Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bohemians, Howard Jones and the Drunk D-head

I waited for a few days to write about this show. Tonight, I have the time, and I'm ready to do so. So here's my review of The Boehemians and Howard Jones at The Paramount in Huntington last Saturday night.

Today there was a terrorist attack in New York City. There was also a shooting at a rave in London. Compared to horrible events like this, my experience at this show is is a speck of ash on the Antarctic snow. Nevertheless, this was actually the worst concert experience I've ever had. It wasn't Howard Jones' or the Bohemians fault, for sure, and I mostly don't blame the venue, although I think they could have handled it better.

Now this is the fourth time I've seen Howard Jones, and while I like him OK, that isn't because I'm a huge fan -- it's just the way it happened. The first time was at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens many years ago, sandwiched between Martha and the Muffins and Eurythmics, and that concert might possibly be my favorite one that I ever attended. The second time was at Jones Beach, and I can't even remember who else he performed with -- could have been Culture Club, could have been Human League or The Psychedelic Furs -- regardless, it was a harmless but forgettable performance. The third time was just a few months ago, at the highly entertaining Retro Futura show at The Borgata that I wrote about in this blog. And this was the fourth.

I wouldn't have gotten tickets to this one on my own -- I enjoyed him a lot at the Borgata, but I just saw him, so I wouldn't have gone out of my way to see him again, especially not so soon. But Denise really really enjoyed him at the Borgata, so I told her I'd go with her if she got the tickets. As it turned out, she bought 4 tickets up in our usual area -- one for our friend Rich the drummer, who is a big Howard Jones fan, and one as an extra seat so I had enough room and she didn't have to listen to me complain all night. (Living with me can be just a bundle of fun sometimes).

We met Rich in Huntington, and had a nice dinner at a place up the block. Then we settled in for the show.

The opening band was a young local band called Bohemians, who come from Manorville. They were obviously very happy to be playing a nice stage and opening for a national act, and actually I really liked them. If they'd have had a CD for sale that night, I'd definitely have bought it. Unfortunately, when I finally find their beleaguered merch girl, who was buried so deep in a corner of the bar area under a TV showing the World Series game that I couldn't even see her at first, she told me they didn't have one yet (although she did give me a free download card). I didn't catch the name of the track they opened the set with, but it was really good. Their Facebook page listed bands like The Bravery, The Killers, The Clash and Coldplay as among their favorites, and their sound matched these preferences. Honestly, I liked them better than I liked Bash & Pop, who had opened for The Psychedelic Furs the week before.

The way we were seated, Denise was on the inside of the row, Rich was next (so we could both talk to him, since we don't get to see him that often), the empty seat was next, and I was on the outside, on the aisle seat.

At some point between sets, three guys who looked to be in their 40s or so settled into the row behind us. They had a rather loud conversation that sounded to me like they were talking about hitting the Men's room and describing the various activities they were going to partake in there, although I was only half listening, and I remember giving Rich a grin when they headed right back down the stairs a few minutes later.

After a relatively long break between sets, Howard Jones and his band hit the stage, and opened with "I'd Like to Get to Know You Well," and these three were back in their seats, fresh drinks in hand.

At that point, as I'm somewhat wont to do, I drifted off into my musical happy place. It's where I go at a concert like this, where I'm familiar with most of the material, but not familiar enough to sing along every word. If it had been The Who, or Jethro Tull, for example, I'd have been very involved in the show, and singing along (probably loudly enough to have a throat ache later). But for Jones, I was just pleasantly drifting, as he played material, some of which I knew and some of which I didn't. I was thinking about my next CD review, that I expect to drop in a day or two. I was thinking about how this was the fourth time I was seeing Jones, and how I wish I could somehow trade two of those shows in for two Thomas Dolby concerts, whom I've never seen. In any event, I was in a pleasant musical haze.

At this point, Rich tapped me to get out of the row, and I noticed that Denise was following him. I thought at first they were going down to use the bathrooms, although I figured they'd have to be needing to go pretty badly to go during the concert. But Rich told me they were going to move down, and they quickly slid into two empty seats in front of me. Since the three guys had been pretty loud between sets, I surmised (correctly, as it turned out) that they had probably been talking loudly and drowning out the show for Denise and Rich. I had been oblivious to it, but like I said, I was a few seats away. (I later learned that Denise had asked the loudest of the three if he could talk a little quietly, and he had told her in a miffed voice, "I'll try." But after a few moments, he forgot, and he was loud as ever. So Denise decided the easiest thing to do was to move herself. I also learned that Rich also moved because the guy kept waving his beer back and forth somewhat precariously over Rich's head, and Rich thought that at any minute, the guy, who was at least moderately drunk, was going to spill it on him).

