Saturday, February 21, 2004

The House Always Wins - BNL at Mohegan Sun, Feb. 20, 2004

Long Time Readers know that I have a serious problem controlling my adoration for five guys. No, not the queer eye guys, but BNL. Many think they're queer, but they aren't. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I've converted my children, so much so that Geoff's favorite song in the whole wide entire world is "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank."

My husband just doesn't get it, and spending time with the three of us in a vehicle always boils down to "Can we please listen to BNL?!!??" and he says no, because he is SICK of them. And we can't get enough.

So you know my love for the boys. And without further adieu, I present to you Mohegan Sun Weekend - BNL and Cash VacuumFest 2004. In glorious (albeit to some, excruciating) detail. Run away now if you don't want the level of detail in experience I'm going to present here. Come back another day.

For the rest of you...

Late in the afternoon, Linda called me to let me know her boyfriend had the flu and wasn't going to come to the show. Had I had a couple more hours notice I could have arranged for one of at least four good friends to come down and meet us for the show, but after making a couple calls and realizing I didn't have Andi's number at 2pm as we're getting in the car, I had visions of me eating the $45 for the ticket (I bought her 2 tix for Christmas) and it bummed me out.

I pondered what to do, and told Doug that if we couldn't get rid of the ticket somewhere that I really wanted him to use it. He told me that he didn't need or even WANT to see them again (grounds for divorce!!!).

I thought it'd be a good idea because it would keep him out of the casino for a little while (guffaw) and keep some money in his pocket, so I was disappointed in his reaction.

Doug suggested I bring Geoffrey, because he is pretty much old enough to see a live concert now. I opted against bringing him for three reasons.

1) Geoff crashes at 9pm at the latest, and he crashes and burns in a very ugly manner. With the energy of a rockshow, he probably would have made it to 10pm and then we'd have to leave. The hell I would want to leave, and Doug would be somewhere out in the casino, and I wouldn't be able to get ahold of him to come get Geoff. It would have been a flustercluck. No. I wanted to be able to stay and enjoy the show. If BNL would be taking the stage at 7, yes -- I sure as hell would have brought him. But I knew there were warm up acts, and knew that they'd be playing about an hour total, so... no.

2) I would have to leave Jessica seated alone in one of Linda's seats until Linda got there. I wasn't sure how far away from me they'd be. And the thought of that made me uncomfortable. Turns out they were directly behind me by 2 rows, so it could have worked... but ... I didn't want to risk leaving her alone.

3) Geoff came to the hotel to swim in the pool and hang out with Grandma, and we had my parents come with us specifically for that reason. I knew in my heart of hearts that he would get through a few songs, and say "Okay, I am ready to leave and go to the pool now!" and that would suck. See point one. So, I figured for his joy I'd eat the $45 bucks. Such is life.

We checked into our hotel, Doug checked into bed for a nap. I went to the room where my parents were holed up and we ordered pizza. I figured we'd get over to Mohegan Sun around 6:30 pm, and get the tickets, game a bit, wait for Linda to make it to the show up from Long Island and have a cocktail or eleven. Why not?

We went to the ticket booth to get our will call tickets. I called the Ladies' Room that afternoon and spoke with Armand to make sure that there were no problems with Linda's tickets, after what happened at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The last thing I wanted to do was be stuck there with no tickets. Armand assured me that he had both of our sets of tickets recorded, and I got both confirmation numbers from him again (even though I had the emails) just to be safe.

Doug had no problem picking up "my" tickets. I was met with "your name isn't on the list" for Linda's tickets. The same problem we ran into with Hammerstein. Jebus. Not a'freakin'gain (to refresh your memory -- here is Linda's entry on the event).

After a good deal of searching (thankfully I had that confirmation number) the will call guy found my envelope. Somehow, my last name was spelled with a D. It starts with a G. Unreal... not sure how THAT shit happened, but, I had the tickets in hand all was right with the world.

