Long Story Short: Talkin ’bout my generation

3/12/18



illustration by JP Thimot

 

This is why older people don’t go to pop concerts

I’m a mega-fan of David Byrne (former front man for Talking Heads, composer, artist, director, lecturer, author, bicycle enthusiast, genius). I’ve seen him perform solo maybe five times, including last Tuesday at UB Center for the Arts. I’m the same age as Byrne, old enough to remember when people went to concerts to watch the performance. The focus was on the stage, not the audience. Night clubs were where people went to dance and be seen; theaters were for sitting and listening. I saw The Who and Sly and the Family Stone while glued to my seat in Kleinhans Music Hall. Music doesn’t come any more danceable than Sly, but we saved the dancing for later.

 

The slow Byrne burn

My enjoyment of Byrne’s latest concert was mitigated by a yahoo sitting behind me, who talked loudly, wohooed, and shouted inanities throughout the show. Several times, he boisterously chastised the audience (addressing no one in particular), for not dancing. I turned around to politely ask him not to talk through every song. In situations like this, I have found that people are usually nice if you are. I leaned in and endeavored to get his attention, touching his forearm. The woman he was with grew alarmed that I would do such a thing, and the young man went Psycho Killer on me. I said “Okay,” and turned back around, submitting to Mr. Yahoo’s conviction that he was the star of the show. For about the next half hour, he compulsively and loudly repeated, “l don’t like being touched.” I wasn’t sure who he was talking to, but he seemed powerless to stop.

 

Elsewhere, another person stood to dance, and, as the song ended, people behind him repeatedly and vociferously shouted, “Sit down asshole.” This lasted into the tranquil opening of the next song. I’m sure the band heard it.

 

Many (usually) younger concert-goers seem to think of shows as participatory events in which the audience plays an active part, while (usually) older audiences are more inclined to pay deference to the performers. Byrne’s most recent tour (of which this was the third stop) was also a work of performance art, with artful staging and theatrical movement. As a friend of mine put it, “This show required that you visually witness it.” My wife is five feet four inches. If the people in front of her stand to dance, she can’t witness anything except someone’s undulating butt. Most of Byrne’s audience looked to be in their fifties and sixties. A lot of them might have been unable to stand for two hours. They ponied up big bucks for their seat tickets, which should have entitled them to an unobstructed view. Some audience-members moved to the side isles to dance, which, to me, looked forced and desperate, but at least they respected others.

 

The takeaway:

In my view, a concert ticket does not grant permission to disregard the everyday social contract. Many people see it differently. Which is why I will likely never see Lady Gaga. Or Beyoncé.

 

 

Students: still walking out

In 1970, college students across the country—along with many in high school—walked out of classes in protest over the Vietnam War. The action didn’t end the war; that would take five more years, but it put the nation on alert that students have a powerful voice, when they choose to use it. One year later, Congress passed the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen.

 

It’s taken another forty-eight years and several wars, but students are again confronting a battle of a different kind. This time it’s a fight against the power and influence of the National Rifle Association. 

 

The details:

On March 14, high school students throughout Western New York are planning a seventeen-minute walkout, beginning at 10 a.m. The seventeen minutes include one minute for each of the mass shooting victims in Parkland, Florida. There is also a nationwide push to register students eligible to vote by the November 2018 elections.

 

Many parents and school administrators are expected to support the student protestors. Some will set up voter registration tables. “I am very proud of our youth here in WNY and throughout the country who are ready to use their voices to fight for change, “says Your Voice Your Vote founder, Joan Elizabeth Seamans, “They have demonstrated a fierceness we haven’t seen in decades.”

 

The takeaway:

People aged eighteen to thirty-five make up thirty-one percent of the potential electorate, but only nineteen percent of actual voters. Let your voting-age kids know it’s okay to walk out of class for seventeen minutes, as long as they also walk INTO a voting booth in November. Register online here.

 

 

Meat talk

There’s something intrinsically funny about the phrase “meat raffle.” But it’s a real thing, and it turns out meat raffles are pretty funny. At least according to Beth Elkins Wales, who tipped me off to one happening this Friday at the Knights of Columbus at 2735 Union Road.

 

The details:

Funny and fun is how Elkins Wales describes meat raffles. She’s attended several over the years, to support the New York Inferno 16u Fastpitch softball team, in which her daughter Valerie plays left field. Inferno was the 2017 Eastern National Championship winner, and it takes a lot of meat-raffle-ticket-sales to get the team to Sterling, Virginia, where the playoffs occurred last year. That’s why this Friday’s raffle is important. 

 

How fun are these raffles? So much fun, that you’ll love them even if you’re a vegetarian—like Beth Elkins Wales and her husband, Brad. (If the couple wins any meat, they donate it to Friends of the Night People.)

 

How meat raffles work

Six bucks pays for admission, all the beer you want, and a slice of pizza. Some attendees bring coolers of food to hold them over during the bidding. Everyone sits at long communal tables, while the MC announces what meat will be raffled next—typically several items (such as wings, ribs, steaks, ham, turkey, ground beef etc.). Attendees wave dollar bills and softball players collect them and distribute tickets. The MC spins a wheel and announces the winner, who inevitably screams or giggles (or both) and runs up to collect his or her meat winnings. There’s about a dozen rounds of raffling, and usually three winners per round.

 

A grand finale of meaty excitement results in numerous winners, who trot up to take their pick of meat items laid out on a table. Meat swapping among the winners takes place back at the tables. The March 16 raffle, in addition to its centerpiece prize, a chest freezer filled with a selection of meat, also includes random items like mattress covers and mall gift certificates.

 

The takeaway:

You might be wondering why a vegetarian would even attend a meat raffle, much less rave about it. “Believe me,” says Elkins Wales, “we struggled with it a lot when they first started these a few years ago. Then we decided to just try it. We invited a few game (pardon the pun) friends, and discovered it was just ridiculous enough to be actually fun.”

 

Interested? Contact Shawn at 479-0765 to reserve your seat this Friday.

 

 

Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

 

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