Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Plight of the Zippers

No, this is not a story about my "frank and beans."

Since the Squirrel Nut Zippers got back together and began playing live shows again earlier this year, I've wanted nothing more than to go see them. I'd only had one opportunity to do so before, at the 1997 KROQ Weenie Roast at Irvine Meadows, which is just about the worst venue at which you could see this type of band. Over the July 4th weekend, they played nearby, but a wedding pulled me out of town, so I missed that opportunity. I thought for sure I'd missed my chance altogether.

However, a couple of months ago, they released some new tour dates, including one right here in L.A.! I bought a couple of tickets, and eagerly awaited the night of the show. During the wait, life went a little haywire, and I got pretty stressed out and saddened. Just about the only thing I had to look forward to was the concert.

Though I had two tickets to the show, my work schedule was such that I wasn't one hundred percent certain that I could even go until the night of the concert, which was Tuesday. So I couldn't invite anyone else, which wasn't that big a deal, but wasn't exactly optimal. The doors of the El Rey Theatre opened at 8pm and the show was supposed to start at 9pm. I arrived at 8:30pm, hoping that the band would take the stage somewhere around 9:30, and I could see the show and still make it home for a decent night's sleep, the concert again being on a Tuesday.
I walked in the doors and thought, "Wow." I'm used to being an outsider, but this was amazingly not my crowd. It was like I'd stumbled into a party full of the cool kids. Everyone was dressed to the nines in swing-era style. Still, I'm an expert at doing the wallflower/blending in with the scenery thing, so I stood around feeling out of place, waiting for the show to begin. Looking around the theatre, I noticed the mixing board. I moseyed on over to check out the equipment. There I noticed the night's schedule. Not only was there one opening act, there were two! If the show ran on time, the band still wouldn't take the stage until 10:40pm!!!

This left me with two options: I could stand around for two hours and maybe see twenty minutes of the show before having to leave to get any decent amount of sleep, or I could leave immediately and not waste that time for so little reward. I left, quite perturbed that the main act would be on so late on a Tuesday. Friday, I get, but Tuesday?!? I guess the cool kids don't have to be at work the following morning.

I arrived back at home quickly, and logged into MySpace to vent my feelings on the matter, only to find that two of my top four friends, including the Squirrel Nut Zippers, were gone!!! I thought I'd been hacked, and quickly took steps to fix the problem and re-add the friends that the hacker had deleted. When I searched for the band's page, it was completely gone. I realized that I hadn't been hacked, which was even more depressing.

For almost as long as I'd planned to go to the El Rey concert, I'd also joked that I would fly out to Las Vegas to see the band play for free at the Red Rock Casino on Friday and Saturday. I hadn't seriously considered it, though. On Saturday, I had to attend a memorial service, which took place one quarter of the way to Las Vegas. Once the service was over and the family had left, I was left with nothing to do, so rather than just go home and be miserable, I continued onward to Las Vegas to try to see the show on Saturday night.

So after months of anticipation and one failed attempt, I did get to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers play live, and in an appropriately small lounge, too. It was a great show, with the band playing all their best songs, and mixing in a couple of new, solo tunes from their lead singer. The show ended with the band playing along live to a cartoon they had created, entitled "The Ghost of Stephen Foster," which was amazing, and a brief encore.

After the show, I was exhausted from the drive and all the emotion of the last two weeks. I hope I'm able to see them play again some day, under far better circumstances, and far sooner than another decade.

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