Wednesday, August 11, 2021

a busy summer part 3: the concert

Monday night after returning home wasn’t the best night of sleep I have had recently.  The couch is great for naps but for a full night of sleep it’s not preferred.  That’s where Zeke sleeps each night and while he’s a very sweet and loving dog, he’s not a sleep cuddler.  When we all watch a movie on the couch he sulks in the floor waiting for us to vacate his space.  He was generous with half of the couch when I went to sleep but when I got up in the middle of the night to turn on the fan, he jumped in my spot and I had to physically move him in order to go back to sleep.  Once I woke up and ran, I was pretty recharged.  It had been a busy few weeks, but I had one more day of adventure ahead and I was kind of excited.

I think it was about two years ago that I bought these tickets.  I’ve wanted to see Weezer in concert since 1994 when I bought their first album on CD from a short-lived music store in a mall that’s now a charter school.  Over the years there was always one reason or another but when the HellaMega Tour was announced with Weezer and Green Day on the ticket, I was going.

Fast forward to the pandemic.  The tour was postponed because of people and germs.  When there was hope of things opening back up soon, the tour was rescheduled and I got distantly excited again.  I had a lot of things on the calendar for this summer so I added the tour date to my phone and completely forgot about it.  The concert was this thing I was going to do this summer but I wasn’t really sure when it was actually happening.  About two weeks before the date, I rediscovered it when G asked about it.  It was happening on a Tuesday?  In the middle of the week?  That’s not the best plan for a working person so she was obviously less excited than I was.  And while Violet jumps at a chance to go to a concert, Blue has never attended one and intentionally avoids places where people gather.  It started to look like it wouldn't be a whole family trip.

I kept forgetting about the tickets and really didn’t even know where they were.  I made a feeble attempt to sell the extras on Instagram, but with the new Covid numbers starting to rise again, I don’t think a lot of people we eager to go to a concert in what was being called a “hot spot”.  I took a little solace in the fact that it was still an outside venue, but vowed to not touch anything and then I decided that the extra seats might provide a buffer from others.  So while G and Blue were probably a little relieved that they were not going to stay up most of the night going to a loud concert, the rest of us were still excited.  I wanted to see Green Day.  I wanted to see Weezer.  But the thing I wanted most was to hear “Undone: The Sweater Song” live.  Second on that list was to hear “El Scorcho” live.  That one mentions Green Day so I figured there was a good chance I’d hear it.  

The third thing on my list was Alexander Calder.  There’s a big Calder exhibit in NYC this summer and I had every intention of dragging Blue and Violet to it before school started back.  As the calendar filled up, I saw those chances fade and decided that the Calder/Picasso exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta might be a nice substitute.  Still I wondered when I would have a day to sacrifice to drive to Atlanta.  I’ll admit that sometimes these things sneak up on me.  Just a few days earlier I was thinking about it and realized, “Oh, I’m already driving to Atlanta!”.  Now I just needed to get there early enough to run by the museum before the concert starts.  No problem.

So I was sleeping on the couch with Zeke and the rest of the family was camped around on mattresses because the air conditioning was out upstairs.  G got up and went to work which left me as the adult in charge for the fix-it guy to come Tuesday morning.  I just needed this to be a quick fix so I could get on the road.  Violet and I dressed in our museum/concert attire and waited.  The appointment did not start on time, but it did go mercifully fast.  We were later than we wanted, but we were on the road to pick up Katherine before noon and I had high hopes.  If traffic was kind, we’d still be ok. 

I’m not sure “kind” is the word I’d use to describe Atlanta traffic that day but we still made it to the museum parking garage in good time.  We were all blown away by the exhibit.  

