Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Concert Review

The Stern Grove concert series was one of those things I'd always heard about, and usually about a day too late. It always sounded like it might be fun, but then it's a concert and I've never been a big fan of music concerts. Mainly, because crowds tend to irritate me, secondarily because I've only a couple times have I ever felt the performer was worth suffering the crowds for (if all they do is rehash the music that sounds nice and beautiful in my own home in exactly the same way: why bother, watching people prance about the stage just ain't all that interesting IMHO).

But I decided to go, thanks mainly to the timely intervention of my friend Gretchen who for Women in Action organized seats and food for the concert. I even dragged a reluctant wife (who usually is much keener than I on going to concerts) and another not so reluctant friend.

The performer was Youssou N'Dour a singer from Senegal. With a local opening act: The West African High Life band. The meadow in front of the concert stand was packed by the time the concert began, people camped out on blankets with pinics spread about them, enjoying the warm foggy day we were having. A warm foggy day may seem like an oxymoron to anyone who knows San Francisco, but they do happen occassionally.

If per chance you were cold by the time the concert began, the music ended up compelling most people to their feet, and the meadow by the end of the day was filled with warm, happy and grooving people, waving their arms, hooting and hollering their pleasure.

Our corner of the meadow quickly became a magnet for dancers trying to get closer to the front, but we weren't trampled too badly and most people were polite about it. The crowd was actually half the interest because it seemed like there was something of everything there: young, old, thin, fat, hippy, preppy, hip, hawaiin shirted, white, black and many a shade in between. The crowd splayed about the meadow, looked, as liz put it, as if someone had sprayed blotches of paint across the place. The funnest to watch were a group of African men and women who obviously knew the songs, and all the motions, word for word, waving Sengalese flags, smiles permanently painted on their faces.

The only real unhappiness I saw was two guys getting busted for smoking a joint in a particularly dumb place.

We left a little early, leaving the concert to the swelling voice of N'Dour as he sang a song about Africa that -- without understanding a word -- brought tears to the eye.


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