Wednesday, March 24, 2004

I'm with the band . . . Linkin Park part 2

One of the super cool things about being good friends with Phoenix's (the bassist) brother is that when we go to an LP concert, we get "back stage" passes. Kellsey and I are always floored that we get such a privilege. Every time I walk past the "Security" guy and flash my pass I think these two things, simultaneously: "Woah, this is the COOLEST. THING. EVER." and, [shaking my head, mentally] "This is so bizarre, I am so such a normal guy, how did I ever get to do this?"

The first time that Joe and Anne took Kellsey and I back stage with them, we were both pretty much of the same mindset: This is really neat, and we're so tickled to meet the band, but we sure don't want to bother them, we're sure they have a hundred things they'd rather do than meet the friends of Phoenix's brother and sister-in-law. But Joe assured us that it would be fine for us to go back, and so we did.

This was when the "Family Values" Tour came to Charlotte in 2001. We met the Farrells there, who gave us our tix and passes and then went backstage to meet Phoenix. (We'd actually met him before at the Farrell's home in Winston, but it seemed very different to meet him again backstage.) Then we went back to watch some of the show.

The show went: Stained, followed by Linkin Park, followed by Stone Temple Pilots. We got back out in time to watch Stained's last two songs, which were the two that were getting radio play at that time, so we were pretty familiar with them. The crowd seemed to be moderately into them.

Then LP came out and completely lit up the crowd. They brought (and bring) a real energy and presence to their shows. You can tell that they're dialed into where the crowd is energy-wise. I think that part of the reason they connect well with their crowd is that there are two lead singers. While it seems to me that Chester is more of the official "front" man, he and Mike pretty much both lead from the stage vocally. I think that the fact that they have to interact and communicate during the show and can't, by definition, be completely self-focused, that helps them to be aware of what the crowd is doing around them. This makes for a great show.

One thing happened that really impressed Kellsey and I, though, during that show. As you might expect, the crowd make-up of a show with Stained, LP and STP was more of your shaved-head, punk/hardcore types who were really into slam-dancing and the mosh-pit. I've got absolutely nothing against that. It mostly looks like fun to me, so I say: have at it. But sometimes those pits can get rather hurtful. Another thing that was going on was typical crowd surfing, but when the surfers made their way over to the pit, they often fell rather abruptly.

This happened a couple of times, until, in the middle of one of their songs, Chester stopped singing and stopped the band's playing and said to the crowd, "Hey! What do you do when someone falls down?!" The crowd didn't quite know what to make of this. Some of them thought he was joking and laughed, others made some rude, non-kith&kin-comments. Chester gave them the answer, "You pick them up!" (there may have been an f-bomb thrown in there, for emphasis, but I'm not sure) He then repeated his question and waited for the crowd to yell back, "You pick them up!" They did this call and response about three more times, until Chester was satisfied that they'd gotten the point. Then they started back with the song.

I thought that was a really classy thing to do. And convinced me that these guys really did care about what happened to their fans. Who, really, weren't even their fans, they were STP's fans.

The crowd was really into LPs set. Much more than you would expect for an opening band. We (Joe, Anne, Kellsey & I) decided to watch some of the STP set and give LP a chance to shower and clean up before we went back stage again. Besides, Joe and I liked the STP we heard on the radio and thought it'd be fun to see the show.

We were so very disappointed. In contrast to LPs set, which I now could see had been very audience focused, STP's front man was all about himself. It was startling to see how much that had an effect on the crowd. It wasn't as if the crowd got upset, but the energy level and interaction dropped significantly. Their music was technically very fine (just like their CD), but it was a little stomach turning to watch this 30 something man glory in himself and his own star-ness.

We decided that it wasn't worth our time to stay out watching anymore, so we went backstage and met Phoenix. He invited us out the back door into their tour bus, where the rest of the band was staying. This bus was WAY cool, with satelite tvs, bunks for sleeping, and a large screen tv in the back of the bus where they played on their PS2s (pre XBox days).

We met the rest of the band, all of whom were very gracious with Kellsey and me, virtual strangers to them. In fact, we'd walked in on Brad (the guitarist) as he was beginning to eat his dessert from dinner. Chocolate cake, or something like that, as I recall. He was sitting at the table in the bus and he looked up at our entrance, introduced himself, and offered to share his dessert with us. We politely declined, embarassed that we were interupting his dessert-eating-time. But he was fine with our presence and made polite conversation with us.

If we hadn't been sold on the band before that night, we definitely were sold by the time we left.

Next time: maybe the concert in Greensboro. But i'm not promising anything.

No comments: