlight. I also liked the 1st encore opener Just Breathe (for sentimental reasons) and the second encore opener Come Back (I don't think I've ever heard it live). I'd probably rank this as my second favorite Pearl Jam show just behind the 2006 Mellon Arena show. We had killer seats and the band was definitely on. Truth be told, the band is always "on." As we heard the early notes of Yellow Ledbetter, I grabbed Gig and we bolted for the exit. I was unusually determined not to get stuck in traffic. She kindly reminded me of this during the ride home. It's not necessary to run 20 yards ahead. I think I get this instinct from my father. Maybe it's something in the DNA or at the very least, sociologically ingrained. Sometimes, I'm way to preoccupied with the quick exit. But hey, the drive back was 2 hours+.
A few days later, we'd hit the Cleveland show at the famed "Q" - Quicken Loans Arena. We stopped at her mom's house in West Middlesex for a pleasant Mother's Day dinner. I guess it wasn't really a non-circuit path considering our origin was Pittsburgh. After a brief visit, we hit I-80 & 77. About an hour and a half later we snagged a tight parking spot directly in front of the arena. I snagged a ticket for $20 and Gig outdid herself with a $7 ticket (face value $69). She offered some kid 5 bucks and then sheepishly added an additional two bones. To quote a famous Sato line from the waning moments of Karate Kid II - "Your student become my teacher." Hey, that fucking "bone dance" belonged there. The castle is where they used to have it... right?
I've always been suspect of Cleveland concerts. Formerly known as Gund Arena (I prefer to call it Gunt Arena), the "Q" is an annoying place to see a concert. The ushers and security must think their jobs depend on an absolute adherence to making every patron behave perfectly. Assuring total calm and non-enjoyment seemed a priority. Oddly enough both our tickets were in the upper tier section 224. But we had singles, so we looked for some open seats on the side. We found a few, but this bald, black usher seemed intent on exposing us. They opened with Wash and into Hail Hail. The usher guy flashed his light on my tennis shoe and told me to stay out of the non-trafficked 2 row aisle. I'm pretty sure I overheard these two women next to us complain that we were in the wrong seats. Maybe it was the paranoia kicking in. Sure enough, a minute later the guy beams his flashlight and aggressively tapped me on the shoulder, "Let me see your tickets." I'm like, oh well, let's move up to the less congested upper tier. So we headed up there and found some seats. The seats had this "I'm at the top of the Empire State Building feel." The crowd up top was mostly seated with a few pockets of enthusiasm. For the most part though, it seemed like a morgue. Gig did spot her Sacramento friend on the floor below - Front row railing absolute dead center. I tried to experience the concert vicariously through this guy but we were just too far in the distance.
So we decided to head to the other side and snagged some good seats on the opposite side of the stage. There was this large 30 row chunk of seats that were mostly vacant. I was very content with these seats for the duration. Just as I said, "I think we finally found our home," the same bald usher dude from the OTHER side of the arena shows up and starts flashing us again. Unbelievable! I think this guy must have had antisemitic feelings regarding West Virginia Jews and Pennsylvania Roman Orthodox. Honestly, he really had this Malcom X thing going. In any event, it felt like payback for a hundred years of white Jew economic oppression. At this point, I look at Gig and say "Alright let's seek out the absolute worst seats in the entire arena." So we head up all the way into the 3rd level rafters. We ended up on the railing though. Actually, these new seats provided a nice overview. But we had grown accustomed to snagging excellent spots in the past so it was a bit of a letdown.
Seriously though, why not just caution tape off the block of seats. Wouldn't that be easier and send a clear cut message to the attendees? It would take about 30 seconds and cost 1/5 of a cent. But that's probably way too easy for the Cleveland "beat yourself up" mindset. It's vastly better to bug the shit out of anyone and everyone. This is why the Ohio fans are lame. Through the decades, the arenas and stadiums have routinely and systematically tried to squash even the slightest attempts at enthusiasm and freedom of expression. Think about it - the Dawg Pound? Done away with the new stadium. They probably saw someone drinking whiskey out of an over-sized plastic decorative dog biscuit. Ohhh, they're trying to pull a fast one. Let's kick him the fuck out of the stadium and revoke his season ticket license. Hey, great move on the behalf of the most consistent 5-11 team in the NFL. Even the Bungles break .500 from time to time. And how about Cleveland's version of Starlake Ampitheatre - fucking Blossom Ampitheater. Every major outdoor ampitheatre has a corporate name these days, but even the banks and insurance companies are too cool to buy the naming rights to this fucking shithole. You emerge from the disgust of Akron and the construction of 8 North. All of a sudden, you venture through this beautiful state park. Mammoth trees line the stunning entrance. Then you get out of your car and pop the hatch. Within seconds, some pimply faced teenage fuck on a golf cart warns you that there's no tailgating and if you don't go inside the venue, you'll be arrested and shipped off to Gitmo. Despite the silence, you've been arrested for disturbing the peace and attempting to coordinate a riot. If you try and snag a cheap ticket, you'll be detained for racketeering and attempted conspiracy for trying to defraud the venue. And the sound is horrible because of this prodigious slab of birch mahogany that covers the pavilion. Then, you try and exit the place and it takes over an hour because it's single file and some moron's candy apple red Ford Mustang broke down. CLEVELAND - YOU SUCK! I hate pro basketball, but I'm hoping the Cavs lose a game 7 final to the Suns this year. That would be the dream scenario. Nothing against LeBron James though - he seems ok.
Honestly though, the show was another killer - great version of "Given to Fly" near the end. They closed with very rare songs - Smile and Indifference. And even though my energy level was low, towards the end of the show, everyone was up. I think we just got shuffled around too much. Plus, I was kind of Pearl Jammed-Out. But if we hadn't hit them both, I would have never forgiven myself. Back to the Burgh in another 2 hour+ late night haul. Incidentally, the repeated tolls on 80/76 Ohio/PA border are really annoying. 2 separate $3.00 tolls within a 10 mile span. Just another way that the state of Ohio tries to suck the lifeblood from everyone.