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When is a Rock Concert Not a Rock Concert?

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

When is a Rock Concert Not a Rock Concert?

Stephen H. Provost

About halfway through the concert, I turned to Samaire and remarked, "This is a first. A rock concert where I haven't caught a single whiff of pot smoke." No one was - in the words of Jay from Dogma - "rockin' the ganj."

It doesn't matter who's playing. Queen. Aerosmith. Fleetwood Mac. Van Halen. I've seen them all, and each one of them was accompanied by an entourage pungent smoke drifting through the ether. But on this particular evening, so far, I hadn't "sensed any milla" to speak of.

Lest I leave the gentle reader with the wrong impression, I should point out that I don't smoke the stuff myself. As an asthmatic, I don't fancy emulating a smokestack. Still, it almost seemed like something was missing when none of that distinctive odor wafted my way that evening at The Greek in L.A.

This was a rock concert, wasn't it? 

I looked around. Headbangers in the audience? Check. Laser lighting? Check. Musicians whipping their long hair around more frenetically than those wildly dancing strands of fabric that attack you from the ceiling of an automated car wash? A big 10-4 there, too. But that familiar smell ...?

Wait. I had spoken too soon. No sooner had the main act, Nightwish, taken the stage, than someone, somewhere lit up and reassured me that, yes indeed, I was at a rock show after all. And a good one, too. All three bands - Delain and Sabaton were the other two bands on the bill - put on a show that made paying $4 for a small bottle of water and $20 for parking more than worth it.

We even stuck around after the show and met three members of Delain, an opening act that deserves to be a headliner. I've always been timid about approaching celebrities, figuring they had better things to do than to hear fans gush, "Dude, you guys ROCK! I'm totally your biggest fan!" Then again, if people said that to me, I don't imagine I'd mind it too much.

Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck was happy to answer questions - seemingly as many as I wanted to ask. He, drummer Ruben Israel and singer Charlotte Wessels all consented to have their pictures taken with me, and Schimmelpenninck even accepted my friend request on Facebook. Very cool people.

I'll admit it: I envy anyone who has a lot of hair and (or?) sings in a rock band, so maybe that made me a little more self-conscious. Besides, I'm an ultra-cool professional journalist. I've actually gotten paid - not a lot, but money's money - to talk to famous and semi-famous people; I therefore have an image to maintain. But so does Gene Simmons, and he wears a wig. I don't. That's got to be worth something, right?

Who am I kidding?

To be honest, I have Samaire to thank for my new willingness to stick around after an event and "meet the famous people" without feeling like some kind of a middle-aged toadie. A while back, she persuaded me to hang out after a play called Allegiance to meet George Takei. Depending on which generation you're from, you'll know him either as the godfather of social media and a champion of gay rights, or as a helmsman for a starship in the 23rd century. Oddly, he was piloting that starship before same-sex marriage was legal in California, which may (or may not) prove that time travel is possible if you're the Enterprising sort. 

The once and futuristic Mr. Sulu talked with us for about five minutes, about everything from Star Trek to then-California Gov. Earl Warren's support of the Japanese Internment during World War II. He, like the members of Delain, was pleasant, gracious and didn't seem the least bit put out by yours truly or any of the several hundred others waiting for an autograph. A class act all the way.

There was one minor difference: I don't remember smelling any pot smoke at Takei's performance. It wasn't a rock concert. But it still rocked.

Pictured: Me (bald guy at right) with Otto Schimmelpenninck (left) and Ruben Israel of Delain.