Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In The Crowd, Rather Than Onstage, Part 2

Who doesn't enjoy a good concert, after all? And even if it may or may not cause future financial distress, there are certain bands that we just won't miss for anything. Ozomatli is one of those bands. This seven-piece combo is the living embodiment of all things LA short of getting a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a taco truck on the corner. Sunday's show was our third straight year seeing them up at the Crystal Bay Club, and we were dead-set on getting good spots up front.

I swear to god that we shouldn't be in such a rush. Security opened up the Crown Room at 8pm, and even though we went through the line about five minutes after eight, well..... there was no real line to speak of. Let's just say that Tahoe crowds like to develop slowly. The few that were there to greet opener Lateef the Truthspeaker enjoyed his set, but they were just biding their time, waiting for the headliners to come out.

Ozomatli hit the stage a little after ten, and delivered another killer set of their unique blend of Latin, hip-hop, soul and rock with the usual crazy energy that we've come to expect from them. The crowd is almost immediately in a frenzy....... and that's not really a good thing. Two years ago, a guy came rushing up to what he thought was an empty spot up front, and put a knee into Joy's back as she sat in her wheelchair. Her scream of pain brought the show to a standstill then. Sunday, some blonde woman tried to jump on to my back, as if to get a piggy-back ride. Well, all I knew about was feeling small hands on my neck, and what I'd presume was legs trying to lock around my waist, then suddenly dropping away. Followed by Joy shouting in pain. I looked behind me to find the blonde flat on her back, then turned to see Joy clutching her left arm. The blonde had kicked Joy in that arm when she tried to mount me. Inadvertently, to be fair, but she kicked Joy. I wasn't paying attention to the stage, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if the whole band saw it happen. I tried to explain to the blonde what she'd done, even guided her over to Joy to apologize, but I don't think she ever really caught on to what had happened.

I'm pretty sure the band knew what was going on. I was confirmed in that when Ozomatli ended their show with their traditional march through the crowd, where the entire band (save Asdru and Ulises, their horn players) grab drums or percussion and boldly climb down from the stage to play in and amongst the crowd in a conga line. Well, the line snaked around the crowd before coming right up to us, with bassist Wil-dog Abers leading the entourage, and every single band member came up to Joy and passed by, touched her in almost a kind of reassuring way, as if they all wanted to know that she was okay.

And after the show, we got to talk with Wil-dog for a few minutes. He was glad that we'd come, and noted that it was our third year in a row for their show in Crystal Bay. We were pretty impressed with him remembering us like that. After all, these guys play hundreds of shows a year, all around the world. I'm sure Joy isn't the only woman in a wheelchair that these guys see. But I'm also pretty sure that she isn't that hard to forget after what happened two years ago.

We left Crystal Bay with a set list, a warning sign with the band's pic on it, a CD, a pass to download the show to our computer as an mp3, and a broken string from Wil-dog's bass. And the special kind of buzz that you can only get from being at a really good show. A show from a band that we can count as friends instead of just a band. That's what makes being in the crowd so special to us.

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