A dedicated few had been braving the Melbourne Winter when I opened the Festy doors. The first in the queue was a guy with an Afro clutching an Ol’ Dirty Bastard solo L.P.
‘You know,’ I mentioned to the man as I checked his ticket. ‘I don’t think he’s going to sign that for you tonight.’
‘He might!’ the guy chimed optimistically, holding the record lovingly. I wondered how dedicated some of these early arrivals really were
Festival Hall, Melbourne, August 6, 2011
Perhaps I am biased by both my years of concert-going experience, and also the judicious consideration I make into ticket purchase, but I don’t get why some people go to shows. What kind of person, for example, goes to a concert not only without any form of I.D. (which is surprisingly widespread,) but also without a wallet or any means of financial transaction at all? Who arrives, sans-ticket, expecting staff to recognise the attributes of a ticket holder simply by their mere presence? Apparently the answer to these, and many other questions, is ‘a large contingent of Wu-Tang fans,’ and it seems like a larger contingent for this band than most others.
My theory as to why the proportion of disgruntled idiots in attendance was higher for this show than at any other comes down to, predictably, demographics: Most of the audience have possibly only experienced live music in the format of New Years Eve at the R ‘n’ B club, and expected that every other live show anywhere would be run similarly. So since the tickets clearly stated that doors opened at seven PM, many patrons read this as ‘No one goes out at seven o’clock.’ This suspicion was later confirmed when a patron who had asked me early in the night for set times returned in the show’s final minutes and expressed to me his dissatisfaction with the advice I’d earlier given him.
‘What d’ya mean “It’s almost finished?!”‘ he gasped. ‘You told me before that they were only starting at 9.30!’
I agreed, since I had indeed relayed this information, and, whilst I acknowledged that I could not confirm the precise time when the band had taken to the stage, I explained that I believed it to have been roughly as per the previously discussed schedule.
‘But you didn’t tell me the Wu-Tang Clan themselves would be coming on then! I mean, you did, but usually there’d be a DJ or someone would fuck around for a few hours then they come on at 11.30 or twelve right? So they’ve been on all this time? Fuck that! How do I get a refund?’
I told him that he couldn’t get a refund from me, and would have to speak to the point of purchase or administration, but apparently this was an overly complicated and unreasonable, and after a little argument, the guy reluctantly entered and the stage emptied of everyone except for Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son – Young Dirty Bastard – who stayed at the corner of the stage inviting girls up to shimmy around awkwardly with him, even after the music had ended and his microphone unceremoniously switched off.
The closing moments weren’t the only awkward scenes that were playing out inside Festy. The opening assortment of DJs in the lead up to Wu-Tang Clan’s set seemed to play until the very moment the band started, with the audience apparently unaware that the main act was starting as Clan members trickled onto the stage one-by-one and without much ceremony, and seemingly just to hang out at first. Add to this the fact that the sound quality seemed appalling (at least from my vantage point behind the stage, where the vocals were all but drowned out by heavy bass thuds) and the result was an obviously and clearly divided audience:
- Clan in the front, let your feet stomp: Directly in front of the stage, a sect of men who at first glance seemed like die-hard fans, but upon closer inspection were whooping at the mention of various random words on stage. They broke into the Big Ups dance variously throughout the evening, and not always in time with the music.
- Niggers on the left, brag shit to death: Surrounding this group were overdressed girls, swaying disinterestedly and coupled with mostly tall guys wearing leather jackets over hoodies who glared at, pushed, or threatened anyone who glanced at or, worse, came into brief accidental contact with their accompanying lady.
- Hoods on the right, wild for the night: The seats seemed to tonight be divided between the underage – true fans, excited by every utterance from the stage and dancing in the aisles in their oversized WuWear – and those who insisted that they had been sold the wrong tickets demanding immediate access to a licensed bar and general admission.
- Punks in the back, come on and attract: The balcony seats had been sold in advance for a higher rate and billed as V.I.P tickets. Usually these seats are reserved for the give-away tickets for members of the media and competition winners. This area was only briefly filled to capacity as the patrons there completed writing their signature in black marker on the walls and started leaping over the balcony edge into the audience below.
Not included in this list are the wealth of patrons who spent a significant stretch of the evening outside the venue in the rain. Their reasons for this were many. Some found their entrance to the venue delayed by the increased security provisions. Every patron was made to pass through a hand-held (and time-consuming) metal detector which failed to find too much of interest, and broke down repeatedly throughout the night, leaving the security contractors in some cases standing dumbfounded and refusing admission to anyone yet to pass the metal probe. Items that staff denied admission to were the usual and expected large cameras and umbrellas, and were tonight also asking patrons to leave their permanent markers outside too. I was surprised at how many people had brought textas with them, and also a little surprised with the highlight of security’s work: a man was ordered to place his walking stick in the cloak room with the explanation that it could be used as a weapon.
Also remaining outside were the passengers in the assortment of unusual vehicles who came past my door. First there was the Porsche that arrived claiming to be carrying the clan’s Spiritual Advisor, who may have identified himself as Thomas. Next came a black Hummer limousine, which couldn’t find anywhere to park and pulled briefly over to let out a succession of models wearing hot-pants and brief black t-shirts who stood shivering outside my door, and asked to come in to distribute postcards for some event. I don’t know what happened to them, but they didn’t come in, nor did they spend too long freezing in the cold.
Others opted to voluntarily remain outdoors when advised that the venue abided by the Victorian government’s anti-smoking regulations and that they would not be able to smoke inside. They loitered around outside with those without tickets who circled the venue asking to come in with a variety of reasons, and rushed inside only when prompted by one of the few recognisable songs of the evening, C.R.E.A.M.
Other than that song, I didn’t hear too much familiar music from inside. I think I might have caught bits and pieces of some songs from Enter The Wu-Tang, but couldn’t identify any of the other sounds. After the weird ending, where the band kind of just left the stage without encore, leaving Young Dirty flirting with the audience, some of the exiting crowd seemed overjoyed, despite the absence of RZA and Method Man (who was apparently missing without a trace) while others complained about the lack of merchandise and the show in general.
Since I was staying to help prepare for the magic show the day after, I happened to have a brief encounter with members of the band, much to the horror of other staff. I shared a few words with Young Dirty, who told me that I should speak to the rest of the band, who were still around signing autographs for fans. Easily identifiable was Ghostface Killah, who shook my hand and asked me about my night, and told me I should speak to the rest of the band, and get a souvenir of some kind from Raekwon. When I looked at the other members with uncertainty he asked what was wrong, and I had to admit that I didn’t know who was who. Before he responded, I clarified my last statement – I said that on their album cover, they were wearing white masks, and that they looked different to in their video game. He seemed to be amused by that response.
In conclusion, I am glad to have worked at this show, because I think if I had bought the tickets, I might have been disappointed. Nevertheless, it was a rare treat to talk to the band, and a little odd, considering I am more used to them as deadly animated fighters than a bunch of friendly guys.