Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Had to Ro-o-ol with the Punches at the Van Halen Concert

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. Often, however, you don't realize until much later why a situation that seems unfortunate at first is actually a blessing in disguise. Such was the case with the Van Halen concert a cruel twist of fate sent me, instead of one of my husband's best friends, to last night. 

My husband's favorite band in the world is Van Halen, and I'm pretty sure that his favorite person in the world is Eddie Van Halen. I came to terms with this a long time ago. So I knew that when a Van Halen reunion tour was announced in February, he would be going. Until it got scrapped and Eddie went into rehab. Dude was looking like this, so he did the right thing! But hope always springs eternal for VH fans, and sure enough, after Eddie was clean and sober, the reunion tour was re-launched. Not only did I not protest my husband spending an obscene amount of money on a backstage pass to the first Chicago show and another large sum on a floor seat to the second, I encouraged it. I was fully aware that if I came between him and his lifelong dream of seeing Van Halen in concert with David Lee Roth at the helm, I would never live it down. Decades of arguments ending with "...AND you didn't let me go to Van Halen!!!" would be mine to cringe through in the future. 

In my husband's own words: "The very first concert I ever saw was Van Halen at the Metra in Billings, Montana, in 1986 when I was in 7th grade. My mom wrote a note to the principal to take me out of classes and drove me and two of my friends 5 hours to see the concert. David Lee Roth quit the band in 1985, ushering in the "Van Hagar" era. So, I have been waiting 22 years to see Van Halen with David Lee Roth." 

I equated my husband getting the backstage pass and the primo seat with me paying to be an extra on Lost, if they ever offered such an opportunity. And if someone ever came between me and my man Locke, there would certainly be hell to pay. So, the money was spent and the preparations were made. Unfortunately, a few days ago, my husband's friend had to change his plans and was no longer able to fly in and join my husband at the shows. Sympathetic shout-out to BY! I had used my skillz to secure this friend a floor seat for last night's show, while my husband was going to do the backstage pass package. 

Long story short, I came up with the brilliant idea that *I* should go to the concert. Let me size up the love of my husband's life! I needed to understand what all the fuss was about. And so it was. My husband got to the arena hours early for the backstage revelry, at which he had a great time. Fate also shone down upon him and he was blessed with a front-row, center-stage seat (randomly assigned, unbeknownst to him, when he bought the pass). 

He called me when he found out this news, and he was so happy that I knew even before the concert started that the crazy price he paid had been worth it. As we don't have a car, I took a bus-El-shuttle bus combination to get to the venue. I timed it to get there right before Van Halen came on at 8:30. While in line for a slice of pizza, the guy ahead of me struck up a conversation. He was probably in his late 40s or early 50s, and seemed nice enough. 

Guy: It's a lot older crowd than it used to be! 
Me: Yep... 
Guy: This is the shortest beer line I've ever been in in my life! 
Me: Yeah, it's going fast. 
Guy: Everyone's a lot more mellow. 
Me: That's probably a good thing. 
Guy: I'd buy you a beer, but they only let you get two a person. 
Me: Oh, thanks anyway. 

As I stood off to the side of the concession area eating my pizza, I quickly realized that I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was wearing a bright yellow message tee that looked something like this (except that the heart is a guitar on mine): Whereas literally every other person I saw was dressed in black. Oops. 

Then there was the fact that I was a female. I would say that there were at least 20 men for every woman that I could see. Proof of this was that there was actually a line for the men's bathroom and only a short one for the women's. I marveled about this to a 40-something-year-old bleached blond with pancake makeup while waiting for a stall, and she was also incredulous. "Me and all my girlfriends just loooved Dave growing up, so we were sure that this was going to be all women here tonight." I had no response to that. 

The "Dave" she was still crushing on was of course David Lee Roth. This would be the first time he was on stage with the band since the 1984 tour, as alluded to by my husband above. However, the band's bassist, Michael Anthony, had been replaced by Eddie Van Halen's 16-year-old son, Wolfgang. Yeah, you read that right. Not only is his name Wolfgang (which I kind of dig), but he is only 16. 

I made my way to the floor. I was in the second-to-last row, but it was still a decent seat. There were two bizarre mini-blimps flying around overhead. They were actually pretty cool - they were all black and sported the Van Halen logo, and zoomed all over, presumably guided by an unseen remote control. I was pleasantly surprised to find normal-looking people surrounding me. 

The guy next to me was also by himself, and introduced himself as "John." He was probably in his fifties, and said that he didn't have any of Van Halen's music. After he listed off other concerts he'd been to in the recent past, I figured he just liked to go to concerts. And after he remarked about how much he heard people had paid for the front-row seats, I had to tell him that my husband was one of those crazy people.  