We took our time going through and even took an extra few minutes to see the contemporary exhibit on a different floor.  This was probably where I went wrong.  I should have stuck to my plan and got out.  You see, there was not a wealth of information about this concert for some reason.  The tickets stated that the gates opened at 5:30.  I knew there was an opening act and then three headlining bands.  I knew my section number and our seat numbers.  That was it.  I tried to call the venue and got nothing.  I even looked up information about the previous tour date online while I waited for the fix-it guy to come.  All I learned there was that Weezer was the first of the headlining bands to perform at that tour stop.  I knew I had a seat so I didn’t think I needed to be there super early.  I thought the opening act would play 45 minutes or so, which would give us until about 7:00 or 7:30 to get in our seats to see Weezer.  My plan was to leave the museum, get a coffee at a cool coffee shop downtown, grab some dinner quickly, and park at the stadium around 6:45.  We’d cruise into our seats by 7:00, get our music, and then drive home late.

That was the plan.  Here’s what actually happened:

We left the museum inspired but a little behind schedule.  We drove across town to the coffee shop.  The coffee shop with amazing coffee and huge letters on the door showing they were open until 6:00 pm.  At 5:30 pm they were NOT open.  Doors locked.  Lights out.  No coffee.  I checked the map and saw we needed to drive a bit to get to the stadium and I announced that was our next stop.  There could be traffic and I didn’t want to chance it.  We were all hungry but we’d just have to grab food inside the stadium in the time we had before the music started. 

Off we drove to the stadium exit.  The stadium that hosts major league baseball games several nights each week for a big part of the year.  The stadium that should have well-marked parking lots and easy ways to get into them.  We sat at that exit moving one car length per 5 minutes for an hour and a half.  There were no police directing traffic, just a ton of tired and panicky, hopeful concert goers trying to figure out where to go.  When we finally made it onto the street with the parking lots, none were clearly marked as ones we could use.  There were no instructions and no humans to ask.  After following other clueless cars up and down the roads, we finally pulled into one with some spaces left and asked the lady scanning cards of we could park there.  She said “NO!”  I asked where we could park.  She said “TWO LEFTS, THREE RIGHTS!” and motioned for me to get out of there.  

It was obvious that everyone on the street in front of us had the same instructions and we moved like a slow parade first taking two lefts and then ever so slowly taking the first and second right.  As we searched for parking, we noted there was music coming from the stadium.  Surely this was just a sound check, right?  During the slow parade, we heard what sounded like Weezer songs.  What was going on?  We weren’t missing the concert were we?  It was definitely a sound check.  It had to be.  The music stopped.  The crowd roared.  It was not a sound check.  Weezer was playing and we were missing it.  I moved an inch closer to the bumper in front of me.  The inch didn’t make me feel any better.  Was this really happening?  I was firmly in the anger stage at this point.  Choosing to not stop for lunch was my fault.  Choosing to add a museum visit to this trip was my fault.  Thinking I had the luxury of time for coffee was my fault.  But this whole business of trying unsuccessfully to get parked and into the stadium certainly felt like a failure on the part of Truist Park or the City of Atlanta.  I was very angry.  

We finally got parked in a remote parking space.  There was a whole moment of the lady holding my debit card at the gate musing about closing the lot but we escaped that disaster.  The three of us power walked through a maze to try to get out of the lot and onto the street.  We were so far away we had to use a map to get to the stadium.  The music was still playing.  The crowd of people who came early to drink in their cars all afternoon were seeing MY concert.  The song “Africa” was clearly blasting from electric guitars and drums in the stadium.  I was not at all excited about hearing this one, but I figured they were close to the end of their set if they were playing it.  Power walking turned into sprinting.  

My concert friends were very kind at this point.  Neither of them chose to point out how I had discouraged lunch in favor of an early dinner.  Neither of them chose to point out that I was the only one in comfortable shoes while we sprinted.  Neither of them chose to blame me for the disaster unfolding before us.  I ran, holding Violet’s hand, practically dragging her toward the stadium, grateful for their mercy.

