Ladies and Gentlemen–The Rolling Stones. Part I, Venue Review

Part I of our epic road trip to see The Rolling Stones in Concert

Stones picture

Ladies and gentlemen…The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Fourth of July. An epic road trip. What could be more right?

Apparently football stadium shows with actual seats are a lot more right. This spectacular concept was good in theory. I had tickets to park in the infield, a great tailgate venue if there ever was one. And we couldn’t get there until after the opening act Rascal Flatts had started their set because of horrible traffic.

But before I begin lambasting the venue and production, I want to say some positive things about the city of Indianapolis! It was easy to navigate. The downtown was beautiful with streets and sidewalks that were wide and super-clean. The people were very nice, from fast-food waitresses to Dollar store employees to the staff at upscale restaurants. We would gladly go back and southern monster cities like Atlanta and Charlotte could learn something from this sleeper city in the Midwest.

Greasy and Nolan in Indy

My very own glimmer twins take in downtown Indianapolis

I’ll also add that driving through the tunnel into the Brickyard was an incredible thrill, even though I am not a race fan.

 

Approach

A short YouTube video produced by Indianapolis Motor Speedway gave instructions of how to get to the venue. It was woefully inadequate. It told of what street to approach from but not which direction and did not tell premier ticket-holders which gates were in use. Likewise the paper parking admission ticket did not tell which gates to use or which direction to approach. Fail, fail, fail.

If I learned anything it was to do a mock approach the day before and figure that (expletive) out.

Rolling Stones silver ticket section

Nolan, in Silver seating section.

 

Comfort

The big lie was our actual paper admission tickets. They boasted a section, row and seat number. They promised a vista of the enormous stage. In reality there were zero seats. I found this out the afternoon beforehand on the video from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on how to safely get there and enjoy the show as well as what you could or could not bring in.

It was presented like an incidental announcement—they advised then that it was festival seating. Bring blankets and cushions. No chairs would be allowed.

Blankets and cushions? No chairs?  Insert the world’s most common profane acronym here. We found a Dollar Store in Avon and bought three $7 cushions and a cheap fleece throw, all in suitably bright-almost-psychedelic patterns. It didn’t matter; we couldn’t sit comfortably there. The stage was at the bottom on a little hill. Sitting on the hill was more torture than standing. I won’t even go there about the chiggers.

I saw a medical tent. And remembered Altamont. And wryly wondered how many heart attack, strokes and fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up were taken into it.

 

Visibility

You needn’t have worried that I would throw my panties on the stage.

I never saw the actual stage or the actual Stones.  Just their images on the big screen. By carefully standing on tiptoes and peering between giants standing in front of me I could see the top ¾ of the huge screens above the stage. I saw images of Mick dancing around on stage. I even saw an image of –Keith, yes, Keith—running twice.

I like having the drunk and stoned dancing around me, a whiff of ganga, a splash of spilled beer and a passed out person or two. It adds to the whole experience.

But let’s face it—The Stones are old and so are we, their audience. I saw a lot of white-haired women like myself, cripples and really fat people hobbling along. It was a long but far from unbearable walk to the seating area, a hunt for a place to throw a blanket and a very long stand. Along the way some people took advantage of bicycle-rickshaws and some bumped along in their motorized wheelchairs.

Would Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie endure that cheerfully? I doubt it.

The Rolling Stones

Ronnie, Mick and Keith during the Indianapolis concert July 2015

Security

My sense of security was also let down. What do tens of thousands of people, the proximity of an airport’s flight path, alcohol and drugs, thousands of fireworks, the most patriotic national holiday and a heightened terror alert have in common?

A recipe for unparalleled disaster is what it is.

I may be a tiny bit more situationally aware than most people. Maybe it’s that I read too many Jack Reacher novels. I do like to have an escape route planned ahead. And I fully exercised it the night before when some jackass pulled the fire alarm in the hotel. I knew where the stairs were. Down and out in the middle of the (expletive) night!

Beforehand at the hotel, I mused aloud, wondering if The Stones had played a US speedway since Altamont.  Knowing that my own glimmer twins were naïve to the story I read it to them from the internet. All of it—poor planning, poor setup, drunk Hell’s Angels, fights/knives/gunshots, death. The alleged botched Long Island hit on Mick Jagger.

And I ended my soliloquy with the hope that I wanted to be carefully searched going in, because if I was, every potential terrorist or testosterone-fueled would-be killer du jour also would be carefully searched.

We weren’t. Going into the tunnel under the famed Brickyard a woman barely glanced at our tickets. Instead of scanning them she scribbled on them with a red magic marker. And we were in.

Tickets for the Rolling Stones Indianapolis concert 2015

Our infamous paper tickets, with red scribbles

Parking was a breeze. Well-handled and well directed. Once in the venue a security checkpoint was a joke. The search of my cavernous beach bag was cursory. And the pat-down? She barely brushed my pants.

Going through the bag beforehand I had removed my Thermacell mosquito repellent device because it has an internal ignition system and runs on butane cartridges. They wouldn’t have known that. A pile of confiscated items there at the checkpoint attested to the fact that they didn’t want you bringing in your own water and candy. My granola bars were not detected during the search. And once again, our tickets were never scanned.

