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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2008/06/30
by John Zinkand

How Long Can You Hold It?

I went to the O.A.R. show here in Portland recently at the Roseland Theater. This is not a show that I would normally attend, but my girlfriend really loves them and it was her birthday so I happily joined her for the ride. The concert itself was actually not too bad. The band definitely puts out a lot of energy and the crowd heavily reciprocates; they sing along loudly, pump their fists in the air, jump up and down, and generally display an unbridled enthusiasm for the band and their music all night long. It was a young, clean cut, festive group of people with a small handful of older folks peppered into the mix. Because this was a mid-week show the room was full, but not very close to being sold out compared to how packed they allow this place to get sometimes. I had a pretty good time overall, but there was one aspect of the evening that really bothered me.

Due to lame day-job work constraints, I arrived at the venue just after the opening band had finished their set. I made it through the obligatory Roseland pat-down and strolled on through the ole metal detector tunnel of love with my pride relatively intact. The ticket was torn, I ambled my way up the steps, the nice man stamped my wrist, and then I walked up the second set of steps into the glory of the Roseland Theaters main floor. Music was buzzing out of the PA and folks were walking around talking to one another. People were smattered across the room, but there was plenty of space for everyone to move about freely. I peered up into the balcony scanning the faces for my girlfriend who arrived early and saved me a seat in the balcony, reserved for patrons 21 years of age or older, up close to the band for her big birthday show. While shuffling quickly and excitedly across the floor towards the entrance of the balcony section I spiedThe Line.

Now normally theres a line to get into the 21 and over balcony section at the Roseland. It wraps to the side and can be a bit of a bear, making you wait as much as 5 or 10 minutes on crowded nights. But as I moved forward I saw that this was not the normal line for the balcony at the Roseland. The line was dense and it twisted and turned with a life of its own. I looked back over my shoulder assuming I would see the end, but there was no end in sight. I excused me my way through a thick hulky mid section of this gigantic line-snake and pushed through arriving refreshed on the other side. One might think that from this side of the line surely the end would be in sight, but oh, they would be sorely mistaken. The Line flowed out about 20 feet in towards the middle of the room, then hooked hard to the right and just kept going and going. It spun under the pillars that hold up the balcony, then up towards the stage and wrapped around another pillar right up front by the speaker stack. And this was no single file line, my friends; this line had a berth as wide as 4 to 8 humans in places. With my jaw dropped in awe and head bowed in defeat, I slowly and deliberately took my humble place at the very endof The Line.

Oh, and did I mention The Line did not move for 5 and 10 minutes at a time? Yeah, this thing was just great a real treat to stand in. My girlfriend texted down the rumor that this whole line situation was a result of a recent visit from the Fire Marshall who was none too pleased to learn about the venues surprisingly common practice of stretching the balconys legal capacity. Apparently, on this evening someone had determined that the maximum capacity had been achieved, so guardians to the entrance of the balcony were being very strict in only letting a person go up if a person came down first. This practice resulted in the ghastly huge line, of course. And this was not even a sold out show! At an all-ages show thats really packed, the line might have to spin around into coils or they might have to bust out one of those Disney-like people chutes to manage it effectively.

Unfortunately, I didnt know about this beforehand. Had I known I wouldnt have been so bummed. It was her birthday, she had some of the best seats in the house to see her favorite band, and she even had a delicious jack-n-diet waiting there for me in my seat. But the fate of that poor, abandoned beverage will never be known as she eventually made the tough decision to come downstairs where we enjoyed the evenings show free of the pesky hindrances of alcohol among the other groundlings. I know now and can be prepared for this situation when the next show I want to see at the Roseland comes along.

I almost forgot about another element that makes this new strict enforcement of the smaller than previously enforced capacity of the 21 and over balcony even more of a pain the ass the bathrooms are downstairs. Yes, thats right. If you need to pee, there is no other option than to go downstairs. That is unless youre a guy and then you might have another option, albeit a pretty gross one. And if you go downstairs to relieve the pressure on your bloated bladder, it doesnt matter to the entrance guardian that you just came down to pee and have a seat and loved one waiting for you back upstairs oh no!! Back of the line for you, my friend, like everyone else.
In closing, let it be known that is not just a griping session. Notice I threw the word just in there? Of course you did. Anyone who attends an all-ages show at the Roseland should know so they can show up early if so inclined to enjoy a few alcoholic refreshments with their live music. Some folks might even think twice about coming at all since natures call will undoubtedly become too strong to resist at some point. Who likes to lose a place in the balcony where all your friends are still sitting just because you had to tinkle? No one, thats who! Either the Roseland needs to start having many less all ages shows or they need to start stretching the capacity of the 21 and over balcony again. The current way the venue is set up is just so darn inexplicably inconvenient. Its unfortunate that such an awful feature can detract so heavily from an otherwise solid, great sounding venue.

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