Doug took Linda's tickets and I called her for an ETA. She was west of New Haven stuck in traffic, we figured she'd be about an hour away. BNL had two opening acts, Butterfly Boucher and Gavin Degraw, and each of them were playing about a half hour set each. The scrolling sign above the arena doors stated BNL would go on stage at approximately 8:50, so I knew she'd make it in time. We arranged for Doug to be somewhere accessible to her via phone, and they would hook up to pass the tix and she'd come in. I knew where her seats were, so I'd be looking out for her arrival.

Jessie and I got into the arena, checked out the T-shirts, and we could hear Butterfly Boucher's set. She sounded kind of Björky, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to go hear her...

I like Björk and whatnot, but was not in the mood for some ethereal wispy voice thing before a BNL show. I know Steve has raved about her work, and I know they picked her for the tour because they like her... but they also like Leonna Naess and I didn't care for her when she warmed up the Maroon tour. I know a lot of folks like her... but... Oftentimes I just don't like opening acts period. But Steve has raved about Butterfly, and folks on the discussion board had good things to say, so... I wanted to at least give her a chance.

We made it to our seats which weren't bad but they weren't what I had for Hartford (these were Floor 3, Row L... 12 rows back on the inner aisle, Steve's Side). To our left were two ladies I'd met at the Hartford Peepshow. One recognized me immediately, and I remembered I'd taken a picture of them with their camera in front of the stage. We caught up on shows she'd gone to see since Hartford, and it was fun to meet someone again. How cool!

We caught Butterfly's last two songs, and I figured out why I thought she sounded Björky. When we were in the concession area, and her voice was loud and clear but her guitar was not. She was alone with a guitar, and in a lot of ways her sound was reminiscent of early Billy Bragg. Just a good loud guitar and singing. I couldn't make out a lot of what she was singing about, I'll be sure to go through her website and check out her lyrics. But it did make me think of ole Billy Bragg and smile.

Next up very quickly was Gavin DeGraw. He came out with a full band. Gavin plays keyboard and guitar, and did a tremendous cover of "Let's get it on" which had the ladies (in the audience, not the Barenaked ones) screaming. I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to offer, and look forward to hearing more from him. He's got a lot of personality, and his band kicked ass too. Very cool guitar work, and his bassist was outstanding. Awesome voice, and excellent fingerwork -- what a treat to have a warm up act knock off some socks.

During his last song, I went and picked up one of his CDs. I thought it'd be nice if I could get it autographed as he'd suggested people come up to the foyer and do. So I got on line. I was maybe 20th in line with another woman from the bbs and we were chatting and having fun... there was a little girl ahead of us with her dad. It was all cool and fun. I figured, damn! I'll get this signed and get back to my seat before the ladies get up on stage.

Wrong! Oh, I was so absolutely wrong. After Gavin's set finished, the floodgates opened and there were millions of people trying to get over to the merch table and see the Gavin man for an autograph. I got cut in line by about 20 people, all saying "hmmm, I wonder if this is the line."

I made a crack to the woman beside me that I felt like Ralphie trying to go see Santa and the store was going to close. She yelled "Hey Kid, where do you think you're going? The line ENDS here. It STARTS back THERE!" and she pointed over her shoulder. The girl next to me was a dead ringer for Kelly Osbourne, and she muttered "shut up, bitch" under her breath.

I decided an autograph wasn't worth the bullshit. So I worked my way back through the huge crowd to get to my seat and hang with Jessie.

Doug walked up to me. I was confused and pleasantly surprised. "Why are you in here? I thought you never needed to see BNL again?"

He figured the ticket would be going to waste and that it would be a good idea to come in and fill the seat. Linda had gotten there okay and was getting refreshed. They sat in their seats and Doug was her pretend date / seat filler for the performance.

The seats to my right were still vacant, and I wondered if they would be occupied. The seat occupants showed up, and of course he was the World's Tallest Man Ever. Which is something that always happens to my sister. The tallest man in the building always ends up right in front of her.

