Gaslight Anthem at the House of Blues Boston - November 26, 2011
Around 7:45, as I grabbed my keys to head out of the house, I realized I was stepping into familiar territory - a solitary concert ticket, having told not a soul where I was going. I was being a touch more responsible and driving into the city (more to avoid being at the mercy of the MBTA's ridiculous curfew than to avoid the Green Line at midnight), but I still realized that if I were to go missing, no one would have any idea where to start looking.
For the record, if I ever disappear, start by cross-referencing my CD collection to shows in the area. Start at the Middle East, then at the House of Blues, then at Lupo's.
So I was mildly responsible and told Facebook where I'd be, shaking off the bit of freedom that goes with being completely untraceable.
I really enjoy going to shows alone. I did it a lot in college, where I couldn't convince my friends to ditch their textbooks in favor of dark clubs every week, or when I just needed to disappear. Usually I'd tell someone where I was headed, but once I got there I'd just blend into the crowd and in the middle of a packed room I'd be completely alone with the music. Sometimes dragging people to shows just because you "don't want to go alone" feels like work. You worry if they're having fun, if they're enjoying it, if they're bored, will they mind staying for the encore? Many of my friends are short or small, and hate joining the crowd as they can't see or they're getting squished, and can't we just go stand back by the bar?
Of course there are bands that I can't imagine seeing without certain friends, and friends who are great concert buddies, but honestly, if it's a band I really love, I'd rather just go alone.
I snagged the last space at the garage next door and made my way up to the mezzanine. Not my first choice, as joining the swarm of humanity is easier down on the floor, but despite the fact that most of the mezzanine was already three rows deep, I found a space that seemed relatively clear. It was straight on to the stage, just about center, and had a pretty clear view. Why had no one taken such a great spot?
Because of the couple in front of me. By the time I realized my mistake it was too late, as any other decent spot had been claimed. It became clear only a few songs into the opener that the girl was only there because her boyfriend had made her go, and so she spent half the show trying to make him pay attention to her with a level of PDA I was uncomfortable standing only a foot behind. That alone made the show hard to watch, as I spent much of it tilting my neck to try and focus on the band somewhere behind their heads, but it would have at least been understandable if they weren't both texting other people the whole time! Every few minutes, the boy would pull her into a hug, and with her head facing the other way he would pull his phone slowly out of his pocket and start texting behind her back. He was literally texting someone else behind her back as she nuzzled into his shoulder. But she was no better, and as her phone just happened to be between me and the stage for much of the show, I caught more than a passing glance at her conversation with "Kyle" who really thought that she just "deserved a good guy."
Going alone is often easier than dragging someone who doesn't want to be there.
So I didn't exactly get to see 100% of the show, but I did get to hear it. I missed the first half of Matthew Ryan's set, which I was disappointed about. The burly Irish punks to my left, laconic as they raised their beers towards the stage, gave it high praise: "Vivid lyrics." "Yeah. Good Song." "Yeah."
Polar Bear Club elicited a range of questions from me, including "How did I not know about them before?" and "When are they coming back to Boston again?" The trio of college aged dudes behind me, between laughter driven stories of their crazy friend Trevor and their pronunciation of Schindler's List as a horrible date night movie, remarked on the lead singer's crazy energy, and they were right. He was all over the stage and it was captivating. It was loud, screaming music, and it was perfect. Every time I go out I remember how much I love loud guitars and drums that make the whole room vibrate. I couldn't tell you a word that boy sang the whole night, but he was damn excited and that was all that mattered.
And finally, The Gaslight Anthem. There's only so much I can gush about them, and I feel like there are plenty of entries here about how solidly amazing their live shows are. They are the best live band I have ever seen. They play rock music, they play it hard, and they play it with soul and blues and heart and story. These are songs that I love, songs that have poured out of car speakers and headphones for years, but they take on some other quality and come fully alive when they're forming right there in the same room.
Brian Fallon spends time talking with the crowd too, as any good frontman does, and had the crowd laughing and cheering and singing along. And that is fun, and I think he is amazing at it, but it still pales in comparison to the way he plays, to the way all of those boys make music. His lyrics run on themes of femme fatales from black and white movies, of old cars and sea shores and loyalty and love.
It's shows like last night that make me love Boston crowds, and though I know San Francisco will be amazing, there's something about packing the energy of this city into a room that I don't think I'll get out there. There's a fervor in the way this city loves things, and while it's generally directed at sports, that same passion is directed at music too, downstairs at the MidEast and on the floor of HOB, and I just don't see that energy happening anywhere else but here.
Good live shows make you appreciate songs you wouldn't care about otherwise, and last night was no exception. The second to last song of the encore, I fell in love with a formerly ignored B-Side:
(Unfortunately, the lyrics transcribed in the video are horrifically wrong.)
Somehow, this became about crowds and people and going out alone.