I have a fear of doing things alone. I’m not the highest flying social butterfly, but I have gotten better over the years. Live concerts often bother me because of the crowds, and I tend to avoid them. An ad came up on Facebook for a band I liked and had seen live once. I saw two people I knew were interested so I figured I’d give it a shot.
About two decades ago, Blue Öyster Cult (BOC to the fans) was in concert at a live venue downtown where the entire area was closed off. I was with my girlfriend at the time, and she was doing something other than watching the concert. She went to meet with someone to pick up CDs or some other item she needed for a charity she was working with. While waiting for her, I stood outside of the building as BOC played. I think that was the first, and last time I was alone at a concert. What I recall of them, for the little time I spent watching, as they were a great performance.
A few weeks ago, I asked both of the people interested in going to the show if they were actually going. One never replied and the other seemed to have uninstalled his software and didn’t see my message until days later. He replied and said he was going, and after I asked where he was seated, I bought tickets near him.
We were not great friends, he was someone I used to work with, as a former customer, but we were acquainted and had hung during some social occasions. We always chatted about music when I visited, classic rock and others. It wasn’t surprising that he liked BOC. He said he was going with his longtime girlfriend, and bandmate, and two other people. I decided I knew him so I wouldn’t be completely alone.
BOC, to me, was the epitome of a hard rock band. They sang songs that were written with Michael Moorcock, the creator of the Elric saga. They did Godzilla, the ultimate anthem of people destroying the planet with their carelessness. Most importantly, they were the band that wrote the soundtrack to Heavy Metal, the animated movie from 1981. The soundtrack didn’t make it for the movie and became Fire of Unknown Origins, which included Veterans of the Psychic Wars, used during the beginning of the Harry Canyon segment. Coincidentally, Veterans was not written for the movie but was written with Michael Moorcock about Elric.
So I agreed to go, a seat was purchased, and I went on my way. Driving there, I was presented with an interesting coincidence. The satellite station, Deep Tracks, was in the middle of a themed set and played one of their songs I had never heard broadcasted before. It was a pretty long drive that fell in the middle of evening traffic, and the parking was non-existent. I later found out that the parking was known to be non-existent and the venue was working on it. I did find a place to park, just past the teller window at a bank across the street, in a tow-away zone. The venue was small, almost like a school auditorium, when I was in elementary school. The one in my high school was larger, but this was Mt. Dora’s Community Theater.
Mt. Dora is a small community, known for its downtown area of antique shops and seasonal art fests. It was a quaint little retirement community, as opposed to the larger more sprawling The Villages, a few miles away. The older ladies were ushers for the night and the one that sat me said, “You should get your drinks now, as it is a 90-minute show, with no intermissions.” Sigh. Ninety minutes without a break? I’ve gone 14 hours before. Pretty sure I would be able to handle this.
When I got into the theater and was seated, I passed several grey-haired men…and women. Between the polos and dinner jackets, I not only felt very young, but I also felt very out of place. Although, I feel out of place in most situations, and because I was alone, I really wasn’t sure what I was doing there. Normally, at this point, I would be freaking out and the person I would be there with would calm me just by being there. As I was there alone, and my friend wasn’t there yet, I was on my own. As having a panic attack due to being starred at would only beget more panic, I actually reveled in the calm I was feeling and mentally mocked the people I saw. There were ladies in evening gowns that seemed more inappropriate than the men in dinner jackets. It seemed they were going to a showing of La Boheme, rather than BOC. I, on the other hand, was wearing an uncharacteristically, white t-shirt with Captain Sternn from Heavy Metal on it. It read “Captain Sternn’s Back” because of his return in the 1993 comic. I wore this to Dragon*Con when I met Bernie Wrightson, the creator of Captain Sternn (story for another time).
Eventually, I picked up my phone and started texting people. My sister, the person who got me interested in hard rock and heavy metal, needed to know what has happened to her age group. Another friend of mine, a year younger than me, who would also get the irony, needed to be kept abreast as well. Both responded in their ways. I said I wanted to take a picture to show how many grey and bald people were there, but I felt rude doing so. Obviously, I don’t feel rude writing about it (wink, wink).
Eventually, the lights went down, and the four seats next to me were empty. There I was alone… at a concert… an hour away… and enjoying the hell out of it. So what if I was there alone. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the obstructed view I had because the guy in front of me switched seats with his female companion and blocked a third of my view, specifically, the center. I was able to see by shifting a lot and it was worth it because although they had been performing for 45 years, these guys still rocked.
After three songs, my friend showed, complaining about the parking. I informed him, had he been there earlier, he would have heard them make the same comment. Somewhere in the middle of the show, he mentioned they were a great live band. Turns out, he was not as familiar with them as I was and he never heard them live. One of my all-time favorite albums is ETL, Extraterrestrial Live from 1982. Basically, Fires of Unknown Origins and a few other tracks, but the live versions.
The concert itself was great. Eric Bloom, one of the lead singers, alternated between his guitar and the keyboards, and Buck Dharma rocked the guitar like I have never seen before. All of the musicians had several solos, each more impressive than the last. They even did a guitar battle at one point. They played the classics. They played the songs I loved, not all of them, but enough. They played some rare for live songs. Black Blade, which I heard too many times to count, from ETL, was one of those rarities. It was also one of the songs written with Michael Moorcock, about Elric’s blade, Stormbringer (never named in the song), controlling him. Classic fantasy ideas set to a heavy beat. One of the people that were with my friend mentioned how rare it was to hear live. He was a much bigger fan. He also reminded me they played Astronomy, a song that I heard so often, I didn’t realize they played it. It also happened to the song I heard on the drive over in the themed set on the radio.
Eventually, the fans I expected to see came out of nowhere. Dinner jackets came off and the t-shirts were underneath. There were people filming and taking pictures. One woman was even dancing on someone’s shoulders with beer in one hand and camera in the other. They did their typical set of songs followed by the obligatory encore with actual lighters to show support. The people in front of me stood, so I had to if I intended to see anything. The band came back and played a few songs and more solos. This is what I expected. Normally, I would be pissed at all of this, but not this night. It was a great concert.
After the show, I got to meet the people that my friend came with. His girlfriend, who I met once before, and two other bandmates of his. One of them I knew because he was the ex-husband of my former customer. I was told they knew someone that was there and they knew the band. I hung and talked with all of them, just about complete strangers, and had a great time. Anxiety be damned! Music can bring anyone together, and if you are with a cult, so be it.
I was invited to hang further, but because of the timing, I needed to get home to take care of the dogs. I went to the bank where my car was parked and approached the area where it was supposed to be. From my angle, the entire parking area and the teller lanes were empty. I was an hour away from home, driving, and my friends had left. Alone in the dark without a car. And then I got closer and saw it was parked just further up the hill. Just enough to be out of view and harder to see when there weren’t other cars in front of it to make the place look occupied. Got in the car, started just fine, and I was on my way home to a mess the dog left.