Wednesday, two days ago (August 11th), Mom and I took the little kids (Bryce and Hunter) to the zoo. We drove down there and unloaded, and spent a pleasant day wandering around, looking at the animals, running about, and harassing Jason. We went to the nocturnal house (one of my favorite places, now called the Day and Night House), we saw the penguins and the lions, the hippos and the giraffes, and I got some great digital pictures. Mom was tired by midday and the kids were tired too, so I checked out the elephants and the Trail of Vines while Mom administered lunch to the terrible two. However, at the end of our trip (in the marsupial areas), I began to become Sad.
You see, in a matter of hours, They Might Be Giants was going to play at the zoo. Woodland Park Zoo offers a variety of concerts throughout the summer in the North Meadow ("ZooTunes") as a zoo fundraiser. Mom had told me about it at the beginning of the summer, and I didn’t follow up on it because I didn’t think any of the bands would be bands I’d want to go out of my way to see. I was sorry.
The concert was completely sold out weeks before I even knew They Might Be Giants was coming to town. Completely. naruvonwilkins managed to get tickets for the Vancouver concert, but I didn’t want to (and didn’t have the time to) go way up there for the show, and besides, I wanted to go to the zoo concert. I was desolate. And there, in front of the kookaburras and the wallabies, I mourned.
It was at this point that Mom administered a swift kick to my depression. "Just stay here and sneak over the fence." She advised (or, alternatively, yelling over to the band, who we could see not far away, next to their motorhome by the band shell). She was so insistent that I just stick around and try to weasel my way in somehow that I finally capitulated, and she left the zoo without me. I had only Dad’s digital camera, a $20, and some my debit card.
So, I wandered down through the Northern Trail exhibit and moped. I moped around the wolves, moped around the grizzlies, moped around the black-billed magpies (yes, we have them in our zoo), and moped around the elk. I moped.
Then I went back up to the north meadow, sat on a bench that overlooked the now-empty lawn, and…moped. Convieniently, there were several security guards standing around nearby. One had a radio on. At some point, I overheard “kchhhhhhhhhhhhh…set up Will Call Booth…kchhhhhhhh…North Entrance…kchhhhhhh.” Will Call booth? There’s a Will Call booth?
I hustled up to the North Entrance and told a sympathetic zoo employee my long sad tale of woe. Because he was bored, he tried to confirm my claim that there were no tickets to be had anywhere on the internet, and I was right. He stamped my hand, and advised me to go check out the Will Call table, just across the crosswalk in the parking lot. I did. I found only a sign, an empty table, and an empty chair. I sat in front of it and moped.
Five minutes later, a frantic dad pulling two little girls in a wagon comes jogging out of the zoo (the employee I talked to having directed him to me) and said “are you looking for tickets to the concert.” Yes. YES I WAS. But he had two tickets that he wanted to sell as a pair, and so I was bereft, and again, moping.
But five minutes after THAT, another guy came out of the zoo with spare tickets he was happy to sell off singly, and I WAS IN. I had only $20 on me, and the tickets were $19. How slap-happy lucky is that? He fumbled in his pockets for change, which I laughed off, then gave the startled man a huge bear hug and bounded into the zoo, oozing glee from every pore.
I had a lot of time to kill, since it was about 3:30 and the concert lawn didn’t open until 5-ish. I checked out the temperate forest exhibit, which I had never seen. It was mostly a series of aviary marshes with lots of ducks I recognized. I attempted to locate Jason to tell him he was safe, because HE, as a zoo employee, got into to the concert for FREE, even though I INTRODUCED HIM TO THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, and he couldn’t even get me a TICKET, and I had therefore previously planned to kill him after the concert and eat his brains.
Lines were forming outside the lawn, so I joined the line and sat with my back up against the penguin pool wall for about an hour and a half. I bantered with the group of Gen-Xer friends on my right, who had all brought their kids, and with the single woman reading a newspaper on my left, who gave me the pages she was done with, so I could read and then make newspaper hats.
