Thursday night's free concert in Westport went off without a hitch, except for the part about the headliner, Passion Pit, walking away from the show a few hours before show time because it didn't have a good feeling about the stage at the Back Yard, the outdoor venue next to the Beaumont Club.
I talked to a Beaumont honcho who'd heard that the stage hadn't been 100 percent prepared ("tied-down," as he put it) before the load-in and that something had fallen off a lighting rig, which, the band said, "nearly killed" one of its crew. After that, the band examined the rest of the stage and decided it didn't feel good about its integrity. The stage, it said, appeared ready to collapse from dry rot. So it bailed -- an interesting and risky choice for a band with one album to its name and a very brief relationship with its fans. A little bad will goes a long way these days.
I assume safety is implicit in any concert rider: No green M&Ms; no near-fatal head wounds from falling objects. So it's certainly within a band's rights to not play if it doesn't feel safe withthe environment.
But it also seems reasonable for the venue to get a chance to remedy the situation, which is what the Beaumont/Back Yard did. The show went on and the stage was safe enough for the three other bands that played: Audiovox and the Roman Numerals, two local bands; and Owl City, who became the headliner. Nothing fell on anyone, and no one fell through the stage floor. Apparently Passion Pit mistook an errant impulse for a sound instinct.
Despite its cancellation, an enormous crowd showed up. The Back Yard was packed to capacity, which is more than 2,000 people, and there were at least that many people in the street and parking lots to the venue's east and on surrounding rooftops, including the roof of the parking garage to its west. (Meanwhile, inside the Beaumont, a hard-rock bill headed by Clutch also drew a huge crowd, so that part of Pennsylvania Street was teeming all night.)
While Audiovox was playing (and getting a great response) I heard from a friend who was up on the garage rooftop that the scene up there got a little uneasy when security tried to clear the rooftop. "Could get a little riot going here," he texted. Another friend said a security guard pulled a can of mace on him when he didn't move fast enough. That's something else a headliner needs to consider before it quits a show at the last minute: public safety. Had this been a different crowd, the scene could have gotten much uglier.
The Back Yard show was a free event, so no one can complain about getting ripped off, but there were other things to complain about, like the need for more portable toilets for starters. Plus the sound during the Roman Numerals' set was not good (low volume, mostly). But overall it was good for the two local bands, who got to play before a huge crowd and make some new fans and friends. On Facebook, the Numerals Billy Smith posted this: "I couldn't fathom not playing ... for the reasons Passion Pit did. Roman Numerals had the time of our lives. Believe it. Thanks KC."
I stayed for one song from Owl City. But the sound wasn't much better,the wind was picking up, the temperature was dropping and I was not feeling this band's music at all.
When I left, the venue was still packed and hundreds of people were still hanging around outside the gates and more were coming in. That'seither a sign that no one had anything else to do on a chilly Thursday night or that a lot of people around here care more about music and the music scene than some of the bands they really want to see.
| Timothy Finn, The Star