Sunday, October 16, 2011

Show Time

Sometimes the time stated for an event is really the time it will begin and other times it is a rough guideline. At work, day after day, I plan my workflow around those times my name appears on the meetings posted on the company calendar. If the meeting or conference call involves a client, it will likely begin close to on-time. If it’s an internal planning meeting, it’s anyone’s guess, but those are usually rescheduled before they actually happen. The rescheduling record for one of my internal meetings is currently at six, but the average is three or four time shifts before it happens.

It seems the trick to ensure an internal meeting won’t happen is to actually prepare for it by reviewing project notes and statuses, creating an agenda, making copies of documents under discussion. Likewise, the rare failure to prepare for a particular meeting almost guarantees that will be the one meeting of the year that is called exactly on time, the first time scheduled.

When it comes to events scheduled outside work, the same thing sometimes happens. Sure, the event description and ticket for a show have a start time listed, but is it REALLY the start time, or just number dumped into a mandatory computer field in order to proceed to the next step? Some shows start nowhere near the stated time, while others are excruciating in their punctuality. Two recent examples come to mind.

I saw the Raconteurs at their sold-out show at Ryman Auditorium in September. The show time was listed at 7:30. The opening act was not announced in advance, so it wasn’t obvious if there would be none, one, or maybe more. I have been to a couple shows that had no opener and started on time, and trust me, there were some aggravated late arrivals 45 minutes or an hour after the start. My friend and I hustled to Nashville after work, and were in our designated pew seats on time, along with a fraction of the rest of the audience sprinkled throughout the place. At 7:30 on the dot, the first band walked onto that famous  stage, picked up their instruments, and began playing. According to the Ryman website, the maximum seating capacity is 2,362. According to my estimate, there were about a thousand people missing some great stuff on that stage from 7:30 to 8:00.

Many of the other attendees were still in the forever-long merchandise line that began in the lower lobby and snaked up the staircase with the cast iron decorative panels (cast by Clarksville Foundry for the 1994 restoration, but I digress and show off my knowledge of odd and random things). The merch line continued across the upper lobby to the back table. There were also significantly shorter and faster-moving multiple snack and beverage lines. I wondered what could be worth spending more money on AND missing out on the entertainment for which one had already forked over ticket money, but not enough to get in line and check it out.

I popped out for a beer run after the first act, whose name was completely unintelligible and sounded like “Bwaaawperelrk -- from St. Louis, Missouri!” They were fun -- a 1920s or 30s suited-wardrobe look, a dude with a giant bass, and another alternating between playing a washboard and a harmonica! The lobby and mezzanine outside the concert hall were still packed with all those people in their various lines.

More seats were filled by the second opening act, whose name was “Mwwblahjkreppl -- from Nashville, Tennessee!” Another fun band with poor speaking skills. Just before the headliners took the stage, the lobby traffic had finally all moved to the auditorium, many attendees clutching their newly acquired concert treasures. I asked the people around me if they knew either of the bands. Nobody knew the first band’s name, which was a shame, because I really liked them and might even buy their stuff now that I’ve heard it. I mean, who doesn’t like some kick-ass harmonica or washboard music for the ride to work?!?!? People around us knew the second band was called Jeff the Brotherhood.

The Raconteurs were amazing and everything I hoped to hear, and it ended at a decent hour (defined by me as, I can actually get some sleep before it’s time to get up again for work, and if it wasn’t a weeknight, I’d be all about going out somewhere for a while). We headed back the ‘Ville and real life with timetables and alarm clocks prepared for too early awakenings.

Exactly a month later, I had a ticket to the (also) sold-out Beats Antique show at 12th & Porter. The advertised show time was 9:00, with doors opening at 8:00. It was general admission, which means the free-for-all to stake out a real estate claim in whatever seating, leaning or standing in the middle of the floor opportunities exist when one crosses the threshold. In spite of my going from “it’s too early to leave” to “crap, now I’m late!” in the blink of an eye, I managed to somehow stop for gas, get to Nashville, find the club, drive around the block three times and finally give up and get brave and park in a lot in a space missing a “permit only” sign, and be the second person in line awaiting the designated door opening time and “will call” ticket pickup.

The advertised magical hour of the door opening came. And passed. The line grew behind me, and stretched around the corner of the building. After what felt like forever, a cute dude in a knit beanie came out and started checking names off the will call ticket list and another dude verified IDs and issued wristbands. Then we waited some more. Fortunately, it was nice out -- a lovely autumn evening. There was sidewalk chatter about how much money the place was losing in drink sales, which we would all surely be buying if we were inside instead of out, and how, if *WE* ran things, there would be snacks served to the people in line, or at the very least, a food truck on the street selling grub to those of us who had barely a mere handful of Fritos for “supper” before driving to Nashville.

When they finally let us inside after what felt like forever but was probably 45 minutes after they’d checked us in, my new temporary, situational best friends (the gal in front of me in line, and the three tribal belly dancers from Cookeville behind me) and I scored the seats in the front of the balcony with the perfect view of the stage.  And then we waited. And waited some more. The crowd filled in below us, and soon it was, in my dad’s eloquent words, “packed asshole to belly button.” I was so glad I was not trapped in it.

Some time after 10:00 (who knowsl how long, but it felt like forever), a guy in jeans and a tee shirt came on stage. All the listings for the show had said Beats Antique and “TBA” -- so there was no clue provided about an opener except that there was one. Apparently, this was finally the time it would be announced. The dude introduced himself and it sounded like he said “Augie from Los Angeles.” He said his name a few more times during his whatever you call it when a  guy makes cool sounds for 45 minutes with  a laptop and a keyboard and a thing with square buttons -- gig? performance? opening act time slot? Anyway, each time he said who he is, it sounded a little different and was never clear except for the LA part, but with a sort of an “Ah” and “Ee” sound in it. Why do so many musicians fail to enunciate so we can actually understand the name of their bands or themselves? Do everyone a favor -- speak clearly!! Please. Okay?

The opening guy from LA said something else several times that struck me as odd... He said “Thank you Nashville for coming out here so early.” Huh? Dude, I don’t think WE were EARLY. Is “at the time the ticket said the show would start” now early? More like all y’all were LATE. Maybe it’s a west coast thing? But you’re welcome. I guess. And thanks for noticing.

During the performance by the headliners they thanked “R. D. from LA” a couple times -- clearly, thank goodness, and I finally had the name. Sheesh. Why was it so hard? Get the crap out of your mouth performers at a mic. Speak so we can understand who you are. Unless, of course, you don’t care that we know who you are, only where you are from. The show was great, again proving that there is more to Music City than just country music. Thank goodness.

After the show, even though it was a Friday night and theoretically I could stay out as late as I wanted, the only thingI really wanted was to get to the car and be home. I was really tired from a week of extra stress at work that wore me out, and I had attended the show alone, which felt like about as much solo personal nightclub bravery as I needed for one night. I left the club as quickly as I could, given there was a line of hundreds of people barely moving ahead of me -- all  attempting the same thing. After being absorbed into the crowd, I realized I had neglected to even say goodbye to the gals with whom I had spent the past four hours of quality time joking around with on the sidewalk and sitting in the balcony. Sorry gals. Maybe we’ll run into each other another night, on another sidewalk while waiting for the doors to open for another show.