Monday, June 26, 2006
Big hits at the ballpark -- even without a game
Baseball stadiums tend to make lousy concert halls.
It’s that whole square peg thing, of using something for a purpose other then the one it was created for.
But the billing of TobyMac and MercyMe was to great to pass up, and my son and I headed off to Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps. And it was one of those adventure-filled nights that you just don’t see coming.
The strangeness started as we walked across the parking lot. We saved $5 by parking in the commuter lot across the street from the stadium. I know, I know. But I’d rather spend that $5 at the concert on CDs or something.
Anyway, a parking lot separates the stadium from A.J’s, a mini-golf and go-cart kind of place. We were following a group of guys who apparently were killing time playing skee-ball and air hockey, not really paying any attention to them.
But a guy heard us talking, turned around and asked if we were going to the concert. I thought that it was odd, since there wasn’t a game that night. He said the centerfield gates were closed, and that we’d have to walk around to the front entrance.
"That’s the band right there," he said.
And sure enough, there were several tour buses parked in fronts of the gates where we normally enter. File this information away for later.
Inside, we saw that they had the stage set up right on second base, and the dirt and infield grass covered with plastic, with folding chairs set on top.
We bought tickets for seats in the stands — Andrew worried that he wouldn’t be able to see if we were in a flat place — and seemed pretty far from the action. There was a wide gap between the foul lines where the infield chairs stopped and the stands began. And the sound was pretty rough, too.
Which is not to say that we did not enjoy TobyMac, a Christian rapper/rocker who puts on a great show and has long been one of our favorites.
My son is at that age where he finds me embarrassing, so any dancing or singing is met with great eye-rolling and distancing, lest someone think we are related.
MercyMe started playing and, again, there seemed to be sound problems. It just wasn’t loud enough for my liking. And it definitely wasn’t loud enough to drown out the bored kid and even-more bored mom sitting behind us.
Now, this is one of my pet peeves. Adults, I’ve noticed, don’t behave well at concerts. Nothing is worse than plunking down good money for a show and have people chatting in your ear the entire time. Granted, for a Kiss concert that’s not going to be an issue, since you can scream in your neighbor’s ear and they still won’t hear it.
But for some of the mellower acts, it can be really distracting.
I also noticed that the ushers long stopped caring if people left the stands for the more expensive seats on the infield.
So when the bored ones were no longer deterred by my glares, we decided to move down — and ended up at the very foot of the stage. Andrew was dead center, and I stayed off to the side, at the foot of guitarist Mike Scheuchzer, since there were no other adults in the center and I had already embarrassed my son enough.
Volume isn’t an issue when the PA system is 10 feet away and MercyMe's new album really rocks. I was really getting into it, especially during "No More, No Less," my favorite song on the new CD.
At the end of the show, Andrew asked a roadie for one of the set lists, a paper with the order of songs that bands tape on the floor of the stage so they know what to play. He’s got a pretty good collection of these by now, and loves to get them autographed.
We saw some of the band members lingering with people behind the stage, but were not coming out to sign autographs, as a lot of the Christian bands do.
As we were heading toward the exits through stands, we could see the band members walking across the outfield to the centerfield gates.
Andrew, remembering our encounter on our way in to the show, said "We know where they’re going!" and made a bee-line for the area near the buses.
And sure enough, rounding the corner came the guys from MercyMe, spread out a little as they walked. I stepped way back, and reminded Andrew to be polite when he asked them to sign his set list.
And the band members were happy to sign, which made his day.
Then I noticed Scheuchzer, the guitarist, walking toward me with Barry Graul, the band’s other guitarist.
"This guy was singing every word," he said, pointing to me as they got close.
"Yup, I saw him!" Graul said. "It’s nice when we see that people know the new songs."
We were having a nice chat about the new CD, and how it’s got a harder edge than some of the previous albums and how some earlier songs that are mellow on the discs get a little crunchier in concert.
They both shook my hand and thanked me for being a fan.
Andrew’s eyes were as big as saucers. Cool rock stars wanted to talk to his old man? Sometimes Dad is somewhat cool after all.