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Standing Rooms - A Rock Concert-Going Reminiscence (11/20/14)

Standing Rooms

This pic of Todd Rundgren (and drummer Willie Wilcox) was taken in Chicago's Uptown Theater, March 18, 1977, by me -- from a seat.

Less a rant, more a reminiscence…

I’m a dinosaur who came of age in the 1970s. I went to countless rock concerts at every venue in the Chicago area, including the Riviera (Gentle Giant/Renaissance being one memorable show there). Then my tastes shifted and I spent most of my time in jazz clubs and classical concert halls and bluegrass venues and festivals for 25 years, a whole generation of time.

When my son Jake became a middle-school rock/metal/death metal concertgoer himself, I attended a bunch of shows because he and his cohorts weren’t old enough to drive. And the biggest change that had taken place since [cough wheeze] my day was that most of the seats were gone. Everybody stood, from the moment they arrived until the night ended, which might be eight hours later for a multi-band show. These weren’t the last-resort “standing room” sections of yore that people paid peanuts for. It was the whole joint, or in some cases the whole main floor, with some actual, limited seating in the rafters.

No doubt you can cram a lot more people into a place that way. And these are shows that don’t usually have fogeys like me showing up with creaky knees. But even when my legs were fresh, I virtually always got a reserved seat with my ticket -- everybody did -- whether it was The Who at the Stadium or Electric Light Orchestra at the Uptown or Led Zeppelin at the Amphitheater or Genesis at the Auditorium or Todd Rundgren at the Riviera or Springsteen at a college show. Sure, we stood – cheering after tunes, or pleading for encores, maybe during the encores, etc. But most of the time, we could sit for the hours we were there.

When we do venture out to a young-skewing gig (like for Chris Thile bands such as Punch Brothers or Nickel Creek), they’re in standing-room places, like the modern-day Riviera. I don’t like it but I lump it. No choice.

But I do look forward to Thile and his audience getting old enough to sit down -- when, if lucky enough, I’ll be pushing 80. By then, I might be bringing my own seat. With big wheels.

This photo of YES's Chris Squier and Jon Anderson was taken by me at a Chicago show in the late 1970s -- from a seat.

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