Did you hear the news? John Bonham used a mud shark as a sex toy! Rod the Mod had to have his stomach pumped! Paul is Dead! But when a band gets too famous, literally too big for the room, I resist them, because I’m a fameist.
I saw the Rolling Stones and the Who at Washington D.C.’s Capitol Centre arena in the early 1980s, and both shows were highly memorable but occurred on the cusp of my exploding love for indie and punk, for bands, many of which were local, whose gigs take place in small, sweaty joints—and I was truly baptized as a rock ‘n’ roll fan in those places. Until very recently, I hadn’t seen a stadium-size show, though in retrospect I wish I’d put my bias aside and gone to see Prince, the Kinks, David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and a few others. I’m irrational. I know that fans of enormously successful artists and bands happily spend big bucks to see their favorites in arenas or at sprawling festivals; for many of them, the experience is spiritually gratifying, emotionally rich, exciting. Dwarfed by a huge crowd, one of tens of thousands, spending as much time watching a band on a JumboTron as on the stage: to me this feels like the equivalent of a hundred-person banquet dinner, versus an intimate supper for five, of praying with hundreds in a megachurch versus sitting in a back pew with a dozen spiritually hungry folk in a ramshackle wooden church somewhere. I see that I’m getting carried away here. As with any doctrinaire, you can easily poke holes in my argument, call me hipster, pretentious, roll your eyes at my piousness while pointing to the sweatily anointed kid emerging blissful from an arena, pyrotechnics still dancing in her eyes.