About five or ten minutes passed, Jones ended a song, and the drunk guy started screaming and whistling wildly, then screamed "I don't even care about this show! I just want to ruin this woman's night. Woooo!" He kept on screaming, similar things. Denise told me later that he in the process, he had also referred to her as a "bitch," although I swear I never heard that. At this point, I turned around, caught his eye, and gave him what Jeff from The Pisces Cafe likes to refer to as "the look." After a moment of making sure the guy saw me, he started glaring back, then threatening me I'd "better turn around." Then the guy sitting behind me (who wasn't with him), who was there with his wife asked him to settle down, and the guy started yelling at him.

Truthfully, it's hard to know what to do in a situation like that. The grown-up in you says don't get into a fist fight, but I can tell you that I could have happily killed the guy and slept that night without even a tinge of guilt -- in too many ways, I'm a very angry person.

After a moment of arguing, the other guy went down the stairs, and came back a moment later with one male and one young female security guard. The security guard told d-head, "What's going on up here? I'm hearing you're bothering people," to which d-head responded that he wasn't bothering anybody. At this point, I told the guard he had also been harassing my wife, which Denise verified for him. D-head then insisted that he wasn't bothering anybody, we were bothering him. He went on to tell the guard he was there with a group of six people, and seemed to be challenging him did he really want to get into it and try to throw out six people. (I only saw him with those two other guys, but it's possible that the people on the other side of them might also have been part of his party).

The guard then admonished him not to bother people, and he and the female guard headed back down the stairs. The female guard stayed at the bottom of the stairs, watching our area, as the other guard headed inside. I was hoping he went down to get a larger group to evict the guy, and if needed, the rest of his party. After a few moments, d-head and his two buddies headed down the stairs also. I wasn't sure at first if they were getting out while the getting was good, or just going down to buy another round. (As it turned out, it was the latter).

Right after that, the male guard came out again, and after a quick report from the female guard, he came up and asked our party, plus the other guy and his wife, if we'd like to move to a VIP box and get two free rounds apiece courtesy of the venue. It was obvious that they weren't going to throw the troublemaker out, so I accepted, and they led us down to a roped off box at the back of the floor. A few moments later, a waitress arrived and verified we could have our first two drinks for free on the house. We watched the rest of the show uneventfully, although at times, even down on the floor area, I could hear the drunken d-head's voice screaming from somewhere above me, "Whoooo!"

Now Denise is better than I am at letting things go, and I think Rich is too. Denise danced, sang, and enjoyed the rest of the show, as did Rich. She also said that she felt happy they moved us to "better" seats, although both Rich and I thought the seats were actually worse -- they were closer, but on the floor level, so you couldn't easily see over the people on the dance floor. They weren't elevated like our old seats had been.

As for me, for the rest of the night, Jones might as well have not even been on the stage. I tried to get into it, especially when Jones played "Hide & Seek," a song I like a lot that he hadn't played at the Retro Futura show. But I was so angry that my night was ruined, and honestly, I've still been fuming about it for the last three days. What's particularly aggravating is you don't expect this kind of behavior at a happy little '80s music show. It wasn't heavy metal, it wasn't hip-hop, it was freaking '80s new wave.

As for the venue's reaction, in a way I understand. But in a way I don't. I understand because 1. They didn't actually witness the behavior first-hand; 2. Because it was a happy little '80s show, and I don't think they had as much security present as I've seen them have for some other shows. Much like myself, I don't think they were expecting this kind of thing for a show like this; and 3. They were trying to both do right by us and to avoid a violent confrontation.

But as nice as their offer was, #1, neither Denise nor I really drink, so we each had one free Diet Coke. And Rich did take them up and have a mixed drink, but only one. And like I said, two of the three of us actually liked our original seats better. (To be honest, when I accepted the offer, I thought they were putting us in one of the upstairs VIP boxes, but I guess those were all full -- it was a pretty packed house.)

Again, I understand it rationally. But it wasn't really right. They really should have thrown the provocateur out. As best I can tell, they didn't even cut him off at the bar.

I have tickets for another show at The Paramount within the next few weeks, but now I'm not looking forward to it like I was. This show soured me. Once I use my tickets, I don't think I'll be going back there for awhile, even though I admit it's the kind of thing that could have happened just as easily at a lot of other venues.