Tonawanda News

September 9, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Being front and center at a concert isn't always best

By Thom Jennings
The Tonawanda News

— One of the advantages of covering shows for the media is that sometimes, I get to spend the evening in the VIP section of the venue, and occasionally I get one of those nice photo passes as a souvenir.

For some reason, when people see my photo pass they automatically assume it is a backstage pass and that somehow I have connections that I don’t have, and thus, they become my new best friend.

This has led to some funny incidents, including one that happened recently at a ZZ Top show when a guy called me over to help get him into the VIP area at Artpark. I know nothing good is coming when someone opens with the line “Hey buddy, can you help me out?”

The guy flashed a newspaper ID and told me he was reviewing the show. The funny thing is that I know the names of the people who write for that newspaper, and not only could this guy not name any of them, when I told him I would Google his name, he told me to look up his brother instead. The conversation ended there.

There are always people at concerts trying to self-upgrade, and some people are actually very good at it. I have to admit that if I have lousy seats I am always contemplating a way to get closer by the end of the show, and I am usually one of those idiots that bum rushes the stage for the band’s encores.

These days I rarely fight for that spot right in front of the stage because it usually isn’t worth the hassle. I still have nightmares about the time a guy burned my back with his cigarette until I gave up my spot in the front row.

Rolling Stone Magazine had a feature on bad concert behavior back in January and “people pushing their way to the front” came in at number six. It would be my number one considering how many times I have almost come to blows with jerks who push me out of the way with their lady friend in tow who always seems to be giggling.

Inasmuch as I get the concept of wanting to be close to the action, the level of bad behavior I witness near the front of the stage at shows with a standing area in front of the stage is downright discouraging, especially when you see grown people almost going to blows fighting for a guitar pick.

There are a couple of guys I see at nearly every show who seem to quietly make it to the front of the stage. They show up in the afternoon well before the gates open, they almost always go to shows by themselves, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how they stand where they do for so long without going to the bathroom.

Nevertheless, there are some shows you might wish you were sitting back a little further. One member of a famous jam band is notorious for spitting all over the place when he sings. There was also a headliner this summer at a show who kept telling fans near the front to stop smoking during his set. Even though the smokers got aggravated, I appreciated it, especially if one of those smokers was going to burn someone to get closer to the stage.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at