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November 15, 2002

Men at Work

I've been going to concerts all my life. No matter what I've done, I've never been able to get front row seats. I waited for ten hours in the snow fifteen years ago to see Jimmy Buffett at the Dean Dome. I was 14 rows back. The closest I've ever been was an R.E.M show at Duke when they played Cameron Indoor Stadium. I don't want to even think about how long ago that was. 5th row center, with a girlfriend, Phyllis, and a friend of hers whose name escapes me. Likely it escaped me then as well. Nice location, but still not the front. INXS at the Dome? 20 rows back. Violent Femmes and the Indigo Girls at Memorial Auditorium? 12 rows back.

Until Thursday, when I finally scored front row concert tickets, the always sought after and never realized acme of any concert going experience. Right in front, where the band can't miss you. Down where you can count nose hairs. Just me, my wife and our toddler, going to see the Wiggles.

As far as Ngnat was concerned, we got our $75 worth just walking into the venue. She looked at all the kids and was overcome with delight. She walked in on red carpet and ran around for the sheer pleasure of movement, and bounced her seat up and down in manic bliss. She made peepee sitting on a men's room public toilet amidst rapturous paroxysms of happiness. My, whatever we were doing was fun! There were even songs she knew playing in the background!

She sat in her Mommy's lap and watched the curtain open. Then THEY walked out onto stage. Jeff. Murray. Greg. Anthony. It was as if a bus had fallen out of the sky onto her. She knows the Wiggles. We watch Wiggles videos all the time. We told her we were going to go see the Wiggles, but obviously she didn't realize we were going to SEE THE WIGGLES.

The paradigm shift took about 4 minutes, during which she sat completely still on the sainted wife's lap. She sucked on her thumb, then her thumb and a finger, then a thumb and two fingers, until eventually she was attempting to cram her entire fist down her throat. Finally, when Henry the Octopus walked onstage, she finished processing all the relevant data. She let out a scream that a Sinatra bobby-soxer or Beatlemaniac would have recognized instantly.

"HEEEEEEENNNNNNNWWWWWYYYYYYYY!!!" It was almost as if she wasn't convinced that everything was real until she saw a gigantic purple mollusk stroll out and give her a wave. After that it was "Well, if Henry's here, it must be ok."

Then "Waaaaaaaags!"and "Dowafeeeeeeeee!". She wasn't the only one screaming either. The crowd noise had been growing with each introduction. It reached its apex when the Captain ran out. Ran out, rounded off a roundoff , shook his feather sword, and said "Ahoy there, me hearties!".

Every kid in the building went apeshit, and it was a big building. And then the Wiggles sang.

I can't tell you the songs. They're all two minutes long and involve various acts of wackiness on the part of the Wiggles and their animal and pirate friends. The kids know all the words, and most of the parents know most of the words, including me. It's not hard, remembering to sing "Hot Potato" five times in a row. They did all their hits, which you've never heard of unless you're the parent of a toddler. If you are the parent of a toddler, then they did "Hoop-te-Doo" and "Wiggly Party" and "Emu Dance" and "Move like an Emu" and "Watch Out, The Emu Can Disembowel You With One Swift Kick" and "Quack Quack Quack Quack Quack Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!", during which the Wiggles call out the names of various celebrities and the Captain sings as if he were that person. His Mick Jagger and Madonna versions were good, but his Eminem was absolute genius. And while I was joking about the Emu disemboweling you song, I'm not about the Eminem version of "Quack Quack.....". It was one of the most surreal things I've ever seen. Every Wiggle up on stage obviously thought it was a grand joke, challenging the Captain to rap his signature song on short notice. Surely it was planned, but it didn't feel like it.

So the Captain rapped, and he and the Wiggles sang more songs, and Ngnat danced in the aisle with the other toddlers, turning around and around in a jerky, skipping galumph of a dance. I watched her while the sainted wife waited in the merchandise line for 30 minutes, hoping against hope that they wouldn't sell out of T-shirts before she got to the head of the line. It was the venue's fault, sticking all of the various Wiggly items into one place. The booth, such as it was, was staffed by two elderly ladies who stared in absolute shock at the 15 person deep sea of parents surrounding them on all sides, intent on getting a damn feathersword for little Johnny come hell or high water.

They did sell out, but only after she bought a blue shirt for Ngnat featuring four cartoon Wiggle faces. She insisted we put it on immediately, while she danced. Mom pulled the T-shirt over her head while I unbuttoned the original outfit, then pulled it off via a convenient arm hole. Must preserve an aura of modesty, you know.

She went to bed in it that night. She got up and went to daycare in it this morning. She's sleeping in it now. We have tried to take it off, in case you're looking for the Social Services number, but she refuses to have anything to do with that.

"My Wiggles!" she yells. "My Wiggles!"

I know it will damage my hip credentials beyond all repair, as if a white guy in his thirties still had hip credentials, but I had a blast. The Wiggles had the crowd in the palms of their hands. It was really cool to look out over the sea of people and see hundreds of pre-schoolers bouncing up and down as one, doing a primitive version of the hand jive to "Hot Potato." Yes, it's probably easy to do when three-quarters of your fans are under five, but how many of you have done that to a crowd? How many of you have ever gotten...say ten...ten kids to do something at once? I was a camp counselor for years. It's a lot harder than it looks, and these guys did it effortlessly. The concert didn't have anything like the tightly scripted feel I thought it would have. Rather it was relaxed, casual. They laughed at everything. Jeff rode out on a tiny little tricycle, and the handlebars came off, and he couldn't get them back on. And he laughed, and they laughed, and Jeff struggled to get the recalcitrant toy off stage, and laughed some more. I bet Madonna would bite off bat heads if her tiny tricycle broke.

I'd seen a crowd like that only twice before in my life. Once was at a Buffett concert, when I saw twenty-thousand people moving as one to "Fins". The other time was hearing two thousand scream out the chorus to "Add It Up" as if they were exorcising demons. And I wasn't even high this time.

The wife also had a blast, for perhaps different reasons. The only downside to the whole evening for her was having to wait in line so long. She wanted to see more of Anthony, who she hadn't thought much of until she saw him in person, at which point she discovered within herself a rather seamy lust.

Her exact words--"Damn, Anthony is hot!"

I bet you don't hear that at many Barney concerts.

Update: Ngnat has now worn her Wiggles shirt for a second straight day and is sleeping in it for a third straight night. We managed to get her to take a bath today only by promising her that she could immediately put her shirt back on after the bath.

And, one thing that I left out. Anthony had an American flag guitar strap. I thought it a nice touch. Of course, it might not mean anything, but it's hard not to see it as a gesture of support.

Posted by Bigwig at November 15, 2002 10:45 PM | TrackBack
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