Tag Archives: Voodoo Festival

Sometimes I’m caught in a landslide: Memories of Sears Centre 2006

I remember going to the Sears Center in 2006. It was the grand opening for the arena, and Duran Duran was playing. I arrived at Chicago’s Midway airport in the middle of a rainstorm. Traffic was horrendous. It took Amanda and I, along with my sister and another friend, what seemed like forever to make the trip from the airport to the Marriott nearby the arena that would serve as our hotel room for the night.

We were late getting to the hotel and even later to get ready. We had to grab dinner pretty quickly. If I remember right – we were rushing our poor waitress at the hotel’s restaurant to “please hurry, we have tickets to Duran Duran!” In our haste to get from the car into the venue, Amanda and I both left our cameras behind. At the time, we thought this was a travesty.

The show was outstanding. Amanda and I danced like crazy from our what – 9th row? – seats. The arena was beautiful, and the band was on fire. Just days prior, like perhaps two or less, the band had put out a statement announcing that Andy would no longer be working with the band. It was a tough time for all Duranies, regardless of where one sat on the issue. Questions swirled throughout the community, “Who would be the guitar player?”, “Could the band still go on?”, “Whose fault was it that Andy quit?”, “What would happen next?” The band seemed to answer many of them that night. It was a strong show, and this was not a band that was going to just lie down and die.

Amanda and I were enthusiastic, even through sadness as the Fab Five came to a resounding halt. Again. While our cameras were useless to us in our car, my memories of this show are so clear. It remains one of the best shows I’ve seen. Likely, this is because I didn’t view a single second of the show from a viewfinder or phone screen.

Along with my sister and another friend, Amanda and I truly plotted like crazy for this trip to happen. Originally we were just going to go to the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans, and had the entire trip planned.  My husband had even given me his blessing to go! Somewhere along the way, Duran Duran announced this show at the Sears Centre. Sure, I could have skipped the show and gone straight to New Orleans, but that is pretty much the same thing as telling an alcoholic they should skip the vodka and just drink the mixer.  (My apologies to the teetotalers and members of AA out there…but you get my point, don’t you?)

Emails flew fast and furious between the four of us in the weeks leading up to this date in Chicago. Tickets were secured for the Sears Centre even though rearranging my travel plans without more pain to my wallet seemed impossible. I begged, borrowed, and pleaded with my husband to just let the trip be my birthday gift (a regular tactic of mine). Finally, between the genius of my sister and Amanda, plans came together. As a result, there we were, sitting in traffic on the I-90, screaming at cars to let us pass because we were on our way to see Duran Duran. Good times.

The next day proved to be crazier than the day before in Chicago traffic, but that’s pretty much how traveling to see this crazy band goes. I only regret the shows I haven’t gone to, not the ones I spent following this insanity.

…And you all wonder why I continue to bring up vodka on this blog. Gee, I don’t know!?!

Good memories of the Sears Centre.

-R

Lost in a Crowd: Why are audiences different?

I’m in research mode again, and for some reason, that always makes me a little more inquisitive about the human condition…or the fan condition, since that’s appropriate here!

I wrote about Lollapalooza yesterday, or at least about the crowd. Admittedly, I’m at least partially fascinated by it because I’ve never seen anything like it at any of the shows I’ve been. No, I don’t go to festivals, and but even if I had—I just don’t think we draw the same sort of crowd. But, I wasn’t sure, so I checked!

As a sort of baseline for myself, I started with what I knew. I couldn’t find a firm attendance number for Voodoo Fest in 2006, but I do know that the following year’s crowd shattered all previous records at just over 100,000 for the three days.  That tells me that however many people stood watching Duran with me the year before, it probably was not as many as Lollapalooza in Argentina. This was not a surprise, but I decided to go check Coachella’s figures.

According to Forbes.com, Coachella averages about 99,000 on each weekend (it runs over two weekends).  Lollapalooza is at 300,000…but this is the US Lollapalooza, because the article was comparing US music festivals in terms of attendance, ticket price, and cost to hydrate (water bottles).

 

So in terms of attendance, I was wrong. They’ve played to nearly the same amount of people here on occasion.  I just don’t remember it being such a big deal. Do you?

Before someone emails me, yes – I read John’s book and yes, I saw he mentioned it in there. I can remember when John alluded to being on the bill for Coachella right on Twitter and there was no denying his excitement. I remember seeing the show online, and I remember the band commenting about how cool it was, too. So there is that. But somehow, I felt like Lollapalooza was different. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen the show. I really watched the crowd whenever the camera panned over them. It was very different from anything I’ve ever seen.

First of all, I think my (American) culture very much plays into this. I’d love to say we’re a peaceful people. I’d love to say we’re full of love and joy….and to some extent, we are and do. But, we’re also big into territory and personal space. We build fences around our property. (no political comments necessary) We like to know that what is ours, is ours alone. I don’t find that Americans are an especially “huggy” sort of people. I tend to stick out my hand before I ever offer a hug, for instance. Here, we hug our friends and people we love, like family. Other countries hug, go for a kiss on the cheek, or even both cheeks. We’re not used to that so much here. Suffice to say, if I’ve hugged you, it’s because we’re good friends and I care about you. I’ve had to get used to the fact that Duranies are pretty huggy people!  So, at festivals, and even GA shows, while most other cultures don’t mind being on top of one another for hours on end, it (can) make an *American’s skin crawl.

