I just got back from a weekend in Vienna, Virginia. The missus and I went with my folks to see the legendary and impossible to classify Rodney Crowell at Wolf Trap. He brought along Will Kimbrough, who I began to hail as a god of all stringed instruments the moment I heard him play with Todd Snider.
It was a particularly amazing show, due in large part to the demeanor of the crowd. They were utterly attentive and still like the dead. But I found myself occasionally wondering: Where's the maniac spilling cheap beer down my back from dual plastic cups, one in each hand, as tries to squeeze past me and my guest like a calf exiting the birth canal? Where is the moron that sits directly in front of me, bobbing his head and pumping his fist in a fashion that suggests this is the first time he has ever heard music, and boy is it swell? Where is the comedian who bellows the immortal "Play some Skynard!"
Where, I ask myself, is my FOC? A FOC is a Frickin' Obnoxious Concertgoer. This particular performance seemed to violate all the natural laws of rock concerts that I've ever known, as I've endured a FOC at every other show I had ever seen.
FOCs come in all shapes and sizes, including:
"The Validator" – the FOC standing in front of you who, every 30 seconds, turns around and looks at you with a face that says, "Wow, you guys! Isn't this the best concert ever?!" This is usually augmented with wild gesticulation.
"The Requester" – the FOC that shouts out the title of some obscure B-side by the performing act 5-10 times between each song, as if (a) the band could actually discern their shout over the rest of the crowd noise, and (b) they actually give a shit. This FOC is unaware of the existence of set lists.
"The Drinker" – this FOC leaves their seat or standing position every 15 minutes to get another beer. They take no joy in watching and listening to the band perform, but instead in paying $50 to drink $9 beer.
"The Rocker" – the FOC who pumps his fist so hard to each tune that his entire frame jerks forward, and nearly knocks himself over. Almost always male. Fist often augmented with the devil sign.
"The Singer" – the FOC who clearly only knows the words to the band's few hit singles and sings them with much gusto – Often in a different key, but typically in no key at all.
"The Screamer" – the FOC who lets loose a horrendous "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" every time a song gets soft or ends, delivered with enough intensity and duration to suggest their body actually contains no other organs besides lungs and one giant larynx.
"The Talker" – the FOC who gives not one wit about the opening act, which you happen to really like, and is insistent on carrying on a conversation at maximum required volume with their concert going friend.
"The Scholar" – always male, overweight, and balding. Almost always pays for sex. This FOC can tell you the twelve countries that the drummer lived in while growing up with his single military father. He can tell you the names of the four songs on the band's or performer's first demo, and who did the artwork for it. He can explain, in great detail, the juxtaposition of ironies and the interplay of Dorian and Phrygian modes on their latest EP. And he will tell you these things, and everything else he knows, at any time when the band is not playing.
The worst (or best) FOC I have ever seen was at a John Hiatt concert at The Odeon in 2001. I was sitting next to an EFOC – that is, "Extraordinarily Frickin' Obnoxious Concertgoer." They can also be dubbed "multidisciplinary FOCs" as they possess ALL of the aforementioned abilities. This EFOC wanted to hear an obscure John Hiatt song called "I Have a Gun", so, like it says in the EFOC textbook, he took to belting it out all night. Just that one song title. So, red-blooded, terrorism-fearing American that I am, I went to the door and told security, in alarmed tones, that some guy sitting next to me in the balcony kept shouting at John Hiatt that he had a gun.
How was I to know?
Okay, fine, that's not what happened. I just suffered through the bastard all night. It was a great show, regardless.
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