Dateline: July 26, 2016 — Tuesday night marked the first time I ever attended two concerts in the same calendar year. MCC followers may recall my previous outing to see Bloc Party and the Vaccines back in May, an enjoyable experience for this old man as long as he didn’t dwell on the negatives of being alone in a crowd.
Once again I found myself out of the house for an evening, surrounded by youngsters, and beset by mammoth rhythmic sound waves, some of which belonged to songs I liked. Full disclosure, though: this show wasn’t a first-choice activity. In fact, I forgot I even had the tickets till a few days prior.
You may recall June headlines in which Ticketmaster announced they were giving out vouchers for free concert admission as part of a legal settlement in the class-action case of Curt Schlesinger, et al. v. Ticketmaster, which was filed in regard to allegations of ticket-fee shenanigans on the giant corporation’s part. The court agreed to the settlement, and in return everyone could get free concert tickets.
It sounded simple. Users were to select a voucher code from a long list and try exchanging it for two free general-admission passes to the local show of our choice. I knew I’d need time if were at all possible to work anything out for myself. Choices were narrow because Indianapolis gets maybe a fraction of all the national tours that big-city dwellers take for granted because bands will always stop in NYC, LA, and the rest like them. Of those acts that stop here, a minuscule number appeal to my eccentric musical tastes in any way. It’s why I go to concerts less than once a year.
I spent over half an hour all but hammering at Ticketmaster’s site, following the instructions, finding some vouchers already used up by other fans, and finding a lot of local shows already sold out for voucher purposes. (Regular tickets were still available for nearly all shows, but Ticketmaster allowed only a limited number of voucher redemptions for any given show.) Blink-182 was sold out before I even sat down. A few tries at the Weezer/Panic at the Disco twofer were for naught. I spent fifteen minutes or more trying repeatedly to hook up with Hall & Oates, but they must’ve been the fallback gig for too many other near-geezers like me.
After looking up and down the list, again and again and again and again, and then again, I noticed the Bush/Chevelle show and remembered I have a couple of their albums, and genuinely kindasorta liked Chevelle for a while. Two tries later, I scored. The night was mine.
Eventually the joke was on me. White River State Park’s official site recommended the nearest parking garage and quoted prices of $3 for three hours or $7 for slightly longer. I was in too much of a hurry to park at my workplace for me (6-7 blocks away), so I tried the garage thinking those prices weren’t bad, only to have my jaw drop when the attendant gouged me for $20. THANKS, WHITE RIVER STATE PARK PEOPLE. Your site sucks.
Anyway, the show: two bands that were big in the ’90s and two opening acts. First up, promptly at 6 p.m.: the Dead Deads, a five-piece all-woman metal act out of Nashville that sounded to me like a full-on riot-grrrl revival, with crushing guitars and lyrics meant to shut dudes up. They brought way more energy to the stage than we early arrivals brought to the sun-scorched lawn. Not quite for kids, but worth checking out.
I’d love to present the complete set list for their tight half-hour adrenaline shot, but I’d never heard of them before and don’t know their catalog, and the same seems to hold true of online set-list sources. What I could piece together from my notes and their site looks like this:
1. (song that mentioned “going away”)
2. Rainbeau (title track from their CD)
4. Vending Machine Gun
5. (mentioned “animal” a lot and the phrase “I know that you get it”)
6. (I caught “we are kings”)
7. (loved the quote “You don’t have to scream to be really mean”)
After a fifteen-minute intermission came opening act #2 at 6:45, a California metal trio called Black Map. Again, never heard of them, but anyone who deals in occasional feedback and reminds me here and there of Helmet is okay in my book. After a long work day, the thundering max-volume rhythm section was cathartic in a bone-rattling way.
Partial recount of their 30-minute set list:
3. Head for the Hills
4. No Color
6. I thought leader Ben Flanagan said it was called “Ruin” but I can’t verify that’s a thing
7. I’m Just the Driver
Another intermission followed while sunset dropped temperatures to a more bearable, near-perfect level. At 7:37 a prerecorded intro for “Ouija Board” crept out of the backstage darkness, and out came Chevelle to win the evening.
They’ve been around since 1999 but didn’t reach the Indy airwaves till 2002, when hits like “The Red” and “Send the Pain Below” were in heavy rotation on WRZX, a.k.a. X103, our local “alternative” hard-rock radio station. I haven’t listened to X103 in years, but I’d hope their more recent albums are still receiving any kind of coverage.