In watching the footage from Argentina, I saw a lot of generally good partying going on. People clapping, hugging, laughing… I think that happens here too, but maybe to a lesser extent?  I don’t know, at the shows I’ve been to (and I have been to more than one festival in my life, just to be clear), it seems as though while MOST people are there to have a good time, there always seems to be a group of people who, for some reason, are out to ruin it for everyone else.  I can point to any number of things that ignite that behavior: drugs, alcohol, anger…lack of space, lack of food, etc.

Anger is a weird thing here because it seems like for any celebratory thing that happens, it creates anger as some sort of side effect. I don’t know how often this happens in other parts of the world, but I know it happens here frequently enough to take notice.

I suppose to most people, this type of thing isn’t very interesting, but to me it is, particularly because I think it may influence fandom. My friends from South America tell me that there is nothing like the audiences there, and I really just want to understand why that is the case.

Maybe what Amanda and I need to do is research audiences!

“Sorry honey, I have to go on a business trip around the world to research audience reactions and see what correlations exist between audiences and cultures.” 

Somehow, I doubt he’d buy it, but it’s an interesting thought.

I will still end with the same thought I had yesterday: I wish our audiences could excite the band as much as the Lollapalooza audience did the other day. While I personally am not anxious to be in a crowd of that magnitude, I would love the band to see how much they are loved here in the states. For as often as they visit the states, it would be nice for them to feel that same sort of gratitude from us.

-R

*The caveat being that I’m finding younger generations—younger festival goers, for example—are a little less “this is YOUR space and this is MY space” than say, I might be.  My kids don’t have quite as big of a hang-up about space (among other things), for example. I have some theories about why that may be, but I’ll save that for another day.

 

 

Of Crime and Passion, or Mosh Pits and Survival…

What defines “passion”?

The last festival I attended was Voodoo in 2006. My memories of that show are pretty graphic. I’d walked onto the festival grounds with Amanda, our friend Sara and my sister that morning, thinking we were so smart. We’d bought general admission tickets, and figured we’d wait through the day, securing spots in about the second row or so.  All was fine until late afternoon, and then things quickly turned ugly. It wasn’t long before we were no longer congratulating one another, instead calling ourselves idiots while ruefully laughing.

At one point, I turned around to see the hell that was behind me. The crowd went back as far as my eyes could see. I made a silent pact with myself to never turn around again, no matter how bad it got. (I’m more than slightly claustrophobic and that was a sight I never needed to see) About that time, My Chemical Romance took the stage, and we went from a mildly calm crowd to a mosh pit. I would not use the word “passion” to describe the scene. No, instead I would describe it as a cauldron of anger, and I was floating in the middle of it, right alongside Amanda, Robin and Sara.

It’s one thing to be in a mosh pit at say, a club the size of the House of Blues. You feel people push and shove and you just step aside. It’s not a big deal. It is entirely another to be in a crowd of tens of thousands and feel the wave of energy overtake you. I remember feeling as though it was similar to being in the ocean. Nothing was going to stop that wave, and I was either going to go with it, or it would mow me over, and I’d drown. The trouble is, there isn’t much to hold on to, and I’m of the opinion it is rude to grab onto someone I’ve never met and hope for the best while quickly introducing myself.

“Hello, my name is Rhonda, and I’ve never wanted to be in a mosh pit. Chalk this up to a crazy idea to see Duran Duran…a band I am starting to have second thoughts about supporting, if I’m honest. I’ve got two kids at home, and honestly I just want to survive. Help me!” 

That wasn’t the route I took. Mostly, I just fell into Amanda, Sara and Robin and hoped we weren’t all going down for the count in the process. I stumbled a lot, tried to not to fall down completely and made a lot of bargains with the universe.

“Dear God, if you let me live, I swear I will NEVER go to another festival again.” 

“This stupid band, WHY did I think this was a good idea???” 

If that weren’t enough, there were the crowd surfers. Bless their evil little hearts. I couldn’t care less if someone wants to live out their fantasies of being carried by people they don’t know, as long as I’m not involved. However, that’s not what happened that day. People came by, surfing away—and they expected you to hold them up while they might grab and pull your hair, kick you in the head, not-so-playfully slap you, or use their razor-like long nails to scratch your face—which is exactly what happened to me that day.

Never did I expect to leave a Duran show with a scar, but I earned one that evening. It’s very faint and blends in well, so most people don’t notice. I’ll never go to another festival again unless I’m invited to watch from backstage, and since that’s not gonna happen, I’m good right here at home. It’s not a lack of passion that keeps me here—it’s a little bit of fear (well, more than a little, really), and a whole lot of sanity. I didn’t enjoy having my face scratched, or holding on for dear life while the crowd surged. The fact is, I like going to shows. I love cheering for Duran Duran. I’m not interested in blood loss, among some other personal atrocities I haven’t mentioned, while doing so.

