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Music Savaged By The Average Beast

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for July 2, 2003

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It's A Thing He Has...
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

When Jonathan Richman tours, people go a little crazy. He usually plays one date in an area and moves on to the next, leaving packs of rabid fans stomping individual feet and muttering naughty words. Last time he came through New Jersey Jonathan --
"Who?" you yawn.
"Jonathan Richman," Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love sighs.
"Jonathan Richman who?" you insist.
"Weíve been through this before. Did you see Something About Mary despite its being a humiliation humorfest? Heís the gentleman walking around and playing guitar. His music has been featured on many soundtracks. His song Ice Cream Man currently graces a Kohlís commercial, and if youíd ever devoted two important hours to watching Repo Man, you would have heard Pablo Picasso. His song Road Runner is one of the best things ever recorded. Itís not about a bird."
"Oh. That guy. Listen, Iíve been busy..." you opine, but really, letís move on, shall we? Last time Jonathan came through here, heíd played the Court Tavern in New Brunswick and that was that for this area, which meant the Court was packed to the rafters with crazed Jonathan fans who werenít polite about wanting to hear any noise their quiet hero made.
You: Are you going to see Jonathan Richman on Thursday?
Your Friend: Nope. Donít feel like being shushed.
Jonathan plays early shows. Itís a thing with him. Other artists and bands want to play later, Jonathan plays earlier, so the bar got calls all day long about what time heíd go on. The official party line held that heíd take the stage between 9 and 10. Our party sat down on upstairs barstools at 8:30 and the upstairs bar filled to uncomfortable, then hassling-the-doorman capacity before 10. The door to downstairs opened after 10. Then real weirdness began.
The downstairs air conditioner was off. Thursday, the temperature soared to 100 degrees in some places and by 10:30 p.m. hadnít dropped much. The bartender reported that Jonathan wanted the AC off, "Some kind of phobia or something." Oh. A phobia. Well, heís allowed, right? Youíd order your rock stars factory-fresh and full of phobias if you could, wouldnít you? Sure. As the basement filled and time passed, the temperature and humidity made the normally dank room feel like an indifferent Texas teenagerís forgotten terrarium, where a couple hundred people passed for the tiny frogs. Finally, close to 11:30, Jonathan strapped on the guitar. A voice from the crowd: "Whatís with the air conditioner?"
"I had them turn it off because air conditioners can be quite loud. Weíre going to have a musical experience, not a comfortable experience." Which statement kind of answered his next question: "Why doesnít anybody dance anymore?"
You got me, brother, but Iím busy in this face-plant where I fainted from the heat.
The crowd loved song after riotous song. I Was Dancing In the Lesbian Bar caused a roaring singalong. Soon, the heat, the late hour, the incompatible fans, some indefinable something caused some lunkheads in polo shirts to talk near the stage, louder than the performer, who was most certainly well-miked. And it wasnít just one lunkhead, there were lunkhead pockets throughout the room. Conversations about stocks and options floated down the bar. It was bizarre, and who has the patience of the forebearance to pay $10 for a show they canít hear over some drunken idiotís lame financial advice? It was about this time it became clear our evening was nearing its conclusion.
So there you are in a club basement with 200 of your closest friends packed body to body and youíre each wondering if the life insurance your job offers will pay your beneficiaries in the event you die a beer-soaked sweltering death when you couldíve just as easily gotten up off your barstool and made a break for the exit and since staying until you pass out is probably walking that fuzzy accident/suicide line beyond which your unprepared family has to cough up the cash for interment you get up and go home. Later you may discover the two pints of water you drank while watching a few minutes of Julia Child on Biography -- very interesting, by the way -- does not stave off the kind of dehydration that keeps even the experienced swinging rock fan in bed most of the next day.
But it was Jonathan. And people go a little crazy.

©2003 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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