I turned around to notice that she and Doug swapped places so Linda didn't have to try looking through the guy's head. To no avail though, because the couple beside me kept switching places back and forth. He kept rubbing her and touching her inappropriately, and when the audience would cheer between songs, he stood there flipping the bird.

I couldn't figure the guy out. I wanted them to leave and go back to their hotel room or something and just go away. They made me completely uncomfortable.

So I sang every word to every song loudly and passionately, which I think pissed them off. Heh heh. I'm sure today they're sitting somewhere saying "Ugh, that FAT CHICK in the red satin blouse. What the hell was HER deal? What was with all the singing and jumping. Gah. Ruined the concert for me, she did."

I recognized the folks directly in front of me to my right from pictures posted through at the Amherst show. So that was kind of cool. She didn't look too well. It was hot as hell in the arena, and she had her coat on the whole time, and she sat a lot with his arm lovingly over her shoulder. I hope she felt okay and didn't have the flu too.

Ahead of me to my left was a guy with a glow stick. He was really funny and whirled it madly over his head, and very very carefully slowed it down and eased it back to earth. He turned to us and said in kind of a silly voice "I have a glow stick!" I gave him thumbs up and laughed saying "Good for you!"

The guy behind me lit his lighter, held it aloft and yelled "I'm OLD SCHOOL!"

And we laughed.

And I realized the woman behind me was the one I was waiting in line next to for Gavin's autograph. She had given up waiting too, she told me. Such is life. It was fun to meet again.

Right after "One Week," the weird couple next to me left. Good riddance! I moved Jessie over to the aisle so she could see better while sitting. She was getting tired... it was showing. The view for her there would be fabulous.

I almost cried when Ed sang "Am I the only one," it was so beautiful and so nice to hear him sing that.

"Stump the Crew" was hysterical. Steve ran out into the audience and approached one woman, then off to his right another woman was pushed towards him by her row-mate. For a moment it was utter chaos up on the stairs, the initial woman that he approached, the pushed-towards him girl, and this other incredibly bizarre woman who walked down the stairs... All these women, all over Steve, and he's nervously laughing.

Hey, you just sang "Celebrity" baby, this is what it's like, no?

The woman who came down the stairs was a rather peculiar specimen. She came at Steve with this mesmerized look on her face -- she was totally weird. Then she starts touching Steve and wrapping her arms around him. Steve looked a tad panicked, and the crew member following him (Security! Help!) pushed her arms off of him, but didn't send her packing up the stairs... he let her stay there. And stay there she did. She just stood there the whole time, staring into the camera which broadcasted Steve and the Contestant up onto the big screens.

The Contestant that Steve selected was the pushed-at-him girl and The contestant held her hands up in front of the interloper's face, and the audience got a real kick out of that as Steve made some cracks about there being someone behind him but he's just going to ignore it like a ghost... Stump the Crew continued with the trivia question, which was in essence "Some of us have children. How many barenaked babies are there?"

Anyway -- I would have gotten the trivia question right thanks to the discussion board filling me in about Kevin's new baby. The girl and the crew member both got the answer wrong, and instead of "The House Always Wins," which in my opinion would mean the Band wins, they said "The Fan Always Wins!" and she got the prize.

I think Doug left at about this point, and Linda came up and sat with us because her date was gone. Doug went out to lose some money, and we rocked out.

Some More Highlights:

Audience Participation: I was VERY pleased to see so many people singing along with songs off the new album. From the opening "I'll set the metronome" in "Maybe Katie" the involvement and participation was stupendous in our area. Everyone, including my 11 year old, was singing along. For an album that isn't selling so well, this was a fabulous sign to me that there are people into it. Hell yeah.

Jim's Bass Solo: Wow. I've seen him do several bass solos, and this is just such a wonderful treat. On the Peepshow question page, someone asked Jim if he preferred plucking over playing with the bow. Jim's response was a resounding "I love to pluck but I live to bow." And it shows -- he used the bow as a percussion tool, and the multimedia screens added so much because they focused on his face and left hand as he played. What amazing joy to watch such a great musician. I could have watched him play for hours.