Driving into the infield we stopped at a bathroom building to use the facility. Right near there we saw row upon row of fireworks sitting wired and ready to be detonated. Out there in the open, apparently unguarded. What if some nut with a match had run through there?

During the show I was able to relax and forget that someone could crash a plane into the crowd or point the fireworks into this knot of mellow old humanity and fire away. Was the security just carefully hidden? Were there armed moles scattered throughout?

Let’s just say that I was a bit on edge until the biggest fireworks display in the USA started shooting up into the sky instead of into the crowd. 10,530 charges. It was a suitably big bang. It could have made a much bigger bang.

This was the premier rock concert event held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Here’s hoping there are improvements before the next one(s).

The Show and General Musings

Must wait for the next blog.

In this one I’ll just say: They are old. We are old. Everything is so much sweeter with age. They are just as good as when I saw them (twice) in 1989. Raunch and roll at its pinnacle. Two hours of starting me up, making a grown man cry, a gasgasgas. I got a lot of satisfaction.

I’m alive and richer for it to tell the tale, though, and now must go soak my ancient feet.

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The Purity of Football

Clemson Tigers and USC Gamecocks flag

A house divided–Clemson and Carolina flag

Allow me to wax poetic about football.

In her later years, my mother eschewed football in favor of baseball. “It’s just so…brutal…violent,” she said.

Many writers before me have observed that football is a ritual reenactment of the primal clashes of mankind.  There are broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted men fighting on the field and hourglass-shaped women on the sidelines cheering them on.  Mama was onto something. Nowadays, analysts have turned their thoughts to the consequences of the sport’s violence–brain damage, memory loss, dementia, neuromuscular disorders, orthopedic injury–and the failure of the industry to support players who have passed their use-by date.

People get all that, but people watch football games because they are fun to watch.  There is a culture of football in the US; people schedule their lives around it.  Home game?  Whee!  Excuse to let down your hair, paint up your face in team colors and escape your humdrum life.  Party on!  Tailgate cities and healthy economic support of the poultry industry ensue.  The very existence of fried chicken, chips and dip and beer are justified.

Beat Texas A&M tee shirt

A newly-minted University of South Carolina Gamecock

College football, its rituals and rivalries are a religion in the South.  My son went off to college last week.  Yes, he attended high school football games, in a sort-of lukewarm way.  He has never shown a lot of interest in football of any kind.  Now all of a sudden, he is a student at the University of South Carolina and, GO COCKS!

Me, I cannot watch football at a crowded party, in a bar full of strangers or on a flat screen under a canopy at your tailgate.  The rumble of voices, the distraction of folk coming and going, the food and drink–for me these things all take away from the purity of football.  I have to concentrate, gird up my loins and (sort of) play.  I watch to see the plays unfold and follow the announcers as they dissect the replay.  I find it difficult to give the game my full attention when there are more than a couple of people in the room.  It is as though I get in a zen state where the only things in existence are me…and the football game itself.

Sigh.

This week marks the opening of college football season 2014.  I graduated from the University of Georgia during the Hershel Walker years, but I have always considered myself a Clemson sympathizer.

Lest you think I’m preaching from the sidelines, I worked as a clerk in the Wofford College Athletic Department.  I personally assembled the playbook for the Wofford Terriers with whom the ClemsonTigers opened their 11-0 national championship season.  I’ve also attended some mighty fine contests on the gridiron, games such as Clemson v UGA back in the early 80’s when these teams won back-to-back national championships, and I’ve felt the earth shake in Death Valley at Clemson-Carolina games.  I’ve heard the Dawgs woof between the hedges and stood outside the coliseum in the ticket line. Heck, I separated my left shoulder playing intramural flag football at UGA.  I’ve even been to the Esso Club on game day.

How I prioritize college football

How I prioritize college football

So I self-identify as a Clemson fan though I don’t wear their colors.  I pull for Clemson even when they play my almer mater.  But unlike many Clemson fans, I don’t hate the University of South Carolina.  As a matter of fact, I yell for them like crazy when they play anyone other than the Tigers.

It gets a little more complicated when the two South Carolina powerhouses lock horns.  Long ago, I would have remained true to the Tigers.  Perhaps I’ve mellowed out over the years, or maybe it’s the respect the old ball coach has brought to Gamecock football, for now I pull for whichever team stands to gain the most in the polls.

There, I’ve said it and it feels good, like I’ve emerged from some kind of closet.

This week, South Carolina opens with Texas A&M at home and Clemson travels a few miles down the road to clash with the mighty Dawgs in Athens, Georgia.  Have a happy–and safe–football season.  Don’t  punch some guy in the parking lot of a bar like one of my friends did one time.  Travel safely, party responsibly and enjoy.

Don’t mind me.  I’ll be watching in air-conditioned comfort, solo, in the lotus position with my head in the game.

 

Clemson v UGA

Go Tigers!

 

 

 

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