They eventually let us into the lawn and I headed straight for the front. Most everyone else had brought blankets or beach chairs, but I had neither, so I slipped up close to the stage and staked out a strip of grass between two beach blankets and some chairs, only 20 feet from the stage! I hung out there for a bit, then asked the people next to me to reserve my grass (which they did) while I wandered a bit. I bought a TMBG t-shirt and their newest CD (The Spine). I looked at the promotional offers. I tried to get some food, as I had eaten nothing that day but a brownie 8 hours before. The sign at the food-place said they accepted cards, but it was only after I’d gotten to the front of the line and they’d made me my veggie burger that they informed me that, as a matter of fact, they did NOT accept cards (didn’t have the machine), so they threw my burger in the trash and I went hungry.
I returned to my patch of grass and just waited as thousands of people took over the entire huge meadow. Eventually some people from the zoo came out, announced the show, thanked every sponsor in the history of the world, and finally introduced...CornMo.
This guy…this, CornMo…saunters out onto the stage in a rhinestone-studded white leather suit and an electric accordion. He’s the opening act. He was okay, I guess…he seemed good-natured, but I wanted to see TMBG. He left after about 20 minutes of playing, and then the sponsors came back out and did a drawing, then FINALLY FINALLY introduced They Might Be Giants.
The concert was great. They played a few songs I knew, but more that I hadn’t heard before (and still liked). They did a jazzy version of “Istanbul” that I liked. They played “Fingertips” and “No!” which I hadn’t heard. And at the end, as one of two encore pieces they did, they did “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” I loved it.
The only dark spot in the whole concert was a big conflict that broke out between the people sitting in the front third of the meadow, and about 20 or 30 people that walked up to the front to dance. The thing is, in a normal concert hall, that’s totally expected. It’s a little louder and a little crazier, and the seats are elevated amphitheatre-style so standing up doesn’t block the view of the person behind you. But the zoo was different. This was a setting in which families had come with blankets and coolers of sandwiches to sit on a flat lawn. The stage wasn’t that high (maybe 3 feet off the ground). When a person stands in front of the band, from your vantage point you can no longer see the band…just barely the tops of their heads. If you stand up, you can maybe see their whole heads, but you in turn then block the view of the person behind you.
These people dancing in front were groupies of a sort (unwashed and missing lots of teeth), and when they stood up, nobody in the meadow could see. At first, the shouting of people behind them encouraged all but one of them to sit down. But then, after the band encouraged all of us to stand up and dance (I don’t think they were used to playing for a politely seated audience), all the groupies got back up to dance and didn’t sit down. Security tried to get them to sit down, and they wouldn’t. So, every time there was a pause between songs, the air was full of angry people sitting down’s yells at the groupies to sit, and the groupies’ angrily yelling back. The sitters had come to enjoy the band, not to look at the groupies’ butts (since that really was all we could see), and the groupies were mad because they were being asked not to dance at a concert. As time went on, it got uglier and uglier and nastier and nastier.
I was a little torn. On one hand, I wanted to get up and dance, especially to show my appreciation for the band. But I elected to sit down, because I was tired, because I didn’t feel like had to stand up to enjoy the band and their music, and because I knew that standing up would diminish the enjoyment of the thousands of viewers behind me. That last compulsion was one the groupies totally lacked. They were completely self-absorbed and paid no regard to the fact that we couldn’t see. About a 15% of the people watching were over 65, and about 25% were under 12. If one person stands up, everyone else has to stand up in order to see, and that doesn’t work for older people or shorter children. So, I was sad about that, but I was glad I stuck to sitting down.
The concert ended earlier than I thought, because I thought the intermission they announced happened in the middle of TMBG’s set, not between CornMo and TMBG. After the band played the last encore and left, I gathered my things and went to the stage. Most of the groupies had dispersed, except for a few groupies still having shouting matches with angry seniors (or even with people my age), with police taking down names and personal info. I’m curious to know if the band said anything about the conflict at the Vancouver concert. I stood by the stage for a minute, and then the drummer came back out to collect a few things. I caught his eye as he was leaving and I grinned and bashfully waved. He smiled back and waved, then gave me a little salute. I glowed a little, then met up with Jason to head home.
Since I had the digital camera, I got some pictures of the concert, and even a little video. Rock on.