Mohegan Sun Rap: They sang "Black Hole Sun" with "Mohegan Sun" instead, and it was semi-creepy and weird. And Ed did a cool gambling rap with "The House Always Wins." These little raps are always funny, and the guys themselves were laughing up there. None of this pretentious"I'm a huge artist and MUST be taken seriously" bullshit. Any time they messed up lyrics or started laughing, they went with it. During "Some Fantastic," Ed got Steve to laughing and he almost blew the lines. But he recovered, smile on his face, it was wonderful.

During "Some Fantastic," when they sang the lines:

"I can't stand to wait in line long
So I built a new machine
It just measures up the distance
and then eliminates the folks between"

Jessie turned to me and said "Hey! You needed that machine so you could get Gavin Degraw's autograph!" Yes Smartypants, I did. And we laughed.

They did some nice multimedia and theatrics stuff. At the beginning of "Celebrity" they had Steve rolled across the front of the stage in an easy chair in front of a glowing TV screen, with the closeup video of his face while he was singing. And when he sang the refrain, they had strobe lights flashing at him like paparazzi, and he stumbled around, at one point hiding behind Ed. It was incredibly fitting and cool.

The "Shopping" routine was very funny, very well done. Jessica loves that song, and she just about split a seam laughing when they ran around with their shopping carts. Synchronized swimming with shopping carts and cereal boxes.

Several of the on-screen vignettes were good, including a Power Rangers-esque mini-movie(***Someone emailed me and filled me in that this is Red Vs. Blue, a very popular web-based series. I checked out their site and I think they'd kick my ass for making the Power Rangers-esque comment if they knew. My apologies to RVB. I can say I learn something new every day) and tips from them on how to enjoy the concert. I couldn't hear some of what they were saying, but the gist of what I could get was that these mock Rangers were going on tour with BNL and some of them didn't like the idea. "If I had a million dollars of CANADIAN money ... I wouldn't get very much" was one of the jokes. They had a mini movie of Ed and Sandwich, and a fun little count backward from 10 piece. Those were good. Watching Kevin doodle on the whiteboard was good.

But there were a lot of candid little looped video things shown during the performance up on the screen that got annoying after a while.

These little candid shots of them were played during songs, and just didn't seem to fit. They were looped over and over, in forward and reverse (the one of Steve and Kevin on the pier with Kevin adjusting his jacket neck, among other candid action vignettes seemed like they were forced in there, especially when repeated so frequently).

They showed "making of the video" clips from "Another Postcard," and I think that some people were confused by what they were seeing. A lot of people have not yet seen the video, so seeing Tyler and Kevin clinging to one another in mock fear while foam boulders came flying at them, the clip was out of context. I saw a couple of very perplexed faces.

Overall, the use of the screens was best suited for showing us the closeups of the band members while they were playing, or during "Celebrity" and "Shopping." I got the impression that they worked incredibly hard to incorporate other forms of multimedia expression and showmanship into this performance, in a kind of "Blue Man Group" sort of way. Some of it worked tremendously well, some didn't.

First encore was a very unexpected performance of of Duran Duran's "Rio," which set my sister reeling.

She knew EXACTLY what they were going to start playing the second she heard the keyboard riff looping. I was confused because Ed introduced it as "this is something we wrote a long long time ago." What an amazing performance of that song -- and Ed summed it up well with "If I'm not mistaken, I think that was the second coming of Simon LeBon," referring to Steve's impassioned performance.

Linda is the World's Biggest Duran Duran fan, and she was in her glory. She was disappointed they didn't do "Told you so" or "Break your heart," those were the two "must hears" for her. The last time I saw them do Break your heart was in Portland on my birthday two years ago, so I've heard it live. Doesn't mean I wouldn't love to hear it again. But doing "Rio" kind of made up for the disappointment she felt at not hearing her two must-hears.

