Every once in a great while you
have one of those evenings that is such a buzz, such a sugary-sweet good time, that you’re stoked well into the next
day. I’m not talkin’ about any kind of sexual thing here, but the
vibe is similar. What I AM talkin’ about here is ROCK AND ROLL. But first, a brief bit of exposition.
Many of you who know me are aware
of the almost unhealthy obsession I have with the band, Queens of the Stone Age. To
me they epitomize the whole idea of what Rock and Roll music in the 21st century should be. There’s no bullshit, no pretense, no media preening, no mass marketed gimmicks - just good music
for music’s sake. They pull from influences all over the spectrum, but
still inject enough of their own flavor so as to never sound derivative. Whenever
you hear a Queens song, you really can’t confuse it with anyone else. In
a time when most of the bands out there are trying to be new by explicitly referencing the old – and as a result, all
sounding the same – this is quite refreshing. But enough of my would-be
rock critic ramblings. To follow Raoul Duke’s desperate urging of Dr. Gonzo,
let me “finish the fucking story, man!”
Queens of the Stone Age played
here in LA a couple nights ago at the Henry Fonda Theater. I desperately tried
to get tickets when they first went on sale about two months back, but, alas, the Fonda is a small joint and the Queens have
a rabid fan base. The fucking thing sold out in negative thirteen seconds and
I couldn’t even score any on ebay. So, with ironclad resolve, I set out
for the Henry Fonda Theater on the night of the show with a mission to score a ticket in the parking lot. It couldn’t be that tough, right?
Upon arriving in the parking lot,
it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t going to be nearly as simple as I had assumed. It seemed like there were more people outside the show WITOUT tickets than there were with. This was clearly one of those shows that everyone and their mother wanted to get into. The scalpers didn’t even have any tickets! And when
they did, they sold ‘em faster than flat tops at a lesbian hair salon, and for a fucking fortune! It did not look good. Nonetheless, I set out for the battlefront.
My strategy was simple: Avoid the lecherous scalpers and their $125 per ticket rates, and instead aim for the everyday fan who’s
buddy had backed out at the last minute, leaving them with an extra ticket. If
I prowled the parking lot with enough finesse, I could pounce on them before any scalpers did.
For the first time in my life I became “that guy in the parking lot” desperately meandering about while
propositioning every concertgoer before they could even get a foot out of their car.
I played the pity card as I kept my demeanor humble with a slight tinge of desperation in my voice. They had to instantly recognize me not as some sleaze ball out to make a quick buck, but as a disenfranchised
fan down on his luck.
And so it went, one face after
another in the endless parade of rock fans indifferent to my plight. Countless
times I’ve been in their place, maneuvering through the scattered refuge of rock concert beggars. Now I know what it’s like to be that guy without a ticket.
I was Charlie, desperately seeking out that one elusive Wonka Bar.
Then I met two other guys who
had driven all the way up from Orange County. One of them had already bought
his ticket for sixty bucks on ebay, but his buddy was still ticket-less. They
had made the same erroneous assumption as I had that they could simply stroll up to the venue and effortlessly snag a ticket
off a scalper for a reasonable price. We banded together in our search with an
underlying agreement. The one guy promised to sell me his ticket if his buddy
failed to find one for himself. As I considered the proverbial wasteland surrounding
us, I was almost positive I had this one in the bag. No way were these guys gonna
find a ticket. I was going to this show after all!
That is, until they found a ticket.
So, where was I? Oh, yeah. Now I remember: fucked.
My search continued for what seemed
like hours. Slowly, it began to dawn on me in a very real way that the concert
was going to be starting soon. The moment of truth was at hand. My desperation grew as if the water was rising above my head. No
longer seeking tickets on a peer to peer level, I resorted to walking the aisles of the parking lot, shouting out into the
night. I wasn’t appealing to anyone specifically. I was just addressing the general public.
“I need a ticket! I just need one ticket! Does anyone have a ticket?!”
This pitiful display continued
on and on until I found myself far back into the deepest, unlit corner of the parking lot.
I was standing in the dark, amongst the few remaining empty parking spaces, cold, bitter, and still without a ticket. There, in that forgotten no man’s land on the outskirts of an unforgiving expanse
of cars, my panic withered into acceptance. I was going home early. I resolved to try one more time and then leave.
“Does anyone have a ticket?”
And that was that. I turned around and headed for my truck on the other end of the parking lot. What the hell. I gave it a valiant effort. I could go home knowing that I at least tried.
