I've never been good at concerts. For me, they are a place where bands ruin all the songs you enjoyed on the radio. But last week my outlook changed when I saw "Which Is Pink," a Pink Floyd tribute band that showed me how concerts can also be a place to ruin other people's music.
Inside it was standing room only in that there were no seats. A man with angry muscles suggested that I stay out of the aisle. He then suggested, with his bare hands, that I join the mob inching ever-closer to the stage, fidgeting with its watches, eager for some revelation.
I settled behind Herman Munster and Shaquille O'Neal, then looked around at all the men who had managed to go bald and still keep their pony tails. They had come to relive a critical part of their wonder years -- "The Wall" played front to back by people from Texas. So it goes.
At nine the pink lights dimmed, and we gave a standing ovation -- standing because THERE WERE NO SEATS. The musicians filled the stage in silhouette, and everyone crept forward. To fight the claustrophobia, I had to take my shots. Jose Cuervox.
A spotlight flooded the MC (bald guy with pony tail), who started shouting into the mike. As his voice trailed off, the bassist played a we-don't-need-no riff and people went nuts. The other guitars jumped in, and if I could pinpoint the essence of their sound in one word, I think it would be ... "noisy."
Over the heads of Herman and Shaquille drooped a giant video screen, where I watched the show much as I would if I were at home. For free.
I didn't recognize the first few songs, but everyone else mouthed along while I nodded and smiled. It felt a lot like church.
Then they got to the good stuff:
"Hey, you ... out there in the cold, getting lonely, getting old, can you hear me?"
Fitting words for a middle-age audience that was, from the concert itself, about to go deaf.
I don't know how many people ran with the first Pink Floyd, but this one had backup singers, bell ringers, a guy who knocked on wood. And as they ran on and off stage changing costumes, all I could think was, "Wow, look how much work it takes to give me a headache."
Fortunately, my Cuervox kicked in and so did the drums. I couldn't make out the lyrics, but the screamer -- er, singer -- was clearly in pain. The worms were eating ... and something about solitude ... and then, at the moment of existential crisis, he cried out, "Ooooohhh, I need a dirty woman ... Ooooohhh, I need a dirty girl."
The men raised their beers in recognition.
The MC grabbed his bullhorn and fell into a madman dialogue until, veins popping from his forehead, he ripped off his shirt and flung it at the audience. Children singers filed onstage behind him and finally gave us what we came for:
"All in all it's just a...nother brick in the wall."
The crowd couldn't stand it. They squeezed forward and cheered with all their parts. The MC crossed his forearms and asked us to "hammer" with the drums, which we did until, by our good work, the blocks around the stage came tumbling to the floor. The Wall had come down!
The thunder rolled away, and we the faithful continued to hammer, comfortably numb at last. At least I was numb.
I still don't attend concerts to which I'm not personally handed a free ticket, but I see their attraction for others: Concerts move us to unite our tribal powers, to plumb the deepness of mortality, and ultimately, together, to need a dirty girl.