Friday, April 12, 2013

Bon Jovi, Beer and Plenty-O-Cougars

Last weekend my wife and I went to the Bon Jovi concert at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul.  Not being a big sports guy, this was the first time I've ever been to that venue and it was quite an experience.  I can honestly say I had a nice day.  It has been a long time since I've really been down to that area of St. Paul, about 10 years to be exact, back in Residency at Children's Hospital.  Parking was a bit of a zoo, especially since a lot of the concert-goers may have started their partying before arriving at the show.  Deathrace 3000 comes to mind.  Though that may just be how folks drive in St. Paul... I wish I could say I love this town... We eventually made our way to a shady parking garage and paid our $15 dollars to the not-so-pleasant guy at the entry.  Still cheaper than parking anywhere in Chicago though.  We walked beneath lowering gunmetal skies, accompanied by large groups of people, to the accompaniment of whoops, hollers and shrieks. 

After being politely patted down for firearms and contraband booze, we were allowed into the enormous structure that is the Excel Center.  This place was a leviathan of a building, yet was a veritable logjam of humanity, all trying to find their friends, get loaded up on drinks, and finding their seats.  Having never been there, Sj asked for directions to our seats and were directed no less than four times to differing areas by the "helpful" staff.  During our extensive explorations we did randomly arrive near the concession stand that was serving craft beers.  They did have Summit Maibock, Extra Pale, and Alaskan Amber (which we both purchased.)  Yes I can nearly buy a 6 pack of this for the $7.50 a bottle cost at the event.  Also in the craft beer pavilion were Bud Light Platinum and Heineken...not, Not, NOT craft beer!  Overheard while in line..."Oh, wait, this is the line for that craft beer," voice dripping with a combination of disdain and horror.

We eventually plunged our way through the throngs of drinking and drunken fans to find our seats on the main floor.  All around us were crowds of people, most drinking mixed cocktails or Bud Light.  I felt that SJ and I were among the younger members of the audience, and coming perilously close to 40, this was somewhat surprising to me.  More cougars than the Minnesota Zoo.  Lots of bad prison-house tattoos, horribly died blonde hair--teased to a ludicrous elevation, and clothing that may have originated in the junior's section.  And lots of bad beer, staggering and cigarette-hoarse screams rounded out the picture.  With some of my crowd-mates there may have been some bad medicine involved.  Looking up at the rows and rows of this crush of humanity, I briefly had my breath taken from my lungs.  There is something overwhelming about being such a tiny grain of sand in a huge ocean-side beach. 

Bon Jovi was fantastic!  This is a man who has been entertaining audiences and giving a legitimate rock and roll experience for 30 years now.  He knows how to get a crowd going and to keep their interest.  I haven't seen many Minnesota audiences get that into the music: standing the whole time, clapping, whistling and shrieking.  Slippery When Wet was the first cassette tape I ever owned, and I listened to it until it literally melted in my Walkman.  Sj actually saw him in concert in '87 and said he was even better this time.  I believe it.  Not just older, but wiser and with more experience under his belt, the last man standing put on a SHOW.  Lots of old classics were performed during this show, but several that I didn't know well kept it interesting.  With the recent release of his new album, several of the songs were brand new, and stood up well to his classics.  At one point in the performance he started doing Dancing in the Streets followed by Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones.  He hammed it up impressively, with Mick Jagger chicken walk and facial expressions included!  I can not believe that a guy in his 50's can be sprinting and bounding around the stage for 3 hours straight like that!  The blast of sound from the speakers and the crowd were almost felt more than heard--and Sj pointed out an ESL interpreter to me during the show.  I guess that the hearing-impaired folks can feel the music and rhythm, I just hadn't ever thought about that before. 

Once the lights came on and the fulfilled crowds began the disperse, Sj and I made our slow slog to the clogged exits.  With suitable timing, the rains came to wash away our sins...and drench us to the bone as well.  Nice cold Minnesota spring rain.  Knowing that we didn't really want to fight the crowds to the cars and risk our lives with the drunks, we sprinted through the sheeting and frigid rain over to Great Waters Brewpub.  It has been a while since I was there so we shared a sampler of 11 beers--a nice way to do samplers!  We found out during our brief time there that Tony, our old server/bartender from Town Hall Brewery has been promoted to head brewer there!  Very cool, and I expect good things to come from his takeover.  I'll see if I can get a proper interview and review of the beers once he gets rolling.  I have the feeling that most of the beers currently being served were not his creations.  Overall, most were pretty good, but only one made me wish I could drink more.  That beer was Emma's Springtime ale, a very estery Belgian Dubbel named after our favorite little girl, Emma German, with proceeds going towards Children's Hospital Cancer research.  Go Princess Emma!

By the time we left the brewery the rain had increased in intensity to a veritable downpour of monsoon proportions.  Like nearly drowned rats, we started the car heaters and began our long trip down the lost highway to Waconia by way of 4th Meal in Chanhassen.  Yes my dirty little secret is Taco Hell.  A long and wonderful night, combining both our past and present in an unusual and memorable montage.  By the time we got home it was after 1:30, but hey, I'll sleep when I'm dead right?  I think I'll stick to smaller venues for shows though...Bryant Lake Bowl is more my style.

(Oh, and if you hadn't realized I'm a super nerd yet, I managed to fit about 10 Bon Jovi song titles into this post...  :)

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