Since I only knew the popular songs, I'm not even going to attempt to "critique" this concert. My husband said it was awesome, and that should be good enough for any real fan to believe. If you are interested in what they actually played, the set list is here (scroll down a bit). If you are interested in a real review of the show (as well a documentation of the reunion tour drama over the past year), try Rolling Stone. But what I can share with you is the very strange story of my personal experience at the concert. 
Everything started out just fine. I had a lot of room to myself at the back of the floor area. They kicked off the show with You Really Got Me, which is a cover of The Kinks' song, so I knew that one. I was first struck by how good David, Alex (the drummer) and Eddie looked. These dudes are in their mid-fifties! They were totally muscular - lean and mean! Young Wolfgang was a cutie and as he was completely unassuming the entire time, I believe he won over the crowd. My husband agreed, saying that it would've been bad had Wolfgang tried to be showy. 

A couple in the row in front of me got to their seats right before the show started. She was sporting an outfit and perm that I think I had in 1987. He had on a Jack Daniels hat backwards, a hunting jacket and cargo shorts. When the band came on, he turned around and looked all excited and held his hand up for a high-five. So I high-fived him, and then he looked seriously confused. It turns out that his high-five was meant for his friend who had come up behind me. Oops, again. 

The friend who joined a bit late dressed very similarly to the guy in front of me. But I will call him Baldy, because he was in fact bald (though he also had a straggly, pointed beard). There was another guy that joined them, too. So now there were four people in that group - the couple in front of me, and the two guys who for some inexplicable reason never actually went to their assigned row, but rather hung out next to me in the slightly more open area. From some of their conversation that I overheard, I knew that they were not from Chicago. 

For the first third of the concert or so, things continued to be OK. A highlight was when I actually saw my husband up on the big screen when the camera panned the front-row crowd. While I was a tad concerned because Baldy and his counterpart were bringing back two beers each during each song and definitely had not arrived sober, they were keeping to themselves. I also saw the fairly weak-looking security peeps constantly walking around behind me, circling the perimeter of the floor, looking for smokers. 

I had noticed that behind me in the first row of stadium seats, a guy that looked like Anderson Cooper's older and much less attractive businessman brother had been keeping a look-out for security because his friend (who also looked businessman-ish) kept smoking a joint. Security never caught on. But I kept glancing back there every few songs, and the guy smoked away for the entire two hours. Then John, the normal guy to the right of me, randomly left. I guess he had had enough. He actually didn't realize that Michael Anthony wasn't going to be playing, so perhaps he felt cheated. There were still normal people to my right, and in the last row behind me, and to the right in front of me, but Baldy's crew was growing ever more disorderly to my left. I'm not sure if the guy next to Baldy realized this, or if he was trying to hit on me, but he eventually switched places with Baldy, so that he acted as a buffer of sorts. Baldy was by far the most inebriated person I could spot in the crowd. 

The concert rolled on. David Lee Roth is the consummate showman, a born entertainer. He was hamming it up and everyone loved it. And he could still bust out those high-kick jumps! I had an epiphany of sorts as he mugged for the crowd. He looks like Grover from Sesame Street! His mouth is always hanging open, just like Grover's.
Anyway, the only songs I recognized were Runnin' with the Devil, I'll Wait, Oh, Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison cover), Hot for Teacher and Panama. Panama was played near the end of the show, and that is when things started to turn ugly. Baldy was pretty much out of control. He was in his own little world, attempting to start a mosh pit with his friend standing next to me. At one point Baldy pushed his friend into me, and I went off. The friend, however, took that as an opportunity to introduce himself. 

Drunk Friend of Baldy: Hahhh, Ahm Schlleeeeeve (translation: Hi, I'm Steve) 
Me: You need to control your friend! 
Schleeve: Aah jusszz liv maaah owwhn liiif (translation: I just live my own life) 
Me: Well, your friend is going to get kicked out. 

Even though Schleeve was now standing in front of MY seat, I took a few steps over to the right to get away. Unfortunately, Baldy was not about to calm down. He had now befriended some other drunk guy who passed by, and they had started their own mosh pit. They seemed happy jumping around by themselves, so I relaxed a little bit.

The show was over, but after a brief reappearance of the VH mini-blimps, the band came back on for a Jump extravaganza. There were lasers, a blow-up microphone (don't ask), buckets of glitter raining from the sky and exploding from the stage - it was pretty cool. Since that was the song I knew the best, I enjoyed the grand finale. But next to me, Baldy was deciding that he didn't like his new friend so much. He pushed his fellow mosher with full strength and the guy went careening into the row behind me. Then Baldy jumped on the guy and started punching him. 

I looked around desperately for the security team, but they had all made their way to the exits as the show was nearing an end. One lone, elderly, skinny security guy finally saw the commotion, but he could hardly restrain Baldy. 80s Girl and Hunting Jacket Guy tried to calm Baldy down... and every few seconds he would start walking away, only to then turn around and run full-force at the guy he was determined to beat up. 

