This past Friday night I took a little road trip with Yort down to Ridgefield, CT to see a rather odd duet made up of Richard Marx and Matt Scannell. "Seriously Johnny? Richard Marx?" I hear you saying in disbelief. I know, I know. On the scale of gayness, his music is slightly north of Air Supply gay, and that's being generous. But in both his and my defense, he is a talented mofo and a great songwriter, even if his delivery is a little on the light side. That said, even though I was never a huge Richard Marx fan, I did play the hell out of his first CD. Don't Mean Nothing, Shoulda Known Better, Endless Summer Nights -- I mean, come on. If you even had a pulse in 1987 you loved those effing songs and don't lie to me because I won't buy it for a second.
Matt Scannell, for those of you who don't know, is the front man and chief songwriter for the band Vertical Horizon. I liked them a lot back in 99 when Everything You Want came out. Apparently these guys are friends and have been doing a series of acoustic shows that basically involve them hanging out and playing some reworked versions of their tunes, as well as some new ones they've been working on together. They don't do many of these shows, and I figured Ridgefield was about as close as they were going to get, so I decided to make the trip. At the very least, it would be a good opportunity to see a couple of very talented guys play some good acoustic music in an intimate setting.
Unfortunately, my wife had to work, so she couldn't go with me. So I recruited Yort. I also brushed the dust off my old bootlegging equipment and decided I was going to record the show so she could listen to it if she wanted to. (Back in the late 90's and early 2000's, recording my friend Pete's band The Badlees was sort of a hobby of mine, and I still have a giant pile of mini-disc recordings that I will someday get around to transferring to CD.)
Anyway, to make a long story short, Yort and I got there a little early and checked out our seats. This is a tiny place, and we were sitting directly in the center a few rows down from the mixing board. Acoustically, they were probably the best seats in the house. As we walked in the door, I glanced at the seats, then at my ticket, and asked Yort to switch with me because there was an older gent already sitting in the adjacent seat on my side, and I wanted to mess with my recorder without anyone seeing me.
Once I fiddled with the recorder and got everything set to go, I relaxed. I figured the show would be pretty long, since I had heard it was 1/3 comedy, 1/3 storytelling and 1/3 music, and I was prepared. I didn't think there'd be much trouble swapping the disc after the first 75 minutes. Worst case, I could take a quick trip to the men's room and only miss half a song or so.
If you've read my blog for very long, you already know I have what I call bad "people luck" which means that if there is an annoying person within 50 miles of me, they will seek me out like a guided douchebag missle. If I'm on a plane, they're the one with the B.O. and bad breath that will sit next to me and like to talk. If I'm in a movie, they are either the really tall one who sits directly in front of me, or the really obnoxious one sitting behind me talking on their cell phone while simultaneously kicking my seat. If I go camping, they pack in right next to me and crank up the chainsaw and generator. You get the idea.
Historically speaking, my luck at concert venues isn't much better, but I thought maybe this show would be an exception. But it was not to be. Five minutes before the show started, a really excited looking, sweaty, pudgy, middle-aged girl wedged her way into our row and sat down next to me. She immediately turned to me and tried to bond, in a similar fashion to how I imagine a lamprey eel would strike up the initial conversation with the shark it wanted to latch on to and suck the life from.
"So are you a big fan? I LOVVVE Richard Marx. I mean, it's Richard Marx, how could you not love him?" she said with a single breath. She looked at my headphones and added, "Where you listening to him on the way to the show?"
"No," I replied. (hidden inside the non-functioning headphones is a pair of stereo microphones.) I reached in my pocket and started my recorder.
Just then the lights dimmed, and suddenly there was a steam locomotive crossing a trestle in the seat next to me. My ears were assaulted with a sound that simply had to originate directly from the bowels of Hell. I looked to my right. No, not from Hell -- from her.
"WHOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOO!!" she said.
"Holy Shit," I said, shaking my head to make my brain work again.
"I'm a screamer. Sorry," she said.
More than I needed to know.
The announcer walked on stage and introduced Matt and Richard. That's when the Whoo-Whoo! Girl really broke loose. She started yelling "You're AWESOME!" and screaming "WHOOOOOOOOOooooooooooOOOOOOOOO!" -- all while Richard was trying to introduce a song. Then...THEN....as the first song started, she began clapping along and singing - badly.
Motherfucker. It happened to me again.
So as I'm sitting there listening to my bootleg get completely trashed, I'm also trying to think of what I should do. I thought about getting up and moving to another seat farther back, but that would leave Yort by himself, and it would also mean I'd have to climb over everyone else in the row.
I'd like to point out that this is the part of the story where I do the exact right thing.
What would a rabid fan love more than anything? I thought. I know! A copy of the show they were currently attending, to remember it forever! So between whoo-whoos, I leaned over and said, "Look, I'm going to be honest with you. I'm trying to record this show, and if you tone it down just a little bit, I'll send you a copy of it."
She turned toward me and shook her head. "No," she said, "No. You're cheating!"
Then she started boiling like a corked up teapot that was about to blow.
"Cheating?" I asked. "What do you ----"
"YOU'RE STEALING FROM THEM!" she yelled at me. "STEALING!"
"No, it's only for me," I said, backpedaling. "So my wife can hear the show."
"You're not a true fan! You're not even a fan of music, are you?"
"No, really -- I ----"
"GO SIT SOMEWHERE ELSE! I PAID FOR THIS EXPERIENCE!"
At this point I was getting a little irritated. "I paid too. But I didn't pay to experience your experience," I said.
"You're OBVIOUSLY not a musician," she said.
"I play the drums," I said, realizing as I said it that I basically just conceded her point.
It was right about then that I heard a little voice in the back of my head say "Johnny. Psssst. Um, she can get you kicked out of the show. Just thought I'd mention that."
My little voice was right. What to do? I thought fast (for me, anyway), leaned over again and said, "I was just kidding. I'm not actually recording the show. I was just trying to get you to be quiet."
So she leaned over and sang directly into my face.
I was making friends. This was good.
I chalked it up to another episode of bad "people luck" and sat back to enjoy what I could of the show between spastic outbursts of unrequited Richard Marx love. I figured she'd eventually tire herself out or maybe have a coronary, but sadly, neither of those things happened. She dry-humped her chair a lot, and her butt-bulk kept invading my seat, so that was a nice bonus.
When the 75 minutes were up and I knew I needed to change the disc, there was no way I was going to switch it out in plain view after I told her I wasn't recording, so I just let it roll out. I figured that at least I got the first 3/4 of the show. Other than having to run it through Ableton and SoundForge to EQ it a bit, (neither program has a whoo-whoo filter, unfortunately) it actually turned out pretty good.
I also have to note that throughout this series of altercations, Yort was helping me deal with crazy fan-girl by studiously pretending to not know me. I like to think that if it had come to blows, he'd have had my back, but it's probably just wishful thinking on my part.
At any rate, if you get chance to see these guys, do it. They're funny, they're talented, and they put on a great show. Just heed my advice -- if you hear a locomotive heading in your general direction, run like hell or risk being steam-rolled by the Marx Love.
Don't say I didn't warn you.