We were at a concert in Oakland. I’d always wanted to see a show at the Paramount, and with my friend playing, it was the perfect opportunity. We’d have good seats for good music and good ambiance.
Dinner reservations for eight people at a chic restaurant nearby. Overpriced fish and head cheese. Tasty fish, but not amazing. Tasty drinks, but nothing to Yelp about. At these prices we expect amazing. Seriously. We’re paying for it In This Awful Economy.
As we approached the theater two kids on bikes stole a guy’s iPhone, right in front of us. The victim kept yelling “Hey! Hey!” and I couldn’t help but think how ineffective a cry for help that was. As a girl in New Jersey we grew up with the warning “if you need help, call out FIRE.” Everyone loves a fire. Forty five minutes the police arrived to take a statement.
We had special passes and seats near the front of the theater. Not the front row, mind you, there were plenty enough people in front of us for a view and we had a good look at the action.
And man, there was some.
The average age of the audience was Seriously Hippie. Yes, that is too a demographic. So is Child of Hippie, which is me. I wish I could say “Son of Hippie” because that would make a much better movie title, but there were too many Daughters of Hippie to be so sexist. Especially since the Daughters of Hippie were the problem.
Back when Hippies Roamed the Earth without walkers there was dancing at concerts. Front row, back row, middle row. It didn’t matter where you were unless you were really good at it – then you needed to be in the mosh pit right in front of the stage. Bruce Springsteen wouldn't see you unless you were in the mosh pit. You couldn't become the Urban Myth of Courtney Cox unless you were in the mosh pit.
But if the music simply took you, if you were there for the music, you had to dance and you could. You could stand up and shake your body no matter what row you were in. The people behind you might be annoyed, but frankly, the odds were 99% that they were as stoned or moved by the music as you were. So if they weren’t actually dancing, it was probably because they were hungry. A bag of Doritos would cure that promptly sp they could start dancing, only to annoy the stoned and hungry groupies behind them. It was a cycle of concert life, of sorts.
So when did the dancing rules get so strict?
At the Church of the Paramount, we all sat so obediently. The music was good, and we were all (at least most of the ones I saw) grooving respectfully in our seats. Some were shaking their booties, others shook their upper parts. Some did the white man's head bob. The hard part was actually staying still.
Two women, age indeterminate but inarguably sexy, stood up in the front row and started dancing together. With long hair and tank tops, it was like out of a (NC-17) movie. They danced slowly, in rhythm, together, and suddenly the focus of the show moved slightly south of the stage.
In typical hippie passive competition, stage right presented two folks dedicated to proving the stereotype: billows of pot smoke made its way toward the stage like the Angel of Death – but perhaps a little happier. The musicians could see it coming toward them, inevitable. These folks have been around the block a few times; they know what's up. Inhale, don’t inhale, it's a personal decision. But you’d better not forget your lyrics - nor the beat. This is an audience that knows the music at least as well as you do.
Two rows down and to the left (AKA center stage audience), a very VERY tall woman was moved by the musical spirit. She stood up and started to rock out. I could see her, but honestly, she was nothing special. Not embarrassing, not erotic. Not even particulary interesting. She’s a fan. She's feeling good and having fun. Dancing. Which, apparently, is against the rules.
Security comes. They do not come, mind you, for misses sexy and sexier tank top girls. They do not even come for the pot smokers. They come for Mrs Too Tall. And she is offended.
I can't actually hear anything she's saying, but her body language clearly communicates “and what about those women who are dancing down there? And what about those hippies who are smoking pot over there? WHY ME? Where is your manager? Who is in charge here?”
Security is unsympathetic. Neither are they terribly hard working. Mrs Too Tall is on the aisle. The Missy Sexy tank tops are in the middle of a row (hard to quietly get to). The pot smokers are in the vicinity, but the smoke makes them hard to locate. Or easy to locate. Who can tell, it’s all so confusing now.
One security person accepts Too Tall's challenge of “take me to your leader” and before you know it there are six security personnel surrounding her. They take her away – to the way back of the theater. I mumble something inappropriate to my seatmate about likelihood of her being waterboarded.
The sexy girls aren’t quite making out, but for several rows in any direction the men are positively transfixed. This is the upside of concerts in san Francisco: sexy pretend lesbians. There is universal agreement, silent of course, that this would be much less interesting with boys - at least today with this audience.
Afterward we learn that there are New Rules across the USA: No Dancing at concerts. Well, except for very sexy exceptions.
Today there is no dancing in the aisles, because it’s a fire hazard. No dancing in the middle, because you're too tall and no one can see anything else but you, and no one paid to see you. No dancing in the front, because no one can to see anything else but you and no one paid to see you either. Unless of course you’re two pretend lesbians with long hair and tank tops. Which makes you technically a bonus, because people would definitely pay money to watch that.
I'm kind of appalled at the Paramount. After all, this theater is an institution, and if you can’t feel the musical spirit here, where can you? The red neck Cow Palace? The prim and proper Zellerbach Hall? Perhaps at the Greek, experts in all things coolio. If only we could park.
But there is something very wrong, nay, even sacrilegious, about not being able to dance at the Paramount Theater. This is, if not ground zero, 5 shades of gray from the center of the hipster, hippie universe. Dancing is understood. The security personnel can hardly maintain a straight face as they say things like “ma’am I’m afraid you’re going to have to sit (your bad self) down.” Because as the security folks know, this is music. And music inspires, if not requires, dancing. And you shouldn’t have to be a pretend lesbian to get away with it.