It was mayhem, and of course that actually drew a bunch of people to the scene. The lights had now come up in the stadium and I had moved safely away to be near the mixing stage. My husband was supposed to come find me, so I couldn't stray too far. Now the rest of the security guys had swarmed the area, only to find several other ne'er-do-wells joining in on the fight. Eventually four people (including Baldy) got cuffed. Schleeve avoided the whole thing and had followed me to the mixing booth! 

I was distracted by the chaos and did not notice the poor man's Anderson Cooper sneaking up on my left. He approached me. 

PMAC: Hi. Ummmm, please appreciate how hard this is for me. This is probably the most difficult thing I have done, but life is short. 
(I attempt a weak smile, but am thinking: Oh sweet lord baby Jesus, what is going on??? Where is my husband!?!?!
PMAC: I just have to tell you that I think you are the most beautiful woman in the world. I was watching you the entire show. 
(I am now looking around frantically. Schleeve is still next to me on the other side, watching his friend get cuffed from afar.) 
Me: Uh... that's nice, thanks. 
PMAC: Well, I just had to tell you. I'm sure you're here with someone... 
(Crap. Do I attempt to act like I'm with Schleeve? Crap, crap, CRAP! Where is my husband?!?!
Me: Yeah, actually my husband is coming to get me... (I made sure to point with my left hand so he could see that I was indeed wearing a ring.) 
PMAC: OK, well, you're beautiful. 
Me: That is great, thanks. 

He slunk away. And from half-way across the stadium, I saw my husband approaching. We had no choice but to walk by Baldy, who was slouched defeatedly in the stands. 

e's Husband: What happened? 
Me: Welllllll..... you see that bald guy who is cuffed right there? That's who was next to me the entire night. 
e's Husband: No!!!!! 
Me: Yeah, he was trying to mosh during half of the concert and then started a huge fight right at the end. 
e's Husband: Wow. Brian would've KILLED that guy. 
Me: I know. It was a good thing I was here instead. 

And so you see, everything happens for a reason. Had Dustin's friend been where I was, he would have not put up with Baldy for more than two seconds, and it would've been bad. e takes one for the team! 

On the ride home, I got to hear all of my husband's stories from the pre-show festivities. Our camera had broken right before the show, so he is hoping to get some pictures emailed to him from others he met there. If that happens, I will be sure to post a few so you can see what Van Halen looks like from two feet away. 

Despite all the bizarro stuff that happened, I am really glad that I went. They did put on a great show and since I spent a lot of time looking around in the audience, it was nice to see so many people so happy. Ah, the power of music. Baldy really was the exception in the crowd, you must believe me. While a lot of people there looked really rough, they were there to enjoy an excellent concert and re-capture a bit of their heyday. It was kind of cute to see all of these forty- and fifty-somethings looking positively elated, singing along at the top of their lungs during the show. 

As my husband said on the way back, "Van Halen's songs are all happy songs." 

And so, I have made my peace with Eddie Van Halen. He gives my husband something I cannot: twenty-minute-long guitar solos. And so when my husband takes off tomorrow night to see him once again, I won't be sulking and pouty back at home. I'll just be praying that Baldy doesn't show up again at the United Center... 

- e


Anonymous said...

I'm dying!!! that is too TOO funny! I completely forgot that you'd be sitting by yourself! You are SO brave. No perm and bangs for the occasion, though? I'm happy you survived Baldy and didn't get hit on my Shleeve!

Wanders said...

Okay, I've got to stop going to folk concerts if I really want to have a good time!

This was absolutely hilarious!

Anonymous said...

hello, i was tring to find something to do one day and decided to enter my name into google to see if i could find myself or something about my name, this site and a few others came up. my name is Mat Schleeve and i live in Minnesota. just wondering if maybe me and the schleeve your talking about were related?

funny story btw :)


Unknown said...

I am CRYING at the Schleeve dialogue. Literally have tears running down my face.

Jake said...


I realize you were not in the mood for PMAC's approach but give the guy some credit. As a person who never, ever had the courage to approach a good-looking woman, I can assure you that the amount of courage it took for PMAC to walk up to you is of the heroic nature--or he was lying and does stuff like that all the time.

Also, the fact that Mat Schleeve from Minnesota left a comment makes an already great story twice as awesome.

Don't mess with Jacob!


Anonymous said...

But, I like Super Grover. Don't do anything to Grover's image!

longhorn girl said...

I admire your understanding with your husband and his devotion to Eddie! I used to think Eddie was the cutest thing going.
I loved your story, I had teard rolling down my face and I still can the picture Grover, David Lee Roth, and Baldy and Sheelvee thing!!!!!
I think your husband should take you out for dinner for having endured that little group of mosh pit fans!!! :)
You should write for a living!!!
Thanks for the laugh!!!
And as they say in VH world
Might as Well JUMP! LOL! :)