Million Dollars was a crowd pleaser. No one threw Kraft Dinner that I could see, although I still want to get the T-shirt of "Don't Feed The Band" with the No sign through the macaroni. "Those in the know do not throw!"

And I was happy to hear "You will be waiting" but it seemed kind of a let down after all the energy of Rio and Million Dollars. Perhaps if they'd done it the other way around ... but hey. Who's complaining. After reading some of the fan reviews of East Lansing and Grand Rapids, I am not sure I saw the same band they did. Perhaps there was something slowing them down, or perhaps playing Everywhere For Everyone is something that they'll never be able to do... make everyone 100% happy.

On Peepshow, a lot of fans whined that they didn't hear enough "rarities" or they didn't hear enough of the big "hits" that they wanted to hear. So far on E4E, people have whined they haven't heard the "rarities" they want to hear, or one of the big "hits" was left off of their playlist. I think it's fabulous that they're recording and selling each show. I may have to get this one, for "Am I the only one" and for "Rio." Hella good.

And I just have to say -- in my entry the other day I talked about how War on Drugs is a buzzkill for the crowd. Last night while they performed it, everyone talked through it. For the most part people took the "down time" to ignore the song and the band, and the message, and yap yap yap yap yap through the entire damn thing, like they were at some sort of bar gig with some college band playing that no one could give a rat's ass about. Ten dollar cover, two drink minimum, designated driver gets soda for free.

I love the song. I've said it a million times. It's amazing. Steve is amazing.

But there was no respect. None at all.

At least there was no woman next to me jumping up and down Woooting that she wanted "Brian Wilson, Woooooo!" while waving her tits around.

That was a relief.

As we got ready to leave the arena, the lady who had been on line with me to get Gavin's autograph showed me that she'd finally succeeded, and she managed to get a cute picture-phone shot of him with her. I heartily congratulated her.

And as we left, Gavin was still at the table, signing autographs.

Too bad I didn't have that machine from "Some Fantastic" after all.

We found Doug hanging out by the wolf, with a little six year old girl whose father was inside the casino gambling.

He'd left her there to wait, and Doug was feeling badly for her and had to wait for us anyway. So they chatted and watched the wolf. It broke my heart that someone would ditch his little kid to go gaming. And I wondered why security would let this happen. Doug said that they'd told him a couple times that he couldn't leave her there, and he got nasty with them saying "Asian people are small. She not six, she twelve! She fine there!" and he left. If the little girl was 12, I'm a size four. There was no way in HELL she was older than seven.

I'm sure there were cameras trained on her, and that security was watching her, but after all the abductions and the child rapes and the kidnapping/murders that have taken place, I can't understand why someone would value blackjack over his kid's safety. And I know that the guy knew that someone like Doug would hang out with her and keep her company. But what if that guy took her by the hand and walked her out of the building. What if she needed to use the bathroom, or felt sick. I mean -- anything could happen.

She was scared shitless too. Eventually, The Father Of The Year came back from the casino, with cookies for her (nice ploy, dad) and he gave Doug and me a small bottle of water each, thanked Doug for keeping an eye on her, reiterated she was 12, and spirited her away.

I told Doug that if I ever accused him of being a lousy dad ever again he could yell at me.

That guy sucked. Leaving his little kid there like that. I hate people. I swear to God I hate them.

We put a game plan together for some Wallet Draining Fun. Doug took Jessie back to the hotel and we all agreed that we'd meet at about 1am at the wolf. Linda and I went in search of her favorite -- Wheel of Fortune! "Spinnah, Spinnah Spinnah!!!" -- but only found dollar machines with that game. There was no way we were playing dollar slots.

We tried to hail a cocktail waitress, but the hell we could find one. The casino was MOBBED. I ended up going to the bar to get Linda a cocktail, because the girl deserved one after the day she had at work and the long assed trip up to the casino. The bartender would only sell me one drink at a time, and I told him I hardly thought it was fair, seeing as I couldn't find one of their own cocktail waitresses to wait upon me and the person I was with. He shrugged and gave a halfassed apology.

