Monday, December 11, 2006

Is That Seat Taken?

Last night Jon and I went to the Carolina Performing Arts Center on the UNC Chapel Hill campus to see Ray La Montagne. The performance was absolutely phenomenal. The acoustics in the theater were amazing, with even the artists themselves commenting on it. By far it was the best show I have been to in at least five years.

The show started at 8pm with up and coming artist and opener Tristan Prettyman, who is definitely worth following.

While the performances were great, I was disappointed with the venue and the audience on a few points. First of all,
alot of people were late. In a more casual venue such as the Cat's Cradle, that would have been fine, and in fact, at such venues it is common for folks to skip the opening band. This was a beautiful old theater with assigned seating. If you are late, that means that ushers have to escort you to your seat. Up to 45 minutes into Tristan Prettyman's performance, people were still trickling in and it was difficult not to be distracted by all of the commotion--flashlights, discussion, having to stand up to let the late people reach their seats, trying to see around other people standing. Not only did I think it was disrespectful of the performers, it was rude and disrespectful of those folks that arrived on time to enjoy the entire show. I wish the theater had implemented a cutoff time at say, ten minutes into the opening act, after which latecomers would be unable to be seated until the break between artists.

People must have been really tiny when this theater was built in 1883, because the theater boasts that the renovation in 2002 - 2005 created "comfortable new seats with more legroom". Hmmmpph. The seats are quite small, close together, and don't have much legroom. I was grateful that there was a one-seat buffer between myself and the (late) couple at the end of the row. That is until halfway through when the couple's friend, who was seated elsewhere, asked if she could sit in the seat that was holding my purse. I couldn't say no, but I wanted to.

To the girl that sat down next to me, there are a few things I would have liked to discuss.

I could tell from your snortling that you had some sort of allergy, seasonal bug, or a deviated septum. Given the confined space, I really wish that you could have breathed
with your mouth shut. The smell of your hot breath did nothing to enhance my experience.

When I leaned forward in my seat to get in front of your hot smelly breath, that was not an invitation for you to sprawl into the temporarily vacated space in my seat. Yes, I know that the arm rest is fair game, but there is indeed an imaginary boundary and you are not allowed to lean your body into my seat area.

The last, a question for you: who sings these songs--you or Ray La Montagne? I did not pay 25 bucks a ticket to hear you do a karaoke version of the entire Trouble album. Put a cork in it.

All of that aside, it really was a great performance. If Ray La Montagne finds his way to your hometown, do go and see him. He is personal, dark, uplifting, and lyrical all at the same time. It was all I could do not to wiggle out of my seat.

You can listen to some singles at Ray's myspace page.


Liz said...

I always hate when people ask the rhetorical questions like, "Can I sit there?" -- Don't you sometimes wish you could have said, "No, I anticipate you are going to do #1-3 so I'd prefer if you'd sit elsewhere"?

Christopher Martin said...

I am compelled to comment... Ha!

Here are a few of my experience to compare with:

1) At a Radiohead performance in San Francisco at the Civic Center, I was standing in a crowd of people near the stage before the concert had even begun and some fool vomitted. I've never seen people move so fast, it was like a school of sardines swimming in unison to avoid a dolphin swooping in for a snack. The smell forced me to relocate to the upper level and find a seat.

2) At the Mountain Winery, an outdoor venue in the Sant Cruz foothills, my seats were left center at the aisle. Across and several rows ahead from me was a young woman who insisted on standing and dancing with her arms in the air during the entire concert.

She was asked several times by several different people, including security, to stop, sit down, or move to the area specifically designated for "dancers." Yes, the venue actually had a section of the floor for people needing to express their joy whithout blocking or distracting the rest of the paying audience. I have to be honest, after an hour or so, I wanted to knock her out!

3) Last one. I went to the movies with a friend and because I was keen to get the best seat for this particular film, we arrived early. Over the course of 30 minutes people filed in around us but left the seat on either side empty. The previews began and I was set to enjoy the experience when suddenly two latecomers arrived. They scanned the room, locked in on the seats near us and moved in taking the two empties. Why they didn't ask us to move over so they could sit together, I don't know.

Fine, they we late and it was cramped, but the movie was starting and "holy shit" what's that smell?

BO like you would not believe. Not just a delicate hint that you can waft away and forget. This was a lingering cloud of stench that consumed several rows around us. I had no choice but to leave the theater. I don't remember what film it was, but I will never forget how angery and disapointed I was. Looking back, it's funny to me now. :-)