So, how close were Brian and I for last night’s Springsteen concert?
How, you might ask, did this come to pass?
As we made the drive to Charlottesville, we had mostly given up on the idea of getting into the pit, which — for those of you who don’t live and breathe it like we do — is the front half of the general admission (GA) area. Getting into the pit involves a lot of standing around while numbers are drawn and lines are formed, and given that it had been raining like mad most of the way down, the whole waiting outside thing was a fairly unattractive option. By the time we arrived, however, the rain had let up, so after several minutes of dithering, we decided to give the pit a shot after all. We walked over to the arena and got our bracelets, numbers 487 and 488, and then headed to a bar for a quick beer before the 5:15 drawing. We fully expected to be back there shortly to kill more time before the show, because even if we did get selected for the pit, both Brian and I prefer going in on the late side and milling around in the back to being squashed in the middle of the crowd.
At the appointed time, we went back to the arena to find our spot in line (based on our bracelet numbers), which ended up being harder than it sounds. At last year’s Charlottesville show the GA line had been the very picture of orderliness, but this time was a bit of a mess, and we couldn’t find the spot where we belonged. We weren’t sweating it, though, given that we were planning to just get our second special bracelet if we were in the pit group and go back to the bar for some dinner. After a few minutes, the rain kicked in again and we considered just giving up as 5:15 became 5:30 and then 5:45.
At last, they called the number: 481. 481. We were not going to be part of the scrum scrambling for a good spot — we were going to be the sixth and seventh people to enter the pit — the front row. We were going to be in the front row. Dinner plans flew out of my head as I immediately made a beeline for the area where the 480s were queuing up (this is where my bar waitressing skills come in handy — I can make my way through a crowd incredibly quickly) and only upon arriving there did I realize that Brian was still quite a ways behind me. I shouted down to folks to please let him through, they did so, and we took our spots near the very front of the line.
There was much waiting and checking of bracelets to ensure that we entered in the correct order over the next 30 minutes or so, but finally we were inside, staking out our space — right in front of Bruce’s microphone. The pit veteran behind us in line recommended that we all sit on the floor in order to stake out as much room as possible, and probably the first 50 or so people did this, which served us well as the pit filled up.
To say that being in the front row was outstanding would be selling it short. I sincerely can’t imagine that any other concert experience could live up to it. With the exception of the times that Bruce came down to the very edge of the stage where we were, the crowd was remarkably non-crushy, which was a pleasant surprise. There were a couple of times when it got a little tight, most notably when he sat on the monitor in front of us to sing part of “Spirit in the Night” and when he held out his guitar to us to “play” during “Born to Run.” The latter, actually, was a highlight for more than just the guitar moment. On his way toward us, Bruce caught my eye — and , seeing my huge smile, smiled back at me, and and said “ready?” before leaning out with the guitar. (Am I giddy over this still? You bet your ass I am.)
One of the things I have always enjoyed about E Street Band shows is the fact that they always look like they’re having so much fun, and that was even more apparent from the up-close vantage point. There was a lot of smiling and laughing on that stage — as well as a really interesting sort of “coaching” from Bruce when Max Weinberg’s son Jay (18 years old and touring with the ESB = best summer job ever) took over the drum set half way through the show. I had heard this might happen and wasn’t sure how it would come off, but it was fantastic. The kid is a monster on the drums, and clearly has been well taught by his dad and mentored by Bruce. Speaking of drumming, I don’t consider myself an especially rhythmic person, but I ended up spending so much time drumming along on the stage that I have a visible bruise on my thumb.
We were lucky enough to have a great setlist to go along with our fantastic location; both Brian and I got to hear some favorites — “Candy’s Room,” “Thunder Road,” and “American Land” for me, “Land of Hope and Dreams” and “Roulette” for Brian. Still no “Tougher than the Rest,” 15 shows into my Bruce concert career, but not even that could in any way dampen my excitement. It was truly the concert experience of a lifetime.
I’m not even mad about the whole DC ticket kerfuffle anymore. It was that good.