Four songs into their set, same thing happened to me that also happened at the Bloc Party/Vaccines show: I’d been standing in the same spot for hours when up came a trio to stand right in front of me and keep slowly edging backward into my space. I’m not mad, but it’s not fun feeling invisible. After several songs’ worth of shuffling, a thirtysomething lady behind me gently said a word to me either of encouragement or as a preemptive notice that I was about to back into her if the reverse-convoy didn’t stop at some point.
Chevelle’s complete Indianapolis set list:
1. Ouija Board
2. An Island
3. Take Out the Gunman
5. Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)
7. Door to Door Cannibals
8. Sleep Apnea
9. Hats Off to the Bull
10. Still Running
11. I Get It
12. Face to the Floor
13. Joyride (Omen)
14. The Red
15. The Clincher
16. Send the Pain Below
The crowd loved them. By the time Chevelle were done I felt fully refreshed and invigorated from such an intense, dynamic aural therapy session. A bunch of near-drunken folks twenty feet to my left had some nominal moshing going on, in a polite Hoosier way. Before the show started, one guy among them had noticed me alone and invited me to come hang out with them, which is quite frankly the first time in years that any human being has said any sentence of the sort to me at a concert. I declined because I doubted my proudly square non-drinking self would be a good fit for their boisterous party-on plans, but I appreciated the gesture.
Chevelle clocked out after precisely 75 minutes, but rewarded the front rows with tossed guitar picks, drumsticks, and paper airplanes. During the next intermission the crowd sat down and relaxed for a while — a nice fringe benefit at Farm Bureau Lawn, which has lawn chairs on hand that you can borrow for free and return after the show. They’re tiny but shaped exactly for my lumbar needs. Awfully decent of them.
Shortly after 9:30, Gavin Rossdale brought out Bush, and the final act began.
Glam lighting and a performance-art video screen were hung above the stage, making me wonder, had Rossdale been born fifteen years earlier, if Bush would’ve been a New Wave act instead. Back in the day I was never the biggest Bush fan around, as they always sounded to me like some English major’s idea of “Nirvana done right”. Despite my young-adult indifference, X103 played their catalog over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until I began not to mind some of their songs.
Through the first few songs, the band seemed a bit rote and anxious to get past the usual hits they’ve performed ten thousand times and into the newer songs they’ve only played two or three hundred times. Tracks unfamiliar to me like “The Sound of Winter” and “The Gift” sounded more energized than the by-the-numbers “Everything Zen”. Not that new automatically meant awesome — “Eye of the Storm” reminded me so much of Creed that I started to tune out. And a few oldies sounded better live — from the fitful silences of “Greedy Fly” to the quick-jolt album track “X-Girlfriend”.
Bush’s complete Indianapolis set list, which was identical to the set list from their previous show in Sterling Heights, Michigan:
1. Everything Zen
2. The Disease of the Dancing Cats
3. The Chemicals Between Us
4. The Sound of Winter
5. Greedy Fly
7. The Gift
9. Eye of the Storm
10. The Only Way Out
11. Insect Kin
13. Little Things
15. The One I Love (that old R.E.M. staple, but sludgier)
During “Little Things” Rossdale decided we were a safe enough crowd, but one in need of a shock to our systems, so he spent a few minutes running out into the audience, past the VIP rows and all the way into the gen-pop nether regions. He was swarmed by dozens of starstruck fans vying for the chance to see him, touch him, and commemorate him on social media for the next several days. I didn’t feel like fighting for the privilege, and stood back while the adoration ran its course.
Several crowd members had left earlier after their first two or three songs, leaving more space for the rest of us. Would it have made a difference if they’d known this would happen later? No idea.
Funny thing: during “Insect Kin”, a song I don’t know and which was leaving no impression on me, a guy named Mark that I hadn’t seen in twenty years came up, said hi, and was shocked that I’d remembered him. I worked with hundreds of folks during my twelve-year stint at McDonald’s, but I remember Mark, his home state of California, his preferred shift, which parts of the job he hated most, and enough of his appearance to realize that he’d barely aged a day. I can forget appointments and world history and my weekend plans in the blink of an eye, but it’s amazing what sort of unnecessary details are still crammed away in the deepest recesses of my brain. We chatted for about a minute, but then “X-Girlfriend” kicked in and we both shut up and got back to enjoying ourselves.
For that moment of recognition alone, the night was worth it. And I knew all the songs in the encore, so that sent us all off into the evening on a high note.
With my special thanks to Ticketmaster, the judges, and the original disgruntled Ticketmaster customers whose outrage initiated the long chain of events that made this evening of pleasant surprises and rawk-catharsis possible.