“I hope I’m as cool as you when I get to be your age.”
Thus spoke the lithe and shirtless underage guy at the Dave Matthews concert on Friday night. Then there was the one who high-fived me and said, “I hope I’m just like you when I’m 80.”
He was off by too many years to count. “I don’t look 80, do I?” I riposted.
“Oh no, not at all – I was just saying . . . ”
Yeah, right. Clearly I was over the hill for this crowd, as I tried to relive my youth at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for the second time in the same week. (Country Throwdown was the first – see my May 31st post.) Will the Dave Matthews concert be the last time? Maybe, though I’ll never say never.
I bought both tickets a couple of months ago, when I was feeling perhaps a trifle manicky, and I came close to copping out on this one, especially since I had lawn seating rather than a reserved seat. The prospect of a wild crowd didn’t scare me so much as the thought of the bottleneck traffic before and after. If it gets too bad, I can always turn around and head home, I kept telling myself as the traffic backed up on the Northway. But lo and behold, I hung in there, made it into a $10 parking lot a reasonable walk from the venue, and arrived with an hour to spare.
I found a pleasant perch with a decent view fairly close to the amphitheatre and unfolded my canvas chair in close proximity to a middle-aged couple, seeking safety in similarity since most of the crowd were in their early twenties at most. I was flattered when the aocohol security mavens insisted on checking my ID before fitting me with a chartreuse wrist band which qualified me to buy overpriced Coors Light.
Shades of Woodstock 1969 – my comfortably roomy spot was soon overrun by an enthusiastic mob eager to get as close to the band as lawn seating allowed, and by the time Dave Matthews took the stage, it was standing room only. Kids jostled me, but invariably did a double take and apologized when they got a good look at my face. Then came the incredulous comments:
“Are you having a good time?”
“How great you’re here.”
“You’ll love Dave, just wait and see.”
The well-intended gallantry gave me a glimpse of what it must feel like to be conspicuously disabled.
So why did I subject myself to this mob experience? I’d been intrigued by the music on FM, and I knew the DMB summer concerts at SPAC were a symbolic summer rite, maybe the closest I was likely to get to a mass religious ritual, so my curiosity got the better of me. And the music didn’t disappoint – Matthews’ compositions are intriguingly quirky, with unexpected chord changes and complex polyrhythms, and his band has strong jazz overtones reminiscent of idols of mine like Coltrane and Mingus.
The crowd sang along with every number, and their ability to do so spoke volumes for their musical sophistication. And they were amazingly well behaved, in part because of SPAC’s strict alcohol controls, and despite – or maybe because of – the overwhelmingly fragrant presence of pot. A young couple passing a ceramic pipe in front of me asked, “You don’t mind, do you?” and though I gave them a thumbs up, they didn’t offer me a toke.
For much of the night, I was on my feet with the rest of the crowd – essential if I wanted to see the band on the huge video screens, let alone the tiny figures on the distant stage. But increasingly I took refuge in my canvas chair with its spidery metal legs. The crowd broke around me, and I had surprisingly ample room, but I felt more and more alone. Early on, a young woman gave me a dayglo chartreuse bracelet to match my alcohol ID band, but as night fell, alas, my bracelet proved defective. Unlike the brilliant orange, green and yellow circlets of the neighbors waving their arms in rapture, mine gave off only a minimal, defective glow, like that of a dying firefly.
After a couple of hours, as the music segued into lengthy, repetitive jams, I realized I’d probably experienced the best of what the night had to offer and decided to beat the traffic out of the park. Slowly and carefully I picked my halting way uphill through the crowd, doing my best to avoid the prone and supine bodies of wasted fans who littered the lawn in the darkness, feeling smug that despite my several decades of seniority, I’d survived in better shape than they.