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Not With The Band: Each Concert Can Bring Its Lot Of Surprises


The crowd at Paul Simon’s 1991 concert in Central Park

Many bizarre and unexpected things can happen during concerts, Girl in a Coma’s Nina Diaz may have lost her voice during her show last week, but it is hardly the weirdest thing that could happen. I don’t remember about too many bad things related to concerts, no death, no injury, although some have been very rowdy and this Bad Brains concert at the Sunset Junction Fair a few years ago could have taken a very bloody turn if the police had not interrupted it! People were jumping from electric poles, the crowd was pushing and the barricades were not holding up, it was scary! I have seen a guy passing out at a Shins in-store show at Amoeba, the poor kid had been waiting too long in the sun without water probably, but what else out of the ordinary could I remember?

My oldest memory regarding oddities at concerts goes back to 1991 during Paul Simon’s historical (and free) concert in Central Park… beside the event behind the biggest one I ever attended anywhere, I still have in mind a lot of these people waiting for the concert,… well, when you spend the whole day waiting, you necessarily observe a lot. I had brought with me the minimum to survive, a few apples, some rice cakes, a bottle of water, I can be very frugal in these circumstances, I mean, you have to, right? No way, some people had planted large camping tents with enough food inside to survive for a week. They were thinking it was Woodstock all over again and the funniest group had cooked a large batch of spaghetti Bolognese they were sharing with everyone. Cool, but how do you do this when you are sitting on your backpack with no fork and spoon?

I met a few people at all the Elliott Smith’s concerts I have attended, but one episode was particularly strange… I was front row as usual, waiting for the show to start and a guy and a girl started to chat with me,… they were obviously some big fans, the girl had driven several hours (she was from San Diego) to get there, and she was quite animated. I have to say she was already quite intoxicated, but was still drinking margarita after margarita… after the opening band (I think it was Earlimart), she disappeared to go to the restrooms,… and never came back! She never showed up when Elliott Smith play, and she missed the whole set,… too bad for her. But the guy and I worried a bit, and looked for her after the show, but she was nowhere to find, she wasn’t in the restroom, and I never knew what happened to her, I just hope she didn’t drive back to San Diego drunk as she was.

There was another episode involving Paul Simon, but this time he was sharing the bill with Bob Dylan: they were doing a big tour and they had a stop at the Hollywood Bowl. Of course I had a seat located way up in the benches, a close-to-nosebleed ticket, and I was not happy. So I decided to give it a try, sometimes I get lucky, and I managed to reach the super seats without being stopped by any security guards, then the terrace boxes and even the garden boxes, which are very close to the stage! These are super expensive seats bought for an entire season by rich people, but the problem is that, once there, I had to keep moving because I had no seat… I remember about a guy who had done the exact same thing, and suddenly a very nice couple offered us some seats inside their box!! Their friends hadn’t come and they had some free space,… after thanking them profusely I could enjoy the show like a star, and this took its real meaning when the lights when on at the intermission: we were surrounded by movie stars, a few boxes ahead of mine were Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Jack Nicholson and his girlfriend, and a bit further were Eric Clapton, Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg and I am sure many other celebrities I didn’t recognize… Someone also said to me he saw Simon’s ex and Star Wars princess Carrie Fisher. Too bad it was pre-iPhone era.

There is probably other weirdness and awesomeness that I have forgotten, each concert is an adventure with more or less unexpected things happening beside an eventual surprise guest, and sometimes there is more going on in the room than on stage.

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