essay, Music

Bob Weir Wants You to STFU at Concerts

Bob Weir STFU

I had a good/bad start to 2020.

The setting: a Dead and Company concert on New Year’s Eve at the Chase Center in San Francisco, the new home arena of the Golden State Warriors. The band would go on to play an epic three-set show, opening with Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and closing with “Touch of Grey.”

Everything was going great until the second set, when three people randomly sat down behind our seats and started talking.

I hate it when people talk during concerts. I think it’s disrespectful to the performer. In my opinion, there is an artist on stage, and that’s what we’re there for: to listen to the artist. Playing music in front of an audience is like baring one’s soul in front of strangers. It takes not just talent but also courage, and I recognize and respect that.

Now, I understand that the Grateful Dead’s music attracts a wide range of people, some of them unsavory characters. To paraphrase Bob Weir’s pre-concert interview on CNN this New Year’s Eve, the Grateful Dead has a lot of different fans, from CEOs to gas station attendants to serial killers. I would add to this list: a lot of drunk, high obnoxious people and those who want to stick it to the man by moving around to better seats they didn’t pay for. We had to deal with the latter combo.

We had fantastic seats for the New Year’s Eve concert. Way better than the seats during the previous night’s concert, which, at front and center, we thought had been pretty good. The New Year’s Eve seats were first row, balcony, to the side of the stage. A vantage point like opera house seating that gave us a wonderful view of the band members. I felt like we were in VIP seats.

My great mood was rudely interrupted by a drunk woman who appeared behind us and complained that we were standing too much. Hubby coolly turned around and said she and her party were talking too much, and he left it at that. I asked him what the exchange was about, and after he told me, I became angry.

We had flown a long way and spent a lot of money to be in San Francisco for the New Year’s concerts on December 30 and 31. I knew the seats behind us couldn’t have been those people’s proper seats because they only showed up during the second set. They were of the ilk who skip around the venue trying to sneak into better seats, which is part of why I was angry that the lady wanted us to sit down–we had paid for our seats, while they were “stealing” the ones behind us.

I turned around and put my face very close to hers and said sternly, “Are these your seats? Because I didn’t see you here before.” I was pissed off and ready to call a security guard if necessary. My voice got progressively louder until I was yelling in complaint that she and her party were talking while we were trying to listen to the show. She looked surprised and clenched her fist, which made me even angrier. “Do you want to start something–because I know how to box,” I said. This was my way of preempting physical violence by warning her that I would willingly battle if she intended to go through with using her fist.

The man and woman flanking her kept smiling at me and holding her arms in attempt to defuse the situation, and hubby was doing the same with me.

I cut off the exchange by turning to face the band on stage again. The woman behind me then yelled, “You’re still standing, bitch!” I chose not to react to that because I had already made my point. Also, bitch is not a word that bothers me. I find it a comforting, even empowering, term (for you feminists out there, you know what I mean).

To add a bit more context, this woman looked to be in her 50s or 60s. She was gray haired and heavy set, which is probably why she didn’t want to stand for the concert; her body couldn’t handle it. Plus, she was soused.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m guilty of yelling at a drunk senior citizen. And I would’ve thrown some punches if she had moved in that direction.

I’m no saint. I don’t advocate violence, but I do believe in self defense. In general, I try to be a compassionate and understanding person. I have my limits, just like everyone else, of course. Funnily enough, I found out that his highness, the pope himself, had also reached his limits around New Year’s: He slapped the hand of a fan who kept trying to grab him. This is a guy who’s job is to embody universal love. Part of me was vindicated that the pope had lost his cool with someone who lacked manners, but the pope and I felt the same way at the end of the day: We may have been right to be upset, but our reactions weren’t right.

The lady apologized after the close of the second set, by the way. She bade us Happy New Year, said sorry and added, “That is not who I am.” By that point, she had moved a few seats over and was behind a man who had been conversing with us during a previous set break, complaining that he had been surrounded by a bunch of young people who would not stop talking during the previous night’s concert. He asked them to quiet down, and they reacted badly, he said. When the third set started, the woman who I had yelled at kept chatting, and I heard this man politely ask her to stop talking. I think she and her friend left the vicinity after that.

Ironically, I’m usually the one who prefers the audience to sit during a concert so we can all pay attention to the music. Have you ever seen rock concert footage from the ’60s and early ’70s? People are actually sitting and paying attention to the artists. That’s awesome. But people stand at rock concerts nowadays, so I stand, too, so I can see the band. This New Year’s Eve, I had the luxury of not needing to stand because we had no one in front of us to obstruct our view, but I stood anyway because I felt energized by the music.

I’m glad I stood up for myself by pointing out to the woman that she was interrupting the concert by talking, but I’m not happy that I yelled and threatened to fight an old lady. I’m going to need to work on how to deal better with unsavory elements at concerts.

Bob Weir famously told the audience to “shut the fuck up” during a show at his Sweetwater Music Hall. He stormed off stage because people were talking during his acoustic performance, and when they didn’t stop talking when he started playing music again, he told them off.

I have a tank top from Sweetwater with a picture of Weir holding a finger to his lips and the logo “STFU.” Maybe I should wear it at Dead concerts from now on and point to it as needed. That would be better than yelling. I’ll let Weir give the message.