Last night was the Arctic Monkeys show I mentioned some time ago. The show was at 8:00; Karin and I arrived at The Showbox around 7:30. Turned out that the time of 8pm printed on the ticket was when the doors opened, not when the show actually started, so we got to enjoy a nice stand in line at the lovely location of 1st Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle. For those of you who have never been to 1st and Pike in Seattle, let me just say it is a show in and of itself. A freakshow, sure, but at least it entertains you, if “entertains” is synonymous with “creeps you out and makes you afraid for humanity”. What I eventually learned was that the phrase “doors open at eight” means “doors open sometime around eight-twentyish.” So, you know, by quarter to nine, we were actually inside the building.
The first band, Nashville-based “be your own PET” (often referred to, I am to understand, as simply “BYOP”), started at 9pm sharp and
were fucking wank did not sound anywhere near as good as they do in the studio. The singer flailed about in true punk style, but really couldn’t be heard over her band, so she ended up coming off as a blonde, mute Patti Smith wannabe. Couple that with the pathetic Chuck Berry jumps the bass player kept attempting (and consequently knocking over the mic in front of his amp no fewer than five times) and it made for a pretty sorry display. Plus, all their songs sounded the same.
We had been fortunate and diligent enough to acquire a pretty decent view of the stage. We were off the the left with only a single row of people standing in front of us. The Showbox is a rather cozy venue (holds about 1,000) and so I’d guess I was standing about ten feet from the bass player. Like I said, awesome view.
Halfway through BYOP’s forty minute set, it became rapidly apparent why Karin and I don’t attend concerts held in venues that serve alcohol. Right about that time was when a group of three very drunk and disorderly
gentlemen shit-heads decided to take the fun out of the evening.
These sweaty assholes suddenly appeared from our left and one of them – a short, beady-eyed troglodyte with reddish-blonde hair and an Cro-Magnon brow – pushed violently past us. Their intention, obviously, was to bully their way into our sweet viewing spot and squeeze us back out. And we’d likely have let them have it, except that their brutish tactics resulted in Karin taking several mosh-blows. These men deliberately slammed into Karin several times, an act that immediately turned me red with rage. I grabbed the toe-headed troll from behind and shoved him back to his friends, which resulted in attracting the attention of a bouncer named L. It didn’t take L long to realize who the trouble-makers were and he "kindly" asked them to find somewhere else to watch the show. They vanished into the dark recesses of the bar.
Arctic Monkeys didn’t take the stage until around 10:10, which was probably about the latest they could have come out without hearing a slowly rising crescendo of boos. I’m not kidding. We Seattlites love our music – so much so that if we have to wait a half hour in between bands, we’re probably going to revolt. Of course, it didn’t help that the music piped in during the intermission was so @#%&!! god-awful!
Note to self: Write a letter to The Showbox informing them that the vocal stylings of Tom Jones and Burt Bacharach are completely unacceptable as intermission music at a punk rock show.
So anyway, Arctic Monkeys came out and just started playing. They sounded fantastic – just like the record, really – and with the lushed-out Neanderthals gone, Karin and I were able to have a really great time. We had gone to the show thinking we’d be the oldest ones there, but there were several very cool people around us who were just as old if not older than us. The age of the crowd ranged from around thirteen to somewhere in the late forties. Talk about a wide fan base!
Which reminds me: I should mention here that when I said Arctic Monkeys were a relatively unknown band, I was SO wrong. Evidently, they were just relatively unknown to me. This show sold out in a ridiculously short amount of time and the place was freaking packed!
The Showbox allows you to take photographs as long as you are using a point-and-shoot camera – no detachable lenses or professional rigs of any kind. No video, either. But they also, of course, defer to the band’s preferences and Arctic Monkeys have a strict No Flash policy, so although I was able to pop off some shots with my cell phone, the pictures really, really suck. But I had to have something to show you, so here are the best of the lot:
So we’re having a blast and enjoying our favorite Arctic Monkeys tunes (such as Still Take You Home – simply press play above) when we realize that Drunky McDickless and the Nitwit Twins are back and more deserving of an ass-kicking than ever. They’re directly behind Karin and me, doing all they can to start something. They slam, they push, they stomp, they shout “fuck you” whenever the band quiets down for even a moment. They generally went out of their way to let everyone know they were dropped on their heads as babies and grew up eating a lot of paint chips.
I’d have done a perfect job of maintaining my cool had they not set out to hurt Karin. I’m a Metallica fan from back when they were actually good, so I’m no stranger to the mosh pit. My woman, on the other hand, is not as keen on having her torso pummeled and her head banged. And when they started in on her again, I lost control of myself and threw an elbow behind me, catching Mr. Napoleonic Complex squarely in the sternum at about half-force.
The blow was enough for him to step back, wide-eyed and mouth agape. I turned to face him, which brought L back over. L had seen the whole thing – them hitting Karin, me hitting Shortstack – and he once again made the Thickheaded Three go somewhere else. When L returned to his post at the front of the stage, he looked at me and gave me the “OK” sign. That made it a bit easier to go back to enjoying the show, even if I was now deeply concerned about Karin’s well being.
Throughout the show, whenever a song came up that we knew Panda would want to hear, we’d call home and just let her listen over the phone.
Shorty and his boot-lickers eventually returned. They were behind us again, shouting obscenities and doing everything they could to start another fight. L climbed up on the rail at one point and stared them down, quieting them for maybe five minutes. But it occurred to both Karin and me that as the night were to go on, their behavior was only going to get worse. After all, the later it got, the less incentive they had to avoid being kicked out*. Karin was concerned about them having it in for us and they were clearly piss-drunk and crazy, so we stuck to one of the tenets that holds together The Kung Fu Paradox:
The best way to win a fight is to avoid it completely.
We decided it would be best to be on our bus heading home by the time they finally stumbled out of the show, so we left during what looked to be the final number.
Although the evening wasn’t exactly what I’d classify as “enchanted”, Karin and I thought the Arctic Monkeys were quite good, if a bit
stuffy shy. Their music sounded superb and Alex’s vocals were mixed well, though it was obvious that the band was not keen on the rowdiness of a Seattle crowd. At one point, Alex complained that he continuously felt the stage might fall in from all the bouncing and thrashing the crowd was doing. Even when he said things like, “Well, now, isn’t this a nice thing?” it came off sounding sardonic and angry. But then, it was, like, 120°F in there and he was wearing a black long-sleeve turtleneck! I’d have been pretty surly, too, I think. Hey Alex, maybe try wearing a t-shirt next time!
So that’s all I have for now. Tune in for Part 2 wherein I’ll go into more depth about the 1st & Pike Freakshow, reveal an awesome irony I found in Fake Tales of San Francisco, and tell the story of how Bouncer L saved a girl’s life.
*I have to say, I wonder what limit must be reached before one is ejected from The Showbox. You must have to draw blood or break bones or show your penis something.