We had free tickets to see Collective Soul last Wednesday at an arena about an hour from our house. I've been to rock concerts before, but this one was different. It was held as part of a tech conference, so I wasn't expecting masses of unkempt teenage children to show up, but it was still ... yeah, different is a good word.
I made Glen change out of his geek clothes before we went, because, you know, rock concert. I needn't have troubled him. As we drove past the venue, looking for a place to park, I could see the conference participants approaching in full geek regalia. White tennis shoes abounded, and everyone's shirt was carefully tucked into his high-wasted jeans or khaki pants. I say "his" because as far as I could tell, there were only about six other women in the whole crowd.
The first odd thing about the show itself was that security was a bit less enthusiastic than I'm used to. Tons of people got cameras into the venue, as we discovered when the concert started. These weren't wimpy little cell phone cameras, either - they were full-on recent-model Nikons with video capability. Someone posted some hi-res photos to a Flickr stream, so the pix are courtesy of, um ... someone named a4gpa.
Anyway, we went inside the venue, and that's when I realized that I really wasn't in Kansas anymore. Normally I would expect to pay $3 for a plastic cup full of tap water at a concert, and if I wanted something to eat I would probably just wait until I got home rather than get scalped by the vendors. Here, we were greeted by buffet tables full of free food and beverages. It was standard conference fare, nothing special, but - free. There were video games and even a slot machine on the concourse.
When they opened the doors to the arena, everyone filed in and down the stairs in a completely orderly, unhurried manner, even though it was general admission. This was a nice change, but I was beginning to feel that my fellow concert-goers weren't really entering into the spirit of the thing. Our all-access passes got us onto the floor, where we found ourselves in the ninth row (I counted). This is undoubtedly the closest I will ever be to the stage at a concert, because even if I could afford floor seats, they all get bought up online by scalpers in the first twenty seconds that the tickets are on sale anyway, so I was pretty excited.
The opening act was a stand-up comic, which was unusual, but not necessarily bad, I guess. By that time they had let in some extra people - Collective Soul fans, presumably - who weren't conference attendees. There are about 20,000 seats in the arena, and it was probably two-thirds full. Anyway, the comedian did his bit, and then the band was announced by some sort of uber-geek who appeared to be in charge of the conference. We could hear rock-concert-appropriate screaming from the back of the arena, but most of the geeks just clapped enthusiastically. As the show got started, there was a surreal moment when I looked around at the audience and realized that I was in the ninth row, on the floor, at a rock concert, and I was the only one dancing. There was even a wee little mosh pit in front of the stage, but no one was moshing. A couple of heads bobbed up and down here and there, and that was about it. Behold the participants in the wee "mosh" pit:
Collective Soul were very cool, and they played a good show. They were professional and comfortable onstage, which I love, and they put a lot of energy into the performance.
They sounded good live. Not studio-perfect, but that's not what live concerts are for anyway. There were some scorching guitar solos, and at one point Ed Roland played the iconic guitar riff from AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" during the bridge in "Hollywood." Even the geeks got excited about that.
CS's set was only about an hour plus a one-song encore, but some of the geeks still left early. I'm not sure if it was past their bedtime, or if they just couldn't live one more minute without their wireless connection, or if - heaven forbid - they just weren't that excited about the show. Toward the end, more non-conference people started to filter down to the floor and fill up the aisles, which was nice, because I was no longer the only one jumping up and down and screaming.
After the encore the lights came up, and everyone filed out. I heard someone remark that the show had been really loud, which made me smile. It was one of the least-amplified shows I'd ever seen - my ears were barely ringing when I walked out. The security guys thought it was funny too.
I love geeks. I love their geeky clothes, their geeky jokes, and all their geeky ways. Yes, I'm mocking them, but it's Horatian mocking, not Juvenalian.