At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m telling this tale. Well, for the last week or so, I’ve seen tweets from Duran Duran and others, talking about how amazing a time they’ve had at Lollapalooza. By now, you’ve also read about how passionate those fans are, and that they played in front of 95,000 fans in Argentina. On one hand, I’m glad that they’re having such a great time. On the other, are they really any more passionate than the rest of us…except that they seem to be en masse?

It’s a word I’ve seen used a lot this week by various band members…including my personal favorite…and I just have to wonder what that word really means. Let’s face it, I live in the US, and overall, it’s easy to be a fan here. The band performs a lot in the states. We don’t have to wait decades or even more than a few years at most between shows. Does that mean we’re less passionate as a result? I’m sure some fans around the world would say yes. But is that a fair statement? Just because it’s easy to be a fan doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less passion or loyalty. On the other hand, it is very difficult to argue against the sea of people who screamed for the band in Argentina, and I am not taking anything away from those fans anyway. Sure, you can look at the crowd and say that they weren’t all there for just Duran Duran…but they sure look and SOUND like they are, and the videos I’ve seen don’t lie. It’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen, and while I think it looks amazing from the stage, I am still relieved I wasn’t there. I can feel my heart begin to race just thinking about being in that crowd, and not in a good way, but that’s just me.

The fact is, I have to remind myself when I see tweets about how great those audiences have been, that for the band, those big crowds keep them going. It might not be very fun or exciting for them to play in front of 3,000 people (even if I’m having the best night of my life at the time), particularly if they’re playing in a casino where chunks of the audience were given their seats because they’re high rollers at the casino, or won the tickets from the radio. On the other hand, when you’ve got 150,000 music lovers screaming for you, of course you’re going to come away feeling energized, ready, and wanting for more. Those shows are what keep you going. It’s no contest, even if you’re like me, and want the band to love coming to where you live to play. I know the audience in Rancho Mirage, or anywhere else I’ve seen them lately,  didn’t even come close to in comparison.

In America, as much as we die hards love Duran Duran, it’s an uphill battle for the band, and they know it. We know it, too. Doing festivals here can be tough work. They don’t necessarily “fit” with every festival, and the crowds can be very fickle. Other countries don’t seem to have quite the same problem. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that America would ever draw the same sort of audience for them as they had in Argentina for Lollapalooza. That makes me sad, but it’s the reality. I’m sure it makes Argentinian fans wonder why the band doesn’t take advantage and tour there more often—and thankfully, it’s not my job to figure that out!

So are those fans really more passionate? Individually, I doubt it. I think a Duranie is a Duranie, no matter where they live. I’m not convinced enough to say that I don’t have the same passion as someone else, because we all do whatever it is that we can do. We all love the band. However, there’s no denying that crowd, and I’m glad Duran Duran got to experience that type of energy. They deserve it.  While I don’t wish I had been there, I do wish that our audiences created that same type of energy for the band.

Good luck Atlanta, Florida and North Carolina fans. Have great shows, and give ’em what you’ve got!

-R

 

Today in Duran History – Viper Room, Voodoo and even UCLA…

On today’s date in Duran history….there has been a few exciting things to happen.

The thing is, we have a spreadsheet that we use to create this blog each day. I won’t go into a ton of detail (because it’s boring and none of you care), but we’ve got a ton of different things to share, so each day of each year we try to share a different “thing”.  For example, next year on October 30, I’ll be sharing something different than I will this year.  In any case, for this year I’m supposed to be following the tidbits for each date in column “C”.  Well, if you know me, you realize I don’t like following all the rules. So I’m not today.

On October 29 of 1995, Neurotic Outsiders played the Viper Room. Now that’s exciting because…well, it’s John Taylor. Enough said, right?

Except that, also on October 29, but in the year 2006, Duran Duran played the Voodoo Festival. The memory of this particular festival lies close to my heart because my friends – I survived Voodoo. I stood in the heat all day. I moshed (mostly against my will) along with thousands as My Chemical Romance took the stage. I sweated while praying that “the human hamster ball” would come nowhere near me while The Flaming Lips were onstage…and then, I was pushed, shoved, nearly tackled and CERTAINLY defiled by a very tall man’s arm pit as Duran Duran took the stage that night. What’s more, I can laugh about it now. But I’m still not doing another festival. Well, at least not sober. Probably.

ALSO on October 29, but this time in the year 2009, John Taylor spoke on a panel at UCLA for the 40th anniversary celebration of the internet. The topic was how the internet has changed music, or fandom…or all of it…and this, my friends, has everything to do with this blog, our research and manuscript in many ways, and even the fact that John Taylor joined Twitter and social media… until he apparently left Twitter (and social media) for the most part, because some people just do not understand boundaries or little things like common decency. Regardless, I strongly urge you to give his portion of the panel a listen. John is a fantastic orator, and it wasn’t long after this talk that he suddenly appeared on Twitter for the first time.

In fact, I found his speech on YouTube…check it out:

So, October 29th has historically been a pretty interesting day for Duran Duran…even if this year seems to be a bit quiet.  It’s the calm before the storm….

-R