The wind cries 'Mayer'
At least I had a few days of warning that things might not be quite what I had imagined. A crawfish festival for charity with a five-dollar donation—surely, there wouldn't be a lot of publicity for this? After all, when I bought that John Mayer CD a couple of months ago, nobody had heard of him…although I'd gotten hints that his (small) fanbase was (extremely) devoted…
Except that in the meantime, things had changed. I knew that I'd heard his single on the radio several times, but then Jessica said the words that began to indicate that my dreams of a small and lovely concert were doomed to failure: "You know he's been getting heavy rotation on MTV, right?"Oh dear. This could be a problem. Suddenly 'unpromoted cheap appearance at crawfish festival' was looking more like a 'MTV-flavor-of-the-week priced just right for broke college students finishing up finals' concert. This could be a BIG problem.
The plan: Jeremy and I would arrive about an hour and a half before the concert. Mayer was slated to be the last (and featured) artist on the main stage. Surely, we thought, in that time, we'd be able to work our way up toward the stage.
That was before we got there.
It was packed. The ugly kind of elbow-the-drunks-to-your-right packed that means that people are going to be dropping from heat exhaustion by the end of the concert. I began to realize that we were in a bit of trouble when I looked around and realized that the crowd was mostly barely old enough to qualify as college-aged. Not to mention that there were a lot of them.
Granted, I couldn't see (in festivals like this, my height guarantees I have excellent views of everyone's armpits but little else) but Jeremy, who is much taller, leaned over to me and said, "You can't see it, but this place is jammed." So much for my dreams of a small, funky little concert attended by a couple hundred people.
Then I started listening to the drunken collegiate girls around me, and was more than a little disappointed to continually hear the phrase "Isn't he just hot?" Oh, great—I'm stuck in the midst of many hundreds of drunken collegiate chicks who can think of nothing else but ripping the clothes off of the singer on stage.
He took the stage to the kind of ear-deadening feminine shrieking that one would expect at a boy-band concert. That was when the signs began going up. Since they were in front of me, it took me a minute to read them backwards. That, or it took me a minute to comprehend that someone had actually spent the time to paint a sign that read "We want to layer John Mayer - you can be the meat!"
Um. Yeah. When people mentioned his devoted fanbase, they forgot to mention 'strange' and 'obsessive' and 'weird,' I think.
Better yet, we had an appearance by Unwashed Bongo Man—who, evidently, felt that Mayer didn't bring enough percussion instruments. So what does he do? He brings his own bongo and tambourine! He proceeded to set up shop to our left, and began to play along, despite the fact that the drunks around him were trying to figure out how much of his body could be forced to fit inside his bongo…
I think he was the only person that the crowd actually allowed to the front of the stage. If nothing else, it got him out of everyone's hair.
(Maybe he's on to something…)
Don't get me wrong. It was a good concert. I understand now why Mayer's become as popular as he has been; he works a crowd better than just about any other performer I've ever seen. Looks and musicality aside, he performs. By the third song, he had a fully worshipful crowd (I know, they were collectively shrieking in my ears), and the extra thirty minutes tacked onto his set certainly didn't hurt matters either.
But I could never quite get into the concert. I kept surreptitiously checking the people around me, trying to determine exactly what planet it was that these people had come from…and why they'd chosen to land on my peaceful little blue planet.
It's frustrating to realize that of the attendees, probably Jeremy and I were the only ones singing along when Mayer decided to cover a Jimi Hendrix tune (hint, see title). Everyone else, I think, was just screaming for him to take his shirt off. I wonder if any of them recognized how good of a guitarist they were hearing.
Answer: probably none.
Commentary from spouse: "Sounds scarier than the Ani DiFranco concert you attended a few years ago."
"You got that right."