Animated GIF. William Shatner as Captain Kirk screaming CANE in place of KHAN.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Alisa and the Wonderful, Fabulous, So Good, Very Rad Day

I had the best concert experience a couple of months ago.

If it hasn’t become abundantly clear yet, I love Dave Matthews Band, and this year I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Raleigh and stay with my best friend from grad school and her family the week DMB was playing at Walnut Creek. And this concert was nothing short of magical.

I should mention first that people in the South are just plain nice. Everyone smiles and is courteous and makes sure you’re having a great day, and as a native Manhattanite used to a general air of menacing disinterest from passers-by this is a truly amazing experience. I often feel very awkward when I have my walker and people go out of their way to hold the door for me because it reminds me of yet another way I can’t function the way I used to, but in the South they do it because it’s what they do for everyone. Because it’s a nice thing to do. Seriously. They’re that nice.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s in the South where people are nice or if some awesome person cared enough to do something, but Walnut Creek Amphitheatre has an amazing setup for people with accessibility needs. At the main entrance there was a golf cart ready to drive people down to the seating area rather than making us walk. A lovely lady passing by even stopped to help load on my walker because, as she told me, her nan uses a walker and she hopes that people offer to help her out like that. The ADA section was set perfectly at the ledge over a walkway that went a good 5’ below so that everyone could see the stage at all times without standing up. I made concert friends with the woman next to me (who also uses a walker – yay, having someone my age to talk to about walker issues!) and her husband, as well as the pleasantly amusingly drunk woman to my left. Then the concert began.

At the beginning of the second set my seatmates encouraged me to leave my muticoloured flower lights (which I had used to plow through the crowds so I could get to the bathroom in one piece) on for the rest of the show. Despite feeling rather self-conscious, I let them shine for all to see. And apparently they were visible, as toward the end of the main concert a gentleman waved from the walkway below to get my attention, then handed me a piece of paper.

It was the set list.

For those of you who don’t understand how absolutely amazing this is… They probably print two copies of the thing, and after concert fans will fight tooth and nail to get to the roadies who are cleaning up and see if they can get one of the lists. But here I was, being handed what in many fans’ eyes would be considered the Holy Grail.

I would like to say that I handled myself with utmost decorum. I would love to say that I politely thanked the man, tucked it away, and spent the rest of the show quietly enjoying myself. But then I’d not just be telling a slight mistruth, I’d be lying out my ass. After a moment of dumbfounded shock, I started screaming “HOLY SHIT! IT’S THE SET LIST! I GOT THE SET LIST!” At high volume. Repeatedly.

After a moment I motioned to the bemused man to come up so I could give him the biggest hug. After he’d regained all of the breath I’d squeezed out of him, he told me that he was Boyd Tinsley’s vocal coach, and he’d wanted me to have the set list because he’d seen me rocking out from all the way up there on the stage. I bounced around uncontrollably for a moment out of excitement because I am a tremendous fan of Boyd Tinsley (to the point of trying to always have seats on his side of the stage so I can watch him play). After the giddy bouncing subsided I asked the lovely gentleman for a favour and told him my sad, sad story of woe from last summer.

*cue magical mystical music that always implies a flashback in cheesy sitcoms*

Last summer my then-roommate and I had front-row tickets to see DMB when they came to Pittsburgh. That’s right, front row, directly behind the pit, less than 30 feet away from where Boyd always stands. It was amazing. At the end when Carter was throwing out drumsticks I started waving my cane so he’d see me and throw me a stick. Which he did, or at least he tried. He pointed at me, then tossed a drumstick which I would have caught had I not been knocked to the ground by two college-aged girls from the seats behind us in their attempt to get the sticks. While they gloated about how they’d been able to catch drumsticks two nights in a row, I was being helped up by a couple of guys who’d actually jumped over the barrier from the pit to help me out. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I got banged up badly enough from their slamming into me that at the end of the night I had to be pushed out of the venue in a wheelchair. Since then I’d been trying unsuccessfully to get a stick thrown my way again so I could at least get a fighting chance at snagging one without worrying about breaking a bone…

I told Boyd’s coach all this, and asked if he could have Carter throw one my way. I didn’t need to catch it, I just wanted the opportunity to try. He laughed and said he couldn’t make any promises, but he would try his best.

For the rest of the concert I sat quietly and enjoyed myself bounced around in my chair and checked on my set list just to make sure it was real, smugly superior in the knowledge of what the encore was going to be, a fact no one else in the entire 20,000+ person audience knew. And at the very end of the encore, Carter did his thing, waving at fans, shaking hands, tossing out drumsticks to those who were fairly close to the stage.

Then he pointed at me, and made a motion that as a rabid football fan I easily interpreted to mean “Go long!”

And he hurled it.

Time stood still as this yellow drumstick, this golden prize, came flying at me, arcing high over the crowd. There was nobody behind me to knock me down! Everybody knew it was heading for me! MY TIME HAD FINALLY COME! Flying, flying, flying…

And it missed me and fell three feet short of my arm’s reach into the walkway below.

Have I mentioned yet how gosh darn nice people are in the South? Had this happened here, someone would have grabbed that stick and run. But not so in Raleigh! A man who’d seen the whole thing and knew that drumstick was intended for me ran over, grabbed it, and… handed it up to me.

I feel like I just wrote the script to some sappy feel-good movie, because life never has a happy ending like that, but I guess that’s the South for you. In any case, after bouncing and screaming and acting like a caffeinated two-year-old, I very carefully cradled that drumstick in my hands from Raleigh to DC to Pittsburgh. The drumstick, set list, and Warehouse ticket (Holy trinity?) are now in a picture box on my living room wall, and I could not be happier.

So thank you, Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, for being welcoming to those with disabilities. Thank you, Boyd Tinsley’s vocal coach, for making a dream come true. And thank you, The South, for being pretty darn awesome.

Photograph: A 3D picture frame with a background of printed instruments. Displayed are a set list, fan club ticket, and drumstick.
My awesome picture box frame.

Photograph: The corner of an apartment. On the left wall are a picture box frame displaying a drumstick and a beer-themed DMB poster. On the right wall are a mill-themed DMB poster and a Buddha-themed DMB poster.
My little DMB corner of my house. I'm not addicted. I swear. Shut up. I can quit any time I want.

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