Sunday, July 19, 2009

Extreme-ly Worth the Price of Admission

The eclectic crowd. The light show. The wannabe opening band. The earplugs I was eternally grateful for by the end of the evening. Friday night at the Wiltern in Hollywood. Ratt in concert. Yes, you read that right. As you've probably guessed, I wasn't exactly the one who made the plans, though I wholeheartedly agreed to them, if for no other reason than to have the experience. But you know what? Despite the nearly five hours of standing and the disturbing sight of an aging rocker in tight, laced-up pants, and thanks to the performance by Extreme and my boyfriend's body shield between me and the unwashed, un-haircut masses, I honestly had a great time.

We made our way there amidst the Friday night traffic, and after a brake-addled journey and a trip around the block, we left the car in a nearby garage and headed in. A new spot for me, The Wiltern is an old movie theater that has been converted into a live music venue. Standing room only on the floor and seats in the balcony. Only the best for us, though. We were in the pit, and despite traffic delays, we got there early enough to grab some drinks and still garner spots in the front row, up against the railing, just a couple of arm's lengths away from the action on stage.

The margarita was strong. The warm-up band was not. While the guitar player was decent, though I'm still not sure about his decision to relax his natural afro and grow it long in the interest of having something to thrash about, in keeping with the hair band genre, the lead singer of Swirl was to me, the consummate poser. Again with the long hair, which he repeatedly flung in an overzealous arc, not to mention the black, black and more black and the sub-par voice sending out vocals I was fairly certain weren't worth the effort it would take for me to decipher them. And really, Swirl? Like a chocolate and vanilla frozen yogurt? That name doesn't make me feel like a badass, it just makes me hungry.

As the crew changed over the stage, the crowd began to fill in. The bands people had really come to see were up next. In the intervening weeks between the purchase of our tickets and the concert date, my boyfriend had played the music for Extreme and Ratt, several times, so as to familiarize me with two bands that to be brutally honest, I really knew fuck-all about, save for their biggest radio hits. He even made me a CD to aid in my rock education, and after several passes, I had already determined that I preferred Extreme to Ratt. A second cocktail and a run to the ladies, and I was back in my front row spot and ready for Extreme to hit the stage so I could rock it out.

They didn't disappoint. This probably only mattered to the women in the crowd, but they're actually a reasonably attractive band, on the whole, especially for the metal set. And the lead singer is borderline sexy, in a skinny, bleached-blond spiky hair kind of way. He's like the Sting of hair bands, with sinewy arms and tight black clothes and deep yoga-like postures peppering the physical aspect of his performance. Then there was the guitar player, Bettencourt. Look I know as much about guitar as I know about the bands I was watching (i.e. practically nothing) and even I knew that was serious business. Their big hit ballad, "More Than Words," was predictably a crowd pleaser, but even when I didn't know the songs, their musicality and stage presence made them a band worth watching. And rocking out to. I'd go see them again, in a heartbeat.

I was a little sad when they left the stage. After about a half an hour in the presence of the headlining band, I really wanted them to come back and play another set. To be a little fair, just a little, by the time Ratt took the stage, I had already been standing in one place for about three hours, save for a couple runs to the bar and the bathroom. Plus the buzz of the cocktails had worn off and my boyfriend was now having to use his body to shield me from the crush of metalheads trying to get closer to the action. When they hit the stage, the sight of the lead singer's old man belly over his too-tight, over-studded pants and not nearly far enough under his too-short t-shirt that read "I love Nymphos" almost had me heading to the back of the theater for a slightly less advantageous viewpoint. Look, I give these guys props for still rockin' after twenty-five years, I just wish they would do it in a little more clothing. On a side note, I originally thought his shirt read "I love Memphis." Until he took off his vest.

And it didn't get better. The music was loud and just a little too heavy in the metal for my taste. The sound was crummy and you could only understand the lyrics when you took out your earplugs. Bad idea all around. Towards the end, we were both tired. Tired of standing, tired of avoiding the flying hair of die-hard head-banging fans, tired of getting knocked about by the mini-mosh pit next to us. But we stuck it out to hear the bands finale, and their biggest hit, "Round and Round," before we made our way out of the pit, now littered with empty cups and discarded wristbands. The night air was refreshing, the sound of quiet in the car welcoming and the waffles and french fries at Mel's replenishing. And the joy of taking off our shoes and getting into bed? Priceless.

The thing is, despite the ache in my lower back and my obvious lack of affection for metal bands named after rodents, it was truly a great night. Because thanks to my boyfriend's penchant for 80's metal, I discovered some great music. Because thanks to said 80's metal genre, I got my first chance to break in my new cowboy boots (and yes, if you read my blog from last week, I did only keep one pair) and wear my fabulously awesome cut-up and restitched rocker girl concert t-shirt (it said Ratt because we couldn't find an Extreme one, but it was still awesome)*. And because at the end of the day, it really was about the experience of it all - the proximity of being in the front row, the music, both good and bad, the crazies in the crowd and the feel of the strong pair of arms that kept me safe from their flailing bodies, all the way to the last reverberating note. See if you can get all that at the movies.

*If you want to make an awesome t-shirt like mine (and you know you do) go here and watch the video. The chick in the video is a little annoying, but it's pretty easy, even after a couple of glasses of wine (I'm just saying) and it really comes out looking great! Two tiny little tips though - don't cut it as short or as narrow as she does (which means you can lace it tight and your sides won't show through) - still super cute, just less trashy.

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