Friday, May 13, 2005

Drinking First; Safety A Close Second

Monday Night I attended a service industry party sponsosred by Absolut Vodka at the Grand Ballroom at Union Station. The main objective was for Absolut to unveil its new peach flavored vodka. My main objective was to make face time with the marketing reps who were throwing this shindig so that I could be fresh in their minds when they have another hundred grand or so to throw around indiscriminately.

I've attended Absolut sponsored events before and lived to tell about it so I knew that I would be confronted by an obscene amount of old men, younger women, workout freaks with steroid-polluted bloodstreams, capri pants, American Spirit cigarettes, greasy hair, Golden Tee junkies wearing their striped shirts with unfastened cuffs, liquor salespeople (the least evil ones in this list), average deejays, apple martinis, subliminal messages for Absolut vodka, spray-on tans, unfortunate piercings, and breast enhancements gone wrong, but Monday night was a completely different matter entirely. After checking in I made my way down to the Grand Ballroom, taking in the spectacle and artifice, trying to wade through a sea of orange goblins and people who don't know when they're being given bad advice, yet still manage to succeed.

Ugh. I knew I should not have been there when I ran into the lead singer from Kill Hannah- a poseur amonst poseurs playing warmed over Smashing Pumpkins riffs. I should have just turned around and left. But instead I started text messaging the people I invited to this damn thing, seeing if they had checked in, then offering to apologize for my lapse in judgment in inviting them.

The whole atmosphere reeked of this group of marketers who sat around trying to figure out what would pass as decadent without actually being so. A giant metal structure was set up, with acrobats and trapeze artists climbing all over to the tune of Creed's "Higher." Scantily clad women danced half-heartedly inside opaque plexiglass booths to "The Way You Move" by Outkast. There were stilt-walking jugglers who couldn't hold on to their plastic bowling pins and drag queens going through the motions.

To the side of the ballroom a lounge was set up with three understaffed bars, one of them ostensibly run by the alliterative "Marvin: Master martini mixer" who had no idea what he was doing. I queued up at one of the side bars and waited twenty minutes while the very gracious bartender loaded us up with drinks so that we wouldn't be waiting all night.

I headed back into the ballroom, toward a makeshift stage and dance floor behind the steel structure. There were rumblings about a "major band" signed to play the event that was supposed to be top secret. This- and the continuous open bar- might have contributed to the ugly atmosphere as to most of these service industry types "major band" meant U2.

So imagine the mass apathy when 11:30 rolled around and They Might Be Giants stepped onstage and immediately tore into "Birdhouse" to the apathetic crowd.

And yet the real drama didn't start there.

Two drunken attendees began dancing on the false stage in front of the band where previously a tightrope walker was performing. Security had a rough time getting these two down from the stage. So the band had to implore what audience that was paying attention to them to not jump on the false floor, as it was dangerous.

But they did it in TMBG style. "We know you're not paying attention to us up here, but just so we can say we warned you: Drinking first; safety a close second," said guitarist John Flansburgh. "Do NOT dance on this stage!! It isn't safe." That was when John Linnell mumbled into his mike, "Dicks."

And I was feeling real bad for TMBG by then, but as they began playing "Alphabet of Nations" I thought that I shouldn't. Hell, TMBG were the ones who agreed to play this gig, they were the ones who took the performance fee. If they were expecting a rapt audience for their brand of ironically humorous music they were sorely mistaken.

Christ, they were playing what amounted to a glorified service industry night to a bunch of club types who may have never heard of They Might Be Giants. So for TMBG to get all pissy because the audience wasn't paying attention to their music was bullshit, really.

I walked away back into the lounge, hit a couple of buffet lines, and then left to hail a cab, thankful that my Monday nights are usually preoccupied and glad that I have better things to do than blow off steam with vapid, clueless club kids.

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