The Frustration of Being Rockblocked


As a passionate music lover, nothing to me artistically comes close to the experience of attending a live music event.

I’ve seen some amazing shows from punk, to bluegrass, to R&B, old school funk, alternative rock and chamber music, just to name a few. Being able to be the same room as the voice and instruments making their own unique sounds, coupled with that wild buzz of energy coming from the audience around you, allows the whole spirit of the music to simply pour into your soul.

This is why it is so frustrating to get rockblocked.

This happens to everyone who attends enough concert events. You build yourself up for the experience, and then soon before the event that “due to unforeseen circumstances” announcement arrives and the concert is a no-go. You plod dejectedly into your living room and pull out a favorite CD of the artist you were looking forward to seeing. You play the opening track, quietly at first, and maybe do a little head bop to the beat. Soon, you start cranking the volume as their signature song comes out, and add a little air guitar. By the final track, you’re in full concert mode, on your feet and tossing that “bunny ears” rock hand in the air. …..YEAAAH!!! Rock N’Roll!!!....and then you sit down a little ashamed of your lack of self-discipline, but still disappointed.

I was still just a kid when I first experienced rockblock. It was, of all people, Weird Al Yankovic (don't judge me). One of my friends was planning on seeing him for her birthday, and I was one of the lucky invites. I thought (and still think) the guy is genius at what he does, so I was really looking forward it. So much, so I tried hard to stifle the body-numbing flu bug that was coming on a couple days before the show. The morning of the show, I was so sick, I could barely walk around the house. My mother gave me some sleepy time medicine with that strict “you’re not going anywhere tonight,” order.

My mother told me the next day my friend called to check up, adding Weird All was an hour late coming on and the concert started really late. I should be glad I didn’t go.

Yeah, because who wants to be out at a concert after dark?

This was just the first of many musical letdowns. There have been sicknesses, work and family conflicts, cancellations and re-schedules.

I remember heading over the Nine Inch Nails concert at local club just when they were on the cusp of being huge, and right when we got to the door, the bouncer was placing up the velvet rope across the door, with a “sorry, fire inspector says we’re filled to capacity.”

Great, I’d rather go hang out at Denny’s all night and talk about how much this sucks. Wheee.

Punk legend Johnny Rotten has blocked me twice. First, was a Public Image Limited concert he cancelled the evening of the show because he had “a throat infection” (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, there). A few years ago, he was going to be playing the role of Herod in a traveling production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Not his actual playlist, but still, I get to see one of the Sex Pistols live!

Nope. We had a trip scheduled that night....Oh wait, they rescheduled the show to when we would be back....Stop again they scrapped the entire production. The whole tour is kaput.

Mother puss bucket!

When I was in grad school in a little town called Alpine, it was a big thing to take a four or five hour road trip into El Paso or Las Cruces for a show. As restless students in a small town, you not only looked forward to the show, but the trip itself. One big show coming to the area was The Eagles, and my new hubby and I were headed to see them…except we ended having final exams that day and the next morning, and couldn’t get away. My parents, who were holding the tickets for us, were “kind enough” to go in our stead, and we even go a cell phone call during "Take it the Limit."

“This is great! They sound amazing! Sorry you can’t be here…” followed by a *click* and silence.

Sometimes you don’t really get rockblocked, but a little, well, less than satisfied. This happens when you get a less than what you were promised on the ticket. I went to a charity nostalgia concert once headlined by The Monkees, with opener Herman’s Hermits. Cool throwback show, right? Herman’s Hermits came out with some generic voiced lead singer.

“This isn’t Herman’s Hermits,” I said to my friend.

“It is, just not with Peter Noone,”

“Peter Noone is Herman’s Hermits. Without him, it’s just a bunch of Hermits with some guy I don’t care about.”

At least we were getting The Monkees, and I did confirm Davy Jones was with them…but not Mike Nesmith. Mike, the guy behind Elephant Parts, fellow Texan, son of the inventor of white-out, and wearer of knit caps long before the hipsters ruined them, was no where to be seen. Ergo, my 60s throwback was one of those affairs, that got the job done (it was fun), but I felt a little musically underserved.

The one that really peeved me was Pearl Jam. Back in 1995 Pearl Jam released their own tickets because of some gripe they had with Ticketmaster. Fans had to call via phone within a time limit to get tickets. When we learned they were coming close to us, we able to acquire some tickets, but then they rescheduled the entire show, dropping the one we were to attend completely. No biggie, we got our money back, and we got to keep the “souvenir” ticket. Oh, goodie.

