by Lee Sinclair
Although music has added a great deal of pleasure to my life, my knowledge of it is limited and I’ve never been a concert-goer. Which is why I’m surprised to find myself attending chamber music concerts on a semi-regular basis. But even though I don’t know much about classical music, I can appreciate its quality and even recognize particularly good playing. The superior music, the perfect setting—an intimate, indoor venue with comfortable seats— and a well-behaved but enthusiastic audience all combine to make it a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Of course, now that I’ve described it, perhaps it’s not so surprising that I enjoy it.
But what about an outdoor rock concert—the kind where you have to lug along all the paraphernalia necessary to make it a survivable and potentially enjoyable experience? The odds are stacked against it. A typical general admission ticket means you have to arrive early to get a reasonably good seat, and you’ll probably be sitting ON THE GROUND (or a low-to-the ground beach chair). Plus you take your chances on the weather, and it’s almost always scheduled at night, which means driving after dark. Not only that, rock concerts are not really about the music. They’re about loud noise and wild partying. This is not the type of concert I would expect a non-partying, comfort-addicted boomer like me to enjoy.
The blame for my attending such an event rests solely on Chris Isaak. I accidentally discovered him about 5 years ago when I heard his best known hit, Wicked Game, for the first time. Then I heard another of his well-known hits, Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing, which is distinctly different from Wicked Game. These two songs perfectly express both his amazing vocal range and the breadth of his songwriting ability. After that, I became a huge fan and collected all his music. (Fourteen albums so far, with his fifteen, Beyond The Sun, being released October 18th, plus miscellaneous singles.)
Last year, I finally broke down and went to one of his outdoor concerts at the Portland Zoo. Unfortunately, the weather did NOT cooperate. The temperature hit triple digits during the day, cooling off to a bearable, but still uncomfortable, temperature by the time the concert started. This meant waiting until the very last minute to arrive, which had a cascading negative effect. The only place to park was a mile away on a dark side street. The only place left to sit was between the elephant exhibit and the smoking area under a bush behind the garbage cans, which resulted in a limited and distant view of the stage, too far away to take good pictures even with a zoom lens.
And topping the evening off was the long hike back to the car in the dark.
Although I did have a good time, it was not an experience I would normally want to repeat. But this is Chris Isaak I’m talking about, so I gave him another chance. And this year the weather cooperated. As a result, I arrived early, found a perfect parking spot, and snagged a great seat in the first row behind the reserved seating section. I was even close enough to see the performance without binoculars—and if only I had brought along a good photographer, I could have gotten some really fantastic pictures. Instead, I ended up with a few decent shots and a whole lot of bad ones. (I’m blaming it on the camera, of course.)
Chris Isaak takes a stroll through the audience, serenading and/or stepping on a few lucky fans—and moving at the speed of light if you’re trying to take pictures.
Now that I have gone to two outdoor rock concerts, I’m ready to share my vast knowledge of them to help other boomers who might be thinking of attending one. First of all, pick one that’s indoors so you’re not at the mercy of the weather. Second, don’t be cheap like me—spring for reserved seating AND reserved parking, if it’s available. Third, party like a teenager. With the right attitude, you’ll have fun whether you’re sitting off in some really bad spot or right in front of the stage. Fourth, scope out the venue in advance to make plans; then chat with venue workers when you get there to get secret tips so you can dump your inadequate old plan in favor of a better one. (How do you think I got such a great seat?) Fifth, bring something to eat with you because, trust me, nothing sold at the concert will be compatible with your digestive system or approved by your doctor.
And finally, take lots of pictures, if it’s allowed. Good ones are best, but even crummy ones can be fun to look at and will bring back memories of the good times, while allowing the little hiccups (like embarrassing yourself by falling off your beach chair) to fade. Although taking pictures does distract you a little from totally immersing yourself in the music, it’s not like it’s a chamber music concert where concentration is essential to one’s enjoyment. Besides, completely uninhibited partying is for real teenagers. What we boomers do is savor experiences, with pictures-taking being one way we do that. And a boomer with a whole bunch of pictures has just as much total fun as those overly-exuberant teenagers who party until they collapse—possibly even more.
Ironically, my favorite picture is not one of Chris Isaak, but rather this one of his talented bass player, Rowland Salley, who is a singer and a Grammy-winning songwriter in his own right.
I’ve scattered some pictures throughout this post to show you just how much fun I had. Just looking at them again has made me realize that my future probably holds more Chris Isaak concerts. He’s not only a fantastic singer, but he also puts on a great show. He has a wicked sense of humor, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes subtle, which adds zing to his patter between songs. His outstanding band, Silvertone, has been with him forever and the camaraderie is obvious.
But the real reason I’ll probably be attending more concerts is I need more and better pictures. Lots of them.