Thursday, April 03, 2008

The one thing you don't want to hear at a concert ...

... from the person sitting next to you (especially).

"Don't puke on me, puke in the aisle."

I had the extreme misfortune of getting stuck next to that girl at the Cat Power's near sold-out show a couple months ago.

Curtis and I had tickets in the reserved seating section, which is upstairs at the Wiltern. I was pretty psyched because I'm old and honestly, I don't love standing anymore. And since this was Cat Power (smokey-loungey vocals with a folkish-jazzy vibe), standing didn't seem necessary either. As we made our way to our seats we noticed that the space between the rows (barely any) indicated the age of beautiful art deco building at Wilshire and Western. (Wil-tern, get it?) We wedged ourselves into our seats and were chilling through the opener.

Noting that the show was virtually sold out, I suggested moving to our actual seats for Cat Power's performance. Our seats were third (me) and fourth (Curtis) from the aisle. I'm sitting next to a very young looking (at this point in my life that means 21) girl and her boyfriend. They're crushing snacks, including Doritos and thus harboring Nacho Cheese Dorito breath and M&M's, and also drinks. She's not only young, she's tiny. At one point, boyfriend brings back something green.

"It's an alien secretion," he tells his obviously alcohol-inexperienced girlfriend. I had one on my 21st birthday. Her lack of knowledge of this very sweety, young kids' drink has me wondering whether she's even 21. She downs hers pretty quickly. This followed a beer and a previous mixed drink or so. They were there before us, so who knows what they had earlier. May I also point out that drinks at the Wiltern are like $8 minimum.

Fast forward to Cat's performance. In a word, "fab." My only wish was that they vocals had been turned up a little more—smokey-voiced vocals can get lost in large theaters. She's great though, interacting with the audience, doing goofy dances; she's nothing like her alcoholic days when her performances were often bizarre, bad or abbreviated. Curtis and I are digging, especially when she took a song like "New York, New York" and totally reworked it melodically and rhythmically.

The girl next to us (and guy when he was there) were also digging the show. She clapped loudly, whooped a few times and did a little sitting-in-her-seat-dancing/squirming. She even came close to kicking the patrons in front of her and me, too, but no contact.

Then about 35 minutes into the show it was undersized alcohol near-virgin meet falling-off-the-cliff. Suddenly she's sticking her head between her knees, doubled over in her seat. There's a faint moaning coming from my left. I know this moan. I've done this moan. Perhaps even in public at a Denny's in college post-some-party. But not an event held in a gorgeous building that cost me $30.

Though I want to listen to the show my attention has been diverted by a combination or morbid curiosity and fear of vomitous-contamination. And of course, BF is nowhere to be seen. He's probably on one of his smoking breaks?

After a few minutes of quiet moaning, she mostly seems to be hanging on, things turn. The shoulders start shuddering and her upper body/neck/head start lurching forward in syncopated jerks. Weird coughing-esque sounds ... what do we have? ... the dry heaves!!! Trouble. Because unless you're me in college, the dry heaves almost always lead to puking.

After a few minutes of dry heaves, I can hear something different. Oddly, despite being at a concert, my ears became quite attuned to what was happening. Those wondering why I didn't go for help, I couldn't. We were wedged into these seats with no escape. Believe me, I wanted to get out of this precarious situation.

The coughing sounds "richer" somehow, like it's coughed with air with solid matter. Double trouble.

Then it's SMELL TIME. Nacho Cheese Doritos + Chocolate M&M's + vomit = double bubble trouble and puts me officially on the "will I puke?" clock. And the worst part, my watch says that the show is about 50 minutes old, which means probably a good 45 minutes left of being trapped next to vomitgirl. I decide that I'm becoming Curtis's new best friend and using as little of my chair's left side as possible. And I also decide to start breathing through my mouth with my hand cupped over it.

Meanwhile, her fall off the cliff continues. She's now sorta flailing a little, trying to contort herself into a position in which she won't feel as nauseous or headachey or both, perhaps? She at one point has her head resting on the arm rest between her chair and her BF's. She's still moaning and coughing sporadically, btw. Eventually BF returns.

And here's the real kicker. HE DOESN'T TAKE HER AWAY. Insider a chorus of "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING MEs" are singing. He puts his arm around her trying to comfort her. The guy in front of them starts sorta explaining what had been happening, but I can't hear a thing. Guy in front's GF has now assumed a permanent extreme forward lean position to avoid any vomitous contamination.

Nevertheless, the worst appears over. He's got his arm around her as she assumes the trying-to-be-perfectly-still position. Then ...

"It hurts."

"It hurts."

"uhhhhhh." shouldershudder/cough. cough. shoulder shudder.

"Don't puke on me, puke in the aisle," he says, as if him not being puked on will make this a good show.

I've been farted on at shows (and had the perps (girls) laugh about it), surrounded by drunken idiots who can't sing but are dying to profess their fandom through yelling and dancing, watched a near fight break out over seat-stealing, but this is by far the worst.

At this point, there's a weird gestural conversation happening between the BF of the puker and people in front. There's an inordinate amount of shrugging from everybody. And for some reason, no one on the aisles is getting up!! WTF?

Eventually, the main set ends and the BF disappears. Cat Power now plays "The Greatest," which is one of my favorite songs of the past few years. I don't enjoy it, though. :( I'm sitting on about 40 percent of my seat and with a and soaked in exhaled moisture.

The encore ends and the BF is nowhere to be seen. I start talking to the guy in front and now that the houselights are on I can see that the BF's velvet seat is COVERED in non-red liquid.

"Dude, he was sitting in it the whole time!" I note to guy in front of us. Not wanting to waste the money and so refusing to help my girlfriend, as insensitive and inhumane as that was, I can at least comprehend. But I don't know you sit with a puke-soaked ass for a half hour. HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW DOES THAT FUCKING HAPPEN?

Guy in front gets up and he and his friends leave the aisle. Curtis and I avail ourselves of the first exit opening since this began and hop a row down and also exit. As people are filing out, I am thinking about getting an usher as soon as were to the doors that lead back to the upstairs lobby, when finally BF appears.

We leave having been witness to what was for 45 minutes a great performance and was probably in reality a 90-minute great performance. But also the worst show of my life.

Sorry, Cat Power.

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