Then we got a call from my brother-in-law who got tickets the just-announced show in Austin, a six-hour drive from the town we were in at the time. The best part was, as the original show was to have Bad Religion, who I didn't care for, as their opening act was one of my favorite bands was opening for them: The Ramones!

All we had to do was get there before the show. We loaded up that morning like we were running from the law, and hit the road. We made it to my brother-in-law’s hotel two hours before the show and piled into his cramped little rental. Mind you we had just spent six hours in another vehicle, so this wasn’t our favorite thing in the world. At least I was going to see The Ramones, oh yeah and those other guys.

We hit the traffic; nearly an hour of it. With minutes to spare, we made it to the huge outdoor venue. Remember when I said Pearl Jam had rescheduled the tour. This, as it turned out, miffed a few rabid fans that decided to protest the show, the band and everyone who still wanted to see the concert.

Apparently not everyone takes being rockblocked the same way. I don’t care if a bunch of bored grunge fans that spent $200 on a pair of tube socks wanted to invent a complaint. However, when it starts holding up the already snaillike traffic, well, that’s when I try to kill them with my make believe laser vision. The show was in Austin and we ended up parking in Houston, then trudged though the humid grass to the concert grounds. By the time we made it to the stage, The Ramones had long finished their set.

Now, keep in mind this was 1995 when Pearl Jam was the band to see. That didn’t make me happy. I wanted to see The Ramones. My husband, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend wandered off to get closer and I stood sweaty, and dingy on a clear patch of hill near the security guards, watching them periodically dive into the pit to retrieve a near-dead mosher, dumping them out on the grass until they recovered. All the time I just seethed at Eddie Vedder as if somehow this was his fault.

Getting rockblocked can make you a little punchy, too.

In the 1980s I got tickets to see the B-52s, but like the Pearl Jam show I really wanted to see the opening act, the Violent Femmes. You guessed it. They cancelled. Many moons later, we got a chance to see them headlining a radio station’s festival, and returned the favor to my brother-in-law inviting him to come out and see the show with us. The whole event, I kept thinking every little thing was going to prevent the show from happening. We got to the gates and I had forgotten my ID. Oh crap, I can’t get in. Turns out I just couldn’t get the stamp that would let me into the bar area where the air conditioner was. My husband and his brother gave me a “sucks to be you look” and went into the club, while I hung out on the hot concrete with the all ages folk. An hour later, my husband found me as the opening act started up, the post-grunge alt-rockers, The Nixons. Halfway through their set, they received a noise complaint from the neighborhood surrounding the club, and The Nixons replied with a rebellious “Cops can’t tell us what to do!” followed by leading a chant of “F*** The Cops! F*** The Cops!” I just knew this stupid move was going to get things riled up. The show would be called off, and I would be arrested for not having ID (I know that’s not a crime, but the mind wanders in weird places) when you’re paranoid.

Miraculously the show went on, and finally The Violent Femmes walked on stage. I may have teared up, but hindsight it was awful damned hot out there, so I may have just sweated in my eyes. They burst into "Blister in the Sun.” Or, was it "American Music"? Who cares, I was at concert….then some idiot tossed a plastic water bottle in the air and it beaned lead singer Gordon Gano square the side of the head.

He stopped the song and shot the same lasers I used on the Pearl Jam protester into the audience. Was I really going to just hear half a song? If they called of the show because of water bottle guy, I would personally track that bottle tossing dipwad down like serial killer and pelt him with plastic water bottles for the next year.

Instead, everyone was treated to a tidy little scolding only Gano can deliver:

“Some guys are into that, but not me,” he lectured sternly. “I don’t want to see that again, okay?”

Then they started up and again and the rest of the show was incredible.

See, the thing about being rockblocked, is it makes you appreciate the concerts you attend.

When we went to see the Rolling Stones during their Voodoo Lounge Tour, there a big boisterous fan who kept asking to borrow our binoculars every time Keith Richards had a solo. Plus he had a habit of yelling the name of the city we were lest the band forget. He was one of the most annoying people I have sat in front of, and I could have let this sour experience. But hey, I was at the show, seeing the Rolling Stones live, realizing full well how easy it was for there to be a million things going wrong.

“Oh well, When in Rome…” I thought, tossing up my rock hands.