Today’s lesson: how not to win friends, influence people, get ahead in the music business, or stay out of jail.
The first weekend in May is an interesting time in Atlanta. This is the time of year when many a frugal homeowner wrestles with the decision to close the windows and turn on the electron-sucking air conditioner, young women with firm midsections feel compelled to expose their belly-buttons in an effort to tease the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending on their persuasion), and allergy sufferers discover that April showers do indeed bring May flowers … and May flowers bring a 30-day supply of Allegra.
The first weekend in May also brings Music Midtown, one of the best annual music festivals in the nation. Several hundred musical acts spanning every genre assemble near the Atlanta Civic Center. The list wasn’t as compelling as previous years … I’m getting further out of touch with modern music due to the suck created by corporate radio management. But the list of artists was good enough for me & Suzan to justify purchasing two weekend passes.
Saturday and Sunday were fun. Buddy Guy and Angie Apparo were Saturday’s highlights, while Sunday was all about Amiee Mann. But Friday night produced the most story-worthy concert experience. Suzan and I braved crowded subway stations, rain-soaked streets and the threat of being struck by lightning to see Live. We also experienced the so-called musical stylings of a band named Unwritten Law.
I must warn readers that the following tale involves judicious use of profanity. I have nothing against profanity, but I try to use it sparingly on siliconchef.com … saving it instead for programming, driving and home repairs. However this story cannot properly be relayed without reproducing the long strings of profanity used by the so-called lead singer’s drunken girlfriend. Any readers inflamed by multiple uses of the “f-word” are encouraged to visit pbs.org in the interim.
Due to the rain delay, most performances got pushed back an hour. This meant that Unwritten Law would get to play before Live. Most bands on the 99X stage are introduced by one of the radio station’s hosts (Barnes, Toucher, Axel, “Crash” Clark, Leslie Fram). For some reason, Unwritten Law chose to have the lead singer’s .. er, lead vocalist’s girlfriend introduce the band.
This is where the profanity comes into play. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I can’t remember exactly every slurred word she spoke that night, but it went something like this …
“Hey everybody! In a few minutes, the best fucking band in the world is going to play on this fucking stage. Get ready to rock, motherfuckers!”
She stops as a few folks in the front row cheer, using a nearby microphone stand to overcome her impression that the stage is moving underneath her. After making more use of the word fuck (as noun, adjective, verb, preposition and conjunction), several stage hands arrive to take her off stage. A small discussion takes place on stage between the drunken woman, the stage crew, and several men who look like they’re in the band. It was away from the microphone, but I’m sure she also used the word fuck in that conversation. They manage to convince the stage crew that she’s “with the band”, and the introduction continues.
“When Unwritten Law gets on this motherfucking stage, I want all you fuckers to sing along. Here’s the words to the song … FUCK THE POLICE …”
The response from the 99X radio hosts on stage … “Thank God for alcohol!”
She then tries to get the crowd to sing along, screaming the lyrics to “Fuck The Police”. The dedicated fans in the front three rows cheer. The rest of us just stand there.
Suzan and I decide that now would be a good time to check out the Sony Playstation2 trailer, which happens to be air conditioned and somewhat insulated from the sounds of Unwritten Law. We emerge about 40 minutes later, expecting the band to be gone.
We were wrong.
I have to give some credit to the band. The drummer is excellent, and the band can keep a good groove going. It was apparent they had pissed off the sound crew at some point, because the “suck knob” was turned all the way up. The music was good in places, but they kept moving from pseudo-punk to reggae-style groove (quasi-311).
And then there was the singer … er, vocalist.
When we emerged from the Sony trailer, he was trying to sing. I believe he was singing in the key of “H”, thus moving his status from singer to vocalist. The band’s last number was a chunky reggae groove song, so he went into rap mode. This was not very impressive from a lyrical standpoint.
This is where the feces hits the rotating air circulation device.
The band’s “last number” lead into another song. This is a problem since the band had exceeded their time limit. I will give credit to the Music Midtown organizers for running a tight show. Nobody plays past their time at this festival … nobody. There’s a big clock on every stage, and artists know that they have to stay on schedule for a smooth running show.
Unwritten Law didn’t feel like stopping. The soundman was not impressed, so he cut the lead singer’s … er, vocalist’s microphone out of the mix. After realizing that the mic was no longer functional, the vocalist threw the microphone into the crowd.
Yes, that was bad. But it does get worse.
Tossing sound equipment into the crowd does not make friends with a stage crew. So the entire band was cut out of the mix. Despite having no sound or stage monitors, the vocalist encouraged the band to play on. So now we’re experiencing the muted sounds of a band that should have left the stage several minutes ago. We should be watching a sound crew set the stage for Live.
Now I’m watching the vocalist of Unwritten Law grab the drummer’s congas and toss them off the front of the stage into the first three rows of the crowd. Yes folks, the band’s frontman just assaulted his most loyal fans. Now stage security has to switch gears, protecting the audience from the band instead of protecting the band from the audience. Several large men caught up to the vocalist as he was preparing to toss the snare drum into the crowd. It took some cajoling, threatening and general use of law enforcement codes to remove the band from the stage.
We stayed for Live, who did not assault their fans with musical equipment. They did put on an excellent show, looking and acting like rock stars even when tripping over their stage monitors. As an added bonus, they completed their show on time.
We listened to 99X on the drive home, and the next day on the way back to Music Midtown on Saturday. No details of the mayhem that is Unwritten Law were discussed on the air, but the deejays did ask every band if they planned to throw drums at the audience. One deejay even made reference to people being arrested. I have a feeling one or members of the band were arrested for assault. Of course, having your drunken girlfriend insult law enforcement using excessive strings of profanity will not make favor with the police.
I would like to thank the readers who were not discouraged by the giant italic profanity disclaimer. I hope my attempt to preserve the narrative by employing numerous colloquial references to the sexual act does not result in the MSN butterfly blocking access to my website. It’s a small price to pay.