Tonight I went to Koko Booth. There are few things in this world that would have convinced me to show up at Koko Booth. I find it to be as weird and sterile and lame as the town which surrounds it. This concert has been on my calendar for months, because the band in question was on my Life List. Actually, not even the band, just the one song, performed live. So I dragged my heels, and considered holding out for a better opportunity in some other town, but a couple of days ago, Koko Booth or no Koko Booth, I finally bought a ticket.
A bunch of us tailgated before the show, in the pine straw on the fringes of the parking lot overlooking one of the rose-granite 1980’s corporate office buildings. Initech, I think it was. Food was great; friends were great; otherwise, the crowd was So Cary.
The spaceship stage in there sets my teeth on edge. I make scrunchy faces when I talk about it. Why would you choose a pine forest for your amphitheater setting, and then land a ridiculous spaceship stage in the middle of it? Why dwarf your performers with a confusing mess of metal? Why the huge light towers that look like deer stands? Why not a thoughtfully considered modernist wood structure to echo the pine trees, or really anything else site-sensitive and human-scale? Who thought this was a good idea? Oh, right. Cary.
And so, I probably had the Wrong Attitude from the beginning. All of that aside, the evening was cool and lovely, and the cicadas in the pines made a gorgeous late-summer racket, and the opening band was remarkable.
I loved when they did “Hey, Ho,” and spent the rest of the evening laughing about the song “Classy Girls Don’t Kiss in Bars.” I don’t know whether I am a classy girl, or whether I would kiss in bars, but now I feel like I should give it a go, just to settle the question on both fronts.
The evening devolved after the Lumineers left. I have a no-snark rule when it comes to live music, which I don’t break very often; tonight, I’ll say with as little snark as possible, it just felt hollow. I saw a caricature of a band onstage, but it felt like they left the actual band at home. It sounded tinny and thin up there, despite all the knee-slapping and jumping around. It was all kind of incoherent. I’d be willing to blame the sound guys, but did I mention the Lumineers sounded amazing?
The best songs the headliner did all night, in fact, were the last few, in which they brought the Lumineers back onstage. All of those songs were tight, and rich, and full, and real.
They did “Wagon Wheel” eventually, sadly with no Lumineers. It’s still a top-notch song, one worthy of dancing and singing and carrying on and celebrating. They cranked it up with a “How you doin’, Cary?” and I cringed again and thought, it’s like they don’t even know me, and why would you launch into a song where we’re all supposed to yell “AND IF I DIE IN RALEIGH, AT LEAST I WILL DIE FREE” while reminding us that you’ve made us drive to an office park by a faux lake in Cary to hear it? Scrunchy face again. The crowd, sloppy drunk at this point, simultaneously lifted up five thousand Iphones to record this epic concert moment, and I watched the one song I had come to see through a sea of tiny glowing screens while the crowd out-sang the band.
I wonder, five years ago, what it would have been like to hear them do this song at the Pour House. Up close, do they look like they believe in what they’re doing? In a small space, does the sound fill up the room? When they can see their audience, do they sing like they mean it?
Don’t know; doubt I’ll ever get the chance to find out; crossed it off the Life List. Plenty of great shows ahead. We’ll see where the surprises are. You just never know.