Country concert distilled as poem

Jack Ingram

Sometimes a poem’s the best way to capture the essence of an experience. Case in point: my excursion yesterday to “Country Throwdown,” a marathon country music concert in Saratoga Springs with many bands, including Montgomery Gentry, Jack Ingram, Jamey Johnson and Little Big Town. There was lots of excellent music, but maybe it’s time to face the facts: I’m not the music fan I was 40 years ago, either in body or spirit.

It’s fascinating how modern country musicians channel the musical styles of rockers of my generation, including Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Jamey Johnson was the only headliner who played what might be termed traditional country.

Here’s my poetic take on the dark side of the day’s happenings (it’s always easier to wax poetic about the shadow side of things):

 Country Throwdown Concert

“On your feet!” The singer screams the order.

The crowd obeys, fists pump the air.

A shirtless youth salutes with horny fingers.

Erratic heartbeat of the bass thumps in my chest.

Extrasystoles hammer, relentless, triggering fears

of cardiac arrest. Red searchlights swivel

through clouds of smoke, target band and fans –

the entryway to hell. Batted by the mob, enormous vinyl balls

with New York Lotto logos crash endlessly above. One hits me

on the head, sparking phobic high school volleyball flashbacks.

Yellow-shirt security patrol with eagle eyes and walkie-talkies.

Outside the music shed, the crowd queues up and funnels through

metal barricades in quest of precious liquid.

Blue shirts check IDs and brand us with plastic bracelets.

We’ve been stripped of private bottles at the gates,

so now are forced to pony up eight bucks a cup to quench our thirst

on the arid patch of chewed up grass

called a beer garden. Shades of Germany.

Outside, the ATM machine attracts long lines –

suckers in search of cash, desperate for food and drink,

cowboy hats and black skull-logo tee shirts.

I’ve come here trying to conjure up

that long lost summer of love in Sixty-Nine.

Crows feet around my eyes and fifty extra pounds

brand me an imposter among the lanky girls

in skimpy shorts and cowboy boots. Ten hours of music

is seven too many for my aging psyche and physique.

To my relief, the headline final act is crass and mediocre.

I steal away to beat the traffic jam, pass through metal gates

emblazoned with a banner overhead:

All exits are final. No reentry.

They’ve got that right – I can’t go back again.

 © Memorial Day, May 31, 2010 Julie Lomoe

2 thoughts on “Country concert distilled as poem

  1. Julie, You’ve vividly captured in words a scene that has zero appeal to me and never did. Your writing has great clarity. I like the way you mention the various details of the concert including the sign on the exit gate and your response. That would be mine, too.

    I am really enjoying reading Mood Swing. I’m up to page 100. Will read more this afternoon. I’ve got a sinus infection with fever and am feeling punk, a good time for reading.

    • Thanks for your response, Betsy – especially your comment that my work has “great clarity.” I read this poem hot off the printer to my husband yesterday, and he found it confusing in places, saying it didn’t convey a vivid sense of the concert. But perhaps his reaction is due in part to the fact that he detests concerts like this – that’s why I go alone.

      I’ve got a lawn ticket to the Dave Matthews concert at the same venue, SPAC, this Friday, and I’m seriously considering chickening out. I probably won’t decide till that morning, depending how adventurous and/or masochistic I feel.

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