But then I heard something off
in the darkness.
“Hey, man, you say you need
I stopped and turned around to
see this scruffy looking guy with a beard approaching me. Where the fuck did
he come from? It was as if he was one of God’s own angels descending from
“Yeah. I need a ticket. You got one?”
Holy shit! He was an angel! But then again he could be demon who wanted
my soul – or the equivalent amount in cash – for the ticket.
“How much you want for it”,
I asked skittishly.
“Face value”, he replied
nonchalantly as if we were at a yard sale and I was inquiring into the price of a New Kids On The Block desk lamp.
“Are you fuckin’ serious?!”
And then, like a rock and roll
angel, he replied, “Hey, whatever, man. It’s all about the music.”
Yeah. He really said that. And, yeah, I was going to see Queens
of the Stone Age for twenty-five bucks.
I bought the ticket from this
dusty wanderer who introduced himself as Garth and, as a sign of gratitude, offered to buy him a drink once we got inside
the venue. As we made our way over to the line, Garth informed me that he was
from Palm Desert. Palm Desert, incidentally, is where Queens of the Stone Age,
as well as their predecessor band, Kyuss hail from.
“Wow,” I said, “So
you’re a fan from way back in the Kyuss days?”
He shot me a grin, “Shit,
man. I roadied for Kyuss back before they were signed.”
To me this just made too much
fucking sense. It was almost meant to be.
Not only do I score a ticket, but I score one for face value from an original Palm Desert-rat who goes way back with
the band I’m about to see. The genuine authenticity of it all was fucking
After thanking Garth about fifty
times while standing in line, we eventually made it into the venue. The timing
could not have been more perfect. Right when we walked in, the opening band,
Throw Rag took the stage. Standing there at the bar, waiting for the bartender
to pour our beers, I couldn’t help but marvel at how funny the whole thing was.
After all that chaos and drama, I made it into the show…on time! Everyone
else noticed it too. It turns out the other concertgoers weren’t as indifferent
as I had thought. People who remembered me from the parking lot kept approaching me and congratulating me on making it into
the show. I was triumphant, but couldn’t really chalk it up to any real
accomplishment on my part. All I did was wander around a parking lot like an
idiot for almost two hours when, in fact, the success of the evening was entirely the work of the friendly fates and Garth,
the rock and roll angel.
The music that would transpire
in that crowded little theater that night was nothing short of epic. Throw Rag
rocked the place like no opening band should ever be allowed to, and the Queens, playing tighter than I think I’ve ever
heard them, worked the crowd into such a fervor, that it was damn near a religious experience.
During one particularly intense
jam that erupted in the middle
of the song, “Avon”, I overheard one guy behind me proclaim to his friend, “They take you there, and then…they
take you further!”
I couldn’t agree more, and
for the most part, I think everyone else there would have too. The vibe in the
crowd was amazing. The music was like some kind of primal catalyst that reached
out into the house and aroused a euphoric craziness to seep from our heads and manifest as some extra-sensory electrical charge. Everyone rode the high and we were all better people for it. By the time Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top made a surprise appearance during the encore to jam on “Burn
the Witch,” the Henry Fonda Theater was a pulsating hive of positive energy and beautiful rock n roll music.
Leaving the show that night, I
was cleansed and renewed by the good music and good times I had just partook in. I could tell that everyone else was as well. As I looked around at all the smiles on everyone’s faces, I couldn’t help
but think how this was what a concert should be. Not like those rap concerts
where people go in pissed off, come out even more pissed off, and then end up shooting somebody in the parking lot. Those assholes have got it all wrong. They’re missing
the whole point.
They’re not listening to
Across the street, between the
venue and the parking lot, some grubby garage band had the bright idea to set up on the back of a steak bed and perform an
impromptu concert for everyone filing out to their cars. I stopped with the rest
of the crowd to catch the show before the cops shut their gig down. While standing
there, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Garth.
“See ya’ later, man,”
he said, “Thanks for the beer.”
“Anytime. Thanks for the ticket.”
Garth smiled and walked off into
the parking lot. It was funny. He
was the one who did me the huge favor and was still thanking me for a beer. Then
I remembered something. I thought back to when we first walked into the show
at the beginning of the night and I ordered those beers. The bartender handed
them to me and I handed one to Garth. I raised my plastic cup to his.
“Rock ‘n’ roll,
man,” he replied
Rock ‘n’ roll indeed.