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The B-52s and me: Some history and a review

July 10, 2010 @ 01:08 By: gordon Category: General, Music, Reviews

image I’ve been a fan of The B-52s for a long time. The first concert of theirs I went to was in San Diego on December 31st, 1989. I was visiting a penpal and she had tickets for the show. The show opened and I was hooked. (Thanks, Kara!) One of the things that stands out in my mind was Love Shack, which they played over midnight. It ran for 10 or 15 minutes and set the house on fire.  You can read an article about the show from Spin Magazine online.

The next time I saw them was later on the same tour when they played Massey Hall in Toronto. I was in the balcony looking down at the show and had a great time. The show almost ground to a halt, however, when some pinhead grabbed a stuffed lobster that was tied to one of the microphone stands. Fortunately, they retrieved the lobster, but before they basically singled out the offender and told him what he’d done was “not cool”.

I’ve also seen them in Ottawa once or twice – one time at the Ex.

In the late 1990s (1998, I think), I drove to Philadelphia to see them with my friend Rob, who was living in Delaware at the time. On the way down, I encountered rain in southern New York and Pennsylvania, which isn’t a terribly uncommon thing. When I arrived at the stadium, however, I found that Philadelphia had experienced some sort of freak hurricane/monsoon thing that had knocked the power out. Initially, the show was delayed, but they weren’t allowing people into the stadium because the power hadn’t been restored. Eventually, the organizers announced that the show was cancelled. Only after it was cancelled did they actually try flipping the breakers to see if the stadium had power, which of course it did.

The crowd was unhappy, the B-52s were incredibly angry about this (more on how I know this in a second), but what could you do? Well, apparently in such situations you tailgate.

This was my first exposure to the distinctly American phenomenon known as the tailgate party. Rob was delayed by the chaos from the storm, so I basically hung around in the parking lot waiting for him to arrive. Some people who had a well-organized spread of food and drink called me over and when they found out I’d driven 8 hours from another country to see a concert that was cancelled they immediately put a beer in my hand and offered me burgers, hotdogs and more beer. Very cool!

So, how did I know the band was really upset that the show was cancelled before they tried powering up the stadium? Because one of their tourbus drivers told me. While pouting around the place after the show was cancelled, I decided to see if I could at least get an autograph or something to help make the 8-hour drive worthwhile. I met one of their bus drivers and he told me they were pissed about the situation. He even said he’d do what he could to see if I could meet them.

He wandered off to do whatever it is tourbus drivers do and walked by about ten feet away with a woman carrying a baby and making not terribly subtle gestures.

When the driver came back afterwards, he asked me why I didn’t say anything. I told him that had Cindy (I don’t think it was Kate) not been in “mom mode”, I would have tried to get her autograph. But she was, so I didn’t. He sort of shook his head at me in a pitying sort of way, but c’est la vie. (A small part of me wishes I had bothered her, but the rest of me didn’t think that would have been right – she had mom responsibilities and I didn’t have a right to intrude.)

Since then, I’ve been watching and waiting for them to come on tour in this part of the world. Unfortunately, I had to wait until the Ottawa Bluesfest to see them on-stage once again.

And it was worth it!

The B-52s at Bluesfest -3 I arrived at the show with minutes to spare (literally!). In fact, if the show on the adjacent stage hadn’t run a few minutes over schedule, I might have been late. But they did, so I wasn’t.

Initially, I was about two-thirds of the way back in the crowd to the right side of the stage. If you’ve been to Bluesfest, it was behind the scafholding with the lights and sound crew, even with the ID bracelet tent. This was where I saw KISS from last year.

IMG00210-20100708-2151 The crowd wasn’t as tightly packed as it was for KISS. I think this is because a) KISS has a much bigger following than the B-52s, and b) it was still very hot.

They came on stage and I took a couple of photos with the camera in my BlackBerry and posted one of them to my blog from the show. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing it was the first blog entry about the show anywhere.

The music was a mix of classic B-52s, such as Private Idaho, Love Shack, Deadbeat Club, and Rock Lobster, and new songs from Funplex (their latest album), including the title song, Funplex. They also did Mesopotamia and some other oldies.

As the show played on I moved closer to the front, until I was most of the way to the stage, but still about 30m back.

Technically, I thought there was a little too much bass coming out of the sound system, but I’m not a sound engineer, so who knows?

image The crowd was a mix of people in their 40s and 50s (and maybe older) and younger people, even including some teens and younger. Everyone seemed to have a good time, including me! Looking at the pictures I took, I can tell that The B-52s were having a good time, too.

I see from their website that they’re offering special VIP packages for some of their upcoming shows. There are 100 Gold VIP tickets and 25 Platinum VIP tickets per show. The Gold package includes some nice sounding swag and either premium reserved seats or priority general admission access (depending on the venue). The Platinum package includes all of that and a meet and greet with The B-52s. A chance to make up for that opportunity I passed up in Philadelphia.

If only I wasn’t saving my pennies for my trip to the UK at the end of the month…

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