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Edgar Degas: Café-Concert (The Spectators) (1876/77)

"I'd packed two pair, two for each ear …"

I avoid attending concerts. Now, of course, because of the Damned Pandemic, but before, due to the fundamentally uncontrolled nature of the performance and the audience. I never took to being herded around as if I were just another sheep in an unruly flock. I also try to avoid landing wherever crowds congregate, the parking hassles, the turnstile troubles, the behaviors I only ever see when there's a crowd surrounding me. I never learned how to behave in such venues, my reticence a reasonable result of simple lack of practice. The last concert The Muse and I attended, I spent the whole evening curled up in the fetal position, ear plugs ineffectively in, trying to avoid the caterwauling coming off the stage. Everyone else seemed delighted. I, perhaps alone in that audience, felt terrified by it; assaulted.

I think it remarkable as I watch other people show up with the right kind of chair, for only certain types of chairs are allowed into the open air arena.
The Muse and I brought a blanket, but it's been years since we spent an evening sitting on a blanket. I wondered if either of us could hack it. The venue had placed the sound board beneath a tent, square in the middle in front of the stage, blocking the view from anywhere except the wings on either side of the stage. The audience dutifully filed into the diagonals, the band primarily performing for their audio technicians.

A psychology or something overtakes an audience at any outside concert. Applause occurs with arms stretched up and over the head. Whistlers show their stuff. It seems clear and Concerting that a concert induces a trance in the audience. People behave like people behave at concerts, as if they're about twenty years old, regardless of their actual age. People scream at the stage as if trying to get noticed. About a quarter of the crowd never seems to settle, always moving off toward the food trucks or the wine bars, shuttling in sustenance.

By my estimation, this one seemed easy. Perhaps the small city venue helped. The parking was about a five minute drive from The Villa and took all of ten minutes to accomplish. The arena was carpeted with soft green grass, soothing underfoot. The crowd, hardly overwhelming. The band, respectful of its audience; not pounding sound into their heads, but launching it to surround us. The Muse and I were the only ones we saw wearing masks, but it made no difference. We snuck out early, and even then we were already up way past our usual bedtime. I enjoyed myself, the most disconcerting experience of the evening. I sprawled on the grass, half on the blanket, never needing to put in the ear plugs, though you can be sure I'd packed two pair, two for each ear if necessary, like our last experience of Concerting.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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