I had to stand in line to spend $6.50 on one small and sorry excuse for a margarita. Linda took about three sips, like how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, and said "That was the fastest $6.50 I've ever consumed!"

We eventually made it all around the Wolf's Den area, unable to find a place to plant our asses. Doug called her at about midnight and we went over another part of the casino where it was far less crowded.

We fed a lot of money into the machines, at one point Doug was way up, I never got anywhere with the slots, and neither did Linda. We did find an occasional cocktail waitress and continued to make up for the money we spent on the first drink by getting freebies. 1am came and I was ready to go to bed. Back to the wolf we went, and whom do we find sitting there but our little not-12 year old girlfriend, AGAIN. And another guy kind of hanging out keeping an eye on her from sort of a distance.

It's 1am for fuck's sake! Get her home! Get the child to BED... holy shit... we said hi to her, and discussed what our gameplan was going to be, seeing as Doug and Linda were still gung ho to lose some more money. I was ready to split, and my dad played a little more Keno.

The little girl's dad came back out of the casino with a huge pile of $20 bills in his hand, fanned out. He must have had about $400 in cash visible. He handed her a twenty (a step up from some cookies. Nice ploy, dad), and a woman came over whom I presume is the mom or something, and they all left. Probably to go to another part of the casino where he could ditch her again on a rock and some suckers like us would sit with her because they feel badly for her.

I wanted to kick his ass.

My dad and I got to the hotel at 2am. Geoff and Jess were out cold, my mom was awake, surprisingly. I expected her to be stone cold sleepin' too.

I relieved her of her babysitting duties and hit the hay. I think I was finally asleep at about 3... still thinking of how cool the rockshow was, and still incredibly pissed about that poor little girl hanging out in a smoky casino instead of curled up in a bed like my kids. Doug and Linda made it back around 4:30. Doug told me he met the camera guy from the BNL crew and talked to him for a while. No band member sightings, I am relieved. What an injustice that would be (in my mind) if Doug, the man who didn't need to or want to see BNL ever again got to meet Ed at a poker table.

My mom called at 9 this morning wondering what we wanted to do for breakfast. Doug was unpleased and dishappy. Geoff had just woken up, so I decided I'd take Geoff down swimming and stop to say hi to my parents in the cafe. We'd picked up some Krispy Kreme doughnuts so I knew Geoff could just eat those, but I wanted him to be able to get another fun swim in before we left the hotel. The boy loves to swim.

We checked out at 11. Everyone was exhausted. I thought we'd maybe all go out to lunch or something but the consensus was "meh. tired. meh."

So we headed north, they headed south. I think my dad took my mom to show her the casino inside and how pretty it is, and perhaps see the little girl sitting on the rock by the wolf again.

Mohegan Sun is a beautiful building. It makes Foxwoods look pimpy. But you don't get far with your money there, and I doubt I'll go back any time soon. The concept of "loose slots" doesn't exist within those walls. My sister figured that with the amount of money she spent, in Vegas she would have broken even. Not at Mohegan Sun.

As Ed sang, "The house, the house, the house always wins."

So that, is my long winded adventure into the world of BNL yet again.

I am seeing them for one last time on this tour, as my wallet will not support any further drains in the name of Canada's Finest nonalcoholic non-liquid export. That show is March 1. Hope you enjoyed the synopsis. If you've made it this far--you get a cookie.

Setlist, lifted from the BNL boards:

Maybe Katie
Too Little Too Late
Life in a Nutshell
Its All Been Done
Another Postcard
Stomach vs Heart
For You (acoustic)
One Week (acoustic)
Bass Solo
Upside Down
Testing 1 2 3
Some Fantastic
Am I the Only One
Pinch Me
War on Drugs
Stump the Crew
Old Apartment
Brian Wilson

Encore 1
Million Dollars

Encore 2
You Will Be Waiting

No comments:

Post a Comment