by Hugh Gilmore
At the end of last week’s installment of this two-part story, my wife, Janet, and I sat huddled on a faux-plastic sofa near the entrance of the Fillmore concert arena, driven there by noisy “music” that had overwhelmed our pain thresholds.
That sofa marked the known physical limits of how far it was possible to retreat from the audience pit during the Go-Go’s Farewell Tour performance. Nonetheless it was still very loud and there was nothing to be done except sit and endure the pummeling until we could leave. The pain had progressed from our ears to our skulls.
Lest I should be perceived to be a crabby person who doesn’t know how to have fun, let me say that the concert was probably wonderful. I in no way am criticizing the Go-Go’s, the pioneering all-female rock group. Everyone around us seemed to be having a great time. No, I think our problem is that Janet and I are what are quaintly known as “senior citizens.”
This wasn’t one of those “Hey, you kids get off my lawn” scenes because we were on their lawn – no country for old men and women of a certain age. That was because our 29-year-old son needed a ride and some situating (he’s visually limited) and the Fillmore wouldn’t let us wait in the lobby till the show was over. And it was 94 degrees that night, so we couldn’t wait outside. Therefore we paid $46 each for the privilege of getting beat up by a couple of sound amplifiers that could serve as cargo containers on their days off.
The concert was billed as starting at 8 p.m. In our adult world that usually means that the Philadelphia Orchestra, or Bob Newhart, or the Smothers Brothers would pull back the curtain and start performing at that announced time. Try telling that to the Go-Go’s or any other rock and roll act. We’d arrived at 7 to be sure our son was in place and familiarized. The acoustic mugging began the moment we came in the door. We were genuinely frazzled, feeling almost exhausted by the time the Go-Go’s finally came on at 10. We sat on the sofa, faces passive and thinking: Chin up, mate, only an hour and a half, plus a few “spontaneous” encores to go. We can make it.
The lobby had emptied when the Go-Go’s came on. Just Janet and I and a few tired-looking security people and a bored medical emergency crew remained. I got tired of sitting and stood up and started walking the lobby like a senior-citizen mall walker. That was good for a few loops, but then I noticed the bartenders and some house employees glancing at me with a look that I interpreted to be, “Is this guy building up to being a troublemaker?” I can take a hint. And I’ll give you one: If you’ve been kind of eccentric all your life, you better stop being that way when you get older because no one will give you credit for it anymore; they’ll think you’re acting daffy just because you’re old.
I went back to Janet and leaned over to say something to her as she sat embedded in the sofa, and a guy behind me said, “Is she alright?” I turned. It was one of the EMTs. I told him she was and invited him to ask her for himself. Janet said, “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Okay, the man said, “I just saw her sitting there not moving, so I came over.” I thought that was nice, and in the manner of older people told him, “That was nice of you.” Then, to Jan, I said, “Gee, they’re nice here.” Very senior moment. But heartfelt. At least someone cared, you know?
It got better. I suggested to Jan that we go back into the concert area and try to see how far we could edge toward the stage so we could see what the Go-Go’s look like. How they’re bearing up, I mean; they’re only a few years away from carrying Medicare cards themselves. Truth be told, they shouldn’t be out this late. Nor should we, but there we all were. We got halfway down through the standing audience by edging along the floor-length bar when I felt a tap on my shoulder and a young man’s voice say, “Sir?”
I turned and beheld a handsome young man in a beautiful business suit, perfectly groomed, his corporate persona punctuated by a really cool piano-print tie. Over the din he was calmly shouting to ask me something like, “Would you like to sit upstairs, sir?”
I started to say, “No, thank you, there’s no escaping this hellish noise, not even upstairs.” But that’s too complicated to say in a shout-voice. And a mere “No” would be too rude since he was obviously trying to be nice. And then I thought it might be a nice diversion, and a lesson for “next time” and I said OK and we followed him.
“Let’s take the elevator,” he said, whipping out his keys and opening the doors. We stepped in. The doors closed. I said, “THANK YOU, THIS IS NICE OF …” Janet interrupted to say, “You don’t have to shout, Hugh.”
Oh. And she was right. It was quiet in the elevator. We should have stolen the keys earlier and rode up and down all night. “That’s funny,” he said, “I do that all the time when I get home from work. My family tells me the same thing.”
We got off on the second floor, where there’s a balcony overlooking the standing-room floor below. It was just as noisy, however. “Let’s do one better,” he said, and we walked up a staircase to the next level, the (can you believe this?) VIP/VIP lounge. It was a small space with a horseshoe shaped bar and a few booths, fronted by a screen showing the Go-Go’s live performance. And, it was quiet. Quiet like a train platform after the express screams through. You could hear the music, but at a senior-friendly level. One could talk. One could breathe. There were only four other people there. We’d died and gone to heaven. A reward for our endurance?
The young man’s name was Aaron. He told us to relax, stay here as long as we liked. He invited us to have something to eat. Have a beverage. He comped us. We talked for a little bit and he told us about himself and Live Nation Entertainment, the company that owns the Fillmore (and many others, including the TLA in Philadelphia). In parting, he said he noticed us downstairs and that we didn’t look comfortable. He wanted us to have a positive experience. He hoped we felt better now.
“What a fine young man,” we said afterward, clucking like senior citizens. But really, what more can you say? We sat up there in the cool, quiet clouds and enjoyed the rest of the show in what felt like luxury.
We hope Aaron will be very successful in life. He sure made our trip to the Fillmore a genuine pleasure. To think that in a big place like a rock concert hall that someone would look out for a pacing silver fox and his tired silver vixen. That’s very unusual, don’t you think?
Hugh Gilmore is the author of several books, fiction and nonfiction, including the bookshop-centered mystery novel, “Malcolm’s Wine.”