They were in fact, quite pleasant about it.  Both of them were singing “Africa” while we sprinted and while we waited in line at the gate.  The multi-tasking began immediately.  Katherine held our place in the long security line while Violet and I picked up some merch.  We made it inside the stadium just in time to hear the last three Weezer songs.  We stopped our march to our seats long enough to stand and take in “Buddy Holly”.  Then we continued our climb to the nosebleed seats.  Almost as if they were waiting for us, Weezer bowed and left the stage just as we were directed to our seats.  We sat down and saw an empty stage before us.  All of our neighbors moved to the bathroom lines or food lines.  We were hungry and needed to pee so after we gathered ourselves for a moment, we found our places in the lines too.

I may not have mentioned that it was hot.  August in “Hot-lanta”.  The daily thunderstorm had passed over us while we waited in traffic so it had cooled off a little from the afternoon heat and it wasn’t miserable in the stadium.  We grabbed some very expensive food and water and made our way back to our seats to enjoy.  Fall Out Boy, the other headlining band, played while we waited on food and devoured it.  I recognized some of the songs but wasn’t excited about seeing them play.  I was also still a little ticked off.  We got in another line for merch and it was comically long.  I felt like I was in an episode of Seinfeld.  The one band all three of us wanted to see, we missed.  Violet literally didn’t know any of the other bands.  Want to park?  Follow George Costanza to a remote lot.  Looking for band merch?  Kramer knows a guy.  Just stand in this mile long line.  But all the while, it was almost entertaining.  Almost funny.  We laughed a good bit and after Fall Out Boy left the stage and darkness settled into the stadium, we got excited again.  

From the first note Green Day played, it was worth the effort.  It was easy to sense the pent-up energy from a band who has played one live concert in two years.  They came ready to have fun and they played every great song we wanted to hear and more.  Soon Violet recognized a song and said to me “THEY play this song?”.  Then another one.  “This is THEIR song??” She was even singing along and loving it.  As the clock moved towards 10:15 pm she started checking my watch after each song.  Even I caught myself thinking, “OK, this is great and all, but I gotta drive for three hours after this so exactly how many more songs are we doing?”  Then the next song would start and I would forget about being tired.  There were so many great moments I even started to lose my anger about missing Weezer.  This was so good it made up for it.  

This was also my first concert in almost two years.  In fact, one of my last ones was also in Atlanta a year and a half or so earlier.  My excitement was also, in part, due to not being at a concert in so long.  Live music is so enjoyable when the people around you are behaving.  Maybe it was an older crowd or maybe people were a little more respectful after a pandemic, but I found everyone very, very nice.  There was the one almost liquified woman semi-passed out on a picnic table attempting to shove a pretzel into her mouth, but she wasn’t bothering anyone.  A couple of people nearby vaped secretly but the wind moved it away from us.  No one was smoking anything illegal near us.  No one was annoyingly drunk.  Instead, I caught the eye of a few neighbors, some behind masks,  as we sang along together to the music and we shared a smile.  We “Woooooooo”ed together and raised our hands in the air together.  It felt really good to be back with people.  But also really gross to be back with people.  You know?

The fireworks display signaled the end of the fun and the return of stress.  We had no trouble following the huge crowd to the parking lot, though the crowd depleted severely before we made it to OUR parking lot.  I got out on the road and my two energetic concert friends flipped some sort of invisible switch and were instantly asleep.  I talked angrily to my map voice as she got me lost, changed her mind several times, and then asked me to take a non-existent exit toward home.  That one wasn’t her fault.  Atlanta decided it would be OK to block off the exit to I-85 N, one of the busiest in the state, without putting up any detour signs.  “Let’s just block it off with cones and not tell anyone!” I could see them laughing.  After another hour of sitting in traffic waiting on every other driver on the road to make the same laborious U-turn, I was back on speaking terms with the map lady and better still, on my way home and toward the credits of this episode.  But this is a series and the next episode was just a few days away.

***tune in next time for "part 3:  the make-up concert"...

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