Saturday, September 15, 2019
Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine
So here’s the thing about seeing shows at Thompson’s Point–it’s so much a festival experience, with a beer tent, food trucks, and plenty of other booths and entertainment–that hearing a band in person just doesn’t seem to be a big priority for a lot of folks at those shows. Thompson’s Point is booking bands I desperately want to see in person, but the crowds at their shows are full of people who are pushy, talkative, drunk, and flat out rude. It’s getting harder and harder to balance the desire to see some amazing bands in person with wanting to have a positive concert experience. Even on this night, when I did a “normal” show experience for Dan’s sake–we got there after doors opened, had dinner at Tacos Del Seoul, and didn’t stake out spots way up front like I normally would–we were still surrounded by inconsiderate people that really put a damper on the night. Someone lit a joint immediately in front of the 8 year-old kid and his mom standing between us, and when the mom quickly grabbed her kid to move away, person after person circumvented us to stand inches in front of us where they’d been and block my view of the show entirely. One gaggle of women “apologized” as they scooted in front of us and assured us “don’t worry–we’re short.” They were all taller than me, and they talked non-stop for the rest of the show, too, so why their need to push past people there to actually listen to the performers? I’m just so floored by the consistently poor behavior of audience members in Portland in the last two years, but especially at Thompson’s Point shows. It really feels like there’s no way to actually see and hear a band there without people physically pushing, talking over the show, or rudely cutting in front of you and blocking your view. It’s also not Thompson’s Point fault in any way or the fact that these shows were sold out that’s the problem. Concert goers are responsible for their behavior and should have basic common courtesy. I’m disappointed that it’s so difficult for people to be respectful of others at concerts and am curious about people who seemingly have so much disposable income that they’d buy a $50 concert ticket to just talk through the whole show.
Dan thought Nathaniel Rateliff put on a great show despite the disappointing crowd around us, but I have almost no feedback about the music itself. I could actually see and follow so little of the show because of the frustrating crowd that I could have stayed home and watched a Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats concert on YouTube and gotten more out of it. I felt like I was standing outside of an arena listening to a show from the parking lot, which sucks.
For the record, both Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats are talented and are quite compatible big bands with amazing horn sections to boot. Dan and I enjoyed Sister Sparrow’s set from the rear at the food trucks, and we were probably about 20 rows back stage left for Nathaniel Rateliff’s set. I thought we’d chosen a spot far enough back and to the side to avoid some of the usual antics from fellow audience members, but I was sorely mistaken. I haven’t discovered the secret to having a great Thompson’s Point experience. If you have, please share!
Since I saw so little of their set with my own eyes, I read a bit about Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats online after the show. I didn’t firmly know Nathaniel was from Mississippi and had played in a church band with his family growing up. His father was killed in a car accident on his way to church, actually, and Nathaniel dropped out of school to work as a janitor in the school where he otherwise would have been a student. Nathaniel and his best friend and bassist Joseph Pope III moved to Denver and have been making music there for 20 years. I didn’t realize how lucky their big break on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon was (one of Jimmy’s friends sent him a link to their video and he loved it). Their sophomore album, Tearing at the Seams, contains songs about Nathaniel’s divorce, and I’m impressed with how personal and soul-baring songs like “Babe I Know” are.
A tender moment that sticks out from the show is that Nathaniel told us that they’d just flown in from Portland, Oregon where they laid their friend and producer Richard Swift to rest. They dedicated their last song of the night, “Tearing at the Seams,” to him, and I heard some of the his dedication and the song over the girls near us who were Snapchatting and talking over it. Again, folks–I don’t get you when you act like this. Especially in the tender moments, you’re missing everything.
I think I’ve got to stick to small venues and folk shows for a bit.